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The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) today released its top list of 2008 congressional candidates it deems most vulnerable, and nobody from Colorado made the list.
Prior to the 2006 election cycle, Rep. John Salazar was on the list, and the open seat in CD-7, which Ed Perlmutter eventually won, was considered the top pickup in the country. But now, Democrats feel so good about both Salazar and Perlmutter that they don’t consider either race to be among the most vulnerable to Republicans in 2008. There will be some argument that either Perlmutter or Salazar, if not both, should not be considered so comfy, but I happen to agree with the DCCC here. Let’s take each Democrat separately for an explanation of why:
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John Salazar (CD-3)
Of the four Democrats in congress in Colorado, Salazar represents the district that is by far the most unfavorable in terms of voter registration. Voters in Salazar’s district, which encompasses a huge area from Pueblo all the way through the Western Slope, chose George Bush over John Kerry 55-44 in 2004.
So why would Salazar be considered safe in a heavily Republican district? Because he proved in his freshman stint to be a prodigious fundraiser and he absolutely crushed Republican Scott Tipton 62-37 in November. Tipton wasn’t a great candidate, but he did raise and spend a decent amount of money. If Salazar had only defeated Tipton by 5 points, he would be considered vulnerable; but by winning re-election, in a Republican district, by such a huge margin, both Democrats and Republicans are going to consider him unbeatable unless he screws up somehow in the meantime.
Ed Perlmutter (CD-7)
Many of the same arguments for Salazar apply to Perlmutter. Last fall, Perlmutter proved to be a great fundraiser who emerged from a fairly tough primary against a Republican – Rick O’Donnell – who was well-funded and had already run in this district once before (in 2002). O’Donnell had every advantage on paper, and Perlmutter still blew him out 55-42.
But this seat may be even tougher for Republicans to win back for a couple of additional reasons. For one thing, CD-7 (Lakewood, Arvada, Adams County, Aurora) is a slightly Democratic district that voted 51-48 for Kerry in 2004; whereas Republicans have a natural voter advantage in CD-3, they do not enjoy that advantage here. Republicans also don’t have an obvious candidate they could put forth to challenge Perlmutter in 2008. Last year O’Donnell was the annointed one who had waited his chance and was given a free shot at the title. The bench is pretty thin for the GOP in 2008, because nearly every local elected official in the district is a Democrat. Perlmutter will raise a lot more money as a sitting congressman than he raised as a candidate, which was impressive in itself, and that should scare off any Republican candidate who is more than a paper tiger.