[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/06/30/colorado/art.colorado.afp.gi.jpg caption="Denver, Colorado, hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention."]
Kevin Bohn and Jessica Yellin
The western United States, with its independent streak and growing population, is the terrain both political parties are hoping to mine for electoral gains in the coming years.
With Denver hosting the 2008 Democratic Convention and a more concentrated effort in the region, the Obama campaign was able to capture Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada in last year's presidential election. Some Democrats hoped those results foretold a transformation, but a year later, political experts are saying not so fast.
The West gives President Obama his lowest approval ratings, and the Democratic Party has a 45 percent approval rating in the area - the only region in the country in which it gets under 50 percent, according to an October 16-18 CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.
"It's not as though people are lining up at the Republican Party headquarters. It's just that the bloom is off," said William Chaloupka, a long-time observer of Western politics and a professor at Colorado State University.
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