5:00am

Tue February 7, 2012
Election 2012

GOP Rivals Making Last Minute Pitch in Colorado

Caucusing tonight, Colorado Republicans will conduct a largely symbolic preference-poll on who they’d like to see challenge President Obama this fall.  Presumed front-runner Mitt Romney will watch the caucus results at an event tonight in downtown Denver.  Newt Gingrich is on his way to Ohio.

But the former House Speaker did make a quick appearance yesterday afternoon in Colorado, his first and only so far this campaign.  KUNC’s Kirk Siegler reports.

Domestic Energy

Most of the other GOP hopefuls visiting Colorado over the past week have stuck to the talking points; jobs, the economy, health care.  But at one of his just two Colorado appearances yesterday, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich seemed eager to talk about things that a lot of westerners follow quite closely – the Department of Interior, the Endangered Species Act, the Environmental Protection Agency - and specifically with the EPA, Gingrich’s plan to shutter it, and replace it with a new agency.

“The environmental solutions agency would have to have as a first test, common sense,” Gingrich said. “You can talk to any farmer anywhere in America about the proposed dust regulations and you will have an initial idea of what I mean by common sense.”

Republican lawmakers from eastern Colorado have criticized those proposed dust regulations.  The Department of Interior has also been a frequent target for the GOP, due to recent revisions in rules that some say have led to a slow-down in oil and gas development in states like Colorado.

“Remember the reason North Dakota has 3.5% unemployment, and has had seven straight tax cuts at the government level, is because the Bakken formation is on private land,” he said.

Both Gingrich and rival Rick Santorum were speakers at an energy forum Monday on the Colorado School of Mines campus in Golden. 

When it was his turn, Santorum too narrowed his attacks on President Obama’s energy platform, and its emphasis on renewable power.

“We have an opportunity in this country under a new president, to have a re-energizing of America,” Santorum said. 

Both candidates reiterated pledges that they would sign executive orders to expedite the stalled Keystone oil pipeline – should they get elected.  That’s looking less and less likely, if the polls are any gage. 

Front Runner Status

Another indicator might be the state’s Democratic Party, which has lately focused its attacks exclusively on Mitt Romney.

“For all of Romney’s pandering and promises, he’s nowhere to be found on things that matter to people’s lives,” said Rep. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora), speaking on a press call Monday leading up to Mitt Romney’s rally in the expected battleground of Arapahoe County. 

For his part Mitt Romney has barely mentioned his rivals here either in recent days.  

“We elected this president to lead, he chose to follow, now it’s time for him to get out of the way,” Romney said at a well-attended rally in Colorado Springs Saturday.

Romney certainly seemed like the clear-frontrunner at that rally, especially since there was a hefty Secret Service presence and limited press access, unlike some of the recent Santorum or Gingrich events. 

“We like him very much,” said attendee Joe Roach.

Roach, who’s retired, came with his wife and said he is confident that Mitt Romney is the one who can energize Republicans, even if it hasn’t happened everywhere just yet.

“There are four good candidates,” he said. “But we think that he brings the kind of executive experience that we need in the White House right now.”

Still, some Republicans at the event like eighteen year old Michael Walters said they are worried that the drawn out, bitter primary, will divide their party, and lessen its chances come November.

“When we’re all sort of quarreling amongst ourselves about who we think is better, it’s going to divide us while democrats are standing strong,” Walters said.

Electability

Back in Golden, at a brief press conference Monday, for his part Newt Gingrich said he had no plans to back out of the race.  He also said he and Senator Santorum are succeeding in stopping the front-runner.

“How does he go out and argue that he’s the more electable, if you look at the turnout, everywhere that he wins, the turnout’s down,” Gingrich told reporters.

Gingrich staying in the race suits some voters like Mark Heiberger just fine.  He left a separate, small Gingrich rally at a local hotel feeling encouraged about the former speaker’s plans on domestic energy. 

“I think that if we get a strong conservative like Newt in there, people will stand behind him and support him,” Heiberger said.

Colorado Republicans will caucus beginning at seven this evening.