GOP ACHILLES HEEL
HOW REPUBLICANS LOST WEST
CHEERED as Republicans may be by the Clinton-Obama wars, the fact is that long-term trends still favor the Democrats this fall. To see the problem, consider the interior West - the eight states between the Midwest and the Pacific Coast: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.Not the party of Barry Goldwater!
This week, I spoke at a panel put on here in Denver by the America's Future Foundation, a youth-oriented libertarian-conservative group. The topic: "How the West Will Be Lost."
In fact, having heard my fellow panelists' takes on the situation in Colorado and the rest of the region, the use of the future tense looks optimistic: The GOP is already well on its way to losing the West.
The reasons were well summed up by the president of Colorado's Independence Institute and a popular conservative radio talk-show host in the state, Jon Caldara: "We lost our values. We lost our way."
It's been clear for years the interior West, once reliably Republican, was becoming a swing region. While 60,000 votes in Ohio would have thrown the presidential race to John Kerry in 2004, roughly the same number of votes, split between Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, would have done the same thing. All three were on the verge of turning "blue" in 2004; they've since gone over that edge.
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press finds that the share of voters who call themselves Republicans has dropped six points nationwide since 2004. That doesn't matter much in the Northeast (where the GOP's already locked out) or Down South (where the GOP remains dominant). But in the interior West, it's a big, big deal.Under Clinton and the DLC the Democratic party abandoned it's progressive roots and lost the House and the Senate. Under George W. Bush, the neocons and social conservatives the Republican party abandoned it's Libertarian roots and that's how the west was lost.
In 2000, none of these eight states had a Democratic governor. Now five do, including Colorado. A 2006 post-election Salt Lake City Tribune analysis showed that, where the GOP had beaten the Democrats by 20 points in the region's vote for the House in 2000, that advantage had fallen to one point in 2006. A few states, including Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, had seen a majority of House votes cast for the Democrats.
In fact, Colorado now looks bluer than a half-drowned Smurf. It's got a Democratic governor, House, Senate and high court. The GOP lost both houses of the Legislature in 2004 after spending a session on such issues as gay marriage, the Pledge of Allegiance and the liberal biases of college professors - while the state faced a massive fiscal crisis.
At the federal level, the state's got a recently minted Democratic senator (Ken Salazar, replacing a Republican in 2004) and two recently acquired House seats (one picked up in 2004, one in '06). Turning Blue on the presidential ballot is all that's left in this metamorphosis.
As Caldara put it: "Colorado is, in fact, the test tube of how to export liberal expansion to the Western states." A moderately conservative state has been turned Blue, Caldara says, because of "the absolute demolishing of what the Right stood for, how the Republican Party turned into something it was never meant to be and went away from Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan ideas."