President Barack Obama won Colorado in 2008 by a landslide. Democratic presidential candidates have only won four times in the 62 years since the Roosevelt era. Not only is it unusual for a Democrat to win Colorado’s electoral votes, but it is more astonishing for them to win above their national average. Obama’s 9 percentage point victory margin was 2 points greater than his national win.
But, there are a host of factors that make a repeat performance difficult, and Obama could lose Colorado.
· In 2008, Democrats were coming off both Colorado and national sweeps. In Colorado, the 2006 election gave them the governorship, a congressional seat and more control of both houses of the state legislature. Nationally, they won the U.S. House and began the brief Pelosi era and took control of the Senate.
But, in 2010, Democrats lost two congressional seats in Colorado, contributing to Pelosi’s loss of the speakership, and they lost control of the State House of Representatives and all the statewide constitutional offices. They did hang on to a Senate seat and the governorship, but in both cases, good fortune helped at least as much as good campaigns for the trend was bad.
· The economy is the issue and the recovery is slow in Colorado, with state and local government budgets still dealing with cuts. Unions remain on the defensive, with considerable resentment over pensions and pay for the public sector. The economy is now Obama’s and not Bush’s. While he may have inherited the problem, it hasn’t improved fast enough.
· The political passion Obama mustered among minorities and the young in 2008 appears to have cooled, and Colorado’s Tea Party matched it in 2010, even if some of their ardor was for flawed candidates. Their issues of deficits and growth of government reign supreme today.
· The 2010 Colorado Senate race showed independent voters are the critical swing group and they are up for grabs. Obama was an encumbrance last year with independents. It will be impossible for Obama to make the case he’s outside the political wars of Washington as he did in 2008. And, by most polls, Obama’s liberal image has been increased while liberalism as a preferred political philosophy remains popular with only about a quarter of the population.
· The Republican nominee will be important, but he or she will not be George W. Bush with the Iraq War as the backdrop. That fact alone will be worth a couple of points for the Republicans.
Although Bill Clinton won the state in 1992, he lost it four years later by 2 points to Bob Dole, who he beat nationally by 8 points. Clinton won re-election, but not with Colorado.
Colorado will be a battleground state. The Obama campaign expects a tough fight, which they think they can win as Michael Bennet did in 2010 – close and mean.
See Denver Post article: AP-GfK poll: Slow recovery weakens Obama