October, 8th 2007

More problems for Bob Schaffer in Colorado?

– Liz Mair

I have been often accused of being too harsh on CO-Sen candidate and Republican Bob Schaffer (including by some people working for some very prolific and powerful Republicans in DC). No mind. As someone who is very concerned about where the party is going wrong in the West, and who thinks Colorado is the focal point of our screw-ups, I think it's important to point out what I think is really going on with this race, not what party bigwigs want to be going on with it.

So, I'm pointing out that Denver Post seems to think that Schaffer is in trouble, more than a year away from the 2008 general election:

The GOP candidate for U.S. Senate isn't viewed as a substantial threat by many Democrats, who publicly say Schaffer is a serious challenger but privately whisper that the race is a shoo-in for their candidate Rep. Mark Udall.

And a number of Republicans, including some well-heeled donors and power brokers, are exhibiting a significant lack of enthusiasm, and some are still hoping another Republican front-runner emerges.


Schaffer still faces some serious challenges. The Democrats' confidence stems from a four-year roll, where they captured the statehouse, won a U.S. Senate seat and catapulted into the governor's mansion.

Additionally, most Democrats view Udall as a top-notch candidate, whereas Schaffer's 2004 loss to Coors has left some Republicans with a second- banana taste in their mouth.

"Democrats are feeling their oats. And they seem to have their top-choice candidate, while Republicans seem to have had some angst," said political analyst Eric Sondermann.

While he predicted a tough and competitive race, Sondermann said that Schaffer's biggest challenge may be convincing voters he is a moderate because many perceive him as a social conservative.

"There is somewhat more confidence in Udall's political ability and malleability and willingness to get to the middle," Sondermann said. "Schaffer may have a harder time moving there, coming from an ideological place."

Portraying Schaffer and his voting record as "extreme" will play as big a part in Udall's campaign as Schaffer's campaign characterizing Udall as a "Boulder liberal."

The other big hurdle Schaffer faces is money. Not only has Udall outraised him, Democratic-backed 527 groups, as well as environmental organizations, are expected to funnel money into the race to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Wayne Allard.

It is questionable how much financial support Schaffer can count on from the NRSC, which trails its Democratic counterpart in fundraising and must defend a total of 22 Senate seats - compared with the Democrats' 12 - next year.

I should point out that I have omitted sections of the article covering points like "conservatives have tended to beat liberals in races like this in Colorado, historically" because I don't think trends from 1998 or whatever remain relevant in Colorado, which has seen a lot of demographic shifts and changes in voters' attitudes in recent years. I also agree with the points made that Schaffer is going to be seen as an extreme conservative (because he is, and while I wouldn't mind on the economic issues, I do on the social issues-- and so, I'm betting, will a lot of Coloradan independents) and that he's going to have trouble moving to the middle-- not least because from everything I've seen (comments in this article notwithstanding), Schaffer doesn't want to move to the middle and in fact seems to think that the reason that Republicans keep losing in Colorado or coming ridiculously close is because they're too moderate (please, remind me how Pete Coors ran as a moderate, and how Marilyn Musgrave, who nearly had her butt handed to her on a plate last year, is a squish).

The Cook Political Report may still be treating this race as a non-write-off, but I'm not convinced that this isn't looking likely to go to Udall already. And I think if the GOP could come up with a less extreme candidate, who wasn't already getting surrounded by things like corruption allegations and seeing key constituencies like sportsmen bolting, that might not be the case.


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