In an unexpected decision, Sen. Barack Obama brought his historical presidential campaign to campus Sunday to rally young voters, a substantial support base for the campaign that is expected show in record numbers on Election Day.
With just 10 days left until the election, Obama's visit indicates a palpable shift in how the candidates view Colorado, which has turned from a locked red state to an important fighting ground for the Democrats in this election.
Obama's visit was the first time a presidential candidate has visited campus since Ronald Reagan.
Political science professor John Straayer said the state is moving toward a moderate political stance slowly but surely.
"On one hand, yes, Colorado was tilted in a conservative direction and is now coming back toward the middle from red to purple, if you will," he said. "However, this is not an immediate and instantaneous shift. There are numerous reasons, like what's been happening nationally, the growing dissatisfaction with the Bush administration, and the fact that the Republican brand has been tarnished somewhat. When you add the Obama factor, you get what you saw today."
The visit illustrates the battleground status of the 4th Congressional District, a seat which Democratic contender Betsy Markey is vying for against controversial Republican incumbent Marilyn Musgrave. The GOP office has held the office since 1972.
Some stood on the Oval, late arrivals stared at vehicles blocking off routes to the Oval, all just to hear or maybe catch a glimpse of Obama, who leads one of the most hyped presidential campaigns in history.
"I think this guy is the real thing," said State Rep. John Kefalas, who was one of the few who had the opportunity to meet with Obama prior to the speech. " I am honored and felt privileged that I got to shake his hand and talk to him. I got to thank him for his service and willingness to put himself out there."
Carolyn Witaske, a senior communication studies major, has been active in the presidential campaign as a volunteer for Students for Obama.
"It's about time that people got riled up about (the election), specifically in Fort Collins," she said.
This will be the second presidential election Witaske votes in, and she will be voting for Obama. She got in line at 10:30 a.m. and she said his speech made her speechless.
"Around campus, people seem uninformed and I don't think they realize the severity of the situation," she said. "We are so close to the election, I hope people realize what a big deal it is and how our future is at stake."
"One of the strongest messages he put out is the importance of getting out and voting early," Kefalas said. "None of this matters if we don't cast our votes and make informed decisions, ideally before Nov. 4."