If you're a woman, you would be totally friggin' insane to vote for Mitt Romney.
That was the theme of most speeches at the official launch of Obama-campaign-sponsored Women Vote 2012 Summit Tour, which took place in Wheat Ridge yesterday afternoon with celebrity support from actress Eva Longoria.
"If you're a woman, there's no way you can vote Republican!" Longoria, who is a national Obama campaign co-chair, told a crowd of more than 400 women packed inside the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center yesterday.
"We have a big battle ahead of us.... The Republicans are raising a lot of money from a lot of big companies, and they're gonna drown out your voice. So we have to be louder. We have to be tougher. We have to work harder because of that," Longoria said. "As women, we've always fought uphill battles -- this is nothing new to us."
While Longoria's speech prompted the most smartphone shots from the audience of mostly women, the former Desperate Housewives star was not the only high-profile figure to stop in Colorado for the reelection campaign. Valerie Jarrett, a top adviser to Obama, also stepped forward to highlight the president's record on women's issues.
The location of the event -- the first of the women's summits that Obama's team is hosting around the country -- underscores the importance of Colorado as a key swing state in the upcoming presidential election. (Obama's campaign has already been pouring money into local TV ads in the Denver metro area).
"Colorado is used to big elections. These are not foreign to you," said Kate Chapek, the campaign's national women's vote director. "This election is, if not as historical, more historical than in 2008, because of what is at stake in this election...particularly for women."
She added, "Because women are a majority, we decide elections.... The women in Colorado elected the president of the United States.... In 2012, we're counting on the women of Colorado to turn out to talk to women like you to turn out again and reelect the president."
Many of the speeches focused on what a Romney win would mean for women. This point was emphasized by one Obama volunteer, who said she was formerly a Republican, but changed her mind this time in part because of threatened cuts to Planned Parenthood.
Longoria -- who has been a vocal supporter for Obama for both women voters and Latino voters -- started her speech by saying that her family members were Republicans but have come around to support the president. "My mom fell in love with Obama, too. They were Republicans for most of their lives. We're from Texas. And it was just the automatic -- it didn't matter who the candidate was. Of course, she thinks he's Latino. She thinks it's Obamá," she joked.
"President Obama, because of how he was raised, because of how he lives his life now -- surrounded by women, listening to women -- he knows that women are the glue to our families and our communities," she went on. "If you need proof of that, ask your husband where the scissors are in the house. He doesn't know"
In addition to access to higher education and economic equality, Longoria emphasized Obama's progress in health care reform, which speakers throughout the event discussed, celebrating the Supreme Court's decision last week to uphold key aspects of the president's health care plan -- an important ruling as Obama faces reelection.
Longoria said that last week she watched the Supreme Court decision "like it was a soap opera unfolding and this was the season finale," adding, "I was just watching Mitt Romney stand there saying 'I would repeal it on my first day'...and it just angers me. I think it angers a lot of women."
Page down to see more photos and read more from other speakers at the event. Earlier in the event, Representative Diana DeGette prompted women throughout the audience to hiss as she discussed Mitt Romney's record on women -- including his opposition to Planned Parenthood, his wavering on a piece of legislation called the Violence Against Women Act, and what she characterized as a weak stance on women's right to take legal action against discrimination.
"You know, I thought we were in the 21st century, and frankly these debates that all of us thought were settled decades ago.... I don't think these are legitimate issues. It is 2012 and we need to move forward in this country," DeGette said, prompting cheers from the audience.
When we wrote about Longoria's visit to Colorado last week, Romney's team sent us a statement criticizing Obama's record with women, saying the president's "economic policies of overspending and increasing debt are putting a financial burden on the next generation," and asserting that in Colorado, "98,000 women are out of work and unemployment has increased since President Obama took office."
In fact, a small handful of female Romney supporters greeted vehicles arriving to the event yesterday, cheering for the Republican candidate as cars entered and holding signs pointing to unemployment rates under the president.
But that small crowd didn't impact the prevailing anti-Romney theme inside the recreation center, which is something attendees seemed to focus on as well.
Wendy Hunter, who lives in Arvada and runs a small business, told Westword that there hasn't been so much energy around a race since Kennedy.
"There's something to fight for, like in the '60s when women's rights were just beginning," said Hunter, 56. "There's a movement to take away those rights now."
Jarrett tried to humanize Obama in her speech, saying, "I have known the president and the first lady now for 21 years.... The qualities I admire in him so much are his character, his integrity, his moral compass...his ability to listen most closely to those with whom he disagrees...and let's face it, he can carry a pretty great tune."
After the event, Longoria chatted briefly with reporters, discussing why she has decided to travel around the country for Obama, especially in swing states.
"The campaign understands that between the Latino vote and the women's vote, it'll make or break this election," she said, adding, "Colorado has always been a highly educated state about the issues and that's what makes it so important, because people understand the issues.... I love coming here, because you're not preaching to the choir."
Westword asked Longoria if she was confident that Latino voters in Colorado would come out for Obama. After all, both the Colorado Democrats and state Republicans have been focusing on appealing to Hispanic voters
"It's pretty obvious -- Mitt Romney stands on the wrong side of every issue pertaining to Latinos, whether it's higher education or health care or taxes or immigration. I think it's pretty clear who Latinos are going to vote for," Longoria responded. "What we have to worry about in the Latino community is voter apathy. If they were to come out and vote, they would absolutely vote for Obama. So we just need to make sure they do come out."
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