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The 2008 Senate map is not hospitable to the Republicans, as they find themselves defending 23 seats, compared with just 12 for the Democrats. And in many of the states where those seats are up, Democrats have been ascendant of late, with the GOP suffering key losses at the state level.
Colorado qualifies as one of those states, and thats why many prognosticators are picking Rep. Mark Udall (D) known affectionately as Boulder liberal Mark Udall in Republican circles to beat former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R) and succeed Allard as the next Senator from Colorado.
Udall, who launched his Senate campaign before Schaffer, has raised more money than his Republican counterpart and has the benefit of running on the heels of the Democrats capturing control of the state Legislature, the governors mansion and Colorados other Senate seat.
But for political oddsmakers looking to pick an upset, this race might offer the Republicans their best chance to steal a contest that theyre not supposed to win.
Since launching his campaign almost a year ago, Schaffer has proved to be a productive fundraiser, which was never his strong suit, and has worked hard, and so far successfully, to unite Colorados conservative and moderate Republicans behind his candidacy something that was not a given considering the intra-party feuding that has plagued the Centennial State GOP in recent election cycles.
Colorado has about 117,000 more enrolled Republicans than Democrats, and Schaffers conservative record from his time representing the northern Colorado 4th district might actually play better with the statewide electorate than Udalls decidedly left-of-center record representing the solidly Democratic, Boulder-area 2nd district.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is heavily targeting this seat, and Schaffers ability to pull off an upset could boil down to three factors: His ability to raise enough money to withstand national Democratic money, which is likely to flow into the state in greater amounts than national Republican money; his ability to win at a time when the Republican brand in Colorado, as elsewhere, is significantly less palatable than the Democratic brand; and the presidential contest, as both Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) are both theoretically positioned to do well in Colorado this fall.
Schaffer is also going to have to run a relatively mistake-free campaign, something he had done fairly well until his ties to disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff surfaced recently and became front-page news in The Denver Post, the states biggest newspaper.
Schaffer was also ripped recently by former state GOP Chairman and American Right to Life spokesman Steve Curtis for failing to immediately support a proposed Colorado ballot initiative that would define a fetus as a person at the time of conception.
If these two issues become exacerbated in the coming months, it could spell doom for Schaffer.
With an early-August primary and no major race at the top of the ticket to pull voters to the polls that day, this race will likely come down to who can secure the support of hard-core Democratic activists. The winner of the primary is all but assured of victory in the general election in this solidly Democratic district.
Whether that is former state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, multimillionaire former state Board of Education President Jared Polis or environmental activist Will Shafroth is still open to debate.
Fitz-Gerald is the most politically connected candidate and has benefited when it comes to fundraising and support from stalwart Democratic groups like EMILYs List and various labor unions. She closed the first quarter of the year with $575,000 on hand.
Polis, a young Internet entrepreneur, can write large checks to keep himself competitive financially and has already done so, spending about $1 million of his own money on his campaign to date. In past election cycles Polis spent millions more of his own money on independent expenditure ads aiding Democratic candidates and causes in the Centennial State, and if he has any chits to call in from that activity, they could aid him well down the stretch in this campaign. He closed the first quarter with $322,000 on hand.
Shafroth might be the candidate who is most like Udall: a rugged-looking outdoorsman among whose signature policy concerns is protecting the environment. He closed the first quarter with $682,000 on hand.
The lone Republican candidate so far is Scott Starin, an electrical engineer.
Musgrave is set to face businesswoman and former Senate aide Betsy Markey (D) this fall, and Democrats are optimistic that they finally have a candidate strong enough and savvy enough to oust the Republican incumbent.
Markey is raising money at a healthy clip, closing the first quarter of this year with $376,000 in cash on hand, and she is using her background to campaign as a pro-business Democrat who will put solving problems ahead of politics. But even with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee money thats likely to pour into this race in the fall, Markeys task wont be easy.
The 4th district as drawn is Republican territory, and the hyper-partisan Musgrave who existed earlier this decade appears to have been replaced by a practical, more constituent-oriented Musgrave.
Musgrave, recognizing in her narrow, less-than-50 percent victory in the previous cycle that 4th district voters were tiring of her focus on issues such as gay marriage, has been working to remake herself into a Congresswoman who prioritizes passing common-sense legislation favored by Democrats, Republicans and independents throughout Colorado.
Also, Musgrave closed the first quarter with a healthy $1 million-plus in cash on hand.
Musgraves close victory in 2006 was in the part due to the presence of a third candidate in the race, Eric Eidsness, who was a former Republican turned Independent. Eidsness offered disgruntled Republicans and like-minded independents a palatable alternative to Musgrave and the Democrats, and he took 11 percent of the vote in the 2006 contest.
If Musgrave can continue her makeover, and if Markey fails to cast herself in moderate enough terms to make herself attractive to a largely Republican audience, the incumbent should return for a fourth term.
The winner of the Republican primary should glide to victory in the general election. But if 2006 GOP primary candidates Jeff Crank and Bentley Rayburn hadnt both decided to run against Lamborn, as opposed to just one of them, the Congressman might have been one of the most vulnerable incumbents of this cycle.
Lamborn has repeatedly committed unnecessary public relations blunders that resulted in ink-barrels of bad press back home, and his fundraising has been equally as weak (he raised $76,300 during the first three months of the year, to close the quarter with $179,400 on hand and $59,000 in campaign debt).
One on one, either Crank or Rayburn could be favored to beat Lamborn.
Crank finished a close second to Lamborn in 2006, has the support from the popular former 5th district Rep. Joel Hefley (R), whom he once worked for, and has favorable name identification and political connections in the district. Rayburn is an Air Force veteran (the Air Force Academy is in the 5th district) and is well-liked by conservatives.
But because Crank and Rayburn are both running, its highly possible that they will split the anti-Lamborn vote, which is just what happened in the crowded 2006 GOP primary, allowing the incumbent to sneak through for a second term. Lamborn could also benefit from the Club for Growth, which helped propel him to victory in the 2006 primary and is backing him again.
Crank closed the first period with $130,700 in cash on hand, while Rayburn reported a war chest of $112,700 as of March 31.
The likely Democratic nominee is Hal Bidlack, a retired Air Force officer.
With the winner of the GOP primary almost assured of victory in the general election, a crowded Republican contest has ensued to replace Tancredo.
There are several moving parts to this race, and with no top-of-the ticket draw and a midsummer primary when most rank-and-file voters are more concerned with family vacations than politics, it is unclear how the crowded field will shake out.
Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman was the early favorite. His home base is the 6th district, and his résumé includes military service in Iraq. He previously served as state treasurer.
But several controversial problems have enveloped the secretary of states office, and its possible that the bad press Coffman has received from that could hurt his candidacy. Some Colorado Republicans are also upset that Coffmans decision to run for Congress would, if he wins, eliminate the GOPs only hold on a statewide Constitutional office, as Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter would be able to appoint a new secretary of state to replace Coffman if he is elected.
Coffman closed the first quarter with $324,000 in cash on hand.
Small-business man Wil Armstrong (R) is running as the political outsider. But he is clearly playing on the strong reputation in GOP circles of his father, former Sen. Bill Armstrong (R). The institutional support hes gained from his ties to his father could boost him to victory in the primary, although his status as a first-time candidate could result in unforced errors down the stretch that cost him the race.
Armstrong closed the first quarter with $283,000 in cash on hand.
State Sens. Ted Harvey and Steve Ward also cant be counted out, although it remains to be seen whether they have the political heft and the fundraising chops to surpass Coffman and Armstrong in support and outmaneuver them politically. Harvey closed the first quarter with $22,000 on hand; Ward finished the period with $20,000.
Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (R) is facing several challengers in the GOP Senate primary, including Army Reserve officer Scott Syme, retired attorney Fred Adams and business consultant and Air Force veteran Richard Phenneger.
Rischs superior name identification and short but successful stint as governor in 2006 not to mention his demonstrated ability to self-fund if necessary should carry him to victory May 27.
In the general election, Risch is set to face former Rep. Larry LaRocco (D). LaRocco lost to Risch by 19 points in the 2006 lieutenant governors race, but LaRocco remains undeterred in his pending rematch. He has been campaigning hard up and down the state since early last year and is convinced that ruby-red Idaho is ripe for change this November.
However, LaRocco is not the kind of moderate Democrat that is likely to appeal to Idahos conservative statewide electorate. And in any event, he isnt raising the kind of money that indicates he will be able to be competitive against Risch.
Risch closed the first quarter of this year with $936,000 in cash on hand; LaRocco finished the same period with $254,000 in the bank.
Craig chose retirement over running for re-election after it was discovered that he was arrested in an airport bathroom sex sting and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. But the longtime Senators ignominious reason for calling it quits should not hamper the GOPs chances of holding his seat.
Democrats believe this overwhelmingly Republican seat could be a dark horse upset.
Their preferred primary candidate, 1996 Senate nominee Walt Minnick, now has a clear path to the Democratic nomination. The 2006 Democratic nominee, Larry Grant, recently dropped out of the primary race after it became clear that Minnick had the institutional support and had raised more money.
Minnick, who was recently named to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees Red to Blue fundraising and infrastructure program, has thus far significantly outraised Sali. Minnick closed the first quarter with $328,000 in on hand and no debt, while Sali finished the period with a weak $124,000 in cash on hand and $145,000 in campaign debt.
Sali faces a Republican primary challenge from underfunded Iraq War veteran Matt Salisbury.
Do all of these factors add up to a Minnick upset? For now, the answer is no. Sali has managed to avoid controversy during his first term which, given his history in the state Legislature, was far from guaranteed while his GOP primary competition appears nonthreatening.
Additionally, the 1st district is overwhelmingly Republican territory, and in a presidential year, that should be enough for Sali to win a second term.
The Senate Finance Committee chairman is running hard, as if he had something even close to a tough race on his hands. Baucus has given his campaign the full Big Sky treatment, setting up eight campaign offices and hiring 35 full-time staffers by the time he formally announced his plans to seek re-election, according to his campaign.
But the $10 million-dollar incumbent has five little-known Republicans vying for the right to take him on, and they have raised about $55,000 combined, according to online fundraising records.
It seems Baucus aides have raised enough money to do what they set out to do this cycle: Scare away any candidate who is even thinking about challenging the states senior Senator. Its hard to imagine any Republican in the state who could mount a credible challenge to Baucus at this point.
Its hard to imagine how Rehberg does not win in a presidential year, given the states tradition of voting Republican in those cycles. Even though Democrats have made significant gains in the state over the past few cycles, even Democratic operatives say every cycle is an uphill battle for them in a red state.
After the original Democratic candidate dropped out of the race last November, reportedly because of health concerns, attorney and retired Montana Army National Guard Lt. Col. Jim Hunt (D) was recruited to challenge Rehberg. Democrats say Hunt is perhaps an even better candidate than their original choice.
Hunt reported raising $132,600 since announcing his candidacy in mid-February, but Rehberg had about $570,700 in cash on hand at the end of March to help him keep his seat.
In a ruby-red state like Utah, Matheson always faces the potential of a serious race. However, the four-term Member steadily has pulled away from his Republican challengers over the past two cycles, most recently winning his 2006 election by almost 50,000 votes.
In March, controversial ex-Rep. Merrill Cook (R) announced that he plans to take on Matheson this fall. Cooks announcement came one day after real estate developer Josh Romney (R), the son of former Massachusetts governor and onetime presidential contender Mitt Romney (R), announced that he would not run for Congress this cycle but would consider challenging Matheson in 2010.
While Cook is better known than any of Mathesons other GOP challengers, his entry into the race was not universally cheered by Republican officials.
After running several times for state and local offices in the 1980s and 1990s, Cook, a wealthy manufacturer of mining explosives, was elected to Congress in 1996. But he squabbled frequently with state and national Republican leaders and was defeated in the 2000 GOP primary.
Cook has attempted several political comebacks since both as an Independent and as a Republican including an unsuccessful GOP convention challenge to 3rd district Rep. Chris Cannon (R) in 2006.
In recent cycles, Cannon hasnt been able to obtain the 60 percent of votes necessary from delegates at the states GOP convention to avoid a primary. This cycle may not be any different, with several conservative Republicans looking to knock off the more moderate Cannon.
The leading GOP challengers are Jason Chaffetz, the former chief of staff to Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R), and David Leavitt, brother of former Gov. Mike Leavitt (R).
Cannon has an effective fundraising network in the state and has raised more than half a million dollars so far this cycle. But he ended the first quarter of the year with just $128,000 in cash on hand and almost $200,000 in debt, including $138,000 of that in loans hes made to his own campaign.
Meanwhile Leavitt ended the quarter with about $94,000 in cash on hand and $131,000 in debts. Chaffetz had about $43,000 in cash on hand. The challengers will have to pick up their fundraising if they want to run competitive campaigns.
The only Democrat who could upset Enzis plans for a third term is popular second-term Gov. Dave Freudenthal. But Freudenthal likes being governor and has repeatedly rebuffed Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumers (N.Y.) attempts to recruit him into the race.
Enzi looks to face either Army veteran Al Hamburg or college professor Chris Rothfuss in November, but he probably wont break a sweat as he crosses the finish line in first place on Nov. 4.
Barrasso was selected by Freudenthal to replace the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R), who died from complications of leukemia on June 4, 2007.
Since then, Barrasso has set to work as the junior Senator from Wyoming while simultaneously girding for a tough battle for election that could come because his Senate seat is technically an open one.
However, it doesnt look as though Barrasso will face a serious threat in November. Freudenthal isnt interested in a Capitol Hill career, and there are few other high-profile Democrats that could plausibly threaten for higher office in solidly Republican Wyoming Gary Trauner (D), who came close to ousting Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) in 2006, chose to make another run at the House this year.
In November, Barrasso will face either attorney Nick Carter (D) or Casper City Councilman Keith Goodenough. But with more than $1 million in cash on hand to close the first quarter and a popular reputation statewide that stretches back years as his states preeminent orthopedic surgeon, Barrasso looks like hes on his way to serving out the remainder of Craigs term.
In GOP-leaning Wyoming, open seats for federal office dont come along too often. Thats why Cubins retirement has spawned a crowded Republican primary. The GOP also figures to get an extra boost in November because this is a presidential cycle.
But the Democrats have a real shot this time, and thats because 2006 nominee Gary Trauner (D) is running again. Trauner, who is a New York native and in 2006 was an unknown quantity making his first run for a major office, came within less than 1 point of ousting Cubin.
This time around Wyoming voters know who Trauner is, and their impression of him is favorable. His fundraising has been healthy, closing the first quarter with $550,500 in cash on hand, and he has a clear path to the Democratic nomination.
However, this year he is also likely to face stiffer competition than Cubin. Although Republicans are battling for their nod in a crowded primary and that contest is not until late August, the eventual winner will likely not have the negative image that Cubin had managed to earn by the time she ran for her seventh term in 2006. In fact, Cubin had never been particularly popular and usually faced a primary challenge in each of her re-election bids.
The candidates that appear most likely to emerge from the GOP primary are former two-term state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis and rancher Mark Gordon.
Lummis has a long record of public service in Wyoming, having previously served in the state Legislature, and currently helps run her familys ranch. She is quintessential Wyoming. But so is Gordon, a small-business man and rancher who is already up on state television and radio attempting to accumulate the positive name identification hell need to finish first in the primary.
Lummis finished the first quarter with $141,000 on hand, compared with $86,400 for Gordon.
The other Republicans running in this race include social worker Kenn Gilchrist, motivational speaker Swede Nelson, 2006 candidate Bill Winney and state Rep. Dan Zwonitzer.