Western states continue to drift into Democrats' column

Democrat strategist: 'It's just a different world'

DENVER - A political generation ago, America's Western states signaled the nation's rightward swing -- from the emergence of Ronald Reagan to the success of tax-limitation ballot measures.

But now that expanse of peaks, deserts and emerald coastlines is trending in a different direction.

The West has become largely Democratic terrain, from Washington state -- where voters have legalized marijuana and upheld the legality of gay marriage -- to New Mexico, a state that Republicans ceded to Democrats in the presidential campaign.

There are exceptions, of course. Lightly populated Idaho and Wyoming remain strongly Republican, as does Utah. And Democrats are struggling in Arizona.

Still, analysts on all sides of the political spectrum say the overall trend is clear.

As one veteran Democratic strategist observes, "It's just a different world."