Republican incumbent Rep. Marilyn Musgrave failed to outraise her Democratic challenger during the second quarter of this year, narrowing her cash advantage in the 4th Congressional District covering most of the Eastern Plains and the I-25 corridor north of Denver.
Between April 1 and June 30 Musgrave raised a total of $279,630 — or $110,101 less than her Democratic opponent Betsy Markey, who collected $389,730 during the same period.
Musgrave still has nearly double the cash on hand as Markey though, with $1,155,899 in her campaign war chest compared to Markey’s $575,835 bankroll.
The result of the most recent finance numbers should be taken with some caution, said Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University.
“This has proved a comparatively tougher cycle for Republicans to raise money nationwide thus far,” Saunders said. “Musgrave’s campaign only being able to raise three-fourths of what they raised in the previous cycle in a more competitive race is not a good sign, but it is not a fatal one either, especially for an incumbent. It will come down to the ratio of money raised and how efficiently that money is spent by the Musgrave campaign.”
Musgrave’s campaign did not send out its customary press release as they have in previous cycles explaining their numbers and didn’t respond to interview requests.
The Q2 totals don’t include independent expenditures from outside groups, which have historically have been a factor in 4th Congressional District elections.
The environmental group Defenders of Wildlife has already spent $230,000 for a negative advertising blitz against Musgrave and has promised to kick in another $270,000 by November.
There have also been rumblings that Tim Gill and Pat Stryker, two deep-pocket Democrats who have gone after Musgrave in previous cycles for her strong and public stances against gay marriage could potentially dump millions into the race against Musgrave through organized 527 efforts and advertising blitzes.
Pointing to the 408 Colorado donors who gave more than $200 compared to 71 out-of-state donors, Markey said she is feeling positive about her chances in November. Musgrave reported 309 Colorado donors giving more than $200 with 336 out-of-state donors who did.
“I think it’s huge we have so much in-state support,” Markey said. “In the end, regardless of the funds you have in the bank, it’s the votes that you get that matter the most. It’s huge that we have this support and it’s critically important that it’s coming from within the district because it will transfer into votes.”
In addition to being positive for Markey, the 4th Congressional District numbers could be symbolic of a statewide trend of Colorado leaning toward Democrats, Saunders said.
“If Musgrave’s (numbers) continue to go down and she fails to win or activate partisans in the district, that can have the knock-on effect of reducing McCain’s chances in this state come November as well,” Saunders said. “I think of the 4th district as the ‘purple’ district in Colorado and if it goes for the Democrats, then the state is more likely to go for the Dems. Just like if the purple states go one way or another, so goes the presidential election.”