Colorado begins 2011 with a new political team and more partisan balance. The Democratic era in Colorado, which began with the victory of the Salazar bothers, Ken and John in 2004, closed this year with John Salazar’s loss of his U.S. Congressional seat. Republicans swept everything below the top two races, governor and U.S. Senate, which Democrats continue to hold.
The Republicans’ control of the U.S. House with two new Republican congressmen from Colorado will be the party’s most valuable platform for new leaders and to change the direction of national policy. Control of the Colorado House of Representatives will be the strongest local stage to challenge weakened Democratic dominance and groom new leaders.
As the chart shows, Colorado went from an overwhelmingly Republican state starting with Gov. Bill Owens at the top of the ticket, basking in a 63 percent re-election victory in 2002, to a near Democratic monopoly with Bill Ritter’s 17-point election in 2006 and Barack Obama’s unprecedented 9-point presidential win in 2008.
As the 2012 election cycle begins, Colorado is up for grabs. Obama will start off his re-election below 50 percent in approval (midterm Colorado exit poll gave Obama a 47% approval) and, although Hickenlooper has the potential to be a popular governor, he will likely not be very partisan.