LAKEWOOD, COLO.—Mitt Romney is quickly becoming the Chevy Chase of Colorado politics: the pratfalls are piling up. While the national media focused on the Romney's evening fundraiser with birther Donald Trump Tuesday night, Romney's Tuesday morning in Craig, Colo. wasn't any less embarrassing. As ProgressNow Colorado put it in a press release, "Mitt Romney makes a fool of himself every time he comes to Colorado."
From a tactical perspective, the visit made no sense. Craig is in far northwest Colorado, near the Wyoming border, four hours from the Denver swing counties that will decide the election and the Denver media markets that will cover it. There are 5,600 registered voters in Craig, two-thirds of whom will vote Republican. I live in Jefferson County, which has nearly 400,000 registered voters. There are more swing voters within a mile of my house. Heck, there are more Republican voters within a mile of my house.
In a spectacular message fail, Romney's attempt to talk energy and the local economy got torpedoed thanks to friendly fire from his fellow Republicans, including Craig's mayor and the Colorado state party chair. According to the New York Times:
The city's finance director, Bruce Nelson, said that tax revenue had bounced back strongly since last late year. 'We are holding our own,' he said.
Terry Carwile, the mayor of Craig and a retired coal miner, went further, saying that the economy was "getting better" in the town of 9,500 as oil speculation intensified. He played down the suggestion that federal regulations had wounded the local coal industry.
The industry is doing well enough that the, as Fox31's Eli Stokols noted in a withering story, "Romney attacks fall flat in Colorado coal country":
An area coal mine, Peabody Energy's Twenty Mile, stopped production and bused in 148 miners to attend Romney's event. Men wearing the trademark mining uniform of blue overalls with crisscrossing reflective neon stripes stood in clumps among the audience. The general manager of Peabody's Colorado operations, Pat Sollars, said the miners would be compensated for the time they spent at the event.
To further emphasize the off-message point, Colorado Republican Chair Ryan Call told the New York Times, "The economy here in Craig and in Moffat County does seem stronger than a lot of our Western Slope communities .. .And that’s good. That’s a good thing.”
And then there was the Koch Brothers connection. Romney's campaign tried to pass off the visit as a response to a local couple sending the campaign a video about Craig. A quick search of The Google reveals a press release from the American Energy Institute and Americans for Prosperity touting its production of said video. As Politico pointed out, "Both groups are funded primarily by the Koch brothers."
American Energy Alliance is the same group that's dropping millions of dollars on ads attacking President Obama in Colorado and other states all this spring. So Mitt Romney just happened to make a campaign stop in the town that was the subject of a propaganda film by the same organization that's going after the president on TV. Just a coincidence, I'm sure.
It's the second straight campaign fail for Romney in Colorado: his last visit prompted an embarrassing confrontation with CBS4 reporter Shaun Boyd because she had the temerity to ask him questions of interest to Colorado voters, though not of interest to Romney. The presumptive GOP nominee seems unwilling or unable to talk about local issues in a swing state he desperately needs to win. He lost the Colorado caucuses to Rick Santorum, and apparently has lost any connection to it for the general election as well. Meanwhile, the president's most recent trip to Boulder (which does cover the Denver media market) was marked with a trip to a local dive bar, the Sink, which promptly named a pizza after him.
And that's no joke.