Colorado’s Senate race stays combative to the end
DENVER, Colorado ” Democrat Mark Udall, a strong environmental advocate, and Republican Bob Schaffer, a former congressman aligned with his party’s conservative wing, both ran as centrists in their battle for Colorado’s open Senate seat, one of only five nationwide.
The ferocity of the fight to succeed two-term Republican Wayne Allard, who is retiring, was broadcast in hard-hitting TV and radio ads financed by combined campaign spending of more than $17 million.
A win by Udall would give Colorado two Democratic senators for the first time since the mid-1970s, when Gary Hart and Floyd Haskell served together. A Schaffer win would save a GOP seat in the face of expected Democratic gains in the Senate.
Heading into Tuesday’s election, polls varied, with some showing Udall with double-digit leads and one released by The Denver Post Sunday showing him with just a 4 percentage point lead.
“We’re taking nothing for granted,” said Udall, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District for 10 years.
Schaffer’s campaign cast Udall as a liberal out of touch with Colorado. Udall, a member of one of the West’s most prominent political families, stressed his roots in a region where Democrats have had to play more to the center to get elected.
Schaffer, who represented eastern Colorado’s 4th Congressional District from 1997 to 2003, lost a U.S. Senate primary in 2004 after GOP leaders worried that he was too conservative to win statewide. He insists that his principles of small government and low taxes are centrist and that the country needs the kind of balance a senator like himself would provide.
The race between Udall, 58, and Schaffer, 46, was watched nationally because it offered Democrats a chance to build their majority in the Senate. Their debates were heated, with the more low-key Udall and the more hard-charging Schaffer struggling to talk over each other at times.
A televised faceoff on NBC’s “Meet the Press” turned combative after Schaffer interrupted Udall during questions about the $700 billion bailout of the U.S. financial system.
Environmental and left-leaning groups weighed in with jabs at Schaffer as “Big Oil Bob” because of his votes while in Congress and his work for a Denver energy company.
Schaffer shot back with ads touting his support for renewable energy and accusing Udall of blocking domestic energy production by opposing drilling.
“He has been and is still against the ability of the U.S. to expand its energy,” Schaffer said of Udall.
Udall has tempered his opposition to offshore oil drilling but maintained his go-slow approach to commercial oil shale development and backing for renewable energy.