Pokemon Go is just one sliver in the hard-fought ground war for Colorado's nine electoral votes
The state shows signs of leaning Democratic, with some recent state polls giving Clinton a double-digit lead
Pokemon Go and US presidential politics?
For Parker Earnheart, the augmented reality game sweeping the US is a natural pathway to register more voters in the battleground state of Colorado.
“It’s made it a lot easier for us to go up to people and really start a conversation with them, rather than waving a clipboard at them, said Earnheart, a 23-year-old bespectacled campaign staffer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Earnheart walked up to a corner in downtown Colorado Springs with the green grid glowing on his smartphone. A dozen people, phones tilted in augmented game mode, appear to be playing Pokemon Go.
“Are you all playing Pokemon?” Earnheart asked a woman sitting on a bench. The conversation immediately moves from capturing Ponyta to whether she had updated her voter registration form.
Earnheart handed her his clipboard, a form and pen. In the last few weeks, Clinton workers in Colorado Springs estimate they’ve registered approximately 200 Pokemon Go players to vote.
Pokemon Go is just one sliver in the hard-fought ground war for Colorado’s nine electoral votes. The state, with more than one-third of its voters registered independents, twice voted for George W. Bush but then flipped blue for Barack Obama.
This year, it shows signs of leaning Democratic, with some recent state polls giving Clinton a double-digit lead. The most recent data from the Colorado secretary of state’s office shows that in the last four years, Democrats have registered more voters than Republicans, and the ranks of Latino voters as a share of the electorate continue to grow, from 14% in 2012 to 15.3% in 2016.
The Clinton campaign confirmed to CNN that the campaign and its supporters, which have spent $5.6 million on television advertisements, have pulled back the ads, acknowledging Donald Trump is not on the state’s airwaves, though his supporters have spent $232,000 in television ads.
But don’t read too much into the Democrats’ advertisement pullback, the campaign says.
“We’re not going to take anything for granted,” said Emmy Ruiz, Colorado state director for the Clinton campaign. “For us, the ground game is critical to our overall strategy of getting to the White House.”
Ruiz said the campaign has been in Colorado, organizing for a year. This week, it opened up its 14th campaign office. Ruiz said she won’t specify the exact number of paid staffers in the state, but estimates its into the hundreds. She also anticipates the campaign will triple in size by early October.
The state’s independent streak is the wild card, she acknowledged.
“We’re making sure in our approach we’re reaching out to unaffiliated voters and asking them to be a part of this campaign and to listen to them on the issues important to them and why Hillary Clinton can be that champion,” Ruiz said.
Registered “unaffiliated” voter Amanda Wimmer-Flint said she’s leaning toward voting for Clinton but only because she dislikes Trump. Wimmer-Flint came to hear Clinton speak at a Wednesday rally in Commerce City to see if the candidate will give her something to vote for.
“I’m really just hoping she says things I totally agree with,” she said. “I just don’t agree with a lot of what Trump is doing. His morals, his values, the way he expresses everything.”
Trump’s Colorado campaign chairman, Robert Blaha, believes the state remains in play for Republicans and said Clinton’s traditional gameplan was “the same old, tired, worn-out paradigm we’ve seen for years and years and years.”
Blaha walked CNN through the El Paso County Republican office, where the Trump campaign is subleasing space instead of opening up new, expensive offices. Pointing to the state district maps tacked on the walls, Blaha says the Trump campaign is walking neighborhoods and calling supporters.
Unlike the Clinton campaign, the Trump campaign only has a handful of paid staffers, relying instead on the energy of volunteers. Blaha said the campaign is coordinating with an existing network of national, state and local GOP staffers. The Republican National Committee said it has approximately 30 paid staffers in Colorado, coordinating with the Trump campaign and down-ballot candidates.
Blaha, who officially joined the campaign as a volunteer in mid-July, says the Colorado Trump campaign is being run more like a business than an old-school political operation. “It’s a different era. It’s a different time. This race is going to be about a whole lot more than just who has got the most money.”
Trump rallies, said Blaha, are drawing people the state GOP has never seen before. It’s why that when asked if he’s worried about Trump lagging behind Clinton in state polls, he brushes off those numbers.
“It transcends party. Trump brings a brand new different level of energy, a brand new level of people. People who’ve never been involved in politics until now,” he said.
The independents and newly invigorated voters, Blaha said, will determine who wins Colorado.
Marc Sabin is one of those independent voters, crossing party lines to vote for local Democrats and disgruntled by the national GOP. Stressing that he’s a conservative but not a supporter of the Republican Party, Sabin said, “I don’t care what political label you put on people. I care what they stand for. Trump is a pragmatic man, a businessman. His goal is to solve problems, not impose ideology.”