GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) — Colorado is back in the presidential race spotlight for 2012 with Vice President Joe Biden hosting the first major fundraiser in the state Friday morning for President Barack Obama.
The breakfast fundraiser for the president’s re-election campaign is indicative of the attention Colorado will be getting in the next 17 months or so, as Democrats and Republicans battle it out in one of the country’s few remaining purple states, political analysts said. On any given election, Colorado can be a tossup for either party because the state’s electorate is almost evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and independents.
“It is very much the prototypical purple state,” said Kyle Saunders, an associate professor of political science at Colorado State University.
The fundraiser was not open to the general public. Organizers said about 40 people were expected to attend and that donors paid between $1,500 and $35,800 per couple.
After the fundraiser, Biden toured the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, where employees showed the vice president how they were creating silicon solar cells that form parts for solar panels designed to be more durable and cheaper to make.
“Science is back,” Biden proclaimed, highlighting the Obama administration’s investments in renewable energy. NREL is a national laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Biden said “no nation is in a better position” to lead the world in renewable energy innovation. “I’m not saying it in a chauvinistic way,” he said.
“It’s part of our nation’s DNA,” he said about innovation. “It’s embedded in our nation’s history.”
Rick Palacio, Colorado Democratic Party chairman, said Biden’s visit marked an “exciting day.”
“As it’s going to be an exciting 18 months,” he said of the time until election day.
Both parties heavily courted Colorado’s nine electoral college votes in 2008, with candidates making frequent stops in the state leading up to the election. One of Obama’s rallies in downtown Denver was the largest of his campaign, drawing more than 100,000 people.
In the end, Obama easily defeated Sen. John McCain in Colorado by 9 percentage points, becoming the first Democrat to take the state since former President Bill Clinton in 1992.
But the state’s large independent base makes it difficult to predict whether it will swing red or blue. Last year, Republicans knocked off two Democratic congressional incumbents and took control of the state House for the first time since 2005. At the same time, Republicans lost the gubernatorial election and a close U.S. Senate race between Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and challenger Ken Buck.
Saunders said he expects both parties to funnel a lot of money to Colorado leading up to November 2012, and if the presidential race is competitive, it can make the state one of the places where Democrats and Republicans spend the most per voter. Palacio said Coloradoans can expect to see a long lineup of political heavy-hitters visiting the state.
“I think definitely it’s going to be more of what we saw in 2008 and perhaps even more so than what we saw before,” he said.
While Colorado does not have as many electorate votes as other states that tend to be considered in play, such as Florida with 29 or Ohio with 18, the state’s nine electoral votes are valued highly in close races, since large swaths of the country are already considered to lean Republican or Democrat.
“Given how sliced up of the rest country is, nine electoral votes can make a lot of difference in the candidates’ fortunes,” said Seth Masket, an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.
By Ivan Moreno, Associated Press Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)