The Denver Post reports that Colorado may have been the tipping point for President Obama on election night. Read all about it here.
One thing is clear -- Colorado voters get lots of credit for getting out the vote for Obama and for its state legislators, as Democrats recaptured the House. The ground game in contested counties such as Larimer (Fort Collins), and some of the suburban Denver counties, was superb. They did get some help from little ol' us in Wyoming, as all of the efforts of Obama for Wyoming were directed southward into The Reefer State. While it's irritating to be relegated to GOTV efforts aimed at Greenies, there was no way in hell that Obama was going to lay claim to Wyoming's hotly-contested three electoral votes.
So what makes Colorado so purplish-blue and Wyoming so fire-engine red? It's population, both the quantity, age and ethnicities thereof. Colorado's population is ten times Wyoming's, and it has big city Denver as well as hipster Boulder, art-and-craft-beer-friendly Fort Collins, working-class Pueblo, chi-chi Aspen and, well, Colorado Springs. Cities draw more people and they tend to be younger and more ethnic. Colorado has always been youth-friendly, going back to the sixties, when people my age gravitated to its outdoor ethos and groovy vibes. My roots are in Denver, where I spent part of my youth and a big chunk of my adult life. Denver has seen its up and downs but it's always been able to climb out of the doldrums and prosper. It's always had its share of hucksters and rip-off artists (Soapy Smith, William Byers and Neil Bush come to mind), but also more than its fair share of visionaries, including its current governor, John Hickenlooper.
My parents were Denver natives. My mother grew up in the Irish-American enclave near Washington Park and my father grew up in City Park, about midway between the Denver Museum of Natural History and Stapleton Field (then an airport, eventually "international"). Their parents, my grandparents, all came to Colorado in their twenties. My mom's father was an Irish immigrant looking for a nicer climate than Chicago, where he'd landed after fleeing Ireland. My mom's mother trekked from Ohio to Colorado on vacation, liked it, returned home, packed her bags, and moved West. My dad' s father was gassed in France and came to Denver's Fitzsimmons Army Hospital to recuperate. Florence Green of Baltimore returned from The Great War to find her hometown boring, so re-upped in the Army Nursing Corps and was sent to Denver to care for all the ailing doughboys.
Seems that Denver's always been a draw for young people, for the scenery, the climate, jobs. World War II drew GIs to Colorado in record numbers to train for the Army Air Corps at Lowry Field or for the 10th Mountain Division ski corps at Cooper Hill near Leadville. After the war, they returned to Colorado, prospered and bred lots of Boomer children. Like me.
Back to the election. Colorado has been gathering innovators and yuppies and Deadheads and techies for generations. Denver, especially, has reached a critical mass, turning it from a cowtown into a world-class city. And turning the state into a blue-and-red checkerboard, with all those blue islands of progressivism.
Meanwhile, Wyoming limps toward the political margins. Its population is aging and is mainly rural. The economy is not diversified enough to capture those talented young people graduating from its high schools, community colleges and one public university. It finds it difficult to lure its graduates back from colleges in other states. In some ways, state politics is no more crazier than Colorado's, Montana's or Idaho's. Problem is, right-wing loonies have an easier time getting elected because the Democratic Party is not competitive. And even when we get great Dems to run for the legislature, they often are overwhelmed by the 2-to-1 registered voter margin of the Republicans.
Who went for Romney on Tuesday? Older white voters. What does Wyoming have plenty of? Aging white voters. Who went for Obama on Tuesday? Young voters. Also Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American voters. What does Wyoming have little of? Young, multicultural voters. So great local candidates get defeated and we keep electing more extremists to the Wyoming State Legislature.
There is obviously more to it than that. But it's the start of an explanation. More to come (fair warning!).