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Outside Spending Underscores Colorado's Close Senate Race

Udall / U.S. Senate
Gardner / U.S. House

Whether it’s advertising on television, commercial radio or even YouTube, both sides in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race are ramping up their efforts to get a leg-up in the final weeks before the election. It turns out the candidates are receiving a significant amount of funding from Super PACs outside of the state, underscoring a race that is seen as critical for control of the Senate.

It doesn’t take too much effort to witness the increasing surge in attack ads on both sides of the aisle in the race between Democratic incumbent Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner. Of the 36 current seatsup for grabs in the U.S., Colorado comes in at number two right after North Carolina for the largest amount of outside spending with a total expenditure just shy of $44 million. The attack ads are receiving the brunt of the money.

Consider these numbers that come courtesy of Opensecrets.org. Democrats received $2,925,957 in support of Sen. Mark Udall while roughly seven times that amount was spent on negative attack ads against Cory Gardner with a total Super PAC expenditure of $20,792,583. It’s not much different on the Republican side of the aisle either. $5,361,785 has been spent highlighting candidate Cory Gardner while $14,854,123 was spent attacking his opponent.

So why is there so much money coming from out-of-state with a focus on attacking the opposing candidates?

For the five states with the highest amount of Super PAC funding (Iowa, Arkansas and Alaska are the additional three), all have a disproportionate amount of outside spending going towards attack ads rather than on the candidate they are in favor of. Colorado itself is one of the most contested nationwide with 42 percent equally describing themselves as Republican or Democrat.

President Obama’s dipping approval rating in Colorado also complicates a toss-up race for a state that voted for him twice in 2008 and 2012. In the politically purple Centennial State, the election is considered a toss-up by Politico, while North Carolina leans slightly Democrat. The Democratic Senators running in Iowa, Alaska and Arkansas are all considered vulnerable.   

According to the math done by The New York Times, Republicans need to win at least four of the eight competitive seats to pick up control of the Senate. 

Correction: Due to a typographical error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly represented the amount of money outside groups spent attacking Mark Udall.

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