Rally for Mark Udall with Hillary Rodham Clinton, Raddison Denver Southeast, Aurora, October 21, 2014.

by Tim Van Schmidt

It was clear to everybody in the room at the Raddison in Aurora yesterday why the excited supporters were attending a rally for embattled Democratic Colorado Senator Mark Udall and other key Democratic candidates- to hear former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speak.

That’s not to say the upbeat crowd was indifferent to Udall, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and District 6 US House of Representatives candidate Andrew Romanoff. There were plenty of signs, stickers, cheering and applause for the candidates. Yet, even the candidates themselves seemed fine with letting the featured speaker get to it. They kept their remarks brief, engaging mostly in some congenial political backslapping and then moving on in order to give the podium to Clinton.

Hickenlooper and Udall both took a little more time for some chest-thumping about accomplishments during their watch, but even this served to set the stage for Clinton. It’s important to note that both men did not try to claim these accomplishments for themselves by saying “I did this.” Instead, they included the crowd, saying “We did this.”

Clinton then served as a kind of Colorado “outsider,” underscoring advances made in state politics by saying “You did this,” including the crowd in the efforts. Sure, she insisted that leaders like Udall and Hickenlooper- and Senator Michael Bennet- were at the center of it, but she made it clear that it was all a reflection of what the people in Colorado want and need.

As an “expert from out of town,” then, Clinton appealed to a sense of regional pride. Pride in a state that she described as one of the most beautiful in the nation. Pride in the fervent love of freedom that pioneers instilled in the state’s culture. Pride in the accomplishments of its leaders in areas such as employment, environmental concerns, education, gender issues and more.

But polishing Colorado pride was not the end game in Clinton’s remarks. As a new grandmother, Clinton insisted that the great things that Coloradans enjoy today must also be insured for future generations. She indicated that she wanted her granddaughter to have the same opportunities that she had throughout her life and that the work ahead for leaders was making sure that happened- in Colorado and throughout the rest of the country.

This was all presented with a measured, cool confidence. Clinton didn’t raise her voice or slap the podium with fiery remarks. Rather, she offered her comments with a calm strength. She emphasized certain points to be sure, but she seemed to indicate by her demeanor that this was not the time for emotional knee-jerk reactions, but for serious discussion and committed work. Of course, since this was a political rally, Clinton made sure to mention that the Democratic candidates who had preceded her to the stage were the right choice to continue this work.

The energy in the room throughout the rally was positive and Clinton’s star power helped fuel that. But it also resulted in a push for support as organizers circulated around the room and solicited volunteer hours. They seemed busy too, signing up supporters to neighborhood walking shifts. That’s what instilling pride can do- make people want to do more and do better. On that score, Clinton, Udall, Hickenlooper and the others succeeded.

Grassroots Rally featuring Michelle Obama with Mark Udall, Lory Student Center, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, October 23, 2014.

by Tim Van Schmidt

Powerful women. Important issues.

This was the one-two punch combination the Democratic Party delivered this week in Colorado to help boost the election campaigns by state candidates.

On Tuesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton joined Senator Mark Udall, Governor John Hickenlooper and US House of Representatives candidate Andrew Romanoff in Aurora to pump up regional supporters for the final few days of the 2014 election cycle.

Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama did the same at rallies in both Denver and Fort Collins.

In Fort Collins, in the big main ballroom in the student center at Colorado State University, Obama and the big candidates were joined by State Treasurer candidate Betsy Markey and US Representative Jared Polis. Tagging along in both Aurora and Fort Collins was Senator Michael Bennet, not currently seeking re-election, but whose voice added some extra regional weight at the podium. Markey in particular seized the moment to rouse the crowd for herself and her Democratic compatriots with an emphatic stage presence.

Udall, on the other hand, showed some wear from his current exhaustive statewide bus tour. He stumbled a little on some of his well worn stump statements and completely muffed an attempt to reference racial issues in his speech.

This was all forgotten, however, when the First Lady took the stage and proceeded to enchant the crowd made up of a cross section of ages, although heavy on youth thanks to the university setting. Obama, like her husband, is a very personable speaker with the uncanny ability to put listeners at ease and to inspire action at the same time.

Obama reminded the crowd of the dreadful condition the nation was in before and the accomplishments that have occurred since President Obama took office in 2009. This was meant for the students in the crowd, who she mused were perhaps too young at the time to really remember. Despite improving conditions in the state and the country, Obama insisted that there was plenty of work to do yet and that this election was particularly important as far as control of Congress was concerned.

To define the importance of getting out the vote, Obama broke down the victory margins in the previous election to a difference of sometimes only five votes in a district. She appealed to the voters in the room to not only turn their ballots in, but to also try to reach as few as five other voters.

But the part of her speech that had the most impact was when Obama described the courage and fortitude of a young woman participating in a mentoring program she sponsored. Overcoming harsh personal conditions, the young woman has become an accomplished student due to hard work and intense dedication. Obama generalized her efforts by painting a picture of other young people doing the same thing. Then she turned to the crowd at CSU and challenged them to not only work hard, but work even harder. This neatly sequed into an appeal to sign up volunteers to help push candidates like Udall and Hickenlooper to victory.

As Obama and the candidates walked the line, shaking hands and greeting supporters, the excited faces and crush to get close to the First Lady told the story of how effective she was at inspiring the crowd. One young woman couldn’t help herself and exclaimed to her friends while pushing forward to get a close-up look, “She’s just so perfect!”

Perfect or not, Obama knows what she is doing when addressing a roomful of voters. For that, Colorado candidates were fortunate to have her on their side.

Get Out the Vote Rally with Bill Clinton and Mark Udall, Sheraton Denver West, Lakewood, October 28, 2014.

by Tim Van Schmidt

There are reasons why former President Bill Clinton remains very popular and one of them was made clear at the end of the Get Out the Vote rally with Mark Udall, John Hickenlooper, Ed Perlmutter and others in Lakewood yesterday.

Of course, it’s a tradition for the speakers at a political rally to walk the line in front of the podium to press the flesh and take photos with supporters on their way out the door. But after Clinton had slowly made his way around the crowd and was almost to the exit, he doubled back and did the whole thing again, thrilling the people who hadn’t gotten a chance to get close to him as well as those who already had. Clinton doesn’t mind spending some extra time with the people and they love him for it.

Just before this, at the podium, Clinton had also showed he was an excellent speaker, mixing a “good ole boy” persona with sharp, smart political observations. Clinton didn’t mind using colloquial expressions like “throwing the baby out with the bath water” while firing off poignant facts about the state of the nation- and the state of the state.

Clinton took out his glasses and a piece of paper to get the facts right about what has been happening in Colorado under the watch of candidates such as Senator Udall and Governor Hickenlooper. He looked like a kindly professor who nonetheless had a serious agenda- to inspire Coloradans to continue the good work that has been accomplished. To particularly underscore Udall’s contribution, Clinton said numerous times “Mark Udall is what you say you want” when considering issues such as employment and women’s rights.

Clinton also told the crowd that Colorado was “a state of the future” and that the nation looks toward Colorado as an example of what can be done to make things better.

What was also clear about Clinton’s presence at the rally was that the former President not only inspired the supporters gathered in the hotel ballroom, but he also inspired the candidates themselves. Everybody who took the stage in Lakewood- including Don Quick, candidate for Colorado Attorney General, State Representative Brittany Pettersen, Senator Michael Bennet, Congressman Perlmutter, Hickenlooper and Udall- all seemed to have extra fire in their short speeches. It wasn’t so much that what they were saying was much different from their regular stump statements, but rather it was how they presented themselves. They seemed to be upping their game, perhaps to try to come up to Clinton’s level. It didn’t even seem particularly natural to them, as it seemed for Perlmutter and Pettersen, but the crowd responded well nonetheless.

Udall was particularly strong and right on the money with every statement he made. This was in sharp contrast to his tired performance with First Lady Michelle Obama the week before in Fort Collins. The Udall that showed up in Lakewood came on like the dedicated, forward-thinking leader everyone says he is and a candidate that had plenty more to contribute.

Clinton, like his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who had rallied with Udall the previous week in Aurora, claimed a personal connection to Colorado, intimating that he had visited the state numerous times and not just for political purposes. This helped endear him to the crowd and underscored the idea that they had something to be proud of in their state. But even without that, Clinton would have scored a home run anyway- with the bases loaded, of course.