If elections were purely a matter of economics, Colorado would be leaning toward President Obama. It ranks No. 13 among the states in year-over-year job growth. It's had one of the most balanced recoveries in the United States, and it's one of only three states (Washington and Arizona are the other two) to see employment grow in eight broad sections of the economy.
Farmers have benefited from high crop prices. The oil and gas industry is thriving. Tourism posted a record last year. As a result, home sales are booming in the Denver area. By July, home prices were within 7 percent of their all-time high set in 2006, according to the S&P Case-Shiller home price index. Only Dallas is closer to its peak among the 20 US metros followed in the index.
So why is Colorado a battleground state? One reason may be recovery fatigue among voters. While Colorado's rise has been broad, it has also been abnormally slow. When the US unemployment rate peaked in October 2009 at 10.0 percent, Colorado had a much better 8.4 percent rate. But since that time, the national rate has dropped more than 2 percentage points and now stands at 7.8 percent. Colorado's rate has dropped less than half a percentage point, to 8.0 percent. For two months running, unemployment in Colorado has been above the national average. Housing prices, though booming now, languished and went nowhere for 2-1/2 years.
Given such sluggishness, Colorado voters might be looking for a change.
Advantage: a statistical tie, according to the latest polls.