View Full Version : WATCHING THE WEST: Polls show Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico as toss-ups

10-19-2004, 12:06 PM
- Carla Marinucci, Chronicle Political Writer
Monday, October 18, 2004

Four Corners National Monument, Colo. -- Amid a sweep of jewel-blue sky, vast desert and red rock buttes that have withstood battles of time, power and politics, Rose James stands at the very junction of four Western states. And today, said the proud member of the Navajo tribe, her country also lies at a crossroads.

James' son, Sgt. Hanson Begay, 21, an Army specialist, is serving in Baghdad. "I want my baby home,'' said James, 46, a mother of five, who was visiting the monument with her family.

In her tightly knit community, "we have had three soldiers who have passed on already ... . All we do is watch the news. We bring them home to bury them,'' she said, tears welling. "It shouldn't be like that.''

So, James has made her decision: "I hear John Kerry say, 'There's help on the way,' and I'm hoping,'' she said. "I'm hoping this war will resolve real soon, and our kids will be home.''

But just steps away, surrounded by a passel of grandchildren at the monument where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet, is Steve Nelson, a retired Bank of America executive who has moved to Sedona, Ariz.

He, too, sees the country under stress and at a turning point.

"I'm a Democrat, and I would never vote for John Kerry,'' Nelson said. He motions toward his grandkids and talks about the issue that matters most to him. "The war on terror is a thing unto itself."

"(President) Bush isn't perfect,'' Nelson added. "But you've got to decide who is best for the country.''

With about two weeks before the nation makes that decision, the vastly different views -- and vastly different voters -- at the cornerstone of the election battleground in the West dramatize the close contest between Republican President Bush and Kerry, his Democratic challenger.

Colorado and New Mexico represent two critical toss-up states, as does neighboring Nevada, according to recent polls. In Arizona, expected to be a Republican stronghold, the latest polls surprisingly show the race within five percentage points. Utah is solidly Republican, but the other four Western states, all battlegrounds, represent 29 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.

The late election race developments have turned usually sleepy hamlets like Gallup, N.M., and Morrison, Colo., into busy campaign stops for Kerry and Bush, and evidence abounds around the Four Corners' states that, suddenly, what happens here will matter.

Bush-Cheney campaign chairman Marc Racicot, a former Montana governor, said voters here "tend to be populist in their notions, more independent.''

In these states, the election talk among voters is lively -- not about what's buzzing within the Beltway regarding Kerry's recent comments about Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of the vice president, but about concerns that are far more immediate and personal.

Sweeping her storefront sidewalk on a brilliant fall morning on Main Avenue in picturesque Durango, Colo., Denise Danilov is riled over the state of the nation.

"I hope we fix this mess right now,'' said Danilov, a Kerry supporter. "Bush has wrecked this country ... we're in a record deficit, and we need someone to straighten things out.''

Danilov has owned The West, a Western clothing and antiques store for 24 years, but the economy and the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have dealt a severe blow to an area driven by tourism. "It's been horrible,'' she said, adding she could hire only half as many people this year because visitors, worried about war and terrorism, "are afraid to spend money.''

But at his cash register, Frank Garbie, an electronic parts importer and resident of nearby Silver Thorn, disagrees.

"I'm voting for Bush, because I believe terrorism must be eradicated for us to be happy,'' he said. Garbie, a father of two, said he doesn't agree with Bush on social issues such as stem cell research and abortion, but "terrorism is the No. 1 issue for me.''

Down the highway in rural Cortez, Colo., Wendy Mimiaga dishes up strong espresso in the Silver Bean Coffee Shop, a roadside attraction west of Mesa Verde. Despite the close contest in her state, she's adamantly supporting Ralph Nader. "Why do I always have to choose between the lesser of two evils?'' she said.

The comment highlights the challenges for both campaigns in Colorado, won by Bush in 2000. In 2004, the state looked to be solidly Republican again -- until polls a month ago showed a dead-even split. With unemployment doubling to 5.1 percent since Bush took office, a growing roll of 90,000 Latino voters, and issues such as the environment and the tourism-based economic slump, Kerry's team has poured energy into registering new voters.

Complicating the matter: a ballot measure that if approved would end the state's winner-take-all system of awarding Electoral College votes and dole them out proportionally based on the popular vote. Former Vice President Al Gore would have won the 2000 election had such a system existed in Colorado; Kerry stands to win possibly four electoral votes should the measure pass.

But Bill Whalen, research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, cautions the ballot measure "could require the courts to decide, as they did four years ago, who sits in the Oval Office.''

Across the state line in neighboring New Mexico, activists on both sides also are preparing for legal challenges.

In one of the closest political contests ever, Gore won the Land of Enchantment by just 366 votes in 2000. With 40 percent of the state's voters Latino, Democrats say they have strong appeal here, thanks to recent demographic shifts: more 18- to 25-year-old voters and more transplants from other states. And Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, a Latino, leads the party's effort.

But Republicans have kept up the pressure: Conservative-leaning Albuquerque is home to 1 out of 3 New Mexico voters, which is one reason its residents have seen more political ads than any city in the country except Miami.

Voters such as Eileen Sanchez, a part-time school employee and store clerk, said she has been inundated by the ads, in Spanish and English, and the town -- and her family -- are "pretty split.''

But, as a devout Christian, she's made up her mind: "I'm with Bush,'' she said. "The moral issues are No. 1 with me.''

Her sentiments are echoed by Frank Monneaau, 43, a silversmith, who says he's voting for Bush because of the president's anti-abortion stance and because "I think it's better to fight (the terrorists) over there than to have it over here.''

But "there are two New Mexicos,'' cautions Gloria Nieto, 49, executive director of the People of Color AIDS Clinic headquartered in historic, artistic and Democratic-leaning Santa Fe, where there is an active gay and lesbian community.

In this minority-majority state, Nieto and her partner of 14 years, Jo Kenny, have been aggressively registering voters for months and say the efforts could dramatically boost turnout in American Indian communities, Latino enclaves and in burgeoning suburbs.

Concerns over health care, affordable housing and other social issues run deep here and Kenny, a consultant to nonprofit organizations, said that "people have gone from being solidly middle class to being in line to collect food at the food bank, in one year.'' That's a reason why the two women -- who were legally married in Massachusetts in July -- are especially incensed about the recent controversy regarding Kerry's comments on Mary Cheney. During the last debate, Kerry remarked approvingly of her family's tolerance.

"I think the Republicans are using it as a distraction,'' said Nieto. "What's more of an issue? Our troops refusing to go on suicide missions in Iraq -- or Mary Cheney being a lesbian?''

Kenny and Nieto acknowledge the campaign is far from over and their state could be a focus of the nation's attention on Nov. 2.

"From one block to the next,'' Nieto said, "we're going to be fighting out this election all the way to the end.''

E-mail Carla Marinucci at cmarinucci@sfchronicle.com.


10-19-2004, 12:09 PM
7 out of 10 democrats bath only once a week! ROFL

10-19-2004, 12:11 PM
7 out of 10 democrats bath only once a week! ROFL


10-19-2004, 12:15 PM
I was trying to be funny, but I guess I wasn't! :(

10-19-2004, 03:12 PM
Last 4-5 polls in Colorado, with the exception of Gallup's, have Bush winning outside the margin of error. Same with Arizona and, to a lesser extent, Nevada. New Mexico has also been polling for Bush, but I'm not as confident that he'll take that one considering how easy the SoS made it for non-registered voters to actually vote.

Bush's problems states right now are Florida and Ohio where Kerry has closed the gap and leads in some polls. Kerry's problem states are Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Iowa and the aforementioned New Mexico.