Excellent News from Out West-But Why the Sniping Against Urban Democrats?

First the good news, courtesy of the NY Times: “Look at these numbers,” said Gov. Brian Schweitzer, pointing to the annual Montana State University survey showing him with a job approval rating of 69 percent – 27 points higher than President Bush in Montana and 21 points above the Republican senator, Conrad Burns, who is up for re-election next year. “People seem to like what we’re doing.”

“Across the vast inland sea of Republican red, in states like Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Arizona, other Democratic governors are soaring at the same high level of approval in the polls.” So Democrats can win in rural red states in the West.

Now for the sniping: “It’s only when I get lumped in with John Kerry and Howard Dean that my party affiliation becomes an issue,” said Governor Freudenthal, one of eight children from a farm in Thermopolis, Mont. “Stick to the kitchen issues – health care, jobs and fairness – and stick to the facts.” Funny, didn’t Kerry, Edwards, Gephardt (and a helluva lot of Democrats) do just that in 2004? What are these folks talking about? I know I know, a lot of rural Democrats have a hard time getting along with suburban and urban Democrats. Lest we forget many urban and suburban Democrats are just as guilty of sniping at rural America.

But before anybody starts drawing up “master plans” about how to win in the West (or bemons the state of Democrats in the West) let’s just keep our facts straight: Democrats are already doing a darn good job in the West. For our purposes the West is made up of 13 states: The four blue states of Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, and California. The 6 red states of Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. Finally there are the 3 purple states of Nevada, New Mexico, and (formerly solid red but now purple) Colorado.

So how did Democrats do in the West in 2004? Of a possible 124 electoral votes, Kerry won 77 EVs (62.1% of the total). In the total Western popular vote, Kerry won 49.8% to Bush’s 48.7% (1.5% went to Nader and other parties). In the past four decades the red states in the West have gained 5 EVs, while California has gained 8 EVs in the past decade alone.

Washington state has also increased in electoral votes. Meanwhile, Colorado was the only state to be listed as a solid Republican state in 2000 by both parties but listed as a tossup state by both parties in 2004. Kerry’s 47.0% of the Colorado vote (to Bush’s 51.7%) was the highest Democrat total in Colorado since 1948 (except for the LBJ landslide of 1964). In the meantime Democrats control a majority of the US House seats in the West (53-98) a higher number than before Election 2004. Kerry’s percentages in California (54.2%) Oregon (51.3%) and Washington (52.8%) were all better than Clinton or Gore ever got. Lest you worry about Hawaii, Kerry still won 54% in that state last year.

Only in governorships and US Senate seats do Dems trail (7-6 in governors, 15-11 among Senators). If the 2 Democratic states of California and Hawaii had Democratic governors, the Dems would have an 8-5 advantage here. As for the Senate, we have good shots in Montana, Nevada, and (maybe) Arizona in 2006. Win 2 of those seats and it’s goodbye to the GOP lead in Western Senate delegation.

Bottom line: Sure there’s some room for growth out west, but if your worried about a region Democrats are hurting in, don’t look West young man!

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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13 Responses to Excellent News from Out West-But Why the Sniping Against Urban Democrats?

  1. Anonymous says:

    Schweitzer has been annoying me, in particular, for superiority in the conecting and issues thing, above other Democrats. Feeding into the rural vs urban, bad Washington DC, just because. He is always touting how he connects better and different, creaing or re-inforcing that reality.

  2. lothario says:

    You never know the governor could have been misquaoted and his statement taking out of context. The media like to divide Democrats. Kerry met with Schweitzer in August and suggested we needed a new President suggesting Kerry. Schweitzer even gave him a tie as a gift. So who the hell knows. IMO the state Democratic need better organization in each state. Winning elections start from the ground up.

  3. Ben Mercadante says:

    Well it gets re-inforced because there is a truth to it. I find myself in both camps at times, just dependeds on the issues. What I don’t like about Schweitzer’s stance is his over simplification or I would say his avoidance of problematic, or uncomfortable issues ( like:abortion, race,homosexuality, religion…etc.) by stating that he sticks to the “kitchen” issues, or basics. Well, would that not depend on exactly whos kitchen you were standing in? As if there is truly that much disparity between rural and urban americans, we have most the same needs and problems ( as if there are no abortion, race and homosexual issues out west…yea ,right). So, as we head into the 2006 election cycle I see splitting in the party, and that will be everyones fault. We had better find the common ground about us, or the extremists will continue their gain in political power and influence.

  4. Marjorie G says:

    lothario-just after that meeting, he was dissing Kerry and connecting. Part of a news cycle, but also his own op-ed. He’s on a self-promoting mission, or he was rightly proud of his own effort. Still wedging, though.

  5. Marjorie G says:

    And another thing, we can’t a person who is forthright and honorable be considered likable rurally (such a word?), even though not aw shucks or good ‘ol boy. So the accent is more important than the content?

    The elitist urban myth is perpetuated by those who gain. The media dissed anything that wasn’t true of GW.

  6. lothario says:

    Well Marjorie G He probably was self promoting off the expense of JK. In the long run his ass is meaningless and may find himself needing Kerry one day just like Kaine in Virginia. Kaine had crap to say about Kerry and windsurfing but his but JK help him a good deal in his election via emails, volunteers, fundraising. So Dems should tighting up and stop backstabbing. Marjorie G are you planning to report on the Kerry birthday bash. You can email me if you pick up any inside scoops. t462208@aol.com i can be reach.

  7. Marjorie G says:

    Lothario-I’m an outsider groupie, but I’ll take some notes and ty to photograph with my basic palm size not-great-in-banquet-hall-light type cameras. I won’t have computer access for anything immediate, and I’m going straight to work on Monday from Boston. No Blackberry.

    I’ll probably post here, but will take all interested e-addresses.

  8. Pen says:

    Lothario- I’ve been saying it for years the dems need to stop back stabbing. They have gone to new highs with Kerry though and it pisses me off.
    All this urban can’t connect with rual, north can’t connect with west and mid west. Pleeze, bush stole 2 elections it was’t the urban versus rual. There are several dem govenors who seem to think they are above many in the party and come from red states so they can automatically win the presidency. By 08 the game will have changed and they may be on the outside looking in.
    Perhaps Kerry needs to take another tactic. Embrace his urban roots even though techinally he was born in CO. Live and revel in the fact that yeah he’s an urban guy and proud of it. The campaign managers kind of ran away from his family roots because they bought into this urban vs rual crap. He’s got a facinating family legacy embrace it and the hell with those who down him for being from mass. Personally I’d rather have a competent, articulate president than the aw shucks garbage america has now.

  9. Indie Liberal says:

    Good strategy Pen! 🙂

  10. Ginny in CO says:

    I agree with Pen too. Not going to look up the stats at this hour but I suspect we all know where a majority of the US population lives. The Electoral College is not helping in a day and age when the heterogeneous majority has to put up with the electoral power of a homogeneous rural minority. I think dumbing down the issues for the uninformed is not the answer – no matter how much Schweitzer and Freudenthal want to delude themselves that their tactics would work in the urban areas nationwide.

    W thought he was a master negotiater because the Texas Legislature cooperated with him. I’m not sure he has figured out that Washington is different than Texas yet.

  11. Lothario says:


    I totally agree with you that Kerry should embrace his roots and his background period. His management didn’t know how to market him at all. Kerry is so interesting as a public figure its a shame. His life and looks are out of a history book. In 08 with the right handlers, Kerrycould flourish as a candidate in many ways. The 04 handlers catered to rightwing spin. Its good to meet a local Kerrycrat like yourself

  12. NativeTexan4Kerry says:

    Thanks for this, Nick! There’s so much focus on the South all the time, that I think it’s really interesting to look at the West, and comforting to know that we’re doing really well! I say we adopt a “Western Strategy,” and with the “blue” states we already have + the west… 🙂

  13. Nick says:

    Oops. I Should’ve written Dems control 53 House seats out of 98 total seats from the West. So the Dem House advantage in the West is 53-45.