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Checking in on the Congressional Races

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The governor’s race has been dominating the political landscape lately as Republican Bob Beauprez’s campaign continues to implode (or is it explode?), but we mustn’t forget the congressional races. With just a few weeks left until absentee ballots start going out to voters, let’s take a look at how Colorado’s congressional delegation – which currently stands 4-3 in favor of Republicans – might look in January.

CD1 (Denver)
The only way Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette isn’t still in Congress come January would be if President Bush declares the United States to be a monarchy and disbands the silly goings-on atop Capitol Hill. In other words, there’s a small chance. As for DeGette losing the November election, Jake Plummer has a better chance finishing the Denver Broncos’ season without throwing another interception.

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CD2 (Boulder)
Democratic Rep. Mark Udall says he’s running for the U.S. Senate in 2008, and he won’t have much of a race to worry about in the meantime. Udall hasn’t face a legitimate challenge in several years, and he won’t have any problem winning re-election for the last time. The race for this seat will be one of the most entertaining in Colorado in 2008, assuming Udall indeed steps aside, but 2006 will be a yawner.

CD3 (Western Slope, Southern Colorado)
This seat, held by Democratic Rep. John Salazar, is one of the largest (geographically-speaking) in the country; the other six congressional seats are located along the Front Range, and CD3 basically encompasses everything else. A recent SurveyUSA/9News poll found Salazar with an 11-point lead over Republican challenger Scott Tipton – the same lead Salazar held in a poll taken last month. In a year when voters are saying they are frustrated with Republicans in congress and the White House, an 11-point lead for a Democrat like Salazar makes him a virtual lock to hold his seat for another term. The only way Tipton could beat Salazar would be if he could spend a lot of money on TV ads, but when you are this far behind at this point in the race, big donors will turn their attention elsewhere.

CD4 (Northern Colorado)
Incumbent Republican Marilyn Musgrave has survived tough challenges from Democrats before, and she’s in another dogfight with Democratic state Rep. Angie Paccione this year. Paccione recently made the target list of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which means 1) she has a real chance to knock of Musgrave, and 2) a lot of national money will start flowing into her campaign. Musgrave has a large fundraising advantage over Paccione, but her ultra-close ties to the White House could spell trouble at the polls. After CD7, this is the most likely Democratic pickup in the state and will likely come down to the wire. Musgrave has held off foes before, and in this Republican-leaning district, my guess is she’ll barely slide by again.

CD5 (Colorado Springs)
Republican Rep. Joel Hefley had a stranglehold on this seat for 20 years, so when he announced his retirement earlier this year it opened the floodgates for Republican candidates hoping to win a “seat for life” in the conservative epicenter of Colorado. State Sen. Doug Lamborn emerged from a heated six-way Republican primary battered and bruised from accusations that he ran a dirty campaign. Hefley went on the attack by refusing to endorse Lamborn, and now Democrat Jay Fawcett is hoping there is enough of a backlash against Lamborn to allow him to sneak in and pull the upset. Republican voters outnumber Democrats more than 2-to-1 in this district, but with Beauprez going in the tank and Lamborn losing his base of support, Fawcett could very well pull off one of the biggest upsets in the country. Unfortunately for Fawcett, he may not have enough money to get the word out about his candidacy enough to reach the all-important category of “uninformed” voters. At the end of the day, there’s probably too many diehard Republican voters here to stop Lamborn from winning the seat.

CD6 (Littleton, Highlands Ranch, Douglas County)
Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo hasn’t faced a real challenge in this strongly-Republican area for years, and he’s not in trouble this year, either. Democrat Bill Winter energized Democrats early on, but he failed to put together a well-organized campaign and hasn’t been able to raise enough money to really make a name for himself. There will be a backlash against Tancredo, but Winter is too unknown to take advantage. Tancredo will get an easy victory because he’s just too well-known, for better or worse, to the average voter. Name ID means a lot in a race like this, and the average Joe doesn’t know Winter from fall.

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CD7 (North Jefferson County, Adams County, Aurora)
This is the seat that is now open because Beauprez is running for governor, and it has been the most competitive and most-watched seat in the entire country from the beginning. Democrat Ed Perlmutter emerged from a tough primary to face Republican Rick O’Donnell in a district that is evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans and Unafilliated voters. There is a slight Democratic lean in this district, the heart of which is Jefferson County (where Perlmutter has his base). O’Donnell has a lot of issue problems, highlighted by an old article he wrote calling for an end to social security. The last time this was an open seat, in 2002, Beauprez beat Democrat Mike Feeley by just 121 votes, but it won’t be quite that close this time around. Perlmutter should win a close race because of his Jefferson County base and O’Donnell’s inability to escape from the social security albatross around his neck.

Under these scenarios, Colorado’s congressional delegation would remain 4-3…but in favor of Democrats, not Republicans, for the first time in many years.

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