Analyzing Swing States: Colorado, Part 4

This is the fourth part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Colorado. It will focus on the complex territory that constitutes the Democratic base in Colorado. The last part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Democratic Colorado

In American politics, the Democratic base is almost always more complex than the Republican base, a fact which is largely due to complex historical factors. Democrats wield a large and heterogeneous coalition – one which often splinters based on one difference or another. The Republican base is more cohesive.

The same is true for Colorado. Republican Colorado generally consists of rural white Colorado and parts of suburban white Colorado. Democratic Colorado is more difficult to characterize.

A look into President Barack Obama’s strongest counties provides some insight:

Link to Image of Obama's Strongest Counties in Colorado, 2008 Presidential Election

The Republican counties pictured here are fairly similar: they are thinly populated, homogeneously white rural counties. The Democratic counties, on the other hand, are quite different. There are four facets to Colorado’s Democratic base, and each facet is represented in the picture above.

Denver and Boulder

As the post focusing on the Republican base explained, the red-colored counties above constituted 1.2% of the total vote in 2008. A Republican who wins Colorado will win these places, but they are not necessary to win the state.

The same is not true for a Democrat who wins Colorado. The blue-colored counties – or, more specifically, Denver and Boulder – are absolutely essential for a Democratic candidate to win Colorado.

The map below illustrates this fact:

Link to Image of Colorado Margins, 2008 Presidential Election

As is evident by the map, Denver County and Boulder County are the two foundations of the Democratic base in Colorado. Mr. Obama gained a margin of 221,570 votes from the two counties. Without the cities of Boulder and Denver, Mr. Obama would have lost Colorado – by around 6,500 votes.

Cities are the mainstay of the Democratic Party in modern-day America, and so it is unsurprising that the Democratic base in Colorado rests upon two cities. Yet not all Democratic cities are alike. Boulder and Denver represent two dramatically different types of cities, both of which vote Democratic.

Boulder is a stronghold of Democratic liberalism; in 2000 it gave Green Party candidate Ralph Nader 11.8% of its vote. Like most liberal places in America (San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, the state of Massachusetts) the median resident of Boulder is richer than the median resident of the United States. Boulder is also more homogeneous than the United States; whites compose something like four out of five people in Boulder County. In this, Boulder is also not much different from most liberal places either.

Denver, in contrast, has more in common with machine-cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit. Like these cities, Denver is poorer than the United States. Another commonality is the high number of minorities: Hispanics are more than one-third the total population, non-Hispanic whites less than half. Places like San Francisco and Seattle are more Democratic than liberal; places like Denver are the opposite. On the other hand, in 2000 Mr. Nader also got 5.86% of Denver’s vote – indicating the presence of a substantial liberal bloc.

Electorally, however, these differences do not matter. Both Denver and Boulder vote consistently and powerfully Democratic, and will continue doing so in the foreseeable future.

Rural Democratic Colorado

Colorado and Denver, however, constituted only two of the five blue-colored counties in the first map. The other three are rural, thinly populated, and highly Democratic areas. This may sound strange at first, given the extent of Democratic weakness in rural America. Yet the Democratic parts of rural Colorado have either one of two characteristics.

The first characteristic is indicated by the picture below:

Link to Image of Colorado Hispanics, 2000 Census

This map uses 2000 Census data to provide a picture of Colorado’s Hispanic population. In 2000 Latinos constituted 17.1% of Colorado; today their numbers have risen to 19.9% of the state population.

Latinos tend to be concentrated in two places: Denver and the areas to its northeast, and a broad band stretching from south-central to south-east Colorado. The latter areas tend to be rural, thinly populated, and the poorest places in Colorado. Due to the high numbers of Latinos, most of these counties usually vote Democratic.

But not all of them. Latinos are not as reliably Democratic as blacks, and they also turn-out in lower numbers. Thus counties with high Latino population correlate with but do not ensure Democratic victory. In 2008, Senator John McCain won seven of the eighteen counties with greater than 20% Latino population. In 2000 Governor George W. Bush actually won Conejos County, where about 58.9% of the population is Latino. Out of the rural counties above, Democrats are only guaranteed victory in the south-central band.

Ski resorts function as another characteristic of rural Democratic Colorado:

Link to Map of Colorado Ski Resorts

For whatever reason, rural counties dominated by ski resorts vote strongly Democratic. These counties are largely located along Colorado’s Front Range. In two of them Mr. Obama won over 70% of the vote: Pitkin County and San Miguel County. Both are home to famous ski resorts: Aspen Mountain in the former and Telluride Ski Resort in the latter.

Ski resort counties are strange places for Democrats to do well in. They are the opposite of the poor Latino counties which also vote Democratic. The people who live in them are generally quite rich, quite famous, and quite white. Rich, 90% non-Hispanic white San Miguel County does not sound at first glance like a Democratic stronghold. Yet when described this way, San Miguel County looks a lot like another Democratic place: Massachusetts.

Conclusion

The counties that form the Democratic base form the shape of a “C.” A strong Democratic candidate will expand and fatten the “C.” A strong Republican candidate will cut into the “C” and often split it in two.

President Barack Obama’s 9.0% victory in Colorado provides one illustration of this Democratic “C”:

Link to Image of Colorado, 2008 Presidential Election

In this “C,” all four elements of the Democratic base in Colorado are present. Denver and Boulder form the top part of the “C, which is augmented by suburban Denver counties which Mr. Obama also won. The rural ski resort counties on the Front Range form the left side of the “C,” and the rural Latino counties compose the bottom part.

President George W. Bush’s 8.4% victory in 2000, on the other hand, provides an instance of a Republican breaking the Democratic “C”:

Link to Image of Colorado, 2000 Presidential Election

Mr. Bush makes inroads everywhere: both rural ski resort counties, rural Latino counties, and the Denver-Boulder metropolis are much more Republican. The Democratic “C” is just present, but barely so.

Unlike other states, therefore, it is relatively easy to tell whether the state is voting for a Democrat or Republican just by looking at a county map. A Democratic victory will look like Mr. Obama’s map. A Republican victory will look like Mr. Bush’s map. This is unlike a state such as New York or Illinois, where Democrats or Republicans can win a 5% victory under the same county map.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Analyzing Swing States: Colorado, Part 3

This is the third part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Colorado. It will focus on the swing areas in Colorado – the parts that will vote for both Democrats and Republicans. The fourth part can be found here.

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

Swing Colorado

The swing areas of Colorado lie on the edges of the Democratic base in Colorado, which forms a rough “C” shape (more on this in the next post). They can be mapped as below:

Link to Image of Swing Colorado, 1992-2008
This map incorporates five presidential elections, from 1992 to 2008. Republicans won the state three times; Democrats twice. Of the swing counties pictured here, President Bill Clinton did better in the rural swing areas, mostly in southern Colorado. President Barack Obama, on the other hand, had his strength in several highly populated, suburban swing counties.

Swing Colorado is, like the Republican base, divided into two quite different domains. The first domain is composed by the rural, “Clinton” counties. This region has much in common with the Republican parts of rural Colorado; it is generally poorer and extremely thinly populated.

The difference lies with two things: Hispanics and ski resorts. Areas of rural Colorado with high numbers of Hispanics and ski resorts vote solidly Democratic; areas with low numbers vote solidly Republican. Swing counties generally have enough Hispanics or ski resorts to be competitive for Democrats, but not enough to automatically vote Democratic.

Interestingly, the rural swing counties with ski resorts have become more Democratic over the years, while the rural swing counties with Hispanics have become less so. Mr. Obama generally did worse in rural Hispanic Colorado than Mr. Clinton. Whether because the Hispanic population is locally in decline in this thinly populated area, or because Hispanics are voting more Republican, is uncertain.

The second part of swing Colorado consists of a set of three suburban counties  surrounding the Denver metropolis. These counties used to vote solidly Republican, which was why Colorado was Republican for so long. Here is how they voted in the 2000 presidential election:

Link to Image of Swing Colorado, 2000 Presidential Election

The counties – Arapahoe County, Jefferson County, and Larimar County – are pictured by the three large red circles around Denver and Boulder. As is apparent, their importance is of a magnitude above that of the rural swing counties. Indeed, in 2008 the three counties composed 30.8% of the votes cast in Colorado. Jefferson County had more votes cast than any other county in the entire state.

Winning these suburbs, therefore, is naturally important. Until recently they generally leaned Republican. As swing areas, Republicans usually didn’t win them by landslides; they generally had a ceiling of around 65% of the vote. But they won them, and therefore they won Colorado.

It is the shift in places like these that is responsible for recent Democratic gains in Colorado. Here is how swing Colorado voted in 2008:

Link to Image of Swing Colorado, 2008 Presidential Election 

Mr. Obama won Arapahoe County, Jefferson County, and Larimer County by 12.91%, 8.91%, and 9.73% respectively. Combined, he came out with a 77,067 vote margin out of swing Colorado. This was enough to erase the Senator John McCain’s margins in his two strongest counties – El Paso (Colorado Springs) and Douglas Counties. Mr. Obama also did this out of historically Republican territory.

Demographically, the three counties above share certain similarities. For suburbs, they are actually not that rich; median household income is only slightly above the national average (Jefferson County is richest). The counties are also fairly homogeneous; approximately four out of five residents in Jefferson and Larimer County are white and non-Hispanic. Arapahoe County, on the other hand, is more diverse; non-Hispanic whites compose about 65% of the population (a mirror of the country, in fact). Unsurprisingly, Mr. Obama did best in Arapahoe County.

To be fair, Mr. Obama’s performance in Colorado’s formerly Republican-leaning suburbs probably constitutes something of a ceiling for Democrats. Mr. Obama did extremely well in exurbs like these throughout the nation, in both the primaries and the general election. The housing crisis did not hurt things, either. A different Democrat might rely less on these suburbs.

Nevertheless, the very fact that a Democrat can now win places like Larimer County is something of an achievement for the party. Indeed, almost all of swing Colorado constitutes formerly Republican-leaning territory that Democrats have made competitive over the past two decades. Democrats have also carved out a new and many-sided base in Colorado during this time period. The next post will examine the complex elements that make up Colorado’s Democratic base.

 --Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

Analyzing Swing States: Colorado, Part 1

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Colorado. The second part can be found here.

Link to Image of Colorado's Politics, 2010

Starting six years ago, a massive Democratic wave swept through the state of Colorado. Starting with the election of former Senator Ken Salazar, the Democratic Party took control of almost every state office there was to take. The results of this transformation are pictured in the table above.

At the time, Democrats crowed that Colorado was undergoing a fundamental political transformation. A flood of liberal migrants from California, along with steady growth in Colorado’s Latino population, was supposedly moving the state left from its decades-old conservative roots.

These conservative roots can be seen by taking a look at Colorado’s electoral history:

Link to Table of Colorado's Electoral History


Six years later, however, Democrats are not so confident. Polls show that Colorado has swung as quickly Republican as it went Democratic after 2004. Democrats are facing tough elections in Colorado’s senatorial and house races; until the Republican candidate became engulfed in scandal, they were also polling weakly in the gubernatorial race.

Whatever the future of Colorado, for the past decade the state has done a perfect job of reflecting the national mood. This is perhaps the ultimate attribute of a swing state.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Analyzing Swing States: Colorado, Part 1

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Colorado. The second part can be found here.

Link to Image of Colorado's Politics, 2010

Starting six years ago, a massive Democratic wave swept through the state of Colorado. Starting with the election of former Senator Ken Salazar, the Democratic Party took control of almost every state office there was to take. The results of this transformation are pictured in the table above.

At the time, Democrats crowed that Colorado was undergoing a fundamental political transformation. A flood of liberal migrants from California, along with steady growth in Colorado’s Latino population, was supposedly moving the state left from its decades-old conservative roots.

These conservative roots can be seen by taking a look at Colorado’s electoral history:

Link to Table of Colorado's Electoral History


Six years later, however, Democrats are not so confident. Polls show that Colorado has swung as quickly Republican as it went Democratic after 2004. Democrats are facing tough elections in Colorado’s senatorial and house races; until the Republican candidate became engulfed in scandal, they were also polling weakly in the gubernatorial race.

Whatever the future of Colorado, for the past decade the state has done a perfect job of reflecting the national mood. This is perhaps the ultimate attribute of a swing state.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Analyzing Swing States: Colorado, Part 1

(Note: I strongly encourage you to click the image links on this post when reading; they're essential to understanding what I'm saying.)

This is the first part of a series of posts analyzing the swing state Colorado. The second part can be found here.

Link to Image of Colorado's Politics, 2010

Starting six years ago, a massive Democratic wave swept through the state of Colorado. Starting with the election of former Senator Ken Salazar, the Democratic Party took control of almost every state office there was to take. The results of this transformation are pictured in the table above.

At the time, Democrats crowed that Colorado was undergoing a fundamental political transformation. A flood of liberal migrants from California, along with steady growth in Colorado’s Latino population, was supposedly moving the state left from its decades-old conservative roots.

These conservative roots can be seen by taking a look at Colorado’s electoral history:

Link to Table of Colorado's Electoral History


Six years later, however, Democrats are not so confident. Polls show that Colorado has swung as quickly Republican as it went Democratic after 2004. Democrats are facing tough elections in Colorado’s senatorial and house races; until the Republican candidate became engulfed in scandal, they were also polling weakly in the gubernatorial race.

Whatever the future of Colorado, for the past decade the state has done a perfect job of reflecting the national mood. This is perhaps the ultimate attribute of a swing state.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

 

Diaries

Advertise Blogads