Open seat: Wayne Allard (R) is retiring
Democrats are on the rise in this battleground state, and that would appear to give Rep. Mark Udall (D) the initial edge over former Rep. Bob Schaffer (R) in the race to replace Allard. Udall’s cash-on-hand lead of $3.1 million to $1.2 million through the end of September is another advantage for the Democrat out of the gate.
However, neither Udall nor Schaffer cuts the moderate, pragmatic profile that has proved successful for statewide candidates in Colorado in recent cycles. Udall is a conventional liberal Member from the left-of-center enclave of Boulder; Schaffer is a conventional conservative former Member from right-of-center Fort Collins.
Still, if recent trends hold, Udall could have the upper hand.
In the past two election cycles, Democrats have captured control of the state Legislature, the governor’s office, the Denver-area 7th district and the GOP-leaning 3rd district. Democrats also hold a fundraising advantage nationally, which could be even more significant if some state-based 527s are as active on behalf of Democratic candidates in 2008 as they were in past cycles.
But Colorado has 135,625 more enrolled Republicans than Democrats and an electorate that generally leans right of center.
If Schaffer can keep the GOP unified and continue raising money at the clip he’s exhibited thus far — $1.5 million raised since entering the race in mid-May — he could stay competitive with Udall and position himself to pull off what many political insiders would probably consider to be an upset.
This race is likely to boil down to money and who presents himself as the more moderate, non-ideological candidate. The presidential nominees on both sides also might play a role in the outcome.
Open seat: Mark Udall (D) is running for Senate
Outlook: Safe Democratic
With the winner of the Democratic primary all but assured of victory in the general election, a heated three-way contest is under way to succeed Udall as the party standard-bearer.
The Democratic primary features two heavyweights and one dark horse who could be positioning himself to pull off an upset: state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and wealthy former state Board of Education President Jared Polis are the favorites; environmental activist Will Shafroth is the formidable outsider.
Fitz-Gerald is the most popular choice among the Democratic Party establishment. As president of the state Senate who helped Democrats take over the state Legislature, she has the connections and the fundraising contacts it takes to win a competitive primary. Also, she has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, which will keep her campaign treasury well-stocked.
Polis, an Internet entrepreneur in his mid-30s, has some political baggage courtesy of his support for a ballot initiative that has rankled many politically active Coloradans, including Democrats. But he has spent millions of dollars to help elect Democrats in the state, and he has the ability to self-fund if necessary. That means he can afford to capitalize on any mistakes Fitz-Gerald might make between now and primary day.
Shafroth has solid environmental credentials and of all the candidates appears to most closely resemble Udall and the image of rugged outdoorsman that has helped endear the Congressman to 2nd district voters. Shafroth’s initial slate of endorsements and early fundraising also have been impressive.
Fundraising for Fitz-Gerald, Polis and Shafroth to close the third quarter was as follows: Fitz-Gerald raised $388,600 from July 1 to Sept. 30 and banked $449,200; Polis raised $371,000 and banked $555,000; Shafroth raised $208,000 and banked $425,000.
Incumbent: Marilyn Musgrave (R)
3rd term (46 percent)
Outlook: Leans Republican
Democrats were successful in clearing the primary field for preferred candidate Betsy Markey (D), a businesswoman and former aide to Sen. Ken Salazar (D).
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee coveted the 4th district in the previous cycle.
But the committee did not put the full weight of its checkbook behind the 2006 nominee, then-state Rep. Angie Paccione — both because she was not deemed a strong enough candidate to warrant the investment and because there were juicier opportunities for Democrats in the previous cycle than the GOP-leaning 4th district.
Don’t expect Democrats to take a pass on Musgrave this cycle. With a candidate they like, ample money to spend and fewer seats to target since flipping 30 districts last year, the DCCC will almost assuredly spend significant funds in an attempt to oust the Republican incumbent.
Musgrave, perhaps aware of her potential vulnerability, has been working her district harder and has generally toned down some of the hardline political rhetoric that defined her during her first two terms. Musgrave also has raised money at a healthy clip, finishing the third quarter of the year with $602,000 on hand on the strength of $291,000 raised.
But Musgrave’s biggest ally could be the political makeup of her Fort Collins-area district: It voted 58 percent for President Bush in 2004. That, and the fact that 2006 Reform Party nominee and former Republican Eric Eidsness appears not to be running — Eidsness is now a Democrat — could be Musgrave’s ace in the hole on Election Day.
Incumbent: Doug Lamborn (R)
1st term (60 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican
Lamborn won a contentious — and according to some participants, nasty — Republican primary last year en route to a fairly easy general election victory. But the wounds from the primary persist.
The candidate Lamborn narrowly defeated in the crowded contest, Jeff Crank, is challenging the Congressman in the 2008 GOP primary.
The incumbent was never endorsed by his predecessor, popular former Rep. Joel Hefley (R), who held the seat for two decades, and has done a poor job of fundraising in his first term. He raised $86,000 in the third quarter to finish the period with $115,000 on hand.
Those factors, combined with the fact that the end result of last year’s GOP primary was several hurt feelings among Republican activists in the district for how the race concluded, create a scenario where Lamborn could be defeated.
Crank, a former Hefley aide, raised $76,000, to close the period with $75,000 in the bank.
Retired Air Force Major General Bentley Rayburn, who finished third in last year’s GOP primary, also is running again. A Rayburn candidacy might actually help Lamborn, as the incumbent could benefit from Crank and Rayburn splitting the anti-Lamborn votes. But it’s possible that Crank and Rayburn may be able to work out a deal before next year’s party convention and primary, in which one defers to the other.
Open seat: Tom Tancredo (R) is retiring to run for president
Outlook: Safe Republican
And with the final pitch of the 2007 World Series that saw the Boston Red Sox sweep the Colorado Rockies, Tancredo was gone.
True to his word to reveal his plans for his House seat following the final out of the Rockies final game of the 2007 Major League Baseball season, Tancredo announced late last month that he would forgo re-election to his House seat regardless of how his long-shot presidential bid turns out.
Tancredo’s suburban Denver district is reliably conservative and should remain in GOP hands — even though it has become another in a growing list of open Republican-
held House seats. For that reason, expect a competitive GOP primary to replace the incumbent.
The potential candidates include state Sens. Ted Harvey (R) and Tom Wiens (R); small-business man Wil Armstrong (R), the son of former Sen. Bill Armstrong (R); Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman (R); and state House Minority Leader David Balmer (R), among others.
Some Republican insiders in the Centennial State believe Armstrong could be a wildcard candidate who surprises the prognosticators. Harvey and Wiens are seen as solid picks themselves. Meanwhile, Coffman could emerge as the early frontrunner if he jumps in, although GOP activists could try and convince him to stay out, as Gov. Bill Ritter (D) presumably would appoint a Democrat to replace Coffman as secretary of state should he advance to Congress.
Open seat: Larry Craig (R) is retiring
Outlook: Safe Republican
Idaho was one of last year’s safe outposts of red in an otherwise tidal wave of blue that washed over the nation, with Republicans winning all statewide races.
Next year’s general election looks to feature Lt. Gov. Jim Risch (R) and former Rep. Larry LaRocco (D). The bottom line? Risch beat LaRocco last year in the race for lieutenant governor, outpolling the Democrat by 19 points. At the time, Risch was serving as acting governor.
LaRocco has been campaigning since early this year and insists the 2008 Senate race will turn out differently than the 2006 lieutenant governor’s race. However, there is no political evidence to suggest he is right.
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 Senator’s ignominious reason for calling it quits should not hamper the GOP’s chances of holding his seat.
Incumbent: Bill Sali (R)
1st term (50 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican
Despite the fact that two Democrats are battling each other for the right to challenge Sali in the general election, there is almost no chance that this seat will change hands in November 2008.
The intrigue in this western Idaho district, if there is any, is whether GOP primary challenger Matt Salisbury, an Iraq War veteran, will give Sali a real fight for the 1st district nomination.
Salisbury is a first-time candidate with at least one Idaho political heavyweight on his side: former Canyon County GOP Chairman Pat Takasugi, who also is the ex-director
of the state Agriculture Department. The question is, can Salisbury gin up enough support in the district to supplant Sali?
Sali’s poor showing in the 2006 general election and Republican primary suggests it could happen. The 1st district is solid Republican territory, yet Sali barely edged out attorney Larry Grant (D), 50 percent to 45 percent. Sali won a crowded GOP primary last year to replace now-Gov. Butch Otter (R) with just 26 percent of the vote.
Since taking office, Sali’s fundraising has been tepid. He closed the third quarter with just $109,000 on hand after raising just $80,000 during the fundraising period. However, Salisbury did not even file a report with the Federal Election Commission, suggesting he could have a long way to go in his quest to oust Sali.
Meanwhile, Grant is running again for the nomination. Air Force veteran Rand Lewis is running against him in the Democratic primary. Grant closed the third quarter with $35,000 on hand; Lewis did not file an FEC report for the period.
Incumbent: Max Baucus (D)
5th term (63 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic
Baucus is sitting pretty on his more than $5.3 million in cash on hand for re-election. Barring a personal or political scandal, it’s going to be difficult for the powerful chairman of the Finance Committee to lose.
Republicans considering the race include engineer Kirk Bushman and former state Senate Minority Leader Bob Keenan. State Rep. and former state House Majority Leader Mike Lange has filed for the seat, but his fundraising has been meager.
Although Montana seems to be electing a lot of Democrats lately, Rehberg is likely to stick around barring a campaign scandal or two. He’s withstood challenges from local Democrats in the past with few scars to show for it.
What’s going to help Yellowstone County Commissioner Bill Kennedy (D) this cycle is having Sen. Max Baucus (D) and Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) at the top of his ticket, but will that be enough in a presidential year in which the state will likely vote for the GOP nominee? Not to mention that Rehberg had more than a 4-1 cash-on-hand advantage over Kennedy through Sept. 30. Kennedy is credible, but not strong enough to win.
Incumbent: Jim Matheson (D)
4th term (59 percent)
Outlook: Safe Democratic
With Utah widely considered to be the reddest of red states, most Democrats who are able to retain elective office there are usually assumed to be continually at risk. And after winning his 2002 re-election battle by a little more than 1,600 votes, Matheson certainly has fallen into that category in previous cycles.
But the four-term Member has steadily pulled away from his Republican challengers over the past two cycles, most recently winning his 2006 race by almost 50,000 votes. Indeed, Matheson, the son of the state’s former governor, is now considered to be the standard-
bearer of the Democratic Party in Utah, and some Beehive State insiders wonder if the Congressman might run statewide for a Senate seat if six-term Sen. Orrin Hatch (R), who is now in his mid-70s, decides not to seek re-election in 2012.
No Republican has come forward to challenge Matheson yet.
Incumbent: Chris Cannon (R)
6th term (58 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican
In recent cycles, Cannon hasn’t been able to obtain the 60 percent of votes necessary from delegates at the state’s Republican convention to avoid a primary. And this cycle appears to be no different.
In 2006, Republican distaste for Cannon’s moderate stance on immigration allowed water developer John Jacob (R) to actually beat him at the Republican convention, though Cannon ended up winning the primary by almost 7,000 votes. Cannon won his 2004 primary by a slightly more comfortable 8,000 votes.
This year, Jacob is back to challenge Cannon, but he’s not alone. David Leavitt, a former county prosecutor and the brother of Health and Human Services Secretary and former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R), also has filed for the race along with Jason Chaffetz, a former chief of staff to Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R). Chaffetz also is known as a former placekicker for the Brigham Young University football team.
Cannon certainly has an effective fundraising network in the state, raising close to $290,000 so far this cycle, but he ended the third quarter with just a little more than $40,000 in cash on hand. Meanwhile Leavitt has come on strong in fundraising, bringing in more than $110,000 in six months since joining the race and ending the third quarter with most of that, $95,000, on hand. Chaffetz has raised $45,000 for the race, ending September with $35,000 in cash on hand. Jacob ended the third quarter still carrying a significant debt from his previous Congressional race, but he is wealthy and should be able to stoke his campaign with personal funds if necessary.
Cannon will have a tough time of things, but he undoubtedly benefits from the split opposition.
Incumbent: Mike Enzi (R)
2nd term (73 percent)
Outlook: Safe Republican
Democrats have one chance of causing Enzi to shudder: recruit moderate Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) into the race. The popular chief executive won re-election last year by 40 points and could give Enzi a serious challenge.
But Freudenthal has rebuffed Democratic entreaties to run, and those who know him in Wyoming say he loves being governor and has no interest in coming to Washington, D.C., to be one of a hundred Senators. If Freudenthal stays out, Enzi will cruise to re-election in an overwhelmingly GOP state.
Incumbent: John Barrasso (R) was appointed by Gov. Dave
Freudenthal (D) on June 22
Outlook: Likely Republican
Barrasso was selected by Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D) to replace the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R), who died from complications of leukemia on June 4.
In accordance with state law, Barrasso beat out almost 30 Republicans who vied to replace Thomas. The process called for delegates of the state GOP Central Committee to vote for three names to be forwarded to the governor, who was then charged with selecting Thomas’ replacement from among them.
Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon by trade and a state Senator before coming to Capitol Hill, must run in a special election next year, with the winner of that contest earning the right to serve out the remainder of Thomas’ term. Thomas won his third term with 70 percent of the vote in 2006.
Politically, Barrasso has hit the ground running since taking office. He raised $653,000 during the third quarter of the year, to close September with roughly $600,000 in cash on hand. Having lectured and appeared throughout the state for years in his capacity as a surgeon, Barrasso had a statewide public profile long before becoming a Senator — and that should serve him well next year.
Because of the unusual circumstances in which Barrasso advanced to the Senate, some Republicans are considering challenging him, contending that because he wasn’t elected by the public at large there is no reason for the party to unify behind him in the primary.
Former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis (R), who was one of the three names forwarded to Freudenthal for consideration to replace Thomas, is among those considering a primary challenge of Barrasso. She would have to be considered formidable competition if she ran.
Although Wyoming remains solid Republican territory, Barrasso’s status as an unelected Senator also has piqued the interest of Democrats. Freudenthal is evidence that Democrats can be successful statewide in Wyoming, and some might attempt to test that theory against Barrasso.
Among the Democrats considering running are attorney Paul Hickey and state Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Massie. As with the Enzi race, Democratic insiders based in Wyoming say the only way this race is competitive is if Freudenthal jumps in. As that is unlikely, the Republicans should hold the seat.
Incumbent: Barbara Cubin (R)
7th term (48 percent)
Democrats generally have no business competing for this seat. But 2006 Democratic nominee Gary Trauner (D) is running again in 2008, and unless Cubin retires, Republicans might have a hard time winning.
Even if Cubin retires, Trauner, with one statewide race under his belt, could be positioned to cause the National Republican Congressional Committee leaders headaches in a seat they should not have to worry about. Trauner lost to Cubin last year by just one half of a percentage point, even as then-Sen. Craig Thomas (R) was cruising to victory with 70 percent of the vote.
Cubin has been coy about her 2008 plans, saying she won’t make any announcements until early next year. Meanwhile, she has been absent from the House for a good chunk of the year while attending to her ill husband, who is hospitalized, and mending from a broken foot she suffered recently.
Understanding just how vulnerable Cubin is, especially with Trauner running, several Republicans are considering challenging her in the GOP primary if she doesn’t retire.
Among them are Wyoming House Majority Leader Colin Simpson, the son of former Sen. Alan Simpson (R) who unsuccessfully sought to be appointed as Thomas’ replacement; former U.S. Attorney Matt Mead, who also sought but failed to be appointed as Thomas’ replacement; and former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis, among others.
Republican operatives in Washington, D.C., have made no secret of their belief that the GOP chances of holding the seat will be strengthened considerably if Cubin retires.