Colorado seen as contentious pillar for either presidential campaign |

Colorado seen as contentious pillar for either presidential campaign

'B' is for battleground

Collin Smith

Ron Danner, chair of the Moffat County Republican Central Committee, has no doubt Colorado is a wide-open state for either presidential candidate.

Moffat County, on the other hand, is not as divided, he said.

“No, we’re not,” Danner said. “We’re Republican. The voter registration certainly reflects that.”

There are 6,716 active voters registered for the Nov. 4 general election, including 3,619 Republicans, 1,133 Democrats and 1,940 independents.

Danner added he would be “very surprised” if the county’s large unaffiliated voter bloc leaned so heavily to the left that a majority within the county supported a Democrat for president.

“In my recent memory, it hasn’t,” he said.

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Officials with Moffat County Democrats did not return phone messages by press time Friday.

Republicans have somewhat dominated presidential elections statewide during the past 108 years. Of the 26 elections between 1900 and 2004, Colorado elected six Democrats in eight elections, including Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt twice.

President Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to win Colorado’s electorate in 1992, although George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot split 59 percent of the vote.

Before that, the last Democrat to win Colorado was Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater in 1964. The state supported Richard Nixon against John F. Kennedy in 1960 and voted against FDR for his last two terms in 1940 and 1944.

However, Colorado voter rolls show more parity between registered Republicans and Democrats now than ever in recent memory, said John Straayer, professor of political science at Colorado State University. As well, Colorado has not shown conservatives the same support in some statewide races, Straayer said, such as the governorship, which was Democrat-dominated from 1974 to 1998, and again now. Take it all together, he said, and Colorado is decidedly undecided.

“If you look at the historical picture, you get a state that tilts somewhat in the conservative side, but not overwhelmingly, and with a big chunk of unaffiliated votes,” Straayer said. “One-third of the electorate is unaffiliated. That probably explains why you get some Democrats and some Republicans.”

Spokesmen for the two presidential campaigns said they see the state’s swing-voter status plainly.

“This could be the state that determined the next president of the United States,” said Matt Chandler, Colorado press secretary for Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign.

“No longer are traditional red states Republican and traditional blue states Democrat,” Chandler said. “No territory will be ceded in Colorado for Democrats.”

Tom Kise, regional communications director for Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid, agreed with Chandler’s assessment of Colorado.

“It has changing demographics,” he said. “If you look at 2000, 2004 and 2008, it has been trending from a hard-red state, to a light-red state, to a truly purple state.”

However, Kise said Colorado is “not at all” a guaranteed nine electoral votes for Obama.

“At the end of the day, it’s still a center-right state,” he said. “That is drastically different than Barack Obama, who is a far-left candidate.”

Both spokesmen highlighted the economy as an area where their candidates will appeal especially well to Colorado voters.

Chandler said those in the middle-class who are looking for a champion in national politics will find that champion with Obama, whereas Kise said McCain would appeal to residents who want a candidate they can trust to not raise their taxes.

The state’s independent streak runs fairly deep, at least deep enough to affect Danner, the top officer for the local Republican Party chapter. He said some state candidates are strong enough, and have supported their constituents so consistently, he would vote for them if they were Democratic.

“Certainly my bias is Republican,” he said. “It’s those candidates that usually hold my same beliefs, but, if there was a person who felt the same way about things and acted on those things, it wouldn’t make much of a difference, I suppose.”