Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Six Things to Watch for November 4

Although Colorado became a national battleground for control of the U.S. Senate, it is the local patterns and trends that we’ll watch most closely Tuesday night.

Total Turnout: The entire national punditocracy is watching Colorado’s voter turnout. It has become the linchpin of the Democrats’ counter-argument that they will win the election. Democrats claim the bulk of the public polls are wrong; i.e., they miss Hispanics, young and other less frequent voters who the Democrats claim they will turn out or have turned out during the two-week voting period.

The estimate is 2.0 to 2.2 million voters. Currently, Democratic partisans are running well behind Republicans in the totals. Unaffiliated voters, which is comprised of many younger voters, are lagging in turnout.

Swing Counties: Colorado voters have been giving Democrats statewide victories in the last three elections because in the three most closely balanced counties, in terms of partisanship (each with substantial numbers of unaffiliated voters), Democratic Senators Udall and Bennet won them in 2008 and 2010, respectively, and President Obama in 2012.

Does Cory Gardner win Arapahoe and Larimer and barely lose Jefferson? If so, he will likely win the state.

Urban/Rural Split: Republicans will need to meet the expected Denver metro area Democratic advantage with a huge turnout from rural, non-metro Colorado. Governor Bill Owens won his first gubernatorial election by only 8,300 votes due to high margins in the High Plains and in Mesa, Weld and El Paso counties.

The Other Senate Fights: The battle for control of the Colorado State Senate will be settled in a handful of legislative districts, with Jefferson County the center of the action with four seats in close dispute: Andy Kerr’s SD 22, Cheri Jahn SD 20, Jeanne Nicholson SD 16 and Rachel Zenzinger SD 19.

Out-of-State Initiatives: This year, two out-of-state interest groups offered Colorado voters their ideas. Both have done poorly in final pre-election polls, but one spent wildly to convince Colorado voters that gaming at race tracks was a great idea. The other, labeling food if genetically engineered, had early voter support, but fell off in the face of a massive anti-TV campaign.

Narrative: The early signs of a Republican sweep will come in from New Hampshire, North Carolina and Georgia where very tight races for senate have consumed millions in advertising. Two Democratic incumbent senators, Shaheen and Hagan, are fighting to survive and an open Republican seat is being effectively challenged by Sam Nunn’s daughter, Michelle.

Although Colorado politics are unique, in this race they have been heavily influenced by President Obama’s approval and the general disapproval of the Democratic brand. If Republicans pull off unexpected victories in the East, Colorado being the exception is possible, but most likely it’ll succumb to the final trend.

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