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Pitkin County Republicans vote Romney the top choice at caucus

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was the clear favorite of local Republicans who voted in Pitkin County’s GOP caucus Tuesday night at Aspen High School.

Romney, considered the most moderate Republican among GOP contenders for the 2012 nomination, won 83 of the 161 votes cast, or 51.5 percent. Ron Paul, a favorite among libertarians, came in second locally, securing 31 votes, or 19.3 percent.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who recently won the South Carolina primary, pulled 24 votes, or 14.9 percent. Rick Santorum, the dark horse of the field who enjoyed a slight lead with 70 percent of Colorado’s 2,900 precincts reporting at 11 p.m., finished fourth at the high school with 22 votes, or 13.6 percent.

One person voted for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who until January 2012 served as President Obama’s ambassador to China. Huntsman actually dropped out of the race three weeks ago after a poor showing in the New Hampshire primary and endorsed Romney.

Before the voting, Pitkin County GOP chairwoman Frieda Wallison told the crowd that Colorado stands to play an important role in the November presidential election.

“This is going to be a swing state,” she said, adding that if local turnout for the caucus is any indication of statewide Republican turnout in November, the GOP will take Colorado.

Nineteen percent of the county’s voters are registered as Republicans, and 35 percent are affiliated with the Democratic Party, according to the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. A larger percentage, 45 percent, is unaffiliated. Those figures include active and inactive voters.

Three voters rose to the podium to speak in support of their preferred candidates.

Chris Lundgren said Paul is the only candidate who will put an end to big government spending and the status quo in Washington, D.C.

“Ron Paul has a 30-year track record of standing up for limited government, constitutional principles and protection of our God-given rights,” he said. “Unlike his opponents, he’s never flip-flopped – not even once.”

Lundgren said Paul understands that “life begins at conception and must be protected.” In addition, Paul is the only candidate who accurately predicted the nation’s economic collapse, “years before it happened.”

“His plan to restore America cuts $1 trillion in spending during the first year of his presidency by eliminating five unconstitutional departments and it balances the budget in his third year. He does this without cutting one penny from Social Security, veterans’ benefits or national defense,” Lundgren said.

Jo-Ann Hall offered a lengthy endorsement of Romney. Though the speakers were limited to two minutes, Hall took six, citing her inexperience in public speaking.

“I couldn’t afford a teleprompter, so please bear with me,” she joked.

She said all the GOP candidates have “baggage”; therefore it’s important to pick the candidate “with the smallest piece of luggage.”

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is the only candidate with the leadership to return America to an “opportunity society” as opposed to the “entitlement society Obama is intent on creating,” Hall said.

She cited Romney’s vast education background – he’s a graduate of Harvard Business School and Harvard Law School – and business experience, having been associated with the success of Staples, Sports Authority and Domino’s.

“His success in the business world has caused some to chastise him, but isn’t that the dream of every American?” Hall asked.

She noted that some voters consider Romney to be a “flip-flopper” on some issues. “Circumstances at times change, and isn’t it important to know we can rely on our leader to foresee when a change in our thinking is necessary?”

Skippy Mesirow urged the assembled Pitkin County Republicans to vote for Gingrich.

He asked them to think about the election “a little bit differently than you already are. I’m 25 years old, and the next election isn’t what’s important. It needs to be about the next 50 years, the next 100 years.”

America’s problems aren’t going to be repaired in the next year, four years or eight years, Mesirow said.

Romney is electable “because he fits into the sound bites. He fits into the political system that we have now, and that is the system that is causing the paralysis in Washington,” he said.

“Whether you like him or not, Newt’s ideas are big; they are varied. He’s a smart guy,” Mesirow concluded.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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