Photos: Barack Obama's Aurora rally makes final push for "real change"

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At the end of a busy day that included stops in four different states, Barack Obama touched down in Colorado late last night for his final pre-election rally in this key swing state, where he pushed the message of "real change" -- just one day after Mitt Romney used the very same phrase in his last Colorado rally. Obama took the stage a little before 11 p.m. in Aurora, kicking off his fourteenth political event in the state this year on a somber note.

"For the past several days, all of us have been focused on not just elections, but we've been focused on what's been happening on the East Coast," Obama said, speaking at the Community College of Aurora to an estimated crowd of 20,000, who waited for hours outside as temperatures dropped. "One of the worst storms of our lifetimes. As a nation, we mourn those who were lost."

Obama was speaking just miles from the location of the Aurora theater shooting, which brought the president to Colorado this summer after a gunman killed twelve and injured dozens more. It was the president's second visit to the state due to tragedy. A month earlier, he visited in the wake of destructive wildfires.

"Unfortunately, the people of this town understand what it means to grieve better than most, because the wounds of that terrible shooting are still fresh in people's minds," Obama continued. "And just as you've begun to heal as a community, we're gonna help our friends on the East Coast heal as well. We're gonna walk with the people whose lives have been affected -- those who lost loved ones. We're gonna walk with them every step of the way on the hard road ahead, because that's what we do as Americans. We help our neighbors and friends rebuild.... No matter how tough times are, we will thrive, because we're all in this together."

He quickly transitioned into the latest incarnation of the stump speech he has been delivering across the country, returning frequently to a message of "real change." Note that Romney spoke in front of a giant sign that read "REAL CHANGE ON DAY ONE" in his Colorado rally, which drew a crowd of 17,000 at the Comfort Dental Amphitheatre.

Obama, repeating a refrain that he delivered a few days earlier in Boulder, said he is the candidate that voters can trust. "I know what real change looks like, because I fought for it, because I delivered it, because you worked with me and lifted me up.... You know what real change looks like. I've got the scars to prove it. I've got the gray hair to show."

"And it looks good, baby!" a woman shouted loudly, over the crowd's cheers.

"I appreciate that," the president said back in one of several off-script reactions to the crowd last night.

"Back in 2008, we talked about change. I wasn't just talking about changing presidents. I wasn't just talking about changing parties. I was talking about change in how we run our politics. I ran because the voices of the American people, your voices, had been shut out of our democracy for way too long," he said.

"You know the status quo in Washington is fierce, and it has fought us every step of the way," he continued, adding, "Their bet is on cynicism. But Colorado, my bet is on you."

Continue for more from the president's final Colorado rally and more photos. On Saturday, Romney frequently returned to a theme of "bipartisanship," which also underscored some of Obama's peech last night. But while Obama spoke of working with both political parties, the president did not offer the same kind of grand, sweeping promise of bipartisanship that Romney presented one night earlier. And Obama did not shy away from conflicts he has faced with the Republican Party, either. Instead, he embraced them as signs of his strong moral compass and his unwillingness to compromise his values -- all the while reiterating that he, too, wants to reach across the aisle.

"The fact is, what we're describing is not partisan. It doesn't have to be. We're not Democrats or Republicans first. We're Americans first," he said. "I will work with anybody of any party to move this country forward. If you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you'll vote for leaders who feel the same way...whether they're Democrats, Republicans, independents -- people who put their constituencies first."

But, he added, "sometimes there's gonna be conflict. Sometimes bringing about change is gonna butt up against the status quo. And we've got to be willing to fight for what we believe in and what we care about and what's built this country. If the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals that will take students off of financial aid or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood or let insurance companies discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions...I'm not willing to pay that price. That's not bipartisanship. That's not real change. That's surrender...and I'm not ready to give up."

Supporter James Dixon, 55, said he believes the president needs to continue to remind voters that he is the candidate who actually cares about average Americans during the final stretch before the election.

"What Barack is saying is, you are you brother's keeper, and that's his message," said Dixon, an artist who lives in Aurora. "He's not talking about the 47 percent. He's not using class warfare to divide this country."

He aded that Obama will continue to accomplish great things -- whether he wins or not.

"I believe Barack has learned that maybe he can do more good outside of the beltway, when he's not entrenched in politics," he added. "On the outside, he can really make a difference. People aren't really saying that, but that gives me a little hope."

Continue for more photos from the rally. Continue for more photos from the rally.

More from our Politics archive: "Joe Biden in Arvada: Mitt Romney's a liar, doesn't believe in average Americans"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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