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John Belisarius

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The West is the Best...

...Hope for Democrats, that is, according to an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times, "A Blue Tinge in the West". Adding to reports that Democrats are surging in western states (see our recent posts "How the Wast Was Won" and "Go West Young Dem" below), the Times notes that:

The social conservatism that keeps the South red may not be enough for the West. Old-fashioned individual liberty and Democratic populism are getting a hearing. The national Democratic Party seems interested, but unsure how to get to the new rodeo...

The West, once ignored for its paltry populations, has bulked up as the blue states of the Northeast and Midwest lose residents. Latinos with potential Democratic loyalties are moving in. So are retirees from Democratic states, especially California.

The political factors are many. Nevada is at war with the federal government over the proposed nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain. Environmentalism, once sneered at in the spacious, resource-rich West, is gaining a foothold as tourism and adventure sports gain economic importance. Winning candidates have brought fiscal conservatism, pragmatism and workable ideas to the job, generally leaving ideological baggage behind.

The Times editorial offers further clues about the kinds of policies that Dems have ridden to success:

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, a native farm boy and former U.S. attorney who took office in 2003, persuaded an initially balky Republican Legislature to spend some of this year's $1-billion budget surplus from mineral and energy industry tax revenues instead of socking it all away. The state boosted spending on highways, a wildlife habitat trust fund, bonuses for teachers and community college scholarships.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico has won tax cuts, incentives for new jobs and rapport with business interests. Richardson, whose mother is Mexican, appointed two Republicans to his Cabinet along with Indians and Latinos. Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano is strong enough that top Republicans are declining to run against her next year.

The editorial suggests that Dems can build on their beachhead in the west by protecting civil liberties and emphasizing privacy issues, such as the GOP's disastrous handling of Terri Schiavo's ordeal, that will "resonate with the hands-off individualism of the mountains and deserts."