Politics: Colorado's Purple Power

May 2012

This week, the Columbia Journalism Review analyzed why Colorado might play a pivotal role in the 2012 presidential election. This one is likely to be even closer than Barack Obama’s 2008 win, which makes so-called swing states that much more important in November.

Colorado’s influence is enhanced by expected Democratic losses in states such as North Carolina and Virginia, which went for Obama in 2008 but are projected to lean Republican this year. Some of that will be due to the economy, and some might be due to factors such as the President’s recently revealed support for gay marriage. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Right’s attempts to brand Obama as an out-of-touch liberal will work across the board; the once staunchly red Arizona is now projected to be up for grabs after too many of its officials lurched too far to the right, particularly on immigration issues.

What makes Colorado so unique—and frankly, way more interesting than states that sway predictably blue or red—is its deeply purple mix. Liberal enclaves in Denver and Boulder are offset by conservative Colorado Springs and the libertarian Rocky Mountains. About one-third of Colorado voters call themselves independents, which makes virtually every statewide or national election about who can best claim Colorado’s middle.

Not long ago, Colorado was politically “Western,” and that was that—not much different, electorally, than Idaho, or Nevada, or Wyoming. But as the coastal economies, particularly the housing markets, began to struggle, more people realized the benefits of the mountain-time lifestyle, and they started landing here in droves. Many of these folks are part of the “Creative Class,” the chefs, architects, artists, high-tech engineers, and business innovators that any community must nurture in order to keep growing, literally and figuratively. This influx of new residents is a major reason, for example, that Denver’s real estate market has struggled far less than most places.

The arrival of these folks don’t make a city problem free; Denver and the Front Range have plenty of growth-related concerns to address if we want to keep our region thriving. But this summer and fall, as you’re inundated with attack ads from both sides of the political spectrum—and you will be—just remember what their pervasiveness says about Colorado and Coloradans: Our votes matter, we proudly refuse to pledge allegiance to any narrow ideology, and we’ve happened upon a pretty vibrant and fascinating place to live.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.