RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. With the race for the White House in the final stretch, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are spending lots of time and money in the crucial battleground states - states where voters are likely to swing from one political party to another and where neither candidate nor party has overwhelming support. And these voters in any one of handful of swing states could tip the election. Over the next few weeks, we'll be checking in with political reporters in some of these states, like New Hampshire, Florida and North Carolina. We look west, though, this morning to start off our swing state conversation to Colorado. Mr. Obama won the state back in 2008, but polls suggest a tighter contest this election year. Judy Strogoff is the editor and publisher of The Colorado Statesman, which is a weekly nonpartisan political newspaper based in Denver. Welcome to the program, Judy.
JUDY STROGOFF: Good morning.
MARTIN: So, as we said, Colorado went for Obama in 2008. He was only the second Democratic presidential candidate in 40 years to win Colorado. So, what are the odds that he can do it again this year?
STROGOFF: This year, it looks like, in terms of polling, that Obama is a little bit ahead. But this is a state that can turn very quickly. The candidates recognize this, and it's still winnable for both candidates at this point.
MARTIN: And we know the economy has obviously been a leading issue in the campaign. How's the economy there faring?
STROGOFF: Well, the economy is probably doing a little bit better here than it is in other states. Our unemployment figures are getting better but they're still at 8.2 percent of unemployment. But this is something the Romney campaign has been really stressing during the multitude of visits here in Colorado, that the economy is hurting not just the total electorate but especially women. That's been a main tenet of his campaign. And, of course, the Obama people point out that there's been more jobs nationally created under his administration. And they counter almost every bit of information and statistics put up by Republicans.
MARTIN: When Coloradans go to the polls this November, they will also vote on a ballot measure that's looking to legalize and regulate marijuana just like alcohol.
STROGOFF: That's correct. And this is nothing really new to the state. Couple of years ago we passed a medical marijuana law. But interestingly, it seems to be something that the candidates are aware of, especially the libertarian, Gary Johnson, whose campaign is - make no bones about it - they're after what they call the cannabis vote. And they feel confident that they can make a dent in Romney's numbers.
MARTIN: So, not only is Colorado a swing state but Colorado is hosting the first presidential debate of the season at the University of Denver. What do Coloradans in particular want to hear out of this first exchange, do you think?
STROGOFF: Well, there's a lot of interest in it. And I think people are just waiting to see how the candidates are going to address the issue of the economy, women's votes, Latino votes. We have a large Latino population here. And both candidates have been campaigning for that vote. This is a very independent electorate. We've elected Republicans and Democrats at the same time. We have split governance here in the state. And it's still a state that could go either way, even though the incumbent is slightly leading at this point.
MARTIN: Judy Strogoff is the editor and publisher of the Colorado Statesman, which is a weekly nonpartisan political newspaper based in Denver. She spoke with us from NPR member station KUNC. Judy, thanks so much for talking with us.
STROGOFF: My pleasure.
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