It is fitting that University of Denver was chosen to host the first presidential debate since Colorado was recognized as an important swing state this year.
Jefferson County voters appeared to be almost equally split between Republican and Democratic parties in polls a few weeks ago, and Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Don Ytterberg said Thursday night's debate between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney could play a key role in determining how people will vote.
“The thing that was so pleasing about some of the discussion Gov. Romney laid out was the importance for the states to be independent,” Ytterberg said. “The president's vision to centralize government was a stark contrast.”
Ytterberg was one of an estimated 1,200 debate attendees Oct. 3 at Magness Arena.
“I think it was really very special to be among the small group that got to go,” he said. “It was a pretty intimate group.”
Ytterberg said the most prominent issue was the economy, a topic essential to Jefferson County voters. He said the unemployment rate in the county has remained around 7.3 percent — which is below the national average — but residents are concerned about job growth.
“The discussion on jobs and the economy was particularly interesting and relevant to Jeffco,” he said.
The economy and job creation were the focus of the first half of the debate, with Obama addressing the poor economic situation he inherited upon election. He said this economic recession is the worst since the Great Depression and commended the American people for their continued determination.
According to Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairman Chris Kennedy, Obama's optimism at the beginning of his presidency in 2008 was one of his mistakes.
“We all knew there wouldn't be a quick recovery,” Kennedy said.
He said the rate of economic change in relation to the size of the current economic condition shows an average recovery rate, but believed Obama supporters had expected to see a faster turnaround.
Kennedy said he felt Obama missed a few opportunities in the debate to push Romney into addressing issues of concern to the Democrat Party, the main one being Romney's pro-voucher stance on Medicare and schools.
“Neither of them addressed the key problem with a voucher system,” Kennedy said. “Costs go up, and the poor can't afford to keep up.”
Kennedy said he expects to see Romney move up in the polls in the next couple of weeks because research has shown the challenging candidate's numbers usually improve after a debate, but moving forward, he believes if Obama is to be successful, he needs to get to the core of who will benefit under the tax cuts and exemptions Romney has proposed.
“You can't have it both ways,” Kennedy said.