MANITOU SPRINGS — It was the calm before the Santorum storm.
On a chilly Tuesday afternoon with snow flurries swirling, just hours before Rick Santorum’s surprising win in the Colorado Republican Party caucuses, we followed the example of a number of former U.S. presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt.
We went to the Colorado mountains and Manitou Springs for a pause from the impending caucus craziness.
Squint while standing on the town’s main street, Manitou Avenue, and you could be in a Spaghetti Western. Or Roslyn, WA. Our team’s Colorado native, Jason Gilmore, keyed us in to this serene mountain town that he’s been visiting since he was “knee high to a grasshopper.” It’s one of his favorite places.
It was easy to see why.
Snuggled near Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs, this historic resort spot is famous for its restorative springs, proximity to the Garden of the Gods, memorable shops such as a charming Penny Arcade, and independent people.
Over hot beverages at Marika’s Coffeehouse, A.V. Crofts and I met one of them, Alan Delwiche, for a conversation about his hometown and the local political scene. Delwiche, whose son Aaron is an alum of the UW Department of Communication, is active in local Democratic Party politics.
Delwiche moved to Manitou Springs in 1982, and has seen the town bounce back from a decade of neglect in the 1970s. Ironically, this neglect meant that many of the historic buildings still stand, as they were not leveled for new construction in the 1960s and ’70s, while many were in neighboring Colorado Springs.
Back then, “it had a sort of Bohemian flavor,” Delwiche says. Today, Manitou Springs has emerged as a bluish dot in an otherwise red sea in the greater Colorado Springs area.
Delwiche works full time for Fluke, but still manages to find time each week to run the Manitou Incline, an old span of steeply inclined railroad track that boasts an elevation gain more than 2000 feet in just a mile and a quarter. Olympic athletes from the nearby U.S. Olympic Complex and Fort Carson soldiers take on the 2600 steps formed from decommissioned train ties.
Delwiche volunteered for the 2008 Barack Obama campaign and he said he is looking forward to volunteering again in 2012. He thinks Colorado will stay blue this presidential election. As evidence, Delwiche referenced political changes afoot in the last four years in the state: a Democratic governor, a majority-Democratic state senate and the first openly gay Colorado politician elected to the U.S. Congress, Jared Polis, along with patterns of both domestic (from California) and international (Mexico and South America) immigration.
This fall, “The state will probably go as the economy goes,” he said. Looking further ahead, he believes that this once reliably red state will matter more in national politics, especially as Democrats in Boulder and Pueblo link up with traditionally blue sections in Denver.
“It’s gone a lot more to the purple side,” Delwiche said.
A.V. Crofts contributed to this report.