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Colorado, Said To Be Leaning Blue, Treated As Purple By Clinton, Trump

Clinton campaign

Colorado has for several presidential elections been cast as a swing state. The political pundits call it purple -- a mix of Democratic blue and Republican red. This year, however, the tone has changed. Pundits say the state is trending blue and won't be a battleground.

Try to tell that to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Or to his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. Both campaigns have made stops in Colorado a priority coming out of last month's party conventions.

Clinton is in Colorado this week and Trump last week wrapped up his second campaign stop in the state, promising to return frequently in his efforts to woo voters.


“And you’re going to say, 'Uh, this guy is back again. He’s driving us crazy,'” said Trump on Friday during a rally in Colorado Springs where he spoke to about 1,500 supporters. “There’s no way we shouldn’t win this state."

Meanwhile, Clinton is up by a sizeable margin in the polls in Colorado. That doesn't leave her supporters resting easy. Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona, a Clinton supporter, said she is not leaving Colorado to chance.

Credit Trump campaign
Donald Trump

  “I think what she wants to do is get it sewn up,” Gallego said. “Just because you have a lead now doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be in the lead all the way to election day.”

There's also a strategic element. The more Clinton campaigns, the more Trump may feel the need to follow up. That could make a difference in states Clinton wants to win, like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Based purely on registration numbers, Colorado is still purple. Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University, says Colorado voters are almost equally divided a third Democrat, a third Republican, a third unaffiliated.

“That has usually been an indicator of a pretty darn competitive state," Saunders said.

But Saunders and other political observers say there are indications the state is leaning blue: “We have to attribute this to the candidates, the parties, or this unique electoral situation that we’re in, and it’s probably a combination of all three." 

Yet even these experts admit they might be wrong. And the Trump and Clinton campaigns may see Colorado differently.

“They may have their internal polling that says something different," Saunders said. "I think there could be, whether you want to look at the Green Party or the Libertarian Party, there could be enough siphon off [votes] there that it could be a concern.”

The former chairman of Colorado's Republican Party, Ryan Call, sees the state as up for grabs. 

“I think it’s very telling that the very first state Donald Trump decides to visit after the Democratic National convention is concluded is Colorado," he said. "It’s a critical battleground state, but more than that, the electorate is made up of a lot of independent minded voters and those voters.”

Voters such as 75-year-old Colorado Springs resident Elizabeth DeNicola voted for President Obama in the last two elections. This time, she doesn’t plan to vote for either Clinton or Trump.

“Hillary is a bigger liar than anybody," she said. "I don’t like her and she’s not honest."

As for Trump, DeNicola says, "when he’s talking about women bleeding and when he’s talking about special needs people, that just doesn’t fly. He has no empathy for us. He doesn’t have the feelings that you and I have. You have to have dignity and class."

DeNicola will vote Libertarian. 

Joyce Wright, an unaffiliated voter, calls herself a political junkie. She watched both national conventions and went to a recent Trump rally to educate herself.

“I did think there was a lot at the Trump convention that made you feel things were not the way I see them, I do not see them as negatively as was portrayed, yet I do know we do have problems in this country,” Wright said. “I think a lot of things need to be addressed and I don’t know who is the better candidate to do that at this point.”

She filled out an online survey showing that she was most aligned with the Green Party, but she says she won’t go that route. She plans to vote for either Clinton or Trump this November.

Both candidates will have plenty of time to make the pitch to voters in Colorado leading up to Election Day in November -- regardless of how purple the state turns out to be. 

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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