Attack Ads Don't Derail Colorado Democrat

Colorado is one of the Western battlegrounds in the presidential race — and there's a pretty good Senate skirmish brewing there, too. Democrat Mark Udall is hanging onto a lead over Republican Bob Schaffer — despite a wave of attack ads by outside groups.

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ANDREA SEABROOK, host:

Ina's been out on the campaign trail all week. One of her stops was Colorado, the traditionally red state, where a Democrat is leading the race to succeed retiring Republican Senator Wayne Allard. That Democrat is long time Congressman Mark Udall. His opponent, former Representative Bob Schaffer. Ina didn't run into snow in the rocky mountain state, but she did have to fight through a blizzard of negative ads.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man #1: Radical Islamic terrorists, they hate us and want us to die.

INA JAFFE: Colorado TV watchers have been inundated with ads like this one.

Unidentified Man #1: But Mark Udall, he voted no on the Patriot Act, no to funding body armor, no to strengthening border security.

JAFFE: There have been so many attack ads on so many subjects, Udall just decided to make fun of them in the spot of his own.

Representative MARK UDALL (Democrat, Colorado): Quick. Lock your doors and hide. It's me, Mark Udall.

JAFFE: He can afford to make fun. He's still up about eight points in the polls. It helps that he has a household name, at least in western households. He's the son of the late Arizona Congressman, Moe Udall. His uncle is Stewart Udall, also a former Arizona congressman and a cabinet officer in the Kennedy administration. Despite that Democratic pedigree, Mark Udall presents himself as a bipartisan, reach across the aisle kind of guy at a campaign event with about 50 senior citizens in Aurora.

Representative UDALL: And I'm proud to stand up here and probably bore you with the long list, it's actually close to 50 pages, of successful initiatives with Republicans and fellow Democrats in the Congress and in the state legislature.

JAFFE: But his Republican opponent, Bob Schaffer, wasn't in on any of those. Both men admit they weren't close when they served together in Congress. And there's no love lost between them in the current campaign. This is from their debate on the economic meltdown on NBC's, "Meet the Press." Udall speaks first.

Representative UDALL: This is the result of years and years of Republican leadership, or lack thereof, in Washington, tax cuts for those who don't need it, tax cuts for the oil companies.

Former Representative BOB SCHAFFER (Republican, Colorado): Mark, I've been out of Congress for six years.

Representative UDALL: The Bush economic plan. The...

Former Representative SCHAFFER: You've been there for 10. Tell us what you've done.

Representative UDALL: Bob, let me finish. Let me finish.

Former Representative SCHAFFER: Finish by telling us what you've done.

Representative UDALL: You interrupted me.

JAFFE: Since leaving Congress, Schaffer has been an oil executive, and the organization, Both Bets(ph), uses that to slam in another of Colorado's ubiquitous attack ads.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man #2: I went to Iraq for my country. Bob Schaffer went to Iraq for a big oil company.

Unidentified Woman: I tried to secure peace in Iraq. Bob Schaffer tried to secure an oil deal in Iraq.

JAFFE: Nevertheless, it was an endorsement from a military support group, Move America Forward, that brought Schaffer to a BFW Hall in Colorado Springs, where he derided Udall's call for withdrawing troops in Iraq while touting his own national security credentials.

Former Representative SCHAFFER: I am for winning rather than losing. I am for victory rather than surrendering.

(Soundbite of applause)

JAFFE: Colorado voters, says Schaffer, are in sync with his conservative philosophy.

Former Representative SCHAFFER: From the standpoint of controlled spending, tax relief, and economic growth, conservative themes really are the mainstream values of our state.

JAFFE: Or at least they used to be, says independent pollster Floyd Ciruli. But since Colorado's economy started to slow down a few years ago, voters, he says, began changing their views.

Mr. FLOYD CIRULI (Founder, Ciruli Associates): And instead of wanting limited government and low taxes, the entire agenda began to switch to not how to limit government, but how to make it work.

JAFFE: That change in attitude, says Ciruli, was also due to an influx of new voters, young people, new citizens, people moving in from out of state. A lot of them have no party affiliation. ..TEXT: Mr. CIRULI: The unaffiliated voters tend to be the key, and they are breaking for the Democrats at at least 10 percentage points and, in many cases, two to one.

JAFFE: That's partly because Democrats have started running more conservative candidates. As a result, the once red state of Colorado now has one Democratic senator, a Democratic governor, and Democratic majorities in both Houses of the state legislature. In the presidential race, Barack Obama leads John McCain in the polls. If Mark Udall maintains the lead he now holds, Colorado could give Democrats their long sought after foothold in the mountain west. Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

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