Monday, March 24, 2014

Udall vs. Gardner – Déjà vu

The race for the Colorado U.S. Senate is within two points, with a slight advantage to the incumbent Senator, Mark Udall, over challenger Congressman Cory Gardner (PPP 2014). Four years ago, Senator Michael Bennet held on by two points during a terrible year for Democrats in a fierce, expensive campaign against Weld County DA, Ken Buck. The 2014 contest looks much the same – turbulent election environment and incumbent just barely ahead.

The senate race begins with a substantial part of the electorate not making a choice as of mid-March. More than a fifth of the electorate are undecided, represented by significant percentage of independents (32%), Hispanics (31%), young (24%) and women (21%).

Gardner, of course, has a name identification deficit being little known on much of the Front Range. For a start, he needs to at least reduce undecided Republicans (14%) by half. And, Udall will be targeting Hispanics, women and younger voters, early with persuasion messages and late with get-out-the-vote, both of which have become multi-million dollar campaign techniques. His first task will be to familiarize voters with his record and life.

Because control of the U.S. Senate is at stake, outside groups will dominate the advertising dollars and the ad buys are beginning early and are negative.

Colorado television is a platform to field test political and advertising concepts, some of which are already playing in other targeted states. The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity have started a nearly one-million dollar television campaign trying to tie Udall to the failed ACA. They are running a typical “Call Senator Udall and tell him” ad.

The well-thought of 2012 campaign playbook of President Obama began heavy advertising in Colorado, attacking Romney in May as soon as he was the designated, if not nominated, candidate. Hence, Colorado can expect some early anti-Gardner attack ads, likely sponsored and funded by independent groups, following the Democratic script that Gardner is an extremist on various issues.

Can Cory Gardner handle the attacks? As Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reported, Friday, March 21, 2014:
Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli calls it the Ronald Reagan syndrome.
“A good smile and a positive outlook takes you a long way,” Ciruli said.
In both the Colorado legislature and in Congress, Gardner made himself accessible to the media. His one-liners and ability to dissect complex legislation make him a favorite.
Gardner’s conservative record, Ciruli said, doesn’t define him in the way that former Congressman Tom Tancredo is linked to immigration and former Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave is known for her position on gay marriage.
“Cory’s held meetings on bread-and-butter, meat-and-potato, (Chamber of Commerce) kind of issues, such as water and agriculture,” Ciruli said.
PPP: Colorado Senate close, Hickenlooper grows lead
The Buzz: Can incumbent senator lose re-election?
The Buzz: Udall vs. Gardner – One point
The Buzz: Do Republicans win Senate?

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