Yet neither Obama’s ubiquitous ads nor his frequent appearances—most recently at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University—have revived the enthusiasm Obama generated in 2008. “There really was a Beatles phenomenon going on,” says John Andrews, the director of the conservative Centennial Institute.
Obama has lost his luster as Colorado has returned to normal. It’s basically a conservative state, western-style. The most prominent fiscal conservative is Hickenlooper, the Democratic governor who is believed to be eyeing a run for president in 2016. There are lots of libertarians and “unaffiliated” voters, many of them women, and lots of evangelical Christians.
“This is a very winnable state” for Romney, says Jon Caldara, president of the influential Independence Institute. Many Coloradans “want to vote against Obama, but Romney hasn’t made the sale yet,” says consultant Dick Wadhams, a former state GOP chairman.
To attract them, Romney must triumph in the first debate with Obama on October 3. This is because of the peculiar system of voting in Colorado. Three weeks before the election, ballots are mailed to 70 percent of voters, and early voting at polling stations begins on October 22. Only 15 percent of voters may be left to show up on November 6.
Which candidate this helps is anybody’s guess. But both campaigns have organized vast efforts to contact voters. Romney sent his national field director, James Garcia, to run the voter drive in Colorado. By all accounts, he’s built a strong team.
What does it take for Romney to win? Citing the Denver Post poll, Andrews notes that Romney leads by 6 percentage points outside metro Denver. “Keep the metro close and we win,” he says. “The poll shows Obama leads with seniors, but do you believe that will hold? I don’t. There is a lot of work to do, but ‘red state recapture’ is within reach.”
Nationally, Colorado fits the so-called 3-2-1 scenario: If Romney wins Indiana (11 electoral votes), North Carolina (15), and Virginia (13), plus Florida (29) and Ohio (18), he’ll need but one more state, any state. Colorado (9) would do. This assumes Romney captures all the states John McCain won in 2008, which is likely.
Or Colorado could be the linchpin of the offset scenario, making up for a lost state in the East. Should Ohio go to Obama, Colorado plus Nevada (6) and New Mexico (5) would do the trick for Romney. Variations of this scheme would work too. But if Romney loses two or three or more of those eastern states, you can forget Colorado, while bracing yourself for Obama’s second term.
Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.