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Of 12 trips to Colorado during his presidency, Barack Obama has made three specifically to visit CU. With Election Day just five days away now, when every second of campaigning counts, his third and perhaps final visit to CU on Thursday evening is an interesting choice telling of this election.
Why is the president traversing, once again, to The People’s Republic of Boulder, where the Republican ticket is already likened to GMO’s and plastic bags? Why not head back to somewhere like conservative Colorado Springs?
A couple of scenarios, perhaps not entirely independent of each other, illustrate just how this campaign stop reflects the 2012 presidential race.
Scenario 1: The Obama campaign is fretting, and this trip shows it
In October of 2008, weeks before Obama took office, he not only led in national polls, but also in the state of Colorado by a margin of at least four to ten points, depending on the poll.
Now, however, the race for the White House is much closer. Every electoral college vote counts, and neither Obama nor Mitt Romney can afford to lose in Colorado, where the polls are essentially tied like the rest of the nation.
“Colorado is a state that Obama won by nine points in 2008, but today, his standing with Colorado voters couldn’t be more different,” said Republican National Committee spokesperson Ellie Wallace. “Coloradans know they can’t afford four more years like the last four years.”
It is true that this election looks different for Obama, who cannot spare his base of Democratic supporters in Colorado (namely Boulderites and urbanites in Denver – whether students or longstanding residents) and needs them to step things up a notch for a final vote-push.
Although he won’t win over any undecided voters at Coors Events Center on Thursday, Obama may motivate this Democratic base to mobilize those voters for him. And although he won’t need to sway many Boulderites into voting for him, he will attempt to encourage students to physically get out and vote, a problem he did not need to address in 2008.
“Four years ago it was the biggest student involvement and excitement that I’ve ever seen in 50 years of watching colleges and campuses, no doubt about that; he was an unconventional candidate,” said Tom Cronin, a political science professor at Colorado College and author of the recently-published book, Colorado Politics and Policy: Governing a Purple State.
“This year there is probably only 50 percent of that enthusiasm or excitement, and most of that has come lately,” Cronin said in a phone interview, adding that he cannot speak for the younger people who are not on college campuses. “It was not present last spring or last summer, students are late to engage and I’m sure there will be a lower turnout on college campuses.”
Since Obama is lagging in areas where he was winning at this time last election, he may be returning to Boulder to rally the base of supporters that is absolutely necessary to keeping Colorado blue come Nov. 6.
Scenario 2: This will not be the president’s last visit to Colorado before the election
In 2008, Obama’s last campaign stops were in Denver suburbs and in Colorado Springs, where more Republicans, Independents and undecideds live than Boulder. This strategy may have helped Obama win Colorado by a margin of nine points.
“He has been here,” Cronin said of Colorado Springs where he teaches. “He gave a commencement speech at the Air Force Academy, he spoke at University of Colorado – Colorado Springs during his last campaign, I co-hosted a fundraiser for him here that raised $65,000 for him, he’s spoken on our campus [Colorado College], he was here for the fires, he was there for the Aurora shooting, we could make him an honorary Coloradan.”
Despite the time that Obama and his surrogates have spent this and last election in El Paso and Pueblo Counties, where Republicans continue to outnumber Democrats, the Obama campaign has not yet made a final push for undecided voters in that area.
Granted, Obama was going to visit Colorado Springs Tuesday morning before Hurricane Sandy required his attention, but the candidate for reelection did not reschedule in the conservative area.
Perhaps their final push was Michelle Obama’s visit at Dein Fleischauer Activity Center in Colorado Springs on Oct. 10. She told attendees that if the Obama team wins Colorado, they could surely win the election and that the result comes down to people in every corner of the state.
“When you think back to what happened in 2008, back then we won Colorado by about 215,000 votes. Now, that might sound like a lot, and we appreciated it, we will appreciate it again. But when you break that number down across precincts, that’s just 73 votes per precinct,” Obama said in Colorado Springs.
“If anyone here is thinking that their vote doesn’t matter, that their involvement doesn’t count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can’t possibly make a difference, I just want you to remember those 73 votes,” Obama said. “You know those 73 people.”
With all of the hullaballoo that is being made over Colorado this election – one of fewer than 10 states that will decide who wins the White House – though, a month-old campaign speech is unlikely to get those 73 people to the polls on Nov. 6. More likely, Barack Obama will be back, and it won’t be to rally the base in Boulder.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Alison Noon at Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org.