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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Rockies Bellwether Turning Purple

by EDM Staff
The Christian Science Monitor’s Josh Burek has a spirit-lifter for Dems seeking inroads in the Mountain West. In “Once-Republican Rockies Now A Battleground,” Burek argues that swing state Colorado is trending purple:

The state’s transformation from Rocky Mountain redoubt for conservative values to a proving ground for progressive policies is yielding more competitive elections here – and offering Democrats across the country a model for resurgence.

Burek quotes Denver-based pollster Floyd Ciruli: “We’re probably the No. 1 battleground in the country.” Democrats, Ciruli says, “are anxious to replicate what’s going on out here.”
Burek cites a “flurry of victories” for Dems in Colorado:

In 2004, despite a major voter- registration advantage for Republicans, and the popularity of President Bush, voters added two Democrats – brothers John and Ken Salazar – to its congressional delegation. That same fall, voters famous, or infamous, for parsimony approved $4.7 billion in transit funding, siding with Denver’s Democratic mayor instead of the state’s Republican governor. Democrats have been piling on victories ever since…And this fall, Democrats have strong prospects to win back the governor’s chair.

One key reason for the political tilt to the Dems is a large influx of independent voters, who refuse to jerk their knees in support of every ill-considered GOP policy. About one-third of the Colorado electorate is new since 1992, according to Burek. As Mark Cavanaugh, a policy analyst for the centrist Bighorn Center explains in the article, “The state is full of informed, unaffiliated voters…not driven by bumper-sticker-like messages.”
Burek believes Colorado is not alone in the Mountain West, and offers Dems a hopeful prognosis:

It’s a tipping point that spans the Continental Divide. In 1999, every state in the region – Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona – had a Republican governor. By the end of 2006, only Utah and Idaho may have one.

If he’s right, Colorado and a couple of other states in the region could be seriously blue by ’08.