DENVER–Those wondering why Mitt Romney is gaining ground in Colorado need look no further than Monday’s dueling campaign appearances in Grand Junction.
The Obama campaign sent in Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson to energize women voters on the first day of early voting as part of its “Women Decide 2012″ tour.
Later that day, the Romney camp sent vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan to host a rally at Colorado Mesa University.
The Obama camp is looking to regain its advantage with women voters by showcasing high-profile members of its cabinet, but the decision to send Jackson to the Western Slope is hard to fathom. Yes, she’s a woman, but she’s also the face of the EPA, possibly the most despised agency in rural America, including Mesa County.
The EPA’s recent crackdown on emissions from coal-fired plants has been hotly criticized in an area where economic development and employment are closely linked to the fossil-fuel industry. Reminding Western Colorado voters that Jackson works for President Obama probably isn’t the best way to win over their support.
“It’s interesting she would go to energy country because from what I’ve seen, she’s definitely not popular there,” said Sean Paige, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity.
Jackson wasn’t around a few hours later when Ryan rode into Grand Junction for a rally at Colorado Mesa’s Brownson Arena. About 3,000 supporters packed the auditorium to hear Ryan describe the Republican ticket’s plan for North American energy independence, including easing federal regulations on oil, natural gas and coal.
“Point number one on this agenda: You know it right here in Grand Junction, Colorado,” said Ryan. “We have so much energy in this country. Let’s use that energy in this country. Let’s get these jobs back. Let’s put people back to work.”
Ryan blamed Democratic control of Congress during the president’s first two years for what he called the “war on coal.”
“This is why we have a war on coal. This is why we have all these regulations shutting down our federal lands, shutting down our coal, shutting down our natural resources that we know we can extract in an environmentally safe way,” said Ryan.
He said the Republican ticket would streamline regulations and give the states more authority over how to use federal lands.
“We will end this war on coal so we can get this resource and get people back to work and lower our prices,” said Ryan.
At this point, a live feed from KCCO-TV in Grand Junction showed much of the audience standing, waving signs and cheering.
The lesson? The first rule of politics is knowing your audience, something the Romney campaign remembered Monday and the Obama campaign forgot.