Atmosphere

Marilyn in the Middle

With other Colorado Republicans swinging right, Musgrave makes a play to the center.

August 2007

Over the past three years, the Colorado Republican Party has seen its congressional delegation dwindle from seven to four. This has prompted several reactions from Republicans running for 2008 election.

Former Rep. Bob Schaffer, currently the only Republican racing to replace the Senate seat of Republican Wayne Allard, has used his lack of primary opposition to move farther...right. In the 2004 Senate Republican primary—the last time Schaffer ran on his ardent conservative record—he lost to the politically novice, yet more moderate Pete Coors, who was subsequently crushed by Ken Salazar in the general election.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, who has eyes on an even bigger prize, has not let his presidential hopes soften his conservatism. Tancredo continues to clamor for shut borders, recently passing a symbolic bill to cut funding to "sanctuary cities." He also confirmed, during a televised debate, that he doesn't believe in evolution. He's polling at 1 percent with Republican presidential primary voters.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, meanwhile, after eking out re-election last year, has made tentative steps toward the center. She hasn't, for example, revived her constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage—yet. And in June, she actually cosponsored an amendment with Democrat John Salazar to block the Army from studying an expansion of Fort Carson—arguing that it would steal ranchers' livelihoods and property.

Musgrave is even bashing Colorado Republicans. After Rep. Doug Lamborn said the Fort Carson amendment was a "negligent disregard for the personal safety of our troops," Musgrave fired back: "As a mother of an enlisted sailor and the mother-in-law of a young man who served in Afghanistan, it's very difficult for somebody to credibly assert that I do not care about the welfare of our troops."

Will Musgrave's moderation—real or perceived—be enough to save her seat in 2008? Her competition is as fierce as ever; 2006 competitors Democrat Angie Paccione and Reform candidate Eric Eidness (now a Democrat as well) are back in the race. Most challenging, however, might be Betsy Markey, a first-time candidate who's a former aide to Senator Ken Salazar, the pioneer of Colorado moderates.