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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog


Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Colorado

Clinton Endorses Romanoff Over Incumbent Bennet

By Kyle Trygstad

Throwing a wrench in the gears of Democrats pushing the candidacy of Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, Bill Clinton today endorsed Bennet's primary challenger, former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

The move solidifies the fact that Clinton and Democratic leadership in Washington are not always on the same page. The White House is so firmly in support of Bennet that it discussed other potential jobs in Washington with Romanoff that he could explore instead of running for Senate.

"Colorado is far better off today because of Andrew Romanoff's leadership. America will be too," Clinton writes in an email to supporters titled, "I support Andrew Romanoff." "Andrew brings to this race both an extraordinary record of public service and an extraordinary capacity to lead. I believe that those assets, as well as his deep commitment to Colorado, give him the best chance to hold this seat in November."

Clinton cites their long relationship -- the two met during his first run for president in 1992, when Romanoff was a student at Harvard -- and Romanoff's accomplishments as the first Democratic Colorado speaker since 1976.

The Aug. 10 primary is expected to be competitive, though Bennet led by 17 points in a Denver Post poll released earlier this month. Clinton's endorsement will surely boost the profile of Romanoff, however.

Bennet, who endorsed Obama in 2008, was appointed to the seat following Ken Salazar's appointment as U.S. Interior Secretary. Romanoff endorsed Hillary Clinton in the contentious presidential primary battle.

CO Sen: Norton +12

A new Colorado Senate poll finds former lietenant governor Jane Norton (R) leading both potential Democratic opponents by 12 points.

In the Rasmussen poll (Jan. 13, 500 LV, MoE +/- 4.5%), Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) not only trail Norton, but both also would be defeated by former state senator Tom Wiens (R) and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R).

Norton 49 - Bennet 37 - Und 11
Norton 47 - Romanoff 35 - Und 14

Wiens 44 - Bennet 38 - Und 14
Wiens 44 - Romanoff 39 - Und 14

Buck 43 - Bennet 38 - Und 15
Buck 40 - Romanoff 39 - Und 16

CO Gov, Sen Poll: Bad News Ritter

A new Tarrance Group poll in Colorado brings bad news for Gov. Bill Ritter, who's running for re-election next year (Sept. 16-17, 500 LV, MoE +/- 4.5%). More people feel the state is headed in the wrong direction (48%) than say it's on the right track (41%) -- an upside down direction-of-the-state rating is not part of the recipe for a successful re-election, especially when the economy is easily the most important issue (31%).

More bad news is that 56% are ready for a new person to be governor, while just 33% say he deserves to be re-elected. His favorable and job approval ratings are right side up -- more people view him favorably (47%) than unfavorably (43%), more approve (48%) than disapprove (46%) of the job he's doing as governor -- though at sub-50% they remain troubling signs for his re-election.

Ritter was elected in 2006 by a 17-point margin against then-congressman Bob Beauprez. The survey did not test the governor against his potential GOP challengers, but did test the Republican primary, between former Rep. Scott McInnis and state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, a former congressional aide to McInnis.

McInnis 40
Penry 13
Und 47

Also tested were the primaries in the Senate contest. Appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) is running against former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in the Democratic primary; tested for the GOP primary were Lt. Gov. Jane Norton and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

Bennet 41
Romanoff 27
Und 32

Norton 45
Buck 15
Und 40

Bennet Raising Money Off Obama Endorsement

Appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), now facing both a tough primary challenge and a high profile GOP opponent, is touting the endorsement of President Obama in an e-mail fundraising appeal.

Here's Obama's endorsement:

"Throughout his career, Michael Bennet has brought businesses back from the brink, helped bring Denver from deficits into balance and improved the Denver public school system by ending five years of budget cuts to close the achievement gap. Families in Colorado and across America need him in the United States Senate to help us revitalize our economy, improve our public schools, and pass health insurance reform - and I am proud to count him as my ally in those efforts. Michael has had my full support from day one and I look forward to working with him in the Senate for years to come."

The e-mail from Bennet's campaign manager says Bennet is "determined to continue working with the President to bring the change our country needs." It urges recipients to donate $5 or more to his campaign.

Most importantly, we need your help in building this campaign and growing a strong grassroots network of support. More than anyone, President Obama knows that it's the support of people like you that makes the difference.

Please forward this email to 5 people and ask them to learn more about Michael Bennet -- about fighting for health care reform and supporting a public option; about being a leader in Washington on improving our education system; and about making the tough decisions to get our economy moving again.

CO Sen Poll: Low Numbers for Bennet

Colorado voters don't much approve of Sen. Michael Bennet (D). On the bright side for him, they don't think much of his potential Republican opponents either.

A new survey from Public Policy Polling (Aug 14-16, 969 LV, MoE +/- 3.2%) finds 38 percent disapproving of the job Bennet is doing, with just 31 percent approving -- lower but not far from his numbers in April. Former Rep. Bob Beauprez, who's considering a bid and is the most well-known of the three GOPers tested against Bennet, is seen unfavorably by 40 percent of voters, with 30 percent holding a favorable view of him.

Already running are Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and Aurora Councilman Ryan Frazier. Buck gets a 18%/19% favorable rating, and Frazier's is 11%/19%. Not tested was former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, who the Denver Post reports will decide whether or not to run within the next month.

Bennet holds small leads over Buck and Frazier, but trails Beauprez -- who lost the 2006 gubernatorial race by 17 points.

Bennet 39 - Beauprez 42 - Und 19

Bennet 39 - Buck 35 - Und 26

Bennet 38 - Frazier 33 - Und 30

CO: Out Of Hand

Colorado Senate

After much hemming and hawing, the NRSC finally pulled out of Colorado last week, leaving ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer to fend for himself. A new poll for KCNC-TV and the Rocky Mountain News shows Schaffer may not be up to the task. The Public Opinion Strategies/RBI Strategies poll surveyed 500 likely voters 10/21-23 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Schaffer and Democratic Rep. Mark Udall were tested.

General Election Matchup

After a summer that saw the race tighten, Udall has slowly but steadily regained a lead that looks insurmountable a week before Election Day. The Democrat leads by 11.3 points in the latest RCP Average.

CO, MN: Dems Lead

The latest Quinnipiac University poll for and the Wall Street Journal confirms what several other polls have purported to show: Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman is in serious trouble.

The poll, conducted 10/8-12 among 1,019 likely voters, had a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. Coleman, satirist Al Franken and Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Franken....38 / 74 / 4 / 32 / 35 / 41
Coleman....36 / 6 / 81 / 32 / 39 / 34
Barkley....18 / 12 / 11 / 29 / 18 / 17

The last Quinnipiac survey showed Coleman leading by seven points but inexplicably left out Barkley, a third-party candidate who's going to have one of the most dramatic impacts of any third-party player around the nation this year. Other polls also show Coleman and Franken essentially tied, with Barkley pulling close to 20%.

Quinnipiac also showed Colorado Rep. Mark Udall increasing his lead over Republican ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer. Also conducted 10/8-12, the poll surveyed 1,088 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 3%. Udall and Schaffer were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Udall......54 / 91 / 11 / 55 / 51 / 57
Schaffer...40 / 3 / 85 / 37 / 43 / 37

The last Quinnipiac poll showed Udall with an eight-point lead.

CO: Udall +5

Colorado Democrat Mark Udall has endured millions of dollars of abuse in the form of negative advertising, but he could be feeling the effects for the first time. A new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon for the Denver Post surveyed 625 likely voters between 9/29-10/1 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Udall and ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer were tested.

General Election Matchup
Udall.........43 (-4 from last, 8/15)
Schaffer......38 (+1)

The negative tone of the campaign has driven Udall's unfavorable ratings up to 26%, a three-point rise in a month. But the tone has had a more dramatic effect on Schaffer's popularity, as 43% of voters see him unfavorably. That's an 18-point rise in just six weeks.

CO: Udall +7

Rep. Mark Udall keeps his big lead in the Colorado Senate race, according to a new poll by a Colorado-based pollster. The Ciruli Associates poll, conducted for the Economic Development Council of Colorado, tested 501 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Democrat Udall and Republican ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer were tested.

General Election Matchup


Pollster Floyd Ciruli reports Udall has a big lead on the state's Western Slope, a traditionally Republican region of the state where Democrats have recently made big gains at the Congressional and legislative level.

CO: Udall (D) +8

Democratic Rep. Mark Udall continues to lead the race for retiring Senator Wayne Allard's seat, according to a new poll out today. The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University for and the Wall Street Journal, surveyed 1,418 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 2.6%. Udall and Republican ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Udall.......48 / 86 / 13 / 49 / 44 / 53 (+4 from last, 7/22)
Schaffer....40 / 8 / 80 / 31 / 46 / 34 (-4)

Polls have largely showed Udall leading, but not by an overwhelming margin. His lead comes from Hispanic voters, who favor the Democrat by a 64%-21% margin, while white voters are split 45%-44% in favor of Schaffer.

CO: Udall +11

A week after Republicans crowed about a poll showing ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer virtually tied with Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, Democrats are touting their own poll that shows Udall with a much bigger lead.

The poll, conducted by Harstad Strategic Research for Udall's campaign, surveyed 752 likely voters between 9/7-9 for a margin of error of +/- 3.6%. Udall, Schaffer, Green Party candidate Bob Kinsey and American Constitution Party Doug Campbell were tested.

General Election Matchup

The Democrat's poll also shows Coloradans give Udall the edge on key comparisons between the candidates. Udall is seen as more on the side of the middle class by a nineteen-point margin, and more say he shares their values by a fourteen-point gap.

Schaffer and other outside groups have pounded Udall over energy issues, so much so that the Democrat has been more vocal in his support for limited drilling in the Outer-Continental Shelf, something one doesn't always expect from a member of the Udall clan.

But despite the attacks, voters think Udall has the right approach to dealing with energy issues and dependence on foreign oil by a surprisingly strong sixteen-point margin. If Coloradans continue to choose Udall's approach over Schaffer's, the Republican may have found that energy issues aren't the political silver bullet the GOP long hoped it was.

The poll is a direct response to a Natonal Republican Senatorial Committee poll out last week that showed Udall leading by a single point, 41%-40%. Most independent surveys have shown Udall with a lead somewhere between one point and eleven points.

CO: Udall +1

It's been a week since Democrats gathered in Denver for their national convention, and despite the free press Rep. Mark Udall didn't benefit at all, according to a new poll conducted for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Instead, as has been the case all year, a large portion of voters have yet to make up their mind in the race to replace retiring Senator Wayne Allard.

The poll, conducted for the NRSC by The Tarrance Group, surveyed 495 likely voters between 9/2-3 for a margin of error of +/- 4.5%. Udall, the Democratic nominee, and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, the Republican standard-bearer, were tested.

General Election Matchup

Generic Dem.......44
Generic GOPer.....42


Udall and Schaffer have run neck and neck for months, though most political observers think the Democrat is farther ahead than polls indicate. Still, independent voters have yet to seriously tune in, despite the five head-to-head debates in which both candidates have already participated.

The tightness of the race serves as a reminder that Colorado, and the Mountain West as a whole remains a Democratic target, but any gains the party makes will not come easily.

CO: Udall, Obama +3

With barbs flying between Democratic Rep. Mark Udall and former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer, both candidates have seen their negative ratings almost double, according to a new poll conducted for Schaffer. Unlike most independent surveys, Udall has only a small lead.

The poll, conducted for Schaffer's campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee by Hill Research Consultants, surveyed 553 likely voters between 8/23-24 for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. Udall, Schaffer and three third-party candidates were tested.

General Election Matchup
Udall..........41 (-4 from last, 4/08)
Schaffer.......38 (no change)


Each candidate had unfavorable ratings in the mid-teens in the first poll conducted for Schaffer, in late March and early April. Now, Udall is seen negatively by 33% of Colorado voters, up from 15%, while Schaffer is viewed negatively by 34%, up from 18%. Both candidates have run advertisements slamming their opponent, and outside groups have also gotten involved with ads of their own.

Schaffer's campaign has constantly trumpeted the notion that Udall is, in their words, a "Boulder liberal," and 48% of respondents think the Democrat is, in fact, more liberal than they are. 38% said Schaffer is more conservative than they are. If Schaffer can perpetuate the association of Udall with liberal, the Republican could make Colorado a close race.

CO: Udall +8, +10

As Democrats gather in Colorado, two new polls show one of the state's Senate seats is ripe for the party's taking. Rep. Mark Udall, the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Senator Wayne Allard, has consistently led former Rep. Bob Schaffer, the Republican nominee.

The first poll, conducted by independent firm Mason-Dixon for the Denver Post, surveyed 400 likely voters between 8/13-15 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Udall and Schaffer were tested, along with Green Party candidate Bob Kinsey.

General Election Matchup


More voters both know Udall and see him favorably. The Second District congressman has favorable ratings of 42%, compared with 23% who see him unfavorably. Schaffer, who lost the 2004 Senate primary to beer magnate Pete Coors, is viewed favorably by just 27% of voters, while 25% see him in a negative light.

Udall also leads a Suffolk University poll, conducted 8/21-24 among 450 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.6%. Udall, Schaffer, Kinsey and American Constitution Party candidate Douglas Dayhorse Campbell were tested.

General Election Matchup


In virtually every poll, save a Quinnipiac University survey that showed the two tied, Udall has opened a small but significant lead. Still, it's not an insurmountable lead by any means, as Schaffer is running closer to Udall than many expected. National Republicans looking for a place to make a stand could pick Colorado.

CO: Udall +6

Democratic Rep. Mark Udall maintains his healthy, but slim, lead over Republican ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer, a new independent poll shows. But both candidates are well under the crucial 50% mark, as they have been virtually all year, making some wonder whether both candidates might not be too far to one side or the other for Colorado.

The poll, conducted for the Rocky Mountain News and CBS4 Denver by Public Opinion Strategies, surveyed 500 registered voters 8/11-13 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Udall, Schaffer, independent candidate Buddy Moore and Green Party nominee Bob Kinsey were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Ind)
Udall..............44 / 34
Schaffer.......38 / 33
Moore.............5 / 12
Kinsey............2 / --

Udall has a big 14-point lead among women and trails among men by just three, according to the News' write-up. And, as further evidence of Colorado's changing political landscape, the candidates are approximately tied on the Western Slope, previously a Republican bastion that is now represented by Democrat John Salazar.

But Schaffer should be pleased that he trails by a single point among independent voters. Still, the way this race is going, it is telling that so many independents haven't picked a candidate yet: Both Udall and Schaffer are trying to convince voters their opponent is too far out of the mainstream, and in the early part of the race, both may have succeeded.

A word on methodology: Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican firm based in Northern Virginia, has a satellite office in Denver. To ensure the survey can be judged as an independent poll instead of a Republican-leaning one, Democratic firm RBI Strategies consulted on the poll's design and analysis of the data. Both companies are among the top recommended by strategists in their respective parties.

Wadhams' Potty Mouth

There is a game some political reporters play while talking to Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams, a noted Republican strategist who is also managing ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer's campaign for Senate this year: Count the number of times Wadhams refers to Schaffer's opponent, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, as a "Boulder liberal." If the number is any fewer than five times in a single conversation, the reporter hasn't asked enough questions.

Wadhams is coming under fire for one more thing he's said, though, after telling a Rocky Mountain News reporter that his campaign would "shove a bunch of 30-second ads up [Udall's] a**" on energy issues. The Colorado Democratic Party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are calling on Wadhams to apologize for what DSCC spokesman Matt Miller called a "bizarre, vulgar outburst."

Democrats rubbed salt in old wounds by calling the comments Wadhams' "Macaca moment," referring to the infamous critique then-Senator George Allen made to a tracker videotaping an appearance in Southwest Virginia in 2006. Wadhams, at the time, was a top aide to Allen, then seen as a front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination two years later.

Wadhams has no plans to apologize. "I embrace what I said Friday. I have no apologies. I won't back down at all," Wadhams told the News in a story out today. And, of course, he couldn't resist another message bomb: "If Democrats want to embrace Boulder liberal Udall who missed votes in Washington so he could fund raise in Colorado, let's have that debate."

New CO, MN Sen Polls

Two new Quinnipiac University polls, conducted for the Wall Street Journal and, out today show good news for Senate Republicans, as one of their incumbents looks safer and as an open seat looks like a tougher battle for Democrats than previously suspected.

The polls surveyed 1,425 likely voters in Colorado for a margin of error of +/- 2.6% and 1,261 likely voters in Minnesota for a margin of error of +/- 2.8%. Both polls were conducted between 7/14-22. In Colorado, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall and ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer, the Republican, were tested. In Minnesota, Republican Senator Coleman and his Democratic opponent, satirist Al Franken, were tested.

General Election Matchups
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Udall............44 / 83 / 10 / 46 / 37 / 50 (-4 from last, 6/17-24)
Schaffer......44 / 7 / 82 / 38 / 54 / 35 (+6)

Coleman......53 / 19 / 94 / 55 / 58 / 48 (+2)
Franken.......38 / 73 / 3 / 32 / 35 / 41 (-3)

In last month's polls, the news was decidedly better for Democrats. Udall led by ten points in the 6/17-24 Quinnipiac survey, while Coleman's lead was ten instead of fifteen.

For more on the race, check out our post on The Scorecard from earlier today.

Schaffer, Udall To Debate

How do you know the election season is heating up? When candidates start to debate. How do you know it's heating up earlier than ever? From the fact that the first debate of the season takes place not on Labor Day, but on Bastille Day.

Democratic Rep. Mark Udall and former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer, who are battling over retiring Senator Wayne Allard's seat, will meet today at the Wildlife Experience, a nature conservation museum about ten miles south of Denver, for the first of what promises to be a fiery series of debates.

Sponsored by 9News, Denver's NBC affiliate, the candidates will face a moderator but will have plenty of chances to interact with each other, and both will have plenty to say. Republicans cast Udall as too liberal for the state, while Democrats have criticized Schaffer for ties to Jack Abramoff and to a disputed oil deal in Iraq.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee counts Colorado as one of five states currently held by Republican Senators in which their candidate is leading. The latest public poll, taken in mid-June for Quinnipiac University, shows Udall leading by ten points, aided by a huge advantage among independents and a massive gender gap.

Adding to the pressure on Schaffer, Udall announced this morning he had pulled in more than $2 million during the Second Quarter, ending with $3.9 million in the bank. The campaign spent significantly on a statewide television campaign over the last two months, reducing the approximately two-to-one cash-on-hand advantage Udall held over Schaffer. Still, the Republican will likely continue to trail in cash in the bank when he reports his own haul by tomorrow.

The hour-long debate is only the first meeting between the two candidates. Negotiations are under way for a second debate, to take place on Denver's Fox affiliate, though details have yet to be worked out. Schaffer has proposed seven debates over the Summer alone.

To watch today's debate, click over to 9News for a live stream at 10 a.m. Mountain Time, or noon on the East Coast.

Another Good Poll For Udall

Two days ago, it was a Democratic-sponsored poll that showed Mark Udall leading the race to succeed retiring Senator Wayne Allard in Colorado. Today, it's a nonpartisan survey that shows the Democrat well ahead of his GOP opponent. And though the well-known member of Congress is below 50%, his Republican rival can't manage to break 40% and is in serious trouble among independents.

The survey, conducted by Quinnipiac University for the Wall Street Journal and, was conducted 6/17-24 among 1,351 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 2.7%. Udall and former Rep. Bob Schaffer were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Udall............48 / 89 / 8 / 54 / 43 / 53
Schaffer......38 / 7 / 82 / 27 / 46 / 32

Along with a big deficit among independent voters, Schaffer is suffering from a serious gender gap, too. In order to overcome that gap, Schaffer is either going to need to seriously improve his standing among male voters or find a way to reduce Udall's gap among women.

For more on the race, check out our write-up from Tuesday.

M. Udall Up In Dem Poll

Mark Udall has a substantial, but not overwhelming, lead in the race to replace retiring Republican Senator Wayne Allard, a new poll conducted for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee shows, indicating the Democratic congressman's likely November opponent has serious work to do ahead. But the poll does not give Udall an edge that is insurmountable, giving Republicans hope that a once-reliably red state may not be completely out of reach just yet.

The survey, conducted by Garin-Hart-Yang for the DSCC, polled 807 likely voters between 6/15-17 for a margin of error of +/- 3.5%. Udall and former Rep. Bob Schaffer were tested.

General Election Matchup (W/leans)

Generic Dem.......42
Generic GOPer....36

Republicans don't have to give up the ghost just yet. Schaffer has so far run a low-key campaign without flashy rallies or statewide tours, as Udall has done. And though Udall got a big fundraising head start, Schaffer raised good money in the First Quarter and, while he's at a financial disadvantage, there's a long way to go in the race. Through March, Udall had $4.2 million on hand, while Schaffer had more than $2.1 million in the bank.

Both candidates say their opponents are too extreme for the state. Schaffer, who lost the 2004 Republican primary to beer magnate Pete Coors, paints Udall as a "Boulder liberal" (Reporters joke that one conversation with Schaffer campaign manager Dick Wadhams yields at least five repetitions of the phrase). Udall's team hits Schaffer for being too conservative, especially on energy-related policies, which have so far played a big role in the campaign.

Schaffer has also faced questions about his relationship with Jack Abramoff, which included a fact-finding mission to the Northern Mariana Islands. The fire, which the DSCC has been only too happy to fan, has received significant attention from the Denver Post, though Schaffer maintains he never met or was aware of Abramoff at the time the trip occurred, in 1999.

Both parties will make the seat a top priority in November, and Democrats see it as one of their best chances to pick off another Republican-held seat. The party has fared well in recent years, recapturing the governorship, both legislative chambers, two Congressional seats and a Senate seat since 2004. But Udall, running under 50% in a Democratic poll, should not start measuring the drapes in Allard's office just yet. The race could prove to be closer than many expect.

Enviro Groups Own CO

Two prominent environmental groups are going to bat early for their favored candidates in Colorado, FEC filings released late last week show. And given the prominence of environmental and energy issues in the state in recent years, investments from the League of Conservation Voters and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund could have a dramatic impact.

LCV, which has already ponied up serious money on behalf of Rep. Mark Udall's Senate bid along with a consortium of environmental groups, bought another $125,000 in television time, while the more political League of Conservation Voters Action Fund spent $10,000 in campaign literature on Udall's behalf. The expenditures come on top of $250,000 in television time and $12,000 in other expenses just this month.

LCV, Defenders of Wildlife, Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club are jointly targeting Senate races in New Mexico, New Hampshire and Colorado, where they see opportunities to win back Senate seats with environmentally-friendly candidates. The cooperation comes two years after the four worked together to oust California Republican Richard Pombo.

All four groups promised to go beyond those three Senate races, though, and have individually targeted other potential pickups. In Colorado, Defenders of Wildlife last week endorsed a former aide to Senator Ken Salazar, Betsy Markey, in her bid to unseat Republican Marilyn Musgrave and bought a whopping $200,000 in advertising time there. Markey has shown promise, raising $594,000 through the end of March and maintaining $376,000 in the bank.

Musgrave has had her troubles holding onto the district, as well. The three-term Republican won just 46% of the vote in 2006, winning by three points thanks to a third-party candidate, and took just 51% in 2004, as President Bush carried the seat by a wider 17-point margin. Still, she knows she will face a tough fight and has already raised an impressive $1.38 million, with just over $1 million on hand after March.

With environmental groups promising a real effort this year, Democrats may benefit from added emphasis on energy and climate change themes that have so far played a major role in the presidential race. Udall looks like the favorite, for now, in Colorado, while Markey may need more help. But if the groups are able to duplicate their success in Pombo's California seat, they may make a big difference.

The Expected CO Poll

Given his lackluster performance in the 2004 Republican Senate primary, many expected that former Rep. Bob Schaffer's bid to replace retiring Senator Wayne Allard would fall similarly flat. Schaffer is assumed to be too far right for the increasingly-Democratic Colorado, and his opponent, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall, has a great name and a fat bank account.

But in poll after poll, Schaffer has trailed Udall by exceedingly small margins, virtually always within the margin of error. In December, Schaffer trailed by two points. In October, the gap was just one point. Was labeling Udall as a Boulder liberal finding success? Is Colorado still a red state? Or is Schaffer manager Dick Wadhams, a former top aide to Virginia Senator George Allen, the next Karl Rove?

A new poll, conducted by a prominent Republican polling firm for the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, finally provides Democrats with the news they wanted to see, as Udall boasts a big lead. The survey, conducted 3/6-9 by McLaughlin & Associates, surveyed 400 registered voters and tested both Udall and Schaffer. The margin of error is 4.9%.

General Election Matchup
Udall 44
Schaffer 32

Before Democrats get too thrilled and claim they are guaranteed to pick up the seat, they might want to wait for a few more surveys to come out. Schaffer has a talented political team, led by Wadhams, and Udall remains well under 50%. But a twelve-point lead is what most Beltway politicos expected to see, and the McLaughlin survey proves that Schaffer, who has trailed in every poll Politics Nation has seen on the race, has a ways to go to climb out of a hole.

The CDW, which sponsored the poll, is a group working to promote secret ballots in union elections. 44% said they would be less likely to support Udall after hearing he opposed private ballots in union elections.

Close In Colorado

The open Senate seat in Colorado remains one of the most competitive races in the country, a recent poll suggests. Rasmussen released a poll last week that showed the two top candidates, Democratic Rep. Mark Udall and former Republican Rep. Bob Schaffer, statistically tied.

The poll showed Schaffer with 44 percent to Udall's 43 percent. A Rasmussen poll in November offered a similar outcome, with Schaffer garnering 42 percent to Udall's 41 percent.

This seat has been open for more than a year--longer than any other--after Republican Senator Wayne Allard became the first incumbent of the cycle to announce his retirement in January 2007. Both parties avoided the possibility of divisive primaries when prospective challengers dropped out of the race in deference to Udall and Schaffer.

Both candidates have already raised large sums of money and appear ready to go the distance in what will be a long general election campaign. Udall reported spending $1.4 million through the end of 2007, and still had $3.6 million cash on hand. Schaffer spent about half that amount through the end of the year, and reported having some $1.5 million cash on hand.

In a recent interview with Real Clear Politics, NRSC Chair John Ensign expressed optimism for Schaffer's chances, despite the Democratic Party's recent gains in state elections and President Bush's declining numbers between 2000 and 2004. These numbers explain Democrats' view of this seat as a top pick-up opportunity.

-- Kyle Trygstad

Competitive In Colorado?

In the last version of the Politics Nation Exchange, we dropped Colorado from the third-most likely state to switch parties to the fifth-most likely. But for the second time in recent months, a new poll suggests Republican former Rep. Bob Schaffer may have a better chance at keeping the seat in GOP hands than conventional wisdom suggests.

The poll, by Research for Change, Inc., surveyed Schaffer and Rep. Mark Udall, the Democrat seen as the odds-on favorite to steal the seat from retiring Sen. Wayne Allard. Conducted 12/3-5, the poll surveyed 500 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Udall 39 / 78 / 11 / 35 / 36 / 42
Schaffer 37 / 8 / 69 / 25 / 44 / 31

The poll shows a lot of Colorado voters are undecided, the same conclusion a poll conducted by Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli. That poll found Udall leading by a narrow 36% to 35%.

Udall has outraised Schaffer by a wide margin, and he's considered a top recruit against the GOP's second or third choice. Udall also leads among independents, and given that independents have broken heavily to Democrats in recent Colorado elections, he is in good position to capture many of the remaining 40% who are undecided. Still, there's a long way to go until November, and for now Schaffer does not seem to be rolling over and playing dead.

Updating The Exchange

We're updating our Senate race rankings today, which we have failed to do since late September. If you take one lesson from the list, it's that Democrats are in even better position than they were a few months ago: More seats are open, more pickups are possible and the party is still outraising its Republican counterparts.

Still, watch the middle tier races: Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) are in trouble, but they seem with each passing day to be getting safer. All three are bucking Republican leadership at times, and while Democrats have good candidates against each, the difference between a bad year for the GOP and a terrible year will be the difference between these three surviving or failing.

Races we considered for the number 10 spot: Kentucky, where Democrats are hungry for the potential to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has a lot of money, though, and in a presidential year, as Kentucky goes for the GOP nominee, it's hard to imagine any but the best candidate (Rep. Ben Chandler?) having so much as a snowball's chance of beating McConnell. Polls show Chandler and State Auditor Crit Luallen performing well against the incumbent, but both have said they won't run. South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson is still recovering from a stroke, should be a good opportunity for Republicans. So far, though, they have only managed to recruit a State Representative who reported just $37,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, nowhere close to Johnson's $2 million account. Because of his health troubles, Johnson had been a retirement threat. But he announced his re-election bid in mid-October, and with an underfunded challenger, he will likely sail to another six year term in 2008.

(Correction: We wrote that State Representative Joel Dykstra had raised $37,000 in the third quarter. In fact, he raised $82,000 in the third quarter and retained $37,000 cash on hand. We regret the error and any resulting confusion.

Races we dropped from the Exchange: South Dakota, Nebraska.

Races we added to the Exchange: New Mexico, Mississippi

As always, agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts. And don't forget to head over to RCP's Fantasy '08 to trade contracts based on your own rankings.

10. Mississippi (R-Open): Resigning Sen. Trent Lott is leaving big shoes to fill, and Republicans might actually have some trouble filling them. As Gov. Haley Barbour looks around for a Republican to hold the seat, Rep. Roger Wicker is seen as the front-runner. Wicker has plenty of cash on hand, giving him a lead over any potential Democratic opponent. Democrats are working on former Attorney General Mike Moore and former Gov. Ronny Musgrove, both of whom would be top picks to steal the seat. But any Democrat will find it difficult, if not impossible, to win in this most ruby red of states. If someone like Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket, subtract five more points from the eventual Democratic nominee. (Last: Not ranked)

9. Alaska (R-Stevens): If your home is raided by the FBI, guilty or not, it's probably time to call it a career. Indeed, if Ted Stevens is actually the GOP nominee, this race will move higher up on Democrats' priority list. The DSCC is doing all it can to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Other Republicans are said to be interested in a run for the seat, whether or not Stevens makes a bid. If Stevens is no longer in office, the state will have lost both its long-time Senators since 2002, while Rep. Don Young is tied up in the same scandal involving VECO Corp. Without Young, the state's position in Congress will be significantly impacted. In fact, should Stevens and Young run for re-election, that's likely to be a central tenant of their campaign. But will voters want seniority or new elected officials, like Gov. Sarah Palin, who aren't viewed as corrupt? (Last: 10)

8. Maine (R-Collins): Susan Collins was supposed to be this year's Lincoln Chafee: Popular and moderate, but a Republican in a very blue state. Democrats got their best possible candidate in Rep. Tom Allen, but polls in October have showed Collins holding consistently huge leads of twenty points or so. The race is going to tighten, and Allen is going to have the money to compete. But to the NRSC's relief, Collins is in great position a little less than a year out. Watch her rely heavily on her friend and colleague, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, if the race narrows. (Last: 6)

7. Minnesota (R-Coleman): Comedian Al Franken and wealthy attorney Mike Ciresi both say they will abide by the results of a convention among Minnesota Democrats. But several times over the last few years, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has faced nasty fights in post-convention primaries as candidates fail to live up to their promises. If Franken and Ciresi duke it out in a primary, Franken is likely to win but come away severely wounded. In a general, many will say that Franken is simply too goofy to be a Senator. But he's acting serious, and Minnesota is the same state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, to his credit, is apparently taking the threat seriously. One thing to watch: The Democratic convention in Denver will likely help Mark Udall (see number 5, below). With a badly damaged GOP brand, will the Republican convention being held in Minneapolis be a good thing or a bad thing for Coleman? The answer might determine whether he gets re-elected. (Last: 8)

6. Oregon (R-Smith): Democrats are coalescing around House Speaker Jeff Merkley, though he still faces attorney Steve Novick in a primary. Merkley, who has his sights set on incumbent Gordon Smith, faces an uphill battle: Smith is doing all he can to inoculate himself from charges that he might, in fact, be a Republican. Smith has turned against the war in Iraq, recently voted for cloture on the farm bill, something 45 Republicans voted against, and makes his opposition to the Bush Administration known at every turn. But he is a Republican in a blue state during a presidential year. Merkley will need some national help if he is to compete with Smith on a financial level, but this year, that is not impossible. (Last: 5)

5. Colorado (R-Open): Rep. Mark Udall is hoping to build on a Democratic foundation that has overtaken this increasingly purple state in recent years. Democrats now control the state legislature, the majority of the Congressional delegation and the governor's mansion, and Udall hopes to take back a second Senate seat from retiring Sen. Wayne Allard. Republicans recruited previous Senate candidate and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, and while he's not the party's perfect candidate, he spent the summer raising good money and, to the surprise of many, was within one point of Udall in a mid-September poll. Still, with the Colorado landscape favoring Democrats so much, Udall remains the favorite. This is a district where the DSCC's huge money advantage over the NRSC could come into serious play. (Last: 3)

4. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Down on the Bayou, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is undeniably in trouble. A Zogby poll taken for the two-term senator's challenger, Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, a former Democrat, shows Kennedy up by seven points. That's not a huge margin for an internal poll, but any survey that shows an incumbent trailing a challenger is significant news. Landrieu had more than $3.4 million cash on hand after the third quarter, while Kennedy hadn't begun raising money. Still, the Democrat who lost several hundred thousand members of her base remains the Republicans' best target for a pickup. (Last: 4)

3. New Hampshire (R-Sununu): A poll in early October showed the rematch between Republican Sen. John Sununu and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen overwhelmingly favoring Shaheen, the Democrat. Shaheen faces no primary and will benefit from her organization, which has stayed largely intact since her departure from the governor's mansion. Gov. John Lynch, a close ally, has kept that organization in good practice, winning with a higher percentage of votes than any governor in the state's history in 2006. Lynch is unlikely to get a strong challenger in 2008, and after the Democratic wave that swept the state last year, Shaheen remains a favorite to take the seat back for Democrats. (Last: 1)

2. New Mexico (R-Open): If Republicans can get bad news about New Mexico, bet that they will. When Sen. Pete Domenici announced his retirement, moderate Albuquerque Rep. Heather Wilson looked like a great candidate to retain the seat for the GOP. Then, dominoes started falling: Conservative Rep. Steve Pearce joined Wilson in the GOP primary. Rep. Tom Udall, a popular Democrat who will be well-funded, reconsidered his earlier decision not to run and jumped into the race, giving the party their strongest candidate to take the seat. But Udall's path wasn't entirely clear: He faced Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez in the primary. Until, that is, Chavez dropped his bid, giving Udall a clear shot. News can't get any worse for Republicans in New Mexico. But if it can, it probably will. (Last: Not ranked)

1. Virginia (R-Open): Mark Warner seems headed straight for the Senate, even if he faces another former governor in the general election. Polls repeatedly show Warner beating Jim Gilmore by twenty points or more, and there's a simple reason: Gilmore was elected when Virginia was a Republican state. Warner helped nudge the state to purple status, where it currently resides. After Gilmore forced Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, a moderate, out of the race, Virginia Republicans will struggle to appeal even to GOP-leaning independents. The party can all but kiss the Senate seat goodbye. (Last: 2)

Sunday Quick Hits

Good Sunday morning. Some news as we wait to watch Rudy Giuliani face his most dangerous foe: Tim Russert.

-- Democrats got good news in New Mexico on Friday when Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez announced he would not run for retiring Sen. Pete Domenici's seat, leaving Rep. Tom Udall unopposed by any major candidate for the nomination. Udall will face the winner of the Republican primary between Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce, and while polls have shown Udall leading both candidates, their cases won't be helped by a long and difficult primary in which they both tack right in order to win over GOP voters.

-- Just a few days before Ohio voters head to the polls to pick a replacement for the late Rep. Paul Gillmor, Democrats and Republicans are dumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the race. Republicans have $388,000 in television time reserved through Tuesday's election, while Democrats are firing back with $237,000 in air time, the Toledo Blade reports. Democrats are attacking Republican Bob Latta for voting to raise taxes thanks to the 2003 budget, while the NRCC is hitting Democrat Robin Weirauch for her positions on illegal immigration and the estate tax. The district is heavily Republican, as RCP's Kyle Trygstad wrote, but Democrats must think they have a real shot, given the amount of money they've dropped.

-- Longitme Louisiana Republican Rep. Jim McCrery will not run for re-election in 2008, Politico reports. McCrery was in line to chair the House Ways and Means Committee before Democrats retook the chamber in 2006. McCrery opens a solidly Republican seat that the GOP will likely retain. His retirement, though, opens the third seat on the powerful committee for 2008: Reps. Jim Ramstad and Jerry Weller have also announced they will step down as well.

-- In Minnesota, Democrats might have trouble getting a nominee out of a convention unscathed as they seek to bring down freshman Sen. Norm Coleman. The AP reports one AFSCME council, centered in large cities, is backing comedian Al Franken, while another, though smaller council focusing on county government employees is backing attorney Mike Ciresi. Both candidates have pledged to abide by the results of a Democratic convention, but in Minnesota candidates who lose the convention frequently force a later, expensive primary. If Ciresi, independently wealthy, and Franken, able to raise large sums of money, head to a one-on-one showdown, Democrats may pick a wounded nominee to take on Coleman.

-- As Auditor Crit Luallen officially bowed out of the race against Sen. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, three other candidates are cropping up. Ryan Alessi, the Lexington Herald-Leader's indispensable political columnist, points to businessmen Charlie Owen and Greg Fischer and attorney and Iraq war veteran Andrew Horne as potential Democratic candidates. Owen ran for the seat in 1998, though he didn't make it out of the primary, and was the Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor in 2003. Horne ran for Congress in 2006, losing to now-Rep. John Yarmuth in the Democratic primary. Fischer has not run for office before, though he is likely to spend a significant amount of his own money on the bid.

-- Attack phone calls aren't exclusive to the presidential campaign. Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat running for a Republican-held Senate seat in Colorado, found that out the hard way this week when Common Sense Issues, a group best known for aiding Mike Huckabee in Iowa, began running a new round of calls against him, the Rocky Mountain News reported yesterday. The group is also running television advertisements, while the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says Common Sense Issues is coordinating with Republican Bob Schaffer's campaign and the Colorado GOP. Both Schaffer and Colorado GOP chair Dick Wadhams deny the charge.

Senate Fundraising Numbers

Senate numbers trickle in slower than House numbers, as Senate candidates file with their chamber's Sergent at Arms, which then forwards the numbers to the FEC, rather than electronically, as House candidates do. Still, top candidates in important races brag of their success. Here are the numbers we've compiled for our top-ten Senate races to watch, with New Mexico added on for good measure. Results in alphabetical order:

Alaska (Anchorage Daily News)
Ted Stevens (R): $463k raised, ~$1.2m cash on hand

Colorado (Courtesy Rocky Mountain News)
Mark Udall (D) $1.05m raised, $3.1m cash on hand
Bob Schaffer (R): $786k raised, $1.16m cash on hand

Louisiana (Politics Nation reporting)
Mary Landrieu (D): $857k raised, $3.4m cash on hand
(State Treasurer John Kennedy has not yet entered the race)

Maine (Bangor Daily News gets credit)
Susan Collins (R): $1m raised, $3.1m cash on hand
Tom Allen (D): $666k raised, $2.1m cash on hand

Minnesota (Hat tip, Star-Tribune)
Al Franken (D): $1.89m raised, $2.45m cash on hand
Norm Coleman (R): $1.7m raised, $5m cash on hand
Mike Ciresi (D): $307k raised, $607k cash on hand

Nebraska (The Hill article and Politics Nation reporting)
Jon Bruning (R): $225k raised, $1m cash on hand
Bob Kerrey (D): $342k cash on hand
(Note: Kerrey's numbers are left over from his last Senate bid. He has not formally closed his campaign committee, nor has he declared an intent to run in 2008. Former Gov. Mike Johanns launched his campaign last week, after the filing period had closed)

New Hampshire (Thanks, Union Leader)
John Sununu (R): $701k raised, $2.7m cash on hand
Jeanne Shaheen (D): $188k raised, $178k cash on hand
(Note that Shaheen began raising money two weeks before the filing period ended)

New Mexico (Nice work, Las Cruces Sun-News/AP)
Heather Wilson (R): $240k raised, $755k cash on hand
Steve Pearce (R): $251k raised, $582k cash on hand
Don Wiviott (D): $130k raised, $371k cash on hand
(Note: Wilson announced for the seat after the filing deadline had closed. Pearce has not yet announced his plans. Fundraising results are for both of their House committees, all of which they could transfer into a Senate race)

Oregon (Again, The Hill)
Gordon Smith (R): $825k raised, $4m cash on hand
Jeff Merkley (D): ~$300k raised, $200k cash on hand
Steve Novick (D): ~$300k raised, $200k cash on hand

Virginia (Per The Hill and Politics Nation reporting)
Mark Warner (D): $1.1m raised, $1m cash on hand
Tom Davis (R): $220k raised, $1m cash on hand
(Note that Warner began raising money in mid-September, while Davis has not officially entered the race; Davis' fundraising numbers reflect money in his House account that he can transfer to a Senate bid. Former Gov. Jim Gilmore has yet to officially enter the race and has not opened a federal campaign account.)

South Dakota (AP and Sioux City Journal)
Tim Johnson (D): $450k raised, $2m cash on hand
Joel Dykstra (R): $82k raised

Rocky Mountain Tie

Our apologies for missing this poll, out of Colorado, where pollster Floyd Ciruli, one of our favorite pundits around, tested Rep. Mark Udall (D) and ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer in the race to replace outgoing Sen. Wayne Allard next year. The poll, conducted 9/12-15, surveyed 504 registered voters for a 4.4% margin of error.

General Election Matchup
Udall 36 / 72 / 6 / 34
Schaffer 35 / 3 / 68 / 19

The race is close thanks to a number of undecided independents -- just 53% choose a candidate. Still, the poll reminds that Colorado, while trending Democratic, remains tough territory for both parties. There are more Republicans in the state, though independents have, of late, heavily favored Democrats. Shaffer has to appeal strongly to those not affiliated with either party if he wants to move above Udall.

New GOPer In CO Sen Race

Delta County Commissioner Wayne Wolf, a Western Slope Republican, is in the race to replace Sen. Wayne Allard, reports the Denver Post. Wolf, a rancher and former teacher, is the second serious Republican candidate in the race, along with ex-Rep. Bob Schaffer.

Wolf's entry shows the fundamental geographic divide in the state. Sources say his reputation is as a conservative, like Schaffer, but Delta County is on the state's western slope. Shaffer represented the state's 4th Congressional District, on the east side of the state, during his three terms in Washington.

Schaffer remains the favorite to win the GOP primary, though whoever takes the prize will face an uphill battle against likely Democratic nominee Rep. Mark Udall. Udall has prepared for the race for several years, and will be difficult for the Republican nominee to compete with financially.

For more background, see my piece on recent population shifts as they effect the Colorado landscape going into 2008.