Election 2008

Sen. Salazar: Colorado Will Go Obama's Way

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President Bush won Colorado in the last two presidential elections, but the state's Democratic U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar says Democrats have been making gains in his state over the past decade. He says he expects Barack Obama to win Colorado in November.


Earlier, our co-host Michele Norris found the convention's hometown U.S. senator, Democrat Ken Salazar. He worked to bring the convention to Denver and to keep the gears moving this week. Now, as Michele found out, he's looking toward November.

MICHELE NORRIS: We're here with Senator Ken Salazar in the Pepsi Center, of course sitting on the floor in the Colorado section. So glad you're able to talk to us today.

BLOCK: Thank you, Michele and welcome to Colorado. I'm delighted NPR is here. It's a wonderful state and NPR is doing a wonderful job.

NORRIS: It's also a battleground state in the upcoming election. Help me understand the lay of the land here in Colorado. Where are the biggest challenges for the campaign?

BLOCK: Well, in the last 10 years, we have made significant progress as Democrats here in the state. I was elected attorney general in 1998. And at the time, Michele, I was the only statewide elected Democrat. Every other office, federal and state, belonged to the Republican Party.

Today, we've changed that. We have a Democratic governor, Democratic legislature. We've made gains in the House. I was elected to the Senate. And I think Colorado is changing. And as a betting man, I'd say Obama is going to be our guy.

NORRIS: You grew up on a farm and a ranch. It's said that you left the ranch but the ranch has not left you. You're sitting with us today with a cowboy hat and a bolo tie and a very nice pair of cowboy boots.

In the last election, John Kerry had a hard time reaching out and really making inroads with the farmers and the ranchers here in the High Plains. What will Barack Obama have to do to reach out to that voting bloc?

BLOCK: We still farm and we still ranch in my family. And we've been there for five generations, and I look at my family. And we come from what is one of the very poorest parts of the state of Colorado, the very poorest parts of the nation.

I think the farmers and ranchers that I know where I grew up, they believe that Washington and George Bush have really turned their backs on rural America. It is very interesting when you do the contrast between Barack Obama and John McCain.

Barack Obama was a champion in making sure that we revitalize rural America through key portions of the Farm Bill. John McCain absolutely opposed the Farm Bill. Barack Obama has been a champion of renewable energy which is helping blossom rural America today here in my state of Colorado. John McCain opposed every one of the incentives that we had for wind and sun and biofuels energy.

And so, I think when the people of the country make a distinction between the two and say who is going to be the champion that we need for rural America, I think it's going to be a very easy choice.

NORRIS: Senator Salazar, if we were to look at the last presidential match-up between John Kerry and George Bush, what are the lessons to take from that for the Democratic Party?

BLOCK: Take nothing for granted. And make sure that you run the race all the way across the finish line. I ran the race all the way to the end.

John Kerry's campaign pulled out of Colorado 10 days before the election. He lost by five, I won by five. I think if he would have stayed here 'till the end, he would have been close. He probably could have even won Colorado.

NORRIS: What about message?

BLOCK: You know, the message has to be one of change and hope and knowing that we have plans to move the country forward.

NORRIS: But there are voters who will say change won't buy me gasoline when it's $4 a gallon and hope won't buy me groceries.

BLOCK: Well, change and hope will keep us going until we're able to address these fundamental issues that are affecting the American people today. Most of the 48 million Americans without health insurance worry about what's going to happen with them when they get sick.

I know there are many more millions who have health insurance who don't have coverage for certain diseases or have high copays. They worry about that. They don't go to the doctor because they're afraid to go to the doctor. They don't take their kids to the doctor when they have an opportunity because they can't afford to go to the doctor.

And those are the kinds of issues that I believe we're going to be able to resolve with Barack.

NORRIS: Senator Salazar, thanks for talking with us.

BLOCK: Thank you, Michele.

NORRIS: It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much.

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