Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Looking Southwest for 2010 & Beyond

This year has been quite transformative for The West, especially The Southwest. Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico have gone from Red to Blue. Utah and Arizona don't look quite as Red as they used to. Oh yes, and California now looks bluer than ever before.

But will this last? Will The Southwest continue to trend blue? And can Democrats continue to make gains here?

Honestly, I think so. Why? First off, demographics are shifting our way. Latinos continue to grow in population and political influence. "Creative Class" professionals continue to breathe new life into the region's urban areas. The area has changed, and the changes favor us.

And because the the demographics of The Southwest has changed, so has the politics. The old "rugged individualism" and "libertarian conservatism" that used to define the region's politics have faded away as these formerly rural states are becoming much more urban and suburban. After all, why would young parents in Henderson, NV, worry about whether or not they can own assault rifles when they have to make plans for their kids' college education, keep their kids safe from dangerous air and water pollution, and be able to afford a home and food and health care? Why would a couple of biotech researchers in Aurora, CO, feel threatened by public park land in the state when they're worried about keeping their jobs?

See where I'm going? The West has changed. I know. I've witnessed how my native Orange County, CA, has changed from "John Birch Society" embarrassment to dynamic urban environment. I've seen firsthand how Las Vegas has transformed from small casino town to world-class destination. I've been amazed by how the entire region has changed, and how we all saw this on full display as Democrats won across the board here.

So what should we do next? Let's first talk about Nevada. Barack Obama won here by 12% (vs. a 2% Bush win in 2004), Democrat Dina Titus defeated GOP incumbent Jon Porter for Congress in NV-03, and Democrats now control both houses of the state legislature. So what next? We keep Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate and put a good Democrat in the Governor's seat to replace the disgraced GOP incumbent Jim Gibbons, as both are quite doable. I'd now peg the Senate race as "Leans Democratic" and the Governor's race as "Toss-up". Oh yes, and we'd be wise to take advantage of Obama's possible 2012 coattails here by finding a legitimate challenger to GOP Senator John Ensign.

Colorado was also good to us this year, as Obama won by 9% (vs. a 5% Bush win in 2004), Tom Udall won a formerly GOP Senate seat, and Betsy Markey unseated GOP Rep. Marilyn Musgrave in CO-04. So what can we do now? I'd peg incumbent Senator Ken Salazar's 2010 race as "Likely Democratic" now, but we should keep a close watch to make sure we win again. And of course, we'll need to make sure Obama wins again in 2012.

But what about California? Obama won here by a whopping 24% (vs. a 10% Kerry win in 2004) and Democrats already have both Senate seats & 33 of 53 House seats. What more can we have? How about the Governor's seat, which I already consider "Leans Democratic" as the GOP has no strong candidate to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger? And how about winning the "Toss-up" House races in CA-03, CA-04, and CA-44 in 2010, where we came so close this year? Same goes for the "Leans Republican" races in CA-46 and CA-50?

And what about Arizona? McCain won his home state by 9% (vs. an 11% Bush win in 2004), but Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick still managed to win a formerly GOP seat in AZ-01. So is there still potential here? I think so. Without the McCain home state edge, Obama can win here in 2012. And better yet, we can beat McCain in 2010, as well as fellow GOP Senator Jon Kyl in 2012, with the right candidates. Same goes with the 2010 Governor's race, which can be a "Toss-up" if we can have a quality candidate run against newly minted GOP Governor Jan Brewer.

So where do we go from here out West? We win! Ready to win?


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