A few Colorado counties show up on campaigns’ radar

Those familiar with America’s struggle in southeast Asia will recall an idea of protecting certain strategic positions to prevent them from falling under communist influence after their neighbors had done so. This was “The Domino Theory,” which assumed momentum gathered from this action would push nations like dominoes on a board, down the same path.

This seems much the theory both presidential campaigns have been operating on in the closing days of this presidential cycle.

We began with 50 states — or 57 if you remember candidate Obama’s discussion of his travels in 2008 — and quickly slid down to nine battleground states, then seven, and now I would suggest we are closer to five.

According to the Associated Press, we have now arrived at not just a handful of states, but we have settled on 106 counties that are of singular importance. To believe this theory one must put aside the natural distrust of going from macro to micro theory.

In macro economics, the broad flow of capital through the system and the influences of banking and the velocity of money have been fairly well described, and there is at least some confidence when they are discussed that the underlying theories are fairly valid.

On the micro economic side of the coin, however, we find that attempts to explain consumer preferences, the substitution of goods and even price sensitivity become less accurate as we move to smaller groups.

Approaching the political topic then, with some skepticism, we find that Colorado is home to six of the crucial counties and their makeup is quite interesting.

The Colorado counties are Alamosa, Arapahoe, Huerfano, Jefferson, Larimer and Ouray. Anyone familiar with Colorado demographics realizes these counties vary greatly in size and location.

One will also notice that there is only one on our side of the Continental Divide where the issue remains in doubt.

This is probably attributable to a voter base that is made up of newer residents to the area who have escaped from a more metropolitan life, mixing in with traditional conservative rural voters.

Larimer is typically a swing county as it has a large college presence, where people tend to vote Democratic, but it is also made up of small towns and farms and ranches, which is more likely Republican territory.

The truly interesting choices are Arapahoe and Jefferson counties from the GOP standpoint.

Jefferson County had traditionally been a strong Republican presence on the Front Range but lately has seen more mixed voting patterns. The Obama campaign must believe that it can make inroads there this year, and/or the Romney campaign believes it must fire up its base in Jefferson County to overcome some small changes in voting patterns.

Arapahoe County falls into much the same pattern.

On the Democratic side of the coin, it’s very interesting that the president’s campaign believes the traditionally Democratic counties of Alamosa and Huerfano need to be energized.

This is not a good sign, because the Obama campaign has openly said that it needs to court Latino voters to push the state into the president’s column.

The bottom line is that time is short and there’s little question that momentum — or as football coaches refer to it, “The Big Mo” — is with Romney.

Statewide, the president is even or trailing Romney, and that is a dangerous position for an incumbent. Undecided voters often, in the face of any uncertainty, break toward the challenger to give the new guy a shot.

Unfortunately for the president, I don’t think this is how it’s going to go — a super-tight race coming down to what few counties do in key states. Mainly, I think the polling at this small end is difficult because at this late date in the campaign, it’s hard to get a good sample of small populations.

The two campaigns in this presidential race may end up spending almost $2 billion combined, which means that voters have been inundated with advertising and polling for what will seem like a year and a half.

Many voters are just not interested in talking to pollsters or anyone else who calls them about the election.

Instead, watch election night early. If the president wins Florida and has a decent margin in Pennsylvania, the night probably is over for Romney. If Romney wins Florida and stays tight, or heaven forbid, wins Pennsylvania, it’s Romney’s night and Colorado will follow. That will be the best polling.

Rick Wagner writes more about politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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