Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008 | 11:16 p.m.
Sun Expanded Coverage
(The Sun has gone on the road to listen to voters and talk to political leaders around the West. Reporters will examine the economic, cultural and demographic forces re-shaping the region as they drive to Denver for the first of the two major party conventions the Sun will cover.)
ALBUQUERQUE-- We've arrived in New Mexico to cooler weather and political ads for Obama, McCain and Republican Senate candidate Steve Pearce, all in fairly heavy rotation as we watch the Olympics. (On that note, the three of us have agreed we'll never forget these Olympics, having watched bits of them in hotel restaurant bars throughout the southwest after our long days, shouting on Michael Phelps Saturday night and enjoying Olympics humor -- like, why does Bob Costas look 35? He's been at this 25 years. It makes no sense.)
We've traveled 907 miles.
The rising Hispanic population, plus younger outsiders from California and the midwest, plus the rapid urbanization of the intermountain West, has put the region's politics into turmoil.
A Brookings report out Sept. 1, written by Willian Frey and Ruy Teixeira, makes a similar case, though adds this important facet: Many of the people moving to the intermountain West from other states are college educated, and those people are trending Democratic everywhere. We see a bit fewer college-educated moving to Nevada, but a stronger union movement in the Silver State than elsewhere makes it harder for the GOP to dominate among white working class voters, as they do throughout the rest of the region.
After spending time in Arizona and talking to a lot of Hispanics, here's a thought: The Nevada Republican Party should thank Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie that he hasn't taken it upon himself to solve the illegal immigration problem, and to do so with bluster and media hype. That's what Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is doing, and his actions could have bad consequences, long-term, for the GOP.
Check out this Page One Washington Post story in Monday's paper about how energy policy and debate are reshaping Colorado's politics. Examining issues like energy in the West is one reason we're on this trip.
In 2004, voters forced a renewable-energy quota on the utility companies. (They're called "Renewable Portfolio Standards," and we have something similar in Nevada.) The oil and gas companies are on the defensive. Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democratic former prosecutor elected in 2006, is pushing hard. (Gov. Gibbons?)
Noted: "Colorado is adding wind-power capacity at a higher rate than any other state, its hundreds of turbines delivering one gigawatt of generating power at the end of 2007. That is triple the total of 12 months earlier. Six states produce more than one gigawatt with wind, with Texas far in front and California second."
More: "Among the signs is the arrival of Vestas, a Danish wind turbine company, which announced Friday the construction of two more manufacturing plants and 1,350 new jobs, bringing the company's total in Colorado to 2,450. ConocoPhillips announced this year that it will locate its alternative-fuels research operation in the state. The Colorado-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory is adding 100 jobs." (Gov. Gibbons?)
Today (Sunday), we did some reporting on the wars and how they're playing with voters, for a story you'll see later this week.
Tuesday, read our report and see the video about the Minutemen. Also Monday, we're with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who's here in New Mexico.