Thursday, July 31, 2008

Colorado U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Colorado U.S. Senate

July 31, 2008
96 Days Until Election Day

Status: Open Republican
2004 Presidential Result: Red State (West)

Outlook: Tossup (D)

Over a year ago, Republican Wayne Allard became the first U.S. Senator to announce he would not seek reelection and since that time, Democrats have counted this race as one of their prime pickup opportunities. In fact, ever since Congressman Mark Udall emerged as the Democrat contender for the seat, some in the party have practically considered his election a done deal.

While Democrats quickly coalesced around Udall, a part of the younger generation of a prominent political family (and who could conceivably join two cousins in the Senate next year), Republicans had a harder time finding a candidate, as a few of the most touted names eventually took themselves out of consideration. Eventually, former Congressman Bob Schaffer came forward. After having previously left the House in order to keep a term limits pledge, Schaffer had been soundly defeated in a 2004 U.S. Senate primary but would also go on to be elected to the State Board of Education. From the start, Schaffer was considered the underdog against Udall and was seen as perhaps being too conservative to win a statewide election. While Schaffer is probably a bit to the right of the state politically, Udall holds some positions that would have him considered to the left of the state. While Democrats have done well in the last couple of election cycles in Colorado, the major races were won by candidates considered to be centrists. Whomever is able to overcome the image as being overly ideological and best appeal to the center will almost certainly win this race.

Early polling matchups showed a very close race, withUdall consistently up by a small margin. As 2008 progressed though, some polls showed that Udall was perhaps benefitting from an anti-Republican sentiment and he led by double digits in at least one poll. Throughout this time, while being outraised and outspent by Udall, Schaffer has been said to have been more successful raising money than expected. The most recent batch of polls show some considerable closing of the margin. Rasmussen has Udall's lead down to four points and Quinnipiac shows an exact tie between the two candidates. As November approaches, Udall will try to turn out young voters and environmentalists while Schaffer will count on heavy support from the state's large contingent of Evangelical Christians.

Unlike predictions made by earlier by some, this race is likely to be one of the closest and most hotly contested ones in the nation. Udall has some advantages in this contest, which will take place in what will also be one of the most key battleground states in the Presidential race, but an issue like energy development, which is an important one in Colorado, could certainly work to Schaffer's advantage. Already the candidates have had one debate, and a clip which has gone around YouTube had conservatives cheering as Schaffer seemed to embarass his opponent on the issue of Iraq, by throwing his own words in previously supporting the war back at him. For his part, Udall has tried to link Schaffer to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Senate race in the Centennial State has every making of a tossup and one which could swing either way. However, if I were forced to pick who may have a very slight edge in November, I would have to say that based on campaign cash it is probably Udall.

Schaffer campaign link:

2008 U.S. Senate races predicted: 2 D, 2 R
Predicted Senate balance of power thus far: 41 D, 28 R


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