Colorado’s shift from red state to purple state has made it key to both the Obama and Romney campaigns. But how long will we continue to play presidential kingmaker?

October 2012

I’m not sure how this happened, but the fate of the nation rests in our hands. I hope you’re enjoying it. I know I am. Personally, I love being the new Florida, especially without the bother of outsize bugs, crushing humidity, and pregnant chads.

That’s right: Along with perennial swing states Florida and Ohio, Colorado has ended up as one of a handful of states that is undecided, so far, in this year’s presidential sweepstakes. Indeed, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention last month, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, singled out the Centennial State as a linchpin in the president’s re-election strategy. “We win Colorado,” Messina said, “it is almost impossible for Mitt Romney to win the presidency.” That means there may be no more important voter in the nation than you. Yes, you. Take a bow, dude. Presidentially speaking, you’re the man. Or the woman. Unless we’re talking about your bozo neighbor, the one who confuses Paul Ryan with Ryan Seacrest, who really is the man.

Don’t let the magnitude of it all go to your head, though. The concept of the swing state—in which roughly 10 competitive states stand in for the entire nation—is a function of the anachronistic Electoral College, from which our nation can’t seem to ever graduate. The College was created by the Founding Fathers, who didn’t exactly trust the whole one-man, one-vote proposition (and, as you originalists may recall, didn’t allow women or blacks to vote at all). Back then, the deciders were white male electors with horses and muskets—not necessarily the perfect system for the 21st-century iPad generation.

So, from the start, presidential elections have been determined by state-by-state results instead of a national popular vote—and therefore, once again this year, the whole thing will come down to the states that can’t seem to make up their minds. Ambivalence is the coin of the realm. Nearly everyone in the red-blue world has picked a team, but the few states who opt for purple—they’re either color-blind or just not paying attention—get all the love, if that’s what you call the presidential motorcade traffic and the apocalyptic ad campaigns, which are the ugliest since LBJ introduced the nuclear daisy to the conversation.