Saturday’s visit by Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was just the latest in high-profile politicians blitzing Colorado in hopes the state will vote their way on Election Day, Nov. 6.
“This election is about the future,” Sebelius told a crowd of about 80 people in front of the La Plata County Democratic Headquarters at East Third Avenue and College Drive.
Sebelius was joined by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire. The two are on a swing through southern Colorado from west to east to pump up support for the re-election of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
Both women emphasized Obama’s support for women and families.
Sebelius said that Obama “believes strongly in pay equity” for women as outlined in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.
Sebelius said that while Obama supports the act, Gov. Mitt Romney is unclear where he stands. Romney’s running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, voted against the legislation. Ryan was in Durango last Monday with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, Rep. Scot Tipton, R-Cortez, and country music star Mark Wills.
Sebelius covered her own bailiwick when she said Romney has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, perhaps better known as ObamaCare.
She told the small crowd that the Republican Party has the “most severely conservative platform against women” in many years.
“There’s a lot at risk for women and women’s health,” Sebelius said.
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act would hurt many Americans, she said.
There are 3 million young adults now with health care they didn’t have before, Sebelius said. These are people up to age 26 covered under their parents’ health plans who were not covered before ObamaCare.
In a separate interview, Sebelius said Colorado is a “purple” state, not Democrat blue or Republican red. Obama won the state in 2008, but elections can hinge on just a few votes.
She cited as an example the re-election of U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., in 2010 by just a few thousand votes.
“Colorado is a very independent state,” Sebelius said.
Gregoire went through her own even closer election in 2004 with several recounts and a lawsuit before a court declared her the winner by fewer than 130 votes.
“We didn’t have a ground game” that year, she said.
The next election, her campaign was better prepared, and she won by a more comfortable margin.
Gregoire said that Obama’s supporters in Colorado need to follow that ground game, helping get out the vote, echoing similar sentiments proffered by Sebelius a few moments earlier.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the Electoral College,” Gregoire said later in an interview. Obama or Romney will need 270 electoral votes to win the election, and the eight or nine swing states, including Colorado, will determine who gets to claim victory.
The governor explained that as a fellow Westerner, she wants Coloradans to know that their best opportunities for continued growth in such sectors as energy and tourism are with the president and not with Romney.
Both Washington State and Colorado are significant energy producers with resources such as clean coal and natural gas.
“It’s about our pocketbooks,” Gregoire said of the election. “It’s about (economic) security.”
Sebelius and Gregoire became friends when Sebelius was governor of Kansas. In fact, she and Romney also were governors at the same time.
Romney had one of the worst records of job creation of any governor, Sebelius said in the interview.
“He says he’ll create new jobs, but he won’t tell us how,” Sebelius claimed. She also said that Romney hasn’t explained how he will pay for the $2 trillion military expansion he said he’ll implement if he becomes president. He also changes positions, so it is difficult to tell where he really stands on many issues, she said.
Romney’s positions include his vow to repeal ObamaCare but without anything to replace it, despite apparently supporting certain aspects of it. The Obama administration has said the Affordable Care Act has many policies similar to those enacted in Massachusetts under then-Gov. Romney.
Sebelius admitted that economic growth, particularly as measured by employment, has been slower than the president would like, but she added that the country lost 8 million jobs in the month after Obama took office.
Recovery has been “slower than the president would like, you bet,” she said. Still, she added, “Significant progress has been made.”