GOLDEN -- President Barack Obama marveled at the beauty of a crisp, fall morning here as he took the stage before a mountain backdrop Thursday and offered his own sunny view of the country, making a positive play for this swing state's bellwether county.
Not allowing Obama hog the local headlines, Mitt Romney's campaign bus rolled into town just after the lunch hour and Josh Romney, the candidate's son, joined Colorado Republicans in arguing that the country is in dire straits and in need of a turnaround.
"When I hear some folks say, probably for political reasons, that America's in decline, they're wrong," Obama told a crowd of about 10,000 supporters in Lion's Park on the edge of Clear Creek.
"There is not a country on the face of the Earth that wouldn't trade places with the United States of America!"
Almost in direct rebuttal, Republicans, who rallied about 100 supporters outside the Old Capitol Grill in downtown, offered evidence that the country and its economy have faltered under President Obama's leadership.
"He talks about how he's created 4.5 million jobs," said former GOP Congressman Bob Beauprez, Romney's most visible and active Colorado surrogate. "What he doesn't tell you is that in the time those jobs have been created, there's been 8.8 million people joining the age-eligible workforce.
"Today, there are 216,000 fewer people employed in America than the day Barack Obama took office."
If Romney's campaign is continuing to try to convince the country that it's in dire need of a turnaround, the candidate's sons are telling voters that their dad is the man for the job.
"My dad had a lot of success in business, and he had some failures. And he learned from both experiences," Josh Romney told the crowd of supporters. "You think about what we need in Washington -- someone who has the know-how to get this economy going again."
But, based on several post-convention polls, Romney's argument isn't convincing the voters he'll need to win the White House.
A set of new polls from NBC and the Wall Street Journal released Thursday afternoon shows Obama opening up a lead in three key swing states: Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
And a survey of 503 likely Colorado voters by OnSight Public Affairs and Project New America released Thursday morning shows Obama with a 49-44 percent lead over Romney and a growing advantage among the state's largest bloc, unaffiliated voters.
And the gender gap underlined in the poll is likely to help Obama, according to OnSight's Mike Melanson.
"When the president has a ten point lead over Mitt Romney among women, and he's only minus four among men -- the majority of voters in Colorado are women," Melanson said. "Colorado is the president's to lose at this point."
In Jefferson County, a mix of suburban and exurban communities that has historically served as a microcosm for Colorado as a whole, women voters have made the difference for successful Democrats over the last eight years, from Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010 to Sen. Mark Udall in 2008 and former Sen. Ken Salazar in 2004.
Considering that, Lise Cillessen, the local teacher and mother of three who was tapped to introduce President Obama Thursday, was right out of central casting -- the embodiment of the kind of voter who both campaigns are fighting hardest for.
"My husband, Jeremiah, is a registered Republican, who voted for Obama four years ago," Cillessen told the crowd. "And he's going to vote for him again. We are a bipartisan family for Obama because of his strong character as a leader."
When Obama took the stage, he thanked Cillessen, spoke for a few minutes about the attacks on American envoys in the Arab world and then pivoted into his stump speech, a reprisal of his DNC speech a week ago and a direct appeal to the middle class.
"Our vision, our fight, is to restore the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world's ever known," Obama said.
Obama lightly mocked the GOP for its insistence on tax cuts as a cure-all for America's economic woes.
"Tax cuts when we're in good times, tax cuts when we're in bad times," he said, with a smile. "Tax cuts when we're at peace, tax cuts when we're at war. You need to make a restaurant reservation? You don't need a new iPhone -- here's a tax cut for that."
Without mentioning Mitt Romney by name, Obama drew a contrast by emphasizing his belief in the country's collective spirit and his distaste for the individualist ideas of Ayn Rand that are favored by the GOP ticket.
"We don't believe in a top-down, trickle down economy that says to everyone you're on your own. We believe we're all in this together. We believe the economy grows from the middle class out," Obama said.