Swing county favored president by 9 points
By Peter Jones –
Arapahoe County – a swing county in a swing state – played an important part in President Barack Obama winning Colorado last week.
The county, a former Republican stronghold that now boasts a majority of independent voters, went for Obama by 9 percentage points – results that were more decisive than the 5-point lead the president took in the state overall.
Obama won in Colorado’s other swing counties too, but by lesser margins. The president took Jefferson and Larimer by 4 and 5 points, respectively.
Arapahoe County Clerk and Recorder Nancy Doty, a Republican who oversees the county’s elections, says she had expected the “swing county” to swing in a different direction this time, and like many observers, she thinks turnout was vital.
“It seems to me there were more supporters for Obama out there than Romney supporters. The Democrats got a lot of people out there this year. I think that made the difference,” she said.
Even so, many of Arapahoe County’s Republican candidates took easy wins in their own local elections – including Doty, herself, who resoundingly won an open seat on the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners.
With an eye toward forging routes to Colorado’s nine electoral votes, both parties had focused on Arapahoe County as winnable for their presidential candidates. For several election cycles, Arapahoe has been noted for its politically “purple” makeup. Although Republicans once dominated, Democrats now have about a 13,000-voter edge over the GOP. Unaffiliated voters outnumber Democrats by almost 2,000 voters.
Last month, Fox News included Arapahoe in its pre-election series, “Counties That Count,” which focused on about 30 “purple” jurisdictions around the country that were expected to help decide the 2012 election.
In recent elections, the county has favored Democrats for president, a prospect that would have seemed unlikely a decade ago. Obama’s 2008 registration push marked the first time Arapahoe had boasted more registered Democrats than Republicans.
When the county favored Obama over Sen. John McCain by 13 percentage points four years ago, it was the first time since 1964 that Arapahoe had gone Democratic in a presidential election.
Many observers agree that changing demographics have played an important role in the increased number of Democratic registrations. A growing Hispanic population and the party’s increased popularity among middle-income voters have also been cited as contributing factors in Arapahoe County.
According to Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli, the most crucial demographic variable was so gradual — and inevitable, given the nature of urban sprawl — that neither Republicans nor Democrats paid much attention to it.
“The suburbs got old,” Ciruli said of Arapahoe County. “They now have the same problems that old cities have. It’s not just low taxes and the issues that have been the main staples of Republican rhetoric for so long. Politicians have had to adapt.”
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