Obama’s coming back to Colorado for at least three different stops on Monday and Tuesday (yup, we’re definitely a swing state folks), but not just for a huge front-range blowout like last time. Instead, Obama will head to the 3rd Congressional District with stops in Pueblo and Grand Junction Monday and then Denver the following day. As the Communications Director for John Salazar’s first run for Congress back in 2004, I think these stops are a brilliant move.
Strategically speaking, a stop in Southern Colorado helps the campaign for a few reasons. First, Hillary Clinton won Pueblo during the caucus and soothing over hard feelings in this strongly Democratic area will help turn out more voters in November, making up for losses in other parts of the state. Secondly, Pueblo shares a media market with El Paso county and Obama needs to answer the hugely successful rally last week by Palin and McCain in Colorado Springs.
Obama will likely use this stop to reach out to Hispanic voters and Pueblo’s high concentration of veterans — remember, Pueblo’s nickname is the “Home of Heroes.” In addition to earned media, McCain’s abysmal record on veterans issues should be easy enough to get out through mailers or inexpensive TV spots that would also reach military families in Colorado Springs.
The stop in Grand Junction really gets me excited. It shows Obama’s not willing to concede this area to McCain, and with the unbelievable fumble McCain made on renegotiating the Colorado River Compact this area could be in play. Not in the sense that Obama could win, but as Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli points out in the Grand Junction Sentinel article linked to above, “The strategy of winning in the West and in Colorado is not only to play to your base but to take the edge off areas you’re going to lose.”
Back in 2004 my good friend and the next State Rep. from Pueblo Sal Pace, at that time our Field Director for the Salazar race, said that if we hit 38 to 40 percent in Mesa County we’d win the election. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. If Obama does well in Grand Junction he’ll likely win the 3rd and then likely win the state, assuming he also wins the Democratic leaning 1st, 2nd, and 7th.
I give a lot of the credit for the Salazar victory in 2004 to our water strategy. We drew a strong contrast between lifelong farmer Salazar and his opponent who supported the water-grab Referendum A.
Grand Junction has its own media market, as does Pueblo/El Paso, and a few TV spots about how McCain wants to renegotiate the Colorado River Compact would have a huge impact in these areas. Look for Obama to mention it on Monday and look for a TV spot sometime before November.
Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governor’s races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small business issues.