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Moderators Put The Screws To Colorado Senate Candidates

The winner of the final debate between Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and his challenger Republican Rep. Cory Gardner just might have been the moderators.

9News anchor Kyle Clark and reporter Brandon Rittiman were feistier and more aggressive than previous moderators in trying to force both candidates to answer direct questions, which both men have awkwardly — but steadfastly — refused to do.

The result was a fiery debate between the candidates, but also a laid-bare display of the lengths to which each was willing to squirm away from hard questions.

For example, for weeks, Gardner has been incapable of accepting even the premise of a question about why he supports a federal personhood bill while turning his back on identical measures at the state level.

His ducking has become so glaringly obvious that it’s raised questions about Gardner’s judgment, which Clark tackled head-on.

“You continue to deny that the federal Life At Conception Act, which you cosponsor, is a personhood bill to end abortion,” Clark said. “We are not going to debate it tonight because it’s a fact. Your cosponsors say so, your opponents say so and independent fact checkers say so. So let’s talk about what this entire episode may say about your judgment more broadly. It would seem that a charitable interpretation is that you have a difficult time admitting when you’re wrong and a less charitable interpretation is that you’re not telling us the truth. Which is it?”

When Gardner tried to tap dance away from the question,  Clark continued to press hard for an answer, at one point saying, “Everybody seems to have a cohesive idea of what this is except you.”

The moderators had plenty of the same in store for Udall, with Rittiman asking Udall if his focus on reproductive rights was nothing more than a crass attempt to get “enough female votes to help push you over the edge in the election.”

Udall has been accused by the Gardner campaign as being nothing but a rubber stamp for President Obama and he ducked questions about which of Obama’s policies he would oppose (despite prodding, he didn’t name one) and about how Congress would be any different if Democrats maintained their majority in the Senate.

When it came time for the candidates to ask questions of one another, Clark quipped that it was their turn to “ask questions and not get straight answers.”

The final debate coincided with the release of a new Quinnipaic University poll on Thursday showing Gardner with a 47-41 percent lead over Udall. That’s a slight narrowing from last month’s 48-40 split.

Udall has the support of female voters while Gardner has the edge among men and unaffiliated voters.

Though Colorado voters begin casting mail ballots this week, Udall can still make up ground before Nov. 4 when the final votes are cast.

“With 19 days to go, can U.S. Sen. Mark Udall close a 6 percentage point gap in this marquee race that could tip the Senate to the GOP, or will U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner prevail?” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll, said in a press release.

“There is no significant movement in the race, but a 6-point gap is more interesting than an 8-point gap,” he said. “Let’s see what the next survey shows.”

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