A growing Hispanic population and a slate of recent Democratic successes bode well for President Obama in this westward battleground, but a high unemployment rate presents a significant challenge.
In 2008 Obama became only the third Democratic presidential candidate to carry Colorado since 1952; Lyndon Johnson won in 1964 and Bill Clinton won in 1992 (though it bears noting that Independent candidate Ross Perot captured 23 percent of the vote in Colorado in 1992.)
Trends indicate that Obama's victory in the state wasn't a fluke. In recent years Dems have had a lot of success in the state. In 2004, Democrats won control of the state legislature, and in 2006 the party expanded its majorities to the state House and the state Senate.
Democrats also had a relatively good year in 2010. Incumbent Senator Michael Bennett won a tough re-election against tea party-er Ken Buck, and Democrats held onto the governor's mansion when former Denver mayor John Hickenlooper won.
One of the major reasons for the Democrats' success appears to be the growing Hispanic population. Today, roughly 14 percent of all eligible voters in Colorado are Hispanic, according to the Pew Research Center. Obama carried the Hispanic vote by a large margin in 2008 and polling in this cycle has consistently shown him with double digit leads over Mitt Romney.
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But Colorado is far from a sure thing for Democrats. The state boasts a strong Republican presence, and, perhaps more importantly, the unemployment rate has been sizable- 8 percent, slightly higher than the national average, as of September 2012.
The question mark in Colorado is the Independent vote. Voters registered as "unaffiliated" are numerous in Colorado, equal to the total number of registered Democrats and Republicans in the state. And there's some question as to whether they will break for either candidate or if they'll split their votes among Romney, Obama and third party candidate Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico who is also on the ballot. Like Perot in 1992, the Johnson factor could have a real impact on the final results.
Here are some key statistics about Colorado.
CURRENT UNEMPLOYMENT RATE
8 percent as of September 2012
TREND SINCE OBAMA TOOK OFFICE.
In January 2009 the unemployment rate in Colorado was 6.6 percent. The number climbed for roughly the first two years. It hovered at a high of 9 percent for September, October, November of 2010 and then it started to climb back down. As of September 2012 the unemployment rate was about on-par with the national average at the time.
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME
POLITICAL PARTY REGISTRATION
Among active voters:
STATEWIDE POPULATION (as of the 2011 Census Bureau report)
White persons: 69.7 percent
Hispanic: 20.9 percent
Black: 4.3 percent
Asian: 2.9 percent