This week, one of Colorado’s most quotable pollsters and political analysts dropped a bomb.
“Colorado is no longer a battleground state,” wrote Floyd Ciruli on the blog for his Ciruli and Associates consulting firm.
As he tells it, Colorado has dropped its battleground status for several reasons. Here’s his thinking, verbatim:
- Due to the last two presidential races, Colorado became a presumed “lean Democratic” state. The latest polls confirm the presumption with Hillary Clinton up 8 points and Senator Michael Bennet ahead 18 (see NBC/WSJ Claims Clinton Up 8 Points in Colorado and Darryl Glenn Wins Convention Spot, But Losing in Race With Michael Bennet ).
- Colorado is not a blue collar, depressed manufacturing state. Its growing Hispanic and Millennial population makes it a much more diverse and likely to vote Democratic.
- The Colorado Republican Party is not Trump friendly. Ted Cruz dominated the Republican base in the state (he won the nomination ballot, got his Senate candidates nominated with a third of vote). At the just completed Republican Convention, it was the Colorado delegation that was the most obstreperous.
— Michael Booth (@mboothdenver) July 25, 2016
Unsurprisingly, Republicans seemed to roll their eyes at the Ciruli statement.
“We’re going to win in ’16, I have no doubt about it,” Republican Party Chairman Steve House told GOP voters at a recent event in Colorado Springs— not that a chairman of either party would say otherwise.
But the political breakdown of Colorado is still pretty evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters. While Democrats controlled the Capitol just a few years ago, it’s now a split legislature where Republicans control the Senate by just one seat. This November’s legislative elections could change that.
As The Colorado Independent recently reported, there are now more registered Democrats in Colorado than registered Republicans for the first time in 20 years. But, digging into those numbers shows about 8,400 more “active” registered Republicans in the state. That said, Colorado’s largest voting bloc is unaffiliated voters — more than one million of them— which is where elections are won and lost in this state.
Meanwhile, sources close to the Trump campaign expect him to make a visit to Colorado as early as this week, and do not expect his operation will abandon the state. The Trump team has recently been organizing here, hiring Patrick Davis of the Springs as state director and bringing on wealthy former U.S. Senate primary candidate Robert Blaha as a co-chair.
“We do have to win Colorado,” Trump himself said during a July 1 speech in Denver. “I will be back a lot, don’t worry about it. I will be back a lot.”
Voters in Colorado went for Democrat Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012, and elected a Democrat as governor for the past decade. Republicans got a rare win on a statewide ballot in 2014 when Cory Gardner unseated Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.
David Flaherty, CEO of Magellan Strategies, a Republican-leaning Colorado public affairs firm, wouldn’t make such a definitive statement about Colorado’s battleground status.
“The bottom line is that Republicans have been successful on down-ballot stuff, but other than Cory that’s really the only top tier place we’ve won going back to 2004 when Bush carried the state,” he says. “That’s a fact.”
But Flaherty says that doesn’t mean in the past 12 years Colorado has gone deep blue. His firm does post-election surveys, and he says he has found Colorado is still an all-things-equal state when it comes to likely voters.
“Demographically, we are bleeding,” he says. “However, don’t discount the fact that nearly 50 percent are choosing to be independents. That doesn’t mean they are totally Democrats in disguise.”
One aspect of being a battleground state is the amount of political ad spending that comes with it, especially after third-party election spending exploded following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Whether that spending will rise to the level it did in 2012 remains to be seen, and might be an indication of how closely the national campaigns agree with Ciruli’s claim.
On that note: According to Politico, the Clinton campaign is pulling TV ads in Colorado, “at least temporarily, after building a sizable and durable lead in the traditional battleground state.”
But as data journalist Sandra Fish points out…
— sandra fish 🐠 (@fishnette) July 25, 2016
But still, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton came through Colorado for campaign stops right after their respective party conventions.
Asked during an Aug. 3 event in Colorado Springs for Trump’s running mate Mike Pence if he thought Colorado is still in play, Trump’s state director Patrick Davis said, “We’re going to treat it like a battleground state.”
[Photo credit: Andrew E. Russell via Creative Commons in Flickr]