Mr. Gardner won because he made impressive gains among rural, less educated, older, evangelical and Hispanic voters. His showing among these groups might have been unprecedented for a Colorado Republican in a close statewide contest, let alone against an incumbent Democrat.
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In many parts of the sparsely populated Western Slope of the Rockies and the High Plains east of Denver, Mr. Udall posted the worst Democratic showings in decades, generally running at least 10 points behind Mr. Bennet or Mr. Obama.
Some of Mr. Gardner’s strength was in his congressional district, which encompasses much of the eastern half of the state, but it stretched to the countryside beyond it as well.
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In counties with names that reflect both their Spanish heritage and contemporary demographics, like Pubelo, Las Animas, Costilla and Conejos, Mr. Gardner performed better than any recent Republican Senate or presidential candidate. These ancestrally Spanish counties, all in the southern part of the state, are rural, conservative, but traditionally Democratic. They have drifted toward the right over the last few decades; Mr. Gardner’s performance may have been the strongest, but it reflects a longer-term trend.And here's some analysis of the rural-urban voting trends across the nation. It's from Bill Bishop over at the Daily Yonder. His headline is "Dems Lose Everywhere but Biggest Cities," and suggests the political divide (and the culture wars?) is less rural vs. urban than it is major metropolitan areas vs. everywhere else. That is consistent with one of Cohn's observations regarding the Udall-Gardner race: Udall won Jefferson and Arapahoe Counties, which are basically suburban Denver. One might think of these as not the "biggest cities" but Denver County is small and these counties are integral parts of the greater Denver, with its better-educated-than-average populace. Here's a pre-election NPR story out of greater Denver.