Denver

Bellwether Or Not, Colorado To Be Prime Battleground In 2012 Elections

Colorado may only have 9 electoral votes, but that doesn't mean they won't be the object of an intense political battle in 2012. Political analysts on each end of the spectrum speculate that any winning presidential candidate will have to carry the state, and given an influx of corporate cash, tempers are likely to flare.

The latest to add kindling to this fire was Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who told a Politico reporter at the National Governors Association meeting this weekend that Obama faces "a very close battle" in Colorado. If the election were held today, "he'd have a hard time." This may hinder Obama's re-election efforts in the state, where the electorate is more or less split ~30% Democrat, ~30% Republican, and ~30% independent.

Further compounding the fight for votes, Colorado's Democrats tend to be of the "blue-dog" variety -- a more centrist iteration of their East-Coast cousins. Politicians that play to the extrema of their parties risk alienating their support at the center, who may respond by not voting, or alternatively may vote for another candidate entirely.

Political analyst Floyd Ciruli seems inclined to agree, telling Fox News last week, "if you can't win in particular the Unaffiliated voter in Colorado, that independent voter, you probably can't carry a whole host of states in this country." Ciruli believes Colorado represents a metaphor for the nation as a whole.

Obama won Colorado in 2008 by the narrowest margin of all the center Western states -- 9%, compared with Nevada's 12% and New Mexico's 15%. Then again, Colorado's 2010 election cycle ran counter to the Republican wave that swept the rest of the country, leading to the election of Governor Hickenlooper (a Democrat) and keeping Senator Michael Bennet (also a Democrat) in power.

Colorado Democratic Chair Rick Palacio told Fox that he attributes the 2010 results to the power of young voters, female voters, and latino voters -- three groups the Obama campaign is likely to court heavily in the coming months.

At a fundraiser in June, Karl Rove told Colorado Republicans in Colorado Springs, "In 2012, as goes Colorado, so goes the nation," and we're inclined to agree.

What do you think? Is Colorado a bellwether state? Let us know why or why not in the comments.