Udall’s road to re-election a lot rockier with Gardner in race

Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Mark Udall didn’t have a very good week at the end of February.

I know this because the Washington Post said he had the worst week in Washington. I was going to put an exclamation point at the end of that sentence but it seemed a little capricious. It’s just that the Washington Post thinks that Democrats have bad weeks so seldom, I was shocked.

The reason for Udall’s funk, was that Colorado 4th Congressional District Congressman Cory Gardner decided to enter the senatorial race against the first-term senator. That announcement was a sweet sound, like that of a Louisville Slugger as it connects on a home run.

Prior to that announcement, Udall was even considered to have some problems with the prior leading candidate, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who ran a rather unconvincing race against the hapless but nonetheless victorious Michael Bennet in 2010 for the other Senate seat in Colorado.

Gardner is a Fort Collins-area conservative with good poll numbers in his district and a solid 82 percent grade from the National Taxpayers Union as a friend to taxpayers based on his voting patterns. Mark Udall scores a 13 percent and is ranked as a “Big Spender” by the group.

Gardner was many observers’ first choice for a run this election cycle against Udall but had, until recently, declined to enter the race. His entry at this point and Buck dropping out of the Senate race to run for Gardner’s vacated Congressional seat, is a huge change in the landscape. It sends a signal about Udall’s electability that has Democratic observers concerned.

Gardner’s seat was relatively safe. For him to jump into the race to unseat Udall indicates a lot of the polling numbers are not pulling in the right direction for the present senator. Despite his attempts to appear a newly minted bystander to the political turmoil of the disastrous Obamacare rollout, his involvement at a deep level is undeniable and clings negatively to his campaign.

Meanwhile, the president, to whom Sen. Udall has formerly clung, has changed from a rising star to a descending anchor in Colorado. Clearly, Udall realizes this and has declined to have the president campaign with him in the state. It seems the only prominent Democrat open to have President Obama talk about himself at someone else’s political event, is professional candidate Andrew Romanoff; running for Colorado’s 6th Congressional District against incumbent Republican Mike Coffman.

Udall is too smart to identify President Obama with himself in Colorado on any campaign swing — that is unless it is limited to wealthy donors in a dark room, with no one taking pictures that could be used in Republican campaign commercials.

That’s because in February, the president, according to a Quinnipiac poll, had a dismal 37 percent approval rating in Colorado, while Udall himself only led Ken Buck by three points and Republican state Sen. Amy Stephens — who has abandoned her campaign and thrown her support behind Gardner — by two points.

So, the last thing Udall needs to do is cart old 37 Percent around with him on campaign stops — especially in the Western part of the state where he is extremely vulnerable and probably will be conducting his campaign from a stagecoach to show how down he is with the Westerners.

Udall’s strength is mainly his money. He has $5 million in his campaign war chest, but with Gardner having some money — raised originally for his congressional campaign — and with Colorado an important swing state strongly in play; lots of money will flow Gardner’s way.

What also helps Gardner is the difference between the two parties’ defensive positions this election cycle, where Democrats have a lot more vulnerable seats nationally to defend while Republicans need to pick off just a few to secure a majority in the United States Senate.

USA Today points out that there are 36 senate seats up for re-election this year: 21 held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. There are seven open seats. USA Today said that Republicans are likely to pick up the open seats in South Dakota and West Virginia.

In Colorado, Udall needs to do well in Gardner’s northeastern Colorado district and minimize damage in the west to win.

Both are clearly a lot tougher with Gardner in the race.

Rick Wagner writes more about politics at his blog, The War on Wrong. 


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