Photos: Hate, love, chaos and spin before and after Denver debate 2012

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In the hours before Obama and Romney arrived to the University of Denver's Magness Arena, the crowds outside the perimeter of campus swelled dramatically. By 5 p.m., University Boulevard became an actual battleground, with Obama supporters on one side of the street shouting to Romney supporters on the other side. It was a clear and chaotic illustration of the passionately -- and very evenly -- divided voters that have given Colorado its status as one of the most important swing states in the country.

As temperatures dropped and the wind picked up -- sending a diverse array of Obama and Romney signs and posters flying in the air -- both sides tried to outdo each other with their chants.

"Obama! Obama! Obama!" shouted the president's supporters, wearing green T-shirts and holding giant "Forward" signs as they crowded on one side of South University Boulevard near Buchtel Boulevard. On the other side, Romney fans with "Fire Obama" signs shouted back, "Go Mitt, go! Go Mitt, go!"

"People are very polarized here with very opposing views," said J.J. Hendricks, 31, who had his son Daniel, three, on his shoulders.

Hendricks, standing on the Romney side, said he will probably vote for him, but came mostly just for the excitement of the event.

"Trains! Trains! Trains!" his son shouted, looking toward the light rail in the distance, seemingly oblivious to the partisan chanting. "Snow plows!" he added.

"He just wanted to see the fire trucks and police officers," his father said. "We just wanted to show him all the hoopla."

He added, "It's the most firetrucks he's seen in any one place.... We can't get all that close to the president or Romney but seeing the people who are here [is exciting]."

The crowd roared as the motorcades of the president and Romney allegedly went past, during which time Denver Police Department officers on side shouted that onlookers stick to the sidewalk.

Continue for more on the pre-debate madness.

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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin