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

As late as 2004, Colorado was a solidly red state, and people were predicting it might stay that way forever. Four years later, Colorado had voted for Obama; a Democratic governor; two Democratic senators; a majority Democratic congressional delegation; and Dem control of both houses of the state Legislature.

What happened has been well documented. The Democratic billionaires, such as Pat Stryker and Tim Gill, played small ball and picked legislative races to pour money into. The state, which grew by a third in the 1990s, became more urban and more Californian. The California Republicans who moved here weren’t Colorado Republicans, and the new middle-class Jefferson County dwellers weren’t sure what to make of, say, politicians comparing gay marriage to marrying your horse.

The transition from red to purple to blue, however, is not yet complete, and just like the previous presidential election, we’re still the center of attention. During the Obama-McCain race four years ago, almost 90 percent of all campaign funds was spent in just 15 swing states. A lot more money will be spent this year in the post–Citizens United world of super PACs and secret super super PACs. And that means we’ll continue to be bombarded with dangerous doses of political negativity each day on TV, radio, Facebook, and Twitter. Campaign spending, it appears, will grow bigger and more focused and evermore narrowly cast. Next time, the candidates will have your cell phone on speed dial, and if you’re not careful, you may find Sheldon Adelson inviting you to lunch.

Then, one day in November, it will be over and Obama will be re-elected, or Romney will be strapping family pets on top of Air Force One, and the country will strive mightily to return to a few days of normalcy before the whole campaign season starts anew.

And here in Colorado? Soon enough, we’ll slowly begin to gear up too. But in fewer than 10 years, the excitement may well all be gone—poof—and electorally speaking, we’ll be back to being Kansas with mountains, although this time, there’s a good chance we’ll be voting blue. In the meantime, we’ll continue living large. Enjoy it while you can. 


Mike Littwin has been on the staffs of the Rocky Mountain News, the Los Angeles Times, and the Baltimore Sun. Most recently, he was a columnist for the Denver Post. Email him at [email protected].