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Joe Biden’s “inexplicable” no-show strategy makes him an outlier in Colorado’s presidential primary

The former vice president is the only Democratic candidate to not hold a public event in Colorado as other campaigns flood the state

Joe Biden at Center for American Progress Action Fund on May 20, 2008. (Photo by Center for American Progress Action Fund via Flickr)
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Eager to score delegates and woo battleground voters, all of the Democratic presidential candidates are hosting rallies in Colorado ahead of Super Tuesday. Except one.

Joe Biden, the former vice president, is the only top contender not to hold a public event in Colorado ahead of the state’s presidential primary. He visited Denver for the second time Monday, but once again only attended a private fundraiser.

“I think that’s a really big political problem. It’s not like we are not voting — people have ballots in their home right now and Biden’s not doing anything,” said Steve Welchert, a former adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns in Colorado. “I find it gravely disappointing.”

An earlier version of this story appeared in The Unaffiliated, the political newsletter from The Colorado Sun. To get the latest political news first, subscribe here.

The campaign says the limited attention is not a sign Biden is ignoring Colorado, but the no-show strategy stands in contrast to his rivals, who have hosted or have planned multiple public events in the state. 

Later this week, three candidates — Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren — are visiting the Denver area, and Bernie Sanders rallied thousands downtown on Sunday

The attention comes with early voting well underway a week after ballots landed in mailboxes. Colorado election officials reported Tuesday that roughly 32,000 voters cast ballots so far in the Democratic primary and thousands more are still being processed.

State Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat and a prominent Biden supporter, attended the fundraiser Monday and urged the candidate to campaign more in Colorado. In an interview, Garcia said he’s confident Biden “is going to spend a lot of time here.”

“I think we all acknowledge the importance of spending more time in Colorado,” Garcia added. “But at the same time, it’s a national campaign. He’s got to be a lot of places. Right now, the focus is on Nevada.”

The Nevada caucus and South Carolina primary in the next two weeks will help determine Biden’s standing in Colorado, which votes March 3, along with 15 other states and territories.

MORE: Bernie Sanders sees Bloomberg as a threat in Colorado’s presidential primary — and a perfect foil

For now, the Biden campaign appears content to rely on his record as a known quantity who appeared twice on a statewide ballot in Colorado. The campaign is touting endorsements from the party establishment, including former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and former Denver Mayor Federico Peña, both of whom served as cabinet secretaries in Democratic administrations in Washington.

But the Biden effort to turn out supporters is modest in Colorado compared to other contenders. The campaign reports a handful of paid staff and a few organizing events, but Biden has not spent money on a major television advertising pitch or conducted large-scale mobilizing events to chase ballots like his rivals. 

The candidate putting the most energy into Colorado is Michael Bloomberg. The former New York mayor’s campaign held two events in Colorado in recent months, hired 50 paid staffers, spent $6.8 million on advertising and opened numerous offices.

MORE: Will Michael Bloomberg’s deep financial ties to Colorado translate into votes on Super Tuesday?

Vedant Patel, a Biden spokesman who works in Nevada, said Colorado is on the campaign’s radar and more activity in the state is expected soon. “I think it’s incredibly important to us, and it’s a state we plan to be competitive in,” he said.

Still, the fact Biden hasn’t held a public event here is “inexplicable, to be honest,” said Andy Boian, a political strategist and former Democratic National Committee member.

Colorado is ripe territory for a moderate candidate because of its highly educated and engaged voters, as well as the fact that those unaffiliated with a political party are eligible to cast ballots. But Boian said Biden “is not showing enough of himself and his capabilities for Colorado to take him seriously enough, and in the long run he will be hurt by it.”

MORE: Colorado’s 2020 presidential primary ballots are hitting the mail. Here’s what you need to know.

State Sen. Nancy Todd, an Aurora Democrat and a Biden supporter, said she is not worried. “I think his reputation precedes him,” she said in an interview. “I think what we’re seeing is a lot of rallies for people who want to stir up their base.”

Asked whether Biden can win Colorado, Todd demurred. “I don’t know who can win at this point. I’m not making any predictions,” she said. “I certainly would never have predicted who’s in the White House would have been there.”


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