View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Coors Makes Things Worse 

One of the emerging themes of the Republican Senate primary has been the campaign itself - the increasingly personal and unpleasant tenor of it. If House District 3 Republicans have managed to pull off relativley issue-driven race, the lack of real issues has driven the Senate candidates to attack each other. It's now become both a source of comfort to the Democrats, and the focus of much of the press coverage.

The Rocky, in a story about the Democrats, leads with the Republicans:

Republicans might be waging a civil war over Colorado's U.S. Senate race, but Democratic leaders were preaching a different message Monday in hopes of quelling a rift in their own ranks.
The Republican rivals, former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer and beer baron Pete Coors, have attacked each other in ads even though actual policy disputes have been few and far between. State Republican Party Chairman Ted Halaby made his own plea for civility in recent weeks after an outside group led by former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, a loyal Schaffer backer, began running ads attacking Coors.

Here's how the Ft. Morgan Times began its review of a editor-to-candidate interview with Schaffer:

After making an appearance at Fort Morgan's United States Military Historical Museum Friday morning, Senate hopeful Bob Schaffer sat down with The Times staff to discuss important issues surrounding his campaign, namely negative advertising, term limits, being conservative and the major differences between him and his opponent.

According to Schaffer, the recent barrage of negative advertising directed at him from the Pete Coors camp is based in untruth.

Schaffer responded to Coors' tactics as "cowardly" as well as voicing his opposition to ads broadcast on his behalf, stating that he did not authorize the ads bashing Coors.

The Boulder News picks up the AP Story:

That hasn't stopped Schaffer's supporters from taking aim at Coors. Ads linking the beer magnate to homosexual causes and saying he supports a lower drinking age were aired by Colorado Conservative Voters, whose president is former Sen. Bill Armstrong.

The Coors campaign responded with a frequently aired ad describing Schaffer as a career politician who padded his resume to exaggerate his experience outside government.

The Ft. Collins Coloradoan issued a blistering editorial taking both candidates to task for this stuff:

Former Congressman Bob Schaffer and businessman Peter Coors are not doing themselves any favors with their very public squabble playing out in campaign commercials prior to the Aug. 10 GOP primary.

The Republican Senate candidates started out trading mild barbs about Schaffer's lack of business experience and Coors' lack of political experience.

But the squabbling has gotten uglier as the primary nears, with a Schaffer supporter placing a TV ad suggesting Coors supports homosexual causes.


That's not the way to do it.

No, it's not. Peter Blake now brings us the story of more campaign ads gone bad. Turns out the Coors folks are accusing Schaffer of junketing while in Congress. Sure. To the Ukraine. I don't know about you, but my idea of a scenic vacation isn't Kiev, Chenobyl, and the seaside slums of Odessa. Maybe he was there to campaign for revoking Duranty's Pulitzer, but I suspect that he and W.C. Fields had at least one thing in common during the trip.

Coors claims the airing was a mistake.

It's back in the can now, but will probably be resurrected the moment Colorado Conservative Voters, the independent committee headed by Armstrong, brings to Denver its radio or TV ads attacking Coors and promoting Schaffer. CCV, which was airing in Colorado Springs, is already rumored to be asking about local rates.

No matter what the Coors campaign says, there are no "accidental" airings of TV spots. If you don't want them in the rotation, you don't bring them to the station. What happened was that Coors expected Armstrong's committee to renew or expand its buy, which expired Friday. By the time they learned Friday it hadn't, it was too late to take "Traveling Bob" out of the stations' weekend rotation, which is set by mid-Friday.

Blake's reconstruction makes a lot of sense, and before we turn this into the Senate Primary equivalent of Pearl Harbor, take another look at those quotes up above. Still, less like Pearl Harbor and more like Dresden is bad enough. It wastes time, it wastes money, it doesn't go after the real target, and it makes both guys look bad. Imagine making Ken Salazar look Senatorial.

Even if Blake's right, it doesn't speak well for Coors. They committed money and time responding to an attack that never happened. It gives the moral high ground back to their opponent. Worse, we don't know if they we faked into it by Armstrong & Co. That may be giving CCV too much credit, but you can't blame people for not running attack ads. It adds to a number of mis-steps by the Coors camp, including the earlier (honestly mistaken) airing of a Coors Beer ad featuring the candidate, and the presence of a Coors truck in a campaign parade. None of this exactly reeks of competence.

The reason Coors and Schaffer are going after each other on non-issues is that they agree on so much. This primary should be decided on electability, for exactly that reason. Electability isn't so much how far to the center a candidate can appear to be, but how effectively they can make the case for themselves and against Salazar. So you know what you do? Make the case. Show that you're the best man to run by taking on the Attorney General, and making the case. Instead of creating ill will and bad impressions of the eventual nominee, it'll be helping to prepare the ground for the fall.

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