What ISN’T Wrong With Colorado Republicans?

Eli Stokols, Fox 31’s political reporter, has a long blog post over at 5280 magazine attempting to analyze the problems with Colorado’s Republican Party. Stokols points out one specific problem that we have long scratched our head about in regards to the GOP:

Early in 2012, Mitt Romney paid his first visits to Colorado, to far-flung places such as Fort Lupton and Craig, a good 200 miles from Denver. After a few such trips, some political observers, myself included, began to wonder why the GOP nominee was focusing on these reliably red and sparsely populated parts of the state. It made a certain amount of sense: No one expected Obama to win Colorado as easily as he did, and no one ever expected Mitt Romney to win Denver County anyway.

However, it’s become clear that Obama’s margin in Colorado owes itself to not just winning Denver, but to flat out running up the score here, thumping Romney by almost 150,000 votes. Breaking the 70 percent mark in a base county is a positive for any candidate; doing it in a state’s most populous county means game over.

We’ve written in this space many times about how Democrat Ken Salazar defeated Republican Pete Coors in their 2004 Senate battle because of Denver. It wasn’t that Salazar outperformed Coors in Denver in terms of percentages, but rather the enormous number of votes that gave him a cushion to win the seat despite tighter results elsewhere in Colorado. We’ve never understood how Republicans don’t seem to understand that 85% of Colorado voters live along the Front Range, and Mitt Romney’s campaign is yet another example of that confusion.

In late May 2012, Romney’s campaign made a big deal out of his appearance in Craig, Colorado, a town in Northwest Colorado with a population of less than 10,000 people. We were baffled at the choice of Craig as a campaign stop, but Romney did go on to win Moffat County (Craig is the largest town in Moffat) with 76 percent of the vote. Nevermind that the vote totals were 4,695 for Romney and 1,330 for Barack Obama.

Romney continued to generally avoid large population areas in Colorado, and at one point in the fall he hadn’t visited the Denver Metro area in 30 days. Perhaps he thought each Colorado county would serve as 1/64th of an electoral vote, because the numbers are staggering otherwise.

Obama defeated Romney in Colorado by 137,858 votes. Of Obama’s 1,323,101 votes in the state, 914,815 came from just seven counties (Jefferson, Denver, Boulder, Arapahoe, Douglas, Adams and Larimer). In those seven counties, Obama outpolled Romney by 264,193 votes — nearly double his final margin of victory.

Maybe Romney wouldn’t have performed much better if he had campaigned more in Metro Denver, but he couldn’t have done any worse. Outside of Douglas and El Paso counties, the two largest Red counties in Colorado, Romney’s only hope was to somehow increase turnout in smaller West Slope counties. Of course, that would only work if he simultaneously figured out a way to dramatically increase the population of Western Colorado.

This isn’t the only reason why Republicans are having a hard time winning major statewide elections in Colorado, but it’s a big one.


22 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. ElliotFladen says:

    I’m hoping to see that changed in the future – and I’ve been putting in the time/energy to try to do my small part to make that happen.  

  2. ProgressiveCowgirlProgressiveCowgirl says:

    Those are kind of the basics.

    When you’re so desperate for candidates that you’re thinking about bringing back Ken “Buyer’s Remorse” Buck (who himself suffered a case of buyer’s remorse on personhood after escaping a GOP primary…)

    When you’re so desperate for candidates that you run a guy for state house who fired a semi-automatic at his wife…

    When you’re so desperate for candidates that your BEST gets thumped by 11 points in a “competitive” district (Frazier)

    When you’re so desperate for candidates that the next time, you just run the guy who has the most money in the district, whether or not he has any actual appeal to voters (Coors)…

    When you’re so desperate for candidates that nobody can actually even venture a guess they’d bet a buck on as to who you’ll get to run for Governor in 2014…

    When you’re so desperate for candidates that you run a guy for State Senate and spend an embarrassing amount of money on his race, even though he couldn’t win a primary under the best possible primary conditions imaginable for a candidate of his ideology the last time we saw him (Lang Sias)….

    ….when all these are true and you STILL sit there eating your own alive if they show even the slightest sign of being flexible thinkers on the social issues whose diminishing value to general election voters has been well documented time and time again, you might be the Colorado GOP.

    Colorado will remain a blue state until and unless the Republican Party stops rejecting every possible Republican candidate who shows symptoms of a thinking mechanism capable of taking in information from sources other than the state Repubilcan party leadership and the Bible.

  3. davebarnesdavebarnes says:

    “population of less than 10,000 people”

    fewer than

  4. Craig says:

    The Republican Party in this state has nothing to sell in the front range except for Weld, Douglas and El Paso Counties.  The more they go to the other counties on the front range, the worse they do.  It’s not tactics, it’s execution, it’s not money, it’s not even bad candidates.  It’s the complete nonsense of their policies and ideas that have been totally and completely rejected by front range voters.  The Republican Party will never come back in Colorado.  They’re have to be a new party that might succeed with truly conservative ideas that it could sell, not this fake Republican Party where they put their heads in the sand and think everyone agrees with them.

    • that Colorado makes for some hellishly great and scenic photo ops.  Who can blame the Republican pol that wants to cloak himself (yeah, himself . . . we’re talkin’ the GOPers here) in some of our rugged western mountain manliness and clean skies?  Who can blame the Republican pol who really has no idea of, or concept for, governance as it applies to the vast majority of folks alive in the 21st century today — government is the problem right?

      As long as we continue to have more mountains than urban jungles, we’ll continue to have GOP Pols who want to borrow us for a fabulous 30-second ad backdrop.    

      (Besides, who knows, maybe Willard really wanted to hear what was on the minds of all those blue-collar folks in Moffat County?  Naaaaahh!)

  5. CastleMan says:

    This is another example of the now-prevalent GOP way of thinking that says it’s good politics to avoid any discussion with those who might hold different viewpoints. In Republican-land, I think, the general view is something like “We are right, they are wrong, so why discuss it?”

    Romney and his fellow Republicans think that it is a waste of time to talk to independent or, especially, Democratic voters because, in the case of the unaffiliateds, they aren’t “true believers” and, in the case of Democrats, they are the enemy.

    It’s short-sighted and self-defeating, but it’s a symptom of how the GOP has totally lost sight of how you win elections: by building coalitions, not driving those who disagree with purists out of the party.

    • ElliotFladen says:

      I don’t think the GOP is any more of an echo chamber than the Dems.  Sure, you walk of the rights at conception reservation at your peril (as I have done), but you also can walk off the support the unions reservation at your peril on the dem side.

      Each side has its sacred cows.  

      • BlueCat says:

        I’m reading your words in this comment and they just don’t seem to form recognizable sentences.

      • The Republican Party is increasingly getting its opinions from an ever-narrowing list of “acceptable” sources. These tend to include the Republican affiliated think tanks, plus anything owned by Rupert Murdoch (WSJ, FOX, NY Daily News…), and anything sounding like an on-the-reservation conservative talker/blogger.

        Democrats for the most part still get their news from a wider variety of sources and cast further afield for alternate views. (Just this morning I sat through several theoretically informative NPR segments where only conservative views were presented on the upcoming budget debates, with no indication that there were other viewpoints available…)

        The original comment isn’t so much about views as it is about a willingness to look outside of the box (or even admitting that there’s anything outside the box worth looking at, or I think in some cases even admitting that there’s a world outside the box at all…).

      • AristotleAristotle says:

        Remember all the predictions of Romney’s victory? How he’d take most of the swing states? The genuine shock experienced by millions of conservatives?

        Sure, there are definitely echo-chamber qualities among Democrats, but these days the party still has distinct wings. There’s room for disagreement, even over unions (although generally Democrats recognize that the existence of unions is positive – that’s voluntary consensus, not involuntary toeing of the party line.)

        The GOP, OTOH, has been actively purging its centrists at the cost of its own power (see Indiana for a perfect example). So there’s more to the GOP’s pursuit of purity (and the resulting shutout of dissent) than anything you’ll find within the Democratic Party.

      • ParkHill says:

        Exactly what is the problem with Unions?

        Unions work for increased benefits and wages for working people. Unions drove the 40 hour work week, child labor laws, workplace safety, Social Security, minimum wage, etc, etc, etc.

        The Democratic Party believes in the social safety net, and the Republicans are opposed to it.

        Which side are you on?

    • MADCO says:

      And if only we could get real conservatives to run.

      ….chicken dinner!!

  6. gaf says:

    Error by Stokols. Most populous county (2010 census) is El Paso (622,000), not Denver (600,000)

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