Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Palin visit energizes Colorado supporters

The GOP vice presidential nominee draws thousands at three stops in the state.
By Karen E. Crummy and Nancy Lofholm
The Denver Post

LOVELAND — Armed with homespun rhetoric and sharp words targeting her opponents, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stopped in three Colorado Republican strongholds Monday to ignite get-out-the-vote efforts.

Her visit to the state, one of only a handful of tossups left in the presidential election, was scheduled to coincide with early voting that started Monday, her campaign said.

"She came to Colorado today to excite the base and turn out the vote. She is also reminding everyone that today kicks off early voting," said Tom Kise, a spokesman for Palin and presidential candidate John McCain.

McCain will visit Colorado on Friday. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, Democrat Barack Obama's running mate, is scheduled to arrive today.

Socially conservative, pro-gun, and anti-abortion, Palin has invigorated the Republican base since McCain introduced her as his running mate two months ago. To thousands of people who turned out to hear her in Colorado Springs, Loveland and Grand Junction, Palin still possessed tremendous appeal, especially when she took Obama to task.

In Loveland, when a woman yelled out "Obama!" and was booed, Palin interjected: "Keep her in here so she can learn a little bit."

Palin touted her experience as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, and governor of that state, where she said she eliminated personal property taxes and vetoed wasteful spending. She vowed that she and McCain would balance the federal budget, help families that have children with special needs, and end the country's reliance on foreign energy sources — which ignited the chant of "drill, baby, drill" from the crowd.

"We haven't been just talking the talk. We've been forced to walk the walk," she said. "In our administration, we will never forget that we are there to work for you, the people who hired us, the good people of America."

Palin, who threw out a lot of red meat to the GOP crowd, told them that "every innocent life counts" and often spoke of "liberty and freedom."

"It's going to come down to the wire and be a close race. It's going to come down to what we believe in," she said. "America is not the problem; America is the solution."

In Grand Junction, the Broncos-Patriots football game on national TV might have cut into Mesa County Republican Party officials' predictions that as many as 30,000 people would overflow a Grand Junction baseball field for a rally Monday night. An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 pompom- and flag-waving Palin supporters filled most but not all of the bleachers as Palin spoke from a stage built over the pitcher's mound.

She gave the same stump speech that she delivered at her other Colorado stops Monday after recognizing the Grand Junction location by saying, "It's great to be here in the home of the Mesa State Mavericks."

Palin spoke in front of a huge American flag with the star power of Hank Williams Jr. on stage.

Her speech struck the right note with supporters.

"What she said is what I would say. It's like it came out of her mouth from my mouth," said Fonda Lobach, a self-employed businesswoman from Fruita. Lobach was still waving a flag and a pompom five minutes after Palin's speech ended.

Doreen and Jess Grett, Olathe ranchers, said they didn't mind missing the Broncos game for Palin.

"She's thinking of us as the normal people that are as important as anyone in Washington," Jess Grett said.

In Colorado Springs, Palin said Obama's tax plan would "punish hard work and productivity" and would result in "more big government." Referring to a comment Obama made to "Joe the Plumber" last week about "spreading the wealth" when it came to tax cuts, Palin said: "What that means is government taking your money and doling it out as politicians see fit."

Palin expanded on her definition of Obama's tax plan at her next stop, at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, where the crowd was estimated at 5,000 to 7,000. An overflow crowd was directed into an adjoining building.

"Now is not the time to experiment with socialism," she said, receiving huge cheers.

Although Colorado has voted only once in 40 years for a Democratic presidential candidate, the state is undergoing demographic and political changes. As a result, the Republican Party, which led Democrats by 180,000 registered voters four years ago, now has an advantage of only 12,861 voters. Registered unaffiliated voters, often an unpredictable bloc, are now the largest group in the state.


During her campaign stops, Palin stuck mostly to her traditional stump speech, painting McCain as a war hero who has served his country for 22 years in Congress and would end the Iraq war, slash taxes and put the "economy back on track." At the same time, Palin described Obama as a "Chicago politician" who would raise taxes.

Karen Crummy: 303-954-1594 or kcrummy@denverpost.com


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