President Barack Obama, running behind in the latest poll in Colorado, is trying to energize two key constituencies in the swing state, women and Hispanics, as Mitt Romney blames Obama for the U.S.’s slow economic recovery.
Addressing a predominantly female audience yesterday in Denver on the first of a two-day Colorado visit, Obama said Romney and Republicans support policies “more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century” on women’s issues, including insurance coverage for contraception.
“The choice between going backward and moving forward has never been so clear,” Obama told an audience of mostly women at the city’s Auraria Event Center. He was introduced by Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law graduate whom talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh earlier this year labeled a “slut” for supporting Obama’s mandate for insurers to cover birth control.
Later, in Grand Junction, the president said Romney would take away women’s control of their health-care decisions. Obama also defended his economic policies, saying he had inherited an economy reeling from the worst recession in more than seven decades and that he was putting the nation on the right course. “There are no quick fixes,” he said.
He said Romney would have let the U.S. auto industry go bankrupt and that Romney’s plans to cut taxes for wealthy Americans would require expanding the deficit or raising taxes on middle-income Americans.
Today, Obama will campaign in Pueblo, encouraging Hispanics, who make up 21 percent of Colorado’s population, to register and turn out to vote. He then moves on to Colorado Springs, a majority-Republican area where the president will try to rally Democrats and appeal to independent voters.
Romney, at a campaign stop in Iowa, another battleground, said yesterday that Obama’s economic policies were devastating for middle-income Americans. He accused the president of gutting a 1996 welfare law under President Bill Clinton designed to encourage recipients to find work.
“It is wrong to make any change that will make America more of a nation of government dependency,” he told a crowd of supporters. “I will restore work to welfare.”
The Republican’s campaign also has released a 30-second advertisement making the same charge.
White House press secretary Jay Carney called Romney’s attack “blatantly dishonest.” Obama’s aides say Romney is distorting the intent of their July 12 decision to let states seek waivers from some federal rules to develop pilot projects. Romney advocated for similar flexibility in the federal law while he was governor of Massachusetts.
The issue is part of Romney’s effort to cast the president as supporting expanded government programs that would increase benefits for the poor at the expense of middle-income families.
Republicans also see an opportunity to drive a wedge between Obama and the legacy of Clinton, a popular former president who has assumed an increasingly prominent role in Obama’s re-election bid.
Romney also raised $1.5 million yesterday at fundraising events in New Jersey, including a $50,000-a-plate dinner at the Rumson home of Lew Eisenberg, a senior adviser at KKR & Co.
A poll shows Obama trailing Romney in Colorado 50 percent to 45 percent among likely voters. Obama led in two other battleground states, Wisconsin and Virginia, in the Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times poll.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki dismissed the Colorado numbers. “There are going to be a lot of polls between now and Election Day; and that the race is going to be very close, especially in these key states,” she said.
The poll also illustrated the reason Obama is putting an emphasis on his pitch to women. Colorado women support Obama 51 percent to 43 percent, while men favor Romney 56 percent to 39 percent, the poll showed. Obama also holds an advantage with women in Virginia, 54 percent to 40 percent, and Wisconsin, 59 percent to 36 percent.
Obama won all three states in 2008 and they have 32 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Colorado, with nine electoral votes, is one of nine states that switched to supporting Obama in 2008 after backing Republican President George W. Bush in 2004. Obama won Colorado with 54 percent of the vote four years ago.
The campaign debate is dominated by the economy, with 48 percent of Colorado voters saying it’s the most important issue, followed by health care at 19 percent and the federal budget deficit at 11 percent, the poll showed.
Throughout the state, the president plans to highlight his call for Congress to extend through 2013 the tax cuts for individuals earning as much as $200,000 a year and married couples making as much as $250,000. Above those thresholds, Obama advocates letting rates rise. Republicans in Congress want to extend all the current low rates.
While Colorado’s jobless rate was 8.2 percent in June, the state was eighth on the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States index for improving economic health from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of this year. The index combines data on tax collections, personal income, employment, home prices, mortgage foreclosures and stock performance of companies located in a state.