Are Mark Udall and Cory Gardner really two mean and nasty guys?
One might think so, based on the wrath they regularly hurl at one another via the Internet, television ads and social media in the course of their increasingly heated campaign for a US Senate seat from Colorado.
To hear Republican challenger Gardner tell it, Democratic incumbent Udall is a bleeding heart liberal, a reflexive opponent of big business, a foreign policy bumbler who virtually always walks “in lockstep” with President Obama.
To hear Udall tell it, Gardner is a fire-breathing Tea Party conservative, motivated by Christian fundamentalism and corporate greed, a “too extreme for Colorado” congressman whom women everywhere should fear.
The divisive climate of 21st century political gamesmanship being what it is, such hyperbole is not terribly surprising. But a more reasoned and balanced profile of both candidates suggests something less daunting than their respective propagandists would have you believe.
Both Udall and Gardner lean more toward the political center of their respective parties than the radical fringes. And in person, speaking recently to the Intermountain Jewish News, they both came across as affable and reasonable fellows, even — dare we say it? — capable of political compromise.
Interestingly, while leagues apart on many social and economic issues, on an issue of central concern to Jewish voters — Israel — their positions are virtually indistinguishable.
Both candidates spoke of their trips to Israel in warm tones, citing their travel there as a cornerstone of their commitment to the Jewish state.
Udall, 64, has served in the US Senate since Coloradans elected him in 2008, after spending five terms in Congress representing Colorado’s 2nd District.
A longtime resident of Boulder County, near Eldorado Springs, his quiet but unflappable style, and lean, tall stature sometimes makes him seem like a modern, and Western, Abraham Lincoln.
Udall touts his interest and experience in national security, energy issues, the economy and natural resources as personal hallmarks.
Gardner, 39, has represented Colorado’s 4th Congressional District since 2010, after five years in the Colorado state legislature.
He grew up on a family farm near Yuma, on Colorado’s eastern prairie, and worked in his family’s farm implement business. He is an intense speaker, almost edgy, and exudes youthful enthusiasm and energy.