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The netroots have a huge fan in Angie Paccione. She steals some of our best ideas regularly--we help her "refine her message." That was the first she wanted you to know when I sat down with her Sunday night after a coffee-shop town hall meeting (dark coffee shops are horrible places to take pictures). The second was that she is in striking distance of unseating one the nation's worst Members of Congress, the woman who thinks gay marriage is the most important issue facing the nation today: Marilyn Musgrave.

Confirmation of Angie's optimism came yesterday:

The 4th Congressional District race has tightened considerably, according to a new independent poll released today, with Democrat Angie Paccione now showing a slight lead that's within the survey's margin of error.

The poll by RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics showed Paccione with 48 percent of the vote, Republican incumbent Marilyn Musgrave with 45 percent and Reform Party candidate Eric Eidsness with 5 percent.

The latest poll was conducted Oct. 24-26 of 991 respondents in the 4th Congressional District. A previous poll by the same two companies - one that regularly polls for Democrats and the other for Republicans - showed Musgrave with a six-point lead in late August. Margin of error of both polls was plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Even more significant (because I trust Charlie Cook more than I trust Constituent Dynamics), Cook has moved the race from lean Republican to toss up. This movement is a reflection of a lot of very hard work by Angie over the last 17 months. In a year, she and her staff have put over 32,000 miles on the travel car, winding through this northeastern Colorado district. It's a wild district--85 percent of the population is urban and suburban, but 85 percent of the geographic territory is rural. So to get to those other 15 percent, Angie has to do a lot of driving.

It's an inhospitable district for a Democrat, at least historically. It's been held by the GOP for 34 years, and Bush carried it by 17 points in 2004. But he's down to a 40 percent approval rating. We'll see how much that approval rating does for Musgrave when he comes to stump in the district this weekend. For all of Musgrave's shortcomings, prying an incumbent loose, particularly one that the GOP has spent $1.6 million on already, is no easy task. That Angie has made this into a horse race is a testament to a flawed incumbent, and a tireless campaign by the Democrat.

Those of you who've seen Angie in action in a crowd will understand this: it's like watching a preacher coach a basketball team that's down by 3 points with 7 seconds left to play. That's probably because Angie is an evangelical--who very clearly and loudly says she believes in living her faith and not legislating it--and a former basketball coach. She's been an educator, and has served in the Colorado legislature.

She started a tradition early on in her House career, of holding Saturday morning breakfasts. She got a little sign made--"Your Representative at work!", reserved the back room of a restaurant, and waited for the people to come. Which they didn't. It's a treat to see Angie tell the story--I can't possibly do it justice--of her zeal to serve the people, her enthusiasm for democracy, her conviction that the people would come. So week after week, she sat in the restaurant, by herself, waiting for the people to come. And eventually, they did. And kept coming. Some of her regular breakfast crowd showed up to see her again Sunday night, to give a friendly face and some moral support to get through this last week of the campaign.

They also showed up to show their appreciation for the legislator who's been there for them since she took office four years ago. In that relatively short time, she proved to her state House district that she has a commitment to serve. While Musgrave continues to talk about gay marriage, Angie is talking about health care (the one issue that every candidate I've talked to in Colorado tells me is the primary concern for their district), about Iraq, about the economy, about energy independence, and immigration. She talks about all of these things as an unapologetic Democrat.

Her honesty and her no-nonsense approach aren't going to win over every voter. But she doesn't have to get all of them, just a healthy chunk. Like every crazy Colorado district, this one has a huge number of unaffiliated voters--34 percent. It's 40 percent GOP and 26 percent Dem. In 2004, while Bush got a huge percentage of the vote, Musgrave only got 51 percent. So it's definitely within reach. This is going to be another one of those nail biters, folks.

On the Web:

Angie Paccione for Congress

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Oct 31, 2006 at 07:07 PM PST.

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