Mile-High Headlines for Monday, September 8

McCain and Palin Visit Military and Evangelical Heartland, aka Colorado Springs

Say what you want about John McCain, but don’t call him dumb. He followed up what was by most accounts a successful Republican convention in Minnesota with a visit to one of the three must-win battleground states recently identified by GOP strategist Karl Rove: Home Sweet Colorado (see this map as proof). Avoiding Denver and Aspen this time around, McCain headed straight for super-conservative Colorado Springs, headquarters to the evangelical Focus on the Family and several military installations. “We need to carry Colorado. We need to win!” McCain told a roaring crowd of perhaps 13,000 people outside a hangar at the Colorado Springs Airport, according to the city’s Gazette newspaper. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, his running mate, was at his side, saying McCain would make an ideal commander in chief, according to CBS News. There was a touch of scandal–or not. Many of the flags waving among the crowd were allegedly thrown away by the Democratic National Convention, according to Republicans, leading Democrats to say hogwash, according to CBS4.

Udall, Schaffer, and C4s
In one corner, maligned by various television ads, is U.S. Representative Mark Udall, a Democrat. In the other corner, similarly vilified, is former U.S. Representative Bob Schaffer, a Republican. The battle between the two to replace retiring conservative U.S. Senator Wayne Allard is just one of many reasons that at least $7 million has already flowed into Colorado in the form of attack ads and stealth campaigns, according to the Rocky Mountain News. And there’s plenty more to come. So far it’s been brutal as so-called “C4s”– nonprofits that do not have to publicly disclose their expenditures with federal election officials unless ads run within 60 days of November 4–go on the offensive. For example, one video by the right-wing Freedom’s Watch C4, labels Udall “Skip” for missing an energy vote in Congress. The candidates attended an election forum over the weekend in Grand Junction, during which Udall said he wants to end the war in Iraq within a “responsible” time frame, accusing Schaffer of favoring an open-ended time table, according to the Grand Junction Free Press.

Walmart Women May Determine Election
It’s been said Latinos might determine the vote this November. It’s also been said that unmarried, white professional guys might hold the key. Now add “Walmart women” to the list of potential swing voters, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Public Opinion Strategies, a GOP polling firm quoted by the paper, notes that some women who shop regularly at the discount mega-retailer have the economy at the top of their presidential to-do lists, according to a spokeswoman for the firm. Nancy Williams of Wheat Ridge fits the bill. She’s a Democrat but voted twice for Bush and backed Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton this year. Now she’s looking at Barack Obama because “he’s more like the guy next door, the person you’d be able to go up to and say, ‘I like how your lawn is. What did you put on it?’ You wouldn’t approach John McCain or George Bush that way.” Overall, Walmart women tend to be white, somewhat conservative and religious, and mostly Democratic, although they supported President George W. Bush in 2004, according to the Rocky.

There Might Be Diamonds in Them Thar Hills
Apparently miners don’t need to chip away in southern Africa to unearth sparkling diamonds. They can come to Colorado instead, as Australian-based Diamonex has proposed in a venture that could yield the only active commercial mine in the United States. The company wants permits in Larimer County so that it can launch a search for diamonds, according to 9News. Diamonex, which is looking at volcanic kimberlite deposits, claims the site could garner tens of thousands of diamonds, according to 9News, which also quotes nearby residents like Julian Stovall as fretting about mining nuisances, like dynamite explosions and dust. “Everybody who owns property within this valley will suffer if this project goes through,” Stovall says. The company is planning a meeting with neighbors later this month to discuss its mineral interests, which appear significant, according to the Asia Business Newswire.

Tourism Season: Then and Now
Perhaps the best thing about the summer tourism season is that it wasn’t as bad as it might have been. That’s according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, which writes that visits to the Pikes Peak region’s various destinations were “down slightly or significantly” this year. As Spencer Wren, who manages the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, puts it, “It’s been a real struggle all year long.” There was some bad weather, but gas prices in the $4-a-gallon ballpark were the real killer. Now comes ski season, notes The Boston Globe, reporting on an analysis that shows people ski less in times of economic downturn, such as the one currently impacting the nation. “There is no question that the environment today from every front does not feel as robust as it felt last year,” Rob Katz, chief executive of Vail Resorts Inc., tells the Globe. The Broomfield-based company has responded, for example, by shaving about $1,000 off the cost of its unlimited season pass, offering it at $579 until November 15.

Fall Weather Makes for a Nice Getaway
Okay. Forget gas prices for a minute. Technically, it’s still summer, and Colorado always seems to go from a string of hot September days to a freezing snow in October, followed by a long string of cold months. In other words, the autumn weather we’ve been experiencing lately is rare and nice. After all, this isn’t New England. To foreshadow the cold to come, Denver is drizzly today, and the high will be just 56 degrees. But the week will warm into the 70s on Tuesday and Wednesday and perhaps the 80s by week’s end, according to CBS4. It’s perfect weather to plan a visit to beautiful Estes Park, where elk congregate this time of year to do their, er, stuff, making all kinds of noise. After all, as Natasha Gardner reports for 5280 this month, Estes Park has been commandeered by elk.

Broncos Open the Season Tonight
The Broncos kick off their season on enemy Raider turf tonight. They do so with the most rookies–10 of the 53-man roster–since 1989, when icons like Steve Atwater and Bobby Humphrey were key to John Elway’s third swipe at Super Bowl glory, according to The Denver Post. Tonight, look for rookies at left tackle, fullback, receiver, and punter. The Rocky Mountain News notes the Broncos will learn a lot about themselves when they face the Raiders, including whether last year’s paltry run defense has been repaired. And with receiver Brandon Marshall serving a one-game suspension, quarterback Jay Cutler’s claim that he has a “lot of weapons” in the offense will be tested. The game is at 8:15 MDT, on KDVR-Channel 31 and ESPN.

The Colorado Rockies: Talking Cocky
There are just 18 games left in the baseball season, and the Rockies, who trail the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the National League West, are talking like “they’ll get hot and make a push,” according to The Denver Post. But yesterday’s 7-5 “heartbreaker” loss to the Astros at Coors Field means that if the Rox have any chance at post-season glory, they’re “going to need a lot of heroes”–or a time machine to start over.

Cartoondose: Check out these animated comics by Denver Post cartoonist Mike Keefe. Front and center today, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Pollster: Republican John McCain has taken the lead over Democrat Barack Obama in the presidential race. He’s got 50 percent to Obama’s 46 percent, according to USA Today, his biggest advantage since January.

Cheapest Gallon of Gas ‘Round Here: $3.61, Conoco, 4765 Federal Boulevard (via