Throughout the past few weeks, Colorado has been under close watch, both internally and by the nation, for its tightly divided politics. According to two CC Political Science professors, the Rocky Mountain state might be more evenly divided than we previously thought.
Last Tuesday night, Colorado College Political Science professors Tom Cronin and Robert Loevy presented their new book, “Colorado Politics and Policy: Governing a Purple State.”
While student body showing was modest, over 40 members of the local government came to the talk, which pleased both professors.
The two explained that Colorado is a purple state, meaning that while the eastern plains and other rural areas of Colorado are strongly red, a small, well-populated democratic contingent balances these counties. These contingents are located between the Front Range and ski destinations of Colorado.
These are balanced so closely that Loevy and Cronin estimate that Colorado is currently 50.1 percent Democratic and 49.9 percent Republican.
“The further you go from the 16th Street Mall in Denver, the more Republican you become, unless you are going skiing,” Loevy said. “I know that’s funny but it actually works that way.”
They explained that Colorado was a strongly Republican state until the ‘50s when the South began to shift from Democrats to Republicans.
The Democratic Party, looking to retain their voice, turned their attention to public offices in Colorado. The influx of wealthy, educated, and environmentally active people to Colorado’s ski towns has helped this shift.
Cronin mentioned that they expect Colorado to remain a swing state for the next eight to ten years and Loevy agreed, adding that in twenty years he expects Colorado to be reliably democratic.
“I don’t ever expect the Republicans to dominate the state like they did in the 1980s when Reagan was president,” Loevy said. “From Reagan leaving office, and especially through the Clinton presidency, the state has been moving steadily democratic.”
Loevy explained that Colorado is increasingly becoming a “corridor” state.
The more populated the Front Range becomes, the more it resembles other corridors, like the northeastern corridor from Boston down to Washington, DC. He expressed the opinion that Colorado is changing from a Western state to an Eastern state.
Colorado is the only state between the Mississippi River and the West coast to be shifting left.
While three other states in this area (New Mexico, Montana, and Nevada) are traditionally Democratic, Colorado is currently the only one that is moving even more left.
The professors noted the political TV ads and mailbox stuffers that have significantly increased for Colorado residents during elections years, as evidence that the state is a battleground.
When asked about this presidential election before election day, Loevy explained that, in the past, Colorado has been Republican when the country was leaning Republican, and Democratic when the country was leaning Democratic.
He mentioned that, in close national elections, the pattern has shown that if the country goes blue, Colorado will go red.
While this week’s presidential election proved otherwise, it still highlights the political unpredictability of the state and its importance in coming years as an electoral influence.