Obama, Clinton split Colorado voters
Romney leads McCain 19%
Article Last Updated: 01/27/2008 01:46:48 AM MST
enjoys a dominant, 19-point lead over among Republicans likely to attend caucuses Feb. 5, with trailing and and barely registering a nod, according to a Denver Post poll.
The Democratic caucuses hold more potential for high drama in the presidential race, with Colorado voters split evenly betweenat 34 percent and at 32 percent — well within the poll’s 3.5 percentage-point margin of error. was the choice of 17 percent of likely caucus-goers. Fourteen percent said they were still undecided.
Obama’s strength inmay come from the fact that the state’s Democrats see the desire for change as a driving issue in the campaign. The poll showed 51 percent of Democrats see change as more important than experience — and the ability to bring change is a trait they overwhelmingly associate with the Illinois senator.
The issues on voters’ minds are familiar, with the economy, the war, health care, immigration and homeland security topping the list. But poll results show those issues play very differently depending on party affiliation.
The war is the biggest issue on the minds of Democrats, but it ranks relatively low with Republicans. Immigration is an important issue with Republicans but not Democrats. And the economy, while important to voters of both parties, tops the list as the most important issue in the campaign because it is the biggest issue on the minds of unaffiliated voters. That group — more than a third of Colorado voters — won’t be participating in the caucuses, however.
Democrats in the state have been predicting a heavy turnout for their caucuses this year after a calendar change moved up their vote to a week when the race is still on. In 2004 and 2000,Democrats voted so late that and had long since whipped the field.
The state’s Republican caucuses last considered a presidential candidate in 2000, whensolidly beat .
The poll results put added pressure on the Clinton and Obama turnout machines, with many voters saying they are comfortable with the tossup.
“It’s tough, because I do likeand I do like ,” said Obama fan Jennifer Howie of Longmont. “I have bounced back and forth. I think Hillary and Barack are pretty similar on their electability.”
Romney the businessman
Colorado Republicans leaning toward former Massachusetts Gov.latch on to his successful businessman image and, like other Western voters, are more open to his Mormon roots, according to the voters and a poll analyst.
“He’s put together, more than most of the candidates,” said Leo Schmitz of Castle Rock. “Being a good businessman, maybe that’s what we need with the economy the way it is.”
But, like Clinton for the Democrats, Romney was perceived far more negatively than positively among all respondents, suggesting he’ll have trouble appealing to a wider audience that includes Colorado’s swing voters. He’s too scripted and lacks warmth, many voters said.
“I’m the kind of person who gets gut feelings. His mannerisms, the way he talks, it just doesn’t seem sincere,” Shawn Schultz, a 52-year-oldemployee from Elizabeth, said of Romney.
Romney dominated thecaucuses and has done well throughout the West, where Mormons are neighbors instead of a distant question mark, said Brad Coker of the polling firm Mason-Dixon. Coker’s firm called 800 registered Colorado voters Jan. 21-23 and narrowed the responses down to those most likely to go to their party’s caucuses.
The poll doesn’t reflect the candidate preferences of independent voters, a key swing group on the rise in, and that’s an important caveat in an election season featuring wide swerves in affinity.
Likely Republican caucus-goers tipped to Romney overby 43 percent to 24 percent, with former Arkansas Gov. Huckabee at 17 percent. U.S. had 5 percent, while former New York Mayor Giuliani, a former front-runner who has been concentrating on , was at 4 percent.
But those preferences veil big differences in the way Republicans see their party’s field. They tend to vote based on the issues important to them, helping to explain the difficulty voters nationwide are having rallying behind one candidate. Republicans inclearly see Romney as best on immigration, McCain best on terrorism, and Huckabee best on values.
Experience vs. change
For the state’s Democrats, their perceptions of the candidates upend some conventional wisdom. Despite Clinton’s long association with the nation’s health care debate, they seeas better able to deal with that issue than the former first lady. And although Obama voted against the initial Iraq war resolution and has made that opposition a centerpiece of his campaign, Democrats believe Clinton is better able to deal with the war.
“She’s probably had more experience working with the military than Obama has,” said Nancy Goese, a Greeley Democrat and retiree who said the war is by far her most important voting issue.
“On that first vote, everyone thought they were looking for. Everyone would have voted for it because Bush said it was about protecting the United States,” Goese said.
And the gap between the perceptions of party voters is no better illustrated than by the way they see the former first lady. Asked which of the candidates would best be able to work with Republicans, Democrats picked Clinton by a wide margin. Asked which of the Democrats would best be able to work with them, just 8 percent of Republicans chose Clinton — putting her at the bottom of the list.
By narrowing the respondents down to likely caucus-goers, the poll’s margin of error rose to 9 percent for Republicans and 8 percent for Democrats. The poll was taken before Saturday’s Democratic primary inand the important contest for both parties in on Tuesday. For Democrats at least, Colorado’s final results are wide open, given the margin and the big news to come before caucus day, Coker said.
Colorado voters were surprisingly optimistic about the nation’s future, despite weeks of troubling economic news. Forty-seven percent of voters expected things “to get better,” while only 21 percent said they would get worse, and 20 percent expected more of the same.