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THE V A R I A B L E | January 2000


Colorado Could Impact Presidential Nominee Selection

Because of the timing of Colorado's presidential primary, the state and its western counterparts could have an impact on the nominee selection. Colorado's primary is sandwiched between Super Tuesday, the March 14 southern primaries featuring Florida and Texas, and those in New York and California on March 7. Even though the primary season runs into early June, the nomination battles are likely to be over shortly after the March 14 results are reported. With Colorado in the middle of the earliest and most significant primaries, the state should have heated battles among both Republican and Democrat nominees.

Western Primary Down to Three States
Western governors' efforts to bring eight Rocky Mountain states together for a March 10 primary was reduced to three states: Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The remaining Western states' primaries and caucuses were scattered around the 2000 primary calendar, beginning with Arizona Republicans on February 22 and ending with primaries in Montana and New Mexico on the last primary day, June 6.

 

the Western States
2000 Presidential Delegate Selection
Dates and Procedures

Date State Type
February 7 Hawaii Republican Caucus/Convention
February 22 Arizona Republican Primary
February 29 Washington Primary
March 7 California Primary
March 7 Hawaii Democrat Caucus/Convention
March 7 Idaho Democrat Caucus
March 10 Colorado Primary
March 10 Utah Primary
March 10 Wyoming Caucus/Convention
March 11 Arizona Democrat Primary
May 16 Oregon Primary (Mail-in)
May 19 Alaska Republican Caucus/Convention
May 19 Nevada Democrat Caucus/Convention
May 20 Alaska Democrat Caucus/Convention
May 23 Idaho Primary
May 25 Nevada Republican Caucus/Convention
June 6 Montana Primary
June 6 New Mexico Primary
Ciruli Associates 1999

The season started with Republican caucuses in Louisiana on January 22, Iowa caucuses on January 24 and the New Hampshire primary on February 1.

 

Presidential Primary
Turnout 1992 and 1996

Democrat Republican
Number % Turnout Number % Turnout
1992 239,643 44% 195,690 33%
1996 56,578 8% 250,733 34%
Ciruli Associates 1999
Colorado Turnout Often Low
Colorado adopted a presidential primary in 1992. Less than half the state's registered partisan voters usually turn out (the Democrat primary in 1992 was strongly contested and received considerable media coverage, including a televised debate). President Bush's renomination battle with Pat Buchanan in 1992 attracted only 195,000 Republicans.

The Republican race in 1996 was an open contest that brought out 250,733 Republicans. But only 56,578 Democrats showed up, mostly to support incumbent Bill Clinton in his nearly uncontested primary.

Early Polls
Most Colorado voters support Texas Gov. George W. Bush for president in the November 2000 election. An October 1999 statewide poll conducted by Ciruli Associates for 9 KUSA, KOA Radio and the Denver Post, shows Bush defeating either Vice President Al Gore or former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, although Bradley runs 11 percentage points better than Gore. Bradley draws more Republican and independent voters than Gore in his contest with Bush. When Pat Buchanan is added to the contest between Bush and Gore, he only draws 5 percent of the vote, substantially less than Perot in 1992 and 1996. Buchanan's votes come equally from Bush and Gore.

While Bush dominates the Republican field, with Arizona Sen. John McCain in a distant second, Democrat Al Gore is in a tough fight with his primary opponent Bill Bradley. Colorado is a major challenge for Democrats. Except for Bill Clinton's surprise win in 1992, no Democrat has won the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

 

Presidential Primary Results
Leading Candidates

March 3, 1992
Democrat Republican
Brown 29% Bush 68%
Clinton 27% Buchanan 30%
Tsongas 26%
March 5, 1996
Democrat Republican
Clinton 89% Clinton 43%
Buchanan 22%
Forbes 21%
Ciruli Associates 1999
Past Primary Winners
Jerry Brown surprised local Democrats and national observers by winning the 1992 Democratic primary, one of only two primary victories in his national effort. Key to his victory was attracting independent and unregistered young voters, who were able to register as Democrats at the polling place on the day of the election. Clinton continued his comeback after the Jennifer Flowers and draft evasion controversies dropped him into second place in New Hampshire. Clinton remained second in Colorado, pushing Tsongas, who was angling to win, to a close third.

Although Colorado Republican voters give challengers some votes, the establishment front-runner candidates dominate presidential primaries (Bush in 1992 and Dole in 1996).

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