Republican Scott Tipton is sticking to a familiar message in his effort to replace Democrat John Salazar in Colorado’s sprawling 3rd Congressional District. Tipton, who has taken a pledge not to use earmarks to secure money for his constituents if he is sent to Washington, has attacked Salazar for bringing millions in federal dollars home to his district. A look at Salazar’s fiscal earmarks for 2008-09 via the Center for Responsive Politics shows homeland security, energy and water, defense, and interior projects receiving the most dollars. And that’s an issue for independent voters, according to a poll from The Hill, which shows that 55 percent of such voters in CD3 say they want a lawmaker who cuts spending, and just 36 percent want someone who will bring federal money back to Colorado.

The Pueblo Chieftain focuses on Salazar’s disadvantage with independents simply for being an incumbent, pointing out that both candidates enjoy 92 percent support from their respective parties. But despite the Republicans’ struggle to curb their own spending, which independent and nonpartisan analysts recently figured to be $1.1 trillion more than that of the Democrats, the Hill poll puts the race within Tipton’s reach, at 47 percent to Salazar’s 43 percent.

Sean Walsh, Tipton’s campaign manager, jumps on the findings to further criticize Salazar, who he calls “out of step with the hardworking families of Colorado” (via The Durango Herald). Meanwhile, Salazar spokeswoman Tara Trujillo says “polls come and go,” and Salazar is “confident that he will win.”

Vanessa Martinez contributed to this post.