GREELEY, Colo. -- – President Barack Obama won Colorado by a whopping 200,000 votes in 2008, becoming just the second Democrat to take the state since 1964.
But with his support dwindling among some other swaths of the electorate, Obama aides say, the president may find himself relying on increased support from Hispanics to win Colorado this time around.
So the campaign is peppering the state with Spanish-language TV and radio ads and has already amassed hundreds of Hispanic-outreach volunteers to staff phone banks and go door to door registering new voters.
When Obama visited Denver on May 23, he met privately with 30 or so of the state's Hispanic leaders. He also called into Denver's oldest Spanish-language AM station KBNO last month.
The team backing the presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, vows its own full-court press for Hispanic voters, focused on the economy and the plight of small-business owners.
Romney rolled out his national Hispanic leadership team this week, and slammed Obama repeatedly -- including in a new Spanish-language Internet ad -- for the high national jobless rate among Hispanics, now at 11 percent.
Both sides say Colorado, with its nine electoral votes, is up for grabs, and likely to come down to a few thousand votes.
The Colorado race "is going to be a nail-biter," said Alan Salazar, a Democratic campaign operative and a top aide to Gov. John Hickenlooper. "Obama's challenge among Hispanics is pretty simple: overcoming apathy." While nearly a fifth of the population, Hispanics in Colorado typically make up just over a tenth of the electorate.
Many Republicans in the state worry that the party is vulnerable on the immigration front. After Republicans defeated a bill in the state Senate to grant in-state tuition to some undocumented students, state GOP chairman Ryan Call all but apologized for his party, telling a local TV station that the defeat made it harder "to talk about issues that are important to the Hispanic community."
Call, a fluent Spanish speaker, is now making the rounds of Hispanic-owned businesses. He gives frequent TV and radio interviews, often stressing that a disproportionate number of the unemployed are Hispanic. That is a theme the Romney campaign says it plans to hit repeatedly.
"I take issue with the idea that everyone is just going to come out and support the president," said state Rep. Dan Pabon, an Obama surrogate who represents North Denver. "To win it this time, Obama will really have to work it."