March 29, 2008

In Schaffer v Udall Battle, Coloradans Offered Clear Choice

"The two likely candidates in this year's U.S. Senate contest, Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat, and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Republican, served side-by-side in Congress from 1999 through 2002. Over those four years, they cast 2,036 votes together, often on symbolic or non-controversial matters. And yet they still managed to disagree more than half the time - 1,078 times, to be precise"--Rocky Mountain News

As the Rocky Mountain News points out, Senate candidates Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall are as different as night and day:
If you think Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat, and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, a Republican, disagree on 1,000 different things, that's close.

From 1999 through 2002, when they worked across the aisle from one another in the U.S. House of Representatives, they cast opposite votes a whopping 1,078 times.

That long and detailed record makes the 2008 contest a rarity in state politics. Not since 1986, when Democrat Tim Wirth faced Republican Ken Kramer, have two one-time House colleagues gone head-to-head in a U.S. Senate race.

"Talk about a paper trail. This is a paper trail that leads into the Rockies for this Senate race," said Norman Provizer, a political science professor at Metropolitan State College in Denver. "They represent two very differing views on all kinds of issues. If you look at it from an issue perspective, they aren't Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum."

The Rocky Mountain News analyzed all 2,036 congressional votes, big and small, that Schaffer and Udall cast during their four years together in the House. It's more than enough to keep the ad-makers on both sides busy in the run-up to November.
Fair use prevents a lengthier quotation (the article is quite long and extensively researched), but here are a few highlights:
Schaffer's stance is first, Udall's second

Military issues

* IRAQ WAR: Resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq. (Oct. 10, 2002) YES NO

* SPENDING: An amendment that would have imposed a 1 percent, across-the-board cut on military programs. (May 18, 2000) NO YES

* RECRUITING: Amendment to education spending bill that would have prohibited funds from being used to block military recruiting at secondary schools. (June 13, 2000) YES NO

Homeland security

* ANTI-TERRORISM LAW: The anti-terrorism law, the Patriot Act, first enacted in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. (Oct. 12, and Oct. 24, 2001)YES NO

* ARMING PILOTS: Legislation to allow airline pilots to carry guns in the cockpit as a defense against terrorism. (July 10, 2002)YES NO


* SCHOOL CHOICE: Amendment to the proposed "No Child Left Behind Act" that would have allowed students from low-performing schools, or crime victims from "unsafe schools," to choose to attend private schools using public funds. (May 23, 2001)YES NO


* BUSH TAX CUTS: Approval of White House-backed tax cuts of the "Economic Growth and Tax Relief Act of 2001." (March 8, 2001)YES NO

* TAX LIMITS: A proposed constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds majority votes to approve new tax increases. (June 12, 2002)YES NO

This contest pits candidates from rival parties that present a clear difference in viewpoints. The common charge that most candidates in any election are "basically the same" can simply not be applied in this case.



The move to the "middle" where both sides believe the election will be won features an unaffiliated voting bloc poised to become the largest pool of registered voters in Colorado. Schaffer acknowledges that the state's tilt has been blue since 2004; Udall realizes that he is not the "moderate" that either Sen. Ken Salazar or Gov. Bill Ritter were (or purported to be) when they ran statewide.

The most recent poll shows both candidates within the margin of error (Udall leads 46-43), a clear toss-up, in spite of the MSM's continued meme that the seat is really Udall's to lose.

The votes revealed (or re-revealed, in some cases, for those political junkies who have been following this blog) will be the subject of campaign fodder, political ads, and 527 mudslinging for the next 7 months.

The only thing that can be agreed on--the stature and importance of this race. Republicans see the seat as an opportunity to roll back further losses due to retirement and a generally unfavorable political climate that has persisted since 2006. Democrats envision not only a pick-up, but an advance toward the potential 60 vote filibuster-proof supermajority.

Exit question: with Republicans settled on Sen. John McCain as their nominee, and the Democrats witnessing a fierce race rage on between Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, which candidate stands to benefit from their respective party's nominee? Who is helped more, or flipping that proposition, who is hurt the least?

Ryan Sager is rather pessimistic about the GOP's chances in the "interior West" unless Sen. Hillary Clinton is the nominee, but Daniel Larison has a different explanation for the region's recent trend to blue, and asks--is it really a recent development, and can short term trends be extrapolated into long term outcomes?

Cross posted from Schaffer v Udall

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