It is widely known that some counties in Colorado, like Denver and Boulder and many of Colorado's ski resort dominated economies, have more liberal voters overall than others, like the rural Front Range, Colorado Springs, and the Western Slope. Yesterday's Republican Presidential caucus in Colorado illustrated the fact that the same trends hold true within the Republican party even though caucus goers make up only the most activist core of the Republican party. There were 65,926 votes cast at Colorado's caucuses yesterday. This was 8.3% of the 793,098 active Republican voter registrations in the state. There are also 304,590 inactive Republican voter registrations in Colorado, and they would not received notice of the caucus in the mail. Colorado's GOP Presidential caucus process was closed. Only registered Republicans were allowed to participate, although voters with inactive registrations were allowed to vote.
Liberal leaning Colorado counties generally favored Romney. Conservative leaning Colorado counties generally favored Santorum.
Romney won in all but one metropolitan Boulder-Denver county (he won in Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties, but lost to Santorum in Adams County). Romney also won in a number of Colorado counties with resort dominated economies (Clear Creek, Eagle, Garfield, Jackson, Lake, Pitkin, Routt, San Juan and Summit). Romney won in just four of Colorado's rural counties, two in liberal leaning San Luis Valley (Alamosa and Conejos), and two in the far Northeast corner of Colorado bordering Utah (Moffat and Rio Blanco) that are also adjacent to Colorado counties with resort economies (Routt, Eagle and Garfield).
Bent County, a rural Front Range county with just 59 caucus participants, cast 25 votes for Gingrich, 22 for Santorum, 4 for Romney and 3 for Paul. Gingrich was a second place finisher behind Santorum but ahead of Romney and Paul in a number of rural counties across Colorado (Baca, Costilla, Dolores, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Lincoln, Phillips, Prowers, Saguache and Yuma) and one resort counties (Park). Gingrich was in second place after Romney, but before Santorum in Routt county.
Santorum won every other county in the State, including the counties that are home to Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Durango, and Grand Junction. Pitkin, Eagle and Routt counties, all of which have resort economies, were the only counties in the state where Santorum didn't place first or second.
Ron Paul didn't win in any Colorado county, but faired best in counties that included some of those where Romney did well, earning at least 15% of the caucus vote in Denver, Boulder, a number of Southern Colorado counties (Archuleta, Chaffee, Costilla, Hinsdale, La Plata, Mineral, Montezuma) and a number of resort economy counties (Eagle, Gilpin, Gunnison, Lake, Pitkin, Routt, and Summit). Paul did finish in second place in Mineral, Pitkin, Eagle, Gilpin and Gunnison counties.
As a footnote, Romney, in addition to being a "vulture capitalist" who is on record as not caring about the very poor, also may have lost the votes of some dog lovers with his less than sensitive treatment of his own dog.
Why care about the dog? I am not someone who thinks that candidates personal lives are irrelevant to whether or not you should vote for them as the family and personal background of a candidate, and a candidate's decisions in his personal life, affect how he is likely to approach issues that come up in his term that may have been individually unforeseeable at the time of the election. All four of the Republican candidates, and President Obama, have truly fascinating lives. For example, Romney, Santorum and Paul have all have many children, while Gingrich had many wives. Neither Obama nor Gingrich were raised by their genetic fathers. Several have changed their religious affiliation during their lives and/or been in marriages with someone with another religious affiliation. Gingrich, Obama and Santorum each had very humble origins. These stories are worth a few posts of their own.
Enik Rising has some not very convincing ideas about Evangelical religious affiliation that could drive the differences. I'm inclined to think that the key variable is the extent to which Republicans are urban. Romney counties are pretty much the only ones in which Republicans mostly live in relatively high population density neighborhoods. In other counties, Republicans mostly live in low population density neighborhoods, with a couple of exceptions on the border with Utah. County level population figures obscure this relationship because resort counties have small, high population density areas and lots of vacant land.
For example, in the counties that are home to Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Grand Junction, Republicans overwhelmingly live in relatively low density suburbs. In Denver and Boulder, however, even Republicans live in relatively dense urban residential neighborhoods.