How much has the political balance shifted in the West? If the WSJ is to be believed, demographic changes are having an impact in what was previously a GOP stronghold:
The Democrats’ changing Western strategy reflects a changing America — one that poses both a challenge and an opportunity for the party.
The challenge: The old Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and industrial Midwest continue to shrink. The states carried by Mr. Gore have lost seven of the 267 electoral votes they had in 2000. Four of those votes have landed in the Western states Mr. Kerry is targeting.
The opportunity: Demographic and economic trends are making the region more receptive to the Democratic Party’s message. Many new arrivals are lower-income workers drawn to the booming resorts, social liberals migrating from California and, most importantly, Hispanics, who tend to vote Democratic by a two-to-one ratio. In Nevada, Latinos are expected to cast 10% of all votes this year, up from 3.9% eight years ago, according to Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. In New Mexico, Hispanics this year will cast one of every three ballots.
Interesting issue. The challenge to the Dems, as with Cuban voters in Florida, is to capture a larger share of these voting blocs. While immigrants and hispanics have traditionally been rich sources of votes for Dems, the West is more independent and quirky than the Dems are used to in the Industrial MidWest and coastal cities.
“Yet it’s clear the West is evolving away from the staunch Republicanism that prevailed through much of the postwar period.
In the 10 presidential elections from 1952 through 1988, only two Western states, Hawaii and Washington, voted Democratic more than twice. The Pacific Coast states have turned reliably Democratic since then, voting with the Democrats in every national election since 1992.
And Democrats say Western conservatism differs from Southern conservatism — more libertarian, less religious. They believe Mr. Bush’s strong embrace of religious conservatives will hurt his cause in the West. Luis Rovira, the retired chief justice of Colorado’s Supreme Court, was a lifelong registered Republican. He says he found himself “more and more at odds with the social position of the Republican Party” on issues such as abortion, stem-cell research and the treatment of accused terrorists. A few months ago, he changed his registration to independent. Then he and his wife each sent $1,000 checks to the Kerry campaign.”
Yet another interesting twist in this fascinating election race.
Population Shifts In West Shape Kerry’s Strategy
By Jacob M. Schlesinger And Miriam Jordan
Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2004; Page A1