Republicans in uphill slog in Colorado
National parties are shifting resources as once-safe GOP districts come into play.
WHEAT RIDGE, COLO.
In an unmarked suite around the corner from Rick O'Donnell's campaign headquarters here in suburban Denver, the Republican National Committee has had its get-out-the vote "victory office" in operation since March. Volunteers man phone banks. The foyer showcases a wall of unflattering photos of Democrats in line to head key congressional committees should that party take back the House. A banner reads: "In case you need another reason to volunteer!"Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
In a normal year, the fabled GOP operation might be enough to tip the balance in a congressional race that, until September, was billed as one of the nation's most competitive. But with an unpopular war, an unpopular president, and corruption scandals, the GOP has seen Mr. O'Donnell's Democratic opponent take a double-digit lead in the polls.
So last week, the national party confirmed that it had shifted resources from this race in Colorado's Seventh District to help shore up Republicans in two other districts once considered safe: incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave in Colorado's Fourth and conservative Doug Lamborn in the Fifth, where Republicans have an advantage of up to 14 percentage points in voter registration. Cautiously optimistic, Democrats now aim to pick up in Colorado as many as three of the 15 seats they need to take back the House.
"Colorado is more Republican than the nation but tends to follow national politics closely," says Bob Loevy, a political scientist at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. "If the national Democratic tide continues to run right through Election Day, it will affect Colorado and should put both the Fourth and Fifth districts in play."
The shift of resources means more money for TV ad buys and a get-out-the-vote drive in a fast-breaking political environment.
"From the vantage point of today, it looks good for the Democrats, but the situation is very fluid," says pollster John Zogby.
Democrats, too, are shifting resources to take advantage of new opportunities. After a Denver Post poll showed Musgrave leading by 10 points last month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) pulled some $630,000 it had reserved for her Democratic rival, Angie Paccione, although it still includes her in a program for its most competitive candidates. A political-issue group picked up the slack.
Both Republicans are getting high- profile help from the top. On Friday, Vice President Cheney flies into Colorado Springs to stump for state Senator Lamborn. On Saturday, President Bush will be in Greeley, Colo., with two-term Representative Musgrave as well as GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez.
Best known nationally as the lead sponsor on the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2003, Musgrave faces strong competition from Democratic state Representative Paccione. A former professional basketball player and teacher, she says that Musgrave is out of the mainstream and too conservative for the district.
In a race driven by negative ads from both camps, Paccione got a recent boost from some $750,000 in issue ads by Coloradans for Life, a nonprofit political-issue group (known as a "527" because of its tax-code category). The group is funded largely by Fort Collins heiress and Democratic activist Pat Stryker. The Musgrave campaign calls the ads "malicious," and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has already spent some $1.7 million to counter them.