As Election Day approaches, the cost of the battle for Colorado’s open U.S. Senate seat has already surpassed $17 million as poll-leading Congressman Mark Udall, D-Colo., and former Republican Congressman Bob Schaffer, are withdrawing from a long line of attack advertisements against one another.
The Schaffer for Senate campaign has spent close to $5.5 million on advertising to elect the former congressman into the Senate, according to Federal Election Committee reports.
But that number pales in comparison to Udall’s campaign spending, which has reached more than $11.5 million, according to FEC reports.
Though Udall has spent more money than Schaffer in campaigning, the FEC reports do not reflect the spending of outside groups, which have been the primary source of the negative attacks.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee alone has spent $3.5 million defending Schaffer and attacking Udall.
Tara Trujillo, a spokesperson for Udall, said outside groups have spent approximately $15.8 million in attacking Udall, while Schaffer has been subject to close to $10.4 million in independently funded attack ads. And Schaffer expressed concern over the partisan bickering.
“I regret the negative tone of this campaign,” Schaffer said in an interview with the Collegian. “I’m more inclined to believe that the American people respond better to more positive ads.”
But with time running out to sway voter opinions and polls showing Udall in the lead, both senatorial Republican and Democrat campaign committees have decided to stop making TV ads and move funding out of Colorado.
In a conversation with CSU students Thursday, long-time Colorado lawmaker Sen. Steve Johnson, R-Fort Collins, said such spending and negative campaigning tarnishes more than just political image.
“Those kinds of campaigns do a lot of damage to our institution,” he said, explaining that, in the end, negative campaigning takes more prominence the positive.
Whether or not Udall’s 51 to 44 percent lead in the latest Rasmussen poll can be attributed to the fact that Schaffer’s supporters have led a more negative campaign is difficult to say, Trujillo said.
“It’s clear (the NRSC) learned the hard way that their ads backfired, turned off voters and that Coloradans can’t be bought — no matter how much Republican groups spend on negative attack ads,” Trujillo said in an e-mail interview.
John Straayer, a CSU political science professor, said that national campaign committees are withdrawing because Republicans and Democrats alike have already decided that Udall is likely to win the race.
“It is my overall sense that the poll numbers show that Udall has a comfortable lead, and Schaffer has not been able to cut it,” he said.
“The Republicans won’t admit it, but I think they generally conclude that Schaffer can’t win, and are pulling out,” he said. “It’s my impression the Democrats have come to the same conclusion.”
But Schaffer is not giving up.
He continues to argue that he is the better choice for the Senate, highlighting his plans to expand the job market by cutting taxes.
“America has the seventh highest tax rate in the world,” he said. “Too many entry level jobs are leaving the country.”
Schaffer said that if he is elected he will lower taxes, improve the buying power of Americans, strengthen the economy, curb lawsuits and develop affordable health care.
He differs from Udall in his desire to explore and harvest more gas within the U.S., in addition to supporting renewable energy programs to move toward energy independence.
Schaffer said he would specifically like to extend tax credits to small developers of renewable energy, so big businesses aren’t going to be the only ones benefiting from sustainable energy production.
“We need to do it all; Udall’s approach is very narrow,” he said, adding that Udall’s voting history does not back up his vocal support of renewable energy.
Udall was unable to respond to these comments as he has been “on the road” the past few days campaigning through Colorado, but his spokeswoman Trujillo refuted Schaffer’s claim that Udall has failed renewable energy.
“Bob’s really jumping off the deep end on this one because Mark has been a leader on renewable energy while Bob has been very late to the game,” she said. “Bob has never introduced a bill on renewable energy. Mark has introduced 11.”
She also pointed to Udall’s long history of supporting higher education, including his support of offering tuition tax credits to middle class families and expanding student loan programs.
Schaffer has referred to students needing loans as “high risk borrowers,” and has opposed expansion of student loans, arguing that they are similar to the home loan market and are dangerous to the economy.
Senior Reporter Trevor Simonton can be reached at email@example.com.