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Udall Urges Democrats to Stick to Center

With the Democratic National Convention having kicked off in earnest Monday afternoon, Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) cautioned that the four-day Denver event could cause problems for Democrats running in the Mountain West region if the messaging veers too far left of center.

Udall, who is running for Senate, lumped himself in that category during an interview last week and said that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) might also suffer politically in the region if this week’s convention appears to pander to liberal interest groups at the expense of trumping opportunity and individual freedom.

Udall, providing an example, signaled that a convention that was to push the need for more gun control could cause problems for Democrats running in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain regions. Udall said he likes Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s (D) idea of gun control, which he said the Montanan describes as: “You control your gun. I’ll control mine.”

“With all due respect to my coastal friends, the Democratic Party in the Rocky Mountain is different,” Udall said. “If we were to fall into the discussion of some things we did in the ’90s — talking less about opportunity and less about the future and more about interest groups in the party — I think that would be a mistake, frankly.”

Sen. Ken Salazar (Colo.) and other Democrats fought to bring the Democratic presidential nominating convention here specifically to appeal to Centennial State voters and to Mountain West voters in general.

However, some Democrats running in that region of the country are purposely staying away from Denver this week so as not to be defined by Obama, who is perceived to be too liberal by many of the conservative-leaning independents these Democratic candidates are attempting to appeal to.

Among those Democrats who are skipping Denver are businessman Walt Minnick, who is challenging Rep. Bill Sali in Idaho’s solidly Republican 1st district. Minnick faces an uphill climb, but has performed well on the campaign trail, raised more money than the incumbent, and is seen as having a legitimate chance of pulling off an upset.

Retired Air Force officer Charlie Brown (D), running for the open seat in California’s 4th district, is also staying home this week, choosing to campaign rather than celebrate Obama’s coronation. California is not considered part of the Mountain West, but the 4th district is one of the most conservative in the country, and Brown will need all the help he can get to beat state Sen. Tom McClintock (R).

Internet entrepreneur Gary Trauner (D) is running for Wyoming’s open at-large seat against former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis (R). Wyoming remains staunchly conservative, but Trauner’s chances are at least good enough that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put him on its “Red to Blue” list of candidates targeted for national party help.

Last week, following Lummis’ victory in the GOP primary, Trauner’s campaign failed to return several telephone messages and e-mails asking whether the Democrat would be in Denver this week.