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Why Colorado’s status as a swing state is important

Elections always have their own set of buzzwords, but these year, Colorado’s is “swing state.”

And this status increases Colorado’s national visibility and importance, according to associate professor of political science Kyle Saunders.

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“[C]andidates will spend a lot of time wooing Coloradans, just as the candidates have and will be doing over the course of the next two and a half months,” Saunders said in an e-mail to the Collegian. “And that, in turn, means that Colorado will have a lot of influence in the candidates’ agendas, as well as the final outcome.”

Freshman biomedical sciences major Monica Brandhuber, a Colorado voter, thinks candidate visits are a great opportunity, but not an overwhelming opinion-changer.

“I don’t think whether or not my candidate comes to the state should be a factor in how I vote,” Brandhuber said.

Colorado is one of 11 states that will play a significant role in the general election because it has a balanced number of Republicans and Democrats in the voting population, roughly one-third each according to Saunders.This means that each party’s voter base are similar and dependable for votes. However, the other third of the population are unaffiliated, and may “swing” in either direction depending on short-term political forces such as current events, candidate speeches and campaign ads, he added.

In order for a candidate to win the presidency, he must garner 270 of the 538 electoral votes. This election, a little more than 400 of those votes are relatively certain with states that are either staunchly Republican or Democrat. Colorado’s nine electoral votes are up for grabs, and the results in swing states such as Colorado will determine the election, according to Saunders.

“[B]ecause the polls in swing states like Colorado are so close, every vote counts,” Saunders said. “If students or any citizen out there want their voice heard and care about the outcome of this election, which contrasts two very different views of government’s role and our country’s direction and future, it is likely that their votes could make a difference, more so than in non-competitive states.”

Although swing state votes appear to make a more significant difference in the election, voting in all states is still important, according to freshman biomedical science major Monica Brandhuber.

“My [Colorado] vote counts as much as anyone else in the state, but it’s good to vote no matter what state you’re in, whether solid red or solid blue,” Brandhuber said.

Nancy Crow, a spokesperson for the League of Women Voters Larimer County, a nonpartisan political organization, chalks up Colorado’s swing state status to a change in demographics throughout the years. New people and immigrants have moved to the state, transforming it from what was relatively Republican in past presidential cycles to an unknown starting in 2008 when Obama was elected.

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Colorado citizens can expect a lot of national attention, and a lot more visits, according to Crow. Romney will target Colorado’s conservative base, while Obama, like last time, will target young voters and immigrants.

“The election is going to be determined by youth, and whether or not they get out and vote for Obama,” Crow said. “Both candidates will appeal to their base; not only appeal, but energize and get the vote out. Right now we’re sitting in a swing county in a swing state, who we talk to and how we vote will have an effect.”

There is no downside to being a swing state, according to Saunders, besides the “amazing amounts of campaign advertising.” Obama and Romney will focus their resources and time on swing states, which means that Colorado will influence the candidates’ agendas and ultimately the outcome of the election, Saunders said.

“So few people vote so that every single vote matters. One little vote could possibly change [the election result],” said Gabrielle Supolver, a sophomore political science major. “Swing states really do matter — if you get the vote in a swing state, you win.”

Politics Beat Reporter Kate Winkle can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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