IT'S hard to imagine two candidates with less in common than Terry Considine and Ben Nighthorse Campbell, both running to replace retiring United States Sen. Tim Wirth (D) of Colorado.
State Senator Considine is a Reagan Republican who favors supply-side economics and opposes abortion. US Representative Campbell is a moderate Democrat who could become the first American Indian in the Senate since 1929.
Considine, who comes from a wealthy family, is a lawyer who attended Harvard University and Law School. Campbell grew up in relative poverty and dropped out of high school to fight in the Korean War. He captained the 1964 US Judo Team and was a deputy sheriff, rancher, and jewelry maker before being elected to Congress in 1986.
Considine's base of support is the religious right, a powerful emerging force in Colorado's Republican Party. The groups are backing an anti-homosexual rights initiative on the November ballot. Considine supports the measure, which is opposed by virtually the entire political heirarchy here. Independent populist
With his evangelical base, Considine is independent of the Republican Party establishment. He runs as a populist who supports the line-item veto for the president and term limits for legislators.
In 1990, he was a leader of a successful initiative campaign to limit state legislators' terms (many GOP officeholders opposed the measure).
He is also more adamantly anti-abortion than many centrist Republicans. His independence has cost him party support and fund-raising help. Pollster Floyd Cirulli of Cirulli Associates estimates that on Nov. 3, Considine could lose the votes of up to 20 percent of Republicans.
Campbell talks the Clinton-Gore line when it comes to the economy: He believes in investment in education and job training and in shifting some money out of defense, taxing the wealthy, and lowering some taxes for the middle class.
But like Considine, he is more conservative than his party - especially on environmental policy, a key issue in Colorado.
When Senator Wirth announced he would not seek reelection this year, environmentalists trembled. Of the candidates for the Democratic nomination, most favored Gov. Richard Lamm. But when Governor Lamm lost to Campbell in the primary, environmentalists moved to the congressman's camp.
"Campbell is really a throwback - conservative to moderate on natural resources and other issues. He's a multiple-use kind of guy - pro-timber, pro-grazing," says Mr. Cirulli.
"He's got the environmentalists' endorsements because you can, at least, talk to him and he will listen. But he's a member of the Old West, a person who would make the resources productive, rather than set them aside and protect them."
The fact that Campbell is a native American buys him goodwill among liberal Democrats who might otherwise take issue with some of his moderate-to-conservative positions, analysts say.
In any case, issues are hardly the point in this race. Both candidates have been slinging mud fast and furiously.
Considine has labeled Campbell a big-spending incumbent. He also has attacked Campbell's ethics, airing television ads that accuse the congressman of improperly taking an oil-company-sponsored fact-finding trip to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Campbell retorts that he has sometimes voted against the oil-lobby's bills in Congress.
Campbell has run campaign ads highlighting his opponent's business dealings with the failed Silverado Savings and Loan in Denver. Considine parried with a commercial claiming that Campbell is smearing him, and that the charges have no merit. Abortion could be key
At the moment, Campbell is the definite front-runner, but his lead in the polls has dwindled - from 30 percentage points in August to about 10 points in Cirulli's latest survey. The congressman has clearly been hurt by his opponent's televised attacks.
If push comes to shove, abortion - an issue on which Campbell and Considine have staked out diametrically opposed positions - may become important in deciding a close election. Cirulli's polls indicate that 70 to 75 percent of Colorado residents are pro-choice.