On March 1, Colorado joins more than a dozen Super Tuesday states with a caucus designed to help pick the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees.
The state GOP opted not to name a statewide winner in 2016, which reduces Colorado’s prominence in the Republican race. (More on this and what it means below.)
By contrast, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both visited Colorado on Saturday to try to win support.
We’ll help you understand what’s going on in both parties in this article.
CAUCUS BASICS (FOR BOTH SIDES)
Caucuses are more involved than a normal election. It’s like voting, but in a neighborhood meeting instead of a mail-in-ballot or going to a polling place.
A large chunk of Colorado’s voters cannot participate. Colorado has “closed” caucuses, which means you must have already registered as a Republican or Democrat (the deadline was January 4) to participate.
You can check your party affiliation by looking up your registration.
FIND YOUR CAUCUS LOCATION:
Here are the Democratic caucus locations: http://bit.ly/1QrB0ZC
Here are the Republican caucus locations: http://bit.ly/1Ls7YaA
Both parties begin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 1. Plan on spending an hour or so of your time, depending on your particular precinct’s size.
The caucuses are run by the political parties, not by the state government.
“These caucuses tend to be dominated by the old party regulars,” 9NEWS political analyst Floyd Ciruli said. “The people that are as interested in county commissioner seats and legislative seats as they are the every-four-year presidential election.”
In general, that tends to makes caucuses low-turnout affairs compared to less-demanding primary elections.
DEMS: ARE YOU ‘WITH HER’ OR ‘FEELING THE BERN?’
Democrats could see higher turnout this time because of the fight between national front-runner Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who’s mounted an impressive insurgency from her left.
Democrats have the more involved caucus format - rather than a secret ballot, caucus-goers are asked to stand in a group for the candidate they prefer, providing a visual show of support.
The party regulars tend to break for Clinton, but Sanders is energizing large numbers of younger people to his rallies in Colorado.
2016 could spell “déjà vu” for Hillary Clinton, who lost Colorado’s caucus to Barack Obama in 2008.
Obama won roughly two-thirds support from Colorado Democrats, thanks in large part to a surge of younger voters.
But it’s up to Sanders to make it happen in 2016.
“My sense is that it’s going to be close, but that he could win it,” Ciruli said. “I don’t think he’s going to win anywhere near the way Barack Obama won it (in 2008) who had, in my view, a lot longer organizing time and more momentum.”
Both candidates made a recent visit to Colorado and are running TV ads here.
As in other states, Clinton enjoys wide support among Colorado’s “superdelegates,” elected officials and party leaders who get to vote at the national convention.
Even if Sanders wins the precinct caucuses, Clinton may end up with about the same delegate count in Colorado, though it is important to note that superdelegates are allowed to change their minds.
GOP: STILL CAUCUSING, BUT NO STATEWIDE WINNER
By contrast, the Republican caucuses on March 1 are a snoozer.
The state party’s leadership decided not to have a presidential preference poll this year.
That means there is no statewide winner to be declared, no such headlines to be gotten and no momentum the campaigns can prove in this very important general election swing state.
That’s why you haven’t seen visits or TV ads from the GOP candidates lately.
“They will be less inclined to come here because they know they’re not going to have the publicity that would attend to their winning the state,” Ciruli said.
It’s also likely to lead to a relatively small turnout.
GOP caucus-goers will still debate the presidential race and choose delegates to go to county conventions (which leads to the selection of a group of state delegates,) but there will be no statewide result to report.
Colorado could very well see visits from GOP candidates around the state Republican party convention in early April, especially if the national nominee is still in question and fewer candidates are still in the race.
In that case, some of the delegates in Colorado will be pledged to candidates who’ve since dropped out - and shopping for a different candidate to support.