- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2012

DENVER — President Obama has practically made Colorado his second home, making numerous appearances over the past two months and heavily outspending the campaign of Republican rival Mitt Romney on television advertising in the Denver media market.

Even so, polls continue to show the Democratic president deadlocked with Mr. Romney, whose arrival Sunday night for a rallies in Denver and Pueblo marked his first visit to the Centennial State since Aug. 2.

For whatever reason, analysts say, Mr. Obama’s message isn’t resonating with Colorado voters the way it did in 2008, when he carried the state over Sen. John McCain by a margin of 54 percent to 45 percent.

“With all of that effort, how is a guy who won by 9 points four years ago barely holding his own now?” asked Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “I think that’s been the story. And I think the Obama campaign would say that, given the state of the economy, they’re lucky he’s not down by 3 or 4 points.”

Colorado’s unemployment rate stands at 8.2 percent, a hair higher than the national rate of 8.1 percent. In a state where about a third of the land is federally owned, the Obama administration’s tougher rules on coal emissions and tighter controls on land use have translated into economic uncertainty for workers in the energy sector.

A feisty Mr. Romney hammered at the theme of energy independence Sunday night to a crowd estimated at 7,000 at D’Evelyn Junior/Senior High School in Denver.

“The president has cut in half the permits and licenses on federal land and federal waters,” said Mr. Romney. “I will double those licenses and permits. I’ll make sure we drill in the outer continental shelf and in Alaska, and I’ll bring in that pipeline from Canada.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama has moved to improve his image in rural Colorado with historic set-asides and conservation projects such as his “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative. The president signed a proclamation Friday establishing the Chimney Rock National Monument in southwestern Colorado.

“Chimney Rock draws thousands of visitors who seek out its rich cultural and recreational opportunities,” said Mr. Obama in a statement. “Today’s designation will ensure this important and historic site will receive the protection it deserves.”

Battle on the ground

The president has drawn big crowds in four appearances over the past seven weeks, but it’s possible Coloradans may be suffering from Obama fatigue. His last event, a rally at a park in Golden, failed to make the front page of the Denver Post and instead wound up as a brief on the newspaper’s second page.

“Why does he keep coming back? It’s because he’s got a tough sell,” said Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a frequent Romney surrogate. “He’s got to convince these people that hope and change are working.”

The closeness of the race may have prompted the Romney campaign to spend more time in Colorado. Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, who has already visited Colorado twice, is slated to barnstorm the state Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden has been something of a stranger, having not visited the state since May.

In his Pueblo speech, Mr. Romney took issue with the president’s remarks on foreign policy Sunday in an interview with “60 Minutes.” Mr. Obama referred to the recent outbreaks of violence in the Middle East, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, as “bumps in the road.”

“Bumps in the road?” Mr. Romney asked incredulously at a rally at the Pueblo airport. “We had an ambassador assassinated. … These are not ‘bumps in the road,’ they’re human lives.”

Obama outspending Romney

Even though Mr. Romney has suffered some recent campaign missteps, a Quinnipiac Poll released last week showed Mr. Obama up by a margin of just 48 percent to 47 percent in the state, while a Rasmussen Reports survey issued the same day showed Mr. Romney leading by 47 percent to 45 percent.

A Purple Poll Strategies survey released Friday shows Mr. Obama leading by 3 percentage points in Colorado. All of the surveys show the candidates within the margin of error.

The Obama campaign has outspent the Romney camp by a margin of three to one in the Denver media market, according to a study by the University of Colorado News Corps. Obama for America was the largest spender in the Denver market, with $4.6 million in ad buys through Nov. 6, compared with just $1.4 million by Romney Victory for ads through last week.

Among so-called super PACs, Priorities USA, a pro-Obama group, had spent $1.9 million, while the conservative American Crossroads had purchased $1.2 million in advertising, said the study, released Sept. 16.

If not for the Obama campaign’s advertising advantage, “I think Romney could have been ahead by now,” said Mr. Ciruli. “And those ads — not only are they three or four to one in favor of Obama, but they’re relentlessly negative. And the unrelenting negativity has hurt Romney with his favorability [rating].”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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