Guest Column

He who takes Colorado, takes America

2012-10-26 11:32

Richard Quest

There's no escaping it, when it comes to election time, Colorado picks winners.  Eight of the last ten presidential contests have seen this place back the man who went all the way to the White House.

My train journey across some of the US election's pivotal states, for CNN's American Quest, has taken in Illinois and Iowa, both crucial in their own ways.  But it is Colorado where, on past form at least, the best clue to the victor may be found.

This state has everything – from IT and healthcare professionals, through to mining and construction workers, via ranchers and snowboarders.  Colorado's relatively flexible economy kept its head just above water in 2008's vicious downturn, and today it is seen as an attractive place to work, live and invest.

We arrived at Granby station, two hours from Denver by Amtrak's California Zephyr, to find clear blue skies, open spaces and breathtaking scenery.  Horses galloped across the plains.  The mountains were dusted by the year's first snow.  If you crave the outdoor life, this place is paradise.

People move to Colorado from all over the country for its lifestyle, opportunities and easy going nature.  Partly as a result, it is tricky to categorise its people, who span the full gamut from pot-smoking liberals (the state has actually put legalisation of marijuana on the ballot) to camouflage-clad deer hunters.  There is enormous wealth here, as well as grinding poverty.  And when it comes to their political allegiances, as many as 7% of Coloradans are registered Independents.

I sat down to chew this over with three of Granby's political elite – a Democrat, a Republican, and someone who has voted for both in the past – hoping to gain insight into who would carry the state.

Brave new world a long way off

 Coloradans, I learned, prize their welcoming, inclusive nature.  They like to leave a door unlocked when it's cold, in case someone needs to come in.  They'll offer a ride to those who might need one.  Their values speak as much to the individualism prized by the Republicans as the more social-minded principles of the Democrats.

I was told that faith in Obama has been somewhat shaken here.  While people acknowledge the tough task he took on, they feel the brave new world promised in 2008 is still a long way off.  Patience remains, but is in shorter supply.  Likewise, there is a sense that people are beginning to look at Romney more seriously.

There was no ringing endorsement of either candidate, which is exactly what you might expect from Colorado; but there was a sense, from all sides, that Romney is definitely becoming more electable.

 If that trend continues, Obama must be very careful indeed.  As history tells us, once they think a guy can win it, people are emboldened to get behind him.  And he who takes Colorado, more often than not, takes the Oval Office.

- Richard Quest is presenter of CNN's Quest Means Business. In The American Quest, the seasoned journalist gauges the political mood by taking an eight-day train journey across the US ahead of the elections on 6 November. For more info click here.

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