In battle for Colorado, Obama pushes economic message
(CBS News) On the heels of a new poll showing Mitt Romney leading President Obama 50 to 45 percent in Colorado, the president heads to the state for the second time in a month, delivering a series of economy-focused speeches aimed at building up support in the crucial battleground state.
The president, who will stop in Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and the Denver area on his two-day trip, visits the state just five days after his Republican rival Mitt Romney departed. Between them, the two candidates have made three separate trips to Colorado in the space of a month.
"It's not only a swing state, there are some studies calling it the swingiest of the swing states," said Denver University political scientist Seth Masket. "It's very competitive here and roughly a third of voters call themselves 'unaffiliated.' The candidates are going out of their way to come here and impress them.
Colorado is a state known for its political fluidity: voters in the state have shown a tendency to go back and forth between parties on both a local and national level, and some of the most competitive Senate races in recent memory have taken place there as well.
This year, it's also been struck both by tragedy and natural disaster: On July 20, 12 people were killed and 58 wounded when a gunman opened fire at a packed movie theater in Aurora; and more than 600 homes were destroyed in 2012 as wildfires ravaged the state.
The demographic trends in Colorado seem to favor the president: As CBS News's Brian Montopoli reported in June, the Denver area has seen an infusion of new voters in the last decade, particularly among Democratic-friendly populations such as Hispanics and transplants from the west coast. The Census department reports that between 2000 and 2010, Colorado's population increased nearly 17 percent, with that growth clustered in the Denver area.
And the battle for "unaffiliated" voters has kicked into full gear: Both the Romney and Obama campaigns have saturated the Colorado airwaves with campaign ads, and both operations are aggressively targeting populations where they think they might be able to build up momentum.
Hispanics, young people, and women are among the demographics seen as crucial for paving the way to victory. It's significant, then, that even as the president addresses issues like the economy and tax cuts in Colorado, he'll be introduced in Denver by women's health advocate Sandra Fluke, who was the subject of some controversy last spring when she was targeted by Rush Limbaugh.
"It's sort of suggestive of what the president's campaign strategy is, which is an attempt to paint Romney and the Republicans as pretty extreme - particularly on issues relating to women in politics," said Masket. If Mr. Obama can take advantage of a handful of recent hot-button debates relating to women's health, Masket said, he may be able to expand on the traditional Democratic gender gap.
Colorado Republicans, however, say they're doing everything in their power to steal away some of those traditionally Democratic voters.
A Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll released Wednesday shows Mr. Obama with a 40-point advantage over Romney among Hispanic voters, an eight point lead among women and a 19-point advantage among voters 18-35. But Mr. Obama's support among other demographic groups in Colorado has eroded since 2008: Romney is leading among whites, whom Mr. Obama won narrowly in 2008, 54 to 41 percent. White college graduates, whom Mr. Obama carried by 14 points in 2008, are now divided, as are independents.
While the Obama campaign capitalizes on the massive ground game it built up in 2008, the Romney campaign is working with both the state and national Republican Party to counter the Democratic apparatus. And as Masket points out, Romney, unlike John McCain four years ago, has money to put into that effort.
According to Colorado Republican State Chairman Ryan Call, the Romney campaign will have 14 full-time field offices open across the state within the next couple of weeks. The state GOP has also focused on outreach to Latinos and young professionals, contending that high unemployment rates render those groups vulnerable to Republican arguments.
In Pueblo on Wednesday, Mr. Obama is sure to reiterate his commitment to middle-class Americans - just as Romney did last week in Colorado.
The Romney campaign insists that in Colorado, as elsewhere across the country, voters won't be quite as amenable to the president's campaign rhetoric this time around.
"Colorado is a place where pres Obama laid out many of his promises in 2008. But we've found that in the 3 and a half years since then, the president just hasn't been able to get things done right," said Sarah Pompei, deputy communications director of the Romney campaign. "Americans elected president Obama to get the country back on track and to get jobs created. That hasn't happened."
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