The past four years have been a rollercoaster ride for Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter. First elected in 2006 with a 15 percentage point margin, Ritter, a Democrat, is now expected to announce Wednesday that he will drop out of a reelection race he looked likely to lose.
Like the news that Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., won't be running again, this is one retirement announcement that Democrats won't be losing much sleep over. Ritter's exit from the race clears the way for strong potential candidates like Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper or Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to run.
The state itself has been a key target for Democrats in the past few elections, and it has paid off for them, part of a general blue-ing of the Mountain West that's happened as Latinos have become a bigger voting bloc in the region. In 2004, Democrats picked up one of the state's Senate seats, along with a House seat; in 2006, Ritter took the governor's mansion for his party, which also gained another House seat. And in 2008, the importance the party puts on Colorado was on display when Denver was chosen as the site for the Democratic National Convention. The decision appeared to pay off when the state gave its electoral college votes to Barack Obama, who won there by nine percentage points just four years after John Kerry lost Colorado by five points, and when Democrats flipped the second Senate seat and yet another House district.
This year, though, has looked like tougher going for Colorado Democrats. Ritter's exit may make things easier, but Republicans are looking to knock off Sen. Michael Bennet, who was appointed by Ritter after Obama named Salazar to his Cabinet, and they're likely to make it a competitive race.