"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”


Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday's Political Quick Hits from the Deathly Hollows

In honor of the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, the seventh and final installment in J.K Rawling's mesmerizing series about the battle between Harry and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Voldemort NOT Cheney) this week's political observations are insterspersed with Potter trivia & observations. From the back cover of the 'about to be released volume' (via wikipedia):

Harry is waiting in Privet Drive. The Order of the Phoenix is coming to escort him safely away without Voldemort and his supporters knowing – if they can. But what will Harry do then? How can he fulfil (sic) the momentous and seemingly impossible task that Professor Dumbledore has left him with?

Doesn't that sound like the question of the week? "What will Harry do then?"

For those who don't get enough of the conspiracy theories and sinister happenings in DC - you can click here to answer the question "Does Harry Die at the End of Deathly Hollows?"

Western Senate Races Forming:

  • NM:New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici may face a primary challenge from the right, according to Joe Monahan.
  • MT: In Montana, the NRSC may have found a challenger to take on Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D) in Bob Keenan.

Is there a Deeper Meaning behind Harry's Hogwart Adventures?

It's nice to know American Wingnuts aren't the only ones who can't sit back and simply enjoy a good read. There's something to "Hate 'bout 'Harry" regardless of nationality: (from The New Republic)

In countries around the world, it captures various national anxieties about contemporary culture and international affairs. French intellectuals, for example, debate whether or not Harry Potter indoctrinates youngsters into the orthodoxy of unfettered market capitalism. Some Swedish commentators decry what they perceive as Harry Potter's Anglo-American vision of bourgeoisie conformity and its affirmation of class and gender inequality. In Turkey, we find a significant discussion of Harry Potter that pivots around issues of Turkish civilizational identity: whether Turkey is part of the West, the East, or a bridge between the two. A few Turkish writers have even asserted that controversies over Harry Potter in the United States demonstrate how Turks are more "Western" than Americans. And in Russia, a country whose concern over international status and prestige becomes more apparent each day, the newspaper Novaya Gazeta created a minor firestorm when it claimed that the film visage of Dobby the House-Elf was a deliberate insult to President Vladimir Putin.

The Order of the Pheonix - You Gotta Have Progressive Friends :

  • 21st Century Democrats, a DC-based organization dedicated to electing progressive Democrats across America, endorsed Darcy Burner in her campaign to oust Rubber Stamp Reichert in WA-08. If you aren't familiar with the 21st Century Dems, check them out. I know they're work - they were implementing a 50-State Strategy long before it was "cool." Also of note, Darcy is definitely going to have a primary fight, as recent-GOP convert Rodney Tom declared his candidacy this week.
  • The Progressive Blogosphere continues to grow, with the addition of Nevada's My Silver State, an online gathering place for Nevada's progressive community. They've got a great post up this week about who is winning the "clicking" battle - check it out.

You mean to tell me she's known how this ends all along(wikipedia)?

Rowling completed the book while staying at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh in January 2007, and left a signed statement on a marble bust of Hermes in her room which read: "JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (652) on 11 January 2007". She has stated that the final volume relates very closely to the previous book in the series, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, so much so that the two books are "almost as though they are two halves of the same novel."Prior to completing the manuscript, Rowling stated that she could not change the ending of the book, even if she wanted to. "These books have been plotted for such a long time, and for six books now, that they're all leading a certain direction. So, I really can't."(wikipedia)

Alaska - More Corruption & Lunacy in The Land of the Midnight Sun

  • AK-AL:AK Rep Don Young threatened his fellow GOP Congressional colleagues over earmarks this week. "You want my money, my money," Young stridently declared before warning conservatives that "those who bite me will be bitten back." Think Progress has the video of the entire floor rant.
  • DCCC Recruiting News: Ethan Berkowitz recently spent four days in DC discussing a race to take on embattled King of Pork Alaska Rep. Don Young.
  • AK-Sen: Being the target of multiple investigations seems to be finally catching up with Alaska Sen. "Tubes" Stevens whose approval ratings are amongst the lowest of his long career. While he acknowledges being concerned about his relection chance, Stevens somehow believes these ethical and criminal probes actually makes him a more effective legislator. Say what?
  • Et tu, Lisa?Alaska sends three officials to DC - all Republicans - and with the news that Sen. Lisa Murkowski may have benefited from a land deal - ALL THREE now have ethical questions swirling around them.
Horcruxes Everywhere:

Harry must destroy all of Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes before Voldemort can be defeated. Dumbledore believed there were a total of six, and that two so far have been destroyed (the Gaunt ring and Riddle's diary). It is possible that the locket has been destroyed as well, but this is not yet confirmed. (wikipedia again)

Silver State Snippets:
  • In Vegas, Rep. John Porter seems to have more than attorney Daska's candidacy on his mind. Is he worried Andre Agassi might mount a challenge? Why allow the GOP attack machine to single out funding for Agassi's charter school?
  • Nevada GOP Governor Jim Gibbons thinks the Democratic presidential candidates are wasting their time by campaigning this early in the Silver State. Nevada is currently second in line in the Dem nominatin process (the caucuses scheduled between the Iowas caucus and New Hampshire primary).

You think it's hot in Baghdad in August?

  • The group Americans Against Escalation in Iraq are in the midst of the "Iraq Summer" - unlike the vacationing Iraq parliament - turning up the heat on Congressmen & Senators at home. DKos frontpager Meteor Blades has an interview with the leaders. (Note to Harry - next time you pull an all-nighter, turn off the AC. That'll get 'em to allow an "UpperDown" Vote!)

Dems asleep at the wheel?

  • AZ-01: Rick Renzi, whose home and office has been raided by the FBI has spent huget amount on legal fees and has less than $20K CoH at the start of July. Rumors abound he may be forced from office long before the November elections. This is a prime pick-up opportunity where Dems outnumber Republicans. But, the closest competitor in the money race has less than $5K in the bank! Democrats need to be ready to win here.

Muggle Mulligans (campaign rematches):

  • As the 2008 House and Senate races come into focus this summer, it's clear there are going to be quite a few rematches of 2006 contests. CQPolitics has a complete list.

News about Muggle Moms

News about Lily Potter, Harry's Mum:

Now, the important thing about Harry's mother - the really, really significant thing - you're going to find out in two parts. You'll find out a lot more about her in book five, or you'll find out something very significant about her in book five, and you'll find out something incredibly important about her in book seven.
—– J. K. Rowling

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is A Soccer Mom Edwards’ Key to Catching Hillary?

I've been observing the presidential primary contest wondering when – or if – either the Obama or Edwards campaign would decide to directly criticize Hillary Clinton. There’s a surreal collegiality in the Democratic primary contest thus far.

With Clinton ahead in the national polls, the other campaigns understand the need to take the gloves off and start throwing some real punches. They must know closing the gap (I’m talking polls here) and removing the “label of inevitability” from the Clinton campaign will only happen if punches are thrown. And they’ve got to solidly hit the mark. Thus far, we've only seen a couple of soft jabs or, more often, total misses.

I recognize we're still in the very early rounds of the nomination fight, but the longer Obama and Edwards wait ringside, the more difficult it will be for anybody but Clinton to win the Democratic nod.

But yesterday, as I turned my attention away from the Senate floor (thank you C-Span 2 - proof that cable television isn't pure evil!), I came across this article in the Des Moines Register and this AP story from New Hampshire. I realized the Edwards campaign has a "secret weapon"

A soccer mom named Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Edwards may not be the “soccer mom” in the traditional sense, but she is her husband’s best hope to improve his odds against Clinton. It's also no secret Elizabeth is vitally important to the Edwards campaign. She is a top campaign strategist and provides unmatched energy and passion, inspiring many supporters. She's proven her mettle in recent weeks by confronting Coulter and taking Tweety to task.

How could I describe such a high profile strategist as a “stealth fighter?” First, it's important to identify why the campaigns are cautious in their approach to Hillary. The Democratic nomination fight’s relative serenity and the field’s hesitancy to aggressively criticize the former First Lady are caused primarily by two factors: 1) her husband and 2) her gender.

When I mention Bill I'm not talking about his undeniable fundraising abilities or his numerous connections. I’m not speaking of the delicate dance all the candidates (including Hillary) must perform in embracing the Clinton 90s while focusing on the future in this "change" election. I am also not referring to the danger of being compared unfavorably with the highly popular (at least among Democratic primary voters) former president. All of these factors play a role in the nomination battle, but do not explain why Hillary’s challengers are reluctant to attack her.

No, I believe Bill Clinton looming in the background deters other campaigns from aggressively criticizing because they know HE does not hesitate to strike back. Anyone who has seen The War Room knows the Clintons are not adverse to practicing presidential politics for what it is – a heavyweight title fight. If another campaign throws a punch, they better be ready for the counterpunch.

Of course, the Democratic candidates all understand this and politicians don't rise to the level of presidential politics because they are afraid to be on the receiving end of a political punch.

It's what might be called the "gender trap." The Democratic nomination fight represents an unprecedented historical moment in which Hillary is uniquely – perhaps sublimely – positioned. The glass ceiling may have finally been broken in American politics, as the sight of women in executive positions in both the public and private sectors becomes more common. Voters are increasingly comfortable with the idea of a female president, according to pollsters.

Americans are not comfortable with the idea of a woman being attacked. If Hillary is challenged by her opponents, the public will rally to her side. Any hard hit – whether fair or not – provides Hillary the opportunity to become the sympathetic victim. I can hear many saying, “Hillary Clinton is an intelligent, articulate woman. She's nobody’s victim.” I agree. As stated above, she (and Bill) won't passively sit back and allow punches to be thrown without striking back.

But, the electorate will perceive her as a victim. This, I believe, is understood by strategists in opposing camps. They are also aware that Hillary becomes a more sympathetic figure when the public sees her as the scorned woman, as her favorable ratings rose during Bill Clinton's impeachment.

The Democratic campaigns' predicament becomes clear: catching up to the frontrunner in the polls requires direct and effective criticism but the campaign who comes out swinging first runs the risk of actually strengthening Clinton's support and weakening their own position if the public blames them for attacks. The dilemma is particularly acute for the Obama campaign who has made establishing a "new tone" in politics a cornerstone of their campaign.

Her national popularity and personal story of dedication and survival positions Elizabeth Edwards as perhaps the only person in the national Democratic campaigns who can question Hillary effectively while causing minimal damage to the Edwards campaign.

On the campaign trail with Kate Michelman former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America, it appears the Edwards campaign may have begun the fight:

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not talking much about issues that affect women as she pursues a position many Americans still consider a "guy's job," said Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Clinton competitor John Edwards.

"Maybe she's staying away from some of those issues described as female issues," Elizabeth Edwards said of Clinton, after speaking to a crowd of about 150 people - most of them women - in Iowa City.

Edwards equated Clinton's pursuit of the White House with her own early days as an attorney, when she steered away from women's issues so she would be taken seriously by men.

-- snip --

Michelman, a longtime women's rights advocate, defended her decision to campaign for John Edwards instead of Clinton.

"This was one of the most important political decisions I've made in my life," she said. "I was one of those poor single moms with no job and no health care. I was on welfare."John Edwards is the one and only person who has made it his mission to pull these women up."

The observation that the Clinton campaign has steered clear of women's issues during the campaign is obviously an effort to soften up Hillary's support among Democratic women, where she currently enjoys a significant advantage. In the AP story about Elizabeth's first campaign ad currently airing in New Hampshire focuses on the strength of their marriage and also reports her remarks on the trail with Michelman,

On Tuesday, Elizabeth Edwards said her husband would be a better advocate for women as president than his rival Hillary Rodham Clinton. She also said of Clinton: "Sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women's issues. I'm sympathetic - she wants to be commander in chief."
I'm not advocating the Edwards or Obama campaign should use Republican talking points in their nomination fight with Clinton. I've always believed a presidential primary should be about issues and qualifications. A fair comparison of the candidates and a discussion about the important issues creates a stronger nominee, in my opinion. This is why I view Elizabeth Edwards' emergence as a critical voice on the campaign trail as a positive development in the Democratic race. Whoever emerges will be stronger in the general election.

As long as Elizabeth Edwards talks about issues, the Democratic Party wins.

One Thousand Five Hundred & Eighty-Three Days

Is how long American troops have been in Iraq, Sen. Harry Reid announced from the US Senate floor this morning.

Think about it: One Thousand....Five Hundred...and...Eighty-Three Days

of war.

Today, it was 115 degrees in Baghdad.

Our troops are wearing 100 lbs of gear, patrolling the hostile streets as the Iraqi parliament prepares for an extended August vacation.

Those 160,000 troops deserve our respect. And they deserve to come home AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

Meanwhile, back in the US Congress' air-conditioned corridors, Mitch's Merry Men whine about being kept up all night.

It amazes me they can sleep at all - especially if they remembered one more number:

Three thousand, six hundred and twenty-two.

How much larger will this number grow before the GOP Senators stop protecting their president's failed strategy?

Colorado State GOP Chair: Liberal Bloggers Are "Sucking Air"

The Hill reports today Dick Wadhams, the man in charge of leading the Rocky Mountain State's march into oblivion is calling rumors of the state GOP's demise as "nuts." The "liberal bloggers" who have been predicting an easy win for Dem Mark Udall over GOPer Bob Schaffer were "sucking air" - and the state Dems are displaying a "sense of real cockiness and overconfidence."
You might remember Wadhams as the skilled political adviser to Sen. George Allen's 2006 re-election campaign. Macaca anyone? This is the guy they pick to resurrect a party in a state where Republicans have been in steady retreat over the past two elections? Wouldn't have been my first pick. Is their bench really that thin?
“The whole sense that Colorado is going Democratic is nuts,” Wadhams said. “Mark
Udall does not know what’s coming after him.”
It must be something in the high altitude air because the rise of the Democratic Party cannot be denied.

Monday, July 16, 2007

WaPo Gets the Money Headline WRONG

Cross-Posted at Daily Kos.

In reading the news reports on the presidential Q2 fundraising numbers, I came across this article over at washingtonpost.com: Campaigns Raise, Burn More Cash, More Quickly: Rapid Spending Puts Some in Jeopardy Early. The gist of the story is that both Democratic and Republican candidacies are in jeopardy because of out-of-control spending.

But, if you take a closer look, its basically the Republicans who are spending money faster than they're raising it while the leading Dems ALL saw their bank accounts grow during the quarter.

Might I suggest a more accurate headline for the WaPo editors:

Republican Presidential Campaigns Running A Deficit: Candidates Show How They'll Manage Federal Budget if Elected

The article tries to make the claim that the profligate spending is causing problems for front-running candidates in both parties.

Candidates for the White House are not only raising far more than ever before, many are also spending that money as fast as they get it, leaving some close to being forced from the race almost six months before the first votes are cast.

Campaign finance reports released in recent days show that the spending spree is a reality for both front-runners and long shots. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) burned through more than $20 million in the past three months, 50 percent more than he raised during that span. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) blew through the $11 million he raised during the past quarter and has barely enough money to keep going, even with his dramatically scaled-down operation.

They make the observation that both Democratic frontrunners have spent large sums (Clinton spent $12.8M while Obama spent $16M) but failed to point out that these sums represent less than 50% of the amount each campaign took in during the quarter. They describe the $11M Giuliani spent during the quarter as "modest," failing to acknowledge that Clinton & Obama raised $10-15 million more than Rudy!)

Two of the three Republican frontrunners (McCain & Romney), on the other hand, spent MORE money than they raised in the quarter. (While Romney took in $20.998M and spent $20.739M, $6.5M was a personal loan, which means he would have been "in the red" if he had relied solely on money he raised from donors). Rudy Giuliani was the only GOP top-tier candidate who operated "in the black" during the quarter. But the WaPo fails to acknowledge that the Dems have far more cash available to spend. Rudy's "frugal" campaign spent more than half of what it took in during the period. His $18M CoH represents HALF of what Obama has in the bank.

In fact, the three GOP frontrunners CoH numbers added TOGETHER don't total either Clinton's or Obama's individual totals.

The article goes on to heap praise on the wise investment of Romney's personal fortune in his early advertising raising his poll numbers:

For Romney, at least, the costly effort to get his message out seems to have paid off, said Craig Fuller, an adviser to President George H.W. Bush who is helping Romney raise money. Romney has spent nearly $5 million on television ads at a time when few others are venturing onto the airwaves, and he has risen to the top of many polls in Iowa and News Hampshire.

Romney has the added advantage of being able to dip into his personal fortune -- estimated to be in the hundreds of millions -- to supplement his fundraising, and had lent more than $9 million to his campaign by the end of June.

"The strategy of building his name recognition in the early states through advertising, I think, has paid off for him," Fuller said.

"I think he's established that he's a front-running candidate, and that was a crucial first step for him."

I think what each of the GOP candidates have established is that they don't know how to balance a checkbook. Is that a quality we desire in our next president?

Western Roundup - July 16th


Last week I looked at the news from the Pacific Northwest & northern Interior Mountain states (AK, WA, OR, NV, ID, MT) Today, I take a look at developments in Colorado and New Mexico.

Democrats have an unprecedented opportunity to expand our national majority by making inroads in this fast-growing region - long dominated by libertarian Republicans. The recent nativist anti-Latino rhetoric spewing from the GOP risks turning the legal immigrant community - a huge and growing voting bloc in this region - against the Republicans for generations to come.

COLORADO: Purple Mountain's Majesty

Not only will the Mile High State host the 2008 Democratic National Convention next summer, but will also be the central in the Democrats' efforts to expand their Senate majority and expel one of the most controversial conservative House members. National parties are focusing their attention on this important swing state.

Two excellent local blogs for daily news on the Rocky Mtn state's political developments are ColoradoPols.com and (for a more progressive focus) SquareState.net. The changing demographics in the state are making strange bedfellows, as liberal Mark Udall and conservative Marilyn Musgrave both try to move toward the middle. Three races will determine whether Colorado continues its recent transition from Red to Blue:
NEW MEXICO: A Tale of Two Giants

The actions and political maneuvering of two officials - Sen. "Pajama Pete" Domenici and Gov. Bill Richardson - dominate New Mexico politics. Domenici has watched his longtime popularity plummet throughout 2007 as he found himself in national headlines. How Domenici's struggles to regain his footing and Richardson's presidential ambitions affect the state's politics are discussed in "NM-Sen: Waiting for the Dominos to Fall"

Cross-posted at An Enduring Democratic Majority.

NM-Sen: Waiting for the Dominos to Fall

Two New Mexico institutions - Sen. Pete Domenici and Gov. Bill Richardson - dominate state politics. The two heavyweights' decisions, successes and stumbles continue to send ripples through the state's political structure. Will the Senator recover from his self-inflicted wounds? Or will he decide another campaign just isn't in him? Will the governor suceed in his quest for the White House? Or will he turn his attention to the Senate seat? These questions are likely to linger for many more months, influencing other NM politicians 2008 strategies.

Sen. Pete Domenici was long viewed as a political force of nature who could retain his Senate seat for as long as he desired. That was before his role in USAGate become known. The first half of this year, "Pajama Pete" watched his sky-high approval ratings plummet.

No longer was the focus on Domenici's possible retirement - now analysts were openly wondering whether the 74-year-old Senator could succesfully defend the seat in 2008. The race went from a "long shot" Dem opportunity to a "possible" pick-up in a matter of months. The state's politicos waited to see Domenici's plans.

The political equilibrium in the state was further disrupted by the fact Domenici's presumed Senate successor, Rep. Heather Wilson, is also embroiled in the firing of US Attorney David Iglesias. Many interpreted his increased fundraising efforts during the first quarter as a signal he was gearing up for a reelection campaign.

This conclusion was reinforced by two high-profile policy flip-flops. On immigration, Domenici responded to calls from the GOP base opposing "amnesty" and voted against cloture only days after supporting the reform legislation. The second issue garnered national headlines. His denunciation of the Bush Iraq policy was viewed by many as a confirmation he was running. Both decisions seem to be politically motivated. It remains to be seen whether his "re-election two-step" the right foot slide to placate the GOP base combined with the left foot shuffle to the moderate middle will be successful - or could cause Pajama Pete to fall flat on his face.

But, even with many national and state observers viewing Domenici as vulnerable, the Democrats are still searching to entice a top-tier challenger into the race. Thus far, two Dems (environmental activist Jim Hannan and real estate developer Don Wiviott) have thrown their hats in the ring. Two better known potential candidates, former AG Patricia Madrid and Rep. Tom Udall, remain on the sidelines. Some local observers speculate the Democrats' hesitancy is because they anticipate Gov. Bill Richardson may jump into the race if his quest for the presidency comes up short.

Will more damaging information emerge in the USAGate firings wounding Domenici further? Will Richardson's presidential campaign flounder before 2008? It may me many months before the answers to these questions are known. In the meantime, New Mexico politics exists in a state of suspended animation, waiting to see which way the dominos fall.

NM-Sen racetracker wiki.

Cross-posted at An Enduring Majority.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

CO-02: Progressive Constituencies Battle in Primary

Colorado's 2nd CD seat is currently one of the few 2008 open seats. Rep. Mark Udall is expected to run for the open Senate seat, resulting in a crowded Democratic primary to replace him in the Democratic-leaning district centered on Boulder.

The race is shaping up into a three way contest - with state Senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald the early frontrunner over high-tech entrepreneur Jared Polis and environmentalist Will Shafroth it could be an unprecedented Democratic brawl - pitting powerful liberal constituencies against one another. The "Big Line" over at Colorado Pols lists the odds at this point in the race as follows:

Fitz-Gerald 3-1, Labor endorsement not unexpected, but still a big deal
Polis 10-1, Not off to a blazing start and has a lot of ground to cover
Shafroth 15-1, If he isn't raising good $ now, won't even make it to 2008

Those comments and odds were posted prior to the filing of Q2 fundraising reports. All of the candidates raised impressive amounts:

Polis $459K/$403K CoH (with $150K from his own pocket)
Shafroth $300K/$288K CoH
Fitz-Gerald $236K/$189K CoH.

Considering all of the candidates in CD-2 raised as much or more than CD-4 incumbent GOP Rep. MadCat Musgrave in anticipation of another tough re-election campaign, the amount of money pouring into the Democrats' coffers means the winner may have to spend over a million dollars and may be one of the most expensive in state history.

The 2nd CD is one of the most progressive in the Interior West - and provides an opportunity to elect a liberal Democrat. Polis' signature issue is education - and his dedication to progressive causes has brought him the support and interest from across the netroots. Fitz-Gerald is an experienced politician who was successful in convincing Colorado voters to support a ballot initiative to loosen the constitutionally-mandated "TABOR" budget restraints to address fiscal concerns - and has focused on healthcare issues. Shafroth is the Executive Director of the Colorado Conservation Trust and has a political pedigree in the state going back four generations.

What we have shaping up is a contest between the establishment candidate, the netroots activist candidate and the green candidate. Who emerges as the victor may be a precursor for the national party's future.

This is a primary battle we should all be paying attention to.

Cross-posted at An Enduring Democratic Majority.

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.

CO-04: Will Musgrave's Moderate Makeover Succeed?

Eastern Colorado's 4th District is home to right wing conservative Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R), who has made a national name for herself as the lead House sponsor of the homophobic federal marriage amendment in the past two Congresses. During the 2006 campaign, Musgrave told the Family Research Council, “As we face the issues that we are facing today, I don’t think there’s anything more important out there than the marriage issue.”

Her singular focus on this divisive issue - and lack of attention to her district - led to a very narrow 2006 victory margin (Musgrave got only 46% of the vote!) against Democratic nominee Angie Paccione. Paccione is back for another run in 2008 - and will face a primary discussed here.

Mad Marilyn seems to have been scared straight (well, maybe there's a better word choice) - and is in the midst of a "radical" moderate makeover. It's important for Democrats to expose this makeover for the PR-driven sham it is.

Ironically, life in the minority has provided Musgrave the freedom to move toward the middle, as her 'signature issue' is a non-starter in the Democratic-controlled House. So, what has she been up to? She's pumping gas, canvassing her constituents, and publicly releasing her earmark requests, an effort at transparency that also helps illustrate how she's taking care of the 4th district voters.

Working with another Colorado politician courting the moderate vote in his run for Senate, progressive Rep. Mark Udall, Musgrave has turned her attention to locally important farm policy. She's also worked in bipartisan partnership with Dem Rep John Salazar to prevent the US Army's Fort Carson expansion into Pinon Canyon.

A formerly loyal GOP foot-soldier, Musgrave has jumped on the 'anti-Bush' bandwagon and made "nice-nice" with Mark Udall to the point the Denver Post is touting the bipartisan "New Musgrave"

Coming off a narrow election win in November and criticism that she wasn't accessible to her constituents, the third-term Colorado congresswoman is undergoing a political makeover.
"I feel like I've worked hard for the past five years, but when you're criticized for not being as in touch with your constituents as you should be, I need to respond with humility," she said. "People criticize me for not doing things, and then when I prove them wrong and do them, they say, 'She's doing it because she had a close race.' It's a no-win situation."
Perhaps, say political observers, but Musgrave's makeover is a smart move considering Republicans are struggling to say afloat nationally, and a number of Democrats are showing interest in trying to topple her in next year's election.
"It's a clearly calculated, born-again political image," said John Straayer, political-science professor at Colorado State University, which is in Musgrave's 4th Congressional District.

So far Musgrave's new image hasn't translated into votes. During the current Congress, she's voted with her party 96 percent of the time, according to a vote database on WashingtonPost.com. (emphasis added)

OK, so Marilyn may not be as clueless as the average Republican CongressCritter. She's listening to her constituents and she's cooperating with her colleagues across the aisle. Will this make her 2008 reelection easier?

The national parties are not ignoring this race.

The Republicans are worried. The NRCC recently added Musgrave to the ROMP (Regain Our Majority Program) list of most vulnerable incumbents.

The Democrats are hopeful. Not to be outdone, the DCCC also serving notice Musgrave is also on their radar screen by including her as one of the GOP incumbents targeted by ads over the Independence Day recess:

The battle for the High Plains has begun. But, the fact that Democrats are playing offense on this traditional Republican turf speaks volumes about how the political dynamic has changed.

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Cross-posted at An Enduring Democratic Majority.