JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Stretched along the western suburbs of the Denver metro area is a county that for the past seven decades has been a bellwether of how Colorado votes in presidential elections.
According to records from the state Secretary of State's Office, since 1952, Jefferson County voters have gone with the same presidential candidate as Colorado voters in every general election except one. That was in 1992, when Jeffco voters narrowly preferred George H.W. Bush, while Colorado granted the state's electoral votes to Bill Clinton.
So looking at how Jeffco has voted over time can also show the political evolution of Colorado as a whole. And Colorado seems to be changing.
Before 2008, Jefferson County consistently voted Republican, going with George W. Bush (twice), Bob Dole, George H.W. Bush (twice), Ronald Reagan (twice), Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson (the only Democrat in the bunch), Nixon (again), and Dwight D. Eisenhower (twice).
Colorado basically did the same. Between 1952 and 2004, state voters chose the GOP presidential candidate in 12 of 14 elections. The exceptions were Clinton in 1992 and Johnson in 1964.
But in the last three presidential elections, Jeffco voters and Colorado voters have chosen the Democrat: Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008.
In presidential elections since 1952, Colorado's electoral votes have gone to the national winner 13 times.
The times it didn't, Colorado voted for Nixon, Ford, Dole and Clinton.
Colorado's swing toward becoming a blue state has been driven by Democratic voters in metropolitan counties, including Jeffco, that are clustered toward the middle third of the state. Voters on the Eastern Plains and the Western Slope still consistently vote Republican.
Going further back in Colorado's history, between 1900 and 1948, the state's election results were close to even between the two parties, with seven victories for Democratic presidential candidates and six for Republicans.
Two of those Democratic votes were for William Jennings Bryan, who secured his party's 1908 nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. That was the only time Colorado hosted the DNC until 2008. (The Republican National Convention has never been in Colorado.)
Colorado voters liked Bryan. He received the state's electoral votes in three elections, in 1896, 1900 and 1908. Nationally, Bryan lost all three times.
Before the 20th century, between 1876 (when Colorado became a state) and 1896, voters went with the Republican candidate four times, a Democrat once, and a third-party candidate once: James B. Weaver, who ran on the Populist ticket.
For those keeping count, since 1876, Colorado voters have gone with:
- Republican: 22
- Democrat: 13
- Third party: 1
As for Jefferson County voters, before the Bush vs. Clinton match-up in '92, you'd have to go back to 1948 to find another exception in their uncanny streak of matching Colorado's overall vote.
In that year, according to election records, Jefferson County voters went with Republican Thomas E. Dewey.
Colorado's electoral votes went to Harry Truman, who went on to defeat Dewey for the presidency, despite the famous headline to the contrary.
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