Wed August 8, 2012

President Obama in Colorado for 'Unprecedented' Campaign Swing

President Obama begins a two day tour of swing-state Colorado this afternoon when he holds what’s being billed as a grassroots rally in downtown Denver.

Over four events, the campaign says the president will lay out his vision “to restore middle class economic security in Colorado. 

Health Care Overhaul

If the past few days of rallies and photo-ops are any indication, the Romney and Obama campaigns are clearly trying to out-middle class one another, if not out-small business one another.

Take this comment from small-business owner Ellen Daehnick, who spoke at an Obama campaign event Tuesday:

“The ten percent tax credit that the president supports is going to be helpful, as a small business it’s really good to have some assistance.”  

Daehnick opened Helliemae’s Handcrafted Caramels last fall.  Its 1,000 square foot space is tucked into the back of a Lakewood industrial park.  A former computer programmer, Daehnick went on to say that business has been so good that she plans to expand later this year, praising the president's Affordable Care Act, saying it would be easier to provide health insurance to her employees. 

But just the day before, at a Romney campaign event down the road in Denver, Bruce Peterson painted a much different picture of running his small business in the struggling economy. 

“President Obama continues to build government oversight into more and more of our economy, obviously the biggest example of that is health care. We don’t even know what that’s going to do to us, that’s creating an issue for hiring in the future.”    

A building materials distributor, Peterson’s Rio Grande Company was hit hard by the crash of the housing market.  Sales dropped by 40% and Peterson said he was forced to lay off about a quarter of his staff.  Things are just starting to rebound, but it’s tenuous, as he told the small crowd:    

“We need to bring more business knowledge and management to the top of our government so that they can help business grow, they understand growth.  Mitt Romney has the knowledge to restore fiscal order to our government, I think.”

The event, also in an industrial park albeit a much larger one, was one of several so-called Strengthening the Middle Class events the Romney campaign has been holding in Colorado over the past week. 

‘An Insurance Policy’

The active pitching to the middle class is no surprise in a swing state, says independent political consultant Eric Sondermann.  After all, most of the few remaining undecided voters in swing states tend to identify themselves as middle class.

“For twenty years or more, certainly dating back to Bill Clinton, we’ve seen politicians very artfully and carefully package their message directed to the middle class,” Sondermann said.

And Sondermann isn’t surprised that the president is making four stops here beginning today either.  But he does think it’s unprecedented for a sitting president, and a sign of just how important both candidates consider Colorado.

“For the Obama campaign, it’s a little bit of a firewall or an insurance policy,” Sondermann said. “If they can hold on to a Colorado and add a Nevada on top of it, they can then afford to lose an Ohio or a Virginia.” 

Recent polls have shown Mr. Obama in a dead heat with Mitt Romney in Colorado – including one released yesterday showing an all out tie.

It’s widely known the two men will be fixtures here between now and November, and pundits say we can expect to see a lot more events featuring small business owners like Ellen Daehnick.

Government Support

In her case Helliemae’s Handcrafted Caramels is very small.  It’s just she and a part-timer. 

But Daehnick has plans to make that person full-time soon and hire five more seasonal employees. 

In an interview after the event, she told KUNC that could happen even sooner if the President’s proposed 10% tax credit for small businesses that add employees gets passed.

“I know that there’s this myth of the self-made man among entrepreneurs,” Daehnick said. “But I don’t think anybody does anything on their own, I wouldn’t have been able to go to college without help from PELL grants and federal loans, I don’t see it that differently in the small business world.”

After Denver, President Obama heads to more conservative territory, in Grand Junction tonight.  Tomorrow he’ll be in Pueblo before wrapping up his trip at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs.