Even as Tom Tancredo was partying with Dog the Bounty Hunter and Dan Maes defendng his firing as a Kansas cop, John Hickenlooper's been trying not to screw up a scenario that led GOP boss Dick Wadhams to brand him the world's luckiest guy. But is Tancredo starting to get under his skin?
That's one interpretation of a new fundraising pitch sent to Hickenlooper supporters under the Denver mayor's signature; it's on view below. In it, Hickenlooper says Tancredo has "raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last month and a half, and now he's going to spend every dime attacking me with a TV ad." He asks for contributions to fund responses that are "positive" and "persuasive."
Of course, Hickenlooper's war chest remains much better stocked than Tancredo's, let alone Maes's -- but the pitch does seem to suggest at least a modicum of concern, particularly in light of a new Fox News poll that shows Tancredo with 34 percent support, just 10 percent less than Hickenlooper, and Maes tumbling to 15 percent.
With these topics in mind, we posed a series of e-mail questions to Hickenlooper campaign spokesman George Merritt. Here are his responses:
Westword (Michael Roberts): The latest fundraising e-mail sent under John Hickenlooper's name to supporters focuses entirely on an attack ad by Tom Tancredo, and makes no mention of Dan Maes. Is Maes even on the campaign's radar at this point?
George Merritt: Of course he is, but we have said from the beginning of this campaign that we would aggressively respond to false attacks. Our e-mail response to Tancredo was focused on clearing the record.
WW: Do you see Tom Tancredo as Hickenlooper's main opponent at this point?
GM: Since we started this campaign, John has been focused on creating jobs, finding ways to support Colorado businesses, and promoting education. Nothing has changed that.
WW: The fundraising e-mail stresses that the Hickenlooper campaign will continue featuring positive messages. Will that remain the case even if the race gets closer? Does the campaign pledge to avoid all negative ads no matter what happens?
GM: We've said from the beginning we will run a positive campaign. The challenges facing Colorado are too important for the typical partisan bickering.
WW: There's a new Fox News poll that shows Tancredo within 10 percent of Hickenlooper, 44 percent to 34 percent. Are any of Tancredo's gains coming from Hickenlooper supporters, or are they all at Maes's expense?
GM: From our perspective, the only poll that matters is the one on Nov. 2.
WW: What's your take on Dan Maes's release of information yesterday pertaining to his firing as a Kansas cop in 1985? Does the portrait of him that emerges speak to his capabilities to serve as governor?
GM: That's for voters to decide.
WW: Some critics of Hickenlooper argue that he's playing the race too safe -- that he's trying to avoid saying anything controversial because he realizes it's his election to lose. Your take?
GM: I'll leave the punditry to others and focus on preparing for the 11 forums and debates we have scheduled over the next four weeks.
Here's guessing that you armchair pundits out there will agree that Merritt's response to the question about whether Hickenlooper is playing things too safe is itself an example of ultra-safe play, as are all his other answers. It's an approach that's worked for Hickenlooper thus far, and the odds are still very much in his favor, despite Tancredo's recent surge.
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Page down to see the aforementioned Tancredo ad, as well as the e-mail in which Hickenlooper asks backers to dip into their billfolds to counter it.
Hickenlooper campaign fundraising e-mail:
Tom Tancredo is living up to his reputation and taking every opportunity to mislead Coloradans about our positions. He's raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last month and a half, and now he's going to spend every dime attacking me with a TV ad.
We need to respond, but we're going to do it our way: with more positive, persuasive ads that show how I've balanced tough budgets and created jobs as a mayor and brewpub owner.
From the beginning, we've promised to run a positive campaign focused on the issues important to Colorado. It will take more than Tom Tancredo's recycled attack ad for me to break that promise. But we are only 35 days from the election, and Congressman Tancredo's ad will be a lot more damaging as voters get ready to turn in their ballots. I need your help to respond immediately.
Contribute $5 today and help us respond to Tancredo's misleading ad on the air.
While other campaigns were busy slinging mud, our campaign went around talking with local people and businesses about what their communities need to jump start their economies. We built a solid economic development plan from the ground up, and we set out clear priorities and strategies to improve Colorado's education system.
We are going to finish this campaign by staying positive and focused on the issues. I need your help now more than ever to stand up and fight for the truth.