Tancredo an Illegal Immigrant? Sparks Fly Between Colorado's Conservatives Candidates

Video: Jake Tapper moderates Colorado Senate debate.
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When Barack Obama won Colorado in the 2008 election, many instantly declared it a new blue state. All but two Republicans running for Congress lost to Democrats and it was the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had taken the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

But two years later, the state is far from a Democratic stronghold. Democrats are struggling to hold on to their seats as they face the same public ire that Republicans did two years ago.

2010 Election Maps: Follow the Senate, House and Governors' Races

Incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, who replaced Ken Salazar last year, is in an uphill battle against Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Ken Buck.

In a debate moderated by ABC News' Jake Tapper and KMGH anchor Mike Landess, Bennet struggled to distance himself from the Obama administration, painting himself as a moderate as Buck accused him of running away from his record.

Watch the full debates here.

"I have been more likely to vote with the other party than any other member of the congressional delegation, whether they're Democratic or whether they're Republican," said Bennet. "And on some critical issues for Colorado, I fought the administration."

Buck, on the other hand, fought back against the argument that he's reversed his position, including on health care.

"I havent reversed positions, but I have talked about issues in different ways," Buck said today. "Sometimes it's a matter of learning more about issues, sometimes it's a matter of using different language to try to explain the same situation."

Bennett and Buck are locked in a tight race that will come down to who can win over more independent voters who comprise a large chunk of the state's electorate.

Democrats are having a hard time edging up in polls not only in the Senate race but also in several House races. But where they do see a ray of hope is in the gubernatorial race, where Denver Mayor Hickenlooper leads by double digits.

2010 Elections: Colorado Races

In a race fraught with fighting among conservatives, pollsters say Hickenlooper is looking at an easy victory to replace exiting Gov. Bill Ritter, who decided not to seek reelection.

At today's fiery debate between Democrat John Hickenlooper, Republican Dan Maes and the American Constitution Party's Tom Tancredo, fireworks sparked between Maes and Tancredo as the Republican candidate accused the former member of Congress of sneaking onto the ballot "like an illegal immigrant."

Businessman Maes rode to victory on the back of the Tea Party's support, narrowly defeating another GOP establishment favorite, former Rep. Scott McInnis.

Tancredo quit the GOP and declared himself a candidate of the American Constitution Party despite calls from Maes and other Republicans who feared it would split the vote. The former congressman's move did divide the Republican Party, essentially paving an easy path for Hickenlooper.

"You know what, I went through the system. I did exactly what I was asked to do and I've stood up to powerful powerful people over the last year," Maes said, when asked by ABC's Tapper why he elected not to drop out. "And with all due respect to the congressman (Tancredo), you can't cheat and come under the fence like an illegal immigrant with three months to spare."

"You just don't get to do that. So I don't buy polls. I never bought polls," he added. "Let's not count Dan Maes or the conservative movement out until Nov. 2."

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