By Brian Williams Anchor & “Nightly News” managing editor
NBC News
updated 10/25/2004 7:41:56 PM ET 2004-10-25T23:41:56

Colorado may never be the same. The state has been infested with politics — it’s covering up front lawns and it has taken over the airwaves.

The money being spent on the Senate race between Pete Coors and Ken Salazar has set a new, all-time, Rocky Mountain high — $14 million has been raised so far.

"This is a battle," says University of Colorado professor Ken Bickers. "It’s like an arms race."

It’s all because of what Colorado has become. The state's population has grown by a third in just a decade. So many people have moved here to "get away from it all" that in the process, they've turned Colorado into one valuable piece of political real estate.

The Democrat: Ken Salazar, the state attorney general, is a gun-owning rancher and a pro-abortion rights Hispanic Catholic who courts the middle class.

"He is sort of representative of old Colorado," says Rocky Mountain News columnist Mike Littwin. "I mean, nobody — look around — nobody wears a cowboy hat anymore. He may be the last guy!"

"I'm trying to represent the middle, and that includes Democrats, moderates and moderate Republicans," says Salazar.

Salazar, who until recently hasn't really aligned himself with the Democratic ticket, is a big name in Colorado. But his opponent is, too.  He’s Pete Coors — as in Coors beer.

"I knew when I got into this race that the control of the Senate was in the balance," says Coors. "That's one of the reasons I signed up, is that I want to go and keep this seat as a Republican seat."

"If Colorado had a coin, he'd be on the back of it," says Littwin. "Coors is Colorado."

Pete Coors is a self-described conservative, anti-abortion Catholic, campaigning on tax cuts and homeland security. As a family-values candidate, he's had to defend the sometimes-raucous image of the beer business — including his company's sponsorship of a "gay pride" event in Canada.

And, while Coors may have 100 percent name recognition, he has zero experience in elective office and sometimes that shows. That's why the GOP has flooded the zone with pros from DC — which hasn't gone over well with everyone in Colorado.

"I really don't like that. I think Westerners can think for themselves," says a woman at a Denver mall who asked not to be identified.

Still, others like all the national attention.

"I think it gives the people nationally kind of an idea of how strong a player Colorado is," says a man who was eating lunch at the same mall.

So strong that both parties have flooded the media looking for votes, while most voters just want it to stop and can't wait for November 3. But, from now until Election Day, Colorado is once again the "wild west."

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