3rd District in play, GOP candidate says; Salazar not convinced

Republican Scott Tipton says he’s reshuffling the race in the 3rd Congressional District, making it a winnable contest. A spokesman for incumbent John Salazar, though, says Salazar has nothing to fear, while Tipton has plenty of problems in his own party.

RealClearPolitics.com this week moved the 3rd Congressional District race from “leaning Democrat” to a “toss-up” in November’s general election, a shift that led Tipton’s campaign staff to declare Salazar “is already losing his edge” in March.

Hardly, said Ronnie Carleton, Salazar’s chief of staff. Congressional Quarterly and The Cook Political Report list the race as “leans Democrat,” Carleton said, “so they are not showing the race as a toss-up.”

RealClearPolitics is a poll tracker, not an originator of data, Carleton said.

The only other original data came from the Tarrance Poll, a Republican polling group with a limited sample tilted to GOP voters, Carleton said.

“We call that a little skewed, don’t you think?  So, I don’t really take it seriously, and I’m surprised that Tipton can advance this stuff with a straight face,” Carleton said.

Last November, all the political observers called the race a solid Democrat victory, and Cook moved it from a seat likely to remain in Democrat hands to one leaning that way, Tipton’s campaign noted.

The raging debate over health care is moving voters toward him, prompting pollsters and pundits to look at the race in the largely rural district differently, Tipton said Friday.

State Sen. Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, chimed in, declaring Salazar “is done,” after Salazar announced Thursday he’d vote for the health care plan.

“A yes vote for government-run health care is not only in direct conflict with the cowboy-hatted moderate image Mr. Salazar has cultivated, it’s in direct conflict with every corner of his district,” Penry said.

Tipton is jumping the gun by suggesting he’ll face Salazar again, Carleton said.

Salazar defeated Tipton, now a state legislator, in 2006. Tipton blamed that loss on a lack of money that forced his campaign to go dark at a critical moment.

This quarter, Tipton said, “If all the pledges come through, we’ll be in great shape.”

He might need them, Carleton suggested.

Tipton is opposed by Bob McConnell of Steamboat Springs, who is running on tea party appeal and painting Tipton as a career politician.

“I understand why Tipton would want to trumpet a skewed, biased poll, since he’s in a tight race with (Bob) McConnell and may not even be the Republican candidate,” Carleton said.


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