DENVER (CBS4)– Colorado is becoming a major player in next year’s presidential election, as least as far as Republicans are concerned. This weekend, there are six GOP presidential contenders in Denver for the Western Conservative Summit.
“Colorado is the prime example of what a candidate has to do, they have to be able to appeal to conservatives but in a way that appeals also to the swing voters,” said Republican Strategist Dick Wadhams.
More than 4,000 conservatives and more than 100 members of the media are at the conference to get an up-close and personal view of the candidates.
“Conservatives have a lot of different viewpoints that might seem to separate them but there’s one thing unites us and I think pulls us together to win in 2016, two words: Hillary Clinton,” said Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.
Huckabee said Colorado is the place to test their message with a mix of tea party, libertarian and establishment Republicans.
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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said his state is similar, a state where he’s pulled all the coalitions together along with independents.
“Independents want essentially the same thing Republicans want and that is they want someone to look them in the eye and tell them what they’re going to do, have big, bold ideas about how to move your state, and in this case your country, forward, and then do it,” said Walker.
The GOP struggles to appeal to women and Hispanic voters. The Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-gay rights group, was initially banned from the summit .
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said it’s about appealing to those voters on issues that matter most.
“Women, Hispanic women in particular, they are raising families, they are starting businesses, they are vitally concerned with the quality of education in this country,” said Fiorina.
Walker and Fiorina also discussed Colorado’s legalization of marijuana and stated they oppose legalizing pot but support state’s rights.
The summit is just the beginning of the Republican candidates courting Colorado with a major primary debate scheduled for October. With 16 GOP presidential contenders, the caucuses and conventions in Colorado could also be key in determining the eventual nominee.
The Colorado Democratic Party released a statement that reads in part, “None of the major GOP candidates running for president supports marriage equality. Voters don’t want a candidate who will continue to deny rights to gay Americans, they want someone who will fight for equality, for opportunity, and for an economy that works for all Americans not just the privileged few.”