Nov 9, 2022 - News

Colorado's new political normal after big Democratic wins in 2022 election

Illustration of a donkey with ballot elements that are distorted and wavy behind it

Illustration: Axios Visuals

The question in Colorado on election night is whether we saw a blue wave akin to 2018, or if this is the new blue normal?

Why it matters: The answer holds major ramifications for the state's future — in terms of policy direction, what kind of candidates run for office and how much attention Colorado receives from national political powers.

What we found: Plenty of hot takes arrived and, after dozens of interviews with experts, a consensus emerged: Colorado is firmly a blue state favoring Democratic candidates — with an important caveat.

Let's explain: Democrats entered the 2022 midterm in Colorado on the defensive, though far better off than the national party.

  • Crime, homelessness and inflation are elevated, but experts say the difference is the general mood: Colorado's economy is strong, the state government is giving money back to taxpayers, and Democrats crafted a message — even if at times misleading — about their focus on the cost of living.
  • Colorado voters also traditionally support abortion rights, and just as 2018 was a referendum on then-President Trump, the 2022 contest showcased blowback against the Supreme Court's reversal of Roe v. Wade, strategists and candidates say.

By the numbers: 57% — roughly the margin of victory in top statewide races — viewed Republicans as "out of touch" and overly focused on abortion and "pleasing Donald Trump," a survey from Global Strategies Group found ahead of the election.

What they're saying: "Voters are capable of holding two thoughts: that abortion and the economy both matter, and they vote on both," Laura Chapin, a Democratic strategist and Colorado reproductive rights advocate, told us.

State of play: The evidence for Colorado as a Democratic stronghold is abundant. Voters allowed the party to retain complete control of state government for the first time in state history.

  • Democrats won every presidential election here since 2008, all by 5 points or more.

The intrigue: The shift is so monumental because less than a decade ago Republicans held at least three statewide constitutional offices, as well as a chamber in the Legislature and a majority of the U.S. House delegation.

The other side: A cautionary outlook comes from state Democratic Party chair Morgan Carroll. "Republicans haven't had a non-Trump Republican Party to choose from in a while … and if they ran a more normal Republican, I actually think we'd see Republicans win in the state more often," she says.

The bottom line: "Purple" is a convenient way to capture Colorado's independent Western spirit, but it no longer describes the state's political landscape.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Denver.

More Denver stories