40 in 2010: CO-07

Cross-posted at The Skeptical Michigander

(In order for the Republicans to take back the House in 2010, they need to net 41 seats. It’s a long shot, but it is possible. By my count, there are 92 Dem-held seats that the Republicans have at least an outside chance of winning. That number will change as we get closer to election time, of course. But for now, I’ll be highlighting some of these seats from time to time.)

One of the most important parts of getting a wave election is to attack as many places as possible. Make the other party defend more seats than they want to. Obviously, part of this is simply to spread out the other party’s resources, but on the flip side it spreads out your party too. Given the RNCC’s fundraising so far, that’s not necessarily a good thing. But the other reason to do this is that a long shot still has a chance of winning. With more challenges, you create more momentum. With more momentum, you have a chance to win. I doubt the RNCC is looking much at this seat; nobody seriously thinks they’ll win it. But they seem to have a strong candidate, so why not make the Democrats sweat a bit?

Colorado 07
Location: The suburbs of Denver. It basically surrounds Denver on three sides, and then a long rural section in the northeast. Mostly urban, and supposedly purple.

Incumbent: Ed Perlmutter
Perlmutter was a successful legislator in the Colorado government before winning his first two races for the House. Therein lies the problem for trying to oust him: the guy’s a winner and everything I read suggests that he knows how to win elections. As for his actual job, he’s no blue dog (not that you would expect it in a fairly blue district). He’s a liberal on almost everything, and voted with Pelosi on all the big ones this term (both stimulus packages, cap&trade, health care). He’s recently gotten some specific controversy by slipping in some pretty big loopholes in the recent bank regulation bill, apparently thanks to some campaign contributions (and reamed on it from MSNBC no less). His town hall meeting did get quite a bit of supporters out for it, but plenty of protesters as well (and then he said it was “thuggery“). Smart politician, but has he had to deal with this sort of anger before? I doubt it.

Cook Partisan Index: D+4
Cook Race Rating: Likely Dem
CQ Politics Race Rating: Safe Dem
Rothenberg Rating: Safe Dem
Larry Sabato: Safe Dem
(Note that, this far away, all these ratings are geared towards the incumbent. Take them with a grain of salt)

Previous election results:
Obama 59, McCain 39
Kerry 51, Bush 48
Gore 50, Bush 50
2008 Perlmutter 64, Lerew 36
2006 Perlmutter 55, O’Donnell 42
2004 Beauprez (R) 47, Feeley (D) 47

Confirmed Republican Candidates (and their websites):
Brian Campbell, Sr.
Michael Deming
Ryan Frazier
Jimmy Lakey
Mike Sheely
Lang Sias

I can’t tell if Brian Campbell is still running. Apparently he did some work organizing the local Tea Parties, but his website has been shut down, his blog hasn’t been updated since February, and his Twitter hasn’t been updated since October. So I’ll consider him a non-entity. Sure, the Tea Party bit may help, but what difference does that mean if he can’t even keep a website? Also among the longshots is Michael Deming, a private citizen simply fed up with Congress. The background on his website is the Constitution, so you can guess where he stands. There’s not much else there, but he takes a very common sense approach to Health Care, including attacking Mary Landrieu for getting bribed. But while that’s all nice, there’s nothing to indicate this guy has a chance. Mike Sheely’s a retired engineer who, judging from his website, really likes cowboy hats. He’s a former School Board member as well as a former Congressional candidate (in the 1994 wave) and nearly won despite a low-budget campaign. So he does have some background in politics and experience running a grassroots campaign, but does he still have what it takes? Eh, probably not.

Lang Sias is new to the race, and not much is known about him yet. However, the word is that he’s shaping up to be the moderate in the race, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s an Army vet, an attorney, a McCain senior staffer (I can hear the groans already), and, at least according to a former Democrat and a carpetbagger. Needless to say, he’s not the darling of the conservatives. But because of high-profile backing (yes, the Maverick has already endorsed him), his connections, and his presumably unique positions (his website doesn’t have an issues page, probably as to not scare away any primary voters…), he has to be considered as a front-runner in the primary. Finally, Jimmy Lakey is a humanitarian and Christian rock promoter, which probably gives him a solid base. I don’t really see anything else about him, but he’s fairly new in the race.

Which leaves Ryan Frazier. On the surface, he’s the perfect recruit for the RNCC. He’s got former political experience (city council member), a large base (said city council is Aurora, the largest city in the district), strong crossover appeal, an impressive personal story, and a minority to top it all off. There’s only one thing missing from his resume: it seems he’s NOT a RINO. Oh, I don’t think you’ll find him absolutely pure, but he’s a reasonable conservative. According to his website, he’s pro-business (co-sponsored Colorado’s Right to Work amendment, for example), fiscally conservative, and pro-education reform (including helping to found a charter school). According to one of his constituents, “He’s a Colorado version of Sarah Palin, with probably more experience.” More experienced? He’s, like, 32!

OK, I usually don’t endorse in these posts (it’s not like my endorsements mean anything, anyway), but it should be obvious who I’m rooting for. Frazier’s almost the perfect candidate. He’s not an ideologue, he doesn’t even pretend to be one. Instead, he’s intelligent, thoughtful, principled,and willing to take the best solution no matter what the partisans think about it. This leads some to call him a centrist, which tells you more about the people saying that than Frazier. He’s also young and resourceful, and hopefully a rising star. Hopefully Lang and the other candidates don’t hurt his future (seriously Lang, didn’t McCain’s dreadful performance in Colorado, both in the primary and the general, give you any hints?). He’d be an excellent representative, and seems like an excellent person as well. How many politicians can you say that about?

Most of the seats being targeted by Republicans are either deep red or reddish purple. This seat is bluish-purple. Is that the only difference between this seat and the ones that look more competitive? Probably. Nobody else seems to take this challenge seriously. Democrats do have a 38-28 registration advantage (a big jump from pre-2008), although that means there are plenty of independents. There’s a credible challenger, and Perlmutter’s fundraising isn’t amazing. Perlmutter won easily in 2008, but was that just the Obama effect (to say nothing of a very, very weak candidate)? I’m not saying this one will be easy. But I can’t see it being as safe as everyone suggests.

On the flip side, even if it is still safe, it’s worth fighting for. Perception plays a big role in politics, and the more challenges you have, the more you look strong. The more you look strong, the more people will look at you. The more people look at you, the more votes you get. The more votes you get, the more you win! There’s a competitive race for governor AND the senate, and if Republicans can get excited in those races then maybe you’ll see some downstream pickup. At the same time, a strong showing in a Congressional race could help the upstream races too. Or the parallel races, for that matter. Republicans are seriously challenging Betsy Markey in the 4th, and Perlmutter’s already donated money to her. If Frazier (or heck, even Lang) can keep Perlmutter’s eyes on his own race, that can’t hurt. And hey, maybe one of them will win.

Frazier’s fundraising stalled in the last quarter, and that’s definitely something to be concerned about. On the other hand, that was while he was still running for the Senate. Maybe it was just due to everyone pulling support of a long shot in favor of the conventional candidate, and so maybe it’s picked up since then. He’s been touting lots of endorsements, which might help (including a bunch of Hispanic endorsements. I hate race politics, but with 20% of the population being Hispanic, it’s obviously important). If he comes up with a surprise haul in January, then maybe people will take a second look at this race. Maybe the deep seated anger seen in the reddish purple districts can seep in here. Maybe Perlmutter will stumble now that Democrats are on the defensive. I don’t know. If not, it’s no big loss; no one was counting on gaining this seat back anyway. But if this seat does become competitive, well, the Democrats better watch out.

Other Links
Perlmutter Watch – All the latest news on Ed Perlmutter
ColoradoPols – Rounding up all the political news in Colorado. Seems to have a slight left-wing bent, but still a good resource.
Peoples Press Collective – Citizen journalism in Colorado.