It is almost over. The seemingly endless presidential campaign is now down to a matter of days. But despite the non-stop political ads that seem to have overtaken television, the phone calls from each campaign that interrupt dinners and the countless fliers stuffed in the mail, there are still a number of Coloradans unsure about who gets their vote.
Despite a combined $20-plus million spent by the parties and several million more spent by political action committees on political advertising, the state is still up for grabs. An estimated four to six percent of undecided state voters will determine next Tuesday if Colorado hues blue or red. Never before has Colorado and its nine electoral votes meant so much in a presidential election.
“It comes down to the devil you know versus the devil you don’t know for these voters,” says Denver history professor Bill Ashcraft. Ashcraft, who teaches at Community College of Denver, says there is also a good deal of cynicism driving this crucial voting bloc. “They think, ‘I don’t care what they promise, they’re not going to do it anyway.’”
“For a lot of these voters, it comes down to information overload,” he adds. “The negative campaign has also taken a taken a toll.”
But for voters like Feliz Gomez-Hillman, whose family goes back in Colorado and New Mexico nearly two hundred years, a quick choice in picking a candidate is not nearly as important as making the right one.
“I’m an independent voter who likes to think of myself as someone who votes for the candidate and not along party lines,” she says. Gomez-Hillman voted for the president in the last election and might yet again. But, with only a few days left, “I don’t feel like I’ve connected with either candidate.”
The Denver resident says what happens over the next few days will help her with her decision. For one, she wants to see how the president handles Hurricane Sandy as it takes aim for a large swath of the east coast.
But, however that turns out, it shouldn’t leave Republicans confident about her vote. “I want to know what his cabinet would look like,” she says. It should be, she says, “representative of all walks of life.” Right now, Gomez-Hillman doesn’t feel like that is the case. “I’m concerned about diversity and representation within government. I like Obama’s cabinet.”
In an effort to either shore up their support or entice fence-sitting voters like Gomez-Hillman to come to their side, each campaign has made certain that Colorado voters know how important they are in this election.
President Obama and Gov. Romney have made numerous visits to the state. And it hasn’t only been the I-25 corridor from Fort Collins to Pueblo, but also towns as small as Craig where Gov. Romney visited last summer.
Both candidates have dispatched their wives numerous times to pan for votes. They have also sent high profile surrogates, though Democrats seem to have a larger and more high profile stable.
Last weekend, Democrats had “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm and “Matrix” star Laurence Fishburne in the metro area. “Desperate Housewives” actor Eva Longoria cancelled a weekend visit due to a conflict.
Republicans have countered with television and film tough guy, Chuck Norris. But otherwise, they have relied on the top of the ticket to create enthusiasm.
Democrats are also using their ample Latino political bench to wring out every possible vote, but especially the undecided.
In the last week, California Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra and former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros both made stops along the corridor, including high profile stops in the predominately Latino Baker neighborhood.
“Colorado is at the crossroads of what is the ‘new America,’” Becerra told supporters. “It is a vibrant, changing venue and as a result we’ve seen that change has brought about a different politics.”
“We’re going to be deciding what kind of country we are going to be for a generation,” Paul Ryan told an enthusiastic Pueblo crowd on a recent visit. The economy, Ryan says, should be enough to pull in any undecided voter.
But, Democrats cite improving economic conditions, including a jump in housing starts and prices, a rise in job numbers and light in place of the darkness they inherited in 2009 as reason to stick with the president.
“If you don’t reelect Barack Obama,” Cisneros told a crowd on Saturday, “and they win, they’re going to take credit for the economic recovery, for all of his hard work.”
Becerra says if Democrats have a slight edge on the issues in the final days of the campaign, it lies with women voters and especially Latinas. But in the end, says the California congressman, Latinos — decided or undecided — need to truly weigh the differences between the two candidates.
“Most Latinos fit the profile of people the president has said he’s targeting — the middle class. It’s where you build from, the middle and out and not from the top down.”
Democrats are banking the undecided will also think about the differences articulated by the candidates on things like health and insurance. The president’s Affordable Care Act, they say, reaches a whole new level of previously uninsured citizens. And, the president, they remind, has not promised to defund Planned Parenthood, essential for the healthcare for many rural woman, as has Gov. Romney.
For the next week, each candidate or their surrogates will be criss-crossing the nation hoping to woo the critical undecided vote. If enough can be swayed in Colorado, it might be enough to swing the election. That is why any gaffe is going to be magnified to voters like Gomez-Hillman.
“I am voting on leadership,” she says. “That is what I want to see.”