When Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan appeared at a rally in Grand Junction Monday night, it shouldn’t have surprised too many observers. After all, Colorado is one of the notorious swing states, and throughout much of the year we’ve been bombarded with political advertisements and frequent appearances from both major-party candidates.
But people may not be aware of the extent that Colorado is in play this year, and its importance in the hotly contested presidential election.
Ohio and Florida are probably Nos. 1 and 2 in each campaign’s swing-state arithmetic because both those states have considerably more than Colorado’s nine Electoral College votes. But those nine Centennial State votes remain critical to both Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.
That’s especially true because several Electoral College projections place Romney and Obama in a near tie. The winner will be decided by who wins a handful of key states, including Colorado.
And Colorado remains very much a tossup. Although a Rassmussen Reports poll released Monday showed Romney with a 50-46 lead over Obama, the Real Clear Politics poll average Monday showed the two candidates in a dead heat in Colorado.
On top of that, mail-in ballots were sent to voters in Colorado last week, and early voting began in the state this week.
That’s why, in addition to Ryan’s visit to Grand Junction last night, he also made stops in Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Durango Monday. And it’s why he is scheduled to join Romney for a rally at Red Rocks amphitheater outside Denver tonight.
Similar campaign calculations are the reason Vice President Joe Biden was on the Front Range last week, and that Obama plans to hold a rally in Denver’s City Park Wednesday.
Some people locally have questioned why either campaign would devote a lot of resources to a place such as Mesa County. After all, this county, like much of the Western Slope, is undeniably conservative. Betting that Mesa County will give the majority of its votes to President Obama would be a fool’s wager.
But the question reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how Colorado’s Electoral College votes are awarded. It doesn’t matter whether an individual county’s vote tally is for President Obama or Mitt Romney. What matters is the total vote throughout the state.
So a vote for Obama in Mesa County is just as important as a Denver vote for the president. The same for Romney.
All this points to the fact that Coloradans this year will play as crucial a role as ever before in determining the outcome of the presidential election. And it makes the usual “Get out and vote” admonishment more imperative than ever.