DENVER (AP) – It’s a different Colorado for President Barack Obama.
In early 2009, the Democrat chose Denver as his backdrop to sign the sweeping $787 billion stimulus bill into law, an ambitious plan that had the backing of both parties.
When he visits a Abraham Lincoln High School Denver high school Tuesday, he’s pitching another economic stimulus — this time to a skeptical state with unemployment around 8.5 percent, where Republicans and even some Democrats say the president faces an uphill battle next year.
In 2008, Coloradans waited in lines stretching two miles long for a chance to hear Obama speak in downtown Denver. The president’s visit Tuesday comes at a much smaller venue, with smaller expectations.
“The magic,” observed University of Colorado political scientist Kenneth Bickers, “seems to have evaporated.”
Obama planned to use this visit to pitch his $447 billion jobs bill. The president’s American Jobs Act would direct tax money to roads and bridges and keeping public teachers on the job, along with tax cuts for small businesses.
Obama says the plan could be paid for with permanent income tax increases of about $150 billion a year, mostly on wealthy individuals and corporations, in addition to spending cuts. Republicans have vowed to fight the plan.
Denver is the final stop on a western swing by the president to raise money and rally base supporters. His campaign is frank about the president’s need to keep Colorado in his column.
At a recent training event for Obama, volunteers at the University of Denver, Obama’s national field director, Jeremy Bird, told volunteer organizers that Colorado is a must-win. Obama was the first Democrat since former President Bill Clinton to carry Colorado, and Democrats say it’s crucial for Obama to hang on here if he wants another term.
Bird talked about Obama’s scenarios to get the necessary 270 electoral votes to win.
“None of those scenarios doesn’t include Colorado,” he said.
Obama volunteers in Colorado concede they sometimes get a cooler reception compared to last time. But they say they’re optimistic about the president’s chances, despite nagging joblessness.
“His policies have kept us from an even worse situation,” argued Obama volunteer Luke Palmisano, 33, a freelance photographer in Denver.
Republicans insist Obama’s low approval ratings nationwide are playing out in Colorado, and that Obama’s Denver speech won’t help. They point out that Colorado’s unemployment rate is slightly higher today that it was when Obama signed his original stimulus in 2009, when unemployment was 8 percent.
Regional Republican National Committee spokesman Ryan Mahoney brushed off news of Obama’s return to Denver to pitch another stimulus proposal. “The only change Colorado has seen is higher unemployment and a bleaker economic outlook,” Mahoney wrote when the visit was announced.
Written by Kristen Wyatt, AP Writer
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)