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Obama strong in long-red Colorado

Demographic shifts may help turn the state blue.

(Page 2 of 2)

A Senate race here has had Democrat Mark Udall comfortably ahead for months, but Obama has begun to show a similar lead only in recent weeks, says Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Colorado pollster. State voters have become more comfortable with Obama, he suggests, and he credits the Democrats with running a smart campaign. Unaffiliated voters – typically about one-third of Colorado’s electorate – have started to swing to Obama.

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Some voters here are not happy about their choices. Guetz, for one, says she feels as though “I have to decide if we want to pay more taxes or lose more rights.” She doesn’t want either but is more worried about the threat she sees to women’s rights from a McCain-Palin ticket.
With just nine electoral votes, Colorado is getting an unusual degree of attention. Obama has been here at least eight times during the campaign. Last week, Sarah Palin, Joseph Biden, and McCain all swung through on multistop visits.

But in an election in which McCain needs to hold onto all the states Bush won in 2004, those nine votes may prove crucial. It’s hard to imagine a McCain victory in which he loses Colorado.

Both demographic shifts – new, educated, younger residents pouring in from the East and West coasts – and strategy have helped Obama’s prospects. His campaign targeted this state early and has established more than 40 field offices, compared with a dozen or so for McCain.
It has also been wooing Hispanic voters as they’ve never been wooed. Making up 12 percent of eligible voters, Hispanics are a key group to tap, says Federico Peña, a former mayor of Denver and a national cochair of Obama’s campaign. Mr. Peña helped lead a massive “Viva el voto” rally Saturday aimed at getting out the early vote among Latinos.

Local Republicans, however, aren’t ready to cede the state, saying they see Obama as too liberal for Western voters.

“He has so many offices, but our get-out-the-vote operation is probably the best in the nation,” says Dick Wadham, chair of the state Republican Party.

When Sarah Palin came through the state Oct. 20, backers waited in line for hours in Loveland, north of Denver, to get into a packed rally.

McCain and Governor Palin have been drumming in the themes of “Joe the Plumber” and Obama as socialist, which resonate with some voters here.

“I’m not a socialist. I believe in helping others help themselves,” says JoAnn Belk, a Fort Collins resident at the rally. Still, Ms. Belk was surprised to find that at the church where she works only she and one other colleague back McCain. “I thought this was a really conservative county 15 years ago when I moved here,” she says.

McCain is expected to win in some rural areas of Colorado and in the socially conservative Colorado Springs area. But swing counties around Denver – including Arapahoe, Jefferson, and Garfield – and even traditionally conservative ones like Larimer County to the north seem to be moving to the left.