A Political Meltdown of Historic Proportions

September 6 2007, 5:54 PM
I'd say here that Rep. Doug Lamborn has had a bad couple of weeks, but that would be a little inaccurate. Lamborn has had a bad year as a freshman member of congress, and he still has four months to go. Fortunately for him, he probably won't be in congress much longer after that. We are witnessing, in the form of Lamborn, the destruction of a political career by the speed of which I cannot recall in recent memory. He has only been a member of congress of eight months, but a betting man would say that he has very little chance of being re-elected in 2008. In fact, I'll go even further than that - I would be downright shocked if Lamborn was still a sitting member of congress in January 2009. It's hard to fully explain how odd this is unless you really follow politics, but I'll give it a try. For one thing, incumbents don't usually lose their bids for re-election. In 2004, 99% of incumbent congressmen were re-elected; to be exact, 396 our of 401 who sought re-election were successful (Check out this graph of re-election rates over the years for more statistics). Incumbents had a tougher time in 2006, but that was not a typical election year. In Colorado, I can't remember a recent incumbent who failed to win their bid for re-election. It just doesn't happen. While it's tough enough to knock off an incumbent, Lamborn also has the benefit of representing a district (CD-5, Colorado Springs) where a Democrat has virtually no chance of winning. Before he retired last year, Republican Joel Hefley easily held onto that seat for 20 years., which is why six Republicans participated in last summer's GOP primary to succeed him; the prize was considered to be a "seat for life" since it was so difficult to lose once you won the first time. In other words, there is no reason that Lamborn should ever have to worry about losing his seat in our lifetime, but that's exactly what is likely to happen next August. So what happened? Here's a quick list:
  • To begin with, Lamborn angered many Republicans in the district when he emerged from a bitter primary with a narrow victory over Jeff Crank. I won't repeat the litany of accusations, but all you really need to know is that the campaign got sufficiently nasty that plenty of hard feelings remain to this day.
  • Lamborn's fundraising for re-election has been weak at best. He has raised only about $70,000 through the first half of this year, when most incumbents bring in at least five times that amount (Colorado's other freshman congressman, Ed Perlmutter, had raised more than $550,000 through the first six months of the year). Nothing scares away a potential opponent like a big warchest , because it's hard to beat someone who can outspend you. Nobody is going to be scared of Lamborn's puny bank account.
  • Lamborn has cast plenty of votes, but some of them are really, really politically harmful. He has supported the Army's request to take over land in the Pinon Canyon area, despite the fact that most other Colorado politicians (including Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave) are supporting the people whose land would be taken were this to happen. He made the asinine political decision to vote against a measure increasing penalties for dogfighting (only 38 other boneheads in the House voted 'no' on a bill that was co-sponsored by Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard), which is a vote that will certainly be used against him in advertisements or direct mail. The dogfighting vote was emblematic of a congressman who may be politically tone-deaf, taking a stand on a principle that doesn't make much sense.
  • And finally, the icing on the cake thus far: Lamborn left threatening voice mail messages with his own constituents. It's flat wrong for a congressman to threaten a citizen for whatever reason, but what kind of a moron does it on a recording???That's just a short list of the many reasons why Doug Lamborn may be DOA as an incumbent congressman, and while the details are fascinating, the end result is the real story. We may be seeing the complete implosion of what should have been a very long congressional career after just a few months.