This is the first of four regional diaries that attempt to identify the highest priority 2008 elections in each of the 50 states. Since I read from left to right, I'm looking at the Western states first.
COLORADO: The site of the 2008 Democratic Convention and a state with one of the most pronounced recent blue trends of them all is likely to be a battleground in the 2008 Presidential contest, and may provide the opportunity for a House seat pickup in the 4th district, maybe the 6th if it becomes vacant. But it seems to me that Colorado's biggest priority is to flip the open US Senate seat. We need to build on our paper thin majority, and this one is presently rated the most competitive Senate race of 2008.
NEW MEXICO: If Domenici retires or dies, the Senate seat will be a top priority nationally as well as statewide. Recruiting a high level challenger like Udall could even persuade the incumbent into retirement. Otherwise, the 1st Congressional district becomes NM's top priority--again.
Keep an eye on NM-2 as well. It's the only district left along the Mexican border that still elects a Republican.
ARIZONA: Arizona's top priority in 2008 is to deliver its ten electoral votes to the Democratic nominee for President. There are other important tasks, like flipping the 1st CD, defending the 5th, and chipping away at the state legislature's Republican majority. But unless our Presidential nominee is someone anathema to senior citizens, I say the best of many good things we can do here is to push hard for the national ticket so that the Republicans are spending money there and not in the light blue states.
NEVADA: Half the EVs of Arizona, but growing faster and much more of a swing state. I'm going to call the Presidential race the most important thing for Nevada to focus on, although the 2nd CD and especially the 3rd, will definitely be important as well.
UTAH: The reddest of the red states, and one of two in the nation that still gives Bush a positive net approval rating. I'd say the most important contest is the Governor's race (a miracle here would give the party a seat at the table during redistricting), but the really important task for Beehive State Democrats is to be building the party's positives by any means necessary. Run some kind of challenger everywhere, even where Democrats get 10% of the vote. If you can double it to 20% this year, it counts as another baby step toward a blue Utah somewhere over the horizon.
IDAHO: The other state with actual net Bush approval, but not quite as bad as Utah. However, unlike Utah, we do have a target with some real chance for victory: the 1st CD, where the disgusting Bill Sali squeaked out a win over Larry Grant last year. Sali is so far to the right that even other Idaho Republicans don't like him, and if he makes a spectacle of himself, he could be a one term wonder. ID-1 is the least conservative of Idaho's two districts, with the panhandle and most of Boise, so go for it.
MONTANA: I'm almost tempted to put the Presidential contest on the front burner here. The trouble is, the national ticket isn't likely to spend much time here or even in the surrounding states. It will be seen as too much effort needed for just three electoral votes. That mentality has to change if we're interested in making Big Sky country truly blue, but for now, it looks like it's up to the local grassroots to draw national attention, not the other way around.
I say, in 2008, Montana Dems should go to the mat for the at large Congressional seat. With Schweitzer and to a lesser extent Baucus both headed for easy re-elections, there's potential for coattails, if the campaigns all work together.
UPDATE: As jacinto points out, there's a Gooper Secretary of State, too. I tend to think SoS races are more important when there are multiple CDs to redistrict, or Diebold voting frauds to promote or halt. Better to take out Rehberg, if we can....
WYOMING: This is a very tough state to crack, but it will turn blue before Idaho or Utah does, and we at least have the Governor. The weakest link to go for is Cubin in the at large House seat. Enzi in the Senate should also get the best challenger possible, but the best chance of success is in the House.
WASHINGTON: Governor Gregoire may need some help here, but as an incumbent who hasn't done anything noticeable to mess up, I expect she'll have an easier time winning re-election than she did in her nail-biter of 2004. See her fellow Governors Doyle, Blago and Kulongoski in 2006. With no Senate race, and, having gone blue in all of the last five Presidential elections, the elections to watch are for the Congressional districts. Districts 8, 5, and 4, in that order.
OREGON: Defeating Gordon Smith is the top priority, by a mile. The only other projects to consider are the defense of our new majority in the lower legislative chamber, and maybe the long-shot challenge to OR-2. Presidentially, the question is not whether Oregon goes blue, but by how much.
CALIFORNIA: With Gropenfuhrer not on the table and Democrats holding all other statewide offices and the state legislature, and a monopoly on the Presidential vote, California's only top tier priorities are picking off another House seat or two. And they've all been gerrymandered to protect incumbents of whatever party. Our top targets are the 4th in the North, and the 26th in the South, although there are several other tempting seats that are worth a look (the 24th, 41st, 45th and the perennial 50th--though not with Busby again--are all worth a look).
ALASKA: Seems to me Stevens and Young are in Congress for life, and I just can't get enthusiastic about taking a state legislature that has only one House seat to gerrymander. I say, take a longshot at promoting the Presidential ticket, and other than that, build up the party so that it will be more competitive in future elections. In fact, Alaska is a lot less solidly Republican than it used to be, and it could well become a swing state.
HAWAII: The reverse of Alaska: A bedrock Democratic state that seems to be showing a few cracks lately and should not be taken for granted. It isn't that Republicans really have their foot in the door so much as that our margins of victory have been steadily eroding. Governor Lingle, the only high profile Republican, is not up for re-election, so the top priority is to shore up what we already have, and to avoid looking complacent about it.