DENVER and FORT COLLINS — It was Colorado’s biggest show yet.
After Barack Obama attracted 19,000 to a February rally on the University of Denver campus, people knew the Illinois senator was going to be popular in Colorado. Then came Obama’s acceptance speech at Mile High Stadium during the Democratic National Convention attended by 84,000 in August. Then, with one week remaining before America votes on Election Day, Obama drew an estimated 100,000 people to Civic Center Park in Denver for a morning rally followed by another in Fort Collins that drew another 45,000 to Colorado State University.
Everyone came out to see who they hope is the next president of the United States.
“It’s an exciting time and an exciting election,” said Joanne Smith, one of many who got in line at Civic Center Park Sunday morning before 7:30 a.m. in order to get a good view of Obama, who took the stage around noon. “I have been trying to see one of his speeches for months now and I kind of felt like this might be my last chance. After he is elected president, it will probably be much harder to get into these kinds of events.”
The rally in Denver was the largest the campaign has seen yet in the United States, according to Obama campaign staffers who seemed surprised themselves at the Colorado turnout on Sunday. Last weekend, Obama drew close 100,000 in St. Louis which broke the existing attendance record of 80,000. Obama spoke to a crowd in Berlin that was estimated at 200,000 this summer.
“Do you ever have small crowds in Denver?” Obama asked the crowd in Civic Center Park after taking the podium. The crowd cheered and screamed “No!”
Obama delivered the same economic speech in Denver and Fort Collins that he has delivered nationwide in recent weeks, talking up the importance of the middle class, of strengthening the economy and why it’s critical that America move away from the policies of President George Bush. Obama railed on his Republican opponent Sen. John McCain throughout the speech and continued his efforts to tie a McCain presidency with another four years of Bush.
“The other day, (McCain) said that I was like George W. Bush. You can’t make this stuff up, folks,” Obama said. “In what may be the strangest twist of all, Sen. McCain said that I would somehow continue the Bush economic policies — and that he, John McCain, would change them. But then, just this morning, Sen. McCain said that he and President Bush ‘share a common philosophy.’ That’s right, Colorado. I guess that was John McCain finally giving us a little straight talk and owning up to the fact that he and George Bush actually have a whole lot in common.”
The McCain campaign, which was in Denver on Friday holding a rally for 4,000 in the Stock Show pavilion, responded to Obama’s speech by tying him to the Democratic Party while highlighting McCain’s status as the true maverick.
“Barack Obama can’t name a single issue or philosophy on which he’s opposed the Democratic-controlled Congress — not one,” said Tucker Bounds, McCain spokesman. “John McCain opposed President Bush’s wasteful spending policy, his Big Oil energy policy and his efforts to grow the federal government by 40 percent — Obama supported Bush on all three.”
In Fort Collins, where a young crowd that waited in line from before dawn was energized to the max, Obama talked about the importance of early voting and about keeping the momentum going through Election Day. He also reemphasized a plan he has touted throughout the campaign to help make higher education more affordable to all Americans.
“I’m going to make a deal with you,” Obama said to the applause and loud cheers of many college students. “If you’re willing to commit to joining the military, to joining the Peace Corps, or whatever way you decide to serve, then we are going to make sure you have the money to go to college, no ifs, ands or buts.”
As he did in Denver, Obama also talked up the importance of his new energy plan, which would invest billions of dollars a year renewable energy job creation and innovation — a pitch that sits well in Fort Collins, which has taken a leading approach to clean energy living in recent years.
“As president I want to invest $15 billion a year in renewable sources of energy, to create 5 million new green jobs,” Obama said. “The people of Colorado are doing it.”
The crowd went wild.