10,000 people cheered Barack Obama at his third visit to CU Boulder Thursday evening. Although turnout was about 1,000 less than his last stop at Coors Events Center, held on April 24, the president’s audience was amped nonetheless throughout his 35-minute speech.
Before he got into the election, the president’s opening statements reflected the fact that this was his first campaign day since the disastrous Hurricane Sandy, which battered the East Coast over the past week. He told the audience that party division comes crumbling down when safety does.
“When disaster strikes, we see America at its best, the petty differences that consume us in normal times, they all seem to melt away,” he said. “We saw it here in Colorado with the fires this summer, and then the terrible tragedy in Aurora. In moments like these, we are reminded that there are no Democrats or Republicans during a crisis, just fellow Americans.”
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The president spoke of the American spirit garnered in tough times like Sandy, one that says, “In the end, we’re all in this together.”
“Boulder, that spirit has guided this country along its improbable journey for more than two centuries, and it’s carried us through the trials and tribulations of the last four years,” he said.
Obama told the audience that the change he promised in 2008 is underway.
“We’ve gotten done so much, and we’ve never lost sight of the vision that we share, that you would have a voice, that there would be someone at the table fighting every day for middle class Americans,” he said.
He spoke little on Mitt Romney, but when he did, he called out the governor’s recent campaign rhetoric, which has begun to echo the “change” message Obama spewed in 2008.
“In the closing weeks of this campaign, Gov. Romney has been using all his formidable talents as a salesman to dress up the very same policies that failed our country so badly, the very same policies we’ve been cleaning up after these last four years, and he’s offering them up as ‘change,’ he’s saying he’s the ‘candidate of change,’” Obama said. “But let me tell you, Colorado, we know what change looks like … and what Gov. Romney is offering sure ain’t it.”
A slight lag in turnout was seen for Obama’s third trip to the Boulder campus in about six months. Tickets were distributed more slowly than at his previous Boulder events, and tarp covered four of the 24 seating areas in Coors Events Center Thursday night. The partitioned area was directly opposite the speaking podium, a segment that the president faced but which was out of sight of media cameras.
City of Boulder police officer Brian Rech explained that the seats were not under repair, and he thinks that the tarp was in place to corral people to better and more media-focused seats.
“They didn’t want to have the camera show something empty,” Rech said.
Only a few rows of the tarp-covered segment were opened to attendees. When the president took the stage, most of those four segments were still covered. That lack of turnout may explain why the line to get into the event was less teeming than the president’s April 24 visit to Coors Events Center.
CUPD Spokesperson Ryan Huff attributes the quick and smooth-flowing line to not just the experience his security team gained from efficiently running the president’s event in the arena before, but also to a generally sporadic turnout.
“There weren’t as many people in line to begin with,” Huff said. “At the last visit there were some people here real early in the morning, so the line just built from there, so we had a much larger crowd at the very beginning. Whereas, here, people have been showing up at different times in different groups.”
Ryan Clopine, a 20-year-old a sophomore psychology major, arrived shortly before the event began, owing his entry to an accelerated process.
“I just got lucky this time with the line, to be honest,” Clopine said. “The line was great, it took 20 minutes. I don’t know how that worked. It was kind of a last-minute decision.”
He had wanted to attend the president’s previous visits but was put off by the extreme turnout.
“The line was absurd the last time. I would have liked to go, but it just didn’t work out,” Clopine said.
Devon Wycoff, a 19-year-old freshman film studies major, got a ticket for the event on campus and was drawn to it after also missing Obama’s first two visits.
“He’s right in our backyard, why wouldn’t I want to do this whenever I can?” Wycoff said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, maybe three times though. It’s awesome being in a swing state, because he comes here so often.”
The visit was likely to garner student votes, Wycoff said, who had already cast her vote for Obama.
“He’s trying to get the young vote,” Wycoff said. “This is a lot of our first times voting, so coming here and talking to us, it’s hugely impactful for us to hear him in person.”
Early voting ends in Colorado on Friday, Nov. 2, another likely reason for the president’s visit to this toss-up swing state.
“I need you Colorado,” Obama said. “I need you Boulder … we’ve come too far to turn back now.”
Be sure to check out the CUI liveblog of the event here.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Alison Noon at Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org.