Colorado's midterms will foreshadow what's to come in 2016

Dan Balz --- The Washington Post 

Over the next nine days, the focus in Colorado will be on the competitive Senate race between Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and his challenger, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, and on the gubernatorial contest that pits Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper against former Republican congressman Bob Beauprez.

The results will have immediate consequences for the balance of power in Washington and the statehouses over the next two years. But the 2016 implications will also be noteworthy. Few states with competitive contests this fall will say more about Republican opportunities to shake up the electoral map in two years than Colorado.

On the color-coded maps of America, it has been classified as purple, a swing state and key presidential battleground. But elections of the past decade, in which Democrats generally held the high ground, have suggested to some analysts that Colorado is trending to light blue.

Republicans have not won a major statewide race in Colorado since 2004, when President George W. Bush carried the state in his reelection campaign with 52 percent of the vote. Barack Obama won it with 53 percent in 2008 and carried it again in 2012 with 52 percent.

Meanwhile, Democrats won governors’ races in 2006 and 2010 and Senate races in 2008 and 2010, most by wide margins. Only Sen. Michael F. Bennet, in 2010, had a tough race, winning by a single percentage point against tea-party-backed candidate Ken Buck, whose mistakes may have cost him the race. Hickenlooper easily won in 2010, mostly because of weak and divided opposition.

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