Another Republican stronghold leaning Democratic

The trend of traditionally Republican districts in Colorado leaning left appears to be gaining momentum.

While the Democratic National Convention continues to steal headlines this week in Denver, important but quiet developments in Colorado’s traditionally Republican 4th Congressional District are afoot.

On Monday the National Republican Congressional Committee reserved a $1 million ad buy in the 4th CD, where three-term incumbent Republican Rep. Marilyn Musgrave is in a close re-election battle with Democratic challenger Betsy Markey.

The NRCC has struggled to raise money in 2008, reporting only $14.1 million cash on hand at the end of July, compared to $56.5 million reported by the Democratic Congressional Committee. The ad buy illustrates how vulnerable the Republicans view Musgrave, who inched her way to re-election in 2006 by less than a 3-percent margin.

Like many races in Colorado, polling numbers have kept the gap between Musgrave and Markey close. A new Roll Call poll released Tuesday shows Markey leading Musgrave 50 percent to 43 percent in the 4th CD, which encompasses Colorado’s eastern plains and northern front range.

Also troubling for Musgrave though is the 51 percent of respondents who said they have an unfavorable opinion of her, compared to 31 percent favorable. A public champion of anti-gay rights, Musgrave has battled the likability issue since 2006, when voters and media criticized her for being out of touch with constituents and largely out of view.

Taking her campaign on the road during the last 18 months to mend fences, Musgrave walked Main Street in many small communities, held a number of public events and worked to promote a fresh, bipartisan image. The efforts have largely been unsuccessful, as her polling numbers, especially surrounding the question of likability, haven’t changed.

Democrats, smelling blood in the water, are getting ready to pounce.

The DCCC recently reserved $667,000 in ad time, an indication Democratic leadership sees the race as a possible pickup, although it should be noted the group made a similar reservation in 2004 and 2006 but never spent the money.

The trouble for Republicans in the 4th CD doesn’t stop with Musgrave.

The Roll Call survey also found the race between Barack Obama and John McCain a statistical tie, with McCain polling 48 percent to Obama’s 46 percent. Those numbers are shocking in light of the fact that Republicans overwhelmingly won the 4th as recently as 2002 with over 60 percent of the vote.

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