Colorado has been the battleground state in recent presidential elections, leading to lots of candidate attention. Both President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney made numerous stops during the 2012 race.
But with Donald Trump now the apparent GOP nominee, some political watchers say Colorado will lose its swing state status.
Just days after Trump locked up the nomination, Laura Fukui had already made up her mind.
“He worries me and scares me,” said Fukui, who was loading groceries into her car at a supermarket in Arvada on a recent afternoon.
She’s surprised by Trump’s success. Some voters like that he speaks his mind, she surmised. But to her, that’s a turn off.
“Maybe you don’t want a president that always speaks their mind,” she said. “Because they can offend other countries and make them angry at us.”
Fukui said she leans Democratic anyway. So maybe Trump was never going to convince her. He should probably be more worried about voters like Bonny Lewis, who was enjoying a smoke break in her car.
She describes herself as an independent, but she’s not considering Trump at all.
“No, I mean it’s out of control, he’s out of control,” said Lewis.
She said her problem isn’t with Trump’s policy positions. It’s that he’s “nuts.”
Trump's Demographic Challenges
Women voters like these are a big reason Colorado will be a tough win for Trump.
“Trump is going to face a real gender gap,” said William Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution. “Bigger than we’ve seen before in the past.”
He said Colorado has a high share of active female voters, and they are critical to success in the state.
Frey said that’s just the start of the demographic challenge. One in eight eligible voters here are Hispanic, and Trump has called Mexicans rapists and criminals. Trump does well with working-class whites, but Colorado is one of the most highly educated states in the nation.
“The right type of Republican candidate could probably be competitive in Colorado,” said Frey. “I don’t think Trump is the right kind of Republican candidate for the state.”
Frey said Trump would be wise to focus resources elsewhere. The influential Cook Political Report, for instance, moved Colorado from tossup into the Democrats' column after Trump all but locked up the nomination.
But Ryan Call, the former chair of the state Republican party, said it's too early to call the race.
“I am not going to get into the business of predicting a Donald Trump loss. He certainly surprised me in how well he’s done in the Republican nominating contest," Call said.
Call said it’s a long time until November, and Trump could still mend fences with many voters he may have offended and broaden his appeal in Colorado.
“But I will tell you that it is going to be a steep climb to overcome the narrative that’s already out there," Call said.
In fact, Call wouldn’t commit to voting for Trump now, but said he could be convinced.
Clinton, Trump Camps Dig In
Trump’s campaign said they they’ll fight hard for Colorado. Clinton’s people say the same thing. Steve Welchert, a longtime Democratic strategist, said there’s a reason for that.
“I don’t see a roadmap to the White House without going through Colorado, for either party, it’s just not possible,” said Welchert.
He agrees Colorado’s demographics make it tough for Trump to win here. Actually, he thinks, any other Democrat would crush him by historic margins.
“But because it’s Hillary there’s some Clinton fatigue, like there was some Bush fatigue,” said Welchert, who is not working for the Clinton campaign. “She’s got her own baggage to carry around, and so that makes the race closer than maybe mathematically it should be.”
Welchert points out that Clinton lost Colorado convincingly to Bernie Sanders in the caucus. Welchert expects plenty of visits and campaign ads before the general election. So whether not Colorado is truly a swing state this time around, both of the candidates will probably treat it like it is.