While Hispanics have traditionally been a key Democratic voting bloc, a steady rise in Colorado’s Hispanic population might give Sen. Barack Obama the edge he needs to clinch nine electoral votes in a state that has voted Republican in the last three presidential contests.
In the Centennial State, 70 percent of Hispanic voters supported the Illinois Democrat in a recent Associated Press poll. Overall, Obama led GOP rival Sen. John McCain 50 percent to 41 percent among likely voters.
Census reports from 2007 estimate that Hispanics now make up nearly 18 percent of Colorado’s 4.9 million residents, compared to 17.1 percent eight years ago. When narrowed down to white non-Hispanic voters, however, the Illinois senator is only up 47 to 44 percent.
“We need a change. We don’t need someone like our current president,” first-time voter Santiago Chavez, 45, told the Denver Post.
In order to combat Obama’s rising popularity, McCain has been campaigning hard in the state, with three stops there last Friday. In Colorado Springs, he met with small-business owners after a campaign rally in Denver.
The Arizona senator blamed Washington irresponsibility for the current financial crisis and touted his long record of leadership in his Denver address.
“I will not be a president that needs to be tested,” he said. “I have been tested. Senator Obama hasn’t, and it shows in his responses to our challenges abroad.”
While McCain will travel to Virginia and North Carolina over the weekend, Obama plans to make Pueblo, Colo., one of his last campaign stops to court more voters in the suburbs.
Obama has also made inroads among Colorado’s older voters and those who’ve already sent in their ballots. Among the latter, Obama held a 57 to 34 percent lead over McCain as of Wednesday, the Denver Post reported.
Among voters over 50, Obama has also taken a five-point lead, the AP reported.
“Two weeks ago, he was losing the over-50 crowd by a couple of points,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said, according to the AP.
Despite Colorado’s traditional Republican voting record, some analysts see the state’s changing demographics as a sign of a major political shift.
Obama is “propelled by an amazing 15-point lead in Colorado’s fast-growing suburbs,” CNN’s Bill Schneider said. “The nation’s economy has faltered, and so has Republican support, for nearly 30 years the cornerstone of the Reagan coalition.”