The forum's arcane and confusing, but inspired locals soldier through

click to enlarge In Manitou: There were inspiring moments. Really. - PHOTO BY LAURA MONTGOMERY
  • Photo by LAura Montgomery
  • In Manitou: There were inspiring moments. Really.

Neither bitter cold nor widespread confusion kept people from packing caucuses in support of presidential candidates Tuesday. Here are pictures from around the Pikes Peak region.

Precinct 12, Patty Jewett area (D)

At Steele Elementary School, under a poster of Louie the Lightning Bug ("Play it safe around electricity!"), energy's swirling around 80-year-old Norman Pledger. In front of at least 40 people from Precinct 12, slightly hunched in a greenish-blue cardigan, he swings his arms as he invokes Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the need for social programs.

"There's not enough love in this country!" he exhorts.

His neighbors who've come to him with procedural questions all night long cheer.

Pledger, a 48-year committeeperson in this precinct and former head of the Colorado AFL-CIO, is pushing neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton. He's just trying to get people excited, about Democratic principles and the political process.

With three precincts here attracting about 200 people, he's feeling good. This scene, he says, resembles one in 1972 when Dems gathered for George McGovern.

"A lady named Sue Owens had 130 people in her house," he remembers. "They were climbing the walls."

This dimly lit gymnasium is jammed as well, but the crowd's calmed by overwhelming agreement: It's Obama in a landslide. KW

Precinct 106, Manitou (D)

Artist Charles Rockey sits in the back, drawing an impromptu sketch of a preschool girl here with her parents.

Former mayors Mark Morland and Nancy Hankin join the crowd of 59 voters packed into this Manitou Springs Middle School classroom. For almost all, it's their first caucus.

With six caucuses (two Republican) in this building, and a big crowd up the hill for high school basketball, many have to park far away and walk for blocks with temperatures in the teens, which means bending the rules to allow many late arrivals.

Val St. Cloud, an attorney leading this caucus for the "10th or 11th" time, is stunned by the turnout, about 20 percent of the precinct's 289 registered Dems.

During speeches, the 76-year-old Rockey is fervent in backing Obama.

"We're the enemy of the world today ... but having a black man as president with a name like that," he says, "would send a different message."

Though many speak on Clinton's behalf, one characterizing the Bush years as "testosterone poisoning," Obama wins the final vote, 44-12. RR

Precinct 49, West side (R)

The video on Ed Knapp's cell phone shows his 15-month-old granddaughter chanting "Ron Paul! Ron Paul!"

Knapp says you got to start training 'em early, then turns to the jammed hallway where he and Mike Makinney are guiding Republican caucus-goers.

The crowds about quadruple the normal size climb the stairs of Whittier Elementary School. Then, most stare blankly at the classroom doors, each numbered for a separate precinct.

click to enlarge Charles Rockey, always at work. - PHOTO BY LAURA MONTGOMERY
  • Photo by LAura Montgomery
  • Charles Rockey, always at work.

At 7:15, I'm sent to Precinct 49, where (despite my lack of party affiliation) I am allowed to watch. If they find out I am with the Independent, I think, these folks might chase me out with sticks.

But as the night wears on, ceiling tiles and wood grain in the desks prove more worthy of fascination. Two and half hours are spent picking a chairman and secretary, doing a straw poll (Romney gets it), and trying to convince someone (anyone!) to be a delegate to the county.

In between, there's consensus (CNN = Communist News Network), doubt (did Romney support same-sex marriage?) and contention (do guns kill kids or save shopkeepers?).

But mostly, this is pure process. Around 9, a little boy grows sleepy and falls out of his chair. Some break out laughing. The child, still sleepy and a little embarrassed, blushes. JAS

Precinct 10, Old North End (D)

The room has signs for three different precincts, but there's no space to divide up at Colorado College's Slocum Hall. Democrats stand or sit wherever there's room, and parents chase after children.

CC students, many wearing self-styled Obama T-shirts, bring in extra chairs or hand out campaign stickers.

"I haven't seen this energy since '68," one caucus veteran says.

Allyn Kratz, site coordinator, keeps things light when he starts speaking around 7.

"I'm not a member of an organized political party I'm a Democrat!"

The room holds 157 of them. Jay Fawcett, former congressional candidate and chair of Precinct 10, looks over his own group of 55: "The last time, there were four of us."

Precinct 10 counts 42 Obama supporters, 12 for Clinton and one speaking up for Dennis Kucinich before shifting to the Clinton crew.

Efforts fail to get other voters to change sides. A Clinton supporter suggests the youthful energy behind Obama's campaign will let down come November.

Giancarlo Bizzarro, a CC senior, disagrees.

"This is a time for change," he says. "We are going to get out there." AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Kirk Woundy.

El Paso County

Total participants: Democrats 7,822 (366 of 388 precincts, as of Wednesday noon); Republicans 11,029 (all precincts).

Dems: Obama 5,455; Clinton 2,298; uncommitted 68; Gravel 1.

GOP: Romney 6,507; Huckabee 1,870; McCain 1,649; Paul 991; Giuliani 12.


Total participants (184,600): Democrats 119,200 (64.6 percent); Republicans 65,400 (35.4 percent).

Dems: Obama 79,344; Clinton 38,587; uncommitted 1,253; Gravel 16.

GOP: Romney 39,212; McCain 12,199; Huckabee 8,390; Paul 5,403; Keyes 61; Thompson 56; Giuliani 50; Hunter 23; Tancredo 6.

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