Cakewalk Battle Of The West

031000 "Colorado"
Not that the outcome was in any doubt after Super Tuesday, but it's a Rocky Mountain boost for Al Gore and George W. Bush.

With all Colorado precincts reporting, Bush had 65 percent of the vote, McCain 27 percent and Alan Keyes 7 percent. Bush was leading for 28 delegates, McCain for 12. Gore won 71 percent of the Democratic vote to 23 percent for Bradley. Gore led for 44 Democratic delegates to 7 for Bradley.

In Utah, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, Bush polled 63 percent, Keyes 20 percent and McCain 15 percent. Even a distant second place would be Keyes' best outing of the season. Bush got all 29 GOP delegates in Utah. For the Democrats, Gore had 81 percent of the vote to Bradley's 19 percent. Gore won 21 delegates to Bradley's three.

The Wyoming GOP county conventions did not bind the 22 delegates, but Bush won 19 of them, McCain two and Keyes one.

After Friday's primaries, Bush had 701 of the 1,034 delegates needed to win the nomination. Gore had 1,587; it takes 2,170 to install the Democratic nominee.

Exit poll results show an "extremely low turnout" in both the Colorado and Utah primaries, as both the Democratic and Republican races are all but over.

"The voice of the West will be heard," said Utah's GOP Governor Mike Leavitt, a Bush supporter, after casting his ballot.

And Todd Taylor, the Utah Democratic Party's executive director, said moving up the date of the Beehive State's primary to March 10 "has at least provided us some attention, when in the past we had none."

But no joy about that from other Utah residents.

"It's like shouting after the game is over," said Elaine Broadbent, who voted for Bush.

"Nobody cares," said election judge Clayton Hurst, who watched GOP primary voters trickle in at a pace of one every 20 minutes.

In Colorado, loyal party members there dominated their respective contests despite open primary rules. Registered Democrats comprised 95 percent of voters in their primary. Nearly half of those voters were over 60 - more of an older electorate than other primaries.

On the Republican side, 95 percent of Colorado GOP primary voters were registered Republicans. And what few independents who went to the polls chose John McCain in large numbers, even though the Arizona Senator suspended his campaign. Of the 18 percent of voters who identified themselves independents, more than a third voted for McCain.

Colorado primary voters who did their civic duty on Friday had their minds on November.

"Now we can focus on the differences a little more clearly since there's only two candidates," said Nancy Wright of Englewood, Colo., a Republican who voted for Bush.

But Wright and other voters credited McCain and Democrat Bill Bradley for helping spark interest in Campaign 2000.

"It's too bad they couldn't have stayed in longer," said Fran Schrag, also of Englewood and a Bradley voter.

About primarturnout prospects, "If you'd asked me before the two candidates (McCain and Bradley) withdrew, my answer would be different than it is today," said Bill Compton, director of the Denver Election Commission.

"Back in 1996, we had 10 percent turnout. I'm hoping it will be a little higher this time. I'd say anywhere from 10 percent to 15 percent. I still think it will be very low."

Lisa Pitts of the Colorado Secretary of State's office said their analysts had been hoping turnout would reach 20 percent, but she said that was optimistic.

In Utah, the CBS News Exit Poll found the GOP primary makeup to be less politically extreme. But while no more Republican than other GOP primary electorates, Utah Republicans voting on Friday were very conservative, similar to Arizona and South Carolina voters. Alan Keyes -- the only other Republican still in the race -- had his best showing of the year in Utah where he ran second, although Bush led him three-to-one.

So much for what Utah Governor Leavitt's dream of an "historic presidential primary" in which the "political voice of a rising region" would be heard. The West has long stood on the fringe of the political process, with caucuses or primaries scheduled so late that they no longer mattered in the road to the White House. Leavitt was so vexed by this Mountain States marginalization that he led the drive to create a regional primary.

The Governor envisioned a bold swath of elections all on one day: Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, and South Dakota. But only the first three states signed on to the idea. Bipartisan bickering scotched hopes for the rest to follow suit. The Democratic Party bans any contests between New Hampshire and Super Tuesday - and that iron rule made compromise with the Republicans on choosing an early date almost impossible. And most Western states hold caucuses, so switching to a primary system would have meant spending money.

Still, the tri-state "Western Primary" offered promise. Leavitt believed the March 10 date would bring candidates and media to the region. "Western issues will be discussed and Western concerns will be elevated in importance," he insisted.

Not this time. The glittering glare of national attention in general has dimmed since the Super Tuesday behemoth rolled over McCain and Bradley. So with the outcomes clear, there was little reason for Westerners to vote.

On Saturday, Arizona Democrats hold their Internet primary, while Michigan Democrats hold their primary the old-fashioned way. The next day, Democratic caucuses will take place in Minnesota and Nevada. Then on Tuesday, March 14: Southern Tuesday, when Democrats and Republicans hold primaries in six southern states.

After that, later primaries are set in major states that will be key in the fall campaign: Illinois on March 21, Pennsylvania on April 4, and - at the end of the primary eason - New Jersey on June 6.