One of the most respected political analysts in Washington, Ron Brownstein, turns his focus on the New West and the gains Democrats have been making in this part of the country. His piece is a cautionary tale and sound advice to Democrats who might get complacent over the blue tide sweeping the Rockies. Western voters are notoriously mercurial, and there's no brand loyalty here.
"...amid a fierce conservative backlash against President Obama's agenda, Democrats face an escalating challenge to defend those advances in 2010.
Over the long term, the demographic and economic trends reshaping the region could still bolster Democrats if Republicans don't adapt to them more successfully than they have so far. But the unease in these states about Obama's first months, unease that echoes his party's difficulties here during Bill Clinton's presidency, raises questions about Democrats' ability to maintain their support in the Mountain West while pursuing a national agenda that inflames the region's historic suspicion of Washington. ...
... Hispanics are steadily rising as a percentage of the population in the four southwestern states that have swung toward the Democrats....Extending a dynamic that began on the coasts during the 1990s, well-educated, socially moderate white-collar workers in the Mountain West also moved toward the Democrats."
If we Democrats want to hold on the hard-fought gains we've made in the last two election cycles, we need to remind Western voters that their lives are better because of our values and our willingness to tackle and solve tough problems. That includes health care reform, diversifying our economy, and more home-grown, renewable sources of energy.