President Barack Obama boomeranged back to Boulder on Thursday evening for his third visit to the University of Colorado since April, telling a crowd of 10,000 revved-up supporters in this battleground state that he represents the "middle-class agenda."
With the election just five days away, Obama told the capacity crowd at the Coors Events Center that he's still the candidate of change -- and implored them to help get out the vote.
"We've made real progress these past four years," Obama said during his impassioned, 37-minute speech. "But Colorado, we all know our work is not yet done. As long as there is a single American who wants a job and can't find one, our work is not done."
During an impromptu poll prior to the
In fact, supporters spontaneously chanted "chump change" when Obama said that Republican nominee Mitt Romney has been characterizing himself as the candidate for change.
When he discussed Romney's plans, the CU arena echoed with boos.
"Don't boo. Vote," Obama said, delivering a signature line.
Cindy Bauman, of Longmont, said Thursday's rally was the first time she has seen the president in person. She voted early for Obama, but still wanted to hear him speak.
"I liked the comments he said about not sending Americans back to the 1950s," said Bauman, referring to the critiques Obama aimed at Romney during his speech.
She said she had "high hopes" for an Obama victory next week in Colorado, considered a state with one of the tightest margins in the country between the two candidates.
CNN released a poll just a few hours before Obama took the stage showing a two-point lead for the president in
During his CU rally, Obama covered topics that were especially relevant to college students, including so-called Obamacare, which would allow young students to stay on their parents' insurance plans until they're 26.
Obama -- during an official White House visit last April -- addressed students in the Coors Events Center on the topic of higher-education affordability.
On Thursday, he reminded students of Romney's comments that they can simply borrow money from their parents to pay for college. And he highlighted the importance of investing in math and science teachers -- as CU-Boulder is a hub for training teachers in
"We understand that, in this country, people succeed when they have a chance at a great education and when they have a chance to learn new skills," Obama said.
'We'll finish what we started'
For Gary Hingorani, a research scientist, the president offered a sense of comfort when he talked about trying to make sure "young scientists" are given the support, both morally and financially, to succeed in their careers.
The 45-year-old Louisville resident also liked the softer tones of Obama's speech.
"What really hit home is when he said the (Democratic) party is inclusive and everyone is looking out for one another," Hingorani said. "We're all
Obama told the crowd that, as commander-in-chief, he'll pursue the United States' enemies with the strongest army the world has ever known. But with savings from the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the nation will be able to start paying down its debt.
Recurring themes in his speech were job creation and growing the middle class.
"If you vote for me, we'll win Colorado again," Obama said. "We'll win this election. We'll finish what we started. We'll keep moving forward."
Obama said he originally ran for president in 2008 because people's voices had been "shut out of our democracy for way too long."
He said that when he was elected, America was in the throes of two wars and
Now, he said, the American industry is back on top, manufacturing is growing at the fastest pace in 15 years and the country is the least dependent on foreign oil than it has been in two decades.
"The war in Iraq is over and the war in Afghanistan is coming to an end," he said. "And Osama Bin Laden is dead."
Obama said that he's made some decisions that weren't popular -- including bailing out the auto industry. He said only 10 percent of the country approved.
"You know I'm willing to make tough decisions, even when they're not politically convenient," Obama said.
At the opening of his speech, Obama referenced the devastation along the East Coast brought by Hurricane Sandy.
"When disaster strikes, we see America at its best," Obama told the crowd. "The petty differences that consumes us during normal times all melts away."
Obama brought up the wildfires that roared through Colorado this summer and the mass shooting at an Aurora movie theater.
"We're reminded there are no Democrats or Republicans during crises," Obama said. "Just fellow Americans."
Earlier, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall addressed the crowd with some Boulder-appropriate jokes.
Udall said Romney has taken more positions than a yoga instructor. He also said that Romney wants to take away funding from Planned Parenthood and is a threat to women's right to choose -- noting that June Cleaver from the 1950s television show "Leave it to Beaver" seems to be more progressive than Romney.
Carole Mandryk, who was carting off a blue "Forward" sign as she left the Coors Events Center, said she felt a genuine rapport with the president that she wasn't necessarily expecting from a man who already had given several campaign speeches on Thursday alone.
"I thought his speech wasn't too stump-speechy," the 58-year-old Boulder resident said. "I really felt like he was connecting with us."
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet also took to the podium, stressing the importance of voting in this battleground state and that Obama represents values of fairness, opportunity and equality.
"It could come down to Colorado," Bennet said. "It could come down to you. Every vote is going to matter."
'Want to be able to find a job'
As crowds started filtering in, the band The Head and The Heart performed for the Obama audience.
CU senior Tristan Cook, who is majoring in marketing, said he's already voted, but wants to be in the crowd to show support for Obama. Jobs, he said, are at the top of his mind.
"I want to be able to find a job when I graduate," he said. "I've paid a lot in tuition."
Laura Eddington, 19, said Obamacare is of the utmost importance to her. She said her 25-year-old brother, who works at an eating disorder recovery center, is still on her parents' insurance because he's new to the job market.
Austin Albelkis, 17, of Longmont, said he's disappointed he won't be able to vote in the election because his values align with Obama's when it comes to women's rights and the environment. The high school student stood in line for three hours so he could get up-close seats. He wore a shirt with Big Bird on it that says, "No hope for me if Romney wins."
Two out-of-towners sat together in the stands waiting for the main event to begin. Friends Danielle Ruymaker, of Oakland, Calif., and Judy Hoffman, of Jerusalem, met up in Boulder while Hoffman is in town visiting her mother.
Ruymaker said she is excited to be in a swing state for an Obama rally, rather than in California, where the state leans heavily and reliably toward the Democratic president.
Thursday's campus rally marked Obama's third visit to CU this year, following a policy address on student loan interest rates at the Coors Events Center in April and a campaign event on the Norlin Quad over Labor Day Weekend.
Prior to Obama's trips, Boulder had not been visited by a sitting U.S. president since 1954, when Dwight D. Eisenhower attended the dedication of a federal lab.
Both campaigns are trying to cram in as many events as they can before polls close Tuesday.
Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan appeared in Greeley on Thursday, while Vice President Joe Biden and Romney each have Denver-area events planned Saturday, with the GOP nominee set to rally his supporters at the 18,000-seat Comfort Dental Amphitheatre, aka Fiddler's Green.
And Obama late Thursday announced he'll be back in Colorado on Sunday for a 9 p.m. rally at the Community College of Aurora.
The Denver Post and the Associated Press contributed to this report.