Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | September 25, 2003

Colorado: Scaling Mount Campbell

By Stephen Yellin

Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell is usually thought to be a safe incumbent. After all, he won easily in 1998 after switching to the Republican party. Still, it should be mentioned that his opponent, Dottie Lamm, proved to be a weak candidate. Six years later, Campbell appears to be slowing down. Having accomplished very little as Senator, he has relied on his colorful personality to win popularity. The issue for the Democrats in 2004, as we attend to scale and seize Mount Campbell, is whether they can turn the race on this question: Competence or Charisma?

First off, the facts. Colorado gave 51% in 2000 to President Bush, with 47% for the combined Gore/Nader vote. A recent DSCC poll shows Bush at 42% in Colorado, with 35% voting for a Democrat. While it is likely that Bush will carry Colorado in 2004, it is nevertheless competitive enough for the nominee to stump there. As for Campbell himself, 38% would vote to reelect him, while 51% either wanted someone else or would vote him out.

It should be remembered that a 38% from the DSCC indicates vulnerability, but not neccesarily defeat. Tim Hutchinson's 39% reelect in 2001 indicated his defeat in 2002 to Mark Pryor. However, Wayne Allard (R-Colorado) had a 36% reelect in 2001, and he won in 2002 anyway. So, while the DSCC polls can identify vulnerable incumbents, it does not mean they are doomed. What is needed to defeat them is a strong, popular moderate (in Colorado's case) who can bring out the growing Latino vote. In the Democrats' case, we have three such candidates.

The first is Congressman Mark Udall. We already know that Udall would be a strong candidate because a Tamley-Drake poll for the Rocky Mountain News had Udall trailing Campbell by a 45-40 margin. A son of the late, great Mo Udall, he has name recognition, plus a strong moderate-to-liberal record.

The second is Attorney General Ken Salazar. The popular Attorney General is a big hit in the state, having won reelection easily in 2002. He is also considering a bid for for the Senate, but may want to run for Governor in 2006. Salazer would be a strong candidate because he would bring out the important Latino vote, which usually does not turn out in great numbers.

The final possible candidate is Gary Hart. The former Senator nearly ran for President in 2004, but concluded that he couldn't raise enough cash.

In this case, Senator Corzine and the DSCC want Hart to run, and so the money would be there. His candidacy would be tought to judge, as he has not been in public office since 1987. Still, his imense foreign policy expertise would play well in pro-military Colorado.

There's also Jim Martin and Mike Miles. Martin is a state university regent (an elected post in Colorado), and an ex-Republican. He would be an interesting candidate, but it is unlikely he could beat Campbell. Miles is a former diplomat and army ranger, who graduated from West Point. He is a good guy (I've talked to him before), but it is again unlikely that he could raise the funds to beat Campbell.

Scaling Mount Campbell is not an easy prospect, but given the right candidate we could be very competitive.

Posted September 25, 2003 12:47 AM | Comments (57)


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