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Changes On Both Sides Could Keep Status Quo

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Representative Marilyn Musgrave (CO-4, Greeley) won re-election for the second time in 2006 by narrowly defeating Democrat Angie Paccione. Musgrave captured only 46 percent of the vote in November, which meant that she was elected with the lowest percentage of any congressional member in the entire country.

Musgrave has been a top target for Democrats in part because she is a strong proponent of banning gay marriage, but she represents a Republican-leaning district in which she really shouldn’t have as much trouble every two years. Rumors flew after last November’s election that the Republican National Congressional Committee (NRCC) was tired of having to spend millions of dollars to defend Musgrave every two years when a more moderate – and perhaps wiser – Republican would be able to hold that seat relatively easily. Whether or not those rumors were true, Musgrave has been a changed woman ever since, spending more time holding “town meetings” with her constituents and playing up her so-called “bi-partisan” credentials in an effort to seem like less of an extreme right-wing Republican.

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In the meantime, Democrats for the first time in years are looking at a contentious primary for the right to challenge Musgrave once again. Paccione is running again, as is state Sen. Brandon Shaffer, who will be a strong candidate. Former Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness -who captured 11 percent of the vote last year – has switched to the Democratic Party and will also run again.

Musgrave has has a big target on her back ever since she was first elected in 2002, but if she pulls off another victory in 2008, big Democratic donors may begin to back off a little. Given that Musgrave is changing her image at the same time Democrats are engaging in a potentially damaging primary, she may be safer in 2008 than she’s ever been.

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