Real Clear Politics Swing State Review: Colorado

1940, 2004, 2008, Barack Obama, Colorado, John McCain

The latest post on key swing states at Real Clear Politics examines Colorado, a traditionally Republican state that both Obama and McCain view as a potential swing state in this election.

Here are four things to watch on Election Day.

(1) Metropolitan Denver. Denver is the critical battlefield because it’s so large and sits in the middle. It will probably tip the state one way or the other on Election Day. Expect Obama to carry metro Denver. The question is: by what margin? Kerry won it by about 3 points. Obama will need to win it by close to 7-9.

(2) Hispanics. Will Hispanics comprise around 15% of the vote, or will they once again be counted lower than 10%? That could make a huge differences for Obama, assuming they go strongly for him. Will they? That’s the other big question. From recent poll numbers, it looks as though Obama is on track to match Kerry’s performance, but it is still early.

(3) Rural and small town areas. These parts of Colorado are often overlooked because no one place is particularly large. However, collectively they add up to the second largest category we have defined, so they should not be taken for granted. Can Obama improve over Kerry? Rural voters back east were not inclined to him during the primaries, but he did reasonably well with them in Oregon and New Mexico. If he can hold his own in rural Colorado, keeping his margin of defeat in the high single-digits, he’ll be well positioned.

(4) Boulder and Colorado Springs. These towns are symbols of Colorado’s political polarization over the last fifty years. Boulder has trended leftward, Colorado Springs rightward. This year, the parties have nominated candidates who supposedly possess cross-partisan appeal. Do they? I doubt it, but if they do, we might see Boulder and Colorado Springs break from their recent patterns. Electorally speaking, conflicting movement would cancel each other out. What would be consequential is if both places moved in the same direction. Combined, Boulder and Colorado Springs typically account for 20% of the state’s vote.