In the West, a Shift from Red to Blue

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The U.S. West can be difficult for political pundits to analyze. It's both conservative and liberal, Republican and Democratic — often in the same state, and even the same city and county.

One of the best examples is California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, an avowed conservative Republican who nonetheless supports a woman's right to an abortion, boosting the minimum wage and state funding of stem-cell research.

The coastal states of California, Oregon, and Washington are solidly Democratic, and the states united by the Rocky Mountains have for the most part been traditionally Republican. But that could change on November; some of those states may be shifting to blue after years of GOP rule.

Quick profiles of the battleground states:

• Montana — Sen. Conrad Burns may lose his seat after 18 years to his Democratic challenger, former state senator Jon Tester. Burns has significant hurdles: He took more money from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff than anyone else in Congress, and observers say he can come across as arrogant in public appearances.

• Colorado — Republicans have occupied the governor's mansion for decades, but Democrat Bill Ritter is leading the race against Republican Bob Beauprez to succeed two-term Republican Gov. Bill Owens. Four years ago, Colorado Democrats began picking up Senate and House seats, and in state politics, Democrats captured the statehouse in 2004. If Democrats retain their lead and win the governor's race, they would control both the statehouse and the governor's mansion for the first time since 1961.

• Arizona — Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano will likely be re-elected. Moderate Republican Jim Colby is retiring from his seat in the House representing Tucson, and Democrats are confident their candidate will pick up that seat. The Republican nominee is a strong anti-immigration advocate who's been endorsed by the Minutemen.

• New Mexico — Gov. Bill Richardson is the head of the Democratic Governors Association and is expected to win a second term. He's also a possible presidential candidate in 2008. New Mexico's current political climate could jeopardize Republican Heather Wilson's seat in Congress, because she narrowly wins her elections most of the time. Her close association with President Bush and support for the continued U.S.-led occupation of Iraq could hurt her chances.

• Wyoming — The state where Bush-Cheney won 69 percent of the vote in 2004 may not seem a likely hopeful for Democrats. But Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin, the lone member of Congress from Wyoming, is in an unexpectedly tough race. Pro-gun and anti-abortion Democratic candidates have sapped some of Cubin's traditional support base. Wyoming Republicans have also alienated Hispanics, who are now favoring the Democrats' moderate stance on changing federal immigration policy.

• California — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been leading over his Democratic opponent Phil Angelides with double digits in the polls. But Schwarzenegger is not a Republican stalwart — he's more of a personality and populist. That made him attractive to Democratic voters when he won the recall election that put him into office, and will help him again in November. There are only two Republican members of Congress in California that people need to watch out for: Richard Pombo and John Doolittle, who both took money from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Most other California members of the House — Republicans and Democrats alike — are safe this year.



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