Obama is partly borrowing from the playbook of Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet's winning U.S. Senate race in 2010. Bennet narrowly beat Ken Buck after painting him as extreme in pointed TV ads about the Republican's opposition to abortion rights and popular forms of birth control. He carried Arapahoe and Jefferson counties by a combined 10,000 votes, about a third of his narrow margin over Buck.
"That portrayal of Buck is what beat him," said Democratic pollster Paul Harstad, an adviser to Bennet who also does polling for Obama's campaign.
Some Romney backers argue that Obama is attempting to distract female voters from the economy by emphasizing abortion.
"It has nothing to do with abortion," said Vickie Dow of Centennial, an upscale Arapahoe County suburb. "I'm worried about the economy. I'm really afraid things have gone downhill terribly."
Unemployment in Colorado was 8.2 percent in June, the same as nationally. It has ticked up slightly statewide and proportionally in Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, Denver's south and west suburbs where more than 20 percent of the state's population lives, after a slow decline over the past year when it dipped below the national average.
Romney, meanwhile, is seeking to court women like Debbie Brown of Centennial. She agrees with Republican pollsters who say that women are more acutely aware of economic ups and downs. Often household budget managers, women are more sensitive to fluctuations in the economy and see them as destabilizing to their families.
"It actually becomes a heart issue for them because they care so much about their families," said Brown, whose husband recently began working again after being unemployed for nine months.
Four years ago, Obama carried Colorado, which offers nine Electoral College votes, by 9 percentage points. The outcome in November is expected to be much closer, with recent public polls showing a tight race.
Romney views Colorado, which Republicans carried in every presidential election from 1968 to 2004, as a valuable potential pick-up. Obama aides argue that his 2008 victory is proof the Southwest's Republican trend is changing as Latinos, who typically vote Democratic, increase in numbers.
The candidates and their allies have combined to spend roughly $25 million in television advertising in Colorado — split nearly evenly between the two.
Deputy Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta in Washington and Associated Press writer Catherine Tsai in Denver contributed to this report.
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