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On March 1, it’s Colorado’s turn to do its part in the 2016 primary election season. If you haven’t already signed up to participate as a Democrat or Republican, all you can do at this point is sit back and watch, because caucus rules dictate that you have to be registered to vote at least a month before the event.
And there will be plenty to watch. Super Tuesday, when Colorado will be joined by 11 other states and American Samoa (for a total of 10 primaries and three caucuses), figures to bring significant clarity to a presidential race that thus far has defied conventional wisdom on both sides of the aisle.
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Republicans actually won’t be caucusing next week thanks to a decision made by the state GOP last year to forego the procedure in 2016. The decision was a bit of a head-scratcher when it was announced, but now it’s beginning to look prescient. Skipping the caucus means GOP delegates will be free to vote however they choose at this summer’s national convention in Cleveland. This matters because, with five candidates still vying for the Republican nomination as of now, it’s still anyone’s guess who will be the top dog come July—or more importantly, whether whoever that leader is will have amassed enough delegates to secure the nomination. If Colorado’s contingent is formally uncommitted, its members could end up with an unusual amount of influence should the party, as some fear, have to stage a brokered convention.
(Note: This doesn’t mean state GOP-ers will be sitting idle on Super Tuesday, as there still are plenty of state and local issues that will be addressed.)
On the Democratic side, what was long a forgone conclusion has suddenly become a horse race. Instead of the expected coronation of Hillary Clinton, we’ll now likely see a bitter caucus fight between her supporters and the upstart Bernie Sanders activists. After trailing Clinton by almost 30 points just a few months ago, at least one poll now has Sanders with a six-point lead heading into next week. Given our swing-state demographics and preponderance of politically active millennials, Colorado will be a litmus test that could help determine whether the “Feel the Bern” movement roars on or flames out. After underestimating the influence caucus states can have during her 2008 loss to Barack Obama, Clinton’s team is taking great care not to repeat the same mistakes again.
For more information about the caucus process and sites, visit the Colorado Democrats website.