- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2012

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Julie Coffman says she’s aware of what Democrats are calling the war on women, but she came to Tuesday’s rally for Paul Ryan because of what Republicans are calling the war on employment.

“Look how many women are here,” said Ms. Coffman of Westminster, gesturing to the packed crowd of equal parts women and men at the Lakewood High School gym. “Women are worried about the same things men are, and number one is the economy.”

Not all Coloradans were as hospitable to Mr. Ryan on his first trip here as the newly named Republican vice-presidential candidate. The Denver Post ran an editorial Tuesday ripping his budget plan as “radical,” and the group ProgressNow Colorado sent a plane over the rally with the banner, “Hey, girl, choose me, lose choice — P. Ryan.”

Inside the gym, however, more than 2,000 Coloradans eager to hear the Wisconsin congressman stomped, cheered, got on their feet and roared their approval as he laid out the Republican ticket’s economic plan, saying it would create 12 million jobs in four years.

“Here is our promise to you: We are not going to duck the tough issues. We’re going to lead,” said Mr. Ryan, looking the part of suburban soccer dad in Dockers khaki pants and a plaid button-down shirt. “President Obama cannot run on his record. This is the worst economic recovery, if you can call it that, in 70 years.”

Mr. Ryan, 42, led his speech by attacking the president’s record on energy production, a hot-button topic in Colorado, where oil and natural gas are key industries and the federal government owns 30 percent of the land.

“Among those solutions we want to offer: Number one, make sure we use our own energy because we have our own energy. You have it all here in Colorado,” said Mr. Ryan, his voice nearly drowned out by cheers. “President Obama has done all he can to make it as tough as possible to use our own energy.”

Mr. Ryan said he had planned to come to Colorado this week even before presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney gave him the nod Saturday, explaining that his family often comes here on vacation. An avid camper and outdoorsman, Mr. Ryan says he has climbed 38 of the state’s 54 14,000-foot peaks, known as “fourteeners.”

He wrapped up his two-day Colorado trip with the rally after attending private fundraisers Monday in the Denver area.

Colorado is viewed as a pivotal state in the 2012 presidential race, with nine electoral votes up for grabs and an electorate divided almost evenly among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

The Ryan rally was held in Jefferson County, a suburb west of Denver whose closely split voters often decide tight elections. Mr. Obama won Colorado in 2008 by a margin of 54 percent to 45 percent. Polls show this year’s race locked in a virtual tie.

Mike Lilly of Loveland said at the Ryan rally that he planned to swing his vote to the Republican ticket this year.

“I was on the fence for Obama in 2008, but he’s pushed me off,” Mr. Lilly said. “We need a president who doesn’t blame everyone else. He’s been running our country for three years without a budget.”

He and his wife Sue, who previously lived in Wisconsin, showed their support for Mr. Ryan by arriving decked out in Green Bay Packers regalia, a risky move, considering the overwhelming number of Denver Broncos fans at the gathering.

One woman waved a large orange sign that said, “Bronco Fans for Romney and Ryan.”

The Obama camp has focused its Colorado effort on gaining the women’s vote by stressing issues such as abortion and contraception. Two weeks ago in Denver, Mr. Obama gave a speech on the theme “Women’s Health Security” to a largely female crowd, while his television ads have blasted Mr. Romney for his pro-life stance.

Mrs. Lilly said the Obama team is missing the point. “I think it’s divisive and deflective of the Democratic Party to cater to specific groups rather than the overall shape of our country,” she said. “Democrats make it sound like Republicans are against birth control. Well, you’re welcome to use the pill, but I don’t think it should be free.”

Breanna Williams, a 17-year-old high school senior from Broomfield who will just miss being old enough to vote in November, said such so-called women’s health issues as contraception “aren’t a big deal” in the 2012 race.

“I’m concerned with small business because I want to own a small business some day, and I’m worried about getting a job after college,” said Miss Williams.

Several people admitted they knew little about Mr. Ryan before his selection as Romney’s running mate.

“I’m just now learning about Ryan,” said Janiece Murri of Roxborough. “I know he’s a strong family man and he’s good on the economy. The fact that he’s pro-life shows he has the kind of conservative values I appreciate.”

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