Fri October 5, 2012

Obama, Romney, Get One Last Word Before Leaving Colorado

With the first presidential debate now behind them, President Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney are back on the campaign trail.

Both are holding a series of events and rallies in battleground states, but the two didn’t leave Colorado Thursday morning without making one last pitch to voters.

Rallying the Base

Speaking to a crowd of about 12,000 people in west Denver, President Obama unveiled a new line of attack accusing Mitt Romney of reversing many of his campaign positions during Wednesday's debate at the University of Denver.

“He does not want to be held accountable for the real Mitt Romney’s decisions and what he’s been saying for the last year,” Mr. Obama said.

Standing in the crowd, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colorado) said it was important for the president to hold the event in Denver, even though it’s a solidly Democratic city.

“We want to make sure people are still fired up,” Udall said. “We want to make sure people don’t buy into the narrative out of the pundits that somehow last night’s debate was determinative in this election.”

Udall and fellow Colorado Senator Michael Bennet launched a statewide tour immediately after the rally to encourage Obama supporters in other cities to register to vote ahead of next Tuesday's deadline.

Surprise Visit

As the President was speaking at Sloan’s Lake Park, across town, Mitt Romney made a surprise appearance at a Conservative Political Action Committee, or CPAC meeting at a hotel near Denver International Airport.

Four of Mitt Romney’s sons were already on the speaking schedule there and when their Dad appeared unexpectedly from behind a curtain he got a thunderous welcome.

“I heard that the Colorado CPAC was meeting and we didn’t have this planned,” Romney told the cheering crowd. “But we decided to stop by just to say hello, when I heard my boys were going to be here I couldn’t resist.”

Mr. Romney went on to speak for a little under ten minutes. He said he needs to win Colorado, and if he does, Republicans will take back the White House.

“For that to happen you guys are going to have to cheer here and then go out and knock on doors and get people who voted for President Obama to see the light and come join our team,” Romney said.

Romney knows he needs more than staunch conservatives to win Colorado. During Wednesday’s debate he did seem to be speaking directly to independents – of which Colorado has a lot of - saying he supports parts of President Obama’s health care law and some new regulations on the financial markets.

Conservative Cred

If some of the Republican base meeting here were put off by Romney’s pivot toward the center, it wasn’t too evident among other speakers and attendees who said they felt energized – and relieved – that after several weeks of stumbles, the campaign seemed to be getting back on track.

“He was not really my favorite candidate to begin with,” said Marla Wayman of Aurora. But she added that every time she sees Romney, she warms to him, especially after this week.

“Let’s just say he’s a lot more conservative than Obama,” Wayman said.

Across the hall, retiree Chuck Gash of Littleton was checking out some of the exhibits near a phone bank.

“If this is the beginning, we have round one, we have two more to go,” Gash said. “If he continues and I hope he will, and I believe he will, then this will be a return to the wonderful country that we once knew.”

The Horse Race

Back in the hotel’s main ballroom, there were more sports metaphors among speakers and Romney surrogates like Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota).

“It’s game on baby,” Thune said. “What I saw last night is what I think a lot of Americans saw, Mitt Romney who had answers, and another candidate, President Obama, who made excuses.”

Whether Mitt Romney can keep the momentum, or if President Obama can get it back in this crucial swing state, will become clearer in the coming weeks with the two remaining debates.

Indeed, some Democrats at the President’s Thursday rally at Sloan’s Lake said they were concerned that his campaign may suffer a set back after his performance at the debate.

Still, that didn’t keep supporter Lorraine Sandoval-Giron from coming away from the rally energized.

“My mom’s in a nursing home and I need Medicaid and Medicare to help with her and so Obama’s my man,” Sandoval-Giron said.