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Senate: polls vs. reality

Between the Lines



One Denver Post headline last weekend generated a wake-up call for the 2010 general election: "Buck polling better than Bennet in Senate race."

The numbers provided a snapshot of how the Senate campaign's stretch run is shaping up. According to this poll, commissioned by the Post and Denver's 9News (KUSA-TV), Ken Buck has a 48-43 lead over Sen. Michael Bennet, with 8 percent favoring others and only 1 percent undecided. That's just outside the margin of error, so it's possible the race is closer.

This is a good place to mention that a similar poll taken shortly before the Aug. 10 primary, conducted by the same SurveyUSA company, gave Andrew Romanoff a 48-45 lead over Bennet in the Democratic race. Bennet won by a margin of 54-46. Also, in this case, SurveyUSA concedes that Hispanic voters made up a too-small percentage of its statewide sampling, which could affect its overall validity.

Still, the poll made me think: Thousands of voters could be distracted by all the scary issues on this state ballot, such as the "evil trio" of Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. They've also been inundated with TV attack ads generated by shadowy groups with huge money from outside Colorado.

Certainly, there's nothing wrong with the concerns about those nasty anti-government issues. But as we head into next Tuesday, when El Paso County will send mail ballots to voters and the general election will officially begin, let's not forget the first question on your ballot — that Senate race. In this issue, you'll see that the Independent is endorsing Bennet over Buck, with reasons why. But it's worth underscoring that position here.

This race has been inundated by outside money. According to another Post story this week, out-of-state groups have poured $6.5 million into it in just the past two months, compared to just $3 million spent by the two campaigns. That $6.5 million is more outside money than for any other Senate race in the country. It's also the direct result of Supreme Court rulings that have enabled individuals and corporations to give money that's "virtually untraceable," as the Post says.

Consider this: Bennet's campaign has spent nearly $2 million. But that amount has been matched by two separate outside groups: American Crossroads, started by none other than Karl Rove, and Americans for Job Security, based in Virginia. Their goal is simple: Attack Bennet and perhaps buy a Senate seat for Republicans. Bennet also has been helped by $3.1 million in anti-Buck spending from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

We can't change any of that now. All we can do is ask voters to weigh how the candidates stand on certain issues. It's obvious that, even in Colorado Springs, we have many unaffiliated, independent and/or moderate voters, reasonable people who are frustrated with both sides. If you're among those voters, make sure you consider the following points:

Buck has made statements against Social Security and Medicare. He would do away with the Department of Education. He wants to keep the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy about gays, saying we should have a "homogenous" military. He opposes abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. He would prefer that parents choose their children's schools with vouchers. He's against having a national database of gun owners. He would support de-funding and repealing all health care reform.

And when asked what other senators he would look to for guidance, Buck starts his list with extremist conservative Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. Just last week, DeMint said publicly that gays and "unmarried women sleeping with their boyfriends" should be prohibited from teaching in schools. Earlier, DeMint said the same thing about unmarried pregnant women.

If you're a true moderate, not tied to either party, and especially if you view yourself as a tolerant person, those previous two paragraphs should be part of your decision.

Those votes from the middle will decide the outcome between Bennet and Buck. And something tells me that poll might not be the end of this story.

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