- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 8, 2014

DENVER — Colorado Democrats ducking President Obama’s speech here Wednesday morning are drawing hoots for their less-than-convincing excuses.

Sen. Mark Udall wasn’t able to catch a flight back in time to join Mr. Obama at Cheesman Park. Gov. John Hickenlooper let it be known he was already slated to speak in Colorado Springs, while congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff reportedly had a scheduling conflict.

Not surprisingly, in a state where the president is not exactly a political asset, nobody is buying it. “Embattled Colorado Democrats flee from Obama,” said a Tuesday press release from the Colorado Republican Party.

All three Democrats are locked in tough election fights in a state where Mr. Obama’s popularity is in free fall. A Rasmussen Reports poll released last week show the president’s approval rating has dipped from 49 to 45 percent since March 11, while his disapproval rating climbed from 50 to 53 percent.

“I think it’s pretty clear that Colorado Democrats are hiding in the tall grass,” said Republican strategist Dick Wadhams. “It’s certainly a reflection of how far President Obama has fallen.”

Indeed, Mr. Obama won Colorado handily in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and he’s still a big fundraising draw. After the Cheesman Park speech, which is closed to the public but open to the press, the president is scheduled to headline a private fundraiser for Mr. Udall.

It appears that Mr. Udall will arrive in Denver just in time to attend the fundraiser, a feat of scheduling that prompted more smirks from Republicans.

“While Udall is thrilled to raise money with Obama in a closed-door fundraiser, both he and embattled Gov. John Hickenlooper refuse to be seen with the president in public,” said the Colorado GOP in a statement.

After Udall spokesman Chris Harris told the Denver Post that the senator had a “logistics” issue, the conservative website Colorado Peak Politics announced that it had raised money for a ticket, then listed nine flights that would bring Mr. Udall to Denver in time for the event.

“Udall, just have one of your people reach out to us to let us know which one of these nine options we can get for so you can get back in time to see your best friend Obama’s speech,” said the Tuesday post.

This isn’t the first time Mr. Udall has wrestled with the Obama-in-Colorado issue. He famously avoided telling CNN’s Dana Bash in January whether he would campaign with the president, then insisted in a fundraising plea that he was “looking forward to bringing him out to Colorado for a campaign event.”

Another reason the Udall camp may be avoiding the event is because it would give Republicans what they want but apparently don’t have: A photo of Mr. Udall standing next to Mr. Obama.

Such a photo would be invaluable to Republicans attempting to tie the senator to the Obama administration, but the only such photos now available are off-limits. That’s because they were taken during a memorial for the victims of the deadly 2012 Aurora theater shooting.

Mr. Udall probably can’t afford photos showing him looking chummy with the president, given that polls continue to show the senator running neck and neck with challenger Republican Rep. Cory Gardner.

“News that President Obama will be speaking about the economy on Wednesday in Denver must have hit Sen. Udall hard,” said Gardner spokesman Alex Siciliano in a release. “He is now going to have to answer for his votes for the failed health care bill, higher taxes, and increased government spending.”

Hickenlooper spokesman Eric Brown told KUSA-TV in Denver that the governor made plans months ago to appear Wednesday before a veterans’ group in Colorado Springs, long before Mr. Obama made plans to visit Denver.

“Speculation about why the governor will miss the president’s events is being completely overblown,” Mr. Brown. “They both have very full schedules and commitments are often made months in advance. Nonetheless, I expect the governor and president will have a chance to meet at some point during the president’s trip to Denver.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Romanoff, who’s challenging Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, offered no public details on his Wednesday schedule, prompting a rebuke from the Coffman camp.

“Romanoff has bragged that he is on Obama’s team, but when his teammate comes to town, Romanoff is suddenly nowhere to be found,” said Coffman campaign manager Tyler Sandberg.

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