DENVER - President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney to win Colorado's nine electoral votes Tuesday, hanging onto a state that Democrats say shows how demographic trends are giving them an edge in national elections.
Obama again claimed the support of the state where he was nominated in 2008. He visited Colorado more than any previous president. His backers touted Colorado as an example of how the West's changing population favors Democrats.
Colorado was hotly contested because it was considered a critical state for each candidate's path to 270 votes. It also delivered potent symbolism as an independent-leaning western state that had only voted for two Democratic candidates in presidential elections since 1968.
Obama was one of those. He won Colorado by 9 points in 2008 after being nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, creating a coalition of immigrants, young voters and college-educated women that propelled him to the White House.
But that coalition began to fray in 2012 as Romney made a strong push for the suburban, nonpartisan female swing voters who decide so many elections here. Obama, who visited Colorado more than any previous president, tried to win back that group by going after Romney's positions against abortion rights and the federal health care law. Romney emphasized the sour economy.
Analysts noted that Romney's business background may have been more appealing in relatively affluent Colorado than in more blue-collar Midwestern states.
Colorado is often cited as the demographic future of the country, and whichever party won here could claim bragging rights to the political map for years to come.
The state is evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and independents and has become more socially liberal as educated coastal transplants have settled here. The growing Hispanic population has also sharply trended Democratic.
"Colorado is really a microcosm of the new America," said Jill Hanauer, a veteran Democratic strategist whose firm, Project New America, studies demographic trends. "We're young and diverse. It's really the new face of America."
Obama's re-election model was not his 2008 Colorado blowout but the intense 2010 U.S. Senate race in which Democrat Michael Bennet narrowly edged tea party challenger Ken Buck by stressing women's issues and immigration. Bennet won that race by 29,000 votes.
Obama hammered Romney on Romney's call to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood and his desire to roll back the federal health care law. Obama courted independent women voters in Denver's suburbs, largely pro-abortion rights but fiscally conservative, who swing elections here.
Romney countered by emphasizing the sour economy, which has been as bad here as in the rest of the nation. His campaign also focused on Colorado's rural areas, hoping to drive up big margins in Republican-friendly territory to counter any Obama advantage in the cities and Denver suburbs.
Registered Republicans outperformed Democrats in early voting, cheering the Romney campaign. Democrats argued that gap would not be enough to counter a break toward the president by independents who back abortion rights and an influx of traditional Democratic groups who tend to vote on Election Day.