Wed October 3, 2012

Obama, Romney Courting the Women Vote in Colorado

With a razor-thin margin between the two presidential candidates in Colorado, both campaigns are targeting as many key voting blocs as possible.

A lot of that messaging has been squarely on women, pitting social issues against jobs and the economy. And even on the eve of the tonight’s first presidential debate at the University of Denver, both sides held competing rallies courting the female vote.

The 'Bennet Playbook'

About a hundred people, mostly students, opted to spend Tuesday afternoon not in the bright fall sun, but instead inside a church on the Auraria campus in Denver.

A young woman dressed in a birth control pill pack costume warmed up the crowd chanting “Planned Parenthood! Planned Parenthood!”

Behind her was a large blackboard with pink letters reading “Ask Mitt,” where activists could write in questions they’d like to ask Mitt Romney at tonight’s debate.

Credit Kirk Siegler

Planned Parenthood Colorado’s Vicki Cowart opted to use the microphone at the podium instead.

“We want to ask him a few hard questions, like where will the women in Colorado go for their breast health care and cancer screenings if he gets rid of Planned Parenthood,” she said.

Cowart and other supporters of President Obama there said the Romney-Ryan ticket would roll back progress on women’s issues such as mandatory birth control coverage in employer health plans.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet went even further, saying the choice is between Obama, who supports a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions: “And the other ticket that is to the far right of their party, they do not represent the views of Colorado’s Republicans.”

The Obama Campaign has been borrowing a page from Bennet’s 2010 playbook, when he squeaked out a win by painting his Republican opponent, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, as an extremist on social issues. The campaign seems to be hinging a large part of its Colorado strategy on this, especially in TV ads that have been blitzing the airwaves here since Paul Ryan joined the Romney ticket.

It’s the Economy, Stupid

Republicans haven’t exactly been shying away from the airwaves or public events targeted at women either, even though their messaging is starkly different.

“This president has done a very good job of dividing this country into pitting this group, against this group, there’s a gender war, a class war,” said Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee.

In an interview, she told KUNC that women have been impacted harder by the down economy than men, noting that in many places, women outnumber the ranks of men when it comes to the unemployed.

“Women’s issues are the same issues as men, and that is a strong economy, it’s jobs, it’s a roof over our family’s heads,” Day said. “With unemployment so high right here in Colorado you know the importance of that.”

Day was in Colorado recently for a “Women for Mitt” event, where activists and new volunteers are trained on how to effectively campaign door to door, canvas neighborhoods, and stick to the talking points – that is, the economy and jobs.

Rhonda Rodman, a small business owner from Jefferson County, joined the ranks of women seated at tables munching on pretzels and leafing through campaign literature.

“I came to this as a confirmed independent,” Rodman said. “I think I was maybe registered Democrat years ago, I grew up in Massachusetts and pretty much I always voted democrat in the past, but a lot’s changed, and I’ve changed with it.”

Since 2008, Rodman has voted Republican. She’s a small business owner and said she’s worried about the economy and the financial solvency of the country. But foreign policy was the main reason she decided to volunteer for Mr. Romney.

“My fears and my concerns with the foreign policy and all the leaking and everything else, I think that’s what really got me out of my house and down to that Jeff Co office the day it opened,” Rodman said.

Competing Rallies, Competing Messages

Tuesday, the Romney Campaign brought in another heavy hitter, Ann Romney, who made her first public appearance in Colorado at a rally focused on the economy in Littleton.

That was happening just as Obama campaign volunteer Shelly Heath was greeting people filing into the Planned Parenthood rally back on the Auraria campus.

Heath also lives in Jefferson County, one of several key swing voting districts that could decide whether Colorado goes blue or red next month. But unlike Rhonda Rodman, Heath doesn’t consider herself an independent.

“It’s clear that President Obama is our choice as women,” she said. “It’s the only choice we have.”

Suburban women like Heath were seen as one of the key voting blocs that helped President Obama win Colorado in 2008.

But with the economy still limping along especially in the suburbs, neither campaign is taking things for granted.