Drilling Issue Could Kill Dems' Senate Hopes

Democrats didn’t converge on Denver just to watch Barack Obama make the Mile High sermon on the mount: While Obama gunned for blue-collar voters in a key swing state, the DNC also had the opportunity to give a boost to a key Senate recruit on that candidate’s home turf. And after Rep. Mark Udall ascended the palatial stage to warm up the Invesco crowd for Obama’s acceptance speech, he grandly declared, "This election is not about Barack Obama, Joe Biden or me, it's about you."

But the real drama in the contentious Colorado Senate race is not being played out on a stadium podium. It’s in the cutthroat ads that Colorado voters can’t miss even if they tried, the sparring debates, the relentless bickering over who really voted for what and when -- and the bubbling crude. And the key issue of this Senate race is not "you": It’s support for drilling that could swing this key Senate race, and not in the direction that the politically correct energy barometer might have it.

The Democrat hoping to replace retiring Republican Sen. Wayne Allard seems to have learned that turning his back on such a lifeblood could bode poorly in a swing state that has a solidly negative view of "Big Oil" -- but is concerned about what happens if the wells stop flowing. A Rocky Mountain News/CBS 4 News poll of 500 registered Colorado voters conducted Aug. 11-13 revealed 66 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the oil and gas industry, yet 57 percent of those surveyed were concerned about not enough drilling in the state.

Perhaps driven by the rumbles of empty gas tanks, or the realization that the state’s views aren’t so shale-black and white, or the need for another weapon in his campaign arsenal (that same Rocky/CBS poll had Udall six points ahead of Schaffer in a seesaw race), Congressman Mark Udall reversed his position on domestic drilling last month in a flip that reaped national headlines early in the horse race.

“I've always said we have to have responsible drilling," Udall, who has a strong environmentalist House record that has included votes against drilling and refinery expansion, said during the news conference announcing his new stance. "I'm not opposed to drilling. … I've been opposed to (the) Bush-Cheney line that we can drill our way out of this challenge."