Colorado, a state where Democrats have seen numerous victories in recent years, could be ready for a swing in 2012. CivicForumPAC has moved Colorado to the “toss up states” category for the 2012 presidential election, thanks in large part to the fact that Hispanics are beginning to sour on President Obama. The president’s weakening connection with independents doesn’t bode well for him in Colorado either.
According to recent Gallup survey data (published April 7), Hispanics nationwide approved of Obama’s job performance at a 54 percent clip in March, which ties the president’s lowest approval rating among the group since he entered the Oval Office in 2009. While this statistic might have escaped most casual newsreaders, it is important for the GOP in Colorado, because Hispanics comprise more than 20 percent of the Centennial State’s population.
Before we get ahead of ourselves and claim that Colorado is prime terrain for the eventual 2012 GOP presidential nominee, let’s remember how poorly the state’s Republican Party performed in 2010. Last year, with one of the largest enthusiasm gaps in recent memory, Republicans blew the governor’s race, thanks in large part to an internal squabble among its chief candidates. Additionally, the Colorado GOP failed to pick up a U.S. Senate seat because its Senate nominee, Ken Buck, demonstrated questionable message discipline and the state party was frankly outflanked by the Bennet campaign and its left-leaning allies.
Back to 2008, in a more Democrat-friendly voting environment, then-candidate Obama defeated John McCain by slightly more than 200,000 votes in Colorado. The chances of the eventual 2012 GOP nominee overcoming such a vote gap seems implausible, until you recognize that John McCain ran a lackluster presidential campaign in 2008 and Obama is now saddled with an executive record that fails to spark enthusiasm among Hispanics and independents, the two groups key to winning in Colorado. Hope and change has shifted to not much change and diminishing hope.
Among Colorado’s independents, the mere fact that the eventual Republican presidential nominee is the “anti-Obama” could be enough to sway a large portion of these voters in 2012. That’s the easy part. To capture a good chunk of Colorado’s Hispanic voters, the GOP’s eventual standard-bearer is going to have to dig a little deeper and the state party is going to have to organize a little better.
According to James Nava, writing at The Americano, the key to winning over Colorado’s Hispanic electorate is to “encourage family values, education and employment opportunities that will promote stability for Hispanic families and drastically reduce . . . child poverty.”
Looking at the electoral map, there are scenarios in which the Republican nominee could win the White House in 2012 without winning Colorado or the nearby battleground states of Nevada and New Mexico. However, if the eventual GOP presidential ticket can’t appeal to independents and Hispanic voters in Colorado, it won’t bode well for his or her chances of picking up the needed votes from these groups elsewhere either.
Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are co-founders of CivicForumPAC and advisors to conservative candidates on Internet outreach, communications and campaign strategy.