Anyone familiar with either Bob Schaffer or Mark Udall (or both) easily recognizes that the battle for Colorado's open Senate seat will hinge less on the candidates' attempt to reposition themselves in the mushy "middle" but on which candidate reflects the majority sentiment of Colorado's voters as a whole, including the independents and unaffiliateds who control the center. But perceptions, of course, still matter in politics:
Both campaigns say that their candidate's record is more nuanced than what comes across in several vote studies and that the candidate's efforts on issues important to Colorado will make more difference to voters than black-and-white rankings.It is difficult to ascertain from one study (whose methodology is not explicitly mentioned) whether or not Schaffer or Udall are "more extreme" than the other. If each legislator measured were represented as a dot, for example, would there be an even spread over the spectrum, a great concentration in the middle trickling to each side, or heavy concentrations at each end? This is not revealed, and though this certainly poses no question to study's veracity, it would have been nice to see the positioning in a more detailed manner than a ranking number.
Udall's team points to key votes he's made that have bucked his party's left wing — to continue funding the Iraq war, for example — and to the respect he's garnered from Republican colleagues.
A Schaffer aide said the candidate's votes in Congress were no more conservative than the values of most Colorado residents.
Still, in a race where the middle ground is a highly sought-after prize, the battle over perceptions is already running in high gear.
On the campaign trail, Schaffer refers to himself as the "mainstream" candidate, in contrast to "Boulder liberal" Mark Udall. Udall's team calls him "independent minded," "a maverick" and "moderate" — and Schaffer an "extreme right-winger."
On the other hand, a better comparison would be from an analysis of similar votes made during the same period to see how the candidates stack up against one another. A look at some of the rankings, based on votes from Schaffer and Udall over the last two years they served together in the House:
Liberal ideology •Takeaways?
Americans for Democratic Action:
• 2002 score based on 20 votes, including the estate- tax repeal, late-term abortion ban and welfare renewal — Schaffer: 0 out of 100; Udall: 95 out of 100• 2001 score based on 20 votes, including campaign finance reform, school vouchers and prohibition of flag burning — Schaffer: 5; Udall: 100
Conservative ideology •
The American Conservative Union
• 2002 score based on 25 votes, including a proposed constitutional amendment to require a two-thirds majority in Congress to raise taxes, a 1 percent across-the- board spending cut and limits on malpractice awards — Schaffer: 100; Udall: 4• 2001 score based on 25 votes, including a proposal to cut taxes by $2.3 trillion over 10 years while cutting nondefense spending, an increase in SUV fuel standards and a proposal to permit taxpayer funds for abortions in federal prisons — Schaffer: 100; Udall: 0
League of Conservation Voters
• 2001-02 score based on 14 votes, including a measure to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, a prohibition of drilling or coal mining within national monuments and a bill to prohibit the weakening of arsenic standards for drinking water — Schaffer: 0; Udall: 100
Americans for Tax Reform
• 2001 score based on 20 votes, including a proposal for medical savings accounts, the expansion of tax deductions for married couples and an across-the-board cut of all tax rates — Schaffer: 95; Udall: 5
This election offers Colorado voters--Democrats, Republicans, and those elusive unaffiliateds--a clear choice. Rhetoric, labels, and rankings aside, whether you support Schaffer or Udall will likely be more of a function of your agreement with their positions on the issues (which is good) than a reflection of a candidate's charisma or fundraising. For once, voters won't be seeing the same product, just with different packaging.
Exit question: how will the Democrats spin these rankings?
Mark Udall as a liberal, +1