BOULDER, Colo. - Where does a GOP presidential candidate go after banking millions at fundraisers in the Hamptons?
Aspen, of course.
And Mitt Romney can even toss in some swing-state public events while he's in our charred-but-still-lovely state. That's unlike his New York stops on Sunday night, in a state where the November odds are stacked against him.
The Aspen Daily News carried a detailed report last month about Monday night's $50,000-a-plate dinner, $2,500-per-person reception, $10,000-plus photo ops and more.
The Daily News noted that the hosts, Susan Crown and William Kunkler, are on the opposite side of Crown's brother Jim Crown, one of President Barack Obama's campaign bundlers. Jim Crown also hosted First Lady Michelle Obama and the Obama daughters on a ski vacation
in Aspen earlier this year. The Crown family owns Aspen Skiing Co.
Romney will spend the night in Aspen (more mountains, fewer yachts than the Hamptons or New Hampshire), then hold a rally in Grand Junction on Tuesday morning. Mesa County is a traditionally GOP county, with almost 49 percent of active voters registered Republicans as of June, and fewer Democrats than unaffiliated voters.
The Denver Post reported that the presumptive GOP nominee might add a second stop, and some are wondering if he'd fly into Colorado Springs, home to the state's worst wildfire ever, where more than 340 homes burned last month in the Waldo Canyon Fire. Obama visited the area the June 29, stirring up some criticism in the heavily Republican city.
Unlike Obama in his official visit to the relatively hostile Springs, Romney has yet to make public visits in Democratic strongholds such as Denver or Boulder in this campaign cycle.
But Romney will need Colorado's independent suburban Denver cities such as Aurora, Golden, Lakewood and Littleton, as well as Fort Collins to the north, if the GOP hopes to win the state's nine electoral votes.
Political surveys and the Post’s election map indicate Colorado is a tossup in the presidential race.
A Rasmussen survey of 500 Colorado likely voters in early June showed Romney and Obama tied at 45 percent, with a 4.5 percent margin of error.
It’s a state that Obama won with almost 54 percent of the vote in 2008. It was only the second Democratic presidential win in Colorado since 1980 - Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992, but he narrowly lost the state to Bob Dole in 1996.
Still, Romney may need to warm up his base in the state after losing the February caucuses here to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. Even with Santorum out of the race, only 13 of the state’s 33 delegates to the Republican National Convention are pledged to the presumptive nominee. Santorum and Ron Paul supporters joined forces at the April state assembly to elect slates of unpledged delegates.
But Colorado’s 30 percent of unaffiliated voters likely hold the key to the election for either candidate. (Another 32 percent are registered Democrats, while 37 percent are registered Republicans as of June.)
In Aspen, a public stop wouldn't be worth it for Romney; only 20 percent of Pitkin County's 8,415 active voters are Republicans. But those Republicans — many second-home owners registered to vote back in their home states — can fill his campaign coffers.
And all politicians should heed the Aspen Daily News motto, my favorite ever: "If You Don't Want it Printed, Don't Let it Happen."
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