Report from a Colorado caucus site

In a Denver neighborhood, support for Obama and Clinton didn't always divide neatly along demographic lines.

Published February 6, 2008 7:25AM (EST)

DENVER -- Snow-packed, icy streets didn't keep Denverites from turning up to caucus in the working-class neighborhood of Harvey Park, southwest of downtown Denver, Tuesday night. Cars jammed parking lots and side streets outside of Dorothea Kunsmiller Middle School in the heart of the heavily Latino area, representing eight of the 46 precincts in House District I.

Inside the packed lobby, the energy of the crowd leaned clearly in favor of Hillary Clinton, as campaign supporters held a sea of signs and aggressively offered stickers to incoming caucus-goers. Though statewide Obama would ultimately win Tuesday's Colorado caucuses by 2-to-1, at Dorothea Kunsmiller Middle School, there seemed to be a marked absence of organized Obama supporters. A few lone, quiet groups sporting Obama stickers lingered in the background, talking among themselves. Kicking off the proceedings, a Clinton-camp spokesperson, Margaret Atencio, read a letter from Clinton directed at Coloradans, offering the promise of more "green" jobs and a secure and abundant water supply. Atencio, a middle-aged Hispanic voter, gave a short, prepared speech. "I have met this woman before. She was kind, she looked into people's eyes when they spoke to her, and she listened. I want to have a president that listens." In contrast, the two-minute time allowance for Obama was filled by an unrehearsed speech from a volunteer speaker who was nudged by those sitting near him.

Yet while Clinton edged out Obama among these precincts, taking 132 supporters to Obama's 107, the fanfare clearly didn't translate to a landslide victory for her. And caucus-goers here hardly fit squarely into neat stereotypical boxes. Older whites and Latinos were not always for Clinton, professionals and younger whites were not always for Obama. In one classroom, where Precinct 114 convened, Latinos, women and seniors did indeed largely support Clinton, giving her 32 counts, whereas 11 counts -- primarily from the younger crowd -- went to Obama. But such demographic polarization was the exception, not the rule.

Robert Dominguez, a 33-year-old Latino postal worker, voiced unreserved support for Obama, who he believes will bring up the standard of living for lower- to middle-class workers. He told a story of a friend who works at a diner, making around $13,000 per year. A car hit her teenage son, causing the family to rack up six-figure hospital bills. Yet, said Dominguez, the best offer the hospital could make was a payment plan. "It's just ridiculous that in a country like this, we have such wealth at the top echelons. You should be able to have that type of healthcare for people." Dominguez believes that Obama will deliver comprehensive healthcare reform, without strings and stipulations.

Joseph and Joyce Solomon, both 79, who have been married for 57 years, are a microcosm of the Clinton/Obama split. Joseph is for Obama, while Joyce supports Hillary. Is it a point of contention for them? "No," Joseph said, without hesitation. "Well, minor," said Joyce. "I think she's going to be a more effective president. If anything's going to get done, she will do it." But, Joseph chimed in, "That's if she's elected. There's a lot of contention around her," he added, as they cheerfully walked arm and arm out the door, into the cold Denver night.

Regardless of which candidate they supported Tuesday, however, most caucus-goers seemed in agreement about what they'll do in nine months. In a once-reddish state that will host this summer's Democratic convention, and that could contribute crucial electoral votes to a Democratic victory, everyone asked said they would happily support either Clinton or Obama come November.

By Amanda Leigh Haag

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