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Contemplating Life After Tancredo

While my colleague Brad Plumer is right to warn us about dwindling snowpack in the Rocky Mountains, we should be more hesitant to predict thawing Republican control over Colorado's sixth congressional district, despite today's news that lovable demagogue Tom Tancredo will not run again in 2008.

The reason? Well, for starters, CD6--cultural home of filmmaker Matt Stone, myself, and the suburban militarists featured in Bowling for Columbine--is around 24% Democratic and 46% Republican. While those are difficult numbers to start off with, it is theoretically possible for a Democrat to win by picking up enough independents. When I worked on the opposing Bill Winter campaign in '06, we managed to muster enough independents to lose by 40% to Tancredo's 60%--better, at least, than the Rockies' miserable performance versus the Red Sox. Take away the power of incumbency, the theory goes, and you have a competitive seat.

From what I hear on the ground, however, there's a complication. Hatred of Tom Tancredo has always been the force that motivates Democrats in CD6; and it's arguably Tancredo's unique personality--his tendency to advocate bombing Mecca, for example, or crusade for the deportation of a Mexican child named Jesus during the holidays--that drives so many independents to vote for his opponents. Local Democrats are worried that, if the Republicans nominate someone who's only as conservative as George Bush--like State Senator Tom Wiens or Secretary of State Mike Coffman--they might lose their tenuous traction among independents.

What's more, the Democrats' bench in Colorado is shallow enough that Steven Ludwig--a political ing