Pueblo, Colorado: Center of the Political Universe?

Though most may not agree with me, I’m inclined to argue that Pueblo, Colorado, our city of 100,000 in southern Colorado, could very well become the epicenter of political attention in coming weeks.

Though we’re not on the radar of many pundits and reporters, we are getting a lot more attention these days. Senator Barack Obama spoke recently to a rally of 14,000 at the fairgrounds here, and Senator McCain is slated to speak at the university campus on Friday. Just yesterday, I heard Pueblo mentioned twice on National Public Radio. I’d also bet that Obama will make a second trip here before the polls close in November.

So, why might a small town like Pueblo help decide the presidential election?

There are a few reasons. First of all, we are about equal parts Latino and Anglo in our community. It’s been increasingly reported in the past couple of weeks that Latinos may be the determining factor in this election: the so-called swing vote everyone covets. So if you can pinpoint the swing voters in the swing states, you’re obviously going to give more attention to them.

Though there are many states identified as swing states, Colorado is one of the closer races so far. It’s one where, although we have trended democratic for local and legislative races, we also have gone Republican quite often for president. Denver is a mixed bag, while Colorado Springs is strongly conservative. Boulder and Fort Collins, our biggest college towns, lean liberal. Then you have Pueblo, which although registered Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, these are generally more socially moderate to conservative blue collar democrats, who cross party lines based .. issues and personalities.

We also have to consider what happened in Pueblo in the Democratic primaries earlier this year. Although Colorado overall went two-to-one for Obama over Hillary Clinton, the reverse was true in Pueblo. Even though Obama has offices all over town here, he lost handily in Pueblo County to Hillary, and there are plenty of former Hillary supporters who are still disgruntled and looking for a political home.

Another thing that makes us important is reflected by one of the slogans by which our city is known: “Home of Heroes.” we have four living Medal of Honor recipients living here, which is remarkable for the size of our town. This reflects the strong history of military service here, and so issues such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provide an opportunity for McCain to find kindred spirits among Democrats who might swing his way on foreign policy issues.

Finally, there’s the matter of Pueblo economics. We have a pervasively working-class community that reflects in many ways the prototypical values of “Main Street” that so many politicians are talking about. We have a mix of rural and blue collar labor jobs here, and as manufacturing is – or at least has been – a key factor in our country’s economic strength, one has to look no further than Pueblo to see how working class voters will respond to proposed policy decisions.

Only time will tell if my theory of Pueblo becoming the next Iowa – or, God forbid, the next Dade County – will be proven. But there are plenty of reasons why this relatively laid back and strangely anonymous city along I-25 a hundred miles south of Denver may make headlines come November.

I say let’s bask in the limelight, brief as it may be, while it lasts.

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