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John Hickenlooper's race for guv not close at all despite Tom Tancredo surge, says head Dem

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Right now, polls seem to suggest that Buck's in the driver's seat, even though Dems have tried to paint him as an extremist along the lines of Delaware witchcraft dabbler Christine O'Donnell. Waak sees this portrait as appropriate.

"The unfortunate thing for Ken Buck is that he basically put himself in that situation, by taking on some of the most extreme positions of his party in order to win the nomination -- and now, I think he's going to have trouble backing off them. And quite frankly, the people I talk to -- and I talk to Republicans as well as Democrats -- are really bothered by his positions on a lot of these things. This is a moderate state, and the voters are looking for someone not aligned with extreme positions."

To Wadhams, this line of attack is doomed to failure. He characterizes Buck as a mainstream conservative along the lines of Hank Brown, Wayne Allard and Bill Armstrong -- candidates the Dems accused of extremism, too, without success. But "as a resident of Weld County, I think there's a significant difference between Ken Buck and them," Waak maintains. "I think Ken has gotten himself caught up in his rhetoric, and if he backs away from some of the things he's said, he's going to lose voters. So he's stuck."

What about commercials taking shots at Buck over his abortion stance? Wadhams believes this strategy betrays the intellectual bankruptcy of Dems, since the voters in this election care much more about the economy -- a topic he believes Bennet is trying to avoid -- than social issues.

"I disagree with that totally," Waak allows. "State party chairs sit on the sideline and try to rah-rah and spin things in different directions. But I think Michael Bennet has shown he's been working on tough economic issues. His messages show that.

"Yes, some of his messages have been about choice," she continues. "But there are a lot of women out there who are going to make a difference in this election, and that's an issue they care very deeply about. And I don't think it's wrong to bring that issue up. This election is going to be decided on key issues, and the economy is one of those. But there are voting blocs that need to be appealed to, and women are one of those blocs."

The contests for state representative present more potential trouble for Democrats, with Wadhams arguing that the Republicans could make three significant gains. Waak doubts that -- although she seems more confident in two instances than in a third.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts