Battling for Undecided Voters in Denver's Suburbs

Colorado's 7th Congressional District includes the more affluent neighborhoods surrounding Denver i i

Colorado's 7th Congressional District includes the more affluent neighborhoods surrounding Denver, and the relatively large numbers of undecided voters make it difficult to predict whether Democrats or the GOP will win in November. NationalAtlas.gov hide caption

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Colorado's 7th Congressional District includes the more affluent neighborhoods surrounding Denver

Colorado's 7th Congressional District includes the more affluent neighborhoods surrounding Denver, and the relatively large numbers of undecided voters make it difficult to predict whether Democrats or the GOP will win in November.

NationalAtlas.gov

Colorado's 7th District

• The 7th Congressional District is a new district, created after the 2000 Census confirmed the rapid and extensive growth of Denver's suburbs.

• Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO) was the first politician elected to represent the 7th District in 2002, and easily won re-election in 2004.

• Beauprez' Democratic opponent, Ed Perlmutter, is a former state senator from a mostly Republican district, and was the state co-chair of Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Source: Associated Press, League of Women Voters

The stakes are high this fall in the race for Colorado's 7th Congressional District, which represents many upscale neighborhoods north of Denver.

The Republican incumbent, Rep. Bob Beauprez, is giving up his seat after two terms to run for governor. Democrats see the 7th as an important opportunity in a nationwide effort to regain control of the House.

The numbers of registered Republicans and registered Democrats are about even in the district, but about one-third of voters call themselves independent. That large group of unaffiliated voters may hold the key to victory for the two candidates, Democrat Ed Perlmutter and Republican Rick O'Donnell.

Perlmutter is stumping on traditional Democratic issues, such as increased education spending. But the voters he meets seem to be more interested in the escalating violence in Iraq.

Voter discontent over U.S. strategy in Iraq is prompting both candidates to call for change in the nation's capital — Perlmutter for a change of parties in power, O'Donnell for a change in generations.

O'Donnell is 36. He's hoping to use his relative youth to his advantage against his 53-year-old rival.

Both are critical of the handling of the situation in Iraq, and both have called on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign. But at a recent candidate forum, they disagreed on two big issues: setting a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces — and whether more troops are needed in the meantime to establish control.

O'Donnell is open to sending more soldiers to Iraq, but not to setting a date for withdrawal. Perlmutter says deadlines are crucial to getting Iraqis to take control of their own country.

The war is a difficult issue for Republican candidates nationwide, and O'Donnell prefers to focus on red-meat issues such as immigration and tax policy. Even so, Perlmutter's advocacy for a deadline on Iraq is seen as a bit of a political gamble in a district where President Bush's "cut-and-run" critique has some resonance.

Voters in the 7th Congressional District are notoriously hard to predict. In 2004, the majority voted for Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, but overwhelmingly selected an incumbent Republican for Congress. Political observers say the only thing predictable is that the race will be close.

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