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Sunday, July 15, 2007

CO-Sen: Is Udall the Favorite in Open Seat Contest?

Rep. Mark Udall, the Boulder Democrat and presumptive 2008 nominee for the open Colorado Senate seat reported raising $1.1 million during the second quarter - and has over $2.5 million in his campaign account. Udall's success as a rainmaker led to some reports that the Colorado state GOP had been considering of recruiting an alternate candidate (perhaps former Gov. Owens) if former Rep. Bob Schaffer filed disappointing Q2 fundraising totals. Schaffer raised $717,000 - a respectable sum, but his CoH ($682K) is far behind Udall.

The sad state of affairs for the Colorado GOP is summed up in this Denver Post article - they're plotting their comeback in 2010. The state's changing demographics have shifted the state from reliably Republican to one of the most competitive swing states in the nation.

In Colorado, the growing Hispanic community and significant migration from California seems to have reached a tipping point in recent years. Now, Democrats hold majorities in both state houses and the Congressional delegation, and in the past two cycles have gained a Senate seat and the governor's mansion. While the state narrowly went for President Bush in 2004, Democrats are so
enthusiastic about the possibility of picking up Colorado - and, indeed, the entire Mountain West region - that they will hold their convention in Denver next summer.

Udall has considered statewide runs previously, but had opted out fearing his "Boulder Liberal" label made him unattractive to the Colorado electorate. The state's recent shift toward the Democratic Party and Udall's efforts to move towards the middle appear to have changed this analysis.

Udall is reaching across the aisle on a variety of national and state issues. He's joined a bipartisan effort urging the administration to adopt the Iraq Study Group recommendations. Udall's move to the middle includes reaching out to extreme conservative Marilyn Musgrave on farm policy and in opposing the US Army's Fort Carson's proposed expansion into Pinon Canyon. The Denver Post observes the partnership as follows:

Musgrave's need to move left to reach the political center dovetailed nicely with 2nd District Democrat Mark Udall's drift to the right in quest of that same middle ground in preparation for his upcoming run for the U.S. Senate. Udall backed off of a 2004 Senate bid and a 2006 gubernatorial race in part because his image as a "Boulder liberal" was ill-suited to a state that even today boasts about 994,000 registered Republicans to 852,000 Democrats, with 945,000 unaffiliated.

Mark and Marilyn's joint need to move to the center has now produced the most effective "M&M" combination since quarterback Craig Morton's throws to Haven Moses brought the Broncos to their first Superbowl. The Mark and Marilyn team has worked effectively on such issues as bipartisan legislation to designate 249,339 acres of wilderness area in Rocky Mountain National Park and curbing the Army's hopes of expanding the PiƱon Canyon maneuver site.

It's easy to be cynical about either M's motives, but listening to the voters is what representative government is all about. As one longtime political observer who has watched Musgrave and Udall work together told me Friday, "Good government is also good politics."

I'm hesitant to embrace anything that makes MadCat Marilyn look good, but if Udall can pick up this Senate seat for the Dems, perhaps it's worth a few photo ops with everyone's favorite homophobe.

In addition to forest policy and the Pinon Canyon issue, Udall is leading the opposition to allowing further oil and gas drilling on the Roan Plateau. The growing importance of the contentious land-use and environmental issues across the Interior West has been identified by David Sirota as an important opportunity for Democrats.

Could anything deter Dems from picking up this seat, widely regarded as our top 2008 pick-up opportunity? There are concerns about a 'drag' or 'reverse coat-tails' affect in Colorado if the national party's presidential nominee is unpopular in the region. News reports quoted the Udall campaign as having an eye on the presidential race - concerned about the top of the ticket potentially hurting their chances. More on the electability issue as the campaign wears on.

Cross-posted at An Enduring Democratic Majority.

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