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Bob Schaffer is currently the only Republican running for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2008 (Sen. Wayne Allard is retiring), and Rep. Mark Udall is the only Democrat on the ticket thus far. Neither Schaffer or Udall are likely to face a primary challenge, which means they are free to begin the run to the middle as they court unaffiliated voters and moderate Democrats and Republicans.
Why move to the middle? Because that’s where you win. We’ve seen from the last two election cycles in Colorado that the statewide candidates who win are the moderates. Democrats Ken Salazar and Bill Ritter both ran as moderate Democrats, and both defeated candidates who were considered to be diehard conservatives (Pete Coors and Bob Beauprez, respectively). Colorado is a moderate state, with voter registration numbers fairly evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and Unaffiliated voters, and voters have spoken repeatedly that they don’t want a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican at the top of the ticket.
Udall is a much more liberal Democrat than either Salazar or Ritter, but he’s been careful recently to paint himself as more of a moderate (for example, check out his opinion column in The Denver Post on the Iraq war).
Schaffer, on the other hand, has chosen a different tactic. Take a look at this letter signed by Bob that appears on the front page of his Web site:
Republicans have lost elections because our leaders have not been bold enough in proposing innovative solutions in Washington and have drifted from our long-held claim to the mantle of fiscal responsibility. You can’t credibly propose earmark reform, for example, while simultaneously authorizing spending on bridges to nowhere.
We have to reestablish our credibility because Republicans terribly mishandled the ethical lapses of a few Congressmen in their ranks who should have been expeditiously and forcefully removed by their own party. Republicans have not fought hard enough for children and public-education reform, especially in the inner city where the need has reached crisis status.
We have lost elections because Republicans have not effectively communicated to the American people why our sons and daughters are being asked to fight and win a war that many Democrats in Congress and their friends in the press would prefer America lose.
But after just five months of taking control in Colorado and with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi running the U.S. Congress, it is clear the activist-Democrat leaders are overreaching. They are trying to swing Colorado and the country in an unfamiliar direction – cutting family income, increasing regulation, hurting the economy and retreating from the very real threats to national security.
These are some of the reasons I’ve decided to run for the United States Senate. I’ll campaign on common-sense, reform-oriented themes that will offer sharp contrast to the agenda of the Reid/Pelosi government.
You’ll notice the frequent use of the “we” pronoun, but he doesn’t mean all of us. By “we,” Schaffer means conservative Republicans. He’s not talking about what’s best for everyone in the country, or even for everyone in Colorado. No, Schaffer wants you to know that he’s running for the U.S. Senate because of what is best for conservative Republicans.
That’s swell, but somebody better tell Bob that it is the moderate voter, particularly the Unaffiliated moderate voter, who is going to decide the winner of the 2008 U.S. Senate race. To conservative Republicans, Schaffer might be the greatest thing since sliced Democrats, but why would you tell the other 3/4 of the voters that you really don’t care about them? Schaffer was going to get the conservative vote anyway, and he isn’t facing a primary where he needs to shore up the base.
Schaffer’s rhetoric is so over-the-top, in fact, that it doesn’t really even make sense. He calls Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid “activist-Democrat leaders,” taking a line from the conservative talking point on “activist judges.” But isn’t the point of being in congress to be an activist? What is Schaffer saying by comparing himself to an “activist-Democrat”? That if you elect him, he won’t do anything?
If I were a Republican worried about my party’s ability to hold onto its Senate seat, this would really worry me. What would concern me isn’t so much what Schaffer is saying, but that he didn’t think it was a problem to be saying it. Schaffer isn’t running for Senator of the Republican Party â€“ he’s running for Senator from Colorado. If he doesn’t know the difference, Udall is going to win this race without much trouble at all.