GRAND JUNCTION, CO -- At a debate sponsored by the Western Slope advocacy group Club 20, Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Ken Buck (R) wasted little time in attacking each other on everything from their choice of footwear to the issue of who was being more genuine on the campaign trail.
The fight for this seat is one of the most competitive in the country. Polls have shown the race as essentially a dead-heat.
The audience in this decidedly Republican region was clearly (and vocally) supportive of Buck, but Bennet wasn’t afraid to push back.
In his opening statement, Buck told the audience that “my opponent has become very comfortable with the Washington, D.C., climate” and accused Bennet of saying one thing while he’s in Washington, D.C., and another when he’s in Colorado. Later in the debate Bennet chastised Buck for his own inconsistent comments, wryly noting, “That’s what politicians do.”
The two also disagreed over the veracity of Bennet’s recent negative TV ad. In an editorial Saturday, the Denver Post said the ad “offers a number of out-of-context quotes and dubious assertions regarding Buck's positions.”
At one point, when a panelist noted that both men were similarly dressed, Buck pointed to their difference in footwear. Buck was wearing cowboy boots, Bennet had on dress shoes. In rural Colorado, of course, boots are considered de rigueur. Bennet was quick to point out the holes on the soles of his shoes and challenged Buck to show the bottom of his boots.
Both men emphasized their willingness to break from party orthodoxy. Bennet said that he’d be “open” to a compromise on “temporarily” extending the Bush tax cuts for wealthy Americans. Buck told the audience, “I will not swear allegiance to the Republican party in Washington, DC.”
-- Amy Walter