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Mr. Wadhams said the recall went beyond guns: “It portends a backlash against some of the Democratic excesses of the past year. What the Democrats didn’t understand is that there are large numbers of culturally conservative Democrats in that Giron district, and they didn’t like what they saw coming out of the state legislature.”

Indeed, analysts repeatedly referred to the Democrat-controlled legislature’s overreach in explaining the recall outcome. In addition to restricting access to firearms and ammunition, the legislature doubled the renewable-energy mandate on rural areas, allowed in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and took a crack at eliminating capital punishment.

The recall also upends assumptions about swing-state Colorado’s move to the left. Mr. Ciruli said those who colored Colorado increasingly blue may want to think again.

“I definitely think there’s been a reset,” said Mr. Ciruli. “My sense is that Colorado is back in play. This state now looks like it has recalibrated.”

Democratic pushback

Democrats scrambled to push back against such speculation, insisting that the recalls were lost because of right-wing efforts to confuse voters. Activists on both sides went to court at least three times to figure out how to run the election under the state’s new Democrat-drafted elections law, which was passed with no Republican votes.

“The recall elections in Colorado were defined by the vast array of obstacles that special interests threw in the way of voters for the purpose of reversing the will of the legislature and the people,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, who heads the Democratic National Committee. “This was voter suppression, pure and simple.”

The recalls were conducted as walk-in elections because of time constraints involved with mailing ballots. Future Colorado elections will be all-mail with same-day voter registration under the new law.

“This election was not only an unnecessary cost to taxpayers, but a disservice was done to the voters in these districts, too,” said Michael Sargent, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “More voters will turn out in the 2014 election, and Democrats across the country are poised to build on the gains they made in the 2012 elections.”

Democrats also blamed the National Rifle Association, although the NRA was scarcely involved until the last month of the campaign, when it sank $350,000 into ads and mailers. Pro-Democrat groups spent an estimated $3 million on the two recalls, only to come up short.

In Pueblo, the resource disparity was stark: Three plumbers, led by 28-year-old Victor Head, used spray paint to make their yard signs and aired homegrown ads during midnight showings of “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” while the Giron campaign ran a polished, professional effort.

That the plumbers won anyway should serve as a cautionary tale to politicos nationwide about the power of the grass roots, Mr. Ciruli said.

“This reconfiguration tells Democrats in Colorado and other states that if you get too aggressive, if you look like you’re insensitive to the grass roots in general, you could be in trouble,” he said.