Voters Split on Controversial Ballot Initiatives Stem-cell research and gay marriage were two issues up for vote in state ballot initiatives across the nation on Tuesday. Jennie Bowser, a policy analyst from the National Conference of State Legislatures, talks with Madeleine Brand about how some of the most closely watched initiatives fared among voters.
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Voters Split on Controversial Ballot Initiatives

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Voters Split on Controversial Ballot Initiatives

Voters Split on Controversial Ballot Initiatives

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And I'm Alex Chadwick. In Washington, the political climate of the Rocky Mountain West is changing. Last night's election made it clear the region is no longer a Republican stronghold. Some Democrats are now talking about their own Western strategy, essentially the idea is in order for Democrats to win the presidency in 2008, they're going to have to pick up votes in the West -electoral votes.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports from Denver.

JEFF BRADY: In the last two presidential elections, those maps on television were pretty much a solid sea of red across the Rocky Mountain West. But look at a map of governors after Tuesday's election, and now it's pretty much solid blue. Gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez was a victim of that switch in Colorado.

Representative BOB BEAUPREZ (Republican, Colorado): As Republicans, we've got some work to do.

(Soundbite of cheering and applause)

Rep. BEAUPREZ: There's a bit of a wind blowing out there, and it's not necessarily a warm, friendly wind.

BRADY: Beauprez told his supporters at a suburban Denver hotel that Republicans need to take stock and decide how to respond to this change - but he says not at the expense of core ideals, like family values and opposing abortion.

Rep. BEAUPREZ: Let's be sure we cling to our traditions, cling to those good ideas, maybe think about how we can communicate them perhaps just a little bit better. But our day of celebration will come, and I believe it will come again very soon.

(Soundbite of cheering)

BRADY: Others are not so sure. Many Westerners, even in politically conservative states, live by a code of you leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. Beauprez's opponent, Democrat Bill Ritter, also opposes abortion, but he's agreed not to interfere with a woman's right to choose. It's a position that seems to fit well with that Western code.

At the Democrats election night party in downtown Denver, Shelly Flannigan(ph) says this is the first time in quite awhile that she's felt like partying on election night. Flannigan says moderate Democrats like Ritter are bringing change.

Ms. SHELLY FLANNIGAN: I think we are just so tired of the way things have been going. And another thing is is I think we have a really good chance of getting the Democratic Convention here.

BRADY: Advocates for that Western strategy say holding the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver could help deliver the region to their party's presidential candidate. Thomas Schaller is a University of Maryland political science professor.

He wrote a book called Whistling Past Dixie. He contends Democrats can get presidential votes in the West, but only if they stop focusing on trying to win back the South. To convince party leaders, he points out that the Western political landscape has changed dramatically in just a few years.

Professor THOMAS SCHALLER (Political Science, University of Maryland): One could drive his or her car along the Rocky Mountains from the Canadian border to the Mexican border without passing through a Republican-governed state, when just six years ago the reverse was true.

BRADY: Schaller says more Democrats appear to be signing onto his argument, but not publicly.

Prof. SCHALLER: And I've had more than a few Democratic politicians who've told me - off the record of course - that they agree with me, but they could never say it on the record, and they don't think actually it would be smart to say it on the record.

BRADY: Schaller says there's no need to alienate the Southern voters who've remained loyal to the Democratic Party. But Schaller also has a warning for Democrats. He says they need to reconsider some of their long held views on things like gun control.

Hunting is popular in the Rocky Mountain States, and Second Amendment rights are a key voting issue for a sizeable number of Westerners. Schaller says if Democrats can say they support Second Amendment rights, they could take that issue away from Republicans in 2008.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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