Western Democrats offer advice to Obama campaign | AspenTimes.com

Western Democrats offer advice to Obama campaign

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., left, jokes with Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter during a news conference in Denver on Friday, Aug. 29, 2008, on the city and state's efforts to host the just-concluded Democratic National Convention in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

DENVER ” Fresh off a dazzling convention that highlighted the region, Western Democrats are urging Barack Obama to heed their advice on winning the West and repeating their victories in other states.

Democrats’ interest in the West goes beyond the presidential race. Colorado Rep. Diane DeGette has been briefing party leaders on how Democrats swept five Western Republican governors from office since 2002.

“What I’m telling them is that they need to talk about issues like renewable energy and health care for everybody,” DeGette said. “They also need to talk about a woman’s right to choose and about family planning and about issues like stem cell research. But that appeals to people all around the country, not just the West.”

The challenge for Western Democrats is keeping the region in the political fore. It won’t be easy, as Obama and Republican nominee John McCain race to vote-rich swing states in other regions.

Texas Republican pollster Mike Baselice conducts surveys for Republicans across the West, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Baselice said Western states in play this fall won’t necessarily dominate the campaigns ” but he predicted states unused to the political spotlight will notice a change in how much attention they get from McCain and Obama.

“In the Colorados, the Nevadas, the ads are already up and they’re not going to stop,” Baselice said. “Because it’s so close, it’s going to be a very exciting election in those toss-up states.”

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Democrats said they’ll need Obama to talk about matters of importance to Western voters ” especially energy and the economy ” to counter the all-Western ticket of McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. More than holding their convention in a Western city, the message needs to appeal to the region, they said.

“I think it’s got to be more about issues than where they’re from,” said Kevin O’Brien, spokesman for the Montana Democratic Party.

J. Quin Monson, a political scientist at Brigham Young University, said any convention bounce for Democrats may be tempered by Palin’s selection.

“I’m guessing they’re likely to talk more about energy and drilling for oil, and she’s going to bring a lot of credibility, more than John McCain, talking about oil,” Monson said.

Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, a Democrat who won his seat two years ago in formerly solidly Republican territory, has been actively advising the Obama campaign.

“I have been involved with them, in terms of making sure that land and water issues and the unique challenges that we face out here in the West are very much on the radar screen of the White House,” Salazar said.

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