In this week’s issue of The Economist, Colorado was examined as one in a series that The Economist has been doing on the so called “Battle Ground States.” The article is only available online for a fee, so I will paraphrase it here.
Colorado should be a solid Bush state. The Governor, Bill Owens, one of the most conservative Governors in the nation, won reelection 62%-32% in 2002. Both houses of the State Legislature are controlled by the GOP and the Republicans have increased their registration margin over Democrats from 102,000 in 1996 to 181,000 today.
No Democrat has won the state’s electoral votes since 1964, save Bill Clinton who won in 2000 when Ross Perot took 23% of the vote. But recent polls show the state in a dead heat between President Bush and Senator John Kerry.
“There is a lot of talk in Kerry circles about “battleground clusters”. The argument is that Mr. Bush is not as strong in the west as you might think -- he narrowly lost New Mexico in 2000-- and that the Western Cluster (Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado) may be easier pickings than some more familiar swing states.”
Also the Republicans have three problems in Colorado. First is the economic slowdown, Walmart is now Colorado’s biggest employer, not Qwest. Secondly, the state's population is extremely fluid, the immigration of social conservatives in the 1990s has given way to a influx of Latinos, who now make up 18% of the population. The third problem is that Republicans in Colorado are CONSERVATIVE, not moderate.
Now I disagree with much of the analysis in the article, the unemployment rate in Colorado is 5.1%, economists generally agree that 5% is the natural rate of unemployment, no problem there. Demographics do seem to be moving against the GOP, but then again, the registration margin has remained at well over 100,000 for basically a decade. Lastly, our state GOP is deeply divided between social conservatives and fiscal conservatives. However, unlike in the past, I believe that the party has learned a lesson from its defeats in the senate elections in 2000. Look at the lack of GOP primaries in the close State Senate districts and the selection of Coors as the party's Senate candidate.
Speaking of Pete Coors, the Economist also has an article on him. Coors weaker than he looks. They see Coors as a weak candidate, clearly making Salazar the favorite for the race. Perhaps poetically (or ironically) they have a link to a October 24th 2002 article on the Allard vs. Strickland Senate race. Could 2004 be a repeat of 2002 and 1996, races that were predicted to be close, but turned out to be surprisingly easy GOP victories? Stay tuned political junkies, this race is just starting to get hot.
Cross posted at Polstate .