Colorado Democrats running in competitive races were conspicuously absent Wednesday as President Obama visited Denver to campaign for incumbent Sen. Mark Udall, — who apparently considered a photo-op next to the president to be radioactive enough that he wasn’t even in the same state.
Udall stayed in Washington D.C. Wednesday, saying in a statement to reporters that he had work to do in the Capital. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is in a dead heat with Republican challenger Bob Beauprez, also found reasons to stay far from Denver’s Cheesman Park, where Obama spoke to a small crowd of about 200 people.
Prominent members of his own party stiffed the president because he’s polarizing and has failed to lead the country, said Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in a conference call with reporters the day before.
“The president has two fundamental problems: He’s a deeply polarizing figure and he has failed in the leadership of our country,” Rubio said, “and I understand why someone who’s on the ballot doesn’t want to be associated with either one of those two.”
“[Obama] has chosen to be a divider for political purposes and that has consequences,” he said. “One of the consequences is how angry and divisive politics have become.”
Obama arrived on Tuesday for a casual dinner with a small number of supporters at a downtown restaurant. Afterward, the president went off-schedule and walked around Denver’s LoDo district greeting people on the sidewalk and giving high-fives and fist-bumps.
He may have wanted to get his fill, because there was no one seeking re-electi0n to fist-bump on the stage in the park. The most prominent Democrats who attended the speech were former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Rep. Ed Perlmutter.
Udall had originally planned to attend his own fundraiser the president held later in the day, but said in a statement that he got busy at the Senate.
“Mark is grateful for the president’s support and had hoped to welcome him to Colorado in person, but his responsibilities to serve Colorado in the Senate come first,” campaign spokesman Chris Harris said in a statement to the Washington Times.
In his public remarks at the park, Obama didn’t mention Udall or the upcoming election. He only mentioned Hickenlooper to say that he and the governor shot pool the night before at a brewpub Hickenlooper had owned. The president did, however, stump for Udall at a private fundraiser held later in the day.
Despite not mentioning the election at his earlier appearance, Obama made it clear that he is frustrated with a Congress that cannot pass “basic common sense ideas.” He defended his use of executive orders — and his threat of using them in the future — by saying he has no choice thanks to gridlock in Congress.
“[W]herever and whenever I can go ahead and help families like yours, I’ve got the legal authority to do it, I’m going to do it,” he said. “What I’ve said to [Congress] is, if you’re not acting, I’m going to go ahead and do what I can.”
Obama repeatedly acknowledged Americans’ frustration with a lack of progress from Washington, D.C., but asked the audience not to be cynical about politics.
“The hardest thing to change in politics is a stubborn status quo,” he said.
Rubio would likely agree, which is why he was explicit in his endorsement of Republican Rep. Cory Gardner to replace Udall. Several times during Tuesday’s phone conference, Rubio called him a “reformer.”
“This president has just been a disaster both on his leadership and in the way he’s polarized the nation,” Rubio said.
“I think Cory Gardner is one of a handful of reformers who’s running to join us here in the Senate and hopefully change the direction of our country.”
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