Speaking to Pitkin County Democrats on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called the Republican Party the “narrowest base of any political party I’ve seen in my lifetime” and said GOP nominee Mitt Romney is “a wonderful gift who says so many wonderful things on a regular basis.”
Hoyer, the House minority whip, or second in charge to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., spoke at the local Democrats’ second annual fundraising dinner at the T-Lazy-7 Ranch, which cost $50 to $250 per plate.
The whip position involves ensuring the party faithful remain just that, and Hoyer didn’t disappoint, extolling the 150 or so in attendance to get out the vote for fellow Democrats like Sal Pace. Pace, running for the 3rd Congressional District that encompasses much of the western half of Colorado, including Pitkin County, also spoke at the dinner.
Pitkin County Democratic Party Chairwoman Blanca O’Leary kicked off the night by leading the Pledge of Allegiance.
She drew applause afterward by saying those in attendance — who were mostly white, as was the case when Romney spoke in Basalt in August — were “part of the 53 percent.” That was a dig at the Republican nominee’s remarks in May that 47 percent of Americans do not pay federal income taxes and thus are “victims” who, in Romney’s words, “believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.”
Among those in attendance were state Reps. Millie Hamner and Roger Wilson, Aspen Mayor Mick Ireland, Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards, and state party chairman Rick Palacio, along with county commissioner candidates Steve Child, who the local Democratic Party has endorsed, and John Young.
While O’Leary noted that about 75 percent of Pitkin County voters chose Obama in 2008, Democratic Party field director Gabe Lifton-Zoline told the crowd that, overall in Colorado, it’s a close race.
“Their guy keeps making mistakes, but it’s not about that,” he said. “There’s a ton of work left ... and a massive voter registration effort under way [because] we’re tied.
“A few votes per precinct is what will make the difference.”
Wilson touted Obama as having done an “incredible job of turning the economy around” but said the incumbent needs a Congress that will back him.
“Obama took on two wars and promised that he’d get us out of Iraq ... and he did it,” Wilson said. “The United States now has the respect of the rest of the world ... so we’re not just blustering around.”
He also said Democrats have been actively working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to “make sensible mineral development policy and not just rape the land, if you will.”
Pace said it’s clear that national problems of education, infrastructure and the economy are bi-partisan. But he said politicians in Washington have been unable to cooperate to solve them.
He threw out rhetorical questions for the like-minded, asking whether it was time to elect a Congress that allows a woman to control her own body and a legislative body that would back protections from oil and gas drilling for the Thompson Divide area.
Pace said the 3rd Congressional District can affect the make-up of the House of Representatives, and if Colorado goes to Obama, the incumbent will retain the White House.
“The future of the free world rests in this room,” he said to laughter.
Hoyer told a story about encountering Frank Luntz, a pollster and Republican Party strategist, outside Vice President Joe Biden’s suite at the Democrats’ national convention in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this month.
Luntz told him that the GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., lacked energy and enthusiasm.
“I said, ‘Yes, I saw that,’” Hoyer said. “He said, ‘Here it’s exactly the opposite, and there’s a lot of expectation of victory.’”
Hoyer went on to blast Republicans in the House and Senate for walking away from George W. Bush when the recession struck, saying that move caused the stock market to fall 777 points.
“Democrats responded,” he said, adding that voting for the bank bailouts was terrible for both parties.
“No one was interested in giving big banks money,” Hoyer said. “The public thought [the banks] had let them down.”
But he said the move has improved Americans’ lives, while every Republican since has refused to stand with Obama to better the nation.
“If there’s anything that would motivate us to get active ... it would be that recognition of Romney as president,” Hoyer said.