Groundhog Day with the President in City Park

The Colorado Statesman

He’s back! Barack Obama returned to Colorado on Wednesday for the umpteenth time in this presidential election. Beneath a threatening sky a large crowd, estimated at 16,000, spilled across the lawn between the Museum of Nature and Science and the lake. Touted as a sequel to Mitt Romney’s Red Rocks appearance the night before, I expected to find a stage facing east with the backdrop of downtown and the Rockies beyond. Instead, the stage faced north, which didn’t really matter on a day when the horizon was socked in with thickening clouds that piled up along the foothills driven by a brisk upslope wind. Crews had been working since Monday preparing the site for Obama’s thirty-minute pep talk to supporters, his third of four that day.

President Barack Obama greets Sidra Bonner after the Denver resident introduced him at a rally on Oct. 24 at Denver's City Park.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

You have to ask yourself, what is going on? These events cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to stage for both campaigns and those who attend them are their most committed supporters. Obama’s acknowledged ‘extravaganza’ tour is part of his attempt to reach that sliver of undecided voters in swing states who will eventually determine the winner. Personal appearances earn free media time for each campaign, which, despite the cost, comes cheaper than a few more ads. In exchange for the flash flood of dollars sluicing into the coffers of Colorado TV stations, they breathlessly cover these visits. Even then it is something of a crapshoot for the candidates. (Channel 9’s Tuesday night report on Red Rocks devoted more time to Kid Rock than it did to Mitt Romney.)

Denver City Councilwoman Judy Montero snaps a photo at an Obama campaign rally on Oct. 24 at Denver’­s City Park.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

You only have to look at the monstrous risers provided for television crews directly across from the podium, denying the audience a decent view of the proceedings, to understand who is the target of these events. The party faithful are pushed aside, into the wings, and afforded only lateral views of the speakers. Of course, ginning up the base and recruiting volunteers for a final push to turn out voters is a secondary goal. Michael Hancock, John Hickenlooper and Diana DeGette each took their turn at revving up the crowd. Neither Hickenlooper nor DeGette has mastered the art of keeping their lips within an inch of the microphone and their thin voices vanished in the breeze. When the President bounded out, he wore only a white dress shirt and blue tie with his sleeves rolled up to the elbow. He appeared decidedly underdressed as facing a crowd in fleece jackets and ski hats.

Gov. John Hickenlooper rallies the crowd at City Park on Oct. 24 in Denver. “If we win Colorado, President Barack Obama is going to be elected, right?”
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Both candidates have adopted identical attacks on each other during these closing days of the presidential campaign, bemoaning the absence of a fleshed out plan for the next four years. In some respects both are telling the truth. Specifics always generate problems for candidates. It is much easier and safer for Obama to talk about ‘finishing the job we started four years ago,’ while Romney promises a ‘real recovery,’ details to be provided after November 6. It’s difficult to imagine the trajectory of this campaign changing much over the next two weeks, and even harder to understand how or why anyone remains uncommitted. On Wednesday Joe Biden told a crowd in Ohio how happy he was to be in Iowa. It’s probably time to turn the buses homeward and let the voters decide. At the end of the day, they remain the deciders.

Richard Mourdock’s incomprehensible assertion earlier in the day regarding God’s intentions for rape victims provided Obama with the perfect foil for a renewed appeal to women voters. He seemed energized and definitely on his game. As the President left the stage to rousing cheers, the first spatters of a cold rain began to fall. The rock music was ratcheted up and the audience burst through the crowd control barriers in all directions, much to the consternation of startled police. Denver’s finest demonstrated the good sense to just let it be.

Miller Hudson attended the rally for Obama in City Park, a stone’s throw from his home these days. He can be reached at: