Nonpartisan Cook Political Report made a number of adjustments to their congressional race rankings today, including one that locals should note carefully–Colorado CD-3, held by GOP incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton, is no longer considered solidly Republican:
CO-03: Scott Tipton (R) – Western Slope: Grand Junction, Pueblo
Likely Republican. This Western Slope district is increasingly fractured between conservative ranch country and liberal ski resort towns, which makes it difficult to traverse politically. Democrats’ ideal candidate here would be a Blue Dog who could appeal to ranchers and Hispanic voters in Pueblo. But since Tipton ousted moderate Rep. John Salazar in 2010, Democrats have had a hard time broadening their base.
State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a social policy professor from wealthy Steamboat Springs who grew up in Minnesota, won the June 26 Democratic primary with 64 percent. She emphasizes her ranch conservation efforts, but may have a hard breaking out of the liberal stereotype. Still, Tipton didn’t crack 55 percent in 2016 (President Trump took 52 percent here), and it’s worth watching in a wave.
It’s an overall accurate view of the state of play in this district. Affluent liberal resort towns compete with large areas of conservative hinterland, with the cities of Pueblo and Grand Junction offsetting each other to create a politically complex environment for both parties. Tipton has held on to this district since 2010 by margins that Democrats remain convinced are not representative of the electorate as a whole, and the expected midterm backlash against Trump in 2018 gives Democrats their best shot since John Salazar held the seat.
With that said, a move from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican” isn’t going to make Republicans throw Tipton to the wolves–at least not yet. If in the fall Tipton is in real danger of losing, it will mean that the overall climate for Republicans in the midterms has deteriorated even from where it stands today. It’s a safe prediction that if Tipton loses, Republicans have already lost the House in closer races elsewhere.
This race, like much of the country this year, is moving in the direction Democrats want it to be moving in. Time will tell whether it can get to the elusive 50%+1 needed to actually send Scott Tipton into retirement.