When it comes to attracting presidential candidates, national political icons, star-studded generals and entertainment celebrities to an otherwise neglected patch of plains abutting the Rocky Mountains, it definitely helps to be a swing state. Wyoming sure isn't getting this much love.
In the last few months Colorado Springs has seen high-profile Republican visits from the likes of the Bush twins, the governors of Hawaii and Ohio, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Vice President Dick Cheney and the president himself.
"I want to thank the grass-roots activists for what you're going to do," George W. Bush said to a crowd of fervent supporters this month at the World Arena in Colorado Springs. "To put up the signs and make the phone calls, turn out the vote."
And how about those Bush twins, appearing at an invitation-only rally this month at 32 Bleu nightclub? After the rally in the bar, the Gazette actually quoted a supporter saying this: "They had Jesus in them, you could tell."
The Democrats in turn dispatched retired four-star general and onetime presidential candidate Wes Clark. Retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, the Army's first female three-star general, completed at least two tours through Colorado Springs and celebrity veteran and former Georgia Sen. Max Cleland made an appearance as well -- all presumably in hopes of swaying defense-minded voters.
"This is the most important presidential election in my lifetime," Cleland said to a group of assembled Colorado College students and war veterans. "I want to tell you we have a draft hanging over our heads," Cleland added, underscoring his message that Bush has stretched the military too thin.
The presidential hopeful from Massachusetts, John Kerry, attended a rally 40 miles south in Pueblo, with senatorial candidate Ken Salazar in tow.
Meanwhile, in solidly Republican Wyoming to the north, neither Bush nor Kerry have dropped by. Vice President Cheney, who lives in Jackson, stops in from time to time, but otherwise the tumbleweed dances in the wind.
Colorado's VIP circuit, by contrast, is burning hot. Much of this is due to polls that indicate a tight race in both the Bush-versus-Kerry and Coors-versus-Salazar showdowns.
Various glitterati, including the Eagles and songwriter Carole King, also made their appearance along the Front Range and touted political platforms.
But not everyone stumping for Colorado votes has been a bona fide celebrity. Just don't tell the "Kids for Kerry," who are traveling the county from San Francisco to Boston in Justin Timberlake's former touring bus. "We feel like rock stars," said Anna Sparrevohn, 14, and Ariana Gallagher, 12, in unison.
The girls, two of the six Kids for Kerry, make pro-Kerry speeches in various cities and have a full-time tutor in tow to cover for lost school time. Coming from San Francisco, a city more solidly in the Kerry camp, Melissa Albert, 11, would like to see the Democrats win in Colorado as well.
"There's this guy in the seventh grade, and he's, like, in love with Bush," Albert said. "But my whole school is for Kerry."
-- Dan Wilcock
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