“It just seems like a strange political decision,” said Matthew Tucker of Denver as he stood along the barricade with his dogs Mazzy and Pali outside the pavilion.
Speculation is rife that Udall and other top Democrats seeking reelection wanted to avoid being seen with the president, whose approval rating has plummeted in Colorado, a rationale that didn’t sit well with some Obama supporters.
“It bothers me a lot,” said Angela, a Capitol Hill resident who declined to give her last name. “It’s like, ‘You were there in the beginning, where are you now?’ Just walk the talk.”
The president’s low approval rating didn’t phase her: She wore a brown tank top bedazzled with the name “Obama,” and said voters need to realize that he wasn’t going to be able to resolve all issues.
“People were naïve to think everything could be solved,” she said. “They should live in other countries. They’d see how good we have it.”
Udall cited his busy legislative schedule for missing the speech and subsequent fundraiser, while Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper had a prior commitment to speak to a veterans’ group in Colorado Springs.
Democrat Andrew Romanoff, who’s challenging Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, didn’t appear at the speech but did attend the private fundraiser. His campaign told News4 that he wasn’t invited to the Cheesman event, an explanation that has been roundly mocked by Republicans.
About 200 people gathered outside the private event, mostly local Capitol Hill residents in search of a peek at the president. There were also two groups of demonstrators: a throng of pro-Palestinian activists and a parade of anti-Keystone XL protestors.
Jim Schrack of Highlands Ranch said Udall’s absence “just goes to show we’ve got a broken system.”
“Politics is trumping doing the right thing,” said Schrack, who participated in a mini-march against the Keystone XL pipeline.
Dana Litman, who brought her nine-year-old daughter Brianna and her best friend Olivia, said she wasn’t upset at Udall or Hickenlooper for skipping the speech, but she was perplexed.
“I think they’re crazy, but it really doesn’t bother me,” said Litman. “I guess they have to be concerned about getting elected.”
Appearing alongside an unpopular president at an event may sound like a bad political move to campaign experts, but Tucker said they should have more faith in the voters.
“I don’t think whether or not he [Udall] is in a photo with the president is going to change my opinion,” said Tucker. “I still haven’t made up my mind, but I’m not going to decide based on one photo.”