Share This Page

GOP rising in new bellwether state

| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Getty Images
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 04: Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves during the regional Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on October 4, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. One day after the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney spoke to the CPAC before heading to Virginia to campaign with his running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

LAIRD, Colo.

This small Great Plains town is the terminus of a journey across the Rocky Mountain State on U.S. 34, greeting travelers from Nebraska and bidding farewell to Coloradoans.

On either side of the highway stand two slightly oversized “Romney for President” signs.

In the distance, in a town boasting 47 people, a stone octagonal house sits forlornly, its former glory faded by neglect and the elements.

This highway and U.S. 36, passing through Jefferson and Arapahoe counties, give way to a state not at all like the one often envisioned, politically or economically, from afar.

The 479 miles of rural, suburban and patches of urban Colorado reveal many Democrats with an interesting lack of enthusiasm for President Barack Obama, despite all of the built-in support and demographic advantages at his fingertips.

Only one homemade sign for his re-election was seen along either well-traveled highway.

Exactly 270 electoral votes are needed to win the presidency. And that win may well come down to Colorado — specifically, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties.

Both are at the center of the 7th Congressional District race between incumbent Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat, and challenger Joe Coors, a Republican.

If businessman Coors has a good night on Nov. 6, so will Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, likely not only in Colorado but nationwide.

Colorado is looking like a state that is the national average, perhaps a tick or two rightward, according to Sean Trende, a savvy number-cruncher and Princeton-trained political scientist for the website RealClearPolitics.

“So if Romney is winning Colorado, it probably means he is headed for a decent night,” Trende said of the relatively new electoral trend of a Western state signaling a presidential win.

If Romney wins here comfortably, that probably means a national win on the scale of George Bush in 2004, or even Obama in 2008, Trende said.

Right now, he said, Colorado's numbers look pretty good for Romney: “We have him up a half-point in the RCP Average, with the president down to about 47 percent of the vote. That's not a great position for the president to be in.”

The Democrats' traditional map in Colorado looks like a “C,” Trende explained, “starting with ‘Old Mexico' in the south, swinging through the ski areas in the west, and then coming into Boulder, Denver and the suburbs.

“The latter are the key battleground in the state. If Romney runs well in Jefferson and Arapahoe counties, it is over. If Coors is running strong against Perlmutter, the state won't be close.”

The House race at the center of the presidential election has Coors up 45-36, with 55 percent of the district favoring repeal of ObamaCare.

Still, Coors is being hit with ads by Perlmutter, by the Democrats' House Majority PAC and by AFSCME, the government-workers union.

Colorado is the face of the new West and a new political power. Known for its picturesque mountains and ski resorts, it also is home to enormous energy resources — gas, oil, coal — as well as to aerospace-manufacturing and health-care businesses.

Jobs associated with the oil and gas boom are natural votes for Romney. And, although he lags behind with Colorado's many Hispanic voters, interviews with young people across the state showed strong support for him.

Interview after interview here also revealed that Obama's problem among Colorado Democrats who voted for him in 2008 is enthusiasm: About one-third will “probably still vote for him” (a line heard over and over), one-third will go for Romney and the final third will just stay home.

U.S. 34 begins hundreds of miles west of here and, for part of its way, has Rocky Mountain National Park as a stunning backdrop — making it the highest paved highway in the country. It peaks at an elevation of 12,183 feet, so high up that snow keeps it closed in the park for much of the year; long wooden poles line its switchbacks, so summer road crews know where to go for the annual snow-clearing.

All along its twisting route — as on Colorado's other rural byways, in its neighborhoods and Main Street shop windows, and even adorning some pretty beat-up cars — you see plenty of Romney-Ryan campaign signs.

Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (412-320-7879 or szito@tribweb.com).

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.