Rep. Marilyn Musgrave has gone in three short years from being a conservative darling newly installed in one of the safest GOP Congressional seats in the country to being one of the Top Ten Endangered Congressional Republicans, and yesterday she showed part of the reason why. MoveOn.org's PAC delivered "Dump DeLay" petitions to the offices of Rep. Bob Beauprez and Musgrave, both of whom have been linked to DeLay through the receipt of money from DeLay's PAC. Beauprez kept his mouth shut. Musgrave issued a fiery statement in which she embraced DeLay and called the accusations against him "slanderous." (Also "ever-changing," which seems a half-clever attempt to spin the fact that there are so many accusations out there.)
Beauprez' non-response was the smarter move. Now, if Musgrave's challengers in CO-4 want to link her to DeLay as a campaign issue next year, she has given them all the ammunition they could want. And those challengers are lining up -- state Reps. Angie Paccione of Ft. Collins and Wes McKinley of Walsh are both reported to be considering a challenge. Paccione, who proudly carries the banner of the Christian Left, has already been touring parts of the Fourth outside of her state House district.
As a Colorado old timer, I was skeptical of Stan Matsunaka's chances against Musgrave last year and was surprised he did so well. What I have come to realize is that those very conservative areas out on the high plains bordering Kansas are also the least populated parts of the state. Instead of thinking of the Fourth as the high plains district, it probably makes more sense to think of it as the district centered on the fast growing communities of the northern Front Range corridor -- Fort Collins, Loveland, Longmont, Greeley, and lots of other communities. Those places aren't as liberal as my Denver neighborhood, but they also aren't full of the rural right-wing Christians that the GOP leadership back in DC thought filled up the 4th District when they tapped Musgrave to take that seat back in 2002.
Registration still favors the GOP in the 4th, and Musgrave already has half a million dollars in the bank. But with the right breaks and continued infusions of anti-Musgrave soft money from those who are revolted by her homophobia, this is becoming a winnable seat for the Dems. Musgrave's embrace of Tom DeLay only helps that situation.
(Edited to correct spelling of Paccione's name.)