Is it too early to start planning for the 2024 elections?
Colorado Democrats don’t think so, and party leaders want the state to have a say in how the next presidential race plays out.
Last week, state party chairman Morgan Carroll informed national Democrats that Colorado wanted to be considered for state presidential primary status, potentially replacing Iowa or New Hampshire from the usual roost. of these states at the starting gate of the nomination process.
Colorado, Carroll wrote in a May 5 letter to the Democratic National Committee, “is a fairly independent state and prominent among its middle to western neighbors.”
Highlighting the similar shares of the electorate occupied by Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters, Carroll noted that Colorado trailed only Minnesota in voter turnout last cycle and “has some of the most progressive electoral and electoral laws in the country”.
Carroll added, “Colorado was once a red state, and through organization and hard work, we’ve become a purple state – and a purple state that recently voted blue. We believe we’re a model for knowing where the country can and should go.”
Colorado’s partisan voter registration hasn’t been as balanced as Carroll suggests for more than a decade, though the maxim that it’s “one-third, one-third, one-third” persists. Recent registration statistics show that unaffiliated voters make up nearly 45% of active state voters, with Democrats at 28% and Republicans at 25%. (The rest belongs to the state’s five smaller political parties.)
Although Colorado hasn’t been considered a key swing state since the 2012 presidential election, it has spent most of the century in battleground territory, even qualifying in 2008 and 2012 as the state “tipping point” that provided Electoral College voters who pushed the winner – in both cases, Democrat Barack Obama – past the 270 votes needed to claim the presidency.
There are many unknowns more than 20 months from the start of the 2024 nominating process – most notably, whether President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will run again, potentially setting up a rematch of the showdown. of 2020. Other potential candidates circle the Republican field, ready to pounce if Trump ends up not running, including Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and former Vice President Mike Pence. But many Democrats are also waiting in the wings in case Biden ever calls him, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Carroll’s submission follows a decision by a DNC committee last month to seek nominations from states aspiring to be part of five designated primary states – or caucuses – in an effort to clear the nominating process from the lock of several decades Iowa and New Hampshire enjoyed. Slot machines held by the more recently settled early states of Nevada and South Carolina could also be up for grabs.
The competition could be tough. By early May, 19 states and Democrats Abroad had letters of intent submitted to apply, reported Katie Glueck of The New York Times. States have until June 3 to get the ball rolling, with a final decision expected this summer.
National Democrats say they are open to revamping the calendar to give states with more diverse populations a chance to audition the field of presidential candidates before the dice are cast, with the diversity umbrella covering economic characteristics as well than race and ethnicity. Other considerations include geographic reach and random states can help pick strong candidates, which could ultimately be a very subjective measure, Glueck suggested.
A spokeswoman for the Colorado Democrats said members of the state’s DNC unanimously agreed to bid for a first slot to “showcase who we are as Democrats and our commitment to connecting with people.” voters and elevate the base”.
According to Census Bureau calculations, Colorado falls right in the middle in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, ranking 25th on the bureau’s Diversity Index, which measures the odds that two randomly selected people are of different races or ethnicities. different ethnicities. The most diverse states by this measure are Hawaii, California, Nevada, and Maryland, while the current top primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire rank near the bottom of the list, just above Vermont. , West Virginia and Maine. The states flanking Colorado are the slightly more diverse South Carolina and Alabama, and the slightly less diverse Massachusetts and Arkansas.
Colorado’s record has been mixed in selecting presidential candidates. In the nine caucuses and four primaries the state has held over the past 50 years — since 1972, when both parties adopted roughly the nominating process that still prevails — state voters from both parties have threw curveballs as often as not in contested runs, sometimes siding with candidates just before they ended their campaigns.
Thirty years ago, Colorado was one of the first states to weigh in on party presidential picks in its newly passed March 3 primary, joining Georgia and Maryland and a handful of caucus states on that which was dubbed the Mini Super Tuesday of 1992, after the Iowa caucuses. and the New Hampshire primary.
Republican President George HW Bush, who is seeking a second term, encountered the first sign that his re-election bid could be in trouble when conservative commentator Pat Buchanan won 30% of the vote in Colorado.
The sprawling Democratic field included Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, California Gov. Jerry Brown, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in the wake of his victory in his home state, which was considered a lesser victory by a favorite son. Tsongas, likewise, had just won the primary in his neighboring state of New Hampshire.
With polls showing a close race as Democrats crisscrossed the state, the candidates met for a final televised debate sponsored by KUSA-TV and the Rocky Mountain News on Feb. 29 — Leap Day — at Denver’s Auditorium Theater.
In a stunning upset, Brown came from behind to win the Colorado primary with 29% to 27% for Clinton and 26% for Tsongas. Clinton won the same night in Georgia and Tsongas took Maryland, leaving the race to be won for another week until Clinton took the lead sweeping the mostly Southern states on Super Tuesday.
Colorado voted twice more in the presidential primaries, in 1996 and 2000, when bipartisan contests had already solidified around frontrunners, before the state decided to scrap the primary and return to caucuses before the 2008 elections.
That year, Democrats offered Obama a quick and decisive victory over Hillary Clinton, while Republican caucus supporters leaned toward former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney over eventual nominee John McCain, the Arizona senator.
In 2012, Obama ran unopposed, but Colorado Republicans again went with an outlier, giving former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum a victory the same night Romney scored enough delegates in other states to pave the way for his appointment.
Both parties have chosen candidates who did not win the nomination in 2016, with Democrats largely siding with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders against Clinton and Republicans pushing all-in for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in a selection of Byzantine delegates. process that left that year’s nominee, Donald Trump, furious that the Colorado process was “rigged”. Voters have approved a falling statewide ballot initiative to establish a presidential primary starting in 2020.
One of 14 states and territories voting on Super Tuesday of the 2020 cycle, Colorado has attracted visits from most major candidates — including Trump, who held a massive rally in Colorado Springs weeks before the vote, even though he faced only nominal opposition — but fell behind more delegate-rich states voting on the same day, including Texas and California.
Unsurprisingly, Trump swept the GOP primary with 92% of the vote, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld with about 4%. Four other candidates trailed, including former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh, who had pulled out of the race by the time Colorado voted.
It was a tighter race on the more congested Democratic side, where Sanders finished 13 percentage points ahead of Biden, with former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Warren trailing. Buttigieg and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended their campaigns and endorsed Biden days before the Colorado primary.
Biden, who nearly cemented the nomination with wins in 10 states the night he finished runner-up in Colorado, did not travel to the state for a public campaign event in 2020, although he did attend a few fundraisers early in the pre-pandemic cycle shut things down in the weeks following Super Tuesday.