All-Star Panel: What are key issues for Colorado voters?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 1, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Welcome back to Arapahoe County, Colorado. We are at Jack and Grill in Littleton to talk to a local panel about the situation on the ground politically here in this swing county. Joining us now, John Ingold from the Denver Post, Steffan Tubbs, "Colorado's Morning News" new radio 850 KOA, and Eli Stokols, political reporter, FOX 31, Denver. Thank you all for being here. And by the way, we don't have a uniform code. There was no, even though we are all wearing the same thing.

Listen, it's very close. Depending on the poll you look at recently, it's still just a few points margin of error. This county, Arapahoe County, went for president Obama, Eli, big, back in 2008, 55 percent, John McCain, 42 percent. But Colorado switched back and forth, went to President Obama, 2004 to President Bush, in 2000 President Bush. Where is this place now and what is the biggest issue here for folks that you hear?

ELI STOKOLS, KDVR-TV: Well, Colorado is a huge bellwether in the intermountain West. It has been for a few cycles now. And this county is a big bellwether in terms of which way the state is going to go. It hasn't always been a swing county. It was fairly conservative going back ten years or so. But a lot of new population here in Arapahoe County has sort of changed things. A lot of folks moving from other states, from California. So it has gotten a little more liberal in the suburbs here. And it's pocketbook issues.  It's the same thing that you hear in all the swing states. It's soccer moms and it's families who worry about making their budget, worried about holding on to their home. Those are the kind of things that really resonate in this suburb.

BAIER: And Steffan, both candidates, the president and Mitt Romney have been here a number of times. Clearly the campaigns believe that this state is within both grasps.

STEFFAN TUBBS, NEWSRADIO 850 KOA: Absolutely. You look at the amount of time that president Obama has spent, they'll be here a couple of days from now for the debate. Mitt Romney, the same thing. You cannot go an hour without seeing three or four political ads. There is a big portion, of at least our audience on the radio, that -- they are ready to vote now.

BAIER: Early voting here John?

JOHN INGOLD, DENVER POST: Yes, there is both early voting and mail-in voting. The state has about 1.6 million active full-time mail-in voters. So on October 15, their ballots are going in the mail. They'll be getting them starting the next day. They can cast them and turn them in. I mean that is big given that there is maybe 2.6 million voters in total in 2008.

BAIER: Do you see an issue that is, that either campaign is really grasping on to, to try to move the needle?

INGOLD: Well certainly, as Eli mentioned jobs and the economy are big here just like they are across the rest of the country.

BAIER: Unemployment in Arapahoe is where the national average is, 8.2.

INGOLD: Sure. And Romney has actually gone to areas where unemployment is higher, feeling that his message will resonate better there.

BAIER: Women's issues. It seems like the percentage of women voting in Colorado and maybe even in this area in particular is higher.

STOKOLS: Women vote more than men do in Colorado. I think last time they were 53 percent of the vote. But that is the roadmap. That is the model that Democrats have used in this state. They call it the Bennet model because Senator Bennet won this way by winning big with Republican women and women overall two years ago. But the model goes back several cycles past to 2004. And Democrats have had a successful strategy of winning Republican women because they might be sort of a push on economic issues, but Democrats have picked them off by talking about social issues by talking about women's health care. And that is something they really feel resonates in suburbs like Arapahoe County where you do have soccer moms, they're on the fence and they feel like that is an issue that can push them off the fence.

BAIER: There's a growing Hispanic population in Colorado as in much of the west. How does that factor in Steffan?

TUBBS: I think it does. You have seen in certain portions of Colorado, you have seen that ad campaign if you will. Mitt Romney has certainly had ads in Spanish. He has had his son who speaks fluent Spanish out campaigning in Colorado. It just depends. This area where we are right now is not heavily Hispanic. But back to the issues that matter to everyone, within a ten-mile radius of here, you have people who have lost between $200,000 to $300,000 in value to their homes. It's all about the economy at least in this portion of Colorado.

BAIER: Do you agree with that?

INGOLD: Yeah, sure. The Hispanic vote, to go back to that is actually -- it's kind of interesting in Colorado because there's long-standing Hispanic communities in Colorado. In the southern part of Colorado, there is communities that have been here since before the nation was a nation. So there is a lot of nuance in the Hispanic vote. They do tend to vote for Democrats. In fact, we did a poll that showed about a 20-point gap in favor of his Obama among Hispanics voters.

BAIER: Do you see enthusiasm on the Republican side? There is all this stuff about polls and how Mitt Romney is trailing. Do you sense that on either side there is a real get out the vote effort here?

STOKOLS: I think it does depend on where you are. It's neighborhood by neighborhood. And it is a state where there's base counties and there are swing counties. And where we are now is definitely a swing county. So you are going to see yard signs from both candidates. And it really does come down at the end of the day to which candidate makes the sale in those counties. Because I think both sides in the base areas are motivated to get out and vote. And if there is a shrinking middle, the base matters more.

But in these counties, it's about who wins those people who are still on the fence, whether it's moms, whether it's families, you know, whoever it is, Latino voters. Every little vote could make the difference at the end of the day.

BAIER: Eli, Steffan, John, thank you so much. Very interesting. We'll be back from Arapahoe County right after this.       

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