- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

Democratic leaders in Rocky Mountain states yesterday said Sen. John McCain is not a shoo-in for victory this fall in the traditionally Republican region, saying they hope to capitalize on a trend toward their party as urban professionals flood into their cities.

The top Democrats said Mr. McCain’s dismal showing in the region during the primaries — when he lost Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado and Nevada, winning only his home state of Arizona, but with just 48 percent of the vote — opens the door for a major push.

On top of his poor showing, Democrats point out that their party has picked up congressional seats in four of the last five elections in Western states, stretching from Montana and Idaho south to Arizona and New Mexico. Democrats are now governors in five of the eight inland Western states, up from 2000, when there were none.

In addition, they say record turnout during their primaries — plus increased party enrollment — put them in a good position to flip the territory to their side.

“We don’t believe that he has an advantage in the West, despite his coming from a Western state,” said Pat Waak, chairman of the Democratic Party of Colorado, which will host the Democratic National Committee convention this summer in Denver.

“He only got 19 percent of the vote” among Republicans in Colorado’s primary, she said, adding that 10,000 voters changed from Republican or independent to the Democratic Party this year.

Demographics in the region are undeniably changing: there are now more Hispanic immigrants, who traditionally vote Democratic, and newcomers are middle-class, more independent and concerned about issues from the environment to schools to growth issues.

“Nevada voters and Western voters in general are going to see that this one-time maverick became the Bush establishment,” said Travis Brock, head of the Democratic Party in Nevada.

“The ‘Straight Talk Express’ isn’t there anymore,” Mr. Brock said.

But just as Mr. McCain claims he has a fighting chance to win California in the general election, Democrats may be dreaming when it comes to a Rocky Mountain win, said Michael Barone, a political analyst and coauthor of “The Almanac of American Politics.”

“I don’t see McCain having any trouble in Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho or Montana,” he said. “I don’t think Hillary Clinton does particularly well in the Rocky Mountain West or the Pacific Northwest for that matter.”

Alex Conant, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said “Western voters have rejected tax-and-spend liberals like Obama and Clinton for decades, and 2008 will be no different.”

“The DNC is willfully ignoring example after example that shows both Democrats losing more independents and Democrats to Senator McCain than vice versa. Obama and Clinton’s records are as out of touch with Western voters as the DNC’s memo is with reality. John McCain’s record on issues important [for] Western voters — including guns, national security, and taxes and spending — is a winning contrast to the Democrats, period,” he said.

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