DENVER (CBS4) – As recently as 2012, Colorado was seen as a prize that Republicans and Democrats alike pined after. Fast forward just eight years, and the Centennial State is largely overlooked, seen as a Democratic haven.
Between 1972 and 2004, Colorado had dedicated its electoral votes to the Republican presidential candidate in all but one election — 1992’s race between Bill Clinton and incumbent President George H. W. Bush. That year, Colorado had 8 electoral votes, which went to Clinton. However, since Barack Obama took Colorado’s 9 electoral votes in 2008, the state has been a Democratic stronghold, going blue in every election since.
It’s easy to think that the shift from red to blue has occurred mostly in Colorado’s urban areas. For the most part, that’s true, but there are exceptions to the rule.
For example, data from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office shows Douglas County has been a Republican stronghold in Colorado for years. In 2016, Republicans enjoyed an 18-point margin in voting results. In 2020, that margin slimmed to just a seven-point margin. In El Paso County, another historically strong Republican area, the margin of victory for the Grand Ole’ Party has been cut in half from 22 points in 2016 to 11 points in 2020. Other metro areas, like Jefferson, Arapahoe, and Adams Counties, have seen slim Democratic margins nearly double in four years.
However, Democratic margins in more rural areas have helped Colorado swing left more reliably. In Grand County, an area that voted reliably red in recent years, has gone from an average Republican margin of victory of 13 points to an average margin of just two points. Garfield County has gone from a Republican margin of victory of seven points in 2016 to a Democratic margin of victory of two points in 2020.
Few Republican strongholds in our state, save for a few counties near the Four Corners, have seen an increase in Republican margins like Democrats have recently enjoyed.
The 2020 election isn’t even finalized yet and party strategists are already creating their target areas for the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential race.
A CNN analysis shows that Colorado went from the fifth-closest state in 2012 – with just a 4.7-point margin – to completely outside the Top 10 in 2016 and 2020. In 2016, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin were the Top 3 closest states. In 2020, as results stand now, Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin are the Top 3 closest. Those results show a shift in targets we can expect to see both in the near future, as Georgia has not one but two Senate seats headed for a runoff election, and down the road for upcoming midterm and presidential elections.
Another data point that shows Colorado’s shift is this year’s Senate result. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper beat incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner by nearly 11 points, in a race that was called within an hour of polls closing.