Obama returns to Colorado as GOP chooses Romney

“If we win Colorado, we will win this election; if we win Fort Collins, we will win this election,” President Barack Obama told a crowd of about 1,300 cheering students and supporters on a blazing hot afternoon on Monfort Quad at Colorado State University Tuesday.

Obama’s campaign stop in Fort Collins was part of a two-day “grassroots” event that took aim at college students, highlighting what the campaign believes to be a “fundamental” difference between Obama and Romney. School officials said it was the first time a sitting U.S. president had visited the Fort Collins campus.

The Colorado State marching band warms up in preparation for President Obama’s arrival to his campaign rally at CSU.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

Romney was officially nominated at the Republican National Convention in Tampa on the same day Obama addressed supporters in Colorado.

President Obama finesses a point for the students attending his campaign rally at CSU Fort Collins on Tuesday.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

The president spent much of his time encouraging students to register to vote, stating that a vote for him is a vote for building a workforce to drive America’s future economy. He pointed to his efforts establishing a college tax credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college. Obama also reminded students that he worked to eliminate more than $60 billion in taxpayer subsidies to banks acting as federal student lenders, and used those savings to double investments in Pell Grant school scholarships.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper prepares the ground for President Obama’s imminent arrival to the CSU quad on Aug. 28.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

The campaign said that in Colorado, Obama’s efforts have resulted in new college tax credits that have benefited an estimated 152,000 students in 2011; increased funding for Pell Grant scholarships that has assisted 158,000 students in 2010; and made more affordable loans that helped nearly 167,000 students in Colorado.

U.S. Congressman Jared Polis exhibits a rarely seen public face as he ferociously exhorts CSU students to action.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

“The other side, they make this a political strategy; they tell you over and over how bad things are,” Obama remarked to his young audience. “Of course [they say] that’s Obama’s fault. And they tell you if you believed in change four years ago, your faith was misplaced; you’re naive.

A joyful Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, prepares to go through a security check so that he can attend President Obama’s campaign rally at CSU in Fort Collins.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

“Last week my opponent’s campaign called you the ‘lost generation,’ continued Obama, to a burst of ‘boos.’ And they hope that by telling you these things that you’ll get discouraged.”

CSU students call out to unseen friends from the midst of a crush of people while they await the President’s arrival behind a barrier.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

Obama announced the launch of the “Rocky Mountain Rumble,” a competition between CSU and the University of Colorado at Boulder to see who can register the most new voters. He told the college students that their vote is crucial for both the campaign and the country.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar reinforces his words with gestures as he talks to CSU students at the Obama rally.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

“You guys have more stake in this election than anybody,” said the president. “When you step into that voting booth, the choice you make in that instance will shape this country; the world; your lives for decades to come.”

Health care

Obama also spent a good chunk of his nearly 30-minute speech defending his federal health care law that has been dubbed “Obamacare” by critics of the sweeping reform. Repeating comments from previous campaign speeches, Obama embraced the term.

President Barack Obama applauds CSU student Haley Damm-Hamblin who has just finished her address at the rally moments before his arrival onto the stage.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

“Today, because of Obamacare — and, yes, I do care, that’s why we passed the law — nearly 7 million young people have health insurance because they’re going to stay on their parents’ plans; your grandparents are saving money on prescription drugs; and women have gained access to free preventive care… your vote made that happen. You made that change,” said the president.

A student in the audience in front of President Obama holds his hand-inked t-shirt high for the President to see.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

He again tried to paint a stark difference between his administration and the Romney campaign, especially in terms of its role with women. Obama believes his administration is moving the nation forward, while Romney’s plan calls for taking steps backwards.

As President Obama completes his remarks, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar applauds him from nearby on the stage.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

“On issue after issue, these guys seem to just want to go backwards. Sometimes they want to go back 10 years; sometimes 20; sometimes 50; sometimes 100,” said the president. “This isn’t the time to re-fight battles that we’ve already settled. In November you can say that in this century, women should be trusted to make their own health care decisions.”

Local Democrats come out in support

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, who spoke at the rally, encouraged students to register to vote. On Monday, Polis joined a campaign conference call in which he also highlighted Obama’s efforts for students.

The President’s words strike a chord with these attendees at the rally.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

“President Obama doubled the size of Pell Grants for over 150,000 young Coloradans, and led the way to help prevent student loan interest rates from doubling,” said Polis.

Colorado Democrat and former state Chair Pat Waak and her husband Kent Strom were in attendance to see the President.
Photo by John Schoenwalter/The Colorado Statesman

Polis wasn’t the only local Democratic politician to stump for Obama this week. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado, also spoke at the rally on Tuesday.

Hickenlooper spoke generally about the president, pointing to his “commitment to democracy.”

“President Obama is strengthening the middle class and fighting for tax cuts that would make it easier to pay for your college tuition, or to own a home, or to put something away for your retirement,” said the governor, who has developed a close relationship with the president over the summer in part as a result of deadly wildfires across the state and the horrific mass shooting in Aurora. “He’s made it easier for you guys to step up, reach up and grab hold of that better life.”

Salazar spoke of the president’s focus on increasing renewable energy, which has been a priority for the Department of the Interior.

“In the last three years under President Obama, renewable energy has doubled in the United States of America,” said Salazar. “Colorado State University… is helping lead that revolution as we move forward with the president’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to make sure that we have energy security for the United States of America. We can’t afford to have a U-turn on that…”

Romney campaign responds

Romney’s campaign immediately responded to the president’s remarks on Tuesday, suggesting that Obama is becoming “desperate” as the economy fails to show significant signs of improvement.

“Burdened by the weight of a faltering economy and policies that haven’t made life better for middle-class families, President Obama and his campaign seem more frustrated and flailing than usual,” said Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams. “The president’s desperate attacks tonight stand in stark contrast to the Romney-Ryan plan that will get our country back on track and create 12 million new jobs and more take-home pay for middle-class Americans.”

— Peter@coloradostatesman.com

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