Fans, foes prepare for Obama’s trip to city on the river
Update, 5:26 p.m. Air Force One has lifted off from Grand Junction Regional Airport enroute to Pueblo for tomorrow’s campaign events.
Update, 5:15 p.m. The president has boarded Air Force One with United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Update, 4:53 p.m. President ends speech, begins shaking hands in the crowd.
Update, 4:19 p.m. Deanne Stanberry introduces president and crowd breaks out into cheers and applause. “It is good to be back in Grand Junction. I love Grand Junction!”
Update, 4:15 p.m. Recent nursing school graduate Deanne Stanberry has stepped to the podium. “If we let Mitt Romney win this election…our taxes would go up so his would go down.”
Update, 4:04 p.m. Local Organizing for America campaign volunteer Valery Isham takes the stage.
“Now is the time to join this community of thousands of campaign volunteers here on the Western Slope. We must work together to reelect President Obama and protect the way of life we have come to enjoy here in Western Colorado,” she said.
Update, 3:58 p.m. Sen. Michael Bennet takes the stage to warm up the crowd for President Obama. “We’ve made enormous progress. We need to keep moving forward. There’s no reason to go back now,” Bennet said.
Update, 3:48 p.m. The motorcade has arrived at Grand Junction High School.
Update, 3:39 p.m. President’s 18-vehicle motorcade leaves Grand Junction Regional Airport toward GJHS.
Update, 3:38 p.m. Grand Junction police waiting for the president’s motorcade are trying to clean up a car accident that has happened on Patterson Road between Seventh and 12th streets. Police dispatcher says the crash shouldn’t affect the motorcade.
Update, 3:23 p.m. Air Force One has landed at Grand Junction Regional Airport. A District 51 school board member and three Organizing for America volunteers greeted the president as he exited the plane.
Update, 2:20 p.m. The doors just opened at Grand Junction High School, allowing people with tickets to the president’s speech to enter the school. Attendees are having to pass through at least two metal detectors.
Update, 2:05 p.m. U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, characterized the presidential election as a stark choice as he spoke to about 50 Republicans today.
“Barack Obama envisions an entitlement society,” Chaffetz said. “Mitt Romney envisions an opportunity society. That’s our choice.”
Chaffetz is a regular Romney surrogate on the campaign trail. He is speaking at a counter-Obama rally at Sherwood Park.
Update, 1 p.m. According to local Democratic activist Claudette Konola, the Western Slope Conservative Alliance failed to reserve the a site for a counter-Obama protest with the City of Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department.
She said another group has properly reserved the site and plans to occupy it, preventing WSCA from having access this afternoon.
Update, 12:30 p.m. A planned speech by Jason Chaffetz, a Utah congressman active Mitt Romney surrogate, has been moved away from a visible street corner near Grand Junction High School to Sherwood Park, farther from the venue of President Barack Obama’s speech today.
“He doesn’t want to see naysayers,” Mesa County GOP Chairwoman Ruth Ehlers said of the president.
The Secret Service decided that the GOP event was too close to the school, Ehlers, and ordered it moved with about an hour’s notice. Chaffetz is to speak at 1:05 p.m.
Update, 12:23 p.m. Before sunrise, Joseph Velarde and Jonathon Vigil staked their spots first in line at Grand Junction High School. Velarde and Vigil, both 29, don’t know each other but have shared their viewpoints in the nearly 8 hours they’ve been standing in line. Neither have seen the president before and both said they are looking forward to hearing him speak.
Update, 10:45 a.m. About a dozen anxious ticket holders have arrived at Grand Junction High School in anticipation of doors opening this afternoon at 2:30.
When President Barack Obama flies over the Grand Valley this afternoon, he’ll be greeted by a message cut into an alfalfa field near Grand Junction Regional Airport, as well as a tea-party rally in Sherwood Park that promises an “unforgettable welcome.”
To say nothing of what will likely be an enthusiastic crowd of supporters packed into the Grand Junction High School gym. All available tickets for the rally were handed out and none are available today, organizers said.
The campaign event is Obama’s second in the Grand Valley, the first being his visit Sept. 15, 2008, as a candidate and senator.
Obama will discuss his plan to give security to the middle class while “paying down our debt in a balanced way that ensures everyone pays their fair share and still invests in the things we need to create jobs and grow our economy over the long term, like education, energy, innovation, and infrastructure,” according to a campaign release.
In a campaign appearance Tuesday, Obama unveiled a new attack on Mitt Romney, his presumptive Republican opponent, pegging Romney’s approach as “Romney Hood,” as opposed to Robin Hood.
Obama will be accompanied on his Grand Junction visit by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., with whom he was allied early on in his presidency. Bennet has been touring the state this week. U.S., Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., is unable to attend, his staff said, as is Sal Pace, the Democratic state representative from Pueblo who aspires to represent the 3rd Congressional District, which covers most of the Western Slope. Pace is to debate U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., at Adams State University in Alamosa this evening.
In an unusual bit of lobbying, an organization called Protect the Flows wants Obama to have the Colorado River on his mind.
“Mr. Prez — We rely on the Colorado River” is the message carved into farmland provided by Grand Junction resident Sally Matchett.
“We went for something that could be agreed on by both sides of the aisle,” Protect the Flows spokeswoman Molly Mugglestone said of the message.
It’s one issue that unites factions on the Western Slope, Mesa County Republican Chairwoman Ruth Ehlers said.
“That’s a western Colorado message,” Ehlers said. “I think everybody agrees on that. The trouble is our president doesn’t understand how things are done out here.”
The message is intended to start a conversation with the president about how it affects farming and businesses, Mugglestone said.
“We wanted to get it on the table while he was here,” she said.
Obama is visiting as the race has tightened in Colorado, a battleground state with nine electoral votes.
Rasmussen Reports pegs the race as a dead heat with both candidates at 47 percent, while Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning polling organization, describes Colorado as leaning toward Obama.
The RealClearPolitics average of recent polls shows Obama with a 2.7 point advantage in the state.
Republicans are planning their own welcome for the president, one on which Ehlers said she wouldn’t elaborate.
The Western Slope Conservative Alliance is hoping to capitalize on the president’s visit with sales of T-shirts at a gathering at Sherwood Park.
Alliance members plan to march to the high school to welcome the president, said alliance President Gary Bailey.
“Nothing obnoxious,” Bailey said, “just a reminder about unemployment and that stuff he gave us.”
A Romney surrogate, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is scheduled to speak in Grand Junction with state Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, near the high school in advance of Obama’s arrival.
Obama’s appearance follows that of Romney’s visit to Central High School last month.
School District 51 charged both candidates a $500 base fee with other incremental costs, such as custodial service and air conditioning. In all, the district billed Romney $1,960. Obama’s bill is yet to be determined.
Doors open at Grand Junction High School for the president’s speech at 2:30 p.m., and the president is to arrive on Air Force One shortly before 4 p.m. after leaving a campaign event in Denver.
He will leave Grand Junction after the rally for Pueblo, where he is to conduct a rally Thursday morning, then attend another in Colorado Springs that afternoon before returning to the White House.
Video about the creation of the crop art
Courtesy Protect the Flows