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Politics and Government

How 5 Coloradans, undecided on the Democratic presidential primary, are weighing their candidate options

The Colorado Sun spoke with a group of voters after they watched Tuesday night’s debate. Hundreds of thousands of Democrats and unaffiliateds are waiting until the last minute to cast their ballots.

CBS News hosts the 2020 Democratic Debate in Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 25, 2020. Pictured, from left : Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, and Tom Steyer. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein, via CBS)
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Roughly 2 million registered unaffiliated and Democratic voters in Colorado have yet to cast their ballots in the 2020 presidential primary with just a week left before Election Day. 

While it’s not necessarily unusual for those groups to hang onto their ballots until the 11th hour, the numbers also suggest that Coloradans remain largely undecided about whom to support in the crowded Democratic primary. 

“It would make sense if Democratic voters are simply waiting to see what happens this week in the form of the daily news cycle, (Tuesday’s) debate or the actual results from South Carolina on Saturday,” reads an analysis from Magellan Strategies, a Republican political firm. “A whole lot can change in a week.”

Colorado is among 14 states holding presidential primaries on March 3, known as Super Tuesday. Only South Carolina, which will hold its primary on Saturday, will vote before then.

A slate of candidates visited Colorado in the past 10 days trying to get their message out and jockey for votes. 

MORE: With Bernie Sanders surging, Colorado could become a proving ground for his lagging rivals

The Colorado Sun, in partnership with television station CBS4, spoke with five undecided Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters on Tuesday night after watching the presidential debate to see what their motivating issues are, to whom they’re leaning and how they will decide which candidate to back.

(Need help deciding on a candidate? We’ve put together a guide on where the candidates stand on Colorado issues.)


Camryn Torres, an undecided unaffiliated voter, watches the Democratic presidential primary debate on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, at CBS4’s studios in Denver. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Name: Camryn Torres
Lives in: Denver
Age: 22
Occupation: Actress
Party Affiliation: Unaffiliated 
Biggest issue: Higher education costs
Was leaning toward: Businessman Andrew Yang, before he dropped out of the race 

After the debate, Torres said she still has no clear choice. 

She says that very high on her list are U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts. “Bloomberg is very, very low,” she said of Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York. “I just do not like the idea of another rich man running the country.”

Asked about former Vice President Joe Biden, Torres said she didn’t see much in him that she liked either.  “I think he is someone who is riding Obama’s coattails.”

Torres plans to hold onto her ballot for as long as possible before making her decision. She wants to do more research on the candidates.

“I’m going to go back and look through old clips of past debates,” she said. “I want to see how drastically their opinions have changed since they decided to run for the president.”

One thing, she says, is for sure: She won’t be voting for President Donald Trump.

Thomas Davidson, an undecided Democratic voter, watches the Democratic presidential primary debate in South Carolina on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Name: Thomas Davidson
Lives in: Dillon
Age: 58
Occupation: Summit County commissioner 
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Biggest issue: Health care 
Was leaning toward: U.S. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, or Warren

Davidson said the debate affirmed his preference for Sanders and Warren. It also made him realize how much he dislikes Bloomberg.

“He’s not really a Democrat,” Davidson said of the former New York mayor.

Davidson said he felt like Warren and Sanders made convincing arguments about how their progressive agendas — including support for policies like Medicare for All — are in the mainstream and don’t alienate masses of people.

“I think that the things that he’s talking about are things that matter to a whole lot of Americans, now more than ever,” Davidson said of Sanders. “And I really liked Elizabeth Warren’s repeated comments about how a progressive agenda is a popular agenda.”

Davidson said he sees parallels in the attacks against progressive candidates and how some in the Republican Party were blasting Trump during the 2016 election as being the demise of the GOP. 

“I see that going on right now with Bernie Sanders and I think that America right now really is tired of an establishment run by either Republicans or Democrats,” he said, adding that he will support whomever the Democratic nominee is.

How will he make his decision? “Probably the momentum that I see coming out of the debate and the performances in South Carolina. I think that if Bernie does well in South Carolina, if the recent polling is correct and he does at least second or third place, then that’s a big indicator to me. As much as I would like to see a woman president, I’m probably going to vote for Bernie.”

Liz Weil Shaw, an undecided Democratic voter, takes notes as she watches the Democratic presidential primary debate on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Name: Liz Weil Shaw 
Lives in: Englewood
Age: 31
Occupation: Attorney
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Biggest issue: Beating Trump and helping Democratic congressional candidates
Was leaning toward: No one, but leaning away from Sanders and Bloomberg

Weil Shaw said Tuesday night’s debate had her leaning toward Warren and Klobuchar, but she’s not sure which she’ll ultimately choose. She is still trying to figure out whether to pick the one she thinks is more electable or the other, who is her favorite candidate.

“I think I do want to see what happens in South Carolina,” she said. “I think that will play into it. If Bernie Sanders has kind of a runaway lead after Saturday, then I might be less inclined to vote for the candidate I think can beat him. I’d be more inclined to vote for the candidate I like the most.”

Her reluctance about Klobuchar? “I think that she has good ideas. She has strong answers. But I worry that on a stage with Donad Trump she would get drowned out,” she said. “But I think she would be the best president of anyone on that stage.”

Weil Shaw said she was impressed by Warren’s performance. “I thought that the way that Elizabeth Warren held her own (was notable). She was strong, assertive and I like that she stuck with the theme of people liking the progressive agenda,” she said.

Weil Shaw said she’s turned off by Sanders because “he’s extremely polarizing, but won’t acknowledge it or admit it.” She will, however, vote for whoever the Democratic nominee is.

David Martinez, an undecided Democratic voter, takes notes as he watches the Democratic presidential primary debate on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Name: David Martinez
Lives in: Denver
Age: 70
Occupation: Retired from working at Denver International Airport
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Biggest issue: Health care, education and guns
Was leaning toward: Leaning against Sanders

Heading into the debate Martinez didn’t know which of the candidates he most preferred. He just knew that he didn’t like Sanders. And by the end of the night, he had ruled out voting for him. 

“He wants to be Santa Claus to everybody,” Martinez said.

Martinez called Warren a “bulldog” because “she comes out and she fights for what she believes in.” He also likes Bloomberg, but is worried about how much of his own money he is spending on the race and how late he joined the contest.

“If he would have joined the race from the beginning,” he said, “I would have felt a little better about him.”

Martinez said he will be waiting until the last minute to make a decision about which candidate to vote for. “We’re still a long ways from the election,” he said. “Things can change in the drop of a hat.”

Rosemary Rodriguez, an undecided Democratic voter, takes notes as she watches the Democratic presidential primary debate on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Name: Rosemary Rodriguez
Lives in: Denver
Age: 64
Occupation: Executive director of a nonprofit; formerly a Denver city councilwoman and a state director for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Biggest issue: Beating Trump
Was leaning toward: Bennet, before he dropped out of the race 

“My number one issue is viability,” Rodriguez said. “I want to see who is strengthened by tonight.”

She came away from the debate leaning toward either Klobuchar or Bloomberg. She says she “realized I’m not a progressive.” 

Why not Biden? “It doesn’t feel like he’s keeping up,” she said. “It’s like he didn’t come up with anything knowing he was going to run for president.” 

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As for Klobuchar: “She’s prepared. She’s done her homework. She’s got a plan for everything. Something about the Midwest practicality is appealing.” 

Rodriguez said she wants to see a fact check of Bloomberg’s statements during the debate. She said she is happy that he has released the nondisclosure agreements he reached with women who sued his company over harassment allegations. 

She said she will absolutely support whoever the Democratic nominee is.

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