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Economy surging topic on voters’ minds in Colorado

Kristen Wyatt
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER ” The windows are gleaming at the downtown Denver hotel Republican John McCain planned to visit Thursday for an all-female town hall meeting.

But across the street in the empty Shear Perfection salon, workers say they’re no longer impressed by how many presidential visits are coming to swing-state Colorado, where the Democrats held their national convention over the summer and Democrat Barack Obama visited earlier this week.

Salon manager Amorette Cholas says business is down, customers are seeking cheaper haircuts elsewhere and all the presidential visits Colorado is receiving aren’t easing Cholas’ top worry: the economy.

“All salons right now are suffering,” said Cholas, who added that financial worries are even causing some women to commit the ultimate beauty no-no: coloring their hair at home.

“I would like to see exactly what the plans are from both of them. It’s like, ‘What do we need to ask to find out what we do about this?'” Cholas said. “It doesn’t really mean anything to me that McCain is coming here.”

Battleground Colorado may be in the crosshairs of both campaigns, but voters talking about the race outside the hotel where McCain is set to speak Thursday say they are no longer impressed by all the visits to the Centennial State. Like voters all over, they mostly seemed interested in the economy.

“I’m like everybody else, it’s the economy,” said Richard Reynolds, owner of a small gourmet food supplier to restaurants who sat outside the hotel Wednesday tapping on his BlackBerry.

“My little business can’t get loans. I can’t do payroll. And when I can’t do payroll, that’s basically it,” said Reynolds, who worries about his 12 employees who make canapes, crab cakes and other appetizers for restaurants. Reynolds is doubtful either candidate will be able to speak to the economy in a way that comforts voters.

“The writing’s been on the wall for such a long time with this economy, and no one’s done anything about it,” he said.

But if Coloradans have become inured to the frequent campaign appearances by McCain and Obama, the campaigns say they have no plans to stop frequent stumping in the state. Obama visited a suburban Denver high school Monday, and his wife Michelle Obama headlined a rally at the University of Colorado in Boulder Wednesday. McCain planned visits to Denver and Pueblo this week, with his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, headed to Colorado for a private fundraiser Saturday.

While they’re here, they’re talking about the economy.

In Westminster Monday, Obama laid the economic woes at the feet of Republicans in Washington and the Bush administration. Starting his remarks with a dour outlook, Obama warned the crowd at a suburban Denver high school, “Your jobs, your life savings and the stability of our entire economy are at risk.”

And McCain was expected to talk about the economy, too, on his second visit here since Labor Day.

“It’s at the top of everybody’s minds. He recognizes that the economy is vitally important,” said GOP spokesman Bill Riggs.

A Colorado Obama spokesman, Matt Chandler, said the Democrat is making the economy a top talking point, too.

“We’re facing a serious economic crisis right now. People are looking for answers,” Chandler said.

Voters agreed. Many said they’re more interested in financial proposals than personal attention from the campaigns. Many voters passing by the hotel seemed completely uninterested that McCain was returning to the state for a town hall-style meeting.

“I would be nice ” although unrealistic, I guess ” for Sen. McCain or Sen. Obama to talk specifics about the bailout will or won’t do,” said Ken Barrows, a Denver attorney who specializes in foreclosure defense and has seen the housing tailspin firsthand.

“Both of the candidates could explain a little more about what they’ll do about the economy. That’s the biggest thing right now.”

A political scientist at the Colorado State University-Pueblo, Mark Gose, said the razor-thin polling margins separating the two candidates in Colorado mean there won’t be any slowdown in presidential stumping here over the next month. But Gose said that while they’re here, the candidates will be speaking to the entire nation, not just Colorado voters.

McCain is planning remarks at Gose’s campus the day after Wall Street responds to a possible bailout deal in Congress.

“This may be one of McCain’s more important speeches, here in Pueblo, telling us, what does this all mean,” Gose said.

Voters didn’t seem impressed by where the speeches were coming from.

“I can see why they’re coming here,” Barrows said. “But I don’t think it really matters. It’s what they say while they’re here.”


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