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Dems Ponder How the West Might Be Won

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The political director for the Democratic National Committee showed up in Colorado in December. He came, said Colorado Democratic chairwoman Pat Waak, to measure progress in his party's so-called "Western strategy."

By Jim Spencer

That's the notion that for the first time in decades, the Democratic presidential nominee has a chance to win electoral votes in four critical Western states -- Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona.

Doing so would allow the Democrats more wiggle room to still win the White House even if they lose a large Midwestern state like Ohio, which cost Democratic candidate John Kerry the presidency in 2004.

No party officials want to talk publicly about the prospect of losing Ohio again. But everyone speaks enthusiastically of chances for Democratic success in the West.

DNC political director Dave Boundy came to Colorado "to talk with the governor's office and the [U.S.] senate campaign [of Democratic Rep. Mark Udall]," Waak said. Boundy "even met with independent funders," meaning he talked to Al Yates, the contact person for Democratic billionaire Pat Stryker, who has puts millions into state and congressional races in recent years as Democrats took control of the Colorado legislature, the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat and the majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Waak said what Boundy heard validated what she has been telling national party officials for months: Colorado is truly in play in the 2008 presidential election and deserves increased financial support from the DNC in the coming months.

A DNC spokesman wouldn't talk about a "Western strategy."

"We have a 50-state strategy," Luis Miranda said, echoing the mantra of Howard Dean. Still, Miranda acknowledged that the "West has tremendous growth potential." He pointed to a voter registration edge in Nevada, which now has 5,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans.

In New Mexico, there were 178,089 more registered Democrats than Republicans as of September 2007. Registered Republicans still outnumber registered Democrats by six-figure margins in Colorado and Arizona, but Democrats are registering new members faster than Republicans in Colorado, according to a study by Colorado Public Radio, and the percentage of independents in both Colorado and Arizona is growing.

Democrats also "increased diversity in the early nominating process" by scheduling the Nevada caucus in January, Miranda explained. "We placed the caucus that early to show that we want the nominee to address issues of the West."

Hillary Clinton, a New York senator, won the Nevada caucuses doing just that, said former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.

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