GOLDEN, Colo. — Jennifer Ferrando's voice broke and her eyes welled up Thursday.
“The economy is the big issue, the debt, the deficit,” said the 39-year-old from Conifer before tearing up. “I have a little boy. I don't think his opportunities are as good as his parent's opportunities were. I don't think we can spend our way out of this.”
Ferrando was among about 2,000 Coloradans who showed up for a campaign appearance by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. It was a key — and long awaited — stop in suburban Denver, where attracting independent voters in this swing state could be a key to victory in the Nov. 6 presidential race.
While he wasn’t everyone’s first choice, Romney is the candidate Ferrando and others said they’ll vote for.
“Early on I was really hopeful for Rick Santorum,” Ferrando said. “I'm a conservative independent.”
With a capacity of only about 1,200 inside the Jefferson County Fairground arena, several hundred supporters were stranded outside in 80-degree temperatures.
But they got the first glimpse of the candidate when Romney stepped atop a picnic table, sharing a few words about helping the middle class by improving the economy before heading inside for the keynote talk.
Debbie Malvin, 58, of Westminster, was thrilled with her position standing front and center. Also an independent voter, she originally preferred Santorum or Herman Cain, but she’s now supporting Romney.
“I’m definitely impressed by him,” she said.
Like others, Malvin said the economy is her top concern.
“We own properties and the values of the properties — guess it wasn’t the best place to put your money,” she said, adding that President Obama, a Democrat, is “way too far, too liberal for me.”
Frank DeFilippo, a 71-year-old retired statehouse lobbyist who originally backed Cain, said he’s impressed by Romney’s stance on foreign policy and the economy.
“I think the guy has turned out to be very good,” he said of Romney.
There were detractors, however.
Ron Paul signs covered one SUV at the entrance to the parking lot. Christine Tucker, 52, of Aurora, carried a similar sign, greeting those arriving at the rally.
“Ron Paul has the majority of the [convention] delegates in the state of Colorado,” she said, adding that she won't be voting for Romney. ”Absolutely not, and I have always voted Republican.”
Anna Giovinetto and her co-workers stood next to a fence with signs supporting renewal of the wind power tax credit. She’s vice president of corporate affairs for Renewable Energy Systems Americas Inc., a company based in Broomfield that does construction in the field of wind and solar energy.
“We’re a little concerned about the statement his campaign made on Monday,” said Giovinetto, 43, noting the candidate’s opposition to extending the tax credit.
Her company employs 250 people in the United States, and she said they’re concerned about losing jobs if the credit isn’t renewed. Several Republicans in Colorado and elsewhere are parting ways with Romney on the tax credits because wind power employs so many people in their states.
But for Ferrando and others at Thursday's rally the November choice is clear.
“I’m going to vote for Mitt.”
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T-shirts seen at Thursday’s Mitt Romney rally in Golden:
“I'll keep my guns, money and freedom. You keep your change.”
“Breitbart is here”
“We’ve seen enough change. Let’s fix it.”
“I survived Obama’s war on America.”
“OMG. Obama must go.”
Sandra Fish teaches journalism at the University of Colorado and has reported on politics in Iowa, Florida and Colorado. Follow her on Twitter at @fishnette