KING: One of this year's most compelling political narratives is playing out, out west in Colorado. Ken Buck with the backing of the Tea Party defeated the Republican establishment candidate Jane Norton in yesterday's primary. He now goes up against the Democratic establishment, not only incumbent Senator Michael Bennet but also the Obama White House, where Press Secretary Robert Gibbs opened fire this afternoon.
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GIBBS: Senator Bennet will now go up against somebody who believes that Social Security is bad policy. I think that is a debate that will turn out quite well for us in November.
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KING: Republican-nominee Ken Buck joins me now to go "One-on- One". Congratulations and welcome to the general election all in one breath, I guess sir. Answer Robert Gibbs there who says that Senator Bennet, the Democrat, is running against a Republican, and he means you, who thinks Social Security is bad policy.
BUCK: Yeah, what I think is bad policy is when Congress and the president decided to take -- and this is years ago -- decided to take money out of the trust fund and use it for pork barrel projects and other things and really leave that trust fund susceptible and leave Social Security on an unsustainable path.
KING: So let's make clear to anyone, many people just getting to know you across the country, Social Security, 75th anniversary this year. A good policy? Or would you prefer the federal government not get involved in retirement policy?
BUCK: I certainly don't think it's what the Founding Fathers intended but we have the policy. We've made a promise to our seniors. We need to keep that promise. I think we need to make sure that we are putting Social Security on a sustainable path. It's absolutely something that the federal government is going to be involved in, in the future. We can make it the best program we can make it.
KING: And what do we have to do to make it the best program we can make it? Do we need to raise the retirement age or reduce benefits to put it on a more sustainable fiscal path?
BUCK: Well, we certainly need to raise the retirement age. I've told my 19-year-old and my 22-year-old that they're not going to be getting retirement benefits at age 62. That doesn't mean somebody age 60 won't get them at that point. We've got to make sure our younger workers understand that as life expectancy increases, the retirement date for benefits increases also.
KING: It's not just the White House press secretary already putting a target on your back, sir, your opponent, Michael Bennett, when he won the Democratic nomination last night, he immediately took aim. I want you to listen to Senator Bennett for a second.
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SEN. MICHAEL BENNETT, (D) COLORADO: Do we want a senator who answers only to the extremes of his or her party, even when it flies in the face of progress?
BENNETT: Or will we remember our Colorado independence, roll up our sleeves and get to work?
KING: You answer to the extremes of the Republican Party, as your opponent says?
BUCK: You know, it's an interesting question. I think that when Senator Bennett supports, you know, cash for clunkers, and when he supports the stimulus bill, and when he supports the health care bill. And he is, in effect, a rubber stamp for President Obama and Harry Reid. If extreme means that I am unwilling to go to Washington, D.C., and do what President Obama tells me, then so be it. But I am certainly not going to Washington, D.C. to represent the interests of D.C. I'm going there to represent Colorado values.
KING: To the degree that your name has become known nationally, it is because of some provocative or maybe controversial things you have said on the campaign trail. I want to walk through one or two of them.
One was when you were being recorded, and you did not know this, walking into an event and you had something many consider to be disparaging to say about some Tea Party activists. I want you to listen.
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BUCK: Will you tell those dumb (EXPLETIVE DELETED) at the Tea Party to stop asking question about birth certificates? What am I supposed to do?
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KING: What was the point you were trying to make there, sir?
BUCK: You know, on seven or eight occasions, I was at meetings -- this is over a 16-month period as I was campaigning. I was at meetings and a what we call "birther" was at the meeting and disrupted the meeting. And I couldn't get to talk about subjects I think most people at those meetings were interested in, like the $13 trillion of debt we have now. And it was frustrating to try to deal with those folks.
So I was talking specifically about seven or eight people on the campaign trail. I got a lot of Tea Party and 912, and grassroots support in Colorado. I think that we had a very high turnout for first-time primary voters. I attribute a lot of that to the grassroots efforts. So I certainly wasn't making disparaging remarks about Tea Party, generally, but rather about a few birthers who were trying to disrupt meetings.
KING: And as the party tries to rebuild, and recover from its losses in 2006 and 2008, who do you view as the national leader? Is there one?
BUCK: I don't think there is. I have gone through a wonderful process. Think there were seven, eight, nine different candidates in the Republican side of this Senate race. There is now one left. I think the same thing's going to happen in the presidential race. Think we'll see a number of people get into the race. We'll see who has the stamina, who has the financing, who has the -- really, the grasp of the issues to attract voters. And I thank process has to unfold before we can make that call.
KING: Ken Buck is the Republican nominee for Senate in Colorado. Sir, we'll keep in touch the next 84 days to election day.
BUCK: Thank you very much.
KING: Thank you, sir, appreciate your time.