As Colorado goes, so goes the nation? Probably.
Colorado has only missed voting for the winner of the presidential election once — Bob Dole — since 1980. President Barack Obama won the state by a 53.7 percent to 44.7 percent margin in 2008.
This wasn’t a surprise. Democrats have made considerable state-wide gains in Colorado over the past few years, both in their ground game/get-out-the vote infrastructure. Both Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, and Gov. John Hickenlooper, are Democrats, after all. And what was perhaps Obama’s most memorable moment came in Denver when a political acceptance speech degenerated into a cult-of-personality rally at the Democratic National Convention.
Yet, as of today, the latest RealClearPolitics average has Obama up only +0.6, or a virtual tie in the state.
According to a new CNN poll, Obama has an almost 30-point lead in the liberal urban areas of Denver and Boulder–but elsewhere it’s an entirely different story. The battle for Colorado is always fought in the suburbs, mostly in Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, and the fight is often over the affections of unaffiliated suburban women voters. Nearly the entire focus of Bennet’s 2008 contemptible campaign for the senate was focused on portraying Tea Party (-ish) opponent Republican Ken Buck as a misogynistic, anti-abortion fanatic who was comfortable with rape. So, Obama’s ads are nothing new.
But Colorado is quirky.
As Dick Wadams – a fixture in Republican Colorado (and national) politics – tells me, don’t be surprised by anything. “Colorado’s been competitive for 40 years. When the Democratic National Convention came to town, the media talked up this myth that Republicans had somehow ruled the state with an iron grip and that finally Democrats were going to be competitive in the state. In reality, we had 24 years of straight of Democratic governors. A majority of years we had Democratic Senators. The state has always been competitive.”
Colorado is filled with independents who don’t always fall into the traditional left/right camps. Moreover, much of recent Republican struggles have been self inflicted. Even before the Tea Party emerged as a force in the state, there was a falling out between fiscal conservatives and Republican “elites” (for lack of a better word), who favored gutting the state’s superb Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Lingering resentment led to a series of fiascoes, most notably the nomination of Dan Maes for governor. It seems, to some extent, those fractures have healed .
“In many ways we’re like the rest of nation,” Wadams says, “after the first debate, slowly but surely Romney moved up in the polls. I give the edge to Romney because of two things: First, as of yesterday, Republicans had a 38,000 edge in early and absentee voting — and that’s a number that’s been steadily increasing margin for Republicans. Four years ago Democrats did much better in absentees. Second, Republicans have an energized base.”
One the first point, here’s the Denver Post report:
In turnout results from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office updated through Thursday voting, Republicans are outpacing Democrats in voting early this year, by about 38,000 votes. Unaffiliated voters make up about a quarter of the early votes cast…
The poll of 695 likely voters was conducted by New Jersey-based Survey USA on Sunday and Wednesday and it reached voters via both land lines and cellphones. The survey sample was 34 percent Republican, 35 percent Democrat and 27 percent unaffiliated — based on how people identified themselves to the pollster.
If this holds, it would mean that independents are breaking hard for Romney.
On the second point: In 2008, the Republican Party had been exhausted of all energy. McCain was an unpopular candidate, obviously, who didn’t appeal to any faction of the GOP base. Few people I spoke to off the record then (as a columnist at the Denver Post) had any enthusiasm for the task at hand. Yet, in 2010, people were being turned away at a huge rally at Red Rocks Amphitheater and everyone you talk within GOP circles seems legitimately positive about next week. Are they fooling themselves? We’ll know soon enough.