Colorado: Wild West, Wild Voters

Hispanic voters playing a key role in presidential politics.

Mitt Romney holds a baby during a campaign stop at Pueblo Weisbrod Aircraft Museum in Pueblo, Colo., Sept. 24, 2012.
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Hoping to secure the Western state, Romney, his wife Ann, and top surrogates held a series of campaign events in the state leading up to the first presidential debate, which took place at the University of Denver on October 3.

Ann Romney was particularly popular, according to those gathered at a 'Women for Mitt' event held in , a conservative Denver suburb.

[READ: Romney Continues Making Gains in Battlegrounds, Talks Foreign Policy in Ohio]

"Ann Romney is for marriage between a man and a woman. Ann Romney is not for abortion. Ann Romney is for life. Ann Romney is for Israel," says Littleton resident Cathy Hansen.

Her husband, Jeff, says he supports Romney because he's a businessman and has a plan to fix the economy. But it's more than just the prospect of lower taxes that has him excited.

"That's not critically important for us, no," Hansen says. "But I think he will do whatever it takes to get people back to work and have more money. It's about taking back the country from someone who is clearly incompetent."

The Hansens represent a key voting bloc that Romney needs to turn out in order to counter the more urban Denver, where voters largely support Obama. Denver residents are younger, less religious, and more diverse than their suburban counterparts. The city played such a large role in his 2008 election, it was where Democrats held their national convention and Obama accepted the nomination.

Obama himself held a rally the day following the debate and first lady Michelle Obama barnstormed the state just last week.

Laura Chapin, a local Democratic strategist, says she's confident the president will take the state's nine electoral votes again thanks both to his local campaign team's knowledge of the state's quirks, as well as the emergence of women's right to abortion and contraception as campaign issues.

[READ: Joe Biden's fiery debate performance energizes Ohio Dems.]

The idea of the government intervening in women's health choices is just a loser in the largely libertarian state, she says.

Tamira Murphy of Denver and a Metro State College student says she can't wait to cast a ballot for Obama for a second time.

"He's there for America not just the higher class of America, he supports everyone, the middle class and the lower class and I would love to see what he could do," she says, adding that she doesn't think much of Romney. "It took eight years to mess this country up, let's see what he can do in the next four."

To young people who may be disappointed they are having trouble finding jobs, Murphy says it's not the president's fault.

"They aren't working hard enough," she says. "There are jobs out there, you know what I mean, it's not always going to be the job you wanted to get. I think he's opened up a lot of job opportunities."

Colorado is one of the majority of states that sanctions early voting, and as with other battlegrounds, both campaigns know they need to push up turnout, particularly because recent polls have shown Romney making up ground on Obama. The two are now in a statistical tie.

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  • Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at rmetzler@usnews.com.