For Democrats, is the sun rising in the West?

2006 results show a red-to-blue shift in three states Bush carried in 2004.


Tim Grieve
November 20, 2006 11:07PM (UTC)

Winning the House isn't the same thing as winning the White House, but the Hotline has culled an interesting fact from the Salt Lake Tribune's breakdown of how voters in the West voted earlier this month: In three states George W. Bush carried in 2004 -- Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico -- more voters voted for Democrats than Republicans in congressional elections this time around.

That's not a huge change for New Mexico, which has been back-and-forth in House races over the past decade, and which Bush carried by just a single percentage point in 2004. But the Tribune's charts show a pretty steady red-to-blue progression in Colorado since 2000 and in Nevada since 2002. Wyoming has also grown consistently more blue in House votes since 2000; voters split their votes evenly this year, turning a once-solid-red state into something of a tossup, at least in the specific context of the 2006 midterm elections.

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Do these results from 2006 suggest that things may be different for Democrats in 2008 than they were in 2000 and 2004? The Los Angeles Times' Ron Brownstein seems to think so. Brownstein says the 2006 election "highlighted cracks in an electoral landscape that had been unusually stable." How stable? In the last four presidential elections, Brownstein writes, the Electoral College votes for 34 states have gone to candidates from the same party each time. Brownstein says this month's results leave Democrats feeling more confident that they can compete on a "much wider playing field," especially in the West: If a Democratic candidate could add Colorado and, say, Virginia to the states John Kerry won in 2004, that Democrat would be president.

All that having been said, cracks in the map can run in both directions. Arnold Schwarzenegger's people are looking for ways to parlay the California governor's sweeping reelection win into something bigger in 2008. The Austrian-born Republican can't serve as president, but the Times says he and his staff "hope Schwarzenegger can exercise sway in the 2008 campaign by promoting his Sacramento-style centrism on a national stage, the way Reagan-style conservatism was exported west to east."


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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