Purple People Watch

Colorado. In a debate taped Monday for broadcast on Friday, the two contenders for the GOP Senate nomination in Colorado, conservative Pete Coors and more conservative Rep. Bob Schaffer fell over each other to prove their fealty to the president's Iraq policies. According to Schaffer (though not to actual intelligence professionals or Middle East analysts), "It is very clear that Saddam Hussein played a substantial role in promoting terrorism around the world."

Coors took things a step further and indicated that even wondering whether or not the war was a good idea was unsound. "Hindsight's 50-50," he stated before correcting himself: "Or 20-20. Perfect vision looking back." Indeed. Coors went on to slam Schaffer for singing a different Iraq tune during his days in Congress when he failed to support the Clinton administration's 1997 air strikes.

The key issue in the GOP primary, however, continues to be social issues, with Coors dogged by accusations of being insufficiently anti-gay thanks to the Coors Brewing Co.'s gay-friendly employment policies. Coors has tried to assure voters that such outbreaks of tolerance will by no means affect his public policy views, but these assurances weren't good enough for Christian Right guru Gary Bauer, who endorsed Schaffer last month. The eventual winner will almost certainly face off against Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar in one of the Democratic party's best hopes for a 2004 Senate pickup. Schaffer should, in light of his more right-wing positions and more modest financial resources, be the easier opponent.

Georgia. Even after next Tuesday's primary, both parties may still lack a clear contender to replace outgoing Sen. Zell Miller. That's because the two frontrunners -- Democratic Rep. Denise Majette and Republican Rep. Johnny Isakson -- each face a moneyed candidate bent on dragging them into a runoff.

For Isakson, it's millionaire pizza tycoon Herman Cain. Cain has teamed up with a third candidate, Rep. Mac Collins, to attack Isakson for his relatively moderate stance on abortion, an issue that has hounded Isakson ever since he lost Georgia's 1996 Senate primary while refusing to back a constitutional ban on abortion. Isakson stands a good chance of avenging his 1996 defeat; despite being outspent on television ads by Cain by a reported 10-to-1, Isakson is polling right around the 50 percent needed to escape a runoff.

Majette faces a more crowded field; eight candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination. The most threatening of the pack is self-funded Cliff Oxford, the only Democratic candidate to buy televised spots so far. But as Oxford has sought to purchase name recognition, his rivals have piled on in an urgent bid to bring him back down; at Sunday's Democratic debate, Oxford was called a “fraud,” accused of “plagiarism,” hammered for not voting in the last five elections, and tag-teamed on allegations of spousal abuse. Oxford has thus far avoided responding in kind, however, preferring to focus on his extensive economic proposal.

The Democratic primary will likely turn not on the success or failure of Oxford's self-definition, though, but on demographics. Majette, a first-term African-American congresswoman, could ride to victory on the strength of the African-American vote; the African-American share of the Democratic vote in Georgia has steadily risen to 45 percent in 2002, and may break 50 percent this year. Whether November's entrant is Majette or Oxford, however, few expect the Democrats to reclaim Miller's seat.

Louisiana. Republican candidate David Vitter is ahead in the polls, according to The Hotline. He's been helped by Rudy Giuliani. On July 13, Giuliani appeared at fundraisers at Lafayette Regional Airport in Lafayette, Louisiana, and at the Audubon Tea Room in New Orleans, where he helped Vitter raise more than $300,000, writes a reporter for the Times-Picayune. Vitter's done well on his own. He raised $1.3 million from April 1 to June 30, according to Roll Call, and has a war chest of $3.4 million. His Democratic opponents, Rep. Chris John and State Treasurer John Kennedy, have not done nearly as well. John raised $1 million during that same period and Kennedy raised approximately $500,000.

North Carolina. Although the polls still have Erskine Bowles leading his Republican challenger Rep. Richard Burr, by 8 percentage points, the state of play
in the North Carolina Senate race has definitely changed since the last
time we checked in.

In early July, Burr released two new television and radio ads to boost his name recognition across the state. The ads are good -- really good, in fact. The sunny, optimistic scenes introduce the fifth-term congressman and his good-looking family; in one ad, his father -- a pastor and WWII vet -- describes his son as caring and compassionate. Sound familiar? Burr's ads to date aren't strong on the issues, but with a
war chest of $6.6 million, he's got plenty of time and money for that later.

Democrat Bowles has only raised $3.7 million and has been
airing ads in North Carolina since late May. To his credit, Bowles is
running in what could be the most expensive campaign in North Carolina
history, following directly on the heels of what was indeed the state's
costliest match-up ever: Bowles' race against Elizabeth Dole in 2002. That pair
spent $27 million running to fill Jesse Helms' seat.

But the Bowles campaign received a priceless gift when John Kerry
picked John Edwards -- who currently holds the Senate seat Bowles is vying
for -- as his running mate. You can bet that Edwards will make a few trips
to the Tarheel State and add some sunshine and optimism to the
seriousness of the Bowles campaign. And although some North Carolinians
are peeved at Edwards for spending nearly all of his Senate term on the
campaign trail for the presidency, he is still definitely a welcome
presence in his home state.

Oklahoma. Oklahoma's primary later this month features a battle
between three millionaires for the Republican Senate nomination. The state's primary
will be held on July 27; if needed, an August 24 runoff will determine who
will vie for the seat left open by departing Republican Don Nickles. The current frontrunner for the GOP nomination is Tom Coburn, a Christian conservative and family doctor who has made Medicare and Social Security reform a key part of his platform. He has suggested he'd be a maverick in Washington; in a recent interview with the Associated Press, Coburn told the news agency he opposed abortion except to save the life of the mother, that he had performed two abortions to save the lives of mothers who had congenital heart disease, and that he favored “the death penalty for abortionists and
other people who take life."

A poll by a local Oklahoma television station recently puts Coburn ahead by a nose.
Kirk Humphreys, another family-values candidate and the former mayor of
Oklahoma City, holds the endorsement of Nickles and the state's soon-to-be-
senior senator James Inhofe, though he drew those endorsements before Coburn
entered the race. His candidacy may have been mildly damaged by recent attacks
by the third candidate, Bob Anthony, regarding “shady” real-estate deals. Anthony, whose family clothing chain operated in the state in the 1980s, currently serves as the state's corporation commissioner.

Coburn's victory could mean bad news for the likely Democratic nominee,
Rep. Brad Carson. A poll released earlier this month sponsored by Rep. Ernest
Istook, an Okalahoma Republican who nearly ran for the seat himself, found
that Coburn is the only Republican who would beat Carson if the race were held
today, with voters choosing Coburn over Carson 37 percent to 35 percent in a
two-way race. Testing Carson against the other GOP candidates, the poll found
Carson ahead of both Humphreys, 41 percent to 34 percent, and Anthony, 39
percent to 34 percent.

Pennsylvania. Democratic Senate hopeful Joe Hoeffel has blasted Arlen Specter's approval of U.S. District Court judicial nominee J. Leon Holmes, the former Arkansas Right to Life President "who has said that rape victims rarely get pregnant and that a wife should subordinate herself to her husband," according to the National Journal.

Despite Hoeffel's efforts, though, things don't look good for him. According to a Quinnipiac University survey released June 24, Specter has a commanding 15 point lead over Hoeffel, who has continued to struggle for recognition among voters. The results show him with a favorability rating of just 10 percent, with 7 percent unfavorable, 9 percent mixed, and a whopping 73 percent unsure just who this Joe Hoeffel fellow is.

South Carolina. While it's doubtful that John Edwards will bring Kerry a win in this solidly Republican state, he may help push Inez Tenenbaum, the Democrat running to fill Ernest Hollings' soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, into the winner's column.

Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political scientist, told South Carolina's State newspaper that having Edwards on the ticket should mobilize Democrats across the South. “Tenenbaum should get a big boost from this,” Bullock said.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Tenenbaum and her wealthy Republican challenger, Jim DeMint, are about equal in fundraising at this point. And Tenenbaum has been getting nothing but good press from South Carolina's newspapers. “DeMint is uptight, stiff, shy and button-down,” writes State political columnist Lee Brandy. “On the other hand, Tenenbaum is a much more natural candidate. A good campaigner who is well-liked, she has demonstrated an ability to win crossover votes.”

Brandy's right; it's the crossover voters that will be able to tip Tenenbaum over the edge in November. Twenty-two of South Carolina's 46 counties are dominated by Democrats and 9 by Republicans; only 15 are considered to have swing votes. But of the 420,131 total votes cast in the 2002 gubernatorial election, 386,664 came from the battleground counties. No one said it would be easy (actually, before Tenenbaum blipped on the radar, most said it couldn't be done), but the socially moderate, well-liked, and well-financed Tenenbuam has a shot at it.

Compiled by the Prospect staff. Click here to read last week's “Purple People Watch.”