Obama in Denver: Colorado takes shape as key state for 2012

Obama pitched his jobs bill Tuesday to a largely Hispanic audience at a Denver high school. Colorado residents should expect to see lots more of the president in coming months.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Barack Obama greets supporters at Abraham Lincoln High School in Denver, Tuesday.

When President Obama spoke in a Denver high school Tuesday, he pushed a familiar topic: why Congress needs to pass his jobs bill.

It's hardly surprising that the president brought his jobs initiative to Colorado. Residents of the Centennial State should expect to see a lot more of the president in coming months, as his reelection campaign gets underway.

Once a solidly red state (from World War II through 2004, it voted for just two Democrats: Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton), Colorado went for Mr. Obama in '08. And Obama needs to win the state again next year, though his status in the Rocky Mountains is now far less certain.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and his predecessor Bill Ritter – both Democrats – have spoken recently about how difficult a repeat of 2008 will be for the president in this state. Not that a win is impossible, but that it will be a tough fight.

One Obama economic adviser, speaking to Politico, labeled Colorado the "bellwether of bellwethers," and at a recent Denver training event, Obama field director Jeremy Bird told volunteers that of the possible electoral configurations that give Obama a win in 2012, "none of those scenarios doesn't include Colorado."

In his remarks at Abraham Lincoln High School Tuesday, Obama wasn't necessarily reaching out to the independent voters he needs to carry the state. Rather, he tried to shore up his base, hitting familiar themes and speaking to a largely Hispanic audience on Denver's Southwest side.

"The Obama campaign is using Abraham Lincoln as a backdrop to send a message that goes far beyond Colorado," Eric Sondermann, a Denver-based political analyst, told the Denver Post. He called Obama's message two-fold: "a speech about jobs to an enthusiastic audience made up largely of brown faces."

Obama also used the school backdrop to highlight one item in his jobs bill: $25 billion that would go toward rebuilding and modernizing dilapidated schools across the country.

"The science labs here at Lincoln High were built decades ago, back in the ‘60s," Obama said, referring to Lincoln as "the fastest-growing school in one of the fastest-growing school districts in Colorado."

"I don’t know if you’ve noticed," he said, "but science and technology has changed a little bit since the 1960s."

In a speech punctuated by applause, he also reiterated his controversial "Buffett rule" tax proposal, which would raise certain tax rates for Americans earning more than $1 million. And he hammered home the importance of his jobs bill, saying it "will lead to new jobs for construction workers, jobs for teachers, jobs for veterans, jobs for young people, jobs for the unemployed. It will provide tax relief for every worker and small business in America. And by the way, it will not add to the deficit."

It's pretty much the same message he touted in recent trips to Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana – all swing states like Colorado that can expect to see a lot more of their president in the coming year.

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