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Primary concern

With outliers out, Senate race could loiter in margin of error

By Leigh E. Rich

Easily cleaving the ideological outliers from both camps, what was predicted to be a close-call primary has metamorphosed into a battle of the moderates.

Tuesday’s primary—though promising a tight match between Republicans Bob Schaffer and Pete Coors and a Democratic run-for-the-money long shot by Mike Miles and his ardent supporters against Ken Salazar—dispensed landslide victories that rolled in even before voting tallies crossed the finish line.

Less than two hours after the polls had closed, the news media called the election in favor of Colorado’s beer businessman and the attorney general with longtime roots in the San Luis Valley.

Coors, after waging a four-month campaign that, with Schaffer’s help, has been dubbed one of the most negative in recent intra-party history, garnered 60.6 percent of the Republican vote over Schaffer’s 39.4 percent.

Salazar, with two statewide victories under his well-worn belt after barely winning his office in 1998 but triumphing in 2002, trumped Miles with 73.2 percent of the Democratic vote.

And with some claiming Coors too liberal for Schaffer’s crusaders and Salazar too centrist for Miles’ foot soldiers, Colorado voters are now left to choose between the varying shades of gray distinguishing the still-standing candidates of the two major parties. There is no third-party challenger to add contrast to the mix.

The U.S. Senate race revived with two viable contestants, the November general election could deliver the nail-biting type of poll watching perceptibly absent Tuesday night.

In fact, weather alerts throughout the evening dominated primetime television programming—the only time political party-goers seemed to pause conversations or perusals of buffet lines. Apparently, if you don’t like the polls in Colorado, wait five minutes and you’ll see more of the same.

But a less humdrum November election will depend on voter turnout, the successful courting of the unaffiliated, as well as how many cross-pollinations take place. According to numbers issued by the Secretary of State’s office in July, there are 188,050 more registered Republicans than Democrats and as many as 925,109 independent voters in the Rocky Mountain state.

George W. Bush supporters have been found in the Salazar camp, but this kind of crossover should come as no surprise in the battle for a seat won by Democrat Ben Nighthorse Campbell in 1992, who shockingly switch teams mid-term in 1995.

Colorado Republicans want desperately to keep the Senate opening in the hands of the GOP, while the state’s Dems are fighting to fill it with a Democrat. The current Senate humbly boasts of 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent.

There are 34 Senate seats up for grabs in the 2004 election, with 15 Republican vacancies and 19 Democrat. Eight of those 34, including Campbell’s, are open, with the incumbent no longer in the race due to voluntary retirement, term limitations or other reasons.

Rich, L. E. (2004, August 13). Primary concern: With outliers out, Senate race could loiter in margin of error. The Colorado Statesman, pp. 1–2.

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