There are swing states, and within those states, there are the swing counties, the counties whose population numbers and voting histories pull their states with them.
Politico has identified 25 battleground counties in 11 swing states as counties to watch. Two of them are in Colorado, and those are both in the Denver metro area: Jefferson and Arapahoe counties.
These are the counties that are up for grabs, not like deep blue Boulder County or deep red El Paso County. In each of the last four presidential elections, they’ve swung with the winner: George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.
Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton need to shore up their bases here in a place where there are more unaffiliated voters than Republicans or Democrats and major party registration is at near parity.
Politico notes that Latino voters are growing in Arapahoe County, now making up 19 percent of the population, which presents an additional challenge for Trump.
Those picks won’t be a surprise to anyone who follows Colorado politics. There is a reason Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, whose district includes a lot of Arapahoe County, has gone so far as running an anti-Trump ad.
And Colorado Public Radio spent some time with a politically divided group of women in Jefferson County earlier this year.
So expect more visits to Colorado, at least as long as the state seems in play. (Not everyone is so sure it is.)
While neither candidate has yet targeted a visit smack dab in Jefferson or Arapahoe County, Trump’s visit to Wings over the Rockies was on the edge of Aurora. And we’re one big happy media market here in the Denver metro area, and we can drive a half hour or so for something this historic.
But one campaign has a much bigger head start, Politico found.
In a separate article, Politico talked to local party officials in these battleground counties about their interactions with each campaign.
Clinton and Trump have something in common. They both lost in primaries and caucuses in a lot of these battleground countries to their primary season opponents, and that presents some challenges in rallying support for the general. These weren’t the candidates most voters wanted to see at the top of the ticket.
Local Democratic Party officials mostly downplayed any remaining divisions between the Clinton camp and Sanders supporters.
“The majority of the people we had involved that were big Bernie supporters are still very much involved, and are very much involved in electing Secretary Clinton,” Cheryl Cheney, the Democratic chair of Jefferson County, told Politico.
Republican Party officials similarly said people are getting on board.
“The folks who understand the game…they’re engaged, they’re part of the team,” Don Ytterberg, Jefferson County’s Republican chairman, said.
But Politico found an important difference in what the campaigns are doing now.
Many of the nearly two dozen Democratic chairs that POLITICO interviewed predicted Clinton will make up for any lackluster primary performances thanks to a polished data-savvy campaign infrastructure, personal visits from the candidate and her surrogates and deep roots with local community leaders dating back years to her husband’s administration.
In contrast, Trump is playing catch up, Politico said, frantically trying to glean information on campaign visits because he doesn’t have the organization or the roots.
Several GOP leaders on the ground told POLITICO that in private, Trump has shown an animated and personal interest in what makes their hometowns tick and a bottom-line focus on what it would take to win there. They recounted brief but intense backstage conversations once they’re introduced to him as the leader of the county he’s visiting.
That intense interest in local details also stands in contrast to Trump’s public persona and his speeches at rallies. In visits to Colorado, he’s either glossed over issues of local concern or picked at old wounds, like the state convention process that resulted in the state giving all its delegates to Sen. Ted Cruz.
Trump is building up a Colorado team with local political experience. Unsuccessful Republican Senate candidate and Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha is chairing that effort. The campaign announced a number of new positions Monday: Political consultant Dede Laugesen, a native of Littleton and wife of Wayne Laugesen, editorial page editor of the Colorado Springs Gazette, and Melissa Simpson, of Fort Collins, who served in the departments of Agriculture and Interior under President George W. Bush, will be coalitions directors. Former University of Colorado Regent Tom Lucero will lead Hispanic outreach. Jefferson Thomas, his political director, moved here just last year but recently worked in that same role for the Colorado Republican Committee. Lydia Blaha, daughter of Robert Blaha, is communications director.