Kirk Johnson, Once Again, Uncovers an Anti-Conservative Backlash Out West

While covering the congressional race in the battleground region of Fort Collins, Colo., "Voters in Colorado Swing With the Economy," reporter Kirk Johnson also worked in his standard suggestions that hard-core conservatism was (as always!) losing its grip in western states.

Two years ago, as the election season roared toward November, people here in northern Colorado feared the economy was headed for a cliff. They sought refuge in voting for Democrats in numbers not seen in generations.

As a result, this historically Republican county went Democratic, with beneficiaries ranging from President Obama, who carried the county and the state, all the way down to the state representative on the city's east side - the first Democrat since the 1930s to win a second consecutive term.

But now things seem to be swinging back toward the Republican Party, despite a relatively strong area economy:

...the big question of the November midterm election, as well as next week's Colorado primary, is whether that abiding fear will overcome the relatively healthy economy here, and sweep away the same Democrats it benefited in the last election - no matter that the malls and restaurants seem full.

Johnson appeared to welcome the emphasis on economic issues as opposed to conservative social issues:

Larimer was, in elections past, a center of the deeply divided social debate in Colorado over issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. But in the two years since [Incumbent Democrat Rep. Betsy] Markey defeated former Representative Marilyn Musgrave - a Republican who wore conservative bona fides like a badge, especially her opposition to same-sex marriage - all that has changed, too.

Mr. Gardner, pressed several times in an interview for his views on abortion and same-sex marriage, simply declined to answer.

"Those issues haven't come up very often," he said.

And even some residents like Jan Babcock, who opposes abortion and supported Ms. Musgrave, now say they think the unsolvable debate about social issues can get in the way of productive government.


David Ambrosich, a systems analyst and a Republican, said he was similarly turned off by any candidate associated with the Tea Party movement.

"I don't like the rabid tone," he said.

Ms. Markey said she hoped talk like that would work to her advantage and that of other Democrats. Moderation and steady work on job creation, she tells constituents, is the path through the darkness of insecurity, not extremism and fear.