Presidential hopefuls keep Colorado in their sights |

Presidential hopefuls keep Colorado in their sights

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. steps up to the ballot box with his completed ballot in hand as he votes in the 2008 presidential election at the Albright United Methodist Church in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

DENVER ” Colorado was a target state to the very end Tuesday as GOP presidential candidate John McCain headed to Grand Junction for a last-minute rally and voters cast ballots in nearly unprecedented numbers.

On Monday, Democrat Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, had campaigned in the Denver area and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin staged a rally in Colorado Springs.

Obama led McCain by single digits in recent Colorado polls, but McCain still held out hope of capturing the state’s nine electoral votes.

Sensing a historic moment, 1.7 million Coloradans ” 53 percent of registered voters ” casts their ballots by mail or at early voting stations even before the polls opened Tuesday morning.

“It’s a very historical time, this election,” said Yvonne Hobrecht of Lakewood as she waited to cast her ballot Tuesday.

Added Dan Shipp, also of Lakewood: “I think they’re all important, but this is a big one.”

By the time all the mail-in ballots are received and Tuesday’s votes are cast, statewide turnout is expected to set a record, exceeding 90 percent.

Things were smooth in the early going Tuesday, said Rich Coolidge, a spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

“There were some lines. We were expecting those as people hit the early rush times, but it sounds like those have dissipated,” he said.

The Colorado Progressive Coalition said some Spanish-speaking voters in Weld County complained that voting instructions were printed only in English and few translators were available to explain them.

Coalition spokeswoman Angie Diaz said she didn’t know how many voters were affected but about 20 people had called the group with concerns. Weld County Clerk and Recorder Steve Moreno did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Since 1976, Colorado has voted for a Democratic president only once: Bill Clinton in 1992. This year, the electorate is just about evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

Democrats set their sights on Colorado and the Rocky Mountain states last year, saying a Democratic tide is rolling across the Mountain West. In August, they held their national convention in Denver, making a commitment to pay attention to Western issues such as water and land use.

Colorado’s U.S. Senate race is also getting national attention as Democrat Mark Udall tries to defeat Republican Bob Schaffer and take over a seat held by Republican Wayne Allard, who is retiring.

Republican U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave is fighting for her job in the face of a tough challenge by Democrat Betsy Markey.

Also getting attention are ballot issues that would ban abortion by defining a fertilized egg as a person, ban affirmative action and eliminate some tax breaks for energy companies.

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