November 11th, 2007
12:03 PM ET
11 years ago

Mountain west battleground for '08 vote

The CNN Election Express stops at the Vail Pass for live reports as they head toward Las Vegas.

ON BOARD THE CNN ELECTION EXPRESS (CNN)- We’re on the road to Las Vegas. That’s where CNN and the Nevada Democratic Party will hold a presidential debate this Thursday.

We’re riding the CNN Election Express, stopping along the way as we pass through the Rocky Mountains towards Las Vegas. We started this trip in Denver, along side the state capitol. The Democrats are holding their presidential convention in the Mile High City next summer. Setting aside California, it’s been 80 years since the Democrats held a convention west of Chicago, and they are coming here for good reason.

Colorado has a Democratic governor and a Democratic controlled state legislature for the first time in 40 years. “I think Colorado is absolutely a state that the Democratic Party could win,” says Colorado Governor Bill Ritter. He continues, saying “Bill Clinton won it in 1992. No Democrat has won it since, but we are in a different place than we have been in recent elections.”

And it’s not just Colorado. Democrats made major gains throughout the Rocky Mountain states. They’ve picked up four House seats, two Senate seats and three Governorships in the past two elections.

“I would say there’s a four state area, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, that truly are going to be up for grabs in the presidential election and some others as well could be surprises,” says Arizona’s Democratic Governor, Janet Napolitano. “So when you combine those electoral votes if you’re looking at the map and how to get to that magic number to be elected as president, there’s a big clump of votes out there to get,” she adds.

The Mountain West’s population is growing and changing. Many residents now come from the East and West coasts and there’s a growing Latino population. But it’s not just California transplants and East Coast retirees who are changing the nature of politics here. It is concern within the natural constituency of the Republican Party that there is a threat to the things that make this region special. Increased oil and gas drilling has sportsmen and ranchers worried about quality of life issues.

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“I think what you are seeing is some of the traditional Republican leaning folks finding common ground with environmentalists who might other wise lean in a different way,” says Colorado State University’s John Straayer.

But one can overstate the case. Western Democratic governors are moderate to conservative. And that’s why the head of Colorado’s Republican Party can’t wait for the Democrats to hold their convention in Denver next summer.

“They are going to adopt a liberal platform that I think will be out of the mainstream of most Coloradans. But most importantly I predict they will be nominating Hillary Clinton in that hall in downtown Denver,” says Dick Wadhams, Chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

The CNN Election Express started Saturday morning in Denver, with CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider giving a live report from alongside the state capitol. But just he finished up his report, the bus was forced to make a quick exit. The city was setting up for Denver’s Veterans Day parade, and the CNN Election Express needed to move. After a quick packing job, the bus was on its way.

Next stop, Denver’s Mile High stadium, where Schneider gave live reports for both CNN Domestic and CNN’s international network. From there it was up into the Rocky Mountains.

The CNN Election Express next parked two miles high, in the snow, up at the Vail Pass. After a few more live shots, it was westward bound again, on the road to Las Vegas.

We dropped 6,000 feet in altitude as we headed west out of the Rockies and into the mesa country of western Colorado. We parked the CNN Election Express for the night in Grand Junction, Colorado. That’s where Schneider continued his live reports Sunday morning.

Then it was onto Utah. We joined Wolf Blitzer’s Late Edition from the middle of the desert in southeastern Utah. The producers back in the control room in Washington asked if we could provide them with a location. The best we could give them was Grand County, because there were no towns around for miles.

The drive through southern Utah is a sight to see. There were beautiful vistas of the desert landscape with rarely any signs of civilization. We passed a road sign that said no services for the next one hundred miles.

Unlike much of the Rocky Mountain states, Utah has not seen many Democratic gains. It’s considered the most Republican state in the county. The state’s governor, both senators and two of the three house members are Republicans. President Bush captured 72 percent of the vote in the Beehive State in 2004. The Democrats haven’t carried the state in a presidential election since 1964.

It’s a different story in Nevada, which has voted for the winner of every presidential election since 1912, with the exception of Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Nevada’s another state the Democrats would dearly like to win next November. The state has a growing Latino population and a strong union workforce. Those are two reasons why national Democrats moved Nevada’s caucus up earlier in the presidential primary process. And that’s why the CNN Election Express is headed to Las Vegas for Thursday’s debate.

-CNN's Candy Crowley and Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: CNN Election Express • Nevada
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. John, Richmond, VA looks like a happy election year coming for Democrats everywhere. Mass unhappiness over the continued failing of everything that's good in the U.S. All the fault of the Republicans. Ironically, this is the same reason the voters threw the Democratics out of power not so long ago. Remember? So, what have we learned here? I've learned that we, working class voters, are doomed to suffer for the same reason congress continues to fail us...The "two parties only allowed" club has become our enemy. Instead of being amazed at and wasting talk on the headlines, we should have, and desperately need to be, organizing a third political party that will represent us. Our opportunities will disappear with job that's outsourced and every right and freedom we loose, when they start attacking our constitution. I beg all of you, that are so excited about seeing gender change or a good tan in the Whitehouse, to focus your attention on creating a movement to bring leaders with integrity and good principles back to Washington. Believe me...that can no longer happen within the Democratic or Republican parties. They have proven themselves to be under the complete control of wealthy and powerful interests. Unfortunately, "Independent" is not a group of honest, fair-minded activists with millions of dollars behind them. We have this one fact that always gives us hope; Working class Americans will always be the majority. We have this great internet as a tool to bring many people together quickly. Working Americans come in all colors and cultures, we all have the same enemy. Watch the Dems win easily with record low attendance at the polls or get concerned about your grandchildren enduring a future of economic slavery. Let's get to work!

    November 11, 2007 09:56 am at 9:56 am |

    Well we can see how thin skinned the BUS people have become.

    November 11, 2007 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  3. TJ, Raleigh NC

    Obama doesn't have a good tan. He's black.

    November 11, 2007 10:35 am at 10:35 am |

    You mention OIL and GAS... but just a second here... IT'S WATER RIGHTS that make a bigger war. Read your history boys. It's still current and TOPICALLY PERTINENT!

    November 11, 2007 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  5. Warren, Colorado Springs, CO

    It's a cute thought that Colorado sportsman will vote for a Democrat because of increased oil and gas drilling, but the truth is that the vast majority of hunters would just as soon move to France as vote for a Dem. I think this is a good example of a reporter from back east being totally out of touch.

    November 11, 2007 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  6. Mark, Steamboat Springs, Co

    I will be impressed by the Democrats and Republicans if either one of them can choose a candidate that actually represents the majority of Americans...

    The continued political turmoil in this country, the continued polarization of the two Parties... will lead to the downfall of our Nation's Government as we know it...

    Until a person is elected that listens to the majority in this country, that listens and compromises with all parties in this country, we will continue down the path of corruption, lies, and political upheaval.

    November 11, 2007 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  7. Mick Russell, Buena Vista CO.

    Living in Colorado I can tell you – we are done with this round of "Limo liberals". They have done nothing and they will lose the House – the Senate will be the close one.

    As we are getting closer to winning the war (yes, despite the anti-war reporting from CNN – we are winning), Americans will see these people for who they really are. Just brainwashed retired 60's hippies that have gone to the way side like tie die and disco. And we can't forget the Limo liberals that talk the big talk but don't walk the walk. Conservatives have done more for the environment than these Limo liberals

    Well, gotta go – off to the Support The Troops Rally here in Colorful Colorado!

    November 11, 2007 11:26 am at 11:26 am |

    Very keen observation Warren, of Colorado Springs...

    November 11, 2007 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. steve Loudon, TN

    John and Mark are so right. We are totally disenfranchised, regardless of our numbers and will of the majority. These two parties are basically one, each at the extreme and in it for the money and power. There is a real storm coming in this country, and it will be violent I am afraid. Lou Dobbs wrote an excellent editorial a few days ago. We need independence from these current dictators in both parties who have total disregard for the will of the people. They must be convinced or removed by any means.

    November 11, 2007 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  10. Ryan K., Denver, CO

    While Colorado, and Denver, in particular are great places slowing turning blue, keep in mind that we still have our fair shair of right-wing nut cases. Yes, Democrats out west are more 'conservative' than East Coast Dems, but we would rather consider ourself more reasonable and pragmatic.

    Denver is an awesome city, please don't let those few hard right folks down south draw your attention away from the diverse and inclusive Colorado culture.

    November 11, 2007 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  11. Stan, Denver, CO

    Anyone who thinks we are "winning" the war in Iraq (which is an oxymoronic thought to begin with) shouldn't be discussing brainwashing from any authoritative point of view. Voting Republican is the same as voting Democrat - why has anyone been led to believe any differently?

    November 11, 2007 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. T. Shaw Eagle River, AK

    Yes it looks like the entire country has a huge increase in latino population. Is that why the Democrats want to legalize so many illegal immigrants? How many illegals are voting now with forged papers and voting cards given out with their state drivers license.

    November 11, 2007 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  13. G.S. Virginia

    Oh well, there's always Ron Paul. I also have to wonder what is going to happen with Davis' seat.

    November 11, 2007 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. Rob, Denver, CO

    hey Warren from Buena Vista. I'm glad to see it is still the status quo for the republican party here in Colorado. When Udall wins the Senate in 08 remember your oh-so-not-humble comments here. Colorado is changing, forever. Partisan politics in this state are ending and dinosaurs like yourself are going extinct.

    Support the troops, give them body armor, give them longer home stays, and, God willing, bring them all home in 08.

    November 11, 2007 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  15. VA Dave, Yorktown, VA

    Oh yes, and while I am neither, keep in mind that Republicans have ended more wars.

    The France thing is BS. We owe our debt to their blockading of the Chesapeake and we repaid them in WWII. They owe us nothing more and wish to be left alone, and we should respect that view, though we are being demonized, internationally...

    November 11, 2007 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Rob L., Virginia Beach

    Is anyone ever going to take the time to stop where they are and actually look at the whole picture, or do you wish to have someone who will be there for you when you hit your alarm clock and go for chinese take out before taking in another American Idol.

    Keep it together, America.

    November 11, 2007 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. Steve V. Boulder Colorado

    Colorado will never let Limo Liberals stay in power very long.

    Today is Veterans day – So say a prayer for our troops where ever they are.

    November 11, 2007 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. Denver, CO

    I have a good feeling about Colorado. I think we'll go Blue this time around.

    November 11, 2007 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  19. Dave, Castle Rock, Colorado

    I recently switched my affiliation from Democrat to Republican so I can vote for Ron Paul... and I donated today. RP08!

    November 11, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |

    CNN you are wasting energy running that bus around! Not to mention you have 2 flat tires on it. Come on get in the grove guys and gals. lol

    November 11, 2007 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  21. Robert, Kensington, MD

    If you don't like your incumbent and you think there isn't any difference between Democrats and Republicans, why not vote for the opponent (no matter what party they belong to) to the incumbent in 2008? There is no reason incumbents should enjoy greater than 90 percent re-election rate if they aren't serving their constituents. If the opponent wins, keep track of their voting record. If they fall into the same trap the prior incumbent did, then remind him/her why they were voted into office. If they still don't represent you, vote in the opponent in the next election. If politicians understand that they must represent the people rather than special interest groups and lobbyists, they will pay attention or run the real risk of getting voted out of office.

    November 11, 2007 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  22. Daniel, Ronan MT

    Where is Ron Paul?

    November 12, 2007 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  23. Kate, Aurora CO

    Here is stating the obvious. Of course Nevada has a growing Latino population, thanks to the non-enforcement of immigration laws. Of course the Democrats have a good shot of winning Nevada, they want to grant amnesty to all who entered our country illegally as well as provide them with free healthcare and free education all on the tax dollars of the middle class American citizen. It is a shame both parties are putting the interests of people here illegally over the interests of legal tax paying American citizens.

    November 12, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. Kash Mansinghani, Laredo, Texas

    CNN has a great poltical thinker blog. I wanted to know will this debate, the Las Vegas debate air on CNN Live and on CNN Video. Pleade let me know as soon as possilble – Political Science Student

    November 12, 2007 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |