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How the West will be won

Campaign 2008 | Despite pollsters' predictions, Barack Obama came out on top in Colorado's Democratic caucus, which could lead to further success out West.

Sen. Barack Obama confounded Colorado pollsters on Super Tuesday, pounding Sen. Hillary Clinton by a 2-1 margin after pundits had predicted a slight edge for Clinton. The victory underscores Obama's recent surge and suggests he could pull similar numbers in other western states outside control of the Clinton political machine.

Evidence of the surprising Colorado result was plentiful long before official numbers rolled in. At East High School in Denver, caucus-goers tipped overwhelmingly to the candidate for change. Obama posters in the packed out gymnasium outnumbered Clinton signs by 4-1. The energy for Obama created an atmosphere in which Clinton supporters seemed out of touch with where the Democratic Party is headed. More than mere numbers, there was a sense of destiny, of wonder.

Dave Cullen, a precinct captain for Obama, told voters that a candidate like Obama comes along only once or a twice in a generation. He named John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan as past examples of men who had united the nation and captured landslide victories.

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Clinton supporters in Cullen's precinct argued that by electing the former first lady, Democrats could ensure a 16-year reign in the White House-eight for Clinton and then eight for Obama. That argument was not enough to stop the tide. The handful of undecided voters that showed up to East High quickly folded into the Obama camp, unable to resist the swell of momentum.

Later that evening, Obama supporters gathered at Denver's historic Ogden Theater to watch the Illinois senator address the nation. In typical fashion, Obama roused the crowd with soaring rhetoric: "We are the ones we've been waiting for." With heads cocked, many onlookers seemed to glaze over with trance-like admiration for the man they believe will reinvent American politics.

Nationwide, Clinton won critical victories in states like California and New York. But with giant momentum swings in western states like Colorado, Alaska, Kansas, Utah, and Idaho, Obama proved he can compete for the long haul.


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