Can Evangelical Voters Win Colorado for McCain?

In an earlier post I wrote about Saturday's McCain-Palin rally in Colorado Springs, and how the candidates and speakers, while stressing the importance of Colorado and El Paso County in particular this November, failed to give even a passing nod to the evangelical social agenda. That brings to mind a larger question.

Is El Paso County, with its high concentration of evangelical and military-oriented voters, enough to push McCain to victory in Colorado in November? Taking a look at various numbers, I would say it's a close question, but unlikely. [More...]

According to this 2006 PEW Research report:
Indeed, in many respects, white evangelicals have become the bedrock of the GOP. In the 2004 election, they were the largest single demographic group among Bush voters, constituting fully 35% of his total.

Today, Republicans outnumber Democrats among white evangelicals by more than two-to-one (51%-22%), and hold a 63%-29% lead when partisan "leaners" are included. Although Republican Party identification among both evangelicals and non-evangelicals increased slightly following the September 11 attacks, it has since retreated to pre-9/11 levels for non-evangelicals. Among evangelicals, it has continued to rise. Today, white evangelicals make up 22% of the population, and constitute nearly four out of every ten (39%) Republicans.

....The rising political clout of evangelical Christians is not the result of growth in their numbers but rather of their increasing cohesiveness as a key element of the Republican Party.
Another factor to consider in Colorado is the Hispanic/Latino evangelical vote. Newsweek this week reports:
Though polls show Obama beating Sen. John McCain among Hispanics as a whole by roughly 30 points, Hispanic evangelicals are a tougher sell. In 2004, 63 percent of them voted for President Bush. Comprising about one third of Hispanic voters overall, evangelicals are more affluent, more likely to be citizens and more likely to vote than non-evangelicals. (Hispanics make up 15 percent of the U.S. population.)
Taking a look at CNN's 2004 election results for the presidential race in Colorado, President Bush beat Senator John Kerry by 100,000 votes out of 2.1 million. In Denver, the results were:
  • Kerry, 166,135 votes, 70%
  • Bush, 69,903, 29%
  • Nader 1,371, 1%
In El Paso County, the results were:
  • Bush, 161,361 votes, 67%
  • Kerry, 77,648, 32%
  • Nader, 1,319, 1%
In Boulder, another highly populated, reliably Democratic county, the results were:
  • Kerry, 105,564 votes, 66%
  • Bush, 51,586, 32%
  • Nader, 964 , 1%
Among these three highly populated counties, Kerry roughly had 348,000 votes to Bush's 280,000 votes. So El Paso won't trump Denver and Boulder together. Equally relevant is what happens when you factor in other large counties like Arapahoe, Jefferson, Adams, and Douglas counties. The only one that went overwhelmingly for one candidate was Douglas:
    Bush, 80,651 votes, 67% Kerry, 39,661 33%
And then there are new voters to consider. According to KKTV News in Colorado Springs:
In June and July, Democrats registered over 13 thousand new voters; three times that of the Republicans. But Republicans still hold the largest voting bloc in the state with 1,024,500, with unaffiliated voters close behind.
My conclusion is that even with its high percentage of evangelical and military-based voters, El Paso County is unlikely to determine the outcome of the presidential race in Colorado. This may be why both candidates are fighting so hard for our nine electoral votes--and why we'll continue to hear little about evangelical social issues from the McCain camp in the coming weeks.

I think both campaigns will be smart enough to focus on the economy in their attempt to convince Independent voters and win the "swing counties." With the evangelical voters already in the McCain camp, there's no need to risk alienating other large groups by focusing on a conservative social agenda.

Other themes I think the candidates will continue to press are (1) who's the real agent of change and who will bring more of the same? (2) who's ready now to lead the country in a crisis? and (3) who is better on energy and the environment?

Since supporters of each candidate believe their candidate wins on those themes, existing demographics, Independents, and new voters, rather than past allegiances, may play a bigger role than usual in November.

[Cross posted and originally written for 5280.com]

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    Jeralyn, have you read Jay Cost's analysis of CO? (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Southsider on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:13:39 PM EST
    He covered it for RCP on his "Swing State Review" (wish he'd get around to Michigan sometime...)

    I recommend everyone who hasn't read this click through to check it out.  It's a very smart, balanced analysis of the state on a county-by-county basis, complete with excellent visual aids.


    Give up on post partisanship (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by mmc9431 on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:14:37 PM EST
    I think Palin really neutralizes any attempt by Obama to pull in most evangelical's. He needs to put the focus on the disasterous effects of 8 yrs of Republican leadership. Quit trying to be everything for everyone. Between the housing, the banking and energy crisis's he has more than enough ammunition to fight.

    well (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by connecticut yankee on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:59:37 PM EST
    Well, if we get CO, MI and PA that's pretty good. FL is on the edge and it looks like OH is fading for dems.

    CO is all we need. (none / 0) (#38)
    by Southsider on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:22:13 PM EST
    I said a couple of days ago that I thought FL was out of reach for us and I still think it is - it's a "deceptive" swing state (akin to PA for the Republicans) in that while it seems close, structural realities favor the GOP.  Absent a rising electoral tide that lifts all boats, McCain keeps it.

    CO, however, is winnable.  And CO will be won on a ground game/voter enthusiasm basis.  Take the state (alongside NM and IA which I'm counting as solid blue right now), hold MI and NH, and we win.


    Holding MI (none / 0) (#41)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:34:28 PM EST
    could be ground zero. It will be interesting to see what new polling shows there.

    Evangelical is not a dirty word (4.00 / 3) (#4)
    by haner on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:22:51 PM EST
    Most of the non-black churches in Barack Obama's neighborhood in Hyde Park are evangelical, and likely to vote Democratic.  But the knee-jerk attacks against evangelicals of all persuasions is off-putting.

    We are talking about... (none / 0) (#7)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:29:50 PM EST
    ...Colorado (and Colorado Springs) here, not Chicago.  Big, big difference.  

    Haner: no one said it was (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:32:00 PM EST
    and don't miscontrue what you read here. Also, as a new commenter, you are limited to 10 comments a day.

    You clearly oppose the Democratic ticket and you may only post four comments a day expressing that.

    Please read our comment rules.


    I have been saying a lot (none / 0) (#10)
    by MKS on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:41:11 PM EST
    of favorable things about evangelicals on this blog and Obama's outreach to them....

    I have posted comments explaining that evangelicals comprise about 25% of all people in this country, etc.

    My views about the intersection of faith and politics changed, however, after the joint appearance of Obama and McCain at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church.  My stomach began to churn just a few minutes into it as Obama began his public confession of youthful sins.  I like Rick Warren...but he was asking tax questions framed in a GOP way....

    There is too much religion in politics.  The evangelicals have been quiet politically of late, and focusing on AIDS and global poverty, because ever since the Schiavo legislation, they have been less and less politically popular.  They have felt defeated.  Now, with the Palin pick, they are elated and emboldened....If they were to win, on a platform of making all abortions illegal except for the life of the mother, they would demand (among other things) the political pay-off of ultra right wing judges, arguing they ran on making abortion illegal--and won....

    I am more convinced than ever that conservative evangelicals are very, very dangerous and must be defeated politically.....And, I say that as someone who is in some was very sympathetic to them.  


    Thanks (none / 0) (#1)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:17:21 PM EST
    Jeralyn. I was hoping you would post on CO. It seems to be up in the air right now.

    What role does the environment play? (none / 0) (#2)
    by MKS on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:19:09 PM EST
    It would seem many in Colorado would value the environment....

    But those in Colorado Springs could well be global warming deniers and believe that they should extract all they can now from the environment because the Second Coming is nigh.

    How do you see Global Warming and drilling issues playing out, if at all, in Colorado?

    And, what about the initiative that defines a person as any and every fertilized egg.  That would outlaw some forms of contraception, no?  Does that have a chance of winning?

    Drilling... (5.00 / 0) (#5)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:28:12 PM EST
    ...is more of an issue on the Western Slope.  The natives are not happy about it--as a lot of the economy is based on tourism (hunting, fishing and the like).  They lived through the shale oil fiasco and are none too pleased with the drill, drill, drill mantra.  

    The life at conception ballot initiative will likely not pass.  No ads buys as yet and most rational people agree that it is poorly thought-out and written.  


    colorado springs is a strange place (none / 0) (#32)
    by wystler on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:06:40 PM EST
    Two factors influence political thought there:

    1. USAF Academy, where acolytes of Gen. Curtis (Bombs Away) LeMay's philosphy still hold sway. Also home of USNORTHCOM (@ Peterson AFB) and NORAD
    2. It hosts many far-right extremely political Christian organizations: most notably Dr. Dobson's Focus on the Family.

    Focus (none / 0) (#34)
    by Kate Stone on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:16:19 PM EST
    Focus On the Family has its own exit sign on I-25 in Colorado Springs.  That would be like the KKK having its own exit sign on I-95 somewhere in the south.

    You are forgetting... (none / 0) (#35)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:17:51 PM EST
    ...the high concentration of Libertarians.  

    I'm getting concerned about (none / 0) (#3)
    by DJ on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:21:19 PM EST
    down-ticket dems now.  The generic congressional spread is now under 6.  That scares me.

    Downtickets (none / 0) (#6)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:29:31 PM EST
    need to separate from Obama.

    Not the answer (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by MKS on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:46:10 PM EST
    The Republicans are running a classic character campaign.  McCain is a POW and Palin is an everyday mom with a special needs child....If they win, it won't be because of their stand on the issues....

    Downticket dems can run on the same issues as Obama and win very nicely.

    You are less than objective about Obama.

    They do call it a "bounce" for a reason.


    Yes, (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:51:42 PM EST
    the GOP runs that campaign every election season. Too bad Obama has not been running on issues until this week. Now, he's trying to get his issues out there and he's being drowned out except when he starts agreeing with McCain like he did yesterday. Hillary said months ago that if you get into a personality contest with John McCain you will lose. Obama has walked right into it.

    Yes, the downtickets can run on issues but also separate themselves from Obama.

    I'm not concerned about the "bounce". I'm concerned about the underlying numbers. Obama can't seem to close the sale. A lot of his problems are cultural and can't be rectified.


    please stay on topic (none / 0) (#17)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:53:39 PM EST
    it's the evangelical vote and Colorado.

    Is it money? (none / 0) (#9)
    by DJ on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:32:04 PM EST
    Jeralyn, are the Denver Dems having money issues?  Anyone know?

    No... (3.00 / 2) (#16)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:53:22 PM EST
    ...neither Colorado or Denver Democrats are having money issues.  

    And with Dick Wadhams in charge of the GOP, the future for Dems in this State will remain bright.  Regardless of what people from Georgia may think.


    Hmm (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:13:54 PM EST
    did I mention CO? No.

    Hmmm... (none / 0) (#36)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:19:31 PM EST
    ...this is a post about CO.  

    And (none / 0) (#37)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:21:48 PM EST
    I said that I didn't know about downticket races? Right? Geez.

    That certainly didn't stop you... (3.00 / 2) (#39)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:30:41 PM EST
    ...from opining that downticket Dems need to seperate themselves for Obama, now did it?

    Our downticket Dems are in a good position at the moment, thank you very much.



    Actually (5.00 / 2) (#40)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 02:33:12 PM EST
    with the faltering poll numbers I wouldn't be so sure. That's basically my point and the money problems that Obama has.

    Obama (none / 0) (#14)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:47:57 PM EST
    is having money problems but I don't know about the downticket candidates.

    Doesn't (none / 0) (#11)
    by JAB on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:42:09 PM EST
    Colorado have some conservative initiatives on the ballot this year (like the affirmative action one)?

    Could that bring out the evangelicals?

    Jeralyn (none / 0) (#12)
    by glanton on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:42:25 PM EST
    This may be why both candidates are fighting so hard for our nine electoral votes--and why we'll continue to hear little about evangelical social issues from the McCain camp in the coming weeks.

    Shouldn't this bother voters, though?  Clearly McCain and Palin have some designs, with some pretty serious consequences, regarding social issues.  Should they be able to get away with not at some point telling Colorado voters what thei agenda is, and in a straightforward way?  It is up to Media to spread their Agenda truthfully, if they themselves will not.

    Igt all goes back to Davis's quote.  This election for McCain and Palin is not about issues.  Indeed.  Even Bush in 2004 had the pretense of Issues, by hammering away on gay marriage &c.

    We'll soon find out whether Colorado voters will stand for such overt cynicism on the part of the GOP.  As with other states, though, my confidence level stays low....

    Voters (none / 0) (#43)
    by Kate Stone on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 03:25:13 PM EST
    The driving issue for McCain/Palin now is change.  They stole the narrative from Obama and are having great luck at it since they are defining it through two people now deemed as mavericks taking on their own party. They don't need to pull out the big ones: the gay agenda to take over the world, illegal immigration and a woman's greatly diminished right to make her own decisions about pregnancy.  If they need those social issues they are in their back pockets.  They also may want to keep quiet the fact that Sarah Palin may have handled a snake or two while speaking jibberish.

    Douglas County (none / 0) (#18)
    by magster on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:55:34 PM EST
    Obama just opened an office in Parker, and I wasn't the only one volunteering to canvass from that office the last two weekends. Limiting Obama's losses in Douglas and El Paso is a huge challenge.

    One suggestion for Obama is running a targeted ad on McCain's voting record on veteran benefits versus Obama's record.

    veterans voting record is a great (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:10:35 PM EST
    thing to hit -- nationally, I would think, in addition to Colorado.

    The Vote Vets ones... (none / 0) (#26)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:21:55 PM EST
    ...I've been seeing here in Denver are pretty effective, IMO.  Don't think they've targeted McSame yet--just Musgrave and Bob "Big Oil" Schaffer.

    Yes... (none / 0) (#19)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 12:59:39 PM EST
    ...certainly a hard road to hoe down there, but keep up the fine work!

    I just looked at Obama's web-site (5.00 / 3) (#21)
    by magster on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:08:38 PM EST
    He's got 21 offices in the state.  I hope Obama's secret weapon works. (It would kind of be sweet revenge if community organizing delivers Obama the election).

    New post up on why Obama is better (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:52:05 PM EST
    than McCain on veterans' issues. It also is a good swipe at those who claim he has no experience.


    Does Obama have an ad contrasting them on the issues?


    Not that I'm aware of (none / 0) (#30)
    by magster on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:56:40 PM EST
    It is one of his issues on his web-site.

    Colorado is looking must win (none / 0) (#20)
    by andgarden on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:04:12 PM EST
    I think that OH and FL have probably moved just beyond reach. VA is the other avenue to victory.

    Kerry Lost By 100,000 (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by BDB on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:19:27 PM EST
    so the issue is whether Obama can find that 100K voters that Kerry couldn't.  I don't think new voters are going to be enough, the article cites 13k for Dems, that's not going to do it.  The GOP still has the most registered voters.

    Obama will be help by the years of work Colorado Dems have done to turn the legislature blue.  People are more used to voting Democratic.  It will be a shame, IMO, if Obama wins Colorado and gets all of the credit for turning it blue.  Mostly because it makes it seem like you do that through one charismatic politician when you really do it through years of work by the party foot soldiers on the ground.  

    On the downside, Obama's path was much easier before the Palin pick.  Now there will be a large evangelical turnout.  So he's going to have to find those 100,000 votes.  

    I think he has a chance of doing it, but I'd feel a lot better if he were up in Ohio.  


    I have a sinking feeling (none / 0) (#27)
    by andgarden on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:22:31 PM EST
    that we might be waiting up on East Chicago again on election night.

    Real Clear Politics (none / 0) (#28)
    by daring grace on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 01:24:29 PM EST
    Latest Polls
    has a Fox News Rasmussen poll with Obama up by 3 in Colorado.

    But even to me, a complete polling naif, it looks a bit dicey with a sample of 500 likely voters (isn't that the speculative reading as opposed to registered?) and, oh yeah, automated polling...

    Anyway, I like to go to RCP periodically and tiptoe through the latest state numbers, even if since 2004 I read them with the same faith as I read my horoscope.


    Don't forget the small fry! (none / 0) (#42)
    by BrianJ on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 03:18:59 PM EST
    Equally relevant is what happens when you factor in other large counties like Arapahoe, Jefferson, Adams, and Douglas counties.

    The small counties count, too.

    The seven counties mentioned in this post gave Kerry a combined margin of 5418 votes.  However, the rest of the state gave Bush a margin of 104,941 votes.  Weld County (Greeley) accounted for about 24,000 of those, Mesa County (Grand Junction) for 22,000, and a whole bunch of lightly populated counties pitched in a thousand here and two thousand there, almost all of them favoring Bush.  You've got to neutralize or outweigh those or else nine electoral votes go to that grinning guy from Arizona.

    True enough... (none / 0) (#44)
    by MileHi Hawkeye on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 03:29:42 PM EST
    ...but the landscape is changing.  With Musgrave in a tight race do in some part to NoCo becoming more liberal over the years and McCain's silly statements on water rights and his drill here, drill now, drill everywhere mantra, the Western Slope isn't the conservative bastion it once was.  

    Heck, even the people in El Paso county had the good sense not to send Doug Bruce back to the statehouse.

    McCain has tarnished his claim to being a "citizen of the West", at least in Colorado, IMO.  


    Did you mean (none / 0) (#45)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Sep 09, 2008 at 04:38:16 PM EST
    the rest of the state or the entire state? I think the entire state vote was 100k more for Bush and it included the counties I named.

    I agree with you that the smaller counties also count. I was trying to figure out if the big counties alone could make the state go for McCain.

    When looking at smaller counties, there is also Pueblo, Pitkin (Aspen), San Miguel (Telluride ), Summitt (Breckenridge), Routt (Steamboat Springs) and Eagle (Vail) which went for Kerry. If there is just a few thousand votes between them, I wonder if higher turnout and newly registered voters in the big counties might cancel them out.