In four weeks, Colorado voters who a registered to vote and affiliated with a political party in that registration will go to their caucuses. Most notably, they will have a say in nominating each party's respective Presidential nominee.
Colorado has not, at least in recent memory, had such an early say in the process. This year's Presidential primary season is more front loaded than ever. Iowa and the Wyoming GOP have already had their say at their caucuses. New Hampshire voters cast their votes in the first in the nation primary today. South Carolina and Nevada will make their decisions before Colorado does. Michigan and Florida will as well, but on the Democratic side, those races will be irrelevant because the candidates are not campaigning there and their delegates will not be seated.
February 5, when Colorado decides, will be the biggest day of the primary season. It will also set in motion the process of nominating other candidates to be on the primary ballot in August. Primaries are possible, but unlikely, in the U.S. Senate race, are likely in the Second Congressional District race for the Democrats, and are also likely in the Fifth Congressional District race for the Republicans (despite the fact that they have an incumbent). There will likely be several state legislative primaries in Denver as well.
Democrats enter election season 2008 with high spirits in Colorado. Democrats have the Governor's seat, control the state house and the state senate (neither of which has a U.S. Senate style filibuster), and the state treasurer's post. A majority of the state's delegation to Congress carries the Democratic party brand and that is unlikely to change. The Democrat is narrowly favored in the U.S. Senate race in Colorado. The Republican Secretary of State may leave office early to serve in Congress (Coffman is running to replace Congressman Tom Tancredo) affording a Democratic governor a chance to appoint his replacement. There is a Republican attorney general, and Republicans control the state board of education (4-3) and the University of Colorado Regents (6-3?) but one can't have everything in life, eh?
Democrats will bring long shot challenges to Republicans in the 4th, 5th and 6th Congressional Districts. The 4th, home to Marilyn Musgrave who has perennially underperformed the partisan breakdown of her district is the Democrat's best shot. But, he single minded focus on sex legislation and poor consitutent service will, even if she is re-elected, leave her a weak dean of the Republican delegation in Congress who drains national Republican coffers. Doug Lamborn, in Colorado Springs, will be one of the most junior representatives in the impotent Republican House minority, even if he manages to be re-elected by dodging a strong primary challenge. Any Republican that prevails in the 6th Congressional District will be a freshman representative in a weak minority caucus. Should the Republican take the U.S. Senate seat, he too will be a freshman in that body, which admittedly, affords far more rights to the minority than the U.S. House (and has a bat in hell chance of returning to a Republican majority).
The 2008 election is unlikely to oust the comfortable Democratic majority in the state house, currently 40-25, most of whom were either elected in 2006 or chosen by vacancy committees from safe districts. The state senate majority is 20-15, which is also comfortable, particularly considering that only half of state senators face election every two years, and that many of the seats being contested are safe seats for one party or the other. It would take a political tidal wave for Republicans to regain control of the Colorado General Assembly, and there is nothing to indicate that the political winds of change in the state favor them.
Democrats have been out of the wilderness for a while in Colorado now, with a string of recent successes, but they also remain acutely aware that Colorado is a moderate state and that their majority depends upon not overestimating their mandate. Both the Governor and our Democratic U.S. Senator, as well as one of our Democratic members of Congress are moderates who can't always be counted upon to carry out the party line. The Demcoratic caucus in Denver is more middle of the road than the Democratic caucus in Washington. It has both fewer hard core progressives, and fewer members who are blue dog class conservatives.
Ten months out from the general Presidential election, the Democrats seeem favored to win in most plausible head to head races. But, those prospects will become much more clear in a few weeks. While the Democratic race for the Presidential race has already thinned out to three viable candidates, a trend unlikely to be upset today or in other contests before February 5, the Republican race is in considerable flux.
Polls have John McCain and Mitt Romney neck and neck for the top two spots in the New Hampshire Republican primary, taking up about two-thirds of the vote between them. Huckabee and Romney were the top two candidates in Iowa. If, as seems likely, waning Giuliani can't pull out even a third place finish in New Hampshire (he did miserably in Iowa), because he is bested by surging support for Huckabee, he may lose too much steam to have a viable shot at the nomination. Thompson and Ron Paul are likely unlikely to do well enough in New Hampshire to build momentum given their mediocre showings in Iowa. Thus, New Hampshire could effectively winnow the Republican contest to a three way race.
I join most Western Republicans in hoping Romney wins although in my case it is because he would be the weakest in a head to head contest with any of the top three Democratic hopefuls. If Romney bests McCain today, and this is well within the range of possibility as Obama pulls independent votes to the Democratic primary rather than the Republican one, Democratic prospects in the November Presidential election look bright, as Romney will be the front runner in the race with a second place finish in Iowa and a first place finish in New Hampshire. While some Christian conservatives distrust Romney for his flip flops on social issues and Mormon faith, he is still professing to adhere to the economic and social policy issues they held dear now and has a conservative religious faith. Huckabee is deeply distrusted by the neo-conservative wing of the Republican party due to his relatively liberal economic policies and his foreign policy ineptitude. McCain burned many party faithful supporters with his support for "liberal" ideas like campaign finance reform and opposition to the President's torture agenda, yet will alienate many in the general election with his unabashed support for the war in Iraq, stating that he plans to have U.S. troops in Iraq for another century.
But, today, we let the voters of New Hampshire decide. And, in four weeks, Republicans and Democrats alike in Colorado will get to choose from those choices that the early state voters have not hurled off the table and into the trash. It certainly looks like we will still have some choices at that point. But, a decisive Obama win in New Hampshire today, which the polls are predicting, would makes the prospects of a brokered convention in Denver seem less likely.