Colo. voters turn out in record numbers; still too late for some
February 6, 2008
DENVER ” Colorado voters turned out in record numbers Tuesday after the state moved its caucuses from March to Super Tuesday, but they were still too late to vote for former candidates like Democrat John Edwards and Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani, who dropped out after the first round of primaries and caucuses.
“There has to be something done about the arbitrary nature of these dates. They were early, but not early enough,” said pollster Floyd Ciruli.
Democratic caucus goers turned out in overwhelming numbers Tuesday, jazzed about the chance to finally have an impact on a presidential race. More than 118,000 people showed up at Colorado’s Democratic precincts, topping the 2004 turnout of 15,000, and Republicans also turned out in record numbers.
Steve Lange, 71, was among those who supported other candidates. He originally supported Republican candidate and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, who dropped out of the race. On Tuesday, Lange switched sides and caucused for Mitt Romney, who won in Colorado over John McCain and Ron Paul.
Lange said he still felt that Thompson was the true conservative, but he wasn’t on the list.
Other candidates who dropped out before Super Tuesday included Democratic Sens. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio; and Republican Reps. Duncan Hunter and Tom Tancredo.
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Illinois Sen. Barack Obama won Colorado over New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Political consultant Eric Sondermann said if the point of Tuesday’s early caucuses was to have a greater impact on the presidential election, both parties missed the mark. He said the crush of primaries and caucuses in 22 states on Tuesday left no clear winners.
“I don’t think we were too late at all. I heard the argument that it would have been better to keep the caucuses in March because Super Tuesday was very inconclusive and we could have been more influential,” he said.
Ciruli said Colorado and other states could be more influential if everyone had a chance to vote at the same time. He said the major parties could also adopt a regional approach that would alternate states that go first and give everyone a chance to go first.
Ciruli said Colorado can’t move up the date of the caucuses any further because party rules penalized states like Florida and Michigan that moved up their dates without permission.
State Republican Party chairman Richard Wadhams said there were some caucus goers who wanted the opportunity to vote for other candidates who dropped out, including Giuliani. Wadhams said he believes both major parties are willing to discuss changes after this year’s battle for political supremacy among states.
“This leapfrogging situation is getting absurd,” he said.
State Democratic Party chairwoman Pat Waak said Colorado Democrats tried to get the party to allow an earlier caucus and they were rebuffed.
She said she believes the party will crack down even harder during the next election, rather than changing the rules to allow states to compete with Iowa and New Hampshire, which now have the first caucuses and primaries in the nation. She said there is no way with a system like that to give Colorado voters a chance to vote for any candidate of their choice.
“The truth is, Iowa and New Hampshire always winnow the field and will continue to do so unless we have a national primary,” she said.
Other complaints from caucus goers came from unaffiliated voters, including some who thought they had the right to participate in the caucuses. Under party rules, unaffiliated voters have to declare a party affiliation two months before the caucuses if they want to participate.
Waak and Wadhams both opposed any plan to allow unaffiliated voters to participate in their caucuses.
“They can’t have it both ways. If they want to participate in Republican caucuses, join the party,” Wadhams said.
Waak said she believes Tuesday’s record turnout will carry over to the November election, when many first-time caucus goers will have a chance to vote.
Ciruli said Republicans may have a harder time getting voters to the polls if the party nominates McCain after Colorado voters overwhelmingly chose Romney because of his conservative record.