Looking Southwest for 2010 & Beyond

(Proudly cross-posted at C4O Democrats)

This year has been quite transformative for The West, especially The Southwest. Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico have gone from Red to Blue. Utah and Arizona don't look quite as Red as they used to. Oh yes, and California now looks bluer than ever before.

But will this last? Will The Southwest continue to trend blue? And can Democrats continue to make gains here?

Honestly, I think so. Why? First off, demographics are shifting our way. Latinos continue to grow in population and political influence. "Creative Class" professionals continue to breathe new life into the region's urban areas. The area has changed, and the changes favor us.

And because the demographics of The Southwest has changed, so has the politics. The old "rugged individualism" and "libertarian conservatism" that used to define the region's politics have faded away as these formerly rural states are becoming much more urban and suburban. After all, why would young parents in Henderson, NV, worry about whether or not they can own assault rifles when they have to make plans for the kids' college education, keep their kids safe from dangerous air and water pollution, and be able to afford a home and food and health care? Why would a couple of biotech researchers in Aurora, CO, feel threatened by public park land in the state when they're worried about keeping their jobs?

See where I'm going? The West has changed. I know. I've witnessed how my native Orange County, CA, has changed from "John Birch Society" embarrassment to dynamic urban environment. I've seen firsthand how Las Vegas has transformed from small casino town to world-class destination. I've been amazed by how the entire region has changed, and how we all saw this on full display as Democrats won across the board here.

So what should we do next? Let's first talk about Nevada. Barack Obama won here by 12% (vs. a 2% Bush win in 2004), Democrat Dina Titus defeated GOP incumbent Jon Porter for Congress in NV-03, and Democrats now control both houses of the state legislature. So what next? We keep Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate and put a good Democrat in the Governor's seat to replace the disgraced GOP incumbent Jim Gibbons, as both are quite doable. I'd now peg the Senate race as "Leans Democratic" and the Governor's race as a "Toss-up". Oh yes, and we'd be wise to take advantage of Obama's possible 2012 coattails here by finding a legitimate challenger to GOP Senator John Ensign.

Colorado was also good to us this year, as Obama won by 9% (vs. a 5% & Bush win in 2004), Mark Udall won a formerly GOP Senate seat, and Betsy Markey unseated GOP Rep. Marilyn Musgrave in CO-04. So what can we do now? I'd peg incumbent Senator Ken Salazar's 2010 race as "Likely Democratic" now, but we should keep a close watch to make sure we win again. And of course, we'll need to make sure Obama wins again in 2012.

But what about California? Obama won here by a whopping 24% (vs. a 10% Kerry win in 2004) and Democrats already have both Senate seats & 33 of 53 House seats. What more can we have? How about the Governor's seat, which I already consider "Leans Democratic" as the GOP has no strong candidate to succed Arnold Schwarzenegger? And how about winning the "Toss-up" House races in CA-03, CA-04, and CA-44 in 2010, where we came so close this year? Same goes for the "Leans Republican" races in CA-46 and CA-50?

And what about Arizona? John McCain won his home state by 9% (vs. an 11% Bush win in 2004), but Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick still managed to win a formerly GOP seat in AZ-01. So is there still potential here? I think so. Without the McCain home state edge, Obama can win here in 2012. And better yet, we can beat McCain in 2010, as well as fellow GOP Senator Jon Kyl in 2012, with the right candidates. Same goes for the 2010 Governor's race, which can be a "Toss-up" if we can have a quality candidate run against newly minted GOP Governor Jan Brewer.

So where we do we go from here out West? We win! Ready to win?

Tags: Arizona, C4O Democrats, California, Colorado, Democrats, Election 2010, Nevada, Winning the West (all tags)



Tips? Flames? Suggestions?

Let's talk... And let's win!

by atdleft 2008-12-02 04:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Looking Southwest for 2010 & Beyond

Very nice summary of what's happening in this region. Arizona is going to be tough to turn blue. I think they inherited a lot of your Orange County Republicans that retired, sold their homes, and moved out of state.

by LakersFan 2008-12-02 10:04PM | 0 recs
I read somewhere

that migration of disaffected white conservatives from California was what turned Colorado red in the 1990s, but as we've seen, that trend can be turned around.

by desmoinesdem 2008-12-03 08:35AM | 0 recs
Re: I read somewhere

That would make complete sense. Same group of people, but Arizona attracts more golfers.

I know some of those disaffected conservative Californians -- they all moved for "better schools", which to me sounds like the ultimate form of "white flight". I say good riddance, California has enough people as it is.

by LakersFan 2008-12-03 09:01AM | 0 recs

I think that's only partially true. Sure, some of the "Californicators" relocating to Mountain West states like Arizona & Colorado have been the radical right types escaping diversity & taxes. But OTOH, I also know plenty of Democrats who moved out of CA to CO & AZ for the cheaper housing, cheaper/better college education, and/or more plentiful career opportunities. So really, I think it cuts both ways. And ultimately, both groups of Californicators probably cancelled each other out.

by atdleft 2008-12-03 09:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Looking Southwest for 2010 & Beyond

Its gonna be tought to unseat McCain if the current Govenor doesn't run against him.

by goodleh 2008-12-03 04:21AM | 0 recs
AZ Senate

It was going to be a problem even if Napolitano ran.  She has a left problem for not standing up to either the Maricopa County Sheriff or the uber-bigoted State Senator (Republican wingnut)who wins with 60-70% of the vote despite his Neo-Nazi ties.

The Phoenix New Times ran a cover (with accompanying story) that had Napolitano in the famous Sarkozy/Obama poster with the word "Nope" over it.  I think Grijalva might be a better choice because he could perhaps pull Latinos off of McCain.  If you do that, you can use McCain's unpopularity with the wingnut base against him.  

If she revokes the Sheriff's ICE agreement (which allows the county sheriff's office to act as immigration cop), maybe she helps herself in 2010 but I don't necessarily think there will be as much Democratic enthusiasm as everyone thinks for Napolitano.

by AZphilosopher 2008-12-03 08:23AM | 0 recs

So was that R2K Arizona poll just a fluke? And does Grijalva have statewide appeal? Can he counter the GOP smears of him as "hyperliberal"? While AZ is moving our way, it's the only Southwest state other than Utah where Republicans still outnumber Democrats (though by only 4% now).

I can, however, see Harry Mitchell or Gabrielle Giffords beating Johnny Mac for Senate. I just don't think either of them wants to give up their House seats in 2010.  

by atdleft 2008-12-03 09:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Really?

I hope you're right about Giffords, but I don't know.  My father-in-law has known her a long time, volunteered for her campaign and absolutely loves her.  I've met her a couple of times and was a little disappointed.  She was OK, but there wasn't a whole lot of "wow" factor.  

I've also written to her a couple of times on various issues and never received even an acknowledgment from her office.  I'm in Grijalva's district, though, so maybe that explains it.

It is cool she's married to an astronaut, though.

by sneakers563 2008-12-03 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Really?

I think she starts pretty high but when the lefty paper in Phoenix has a vendetta, there is going to be downward pressure on her Phoenix-wide numbers which she would still lose anyway .

Arpaio (the sheriff) and Russell Pearce  (the Senator) are red hot local issues.  That if I was Johnny Mac, I'd even try to win by exploiting her wishy-washiness and explicitly denounce one or both.

If Maricopa County can retain a county attorney who THE CONSERVATIVE PAPER DIDN'T ENDORSE (sorry for shouting) and who was famous for cronyism and graft, the county is more conservative than originally thought.

So the theory here is to try to goose the lefty turnout in Maricopa County to try to reduce the margin, hope conservatives are seething over '08, and try to steal some of McCain's traditional Latino votes by pointing out that R=minuteman.  I think in the context of this sort of strategy, Grijalva is the logical choice.  Sure this strategy is a little cynical but honestly I'm taking the downballot races as an indicator of a more conservative electorate than national folks might think.

I just don't think (this is a gut feeling) that the demographics a Napolitano would target would end up voting for her in a race against McMaverick especially since he looks moderate next to some local political figures.

Would I run Giffords or Napolitano against Kyl? In a heartbeat.

by AZphilosopher 2008-12-03 11:40AM | 0 recs
Re: AZ Senate

For a state so close to tipping Blue, I'm somewhat surprised at the lack of a rallying within the state Party around some rising leader or causes.  I guess thats hangover from being minority party for so long and a relatively cautious and conservative leadership in Napolitano and Pederson, and so much of the Democratic electorate being being that way too.

But there have to be some middle class and upper middle class Democrats in the state who can step forward and head the minor revolt/renewal that the netroots are part of, stylistically moderate liberals with Latino appeal who can lead some kind of rallying against the corrupt and aging out Republican machinery.  I'm thinking of e.g. Dina Titus in Nevada.  Whatever her personal merits and performance and origins out of state, she battled with the Republicans and Nevada Democrats had a banner to rally to this year.

by killjoy 2008-12-03 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: AZ Senate

It seems to me that Nevada's demographics are much more favorable for Democrats than Arizona's. But I don't know that much about AZ demographics -- it just seems to be the place that golfers move to -- and by "golfers" I mean wealthy white people.

by LakersFan 2008-12-03 10:25AM | 0 recs
New Mexico

We're doing some good things in New Mexico. We not only went big for Obama after being the closest in the nation the past two elections (~6,000 votes for Bush in '04 and 366 votes for Gore in '00), but we now have both Senators and all three Representatives as Democrats -- at least three of which (Sen-elect Udall, Rep.-elect Lujan and Rep.-elect Heinrich) who are good progressives.

Also, in the state legislature, we kicked some conservative Dems out for progressive Dems. And we took out some Republicans to expand our already impressive leads in the Senate and House.

We are already ahead of our neighbors -- we're working on the "better Democrats" part of the equation, and doing so on the local level.

by fbihop 2008-12-03 08:24AM | 0 recs
Re: New Mexico

New Mexico is very encouraging, and it really should be a blue state. Cowboys may be Republicans, but Latinos and Native Americans tend to be Democrats. It's really important that the Democratic party to have strong registration and GOTV efforts to continue to grow that sector of voters.

by LakersFan 2008-12-03 09:08AM | 0 recs
That's wonderful...

And that's why I LOVE New Mexico so much... Other than the wonderous natural beauty of your state! And btw, I'm sorry I didn't talk more about NM in this diary. Rest assured that it's only because there's been so much progress there that I had a hard time thinking of areas where we can improve in 2010 & 2012! :-D

by atdleft 2008-12-03 09:08AM | 0 recs
I'm not feeling too good about AZ

It's true that McCain did shamefully bad in his home state, but I don't know that it translates to the rest of the party.  The Republicans gained seats in the state legislature, we're now officially a heterosexual state, the voters reaffirmed laws aimed at undocumented workers, an increase in school funding was rejected and the state just barely defeated a proposition to outlaw future attempts at regulating health care.

Now, we've lost our moderate Democratic governor and replaced her with a true wingnut who's already saying that the days of "tax and spend" are over.  The Arizona Republic ran a story a couple of weeks ago saying that once Napolitano is gone the legislature is planning on reviving "proposed substantial cuts in funding for state universities, highway construction, bioscience research, pregnancy services for women in poverty, services for the visually impaired, and programs to prevent methamphetamine use among youths, among others."  These are the people who will have the advantage of incumbency in 2010.

Now, there's talk of appointing my Representative, Grijalva, to head the Department of the Interior.  

AZ's in bad, bad shape and taking the few well-regarded Democrats to the White House isn't helping things.  I'll be glad when I'm done with my dissertation in '10 and can get out of here.

by sneakers563 2008-12-03 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not feeling too good about AZ

Thanks for your less than optimistic, but very interesting perspective. Where's the room to gain more Democratic voters in AZ? We can't just rely on university students, because they do move on.

by LakersFan 2008-12-03 11:12AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not feeling too good about AZ

I think it will turn in the long run.  Maricopa County is slowly becoming more moderate.  The trouble is the rural areas and the small cities like Flagstaff and Yuma.  That's where the true crazies live.  

So in the long run, maybe it will turn blue, but the question now is will it be bearable in the short run?  I don't know.  It feels like the rest of the country is moving one way and AZ is slipping back.  Despite being a grad student now, I've lived and worked here since 1990.  It's depressing and I'm getting tired of it.  

by sneakers563 2008-12-03 01:40PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not feeling too good about AZ

Also, don't count on being able to rely on university students moving forward.  My department has already lost one professor over the gay marriage amendment and three others are openly talking about looking elsewhere because of the proposed cuts to the university.

by sneakers563 2008-12-03 01:44PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not feeling too good about AZ

Uggh. Thanks for the insight.

AZ also has a huge Mormon population, which may be part of the reason it is majority Republican like Utah, and less like its other neighbors. And now that you mention the gay marriage amendment, did the Mormon church get heavily involved in campaign there like they did in CA?

by LakersFan 2008-12-03 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not feeling too good about AZ

I don't know.  It was actually placed on the ballot by a member of the legislature on the last possible date.  Because of that, people didn't have all that much time to organize and it didn't seem to get as much attention as it did when it was on the ballot (and defeated) in 2006.  

There was some other wacky sh*t on the ballot this time too which soaked up a lot of attention.  For instance, there was a proposition that would have required any proposition that involved a raising of revenue to pass by a majority of all eligible voters, not just those actually voting.  It was defeated, but it would have been such a disaster, had it passed, that it was the prop that seemed to get the most attention.

by sneakers563 2008-12-03 05:39PM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not feeling too good about AZ

Incumbency cuts both ways.  And some places do have a way of briefly giving full control to the party that is on its way out.  Kind of a way of milking it for all the usefulness it has left.

Urban voters these days don't develop a long tolerance for all-R state government.  In fact, this could be the way all those mushy problem Republican leaners in Maricopa County who keep the state legislature Republican-run get what they think they wanted...and get it good and hard.

by killjoy 2008-12-03 07:03PM | 0 recs


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