There’s no debate about it. Denver is the epicenter of DebateMania–at least for this week.
About seven miles up Interstate 25 from where the Denver Broncos throttled the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney will clash in Debate I of the 2012 presidential campaign at 7 p.m. (MST) Wednesday in the University of Denver’s Magness Arena at the Daniel L. Ritchie Center for Sports and Wellness.
Both candidates have made numerous appearances in Colorado. Obama will speak to a rally Thursday morning at Sloan’s Lake Park and a Romney rally that drew what his campaign estimated as about 5,500 supporters, was held Monday at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum next door to NCSL’s Denver headquarters.
NCSL staffers have become accustomed to similar events in our neighborhood. The museum, housed in a 150,000-square-foot hangar, has frequently hosted appearances by U.S. presidents and the expected heavy SWAT and Secret Service presence was on display. A few internal emails advised staffers to move cars from parking spots that could be blocked by barricades.
The line for admission stretched nearly around the block to NCSL’s back door but moved briskly while button vendors worked the crowd offering buttons (mostly $5 apiece, three for $10) ranging from the traditional (“Romney/Ryan 2012”) to the whimsical (“I only kiss Tea Partiers”). One vendor, asked if he was selling “official” merchandise, replied his wares were “officially sold by me to promote free enterprise.”
Once inside, supporters were greeted by giant letters spelling out “J O B S” across the back of the airplane hangar space. Warm-up speeches by Colorado politicians, music and the Romney video aired at the Republican National Convention preceded an appearance by John Elway, two time Super Bowl winner for the Broncos and now the team’s executive vice president of football operations. Elway, long the subject of speculation as a statewide GOP candidate, introduced Romney, who delivered an economics-themed speech.
After the rally, a long line queued for the fare at the adjacent Lowry Beer Garden and one man was moved to rise and offer a toast “to a Romney victory” in November.