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The Unaffiliated Will Decide

6:50 PM ET, 10/ 3/2010
The reason many of us live in Colorado is for the incredible beauty of its open spaces.  But as the population grows and the major arteries linking the cities to each other fill with homes, shopping centers and business parks, open spaces have become scarce and farther away than a few minutes drive.

Your right to swing your arm ends at the tip of my nose.  With 310 million Americans (or especially 5 million Coloradans), that's a lot of noses.  So the quest for freedom in a land of so many may seem ephemeral at best.  The crowding, the imposition on our freedoms, but most of all the feeling that "others" are responsible for our problems is the cause of unease, concern over our future, and yes, heightened paranoia on the part of some.  With the economy limiting the freedom to look for a better job - here or somewhere else - or even just to have a job, the anxieties induced by this crowding is greatly amplified.

What does this have to do with elections?  The image of the two major party candidates represent vast disparities in what it means to be a Coloradan.  The urban sophisticate Senator Michael Bennet, or the cowpie-kicking cowboy, District Attorney Ken Buck.

Which represents the Colorado we live in? Which image is reality, and which one represents what brought us to, and keeps us here in Colorado?
Aside from their differences on the issues, which are substantial (and greatly discussed in many other forums), I believe the votes from the large contingent of unaffiliated and likely still undecided voters will hinge on how they perceive the two candidates will conduct themselves as senators.  In that, the contrast  in their personalities comes in stark relief to each other.

Ken Buck comes across as rather mild mannered.  Harmless, almost.  Except for his Tea Party extremist positions, he does seem to be the kind of guy you could sit down and have a beer or two with.  But that same informality is what gets him into the most trouble - his "shoot from the lip" style of snap decisions, giving little thought or serious consideration to a position, leading to the need for "clarifying" his former position, or even denying or contradicting it as political considerations (i.e.  what his handlers) demand.  Thus, his recent avoidance of the press or public events.

Michael Bennet, despite living here in the West (even in a rustic Montana cabin) for many years, chooses not to abandon his Eastern mannerisms and speech patterns.  He may seem a bit standoffish, which is likely just his natural reserved personality.  But he always gives thoughtful, nuanced, if not soundbite-useful, opinions on the issues he wrestles with each day.  He doesn't waste time on issues that aren't on the frontburner (hey how's that EFCA thingy going?), but rather devotes his considerable energy and passion to badly needed reform (of the Senate, as well as legislation).

I think in the next few weeks, Buck will have to come out of hiding, and Bennet will need to learn to connect to remote and larger audiences.  Which one is more likely to make the most of the opportunity?

Given that the Democrats and Republicans have by heavy margins, declared their loyalty to their respective party candidates, it will be up to the Unaffiliated to decide our next Senator from Colorado.

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