Colorado Democrats insist DC unpopular, not Obama

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(AP) — A Democrat seeking a congressional seat in one of Colorado's most conservative districts might be expected to find other plans when President Barack Obama visits.

But when the president pitched his jobs plan at a Denver high school last week, Brandon Shaffer of Longmont talked up his excitement about the event, even tweeting jokes about what shoes his children would wear.

Run from a president with lackluster approval ratings? Hardly. Like other Democrats in Colorado, Shaffer argued it's Washington, not Obama, that has voters disgruntled.

"The bigger issue is just people being angry at Washington, D.C.," Shaffer said.

Shaffer is challenging Republican Rep. Cory Gardner in a sprawling eastern Colorado district that stretches from the Wyoming state line to the Oklahoma border in far southeast Colorado.

The district is dominated by Republicans. Obama didn't win there in 2008, though he did become the first Democrat since Bill Clinton to carry Colorado.

Shaffer and other Colorado Democrats are watching Obama's sinking approval ratings with some concern — but they're not necessarily disavowing his policies. Maybe that's because the divided Congress is even less popular.

In a national Associated Press-GFK poll taken in August, 46 percent approved of how Obama is doing his job, down from 52 percent in June. It also showed congressional approval at a new low, 12 percent, with disapproval at 87 percent, a new high.

A slight majority of those surveyed, 53 percent, said they would like to see someone else win their congressional district.

"People just want Congress and Washington to work together on fixing the economy, and less fighting. They don't care what party has the ideas," said Democrat Sal Pace, who is challenging Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in a district that includes most of southern and western Colorado.

Pace wasn't prepared to say whether Obama can hang on to Colorado next year. And whether or not Obama carries his district, he said, "I'm running against the establishment candidate."

In the Denver suburbs, Democrat Joe Miklosi applauded the president's jobs plan — even though Miklosi is challenging a Republican incumbent in a district that overwhelmingly favors the GOP.

That district currently held by Republican Rep. Mike Coffman may change dramatically because of congressional redistricting, but even if it remains mostly Republican, Miklosi said many in the GOP don't like what they see between Obama and congressional Republicans.

"Unfortunately there are some tea party members of Congress that are more worried about plotting the president's defeat than addressing the jobs situation," said Miklosi, a state lawmaker.

Colorado Republicans insist that Obama's weak approval ratings — combined with the assumption that he'll be in Colorado frequently next year during the campaign — will prove a liability for Democrats here.

Before Obama's visit, state GOP chair Ryan Call told reporters the state has cooled to the president, especially his handling of the economy. Colorado's unemployment rate is 8.5 percent, slightly higher than when Obama chose Denver to sign his stimulus package into law in 2009.

"Colorado continues to struggle," Call said. "By any economic measure, our state is worse off after three years under Obama."

Some Democrats who have publicly questioned Obama's prospects for re-election say his jobs proposal could improve his chances. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has told national political reporters that Obama could face an uphill battle in Colorado, said just before Obama's visit that the president is on the right course.

"He has to stay on the topic" of jobs, said Hickenlooper, who thinks Obama is being "unfairly blamed" for the lingering downturn. "What he needs to do is what he's doing right now."

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