DENVER—Mitt Romney may have Clint Eastwood in his corner, but President Obama has Harold and Kumar.
The Obama campaign spent the weekend promoting the “Rocky Mountain Rumble,” a voter-registration drive pitting students at the University of Colorado Boulder against those at Colorado State University.
A video promoting the effort features Kal Penn and John Cho, who play college stoners in the Harold and Kumar movies.
Obama plugged the contest in his Sunday speech at the University of Colorado Boulder, telling a crowd of about 13,000 that Buffs fans have a chance to make up for their weekend football loss to the Rams.
“I know the Rocky Mountain showdown did not go down the way you wanted, so I’ll tell you what, we are going to give you a chance to get even,” said Obama, who spoke last week at Colorado State. “We’ve set up a ‘Rocky Mountain Rumble’ to see which school can register more voters, CU or Colorado State.”
The president urged students to tell their classmates and friends to register online on an Obama campaign website, www.gottaregister.com.
After hearing boos from the audience upon mentioning the Republican Romney, Obama said, “Don’t boo. Vote.”
“This is important because just over two months from now, for the first time in many of your lives, you will get a chance to pick a president and by doing so you’ll get a chance to choose the path that we take from here,” said Obama.
In their video, Penn and Cho try to ramp up enthusiasm for the Obama campaign, saying that Colorado voters need to step up or risk letting down Democrats in other states.
“Basically what this is is a voter-registration contest between the Buffs and the Rams,” says Penn. “Colorado is a battleground state—we are not going to lose this for President Obama or for our friends in other states.”
Penn, who worked for the Obama administration until 2010, ticked off a list of benefits for students from the president’s first term.
“We’re talking about doubling the Pell Grant, which President Obama has done; our friends are home from Iraq; we have comprehensive health-care reform—you can stay on your parents’ health-insurance plan until you’re 26 years old—and you qualify for something called the American Opportunity Tax Credit,” said Penn.
He added that a vote for Obama means “your voice gets heard and none of this stuff gets rolled back.”
Conservatives pointed out that there was nothing in the actors’ video pitch about improving the bleak unemployment situation for college graduates.
“Four years after President Obama came to Colorado and promised hope and change to youth across America, all he has delivered is out of control spending, high unemployment and disappointment,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Ellie Wallace. “Students have more debt, lower job prospects and are being forced to move back in with Mom and Dad.”
Debbie Brown, director of the Colorado Women’s Alliance, said the choice of the Harold and Kumar actors “serves to distract students from the harsh reality of pending joblessness and underemployment for 53% of graduates, as well as the likelihood that life after college includes moving back into their parents’ basements.”
Choosing two actors known for playing potheads also reinforces the stereotypes surrounding CU Boulder, she said, despite the school’s efforts to downplay that image, such as its crackdown on non-student participation at this year’s April 20 smoke-out.
“The President’s choice of two college stoner idols as his surrogates to Colorado’s student population shows he is not serious about expanding opportunities for recent graduates or helping college students prepare for professional careers,” said Brown in a statement.
Former University of Colorado president Hank Brown was the featured speaker at a counter-rally held on campus immediately after the president’s speech.
Obama’s two appearances in Colorado last week reinforce its importance as a battleground state. The Boulder rally marked his eighth visit to Colorado in 2012, while the Republican Romney has made nine stops, according to Denver Channel 7.