- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2008

DENVER

As anyone who has ever run against Bob Schaffer knows, it’s only a matter of time before the “gotcha” moment. It’s that instant right after Mr. Schaffer maneuvers his opponent into making what appears to be a harmless statement. Like four years ago, during a debate against Pete Coors in the Republican Senate primary, when Mr. Schaffer repeatedly cited a man named Paul Martin.

Finally, an exasperated Mr. Coors demanded, “Who’s Paul Martin?”

The answer, as Mr. Schaffer quickly pointed out, was that Mr. Martin was the prime minister of Canada. Suddenly, Mr. Schaffer looked like an expert on foreign affairs while Mr. Coors came across as a guy who had never left the state. Gotcha.

Mr. Schaffer, 46, lost that election, but he hasn’t changed his strategy. If anything, the gotcha moments are flying faster and thicker than ever in this year’s tight Senate race against Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, one of up to 10 contests Democrats are watching closely as they push for a filibuster-proof majority.

Mr. Udall, 58, has never trailed in the race, but his early double-digit lead has slipped in recent polls. The latest Denver Post poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research and released Sunday, showed Mr. Udall leading Mr. Schaffer by 43 percent to 38 percent.

Another 20 percent are undecided. A third-party candidate, the Green Party’s Bob Kinsey, was polling at 4 percent of the vote.

The same poll found the presidential race even tighter, with Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain tied at 44 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points. Democrats hold a razor-thin 51-49 majority in the Senate and have a shot at getting up to the 60 seats they need to avoid filibusters.

If Mr. Schaffer can’t make up that ground with relentless trap-springing and opposition research, it won’t be for lack of trying. The latest example came last week, when he announced that he supported a tax holiday for U.S. firms overseas.

Mr. Udall, who has long hammered at Mr. Schaffer for voting for tax cuts for oil companies, took the bait, blasting his opponent for favoring yet another tax break for big corporations.

Uh-oh. It turned out that Mr. Udall backed that same idea four years ago when he came out in favor of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004. The Udall campaign tried to recover by saying that the congressman had tried to strip that particular provision out of the bill.

Again, big mistake. The Schaffer campaign promptly whipped out Mr. Udall’s floor statement on the bill, in which the congressman specifically lauded the tax-holiday provision.

“I will vote for [the act] because it includes provisions to encourage American corporations doing business abroad to repatriate their overseas earnings for investment here at home,” Mr. Udall said in the 2004 floor statement.

The difference is that Mr. Schaffer’s proposal is a prescription for the current economic crisis, said Udall spokeswoman Tara Trujillo.

“I’d like to see Bob Schaffer tell a Colorado family that’s about to lose their home that his prescription is to give money to companies working offshore,” Ms. Trujillo said.

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