Newly Blue Colorado Flirts With Old Flame Red

Coloradans Weigh In

Voter Richard Blumenshine

Richard Blumenshine, unaffiliated: "He said he was going to change Washington, and he hired the same old people." Jeff Brady/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Brady/NPR
Voter Joan Morrison

Joan Morrison, Democrat: "I think everybody should get off his case and give him a chance. He got into a really difficult situation that Bush left us in." Jeff Brady/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Brady/NPR
Voter Jim Esquibel

Jim Esquibel, Republican: "I don't appreciate the way that he's handled the economy ... the debt that my son and his kids are going to have to pay for." Jeff Brady/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jeff Brady/NPR

Colorado played important roles in Barack Obama's young presidential career. His party nominated him in Denver. He won the state by a 9-point margin in the general election. And just one month after his inauguration, that's where he chose to sign a huge stimulus package into law.

Obama's strong showing was a surprise because just a few years before, the state was a sea of Republican red. But it's too soon to put Colorado in the blue column for good.

"Less than two years later, you already are seeing the air run out of that balloon," says Denver-based pollster Floyd Ciruli. "Democrats [are] on the defensive. The national brand of the Democratic Party [is] in deep trouble, and Democrats in the state [are] hurting, too."

In Colorado, the change is due to the third of voters who don't belong to either party. Ciruli says these unaffiliated voters are susceptible to changing political tides. With the economy and wars hurting Democrats now, they're taking another look at the Republican Party.

This changing sentiment was reinforced by a surprise announcement from first-term Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who dropped out of the race for re-election. Ritter said he wanted to spend more time being a father and husband, but it was difficult to ignore polls that showed him trailing Republican challenger and former Congressman Scott McInnis.

"Seems to me like the rats are jumping over the ship," says Republican voter Jim Esquibel of Windsor, Colo. "I think things are probably going to change. I'm really looking forward to the elections this year to see what happens."

The Republican Party in Colorado seems more organized, too, after years of intra-party fighting, mostly over social issues. Republican political analyst Katy Atkinson has a word of caution for her political allies, though.

"If the election were held today, I think it would be a great day for Republicans," Atkinson says. "But the election won't be held today; it'll be held in November, and so much can happen. … The political landscape changes so quickly in Colorado."

That's a lesson Colorado Democrats appear to be learning now.

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