Clinton, McCain fighting in Colo. to keep delegate leads
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado ” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain fought to keep their national delegate leads as Colorado joined 21 other states holding primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday.
Both parties braced for what they expected to be record turnout in Colorado because of interest in the candidates and the open presidential race.
Pollster Floyd Ciruli said this is the first time in decades that Colorado voters have had a part in deciding the nominees because it moved the caucuses from March to Feb. 5 so candidates would pay attention.
The Democratic race in Colorado is especially crucial because the winner will be nominated at the convention in Denver in August, and young voters are excited and getting involved.
“I think the Democratic race in this state is a horse race,” Ciruli said.
At stake in Colorado were 43 Republican and 55 Democratic delegates selected through the caucuses. The caucuses were nonbinding and Colorado voters won’t select the delegates until the major parties have their conventions in May.
However, Tuesday’s straw polls in Colorado were considered crucial because the final delegates will be selected through that process and it gives political momentum to the winners.
Some 15,000 Democrats participated in the state caucuses in 2004, and Matt Sugar, spokesman for the Colorado Democratic Party, said at least double that figure was expected Tuesday night.
State Republican Party spokeswoman Teresa Sauer said the party kept no data on past caucuses but added officials were “expecting records.”
Several counties reported problems ranging from voter confusion to the weather.
Adams County clerk Karen Long said at least 100 people showed up at county offices Tuesday morning looking to cast ballots. Many people said they’d heard or seen radio or TV coverage about primaries happening across the country, and thought they could also vote in an election in Colorado.
About 300 other people called, asking where they could vote.
In La Plata County, which was hit by two major snowstorms in the past week, some voters considered using snowmobiles to get to their caucuses.
Jean Walter, chairwoman of the La Plata Democratic Party, said weather could hurt turnout.
“A few people have called and asked for rides,” she said.
Bernice Merkl, whose husband is a Republican district captain in Wheat Ridge, said her precinct usually gets about 10 people at the Wheat Ridge senior center. But with all of the interest in this year’s race, she doesn’t know what will happen.
“We’re kind of concerned that we have a big enough place,” she said.
Clinton had half the total Democratic delegates selected as of Monday, compared with 37 percent for Barack Obama. McCain had 43 percent, Mitt Romney 36 percent, Mike Huckabee 19 percent and Ron Paul had 2 percent of the Republican delegates.
Associated Press writer Sandy Shore contributed to this report.
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