Around the U.S. in 50 Days: Colorado

There are no statewide races in Colorado in 2012. That does not mean that the state will not attract interest, attention and money on the Presidential, or even Congressional level. Colorado’s nine important electoral votes are up for grabs and this is a state Obama must retain in 2012. If he loses this state, it changes the electoral strategic dynamic. The most recent polling puts his approval ratings in Colorado at the 45% level, which is on the cusp. Some event one way or the other could seriously alter these numbers. I would like to call this state too close to make a decision, but the fact that his approval rating in Colorado has remained fairly consistent in this range over a period of time (even after the death of OBL) indicates trouble for Obama in Colorado in 2012. For a state that Democrats honestly believe they are beginning to own, it does not really bode well for the Obama campaign. Hopefully, the Colorado GOP will not repeat the disarray that marked the 2010 elections when they managed to lose the opportunity to win a Senate seat and the Governor’s office. In fact, the biggest impediment to an Obama loss in Colorado in 2012 seems to be the Republican Party itself. Assuming they don’t shoot themselves in the foot again, I would have to give their 9 electoral votes to the GOP nominee at this point.
In the Congressional races, redistricting has proven to be contentious for a state that sees no change in their representation in Washington. Eventually, the state courts had to enter the fray and essentially sided with Democratic-friendly maps. A subsequent Colorado Supreme Court decision upheld the lower court’s redistricting efforts. As a result, the Democrats gain a little ground in Colorado.
Donna DeGette, a Democrat, has represented the 1st District since 1997 and her district just got a little more Democratic. Jared Polis, a Democrat who won the 2nd in 2008, takes on Larimer County which includes Ft. Collins. If Republicans are going to make any gains in Colorado, it will be in this district as state senator Kevin Lundberg looks like a very viable GOP candidate here.
In the 3rd, Republican Scott Tipton defeated incumbent John Salazar in 2010 during the great GOP midterm wave. Salazar has intimated a run against Tipton to regain his seat and Democratic Governor Hicklenhooper appointed him Colorado’s Agricultural Commissioner thus keeping him in the state for a possible Congressional run. However, state representative Sal Pearce has announced his candidacy and his candidacy comes with the blessing of House Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer. But then again, Hoyer has floated the name of Perry Haney also. The fact that Hoyer is even floating names in the first place indicates that the Democrats have obviously targeted Tipton and there is the very real possibility it may be a rematch against Salazar. That would actually serve to pit Hoyer against Hicklenhooper. Making matters more complicated is the fact that Tisha Casida will run as an independent. Since redistricting allegedly made it a little harder for Tipton, her candidacy actually benefits Tipton by drawing potential Democratic votes away. It is possible that Tipton would then sneak back into the House with less than 50% of the vote.

The 4th, represented by Republican Cory Gardner, won this district in 2010. The race lost some of its drama when former representative Betsy Markey accepted a federal job and avoids a rematch. Instead, Gardner will face off against state senate president Brandon Schaffer, Unfortunately for Schaffer, redistricting actually enhances Gardner’s chances of re-election. Well, at least the Colorado GOP did something right. The 5th should be no contest as Republican Doug Lamborn should win given there were no major changes to the district and no Democratic candidate has emerged.
There will be a battle for the 6th District held by Republican Mike Hoffman since 2008. Although it is considered an evenly split district, the fight will be for the unaffiliated vote. However, some more Democratic-leaning areas were added. This is a pure toss up even without an announced Democratic candidate. State representative Joe Miklosi will most likely face Coffman in November. This will be a close race. From everything I have read and heard from local reports out of Colorado, this seat may be a better opportunity for a Democratic pick up than the more publicized 3rd District race.

Finally, in the 7th District, Democratic incumbent Ed Perlmutter should win re-election. He may face some competition from Joe Coors (yes, of the Coors beer dynasty), the younger brother of Pete Coors who unsuccessfully ran for the Senate in 2004. What makes that scenario interesting is that Coors would inject some name recognition and money into a race that no one really thought would be competitive. That could have a domino effect elsewhere in the State. In reality, two GOP seats are in peril. By shifting both money and attention from those races to the 7th, where the Democrats did not expect a race, it may be just enough to allow those Republican incumbents to sneak back into the race. That would be the best case scenario: the status quo 4-3 split for the Democratic Party in the congressional delegation. A worse case scenario would be to lose the two competitive Republican districts to create a 6-1 Democratic advantage. However, the most likely scenario is for the Democrats to take one of those seats making a 5-2 split.
In conclusion, Obama loses the nine electoral votes from Colorado in a very close race, but the victory is tempered by the fact that the GOP loses a House seat.

Running total thus far:
Obama- 83 electoral votes to 96 for the GOP nominee;
Net gain of 2 Governors;
Net gain of 1 Senate seat, and;
Net loss of 6 House seats.

Next: Nebraska