Redoubts and fragments

Political pundits use a new word when they talk about the post-election Republican Party. They say the GOP -- due to its hard-line approach to fossil fuels, the Iraq War and deregulation of everything -- has had its majority reduced to "redoubts," mostly in Southern states. "Redoubts," according to Merriam-Webster's dictionary, are small, enclosed defensive positions.

But the redoubts aren't all in the South; the West has a significant number. Utah, Idaho and Wyoming haven't voted for a Democrat for president since 1964, and this time, they were among the top states in voter percentages for McCain.

Conservative religious voters are largely responsible for the redoubts in those states. On average, the most conservative voters are either evangelical Christians or Mormons, whose politics tend to center on opposing abortion and gay rights. About 60 percent of Utah adults are Mormon, and 45 percent of Idaho adults are either Mormon or evangelical; the only other states with totals so high are in the South. Politically, Utah and Idaho might as well be Southern states.

Mormon voters comprise 10 percent of the Wyoming electorate, and Republican Cynthia Lummis, a conservative Lutheran, made a point of reaching out to them in her winning campaign to be the state's next representative in the U.S. House. (She's replacing Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin, who didn't run for re-election.)

The politics in other Western states remain fragmented by similar hard-line Republican redoubts. In the West's liberal-majority coastal states, the redoubts are inland. In Washington, for instance, two-term incumbent Republican State Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland, a friend of timber and mining companies, just lost to Democrat Peter Goldmark, a rancher and Ph.D. molecular biologist who promises to have better environmental protection policies. That job manages 5 million acres of Washington's state land and logging on private land. Sutherland carried the inland counties, Goldmark carried the coastal urban areas.

In general, Western cities, college towns and resort towns tended to vote for Obama, while the rural areas went for McCain. Even in Nevada, where Democratic Sen. Harry Reid has led a revival of his party -- there are now 100,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans -- Obama won by carrying the urban slivers of metro Las Vegas and Reno, even though he lost in the rest of the state.

In Arizona, even as Democrats based in Flagstaff and the Navajo Nation gained congressional seats, voters in the Phoenix suburbs re-elected famous anti-immigration Republican Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Araipo to a fifth term; the sheriff promptly vowed to continue his raids on businesses and local governments that hire undocumented immigrants. Arizona voters also rejected a ballot measure that would've relaxed the state's tough penalties against businesses that hire undocumented immigrants.

In western Colorado, Ed Marston, High Country News' former publisher and a longtime political centrist, invested more than a year in running as a Democrat for a seat on the Delta County Commission. Competing on strongly Republican turf, Marston was smeared by ads claiming he would flood the area with illegal immigrant criminals and squash gun rights, even though he'd tried to take the gun issue off the table by getting a concealed weapon permit. He lost by a 2-to-1 margin -- a typical fate for local Democratic candidates in Republican strongholds on the state's rural Western Slope.