Slate joins the chorus of national publications whose crystal balls see Colorado as the Florida of this year’s presidential election. In “Colorado – How Kerry could win it and still lose it, or lose it and still win it,” writer Bryan Curtis explores how the state’s newfound battleground status is made all the more complicated by Amendment 36, the ballot initiative that would do away with the state’s winner-take-all allotment of its nine electoral votes.
Along the way, Curtis deftly dispels the common misconception of Colorado as a progressive bastion that’s only recently made a hard turn to the right:
A Kerry victory would reverse more than a decade of Democratic futility. The last Democratic presidential candidate to win here was Bill Clinton in 1992. Before that, it was Harry Truman. Colorado may seem like a friendly beachhead for Southwestern liberalism — it gave the world Gary Hart, Pat Schroeder, and Dick Lamm — but in some ways, it’s as rigidly conservative as Arizona. “The wrong impression got created in the ’80s and ’90s,” said Hart, who was waiting on the tarmac the other day for Kerry’s plane to land. “Colorado has always been a Republican state.” Republicans have almost 200,000 more registered voters than the Democrats.
Ken Salazar’s unexpected entry into the U.S. Senate race has changed that equation, at least temporarily. But the real potential for post-Election Day mayhem comes from Amendment 36, which would split the state’s nine electoral votes based on each candidate’s share of the popular vote.
The amendment has turned the Colorado ballot into a dizzying exercise in game theory. Should Democrats vote for Kerry and then vote “no” on Amendment 36, and risk Kerry’s rally falling short and handing all nine electoral votes to Bush? Or vote for Kerry and “yea” 36, and risk gifting Bush a close election with those four electoral votes? And do Republicans fear that Kerry has made up so much ground that they will vote “yea” on 36 to cover their bases?