Bruce Ratliff, 43, in the orange shirt, raises his hand for Bernie Sanders in his first ever caucus in the cafeteria of North Middle School in Aurora, Colorado.
AURORA, CO — Support for Hillary Clinton swung through the South on Super Tuesday, but her campaign crashed on the Rockies as more Democrats showed up for Bernie Sanders at caucuses across Colorado.
The longest serving independent in Congress who is running as a Democrat for president this year had drawn massive crowds at rallies around Denver. Grassroots support for the democratic socialist from Vermont was evident early in this bellwether swing state.
At caucuses on the Western Slope, along the Front Range, and on the eastern plains, Sanders picked up more support from those at the precinct-level caucuses, but Clinton still likely holds a larger Superdelegate count.
Out of the 11 Super Tuesday states, Sanders won four.
“We started off the night winning Vermont, then we won Oklahoma and Colorado, and … they called Minnesota for us as well,” Sanders campaign manager Jeff Weaver said in a statement. “FOUR big victories for our political revolution tonight.”
In Colorado, the way the two campaigns played out could be summed up in the way they rolled out their legislative endorsements last week at the state Capitol. While Clinton’s news conference drew Democratic Party luminaries like Gov. John Hickenlooper, former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, they stood in a park without a throng of supporters waving signs and chanting. A Sanders campaign news conference announcing a mere three House members supporting him drew about a 100 rowdy supporters making noise and clearly feeling the Bern.
That was evident at the precinct-level caucus meetings on Super Tuesday, too, as hands raised for Sanders outnumbered those for Clinton across the state in the presidential preference straw polls.
At one such caucus in the Denver suburbs of Aurora, Sanders’ message of free college tuition and opposing Wall Street brought 43-year-old Bruce Ratliff, who works in behavioral health, out to caucus in the cafeteria of North Middle School for the first time in his life.
“He’s trying to balance the playing field for regular folks like myself,” he said.
The cafeteria in the suburban school in the shadow of a Colorado State University hospital center was packed wall-to-wall with people young and old, white and black, tatted up or dressed in suits, metrosexual millennials, at least two pregnant women, old folks in wheelchairs or on oxygen, and pierced-faced punks
More people had shown up to the school than Eric Busch, an Adams County Democratic Party official who was running the show, had expected. He had to move some of the precincts out of the cafeteria and into an auditorium down the hall.
The scene was “creative chaos,” said Cathy Bouska, a retired veteran and Clinton supporter.
She’s lived in Colorado for 35 years, but tonight was her first caucus.
“All the other years I was either hospitalized, or in another part of Colorado that it didn’t matter, or I wasn’t registered,” she said.
In the past 15 years, Bouska has watched her neighborhood change from being a haven for retirees into a millennial Mecca like so much of Denver and its outskirts.
“Now it’s full of a lot of, well, young folks. A lot of the houses have been sold and they’re being rented out,” she said. “So it’s changing quite a bit.”
She was in the minority at her caucus location supporting Hillary because she “seems to know what the government’s like more so than the other crowd,” and Bouska doesn’t want to see a President Donald Trump.
“She’s got an idea of what’s going on, and who to talk to, and when to keep her mouth shut,” she said.
Bouska was hoping to hear some answers from Sanders supporters about how the candidate is planning to pay for all the free stuff he’s offering, like college tuition. But with only two candidates in the race, there wasn’t much debate at the caucuses at North Middle School. Precinct caucus leaders in break-out groups asked for a show of hands for Clinton and a show of hands for Sanders, then added up the count. People filtered out not long after.
Some candidates for state and federal office including congressional candidate Morgan Carroll gave short stump speeches, but the whole show was over by 9 p.m.
As the news organizations projected a Sanders victory in Colorado, the state’s Republican Party chairman, Steve House, used it to attack Clinton who had racked up victories in more of the Super Tuesday states.
“Clinton’s stark rejection by Democrats in a key swing state is yet another indication she is incapable of winning a general election,” he said in a statement.