For Both Candidates, Colorado is Key

For Both Candidates, Colorado is Key

Brian Olsen of Art in Action creates art foreshadowing the presidential debate at the University of Denver. Photo courtesy University of Denver.


Tonight’s presidential debate brings both President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney to Denver. But it’s hardly the first time the two candidates have made the rounds of the Centennial State. With poll numbers tight between the two candidates, Colorado has emerged as a key battleground state. Obama seems to be leading here, but strategists say the state may be even more important for Romney. From Washington DC, David Frey reports.

Listen to the story here: Colorado Battleground

It’s become a familiar sound in Colorado recently.

[OBAMA: “We’ve set up a Rocky Mountain Rumble ..,”] [ROMNEY: “Wow, Colorado thank you so much.”]

Presidential campaign rallies…President Barack Obama at a Colorado State University appearance and Governor Mitt Romney last summer in Aurora. Both candidates have made numerous stops in Colorado.   Including a visit by Romney to Basalt High School, they’ve stumped in towns from the Western Slope to the Eastern Plains.

The choice of Denver as the site for the first debate is only the latest example of how important Colorado has become for both candidates.  It might be the only thing the two men agree on.

ROMNEY: “Colorado could well be the place that decides who our next president is gonna be, and if it is the place that decides that I’m counting on you to get the job done.”

OBAMA: “If we win Colorado, we will win this election.”

Colorado’s independent nature has made it a must-win swing state.   Four years ago Colorado was solidly behind then candidate Obama.  In the two previous elections Colorado voters backed George W. Bush

Senator Mark Udall is a Democrat. He supports President Obama, but he sees why both candidates are courting Coloradans.

[UDALL: “I think our politics are to be admired. You look at the mixture of our political outlook and we’re libertarian socially: a live and let live state. We’re fiscally conservative. We are environmentally very conscious. We love the fact that we have clean air and clean water and clean wildlife. And above all we’re pragmatic. We look for solutions.”]

With a tight race nationwide and an apparently close race in Colorado this time, the state’s nine electoral votes have become particularly important.   Political strategists talk about roads to the White House.  Both campaigns have mapped winning based on roads that go through Colorado.   Recent polls show the President has opened a narrow lead in Colorado.

That worries Governor Romney’s supporters.   They say winning the state may be even more important for him than it is for Mr. Obama. That’s because the President now also appears to be leading in Florida and Ohio, a state that historically has been crucial to winning presidential elections.

Conservative strategist Alfonso Aguilar in a recent appearance at Georgetown University in Washington, DC., said without Ohio, Romney is in trouble.

[AGUILAR: “If he doesn’t win Ohio, then he has to win most of the battleground states: Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa – and that’s very difficult to do.”]

Aguilar directs the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles. He says Mr. Romney still has a chance in Colorado, but could be hurt among Latino voters by his tough rhetoric on immigration, especially during the primaries.

Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, told a Georgetown audience that the Latino vote will be key, not just in Colorado, but in other swing states, like Nevada and Florida.

[CARDONA: “I do think that if he wins the battleground states that we’re seeing are in play, especially the Southwestern states and Florida, it will because of the strength of Latino voters.”

Both candidates have been making the rounds in Colorado, appealing to voters in big cities, small towns and suburbs. For Coloradans, that means lots of chances to see their candidate up close, or listen to both of them before they make up their minds.


… And for many, it means lots of unwanted attack ads, junk mail and robocalls until Election Day.

For Aspen Public Radio News in Washington, DC, I’m David Frey.