From THE HILL
By Hugo Gurdon
May 23, 2007
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) last week said that she “has succeeded in keeping veteran healthcare costs down by working with Democrats to stand up to President Bush.”
The May 18 release added that the third-term congresswoman bucked Bush by preventing his proposed increases for soldiers and veterans from becoming a reality.
There are plenty of GOP centrists who have been critical of Bush in recent months. But Musgrave is a social and fiscal conservative. And unlike other Republicans on the Hill, she defied Bush in his first term, when he enjoyed higher poll numbers.
Despite intense lobbying from the White House and then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Musgrave voted no on the 2003 Medicare prescription drug bill.
She has been known to rub members of her own party the wrong way. A few months after arriving in Congress in 2003, Musgrave criticized then-House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young’s (R-Alaska) penchant for earmarks in a letter to Hastert.
Musgrave’s district leans right; Bush won the district with 58 percent in 2004. Yet the congresswoman is a constant target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Musgrave won only 46 percent of the vote last year, barely prevailing in the three-way race.
State Sen. Brandon Shaffer (D) is considering challenging her next year. And Democrat Angie Paccione, who collected 43 percent of the vote in her bid to oust Musgrave in 2006, may run again.
Musgrave is a talented campaigner, evidenced by the fact she survived the huge blue wave of 2006.
Cory Gardner, one of her campaign chairmen, told the Denver Post, “If they can’t beat Marilyn in the worst environment Republicans have seen in over 30 years, they sure aren’t going to do it this year.”
History is on the GOP’s side; the last time a Democrat represented the 4th district was in 1972.
This cycle, Musgrave is stressing her bipartisanship. She has let her constituents know that she is working with Democrats on agricultural disaster funding and a rural water measure, among other matters.
The headlines of her press releases this month are titled “Musgrave’s Joint Work with Democrats Show Signs of Success,” “Musgrave Joins with Democrats to Ensure Colorado Farmers & Ranchers Aren’t Short Changed,” and “Bipartisanship Works Only when Democrats Don’t Shut Out Republicans.”
The DCCC believes the Musgrave seat is gettable, though it will devote significant resources in the 2008 cycle to protect its vulnerable freshmen.
Usually, members win tough races to get into Congress, and it gets easier in subsequent elections. But Musgrave has gone from 55 percent to 49 percent to 46 percent.
Until that trend changes significantly, Musgrave will be on the DCCC hit list. And while Democrats are working with Musgrave on various legislative initiatives this year, they will likely work less with her next year.