Why is so much national political attention on Mesa County?

How is it that Mesa County continues to garner so much national attention? From the nation’s number-one ranking in quality health care at the lowest cost to world-class outdoor recreation to a steady stream of presidential candidates, Mesa County is of obvious national importance.

For example, in the past four years alone, we’ve had visits from Barack Obama, John McCain, Sarah Palin, Kathleen Sibelius and Mitt Romney.

But when I learned this week that three of the top four political TV ad markets in the nation are in Colorado, with Grand Junction at No. 2 (Colorado Springs at No. 1, Denver at No. 4), curiosity got the best of me.

After an afternoon of phone calls, I learned that Colorado is more than just a swing state in the upcoming presidential election; it is the third-ranking “tipping-point” state (behind Ohio and Virginia).

“As goes Colorado, so goes the nation,” is the catch phrase circulating among national political analysts.

Colorado has 37.2 percent registered Republicans, 31.7 percent Democrats and 30.3 percent unaffiliated voters.

But how did Colorado Springs, Grand Junction and Denver end up at Nos. 1, 2 and 4 out of all cities across the nation when it comes to political TV ad buys this week?

For starters, it turns out that TV stations in Colorado Springs, Denver and Grand Junction reach nearly 90 percent of voters in the state — and the media buys are relatively inexpensive when compared to the rest of the nation.

Although President Obama’s campaign has purchased more spots than Mitt Romney’s campaign in these markets, the Republican-based Super PACs have purchased more than the Democrat-based Super PACs.

El Paso County (Colorado Springs) has 15 percent of the state’s registered Republicans and is the “heartland” of Colorado’s evangelical community, while Denver and Boulder have higher percentages of registered Democrats and unaffiliated voters. About 40 percent of the state’s registered Republicans are in the suburban areas of Denver.

But how does little Mesa County, with its 102,282 registered voters in TV market number 184, warrant the second-highest political TV ad buys in the nation?

Mesa County has 44,833 registered Republicans, 20,825 Democrats, 560 Libertarians, 245 American Constitution Party, 189 Green Party and 9 Americans Elect Party. That leaves 35,621 registered unaffiliated voters. Statewide, there is a huge population of unaffiliated voters.

Except for Maine and Nebraska, 48 states, including Colorado, have a winner-takes-all ballot for Electoral College votes. That means that, under Colorado law, each presidential elector on the Electoral College from this state must vote for the presidential candidates who receive the highest number of votes in Colorado’s general election.

I spoke briefly with local leaders from the two major parties. Both are working hard to lure the unaffiliated to their camps. Both leaders said that the unaffiliated folks are the make-it-or-break-it votes in the upcoming election — local, state and national.

Even though Colorado has only nine Electoral College votes, with national polls showing President Obama and Mitt Romney virtually head-to-head in the race, the deciding votes of our state’s huge population of unaffiliated voters suddenly makes sense to me. No wonder the campaigns and Super PACs are drowning us in political ads!

Like many unaffiliated voters these days, I am watching less and less television to avoid the onslaught of political ads, and when I do turn on the set, I’m all but wearing out the mute button on the remote control. (Most of my Democrat and Republican friends tell me they’re doing the same thing at this point.)

I sincerely appreciate how passionate members of both parties are in their support of their respective candidates; they’re working hard to capture as many unaffiliated voters as possible, especially in light of just how and why the unaffiliated are so critical in determining the outcome of the upcoming election.

But I can’t help noticing how the one-third that has become so critical to the election is the same third that has no political ads, no Super PAC, no 24-hour TV news network, no extremist voice on the legislative floor, no pollsters and no heavily laden party-line agendas. One-third of the electorate. That’s a whole lot of independents — a silent majority, if you will.

Despite all the gloom, boom and doom political ads, I’d say independence is alive and well in the USA (along with independents). And that’s just as our nation’s founders intended. No wonder Colorado is getting so much national attention.

Now where did I put that remote control?

Krystyn Hartman can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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