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Mountain West midterms colored in deepening reds and blues

Tom Arthur via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Note: Several key races in our region, as well as the U.S. House and Senate, have yet to be called. Up-to-date information is available through NPR’s elections page

The picture of how this year’s midterms went in the Mountain West is beginning to come into focus. Republicans performed very well in the Northern Rockies and Utah, while Democrats had good nights in Colorado and New Mexico. Now all eyes are on Nevada and Arizona, where votes are still being counted in two toss-up U.S. Senate races that will determine which party controls the upper chamber.

The GOP swept major federal offices in Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming and retained governorships in Idaho and Wyoming by huge margins. In several state houses, Republicans also expanded their supermajorities.

“That's part of sort of our story of polarization,” said University of Denver political science professor Seth Masket. “Within a place like Wyoming that is a pretty rural state and, you know, has already a history of Republicanism, it doesn't surprise me to see it kind of moving further in that direction.”

Meanwhile, Colorado moved the other way. Democrats retained the governorship, U.S. Senate seat and at least half its U.S. House seats. Tossup districts like CO-8 went blue, and even Rep. Lauren Boebert, an outspoken Trump-backing election denier who represents much of the rural Western Slope, is in a nailbiter. Colorado Democrats also retained control of the state senate and house.

“For a long time, it's just been considered a purple state, a very competitive state, and it's looking just much more deep blue now,” Masket said.

Masket said the number of Democratic victories – and their margins – surprised him given the “fundamentals” that normally challenge majority parties in midterm years. President Joe Biden faces low approval ratings and inflation remains high.

“Democrats probably should have done a lot worse,” Masket said of the national landscape. “Through a combination of some good candidates and Republicans picking some poor candidates, you know, they managed to have an okay night.”

Democrats also performed well in New Mexico, winning their governorship and sweeping all three of their U.S. House seats. They also retained control of the state house.

As votes are counted in Nevada and Arizona, Masket said in many ways, results there – and across the Mountain West – reflect how rural areas are for the most part becoming redder, and urban areas becoming bluer.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Copyright 2022 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Will Walkey