Under heavy skies on a chilly Wednesday afternoon, President Barack Obama made a brisk case for re-election at a quick campaign stop at Denver’s City Park.
“We’ve got a long way to go, Colorado, but we’ve come too far to turn back now,” he told an estimated 16,000 supporters sprawled across the green on the east side of Ferril Lake. “We cannot go back to the same policies that got us into this mess. We’ve got to keep moving forward with the policies that are getting us out.”
The rally, Obama’s 12th political event in Colorado this year, including the first presidential debate earlier in October at the University of Denver, was the second stop on the president’s whirlwind, 48-hour tour — he dubbed it a “marathon-extravaganza fly-around” with “no sleep, quite a bit of coffee” — through five crucial swing states, ending with a brief touch-down in Chicago, where Obama said he plans to cast his ballot.
“We can vote early in Illinois just like you can vote early in Colorado,” Obama said. “And I’ve come back to Colorado, and this may not be the last time you’ll see me. I’ve come to ask you for your vote.”
Volunteers stood by with mail ballot applications and buses idled, ready to shuttle supporters to early-voting sites, which opened across the state on Monday.
Obama told the crowd he has kept his promises “on issue after issue” — including ending the war in Iraq, pulling the country back from the brink of a depression, and cutting taxes for middle class families and small businesses — and contrasted his plan for the next four years with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s plan, which he charged the Republican nominee is trying to obfuscate.
“Unlike Mitt Romney, I’m actually proud to talk about what’s in my plan, because it actually adds up,” Obama said and then ticked off a list of proposals including discouraging companies from shipping jobs overseas, cutting oil imports in half over eight years, bolstering clean energy technology, investing in teachers and spending money on the country’s infrastructure.
“You can choose the top-down policies that got us into this mess, or we can choose the policies that are going to keep on getting us out of this mess,” Obama said. “You can choose a foreign policy that’s wrong and reckless, or you can choose the steady, strong leadership that we need in the world. You can choose to turn back the clock 50 years for women and immigrants and gays, or in this election, you can stand up for that basic principle that we are all created equal.”
Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, spoke the night before at a rally attended by some 12,000 people at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison. In that speech, Romney derided the Democrats for engaging in “silly word games,” referring to Obama’s recent play on his opponent’s name.
“Now, Governor Romney knows this,” Obama said, a smile growing. “He knows his plan isn’t any different than the policies that led to the Great Recession. So in the final weeks of his election, he’s counting on you forgetting what he stands for. He’s hoping that you, too, will come down with a case of what we like to call Romnesia.”
The crowd ate it up, whooping and hollering, as Obama continued his diagnosis.
“If you feel any symptoms coming on, you start feeling, oh, I’ve got a temperature, I got headaches, my eyes are getting blurry, it might be Romnesia — but don’t worry, Obamacare covers preexisting conditions. We can make you well. There’s a cure, Colorado, as long as you vote. There’s a cure.”
Obama said that his riff on Romnesia “speaks to something that is essential to your choice, and that is trust.” He continued: “Trust matters. And one thing I think you’ve seen, Colorado, over the last four years is that I mean what I say. I do what I say I’m going to do.”
Denver Democrat Jacob LaBure — he serves as the Denver Young Democrats’ liaison to the county party and is working several campaigns this cycle — said after the rally that he’s confident Obama will carry the state. When he talks to voters, he said, the president’s message appears to be winning the contest.
“People are rightly concerned about jobs, people are rightly concerned about the economy, but when I talk to them, I say, ‘Look, there are no new wars, and the economy’s on the right path, and we’re heading in the right direction, and there’s no reason to change the course. We need to continue to fight with the president that we believe in and we trust.’ It’s not perfect, but we’re not asking for perfect, we’re asking for the right direction.”
According to Thursday morning’s Real Clear Politics analysis of recent polling, Colorado is one of only five states — also including Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire and Iowa — where neither candidate holds an edge greater than 2 percentage points, with Romney ahead by just two-tenths of a percent here. The Pollster.com site adds Ohio and North Carolina to the list of its closest, toss-up states. It says that recent polling shows that Obama leads in Colorado by 1 point, 48-47.
Talking Points Memo’s PollTracker analysis narrows the field, putting Colorado among just four states where neither candidate leads by more than 1 point, along with Florida, Iowa and New Hampshire. The site has Romney ahead in Colorado by 0.9 points.
Obama won Colorado in 2008 by 9 points, making him only the second Democrat — along with Bill Clinton over George Bush and Ross Perot in 1992 — to carry the state since the LBJ landslide in 1964.
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina and strategist David Axelrod pushed back against a mounting narrative that Romney has the momentum in the race.
“We are out-performing our early-vote margins in key states compared to 2008,” said Messina. “We’re ahead of where we were against McCain, and more importantly, we’re ahead of Mitt Romney.” The numbers, he said, “tell a very clear story.” Two weeks from Election Day, he said, “We’re tied or ahead in every battleground state, and we’re not leaving any place where we are tied or ahead. Romney has not been able to knock us out of a single battleground.”
Citing an assessment by local political analyst Floyd Ciruli that appeared in an Associated Press story on Wednesday — and noting that the independent pollster once headed the state’s Democrats — the Romney campaign fired back at Obama’s visit.
“On the same day that the former Democratic Party chairman said Colorado is the President’s weakest swing state, President Obama returned to Colorado and offered no new ideas, only false attacks,” said regional press secretary Chris Walker in an email.
Romney campaign spokesperson Amanda Hennenberg predicted that her candidate would win Colorado despite Obama’s “increasingly desperate attacks.”
“Rather than deliver new ideas for the future, President Obama delivered false attacks and doubled down on four more years of the same policies that will mean lower incomes, higher taxes, and more debt. Petty, small attacks won’t change the President’s fortunes in a state a member of his own party says he has the worst chance of holding,” she said in a statement.