Election 2010: Bennet-Buck outcome in Colorado a tossup

Through portraits and three questions, ordinary voters address their thoughts on government and a contentious midterm campaign season. All the voters live in areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio with key congressional races. The questions used were from a survey, titled "The Role of Government," developed by The Washington Post, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.
By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 6:44 PM

FORT COLLINS, COLO. - In this swing county an hour north of Denver, even Democrats now say government may not be the answer to their economic anxiety. Voters in Larimer County - a mix of farms, colleges and high-tech campuses that collapsed with the dot-com bubble - also say they're angry over the new health-care law, which many expect to increase their insurance premiums.

"There's a gigantic lack of trust" in Washington, said Republican Robert Bisetti. "President Obama just happens to be the scapegoat for it."

Someone else who may be a bearing some of that sentiment is Sen. Michael Bennet, the Democratic senator locked in a tight race with tea-party-backed prosecutor Ken Buck.

Cindi Brown, a 51-year-old physician's assistant and registered Democrat, said she voted for Bennet and other Democrats on Tuesday, but with certain reservations. "We need to be a lot more fiscally conservative," she said.

In the face of two wars, the federal government should take a lesson from sacrifices made by local and state governments in shrinking their workforces and spending less, she said.

Bisetti, 46, a restaurant owner, said the health-care law and the bailout of big banks "have squeezed out the little guy."

He said the health-care law has forced up premiums for the managers he gives health insurance to by 25 percent. He also sits on the board of a community bank that's having trouble lending to small businesses like his. "I don't think government could run my restaurant better than I can."

Colorado was a good place for Democrats to be on election night two years ago.

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) trounced Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by nine percentage points after accepting the party's nomination for president before admiring crowds at Invesco Field at Mile High. For almost 40 years the GOP had carried the state in all but two presidential elections, but Democrats gradually had wrested control of the governor's office, the state house and the congressional delegation to help build a stronghold in the West.

But today this unpredictable state - whose political culture spans religious conservatives, environmentally conscious liberals, a growing Latino bloc and pro-business mining interests - is one of a handful of tossups that will help determine whether Democrats hold control of the U.S. Senate.

The race between Bennet and Buck, along with three competitive House campaigns, has made this a volatile political season for Democrats. In a state about evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters, the energy that powered Obama to victory has faded, and Republicans smell opportunity.

Republicans entered Election Day with an apparent edge in early voting, with early ballots cast by 493,399 Republicans, 419,444 Democrats and 291,152 unaffiliated voters, as of 2 p.m. Mountain Time.

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