Presidential Election Heating Up In Teller County

by Rick Langenberg:

 

By sheer numbers, Teller County and the Ute Pass region won’t play a big role in the fight for the White House this November.

But don’t tell that to key leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties and representatives of their respective national campaigns, who are ready to brandish their political swords. Buoyed by recent visits to the Pikes Peak region by President Barack Obama and the long-awaited announcement of a final vice-presidential pick for Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, political campaign fever is running high locally. In fact, don’t look for a shortage of campaign literature touting such phrases as “Moving the Economy Forward” and “Believe in America.” In a move that surprised some, the Democrats recently opened up an Obama campaign office in Woodland Park in the Safeway shopping center, next to the Wild Wings n’ Things restaurant (1075 E. Hwy. 24)

The office is a byproduct of a group called Organizing for America Colorado, which started organizing their pro-Obama campaign efforts about a year ago. It is one of approximately 40 Obama-related campaign outlets in Colorado. Once again, the Obama campaign, despite being out-numbered considerably by registered Republicans in places like Teller County, is apparently wagering big odds on attracting more unaffiliated voters. Four years ago, the Obama campaign featured a spacious office at the building formerly occupied by the Pegasus restaurant off Hwy. 24. That move shocked local political observers and demonstrated the Obama’s strong interest in running a grass-roots campaign. The new office, although much smaller than four years ago, is staffed by volunteers and representatives of Organizing for America.

It isn’t affiliated with the local or regional Democratic Party. The group kicked of the campaign office opening by airing a short pro-Obama film and hosting a mini-party, according to an announcement on the Organizing for America website. Their key brochure product is titled “Moving the Economy Forward.” Also, a related Obama campaign rally, recently held to celebrate anther campaign office in the area, further emphasized the importance of getting the word out and touting the president’s achievements regarding the economy and in representing the middle class. Several Democratic speakers made it clear that the national campaign proponents view Colorado as the state that could determine the presidential election.

They reminded supporters that victory of Michael Bennet for the U.S. Senate seat over Republican challenger Ken Buck, was achieved by a mere 15,000 tallies. The Democrats vowed to target unaffiliated voters through phone calls and door-to-door visits in a more aggressive fashion than Romney campaign organizers. Their overall goal is to get a 40 percent vote support for Obama in such staunch Republican counties as El Paso, Teller and Park. “If we can do that, we will win this race,” said one campaign proponent during a rally in Colorado Springs. In recent weeks, Obama, who is trailing currently in the polls in Colorado, has tried to achieve more support among women. Last week, the new Obama office in Woodland Park was buzzing with talk about the president’s visit to Colorado Springs to speak before a crowd at Colorado College. Local Republicans ready for battle But local Republicans, who outnumber Democrats in Teller County by a staggering amount, are ready for battle. Like their Democratic opponents, they are pledging to attract much support from unaffiliated voters, who may end up determining the presidential race in Colorado.

The pro-Romney side is being heavily pushed locally by the Teller Republicans, who have an office in the Gold Hill Square South shopping center (at 783 Gold Hill Place). This office has already held several key events for Republican candidates. Besides featuring a variety of pro-Romney literature, the office has much information available on the other candidates for various state and local offices, including the forthcoming Teller County commissioners and such GOP candidates as state representative contender Polly Lawrence. Although Romney wasn’t the favorite in last winter’s presidential caucuses, with Teller Republicans heavily favoring former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, local GOP leaders aren’t exhibiting any lack of enthusiasm towards the Romney candidacy. “I don’t see that as a problem,” said Rip Blaisdell, secretary of the Teller Republican Central Committee, in describing the earlier victory for Santorum. He noted that the early stages of the presidential campaign were quite volatile and featured several fluctuating polls. “It’s all about educating people about the process.” Republican leaders clearly rallied behind Romney once he became the apparent nominee, according to Blaisdell. Moreover, he and other local Republican leaders see the ushering of tremendous support behind Romney due to big concerns about another Obama term. The campaign brochures of their office heavily tout Romney’s conservative-oriented GOP messages and business background, as well as their strong concerns about Obama’s health care plan. And Blaisdell contends that most of the unaffiliated voters in Teller will jump on the GOP band wagon. “We believe that most of the unaffiliated voters in Teller County are more conservative,” said Blaisdell. He said the Teller Republicans plan to pursue strong grass-roots campaigning with phone calls and personal visits.

A key goal of the Republican office is to assure that all local GOP voters cast tallies in the upcoming election. According to Blaisdell, a lackluster turnout rate four years ago among Republicans contributed to Obama’s victory. Most Republican insiders don’t see that trend this time around, especially in Teller County. Plus, the recent announcement of Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan as Romney’s vice-presidential selection, is bound to attract more support from Tea Party activists, who are extremely strong in Teller County. Ryan is known for his conservative budget plan, calling for sweeping budget cuts. According to a recent article in the New Yorker magazine, Ryan is quite well versed in debating fiscal policies. His budget plan was endorsed by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and Ryan frequently challenged Obama’s budget compromises. Still, the recent pick of Ryan has been touted by pundits as somewhat of a surprise and one aimed at attracting support among the Republican base. He was considered a long-shot pick early last week.