What’s at stake for tonight’s GOP debate?

There are many dynamics in the 2016 race this week. (To catch up, we highly recommend Gwen’s talk with Amy Walter and Tamara Keith, which included the rise of Ben Carson.)

Next, the GOP presidential hopefuls take the stage for their third debateWednesday in Boulder, Colorado, a town that is less-than-favorable to Republicans. Here’s your quick primer on Colorado’s political geography:

Purple presidents: Voters elected Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992, then Republican Bob Dole in 1996. The state went red for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, then back to blue to elect Barack Obama in 2008. Voters narrowly re-elected him in 2012: 51.4 percent to Mitt Romney’s 47 percent.

Purple in Congress, too: Colorado has a Democratic governor in John Hickenlooper, and in its 2014 Senate midterm battle, Republican Cory Gardner narrowly edged out incumbent, Democrat Mark Udall. Gardner splits Colorado’s Senate seats with Democrat Michael Bennet. Over on the House side, Colorado representation is equally divided: three Democrats to four Republicans.

No hometown love: But shift that spotlight to Boulder County, where GOP hopefuls will spar at the University of Colorado Boulder. The tide turns decidedly blue. According to the most recent state voting records, Boulder County has more than two times as many registered and recently-voting Democrats than Republicans — 42 to 18 percent, respectively.

What’s at stake: The swing state carries nine electoral votes — and is among the most closely-contested. Both parties feel it’s within their grasp. One other factor: Colorado sits in one of the fastest-growing population regions in the country. It’s a region that could determine not just this, but future elections. Or so Republicans, with their debate, seem to think.