DENVER — Mitt Romney’s had a good couple of weeks, but Colorado conservatives let him know over the weekend that he’s still got some wooing to do.
The Romney campaign failed to win a majority of the delegates at the state Republican Convention and Assembly in the face of a challenge from Ron Paul and Rick Santorum supporters.
The Conservative Unity Slate, a hastily thrown-together Paul-Santorum coalition, took 11 of the state’s 33 delegate slots to the Republican National Convention from Aug. 27 to 31 in Tampa, Fla.
Romney supporters said afterward they did better than expected, given that the convention fell just days after Mr. Santorum suspended his candidacy Tuesday. Mr. Santorum won the Colorado caucus Feb. 7, and there was speculation that his supporters would attempt to send a message to the Romney campaign by sticking with the former senator from Pennsylvania.
“We feel very good about it,” said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a Romney backer who won a delegate slot from the 5th Congressional District.
The February caucus vote was nonbinding, but a number of Santorum supporters opted to run as pledged delegates. Several indicated before the convention that they would continue to back Mr. Santorum until he released his delegates and endorsed another candidate.
Santorum supporters said they hoped the results would spur the Romney campaign to take more seriously the concerns of conservative voters, rather than shift immediately to the center in order to attract independents.
“This shows he hasn’t got it in the bag,” said Kristen Grazier of Larimer County, a pledged Santorum delegate who came up short in her bid for a national convention slot. “In order to have strong support, he needs to be listening to other voices.”
Despite the divided delegation vote, state Republicans viewed this year’s assembly as an unequivocal success. The two-day event, held Friday at the Colorado Convention Center and at the University of Denver on Saturday, drew more than 5,000 participants and guests, a significant increase over 2008, said state GOP executive director Chuck Poplstein.
There were 859 candidates running for the 33 delegate and 33 alternate slots to the national convention, roughly twice as many as four years ago. “There’s a lot of interest this year as compared to 2008,” Mr. Poplstein said.
Republicans at the event rallied around calls to defeat President Obama, whose record on the economy and energy development came in for heated criticism.
Colorado Democrats held their assembly the same weekend in Pueblo, but there was no suspense as to the outcome. President Obama was the overwhelming choice of the state Democrats, taking all but 44 of the 1,411 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
Colorado is viewed as one of a handful of purple states that could determine the outcome of the 2012 race. President Obama won Colorado in 2008, but Republicans now hold a voter-registration advantage over Democrats.
“With your help in November, we have to take back Colorado,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn. “We lost Colorado, I don’t know how, to Barack Obama [in 2008]. That would be a swing of 18 votes. Colorado is a, and maybe the, swing state. We have to take back Colorado.”