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Colorado Races

House Outlook for 2008

Will the GOP Swing the Pendulum Back?

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Colorado (04)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


November 18, 2008 Update:

Freshman lawmaker Betsy Markey defeated incumbent Republican Marilyn Musgrave by 12 percentage points to win the district. It has been 35 years since the 4th district was represented by a Democrat.

July 29, 2008 Update:

If there were an award for “Most Vulnerable Republican Incumbent,” Colorado Representative Marilyn Musgrave would certainly be one of the finalists. Last cycle, Musgrave escaped with a three point victory, but her narrow margin, like blood in the water, only attracted more sharks circling for the kill. Already, the liberal Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund—sporting the pelt of Richard Pombo (R-CA) in 2006—has flooded the airwaves with ads criticizing Musgrave’s environmental record, and it’s only a matter of time before the DCCC joins the fray with $700K of airtime reserved for the fall. Barack Obama’s decision to compete for Colorado’s nine electoral votes won’t help either. The district tilts Republican, and the incumbent boasts a formidable campaign staff, but Musgrave will have to fight for her life against multiple adversaries in rapidly changing and highly competitive high plains of Eastern Colorado.

June 13, 2008 Update:

In May, the two campaigns traded dueling polls, each purported to show their candidate in the lead. Democratic nominee Betsy Markey fired the first salvo, with a poll taken in mid-May, showing her with a 43-36 advantage and incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave with a 37-48 favorable to unfavorable rating. Musgrave’s campaign responded by reaching into their archive, pulling out a poll taken in early March. Their poll, which tellingly did not include an estimate of Musgrave’s unfavorability rating, had Musgrave leading, but by five percent with a five percent margin of error. The 47% of voters in Musgrave’s poll who said they would vote for the incumbent congresswoman should be disturbing for the GOP, since she is unable to crack 50% even before Markey introduces herself to voters and the campaign begins in earnest. Musgrave does hold a huge cash advantage, $1 million to Markey’s $375,000, but what good will that do when most voters have already made up their minds about her?


Background

Like her colleague Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio, Representative Marylin Musgrave has faced difficulties ingratiating herself to her constituents and, as a consequence, she consistently underperforms her district’s demographics. Last cycle’s narrow victory over Angie Paccione earned Musgrave the ignominious distinction as the fifth most vulnerable Republican incumbent, according to the White House. Since 2006, Musgrave has altered her message to stress bipartisanship and compromise, but one only wonders how much she can change voter’s established opinions of the Colorado Representative.

This time around, Musgrave has drawn the challenge of former staffer to Sen. Ken Salazar Betsy Markey. While Markey is Musgrave’s best funded challenger to date, the Representative has a commanding $750K to $255K cash on hand advantage as of January 2008. The withdrawal of 2006 Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness may somewhat offset Markey’s financial disadvantage as he likely pulled decisive votes from Paccione in 2006. Given the district’s strong Republican tilt and the weakened Democratic headwinds of 2008, Musgrave should prevail in 2008, but be on the lookout for any stumbles from the incumbent that could open a window of opportunity for Democratic takeover.

Candidates

Marilyn Musgrave (I) – Republican – current Congresswoman
Website

Betsy Markey – Democrat – former staffer for Senator Ken Salazar
Website