01/15/2014 10:07 am ET Updated Mar 17, 2014

'You're a Tea Party Guy, Aren't You?'

If you're lucky enough to listen to conservative talk radio, you know that some GOP candidates are staying away from Tea Party groups and radio shows, others are sliding up close to the Tea Party, and some Republicans are Tea-Party-Pure, fully embracing the Tea Party without hesitation or protection.

Speaking KNUS's Peter Boyles show this morning, GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck agreed with guest host Chuck Bonniwell that establishment Republicans in Colorado are "clueless," as opposed to the Tea Party base of the party.

Buck told listeners that he witnessed a meeting, at which an unnamed Tea Party leader said that if Rep. Amy Stephens, who's considered an establishment candidate, wins the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, "nobody in this room will vote for her, and nobody in this room will work for her."

But Buck has his own limits as to how far he'll go in hugging the Tea Party.

On another Tea Party radio show yesterday, Buck stopped short of allowing himself to be called a "Tea-Party guy."

On KLZ 560-AM's "Wake Up" show yesterday, host Randy Corporon told Buck a story about a consultant advising a Republican candidate to stay away from the Tea Party. But, Corporan said to Buck, "you're a Tea Party guy, aren't you?"

Buck flinched.

"You know, I am a Republican candidate," he answered. "I'm a conservative Republican candidate. I share many of the same values with the Tea Party, and I have to tell you, I am so disappointed when I look at DC and I see the infighting that's going on in the Republican Party there--and some of the same tension here in Colorado. It makes absolutely no sense to me. If we fight amongst ourselves in Colorado, we don't stand any chance of winning an election against the Democrats. They are much more disciplined and united. And so while certainly I have disagreements with other Tea-Party candidates--heck my wife and I don't agree on what to eat for dinner--it doesn't mean we don't get along. But I certainly believe in the core values of the Tea Party and 9-12 groups in Colorado.

Listen to Buck (on KLZ radio) discuss whether he's a Tea-Party candidate

Buck doesn't say he's a Tea-Party guy, and then he sort of does so when he says he sometimes disagrees with "other Tea-Party candidates."

So it seems that Buck himself has Tea-Party identity issues. Maybe he's not so Tea-Party-Pure, even as he attacks Stephens for ranking low on the Tea-Party scale.

You can understand why it's tough for Buck. On one hand, he needs the Tea Party Republicans to win his primary race against Stevens and others, allowing him to take on Democrat Mark Udall.

On the other hand, if Buck embraces the Tea Party, and he wins the chance to take on Udall, Democrats will accuse Buck of being, guess what, a Tea Party guy! And that's a liability these days among voters, who associate the Tea Party with obstruction, government shutdowns, hostility toward Hispanics and women, and other such liabilities.

So, as it turns out, it's a really good question. Which Republicans will say they're Tea Party guys or gals? KLZ'z Corporon was smart to ask it.