In 2008, in heavy turnout, Obama won this state with close to 54% of the vote by about 213,000 votes. This is one state that Obama flipped to the Democratic side that year. Compared to the 2004 results, where the margin of victor came from, Obama managed to win 5 counties that Kerry failed to carry in 2004. Two of them- Ouray and Huerfano- are small rural counties. But, Obama won three large population counties which accounted for 91,000 of those 213,000 votes. Considering that Bush only won the state by about 100,000 votes in 2004, one can see that these three counties were the key to success. They are Arapahoe county centered around Aurora, Jefferson county which is the western suburbs of Denver, and Larimer county centered around Fort Collins. Obviously, Obama will have to recreate that coalition in 2012 in order to prevail.
Unfortunately for Obama, however, polling does not look good despite Colorado’s recent drift slightly leftward. Since the first debate, Romney’s momentum has been steady. In fact, it has been so steady that given their past voting behavior and the momentum, I would predict a Romney victory here by a couple of percentage points, 51-49%. At this point, the nine electoral votes from Colorado go to Romney.
With no Senate race this year, interest will be on the House races. They neither gained nor lost any seats as a result of the census although some congressional district boundaries were changed as a result of population shifts within the state. The current delegation favors the GOP, 4-3. Only two races are of any interest- the Third and the Sixth, both held by Republicans where the Democratic Party feels they have a chance of winning.
In the 3rd District, Republican incumbent Scott Tipton faces a challenge from Sal Pace. Neither candidate endured a competitive primary and ran unopposed, although turnout was higher for the Republican side by about 15,000 people- a good sign for Tipton. He originally challenged John Salazar in 2006 in a campaign that focused on expanding oil and gas drilling which is a major job sector on Colorado’s western slope. He lost that election with only 37% of the vote. He then won election to the state house in 2008 before deciding in 2010 to take on Salazar again. This time tapping the theme of running against an expansive federal government and against Obamacare, he defeated Salazar in a minor upset. In his first term, he has been an advocate for relaxing regulations, especially in the energy sector. Along the way, he wrote a letter of apology to the House Ethics Committee due to use of his name to drum up business for his daughter’s employer. He will face Sal Pace who is a state legislator. When Democrats were in the minority in the state house, he rose to the leadership position before resigning that role to run for Congress full time. What makes this race interesting is that Pace has proven to be a very good fundraiser against a notorious weak fundraiser in Tipton. Still, Tipton is ahead of Pace by about $500,000. And in 2010, Salazar outperformed Tipton by over $700,000 yet Tipton still won. In short, Democratic hopes are based on two factors. First, they are equating fundraising ability with electoral success. Second, since redistricting did not significantly change the district, the proportion of Democrats to Republicans to independents remains unchanged and about equal. Since this is a very rural section of Colorado reliant on agriculture and energy and Tipton has focused on those issues in Congress, he will likely replicate his performance of 2010 and win somewhere in the neighborhood of 52% of the vote, an actual improvement upon his 2010 performance against a stronger Democratic opponent than Sal Pace.
The other district is the 6th in central Colorado encompassing the southern suburbs of Denver. Prior to redistricting, the Cook political report had this district +8 Republican. After redistricting, it is rated as even. As in the third, neither candidate faced any competition in their primaries. However, Republican turnout was higher by about 13,000 voters which is good news for the Republican incumbent, Mike Coffman. He was first elected in 2008- a bright spot in Colorado for the GOP in an otherwise dismal year. The state lost a Republican Senator and they voted for a Democrat for President- Obama- for the first time since 1992. In 2010, Coffman cruised to victory with 66% of the vote in what was then one of the most Republican districts in the state. After redistricting, the party breakdown is now practically even. Earlier this year, Coffman was caught on tape questioning Obama’s American citizenship. He later apologized for the comments.
His Democratic opponent will be Joe Miklosi who worked for years behind the scenes before being elected to the state house in 2008 and reelected in 2010. While Denver lost a seat in the state house, Miklosi decided not to run in 2012 for state office, but also did not want to run against Denver’s US representative, Democrat Diana DeGette. Instead, he opted for the southern suburban Sixth District. In 2010, the district was over 40% Republican, but after redistricting, that figure now stands at about 32%. Additionally, it takes in part of Aurora and significantly more Latino voters than the old Sixth. Miklosi is portraying Coffman as a far right extremist unfit to represent the now more urban and diverse configuration of the district. In terms of Coffman’s voting record over two terms in Congress, however, he is more centrist. Unlike Tipton in the Third, Coffman has proven to be much more effective in fundraising. Still, Democratic PACs are investing in this race at a greater pace than Republican PACs. In what should be a close race dependent on turnout, look for Coffman to withstand this challenge and be reelected.
There are three questions on the Colorado ballot this November. The first addresses state personnel practices. Specifically, it would require tests for job applicants wherever feasible and place restrictions on the number of finalists. It would require state residency and limit the hiring of temporary workers.
The second question asks whether marijuana should be legalized for recreational use. Although they have allowed the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes for some years now, proponents are pushing for the recreational use and then controlling and taxing its sale. Like all alleged revenue generating panaceas offered, often the reality does not match the projections. And again, until the federal law is changed, or states receive reassurances from Eric Holder’s Justice Department that their state laws regarding marijuana will be respected, these initiatives may be easier to approve than to actually implement.
The final question would attempt to minimize the amounts of contributions corporations could make to state and federal office campaigns. It would codify the belief that the state disagrees with the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United case and then direct the state’s federal representation in Congress to support efforts to overturn that ruling. Folks- this will be approved and this initiative will be struck down by the Supreme Court almost as soon as the first lawsuit hits the courts. Why waste the time?
In conclusion: Romney will win this state’s 9 electoral votes in a close race. The current House delegation favors the GOP 4-3 and should remain so after Election Day.
Running totals thus far: Obama leads the electoral vote count 243-214. Republicans still lead in the Senate 47-43 and in the House 191-173 and thus 27 seats short of maintaining control for another two years.
Next: North Carolina