Bernie Sanders won Colorado — but the real story is what happened to Joe Biden in the same state

Understanding the demographics and strategies of Colorodan voters can tell us a lot about the general election in November

Danielle Zoellner
New York
Wednesday 04 March 2020 19:30 GMT
Super Tuesday: Bernie Sanders speaks about winning the democratic nomination

The votes are in and Coloradans across my home state felt the Bern — an unsurprising result given the money and effort Bernie Sanders put into the state.

The 78-year-old Vermont Senator and self-declared democratic socialist was a frontrunner going into Tuesday evening. In 2016, he easily won Colorado by 19 points against Hillary Clinton. He's managed a similar margin against Joe Biden in 2020.

Sanders hosted more than 1,000 events across the state since launching his current presidential campaign and raised $3m from citizens. So was I ultimately surprised by him pulling ahead in the end, even with changes to the field mere days before the election? No.

But another story rising from the results is the success of Joe Biden in Colorado, given he neither held any public events in the state nor bought a single ad for his campaign.

As this article goes live, Biden currently is in second place, beating out billionaire Mike Bloomberg, who has just dropped out after disappointing results across the Super Tuesday states. In the less than six months since Bloomberg entered the race, he invested an estimated $7m into Colorado. He created offices across the state, all in an effort to appeal to the moderate and unaffiliated voters that make up a good portion of the swing state. But the billionaire could not adequately take on the vice president's revitalized campaign. What that tells us is important.

These results were not anticipated at the start of Super Tuesday, when polling data altered to show how Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar's departure could potentially alter the race.

Then, Bernie Sanders held a comfortable lead with Elizabeth Warren then set to take second, according to Data For Progress.

For those unfamiliar with Colorado's political landscape, the state decided to abolish caucuses in favour of an open primary for the 2020 election. This move allowed unaffiliated voters to cast a ballot for either a Democratic candidate or a Republican candidate after years of being unable to vote. These mail-in ballots arrived in voters' mailboxes last month.

So Biden getting that second-place finish speaks to what was going on for probably a large number of unaffiliated or moderate voters in the state. My guess is these people held onto their ballots until Monday or Super Tuesday, where they could then drop them off before polls closed, because they remained on the fence about what candidate to pick.

This indecisiveness played in Biden's favour not only in Colorado, but across America.

Voters, specifically moderates, wanted a candidate they could finally rally behind who was not boasting far-left views like Sanders'.

I, myself, watched my own parents struggle over who would be the ideal candidate for them to take on President Donald Trump come November.

For context, I was raised in a white suburban household by one parent who identifies as a moderate Republican and another who is unaffiliated but tends to lean Democrat. Neither of them support the sitting president.

So when making their decision they were looking at where candidates stand on issues relating to the economy and healthcare, but also for someone who could beat Trump.

They have yet to inform me who exactly they decided to vote for when it came to the primary — and I don't expect them to. But both expressed intrigue over Bloomberg's moderate views and the money he was able to put behind a campaign to challenge Trump. With news of Bloomberg dropping out of the race, I anticipate voters like my parents will now turn to Biden to lead the way.

And I don't believe they are in the minority in the state; instead, I think this helps explain the current makeup of a Colorado voter.

Colorado is still considered to be a swing state, even though the last three general elections saw it go blue for both President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

In the last decade, I've watched my home state become more progressive and its demographics swing younger, as it embraces a tranche of new liberal positions that include legalised marijuana.

This bodes well for a candidate like Bernie Sanders, who especially appeals to younger voters.

But Colorado also makes up a population of moderates and unaffiliated voters who want an option away from both Trump and radical democratic socialism.

Sanders may have taken the majority of Colorado's delegates for the primary, but the dramatic resurgence of Biden's campaign, given his lack of effort put into the state, shows how voter support behind the "safe choice" to beat the president is currently driving this election.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in