GWEN IFILL: Sticking with politics, Colorado is a state typically considered a crucial battleground in presidential elections. But this year, Hillary Clinton is polling well ahead of rival Donald Trump. This has caused no small amount of concern for Republican voters in the reddest part of the state.
I spent the weekend talking to them.
A crisp, sunny football afternoon at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Football is easy. Air Force crushed Georgia State. But politics is more complicated, especially this year, in the heart of one of the most conservative counties in Colorado.
Eli Bremer, a former local party chairman, supports nominee Donald Trump now, but only after his first and second choices, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, flamed out.
And you ended up with Trump because he’s the nominee or because he was your third-best choice?
ELI BREMER, Former Chair, El Paso County Republican Party: I have always found him an interesting candidate. Interesting can be good. Interesting can be bad. But when he became the nominee, I said I can support his candidate. I don’t have to like everything about him. But I like a number of things about him. You have got evangelicals and religious voters who’ve always consistently been on the conservative side. In this election, there’s questions, will they show up for Trump?
GWEN IFILL: The questions, in Colorado, a state in the habit of picking the winner, go broad and deep.
There are loyal, Republicans like Dan and Tami Scase (ph), military retirees, who feel it’s their duty to vote. This year, they are stuck.
MAN: Well, the choices are dismal, I think. It’s just kind of a weird time, a weird election, sort of sad in a sense, I guess, tragic, but mostly it’s just weird. That’s what I think.
GWEN IFILL: What do you think, Tami?
WOMAN: I think it’s goofy, because we have no choice. We have — maybe the Libertarians are coming up. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a really close election.
GWEN IFILL: Because you would vote for a third choice, rather than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?
WOMAN: I would.
GWEN IFILL: The Scases are members of a big club made up of some of the most conflicted Republicans in the country. You would think that in a place with five separate military installations that went slam dunk for Mitt Romney four years ago, Donald Trump would be overwhelmingly popular.
But here in deep-red El Paso County, his support appears far softer than expected.
KARON MCCORMICK: I was an active precinct leader
GWEN IFILL: Karon McCormick is part of the reason why. In 2012, she was devoted to Mitt Romney.
KARON MCCORMICK: I love that man. I love Mitt Romney.
GWEN IFILL: Assembling 3,500 lawn signs in her backyard shed. This year?
KARON MCCORMICK: I have been a lifetime Republican and have switched to independent because Mr. Trump is just too embarrassing for me to support. He doesn’t represent the party of Lincoln. And I don’t want to lower my standards to dirt level to support him just to beat Hillary Clinton. So I will be supporting her.
GWEN IFILL: Do your Republican friends look at you and think that you have lost your mind?
KARON MCCORMICK: Yes.
KARON MCCORMICK: I have been called every name in the book, a traitor and everything else. But I think he would be dangerous as a president.
GWEN IFILL: Colorado may not be a tossup this year.
MAN: I’m calling on behalf of the Donald Trump and Mike Pence campaign.
GWEN IFILL: But Trump, who campaigned in Colorado Springs this summer, sees an opportunity.
DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: I just want to tell you that I’m going to be in Colorado a lot, because — because there’s no way we shouldn’t win this state. These are great people, heavy military, tremendous respect for their police and law and order. That’s me.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
GWEN IFILL: Tom Cronin, who teaches political science at Colorado College, has a term for the Republicans who don’t want to vote for Trump: homeless.
So, in this area where we are, which is a reliably conservative area of the state, evangelically and the military population, does he have to do very well here in order to offset that?
TOM CRONIN, Colorado College: Correct. El Paso County and some nearby counties, as well as rural Colorado, is decidedly Republican. And he will do well, but he probably won’t do well enough to offset Denver, Boulder, and the suburbs of Denver.
GWEN IFILL: That matches up with recent Colorado polling that shows Clinton with a comfortable lead.
DAVID FLAHERTY, CEO, Magellan Strategies: I really think there’s an opening here for Gary Johnson.
GWEN IFILL: David Flaherty runs the Magellan Poll.
DAVID FLAHERTY: Our latest poll shows Hillary up by five points, 41 to 36 percent right now. Honestly, what’s going is, we’re getting about 13 percent going for the Libertarian, Gary Johnson, unlike here in 2012, where if you were not thrilled with Mitt Romney, you kind of had nowhere to go.
But, with Gary Johnson gaining traction in our latest survey, he’s getting almost one-quarter of the unaffiliated voters here. So, I feel that those voters that perhaps would normally go into Hillary’s column, or lean into her column, they actually have a viable option at this time in Gary Johnson.
GWEN IFILL: Among that 13 percent, hard-core Republicans, like intelligence analyst and father of three Jason Calhoun, who knows he will vote for neither Trump nor Clinton.
JASON CALHOUN: I can’t think of a perfect candidate at this point. So, you essentially have three options. You have three people that are going to be on the ballot in all 50 states. And you really have to decide between one of them. And I think that it’s — I’m not saying that the two-party system is rigged and corrupt and broken or anything.
I just think it’s time for a third voice in there. And I think that Governor Johnson offers that best opportunity for us to start hearing each other again.
GWEN IFILL: That is not to say that Trump will lose El Paso County.
PASTOR MARK COWART, Church of All Nations: God has a plan for your life.
GWEN IFILL: Staunch Trump supporter Mark Cowart, pastor of the Church of All Nations, a megachurch with five locations, feels politics should return to the pulpit.
PASTOR MARK COWART: We can pray, lord, save America, but we’d better open our mouths.
GWEN IFILL: But Cowart Also acknowledges that many in his own congregation are uneasy.
PASTOR MARK COWART: There is a lot of confusion and conflict in this election. I have never seen anything quite like it. You know, it’s interesting. I have heard a lot of things. I will tell you some of the things I have heard: “I don’t like him.”
So, the way I respond to that is, since when do we have to like our candidate to elect a candidate? So, sometimes, the lord will choose candidates that may not fit everybody’s criteria, but they’re capable candidates. And I like to remind people we’re not electing a pastor in chief. This is a commander in chief.
GWEN IFILL: Karon McCormick, the Romney-turned-Clinton supporter, got three Trump fund-raising pitches in her mail in one day last week, a sign that no one is writing this state off, not yet.
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