Fawcett/Lamborn Big News, But Not For TV

It’s been more than a month since Congressional candidate Jay Fawcett released a poll showing that 41 percent of likely voters were going his way. Only 28 percent seemed willing to vote for the Republican in the race, Doug Lamborn. Another 28 percent were undecided.

So when Fawcett supporters learned a poll commissioned by the Denver Post shows Fawcett and Lamborn running at a break-even pace – 37 percent each, with 26 percent undecided – they were delighted, but not that surprised. The results were splashed across the front page of today’s Post.

  “The poll is great for everyone who doubted our poll, but it’s not news to us,” says Fawcett’s campaign manager, Wanda James. “Finally there is an independent group who is saying the same thing. What I find amazing is that we’re really so far ahead – the fact that Jay is neck-and-neck in a Republican stronghold really puts us firmly in the lead.”Reports state Rep. Michael Merrifield, currently El Paso County’s only elected  Democrat in a partisan seat: “I am in shock and awe. “This bodes well not just for Fawcett, but for every Democrat running in El Paso County.”

On Sept. 11, when the Fawcett-commissioned poll was released, Lamborn’s campaign manager Jon Hotaling suggested it was a “push-poll” and had been conducted using misleading questions.

However, James rejected that, noting that results of the poll, which was conducted by New York City-based Whitman Insight Strategies, showed support for President George Bush at 62 percent, for U.S. Sen. Salazar at 57 and Hefley at 56 percent – certainly in line in a conservative district.

Then – as now – Hotaling said that Lamborn has not conducted a similar benchmark poll, but internal polls show the Republican is doing well among Republican and unaffiliated voters. In today’s Post story, Hotaling suggested that the newspaper’s poll is flawed and skewed toward Democrats, and reiterated that internal polls, which he declined to release, “show Lamborn has a ‘healthy’ lead in the race.”

However interesting the poll may be to gauge the sentiments of the voters in the 5th Congressional District – which includes El Paso and six smaller surrounding mountain counties – many potential voters and interested citizens may not learn about it, at least from their local TV news programs. James said that, while the FOX network and print journalists have jumped on the story about the Denver Post‘s poll, at least two local TV stations don’t appear interested. Representatives from the NBC affiliate have indicated it won’t be covering the story; ABC representatives say they will mention the  poll, but don’t plan to interview Fawcett, and, as of mid-afternoon on the day the Post story appeared, the CBS affiliate has not indicated whether it plans to follow up, James said. (UPDATE: CBS affiliate KKTV Channel 11 has notified the Fawcett campaign that it plans to report on the poll.)

None of the local stations covered the story, James said, when the Fawcett campaign released its September poll showing the Democrat leading.

“I guess what amazes me about all this is, there seems to be things that happen in Colorado Springs that don’t get covered not because it’s not news, but because it appears to be partisan,” she said. “I would think that media outlets would cover what is news, and this is news. It doesn’t make it a liberal Democratic city just because you report it.”

Indeed for months, observers have been rumbling about the possibility – however remote – that a Democrat could take what has long been considered a safe seat for a Republican.

On Aug. 30, Colorado Confidential reported five reasons why Fawcett could win, according to Colorado College political science professor Tom Cronin, himself a former Democratic candidate who ran unsuccessfully in the 5th CD in 1982.

“First, it’s an open seat,” Cronin said. “Second, [Fawcett] has military experience. Third, it was an incredibly divisive Republican primary. Fourth, there is an unusual anti-Bush Administration sentiment in the country, and finally, there is Joel Hefley’s apparent disdain for the Republican nominee.

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday, Progress Now issued a call to Lamborn to apologize  for his “unprofessional and inappropriate” outburst at an audience member at a the first congressional candidate’s debate last Saturday in Fremont County, in which he told the unidentified man to “keep your mouth shut.”

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Cara Degette

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