Screws turn tighter on Democrat Yadira Caraveo in Colorados closest U.S. House contest

Some national election watchers are nudging one of the country’s tightest congressional races — Colorado’s 8th — deeper into Republican territory with less than a week to go until Tuesday’s election, but Democratic candidate and state Rep. Yadira Caraveo is looking at the race through a local prism and feeling good about her chances.

Caraveo campaign manager Elana Schrager said the fact that the 8th Congressional District is brand new means that the modeling the prognosticators are using is “relying heavily on the national environment to predict the outcome of this race” as opposed to a more granular and historic look at the district, which stretches from Commerce City to Greeley.

“The pitfall there is that, while national headwinds are blowing against Democrats, we’re not seeing the same trend in Colorado with the strength of statewide candidates like (Gov. Jared) Polis and (U.S. Sen. Michael) Bennet,” Schrager said Friday.

National ranking sites — like Roll Call, Politico and the University of Virginia’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball — have all issued updated rankings in recent days that give more of an edge to Caraveo’s Republican opponent Barbara Kirkmeyer. Others, like the Cook Political Report and Bloomberg Government, have the race closer but still in Kirkmeyer’s column — at “Republican toss-up.”

FiveThirtyEight gives Kirkmeyer, a state senator representing portions of Broomfield, Weld and Larimer counties, the strongest prospects. The site has the Republican “favored” to win on Tuesday.

Kirkmeyer’s campaign is “taking nothing for granted,” spokesman Alan Philp said Friday, noting that “polling and prognostications fluctuate.”

“Barb is focused on the issues that are top-of-mind for voters: inflation, jobs, and the economy,” Philp said. “On these economic concerns, the choice couldn’t be clearer. Barb has a record of rewarding work and defending working families. Yadira Caraveo has a record and a platform that punishes work and abandons Colorado’s working families.”

Meanwhile, Caraveo’s campaign points to two polls showing the state representative from Adams County within the margin of error in a head-to-head contest with Kirkmeyer. The polls, in which Kirkmeyer holds a 2% edge, were conducted by Global Strategy Group, a Democratic consulting firm, in July and August and again in October.

FiveThirtyEight gives Global Strategy Group a B/C rating.

“Our latest polling confirms what our campaign has been saying for weeks now: Yadira has the winning momentum as we head into election day,” Schrager said. “Despite massive outside spending to prop up extremist Barb Kirkmeyer’s campaign, voters see right through it.”

Caraveo’s campaign said Kirkmeyer is getting “desperate,” pointing to a campaign ad the Republican recently launched in which she erroneously claims that her Democratic opponent “legalized fentanyl.”

Caraveo in 2019 supported a bill in the legislature that reduced the criminal charge from a felony to a misdemeanor for possession of small amounts of fentanyl, a deadly opioid that killed more than 900 Coloradans last year. But the drug was never legalized — a misdemeanor is still a crime.

“It’s a sad sign of these political times that Barb Kirkmeyer is blatantly lying about this crucial issue in the community – though it’s no surprise, as she has long played politics with Coloradans’ lives instead of doing the tough work to help people struggling with addiction,” Schrager said.

Philp dismissed the charge of lying.

“It’s effectively legalized,” he told The Denver Post. “Dealers after passage of the 2019 law get what’s basically a ticket, are processed and are back out and dealing within hours. If folks want to parse words, that’s fine. But the practical effect of the 2019 law is dealers can operate with impunity.”

The shifting rankings of the 8th Congressional District race reflect the considerable challenges Democratic candidates face nationwide, as recent polls have shown crime, inflation and the state of the economy as top voter concerns.

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs political science professor Sara Hagedorn said she doesn’t see the situation moving in Caraveo’s direction by Tuesday. She sees the race as “leans Republican.”

“The issues are all working against her, as is just the nature of midterm elections,” she said of Caraveo’s hill to climb. “The party in power (the president’s party) traditionally loses seats in Congress in a midterm year… That will not change this year, and CD8 will not be an outlier on that trend.”

Though Caraveo holds a substantial lead in fundraising over Kirkmeyer — $2.7 million to $1.1 million as of Sept. 30 — Hagedorn said that won’t be enough for the Democrat.

“Money helps people win elections, sure, but it does not change national voter trends,” the professor said. “That much money being spent on an election will not stop inflation or improve economic conditions.”

Caraveo’s best card to play at this point, Hagedorn said, is to hope “exponentially more Democrats turn in their ballots by Tuesday.”

The 8th Congressional District has 12,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans but the race will more than likely be decided by the district’s 190,000 unaffiliated voters.

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