Intermountain West loosens its embrace of Democrats

February 18, 2010

When Barack Obama accepted his party’s presidential nomination 18 months ago in a floodlighted football stadium in Denver, he pinned the hopes of a new Democratic ascendancy on the Intermountain West.

Helped along by demographic shifts in the region, Democrats looked as if they had done everything right over several election cycles, catching a wave of new voters and showcasing a bevy of bright-light politicians who included Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.

“Western Democrats have enjoyed stunning successes over the last three elections,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared at a conference in Denver last August. “The road to the West Wing goes through the American West.”

Now, the region is emerging as a test of the staying power of those forces. Although Democrats are facing difficult prospects across the electoral map, nowhere has their light dimmed as quickly as in the Rocky Mountains and Southwest.

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