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Sunday, July 25, 2004

Coors Lite

Hey, watery domestic Senator candidate as well as brewmeister, Peter Coors looks suddenly like a long shot......Road Is Bumpy for Coors's Senate Bid (
The beer baron has come across as ill-informed and unprepared on national issues. "Coors light on facts," declared a Denver Post headline after one campaign appearance.

In his TV ads, Coors calls for more federal tax cuts and a balanced federal budget. Asked how he would reconcile those two goals, he replied: "That's probably a fair question, but I just don't have an answer for you."

In a debate, the wily Schaffer demanded to know whether Coors agreed with Paul Martin on U.S.-Canadian trade. Coors fell right into the trap. "I'm not sure I know who Paul Martin is," he said warily. Schaffer pounced: "A U.S. senator needs to know who the prime minister of Canada is."

Even if he prevails in the Aug. 10 primary, however, Coors looks like an underdog in the fall campaign. State Attorney General Ken Salazar, a popular figure with statewide appeal, seems likely to win the Democratic Senate nomination. Polls show Salazar leading both Republican hopefuls in head-to-head matchups.

All of which reflects the stunning turnabout of Colorado's 2004 Senate race. A seat that was universally rated as a "safe Republican hold" at the beginning of this year has suddenly become a "likely Democratic gain" in most pundits' predictions.

The Republican incumbent, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, seemed unbeatable until March, when he got snarled in a federal investigation of alleged financial kickbacks in his office. Citing health problems, Campbell abruptly dropped out of the race. Democratic leaders quickly settled on Salazar as their consensus choice.

The attorney general faces a challenge from newcomer Mike Miles in the Democratic primary, but polls suggest Salazar will take the nomination easily. The state's Republicans, in contrast, went through an embarrassing month as all their best-known prospects declined to run.

Schaffer's backers have also criticized a campaign ad in which Coors boasts that he moved up from floor sweeper to chairman of his company -- without mentioning that he inherited the top job from his father. Even worse, the campaign is caught in an ongoing squeeze involving the candidate, his family firm and social conservatives who are critical of the company.

Although he hesitated at first about backing the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, Coors eventually endorsed the proposal -- a requisite stance in a GOP primary here. In response, Coors Brewing virtually accused Peter Coors of endorsing discrimination.

"We do not support discrimination against the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgender community, via legislation or otherwise," the company said. Coors, the brewery, is now buying ads in gay newspapers to emphasize its disagreements with Coors, the candidate.

At the same time, social conservatives backing Schaffer are running TV ads that denounce candidate Coors because of the "degrading and nearly pornographic" ads that his company uses to sell beer to young men. The same ads argue that Coors's family firm has embraced "the homosexual agenda" with its financial support of gay organizations.

Criticized early in the campaign for his failure to take any stand on the war in Iraq, Coors eventually declared that he agrees with his opponent on all major issues. "It's the most unimaginative campaign message I've ever seen," Schaffer says. "So we looked for something where he had taken a position, and finally we found it."

As a beer salesman, Coors has regularly argued for lowering the drinking age. So, now, Schaffer is highlighting that stance. "The drinking age wouldn't normally be an issue in a Senate campaign, but it's what we've got," he says.


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