Craig The 2008 presidential election clambers closer and closer, and the campaign for Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is the first to hire any Colorado campaign staff.
To make sure real Colorado interests are represented in the caucus, Colorado native Ray Rivera has been named state campaign director, national campaign manager David Plouffe said.
Previously, Rivera worked as Obama's northeast director, leading efforts in Washington, D.C. and New York City among other places.
Obama wants to begin campaigning in Colorado ahead of some of the other states with early primaries and caucuses because of the large number of independent voters here, Plouffe said.
Rivera's office is in Denver, but workers there are going full steam ahead to promote Obama in every corner of the state in preparation for the Feb. 5 caucus, Plouffe said.
"Our goal is to build a strong state-wide, precinct-based caucus," he added said. "Particularly in a state like Colorado with such a strong independent streak, where the bulk of voters are unaffiliated with either party, we feel we need to contact people at that (local) level."
The Obama campaign does not want to focus on the Front Range, but wants to build county and precinct offices across Colorado.
The Denver office already has organized an event for anyone interested in learning more about or shaping the campaign from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Manual High School, 1700 E. 28th St.
There will be programs to organize volunteers and ones to teach volunteers how to organize in their local communities. A Democratic Party official also will be there to speak, Rivera said.
Rivera expects hundreds to attend, and has heard from representatives in more than 23 counties who will bring volunteers, he said.
Plouffe did not want to understate Obama's mission in the western part of the United States.
"We think Colorado holds a real import for us," he said. "There are a lot of unaffiliated voters here, and I believe Barack voters think Barack can actually bring different sides together."
When asked how Obama would handle a situation where he had to balance local autonomy against state or federal direction - such as oil and gas drilling in the Vermillion Basin - Plouffe remained steadfast in his endorsement of Obama's diplomacy.
"Obama is someone who takes a measured approach to all situations and remains open to both sides," Plouffe said. "We've had in Washington for far too long a situation where partisan politics comes first and common sense comes second."
Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or firstname.lastname@example.org