BOULDER, Colo. -- Before 10,000 cheering supporters in this Democratic stronghold, President Barack Obama offered a long, spirited closing argument Thursday night, eschewing the snarky attacks that have defined his stump speech in recent weeks for a vintage 2008 message of hope and change.
Obama, back on the University of Colorado campus for his third and final campaign event this year, didn't mention Romney until 13 minutes into the speech, when he sought to reclaim the mantra of change that defined his historic run for the White House four years ago.
"He's saying he's the candidate of change," he said. "Let me tell you Colorado, we know what change looks like. Let me tell you, what Gov. Romney is offering sure ain't it."
As Obama listed some of Romney's proposals, the crowd spontaneously responded with a shout: "chump change!"
The rally in Boulder county aimed to energize young voters and the Democratic base, with early voting in Colorado wrapping up on Friday.
Two polls released Thursday show Colorado remains a toss-up; one survey has Obama up two, another shows Romney up four.
The Republican ticket also had a presence in the state Thursday with vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan stumping in Greeley; he'll do another event Friday in Montrose.
At the site of the Greeley Stampede, Ryan told about 1,000 supporters that Obama's promise of hope and change proved to be hollow.
"In 2008 it sounded great," Ryan said of Obama's campaign message four years ago. "It was all this hope and all this change. It was great rhetoric. Unfortunately, it has been disastrous."
Mitt Romney will rally supporters Saturday with events in Colorado Springs, a GOP stronghold, and Greenwood Village, a red part of Arapahoe County, a swing area that could determine who wins the state's nine electoral votes; and Obama will return Sunday night for a rally at Aurora Community College that will also feature the Dave Matthews Band.
As he did at other rallies Thursday in Green Bay, Wisc. and Las Vegas, Nev., Obama began his remarks by describing the spirit of national unity he's felt in response to Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the northeast earlier this week and pulled the president off the campaign trail for three days.
"We’ve also been inspired these past few days. Because when disaster strikes, we see America at its best," Obama said.
"All the petty differences that consume us in normal times, all seem to melt away," Obama continued. "There are no Democrats or Republicans during a storm — just fellow Americans."