All-Star Panel: Analysis of tight races in Colorado

Local political journalists weigh in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 7, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. CORY GARDNER, R – CO, SENATE CANDIDATE: The president himself said that his policies are going to be on the ballot. Senator Udall just over a couple of days ago said that he votes against the president when he disagrees with him. That means that he disagrees with the president one percent of the time. And those policies are on the ballot.

SEN. MARK UDALL, D - CO: When the president leads the country in the direction I think is appropriate, I’m going to stand with that person. When President Bush and President Obama both thought comprehensive immigration reform made sense, I supported those presidents. When President Obama wanted to spy on American using the NSA and spy on the Senate through the CIA, I was very vocal in my opposition. So I'm going to look at this through a Colorado lens.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, Senator Mark Udall and Representative Cory Gardner a tight race, essentially tied. They are having another debate tonight. We're back in Denver with a special local panel, Eli Stokols, political reporter and reporter and anchor at FOX affiliate KDVR, Nick Riccardi, western political writer for the Associated Press, and Denver Post political reporter John Frank. Thank you all for being here.
Eli, let me start with you. A sense of this race, where they are. I talked to them both today. They seemed on their points but a little cautious maybe.

ELI STOKOLS, KDVR FOX 31: Incredibly cautious. And it's been that way from the start, ever since Cory Gardner got in the race in late February, everyone has known this is going to be a barn burner. And it's looking like that as we head into ballots going out in about a week. Both candidates really are partisan candidates. You've got a cookie cutter Democrat and a cookie cutter Republican, and they are fighting for the middle in a state that is really a purple state where there are a lot of moderates. And so it's a tough sell for both of them. And that's why you see a lot of focus on the opponent. You see Cory Gardner talking about Mark Udall has voted with the president 99 percent of the time. We hear that on repeat, over and over again. Mark Udall talking about social issues because Cory Gardner’s record supporting personhood and a lot of other things, that's not an easy sell in this state. That is a big negative for him. And so that's really what the campaign has been about.

BAIER: In fact, Nick, you look at the voter registration here, and the women voter registration in Colorado is higher than the nation, 71.5 percent women. So I guess that's why the Udall campaign sees gold in these social issues. I was in the hotel room for a day. I saw about six ads.

NICK RICCARDI, ASSOCIATED PRESS: There is no question. The way that Democrats have won this state for several cycles now is by focusing on women issues, social issues, and particularly ones that appeal to about 100,000 women who live in two suburban counties outside of Denver. They are largely unaffiliated with either party, or they are Republicans but they’re very moderate Republicans, fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Democrats have won that group consistently. That's the group that swings elections in this state, and that’s who they’ve been targeting from the get-go.

BAIER: John, what other issue drives the day here?

JOHN FRANK, DENVER POST: I spent a couple of weeks on the trail with some of these voters, particularly in these swing counties. Choice and birth control, you know, these issues that Democrats bring up are coming up. But a lot of women say they are sick and tired of it. At the same time, you can tell it's working.

Other than that issue, what you’re seeing is a lot of local issues, Colorado specific, whether it's the death penalty, fracking. These are big issues that are playing in the governor race as well as the Senate race.

BAIER: What about marijuana? Does that come up? You have the governor saying it was reckless, the law that he signed into law, Eli?

STOKOLS: That's just Governor John Hickenlooper doing what he does, which is sort of going off message and giving the media a sound bite. I think both he and Beauprez were against the implementation of legal marijuana. He's had to implement it, has tried to do that the best he can. But that's not really an issue driving voters. It may drive a couple of fringe voters to another candidate but it's not really defining either race.

BAIER: Nick, turnout here, key, and the Democrats seem to have the machine.

RICCARDI: There's no question the Democrats have regularly outperformed their polls in this state, and a lot of that is because they have a very good turnout machine. They’ve had a very good ground game. They had it in 2010. They did even better in 2012, and I expect that it's going to get even better this time. Republicans are constantly trying to catch up. They know that this is a weakness. This is one of the areas they’re investing in, but it’s not clear they're going to be able to catch the Democrats on it.

BAIER: Is that a two-point, three-point bounce for Democrats?

FRANK: That’s what they’re trying to do. I was out with the AFL-CIO recently knocking on doors and they think they can make the margin. That's their motto right here. And they are extending beyond the typical union household. These are targeting households $50,000 income and under. These are people who don't typically turn out. These are Democrats they need to turnout.

So it's really going to come down to whether these voters can get to the polls, and it's a test. Without Obama's name on the ballot, maybe his policies, without his name on the ballot, they are in for a tough ride.

BAIER: Last word, Obama obviously gets the nomination here in 2008. It's really amazing to see the disapproval up here at 56 percent.

STOKOLS: And it's interesting because it’s not just with the typical Republican voters and the swing voters in the middle. There are Hispanic voters here who went for the president three-to-one in 2012 and 2008. And now they’re frustrated because they’ve been promised something on the executive order. It didn’t happen. And there's a lot of frustration with inaction on immigration on both sides. And there's immigration, there's foreign policy issues, there are a lot of outside national issues that are at play in that final month of this.

BAIER: Any October surprises in the last three weeks, you thing?

FRANK: We're seeing some unique local issues pop up, a local school board issue in Jefferson County, the state's most important swing district that's rallying the race a little bit regarding the AP history curriculum. So we'll see how that plays out.

BAIER: Well, thank you, John, Nick, Eli, really appreciate it. We'll be following this closely.

STOKOLS: Thank you.

BAIER: That's it for the panel. But stay tuned. We'll remember a special day.

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