In Colorado, the only statewide race taking place in 2012 will be the presidential election. Colorado Democrats can expect to get a lot of White House attention over the next 24 months since observers and presidential strategists list Colorado as a top swing state. Republicans, too, should see an endless stream of those testing the presidential water and the declared candidates.
Unfortunately, the public’s disenchantment with partisan and polarizing rhetoric will be severely tested as the campaigns begin to seek advantage in earnest. We can expect to see 2010 midterm expenditure levels and negative advertising on steroids.
Colorado may be the most closely balanced electorate in the union. Democrats feel they have the infrastructure to win it in spite of what appears to be a weak economic recovery and presidential popularity below 50 percent (albeit improving).
Republicans have a longer track record of taking Colorado in presidential races, even with weak candidates, like Bob Dole. And, they swept all the lower offices in the 2010 midterm.
But, the Michael Bennet death-defying 28,000-vote Senate win (the closest Senate race in the country) in spite of the Republican sweep shows Democrats are in the game. And, of course, they had the good fortune to win the governorship for use as a platform to run a statewide campaign (shortly, Governor Hickenlooper, with Colorado’s senior elected Democrats, will help select the state chair to help run the campaign).
Louis Jacobson rates Colorado as a 2012 toss-up state in his latest list, citing the Obama 9-point win in 2008 and the split midterm results. Along with Colorado (9 electoral votes), he also places in the toss-up category: Florida (29), Iowa (6), Maine (1 of 4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), Ohio (18) and Wisconsin (10).
This will likely become the standard list, but a few differences may arise among pundits; for example, Pennsylvania (20), which leans Democrat, and North Carolina (15) and Virginia (13), which lean Republican, are on the cusp.