In this scruffy, high-desert town encircled by prairies and potato farms, Sen. Cory Gardner drew shouts of approval last week for his message that Democrats are shoving the country toward socialism.
"That's not what government is or what it should be," he told about 200 Alamosa County Republicans at a barbecue fundraiser in a National Guard armory. "We have to stand up and fight. Are you going to join me in this fight?"
For Gardner and other Republicans making the same pitch, including President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the key question is whether it will attract moderate voters, not just their conservative stalwarts. Based on interviews with over three dozen Coloradans last week from Denver's suburbs south to this town in the flat San Luis Valley, the argument has yet to take root, though the GOP has 18 months to sell it before Election Day 2020.
Few volunteered a drift toward socialism as a major worry, with health care and living costs cited far more frequently. Several said capitalism was too embedded in the U.S. to be truly threatened and Republicans were using socialism to stir unease with Democrats by raising the specter of the old, repressive Soviet Union and today's chaotic Venezuela.