TNR Super Tuesday Primer

Like a growing contingent of western and Midwestern states, Colorado is trending blue in local and federal representation, and barely chose George W. Bush over John Kerry in 2004. The purple state is Barack Obama’s purported bread and butter--so a strong showing, despite Clinton’s early advantage among Colorado Democrats, will bolster this campaign argument. The Centennial state--where the conservatives are conservative and Mormons are neighbors, not demons--may actually be Mitt Romney’s best chance to pick up delegates on Super Tuesday despite his Northeastern provenance and Michigan birthplace.

Delegates: Democrats, 55; Republicans, 46

Format: Closed caucuses for both parties

Recent Polls: As in many other February 5 states, Clinton has enjoyed a comfortable lead here--between 11 and 17 points--throughout 2007. A Denver Post poll, however, conducted just before the South Carolina primary, puts Obama at a slight advantage, with 34 points to Clinton’s 32. John Edwards still garnered a strong 17 percent of the vote; where his voters end up is anyone’s guess.

For Republicans, the race is equally mercurial: Rudy Giuliani’s steady showing, which hovered around 20-25 percent of GOP voters last year, had been shot to pieces in the weeks before his drop-out. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, who was polling at 8 percent throughout the summer, is now backed by almost every other voter at a strong 43 percent. McCain has made a similar comeback, doubling his support in September to 24 points by late January.

Democratic In-State Fundraising (through third quarter): Barack Obama: $1,205,680; Hillary Clinton: $539,378

Republican In-State Fundraising (through third quarter): Mitt Romney: $579,488; John McCain: $312,089

Endorsements: Clinton has pulled down the support of Congresswoman Diana DeGette and State Representative Stephanie Takis., which could be key in winning over women voters. Ed Perlmutter, a freshman congressman, is returning the favor Obama extended in 2006, endorsing and campaigning for Obama in the state. Tom Downey, the Colorado State Director for the Gore/Lieberman campaign, has also jumped for Obama, and his knowledge of party dynamics may be crucial to turnout on February 5th.

On the GOP side, McCain has made few inroads with the party establishment. The Denver Post reports that unaffiliated or independent voters--among whom McCain is usually strong--are trending leftward and are more likely to caucus with Democrats this year. Romney, on the other hand, boasts several young state senators and representatives, including State Senator Josh Penry and State Representatives Cory Gardner, Larry Liston, Frank McNulty, and Rob Witwer, though their influence is localized. Romney also won the Denver Post endorsement (which chose Clinton for its Democratic pick).

Demographics:

On the Democratic side, the caucus format may favor Obama. Neither candidate has spent significant amounts of time in Colorado, though Obama has more than doubled Clinton’s fundraising haul and boasts nine field offices to Clinton’s single base in Denver. (A recent piece in the Nation gives credit to Obama’s widespread organizing effort in the state.) Nevertheless, 20 percent of the state is Hispanic, and most are Democrats, a state profile that—depending on which analytics you believe—favors Clinton. In addition, rural voters of the type that Obama carried in Nevada and Iowa comprise 14 percent of the population.

On the Republican side, again, the Mormon issue is not that big a deal; over 200 LDS congregations are scattered across the state. Though recent history in South Carolina suggests otherwise, Mitt may also be able to pick up votes in a state where most of the electorate says the economy is a top concern. Immigration issues in the increasingly diversifying west, ranked the top concern of Republican voters in the Post poll, may also be a strong suit for Romney. Though George Bush handily beat McCain in the state’s last Republican caucuses in 2000, gun owners and hawkish national security conservatives may go for McCain this time; and Colorado’s six military bases and academies, host to some 50,000 enlisted residents, can’t be discounted in this purplish state.