If you've been reading the papers or watching local TV leading up to Mitt Romney's visit in Grand Junction today, you've surely seen the public media hand wringing over Romney's choice not to come to the Denver area. While the Denver press corps isn't pleased they have to leave the confines of the metro area to cover today's story, that doesn't mean there's no significant value in Romney's travel choices.
With Colorado set to possibly be the Florida of 2000 or the Ohio of 2004, it's instructive to look back at what worked in those states.
The movie …So Goes The Nation explains it well. In Ohio in 2004, the Bush campaign focused heavily on juicing excitement and turnout in rural Ohio. On Election Day, the Kerry campaign was feeling good because they were hitting their targets in all the major population centers. What they missed was that they were getting crushed by Bush in rural Ohio — something the metro-area-confined press corps and Democrats weren't able to pick up on. Ultimately, the margins that Bush ran up in rural Ohio were what won the state for him.
Which is all to say that rural turnout matters. While the Denver metro area contains the majority of Colorado voters, big margins in rural areas can help push Romney over the top from the tight margins expected in the suburbs.
As 9News's Brandon Rittiman pointed out this morning, metro area voters are also getting plenty of contact from the Romney campaign, and allied outside groups, in the form of millions of dollars of advertising. It's not like they're being ignored.
Some uninformed observers have tried to play this decision off as amateur or a misunderstanding of Colorado's electorate. What they forgot is Romney's political operation is being run by longtime Colorado political operative Rich Beeson.
If Romney is deciding to focus on rural areas, to gin up the base at a time when swing voters aren't paying all that much attention, instead of the metro area, then it's probably for a good reason. We'll find out November 6, when as goes Colorado, so goes the nation.
(Photo of Romney event line this morning courtesy of RNC's Ellie Wallace)