Colorado Gets Little Attention Ahead of GOP Caucuses

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Colorado’s Republican presidential caucuses are only a few days away, but the state hasn’t exactly been deluged by candidate visits or campaign advertising. Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus explains why this battleground state isn’t getting more attention.

Here's a transcript of Markus' report:

Reporter Ben Markus: Ron Paul was here this week, at CSU-Ft Collins, railing, as he does, against government overreach.

Ron Paul: We need to reverse this attitude that we can just allow governments to codify now some of the terrible things they had been doing all along.

Reporter: But no candidate has hit the state harder than Rick Santorum. And he explained why at an event in South Denver on Tuesday.

Rick Santorum: This is an important state, Colorado’s a swing state, Colorado’s an important state in the general election.

Reporter: Not to mention it’s much smaller and cheaper than states like Florida. Santorum and Ron Paul were in Colorado campaigning at the same time voters were going to the polls in Florida on Tuesday.

Ken Bickers: Well, because they have so little money.

That’s Ken Bickers, Chair of CU-Boulder’s Political Science Department.

Bickers: Their only chance of getting into the delegate count and building some momentum is states where you don’t need money to compete.

Reporter: And only about 80,000 voters participate in the Colorado caucuses, so they don’t have to convince as many people. No big Super PAC-funded ad blitzes here. And minimal campaign spending compared to other early caucus states like Iowa. Though Bickers says when the general election rolls around, expect Colorado to be “carpet bombed” with ads like this, one of the few running here now.

Sound of campaign ad: Rick Santorum for President. He doesn’t just talk a good conservative game, he lives it. I’m Rick Santorum, and I approve this message.

Reporter: The ad attacks Newt Gingrich as not conservative enough. In contrast, Mitt Romney’s lone Colorado radio ad is very positive - a luxury of being the front runner.

Sound of campaign ad: And Colorado grassroots chairman LeAndre Goalston says, “he’s a proven executive, an accomplished private-sector businessman, and a man of courage and vision.” Mitt Romney, because it’s time we start believing in American again.

Reporter: Romney won Colorado’s caucuses in 2008 by a whopping 40 percentage points. Many credit his ground game for the victory - volunteers and surrogates getting supporters out to the caucuses. Running a caucus starts at meetings like this one in Douglas County.

Sound of prayer: "We pray lord that thou might overthrow Barack Hussein Obama..."

Reporter: Republican caucus volunteers gathered to review the rules. Voters will show up to specified locations, write the name of their preferred candidate on a secret ballot, and then begin the process of selecting delegates, some of whom will eventually travel to the convention to select a candidate. So when the results are announced Tuesday night, it’s really more for headlines and momentum. That’s perhaps why Newt Gingrich has been a no-show in the state so far. An unwise move, according to Ryan Call, the State Republican Party Chairman, who says the caucuses aren’t just about the votes.

Ryan Call: But to start building the ground game, to start building the foundation for a strong general election pitch to the electorate. Ignoring Colorado, ignoring the west, is a mistake.

Reporter: The volunteers at this pre-caucus meeting aren’t conflicted about their party affiliation. But to retake the Oval Office, the eventual nominee is going to have to win over disillusioned voters like Republican Barbara Henderson. At a coffee shop in downtown Denver, she says the party has shifted too far to the right.

Barbara Henderson: I got up this morning and I said to my husband, “I’m going to go down and change my affiliation to independent.” Because I’ve been a Republican all my life, but they’re screwing it up.

Reporter: Though so far she’s still a Republican, and plans to caucus for Romney, whose only scheduled visit to the state is a rally tomorrow in Colorado Springs.

[Photo Credit: CPR/Megan Verlee]