- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

KIOWA, Colo. (AP) - In the final days of Colorado’s hard-fought Senate race, the shadows of its last one have loomed even larger.

Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has explicitly modeled his re-election campaign on that of Sen. Michael Bennet, who in 2010 defied the polls and eked out a narrow win against Republican challenger Ken Buck by emphasizing women’s issues and mobilizing a robust ground game. For six months, Udall has hammered challenger Rep. Cory Gardner on the same issues and hopes an even bigger field operation will allow him to defy polls that show him narrowly trailing in his re-election effort.

But Republicans see the race differently. In 2010, their party was divided between tea party and centrist factions, and Buck committed several gaffes. Gardner is a notoriously disciplined campaigner and faced no primary opposition. Though he is opposed to abortion rights, Gardner has spent considerable time countering Udall’s attacks by talking up his support for providing birth control pills without a prescription. Polls show him ahead by a wider margin than Buck was in 2010.

“If you try to run the same election two times, you’re going to find yourself in trouble,” Gardner said in an interview Saturday night after briefly addressing the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association in the farming town of Kiowa. “The Democrats right now find themselves in a position where they’re not talking about their message, they’re talking about their tactics.”

This weekend has reflected another difference between the two sides: Udall has kept up a frenetic public schedule, dashing from campaign office to campaign office to rev up volunteers. Gardner’s appearance in Kiowa was his only public event of the weekend, though he swung by a GOP campaign office to motivate canvassers as well.

Udall and his fellow campaigners, including Bennet, repeatedly told the story of Democrats’ improbable 2010 victory.

“When people say there are some polls that show Mark isn’t going to win, remind them of that 2010 race,” Bennet, who now chairs the Democratic party group helping Senate candidates, told volunteers in Longmont on Saturday.

On Sunday, Udall urged canvassers in the suburb of Centennial: “All these national and public polls are off the mark,” he said.

In an interview on his campaign bus, Udall expressed confidence that Democrats’ get-out-the-vote program - and a new Colorado law that allows all voters to mail in their ballots - will get him re-elected.

“I’d win handily if (all) registered voters went out and voted for me, because I’m where they are on the political spectrum,” Udall said, ticking off his support for a higher minimum wage, environmental protections and reproductive choice. “What we’re doing is making it possible for that broader group of Coloradans” to vote, he said.

Republicans have been outvoting Democrats by about 8 percentage points, but that gap may dwindle as more late-voting Democrats hand in their ballots by Tuesday. It’s not clear enough will, especially because Republicans have also boosted their turnout operations this year.

At the Cattlemen’s dinner, where a sea of Stetson hats bobbed in the audience as he spoke, Gardner ticked off a list of his goals - improving education, energy, the economy and environment, as well as protecting water rights - although he didn’t talk about what specifically he’d do on each subject. He noted the campaign was almost over and said it was “time to put a little more Colorado in Washington and a little less Washington in Colorado.”

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Follow Nicholas Riccardi at https://twitter.com/NickRiccardi .

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