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Mitt Romney plans CO caucus visit, Ron Paul likely, but what about Newt?

Earlier this month, Colorado Republican Party chairman Ryan Call argued that this year's Colorado Republican Caucus will mean more than ever, in part because the date was moved up to February 7. When Mitt Romney looked poised to sweep Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, this claim looked suspect, but now it seems prescient. Indeed, Call thinks Colorado could see visits from most if not all of the four current candidates.

This prediction is based on more than speculation.

"We have information that Mitt Romney will be in the state on February 6 and 7," Call says; no itinerary has been released thus far. "And we've heard indirectly that Rick Santorum and Ron Paul intend to come to Colorado and compete for caucus votes."

What about Newt Gingrich, who rolled up some serious momentum by way of his sizable victory in South Carolina (shortly after Santorum was belatedly declared the kinda winner in Iowa)? "We haven't heard anything from the Gingrich camp yet," Call says, "but it's still early. Most of these campaigns are planning three or four days ahead at best, as dynamic as this race has become."

That's putting it mildly. At this point, Gingrich and Romney are the clear leaders, but the results in Florida and Nevada, the next two states to vote, are unlikely to finish off either. Moreover, Call says, "I don't see any reason why Rick Santorum or Ron Paul should drop out after Florida. All four candidates have differences and style and substance, strengths and weaknesses. But because of the opportunity to move ahead in the month of February through Super Tuesday," a multi-state vote in March, "I don't see a motivation for any of the candidates to drop out before Colorado votes."

The odds of all four remaining in the fight have improved. As recently as last week, "there were a lot of folks who were suggesting that Colorado's role in terms of caucuses would simply be to confirm the frontrunner," Call acknowledges. "But now, there's an opportunity to have Colorado's voice heard in a way that could change the direction of the race -- and that's a good thing. Many of the issues impacting Colorado and the West, including jobs, economic growth, technology, land use, the overreaching federal government regulations, and energy development and policy are things the presidential candidates haven't talked much about. With Nevada's caucuses, and Colorado's shortly behind, it's a great opportunity to address them. And I think the candidate who does well in Colorado and the West is likely to do well nationwide."

In Call's view, this prospect validates the decision to move up the Colorado caucuses. "I think Colorado Republicans exercised a great degree of foresight," he says. "They probably couldn't have predicted the race would be quite as fluid as it's been. But I've always felt Colorado's voice should be heard in terms of picking our eventual nominee. And given Colorado's status as a swing state, it's even more important this year."

While the caucuses are still two weeks away, Call is clearly ready from a rhetorical standpoint, criticizing Barack Obama's State of the Union address in advance. He sees tonight's talk as a de facto campaign speech "that will play on the stark emotions of envy rather than the unity he campaigned on. He can't run on his record by pointing at the great things he's accomplished, even with a completely compliant Congress. He got everything he wanted, and the result of his policies has been an explosion of federal debt, weakness in foreign policy and weakening in terms of the job market and the ability of businesses to compete."

According to Call, "Any of our candidates in the mix provide a great contrast between the President's failed record and what the future of America holds." And it's looking more likely that a number of them will make this argument to Coloradans face to face.

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