In Battleground Colorado, Independents On The Rise

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At the upscale Cherry Creek Mall in Denver, Scott Kardos, 24, said he's not interested in being either a Democrat or a Republican.

"I don't really identify with either party," said Kardos, a recent college graduate with an electrical engineering degree, who was shopping with his girlfriend and her parents. "A lot of the things I agree with the Republican side, and a lot of things I agree on the Democrat side. So, can't really decide on either one, and I flip-flop pretty much every other election on who I'd rather vote for."

Kardos is part of a growing national trend, especially in battleground states like Colorado.

The centrist think tank Third Way studied eight key states and found that nationally, both major parties are losing voters, while the number of independents continues to grow. In Colorado, the percentage of registered Republicans and Democrats rose slightly since 2008, but at a much slower pace than the rate of newly declared independents, Third Way found.

Third Way analyst Lanae Erickson said in Colorado, it's now practically a three-way tie in registration.

"Independents actually rose by nearly 10 percent in Colorado just since 2008," Erickson said. "So there's been a huge surge in independent voters. And, so, as a proportion of the electorate, independents have really gained on both parties."

That's not good news for Ryan Call, the state GOP chief running Tuesday's caucuses.

Officials do not expect more than 10 percent of registered Republicans to show up. But Call said the caucuses are still good for energizing the base and recruiting the volunteers who will help voter outreach, including to independents.

"So [independents are] not getting a lot of calls right now, but it is a very important priority for us as a party to make sure we're reaching out," said Call.

Brady Maughan, a registered independent, said he is turned off by politics and by both major parties.

"Especially right now, we want to blame [George W.] Bush for the last eight years for the reasons why Obama hasn't succeeded. We want to blame Obama for not fixing everything that needed to be fixed. And nobody wants to take responsibility for themselves," said Maughan.

Maughan, 36, works in advertising and has had to take pay cuts and take in a roommate because of the economic downturn. He said he opposed the bank bailouts and wants less government regulation. But he also has no health insurance, so he likes President Obama's health care policy.

Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli said independent voters are hard to pin down. They usually wait until the last minute to make up their minds.

"It just sort of makes our polling and our elections volatile," said Ciruli.

Obama won Colorado by 9 percentage points in 2008. Nationwide, he captured 52 percent of the independent votes.

But a recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that more than half of independents now disapprove of the job the president is doing.

Maughan, who said he voted for Republican George W. Bush twice and Democrat Barack Obama four years ago, said he's not sure how he'll vote this year.

"I'm going to vote for the person that I want to vote for, and hopefully that person puts the least amount of barriers in my way," said Maughan. "But regardless of what happens, I got to take care of me. That's why I'm independent."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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