Now that the 2006 election is over (unless you’re still counting votes in Denver), it’s time to take a look at what to expect for 2008. It may seem ridiculously early to think about 2008, but running for a major political office is really a two year endeavor; former Republican gubernatorial candidates Marc Holtzman and Mike Coffman, for example, were already raising money for their respective campaigns at this time in 2004. For most ambitious politicians, the next election starts the day after the current election ends.

With that in mind, here are some of the (very) early storylines for 2008:

U.S. Senate
The big race in 2008 will be for the U.S. Senate, a seat which is currently held by two-term incumbent Republican Wayne Allard. The direction this race takes in the next 12 months will have a domino effect on many other levels, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

The big question here is whether Allard will run for re-election. When he first ran for the senate, in 1996, Allard pledged to serve only two terms; if he keeps that pledge, he’ll retire rather than run for re-election. But the election results from two weeks ago mean that Republicans can’t afford to let their incumbent candidates walk away in 2008, so it’s a good bet that Allard will give in to Republican pressure and run again.

If Allard does not run for re-election, there will be a free-for-all in the Republican Party over who tries to succeed him. Expect Rep. Tom Tancredo (CD-6, Littleton) and former Rep. Scott McInnis (CD-3, Western Slope) to take a shot if Allard doesn’t run (and Tancredo may even do it if Allard does run). Other names to watch include Attorney General John Suthers, incoming Secretary of State Mike Coffman, Gov. Bill Owens and former candidate Bob Schaffer. Suthers and Coffman would like to run, but the GOP can’t afford to let them; if either won the U.S. Senate seat, incoming Gov. Bill Ritter would get to appoint a Democrat as their replacement.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Mark Udall (CD-2, Boulder) has said that he will run in 2008, and the field is frozen until he says otherwise (Udall hasn’t made a formal announcement about his candidacy, but he is expected to be the Democratic candidate). If Udall does not run, it’s hard to list a potential field of Democratic candidates at this point; since everyone expects Udall to be the guy, there haven’t been any rumored plans otherwise.

If Udall runs for the U.S. Senate, as expected, the race to succeed him will be the most interesting congressional fight in Colorado. Two very high-powered Democrats have all but announced their intentions to run for congress in CD-2: Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and big money donor Jared Polis. There are a handful of other potential Democratic candidates here as well, but this race would really come down to Fitz-Gerald and Polis splitting a Democratic base that is loyal to both candidates. There are no rumored Republican candidates at this point, and there won’t likely be a strong GOP contender in this Democratic-leaning district.

How do the rest of the congressional races look in Colorado in 2008? I’ll take a look at those seats in a later post.