DENVER — With their national party conventions in the rearview mirror, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are showering attention on the Western battleground state of Colorado.
Despite some recent public polls showing Clinton with a wide lead over Trump, both camps are warning: Don’t listen to the polls because the state is very much still in play.
For proof of how fierce the competition is likely to get, look no further than their recent schedules.
Trump has held two campaign rallies in Colorado in less than a week, and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, held two more on Wednesday.
Clinton held a dueling rally nearby on Wednesday afternoon, just miles from where Pence appeared.
In Denver, Clinton zeroed in on the economy, criticizing Trump for making his products overseas and touting her jobs plan.
“We think we can put into effect a jobs program that will create millions of new jobs with rising incomes,” Clinton said at her Commerce City rally.
Earlier in the day, Clinton toured the Knotty Tie company’s headquarters to highlight a small business that makes its products in the United States.
The campaign will also release a new battleground-state TV ad showing Trump admitting in an interview with David Letterman that his products were made in countries such as Bangladesh and China.
“If he wants to make America great again, he should start by making things in America - and there’s a lot he could learn by coming here,” Clinton said at the tie company.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the state have been working to cast Trump as unfit, offensive to women, minorities and, now, military families.
Trump became embroiled in controversy in the past week for criticizing the family of Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in 2004 while serving in Iraq and was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star Medal and a Purple Heart.
“In a state where we have such a large military presence, Donald Trump to be disrespecting Gold Star families is putting Republicans in a very tough spot,” said Rick Palacio, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party.
Democrats aren’t alone. The controversy has shaken Republicans in Colorado and across the country. They worry that Trump’s comments may have finally crossed a critical line.
“I keep waiting for Donald Trump to exercise the discipline and professionalism that I know he’s capable of, but I’m not seeing it,” said Ryan Call, former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party. “I’m hopeful that Trump really does apologize for some things for something that has been — I believe — crossing the line.”
“He’s made some major missteps and unless he reverses his positioning, really does walk back some of those comments and remarks, that’s something that will continue to really hurt him among veterans and active-duty military that call Colorado home,” Call added.
Democrats have long hoped that they could make the state more firmly blue. Its relatively large Hispanic population, numerous college campuses and fast-growing urban centers seem to work in their favor.
But the state still quietly holds onto its Wild West roots, especially when it comes to politics. Statewide and local races have swung from one party to the other in recent elections.
“Colorado has its own independent way of being, and it is still very much still up for grabs,” said former senator Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), who was also President Obama’s first interior secretary.
Here, Clinton faces the same challenge she may face elsewhere: uncertainty. Republicans say that Trump could change the electorate in unpredictable ways.
Call said he sees evidence that Trump is attracting a new contingent of voters, some of whom have never participated in presidential politics before.
“I was watching people register to vote for the first time,” said Call, who attended Trump’s rally Sunday in Colorado Springs. “It was different from any Republican rally or function I had ever attended.
“A lot of them weren’t even Republican,” he added.
Trump has been sharply criticized for his proposal to build a wall across the country’s border with Mexico. But the state’s Hispanic population is diverse, Call said. It consists of both new immigrants as well as more conservative-leaning Hispanic Americans who have called Colorado home for generations, Call said.
Trump has also run an unconventional campaign here — just as he has in the rest of the country.
Republicans and Democrats say there is very little evidence of his campaign deploying a robust ground game — though the national Republican Party and state party are more organized on the ground — and there is no radio or television advertising to speak of.
Instead, the big draw has been Trump himself. His rallies attract thousands, and his comments make a thousand headlines.
The risk Democrats say they face is that he will ultimately unify the Republican base and draw enough unconventional or disillusioned voters to make a difference in the general election.
“You have that base: Many of them may not see Trump as their favorite candidate, but they have who they have,” Salazar said. “Then he goes after independents and disillusioned Democrats and tries to build from there.”