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I think now I understand a little bit better why Hunter S. Thompson chose to live and die in Colorado. I never really had a sense of Colorado politics. I always thought, yeah Pat Schroeder and Gary Hart, must be an okay kind of place. I knew, of course, about Dobson and the religious right, but never realized the extent to which the politics of this place are really very strange. My host in Colorado was Wendy Norris, founder of Unbossed, contributing editor at Colorado Confidential, and known in these parts as em dash. At Colorado Confidential, she's doing original investigative reporting for the northeast corner of the state. The stories she's working on about local government and politics could curl your hair. There are some seriously ethically-challenged people in local offices in Colorado. (You'll have to read down to find out about that photo, which I stole from johne.)

Then there's the whole phenomenon of unaffiliated voters. There are almost as many unaffiliated voters in these districts as Republicans, and far more than Democrats. In an already murky year for predicting what might happen in these districts, these unaffiliated voters really baffle me. Looking at the usual outcome in these districts, it's a safe assumption that most of them end up voting Republican, but will it be true this year?

And to top it all off, Ted Haggard. That story broke late on my last night in Colorado, so I can't judge firsthand what impact it might have. It's hard to imagine that it won't have some effect in Jay Fawcett's race in Colorado Springs, home to the New Life mega-church and, of course, James Dobson. Enough to make some voters stay home? Or go against everything they've always stood for to vote for a Democrat? Who knows? You'd have to have both a political science degree and be a mind reader to know. I'm neither, and I have no idea what's going to happen on Tuesday.

Given that I can't give you any predictions on Colorado, other than Bill Ritter (D) will be the next governor (he has a 22 point lead over Beauprez), Ed Perlmutter (D) will be the next Congressman from the 7th District, I can say that Angie Paccione, Bill Winter, and Jay Fawcett have made inroads that no Democrat should have ever expected to make in their races. Since that's all I can tell you, I'll spend the rest of the post giving you some highlights of my visit.

More on the flip.

The state is rather a blur for me, covering four races (including the jaunt up to Wyoming) attending a breakfast with Congressman Mark Udall and former Senator Gary Hart, a Clinton rally for Perlmutter and a quick meeting with Congresswoman Diana Degette in just four days. Unfortunately, the Clinton event was delayed about three hours by fact that Clinton had added a last-minute stop in Memphis to his schedule that day. So the afternoon that was supposed to have been spent block-walking with Perlmutter turned into a 10-minute conversation with him in the hotel lobby after Clinton departed.

The Republicans have been throwing every thing they could at him, including an accusation from James Dobson that Perlmutter had an army of gay youth working on his campaign. This is one of the odd lines of attack the Colorado GOP likes to use--accusations of homosexuality, pedophilia, or sexual predation by the Democrats. Considering the GOP track record of late on those counts, it's an odd tactic. And while I'm on this subject, why would it be more acceptable for Haggard to admit he bought meth ("I never inhaled!") than that he had a gay relationship? How sick is that? Anyway, given Perlmutter's double-digit lead in the polling in this race, it looks pretty damned certain that CO-07 is going blue this year.

Both Rep. Udall and Rep. Degette were very generous with their time, even though they were rushing off to other appointments. Both are enthusiastic about Paccione's and Fawcett's chances, and sure of a Democratic take-over in the House. Udall predicts a 50/50 or a 49/51 Senate, and both are encouraged about the inroads all of the candidates in eastern Colorado have made into the Republican party.

Which leads me to what I think is the big story in Colorado politics--the fracturing of the GOP. The GOP seems to be made up of several strands--traditional small-government, fiscal conservatives, your grandfather's GOP; then there's the more libertarian bent, most concerned with issues like gun control; finally (as Fawcett describes them) the "extreme, right-wing Christian evangelical fundamentalists" that have hijacked the leadership of the Colorado GOP. The first group is dissatisfied with the Bush administration and it's wild veer off the traditional GOP course. Both it and the libertarian bloc have a hard time buying into the extreme positions of the fundies. Any chance that Paccione, Winter, and Fawcett have at winning this cycle will be due almost entirely to GOP splintering. There's really no way for a Democrat to win in these districts without signficant GOP support.

Finally, the day and my stay in Colorado ended at the Skylark Lounge in Denver, where the good folks of Denver Drinking Liberally, along with a handful of Kossacks, Jeralyn from Talk Left, and two reporters from London's Guardian all got together. The Brit reporters, Gary and Dan, are on their own roadtrip, from Hastert's district to Pelosi's district. So they wanted to interview me about my road trip. Meanwhile, em dash was interviewing them about theirs. It was just all so bizarrely meta. I can tell you that these to Brits were far more intelligent and informed about American politics than a lot of American media people I've seen and heard and talked to. They are also just very cool guys. Please read more about our evening at Colorado Confidential, at SquareState, and in Colorado Luis's diary. But by all means, watch Gary and Dan's work at the Guardian Unlimited. It's some of the best background to this election you'll find.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat Nov 04, 2006 at 01:45 PM PST.

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