PUEBLO, COLORADO — One of the U.S. states where President Barack Obama, the Democratic Party nominee for president, and Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney are virtually tied in public opinion surveys is Colorado, where Obama won handily four years ago. Although some surveys show the president with a slight lead, a key factor could be enthusiasm among his supporters, including Hispanics who account for more than 20 percent of the western state's population.
On a hot day in Pueblo, Dominic Martinez goes house-to-house, trying to find voters who favored the Democratic Party four years ago.
He has to contend with yapping dogs as well as people who are reluctant to talk.
"What we are trying to do is sway the voters like if they are not sure if they are for Romney or Obama, and then just identify who they are supporting," Martinez explained.
Half the population of Pueblo is Hispanic and most support President Obama just as they did four years ago. Colorado is among a small number of states considered competitive by both campaigns, states that will likely decide the outcome of the November 6 election.
In Pueblo, experts say, the election will be determined not so much by voter preference as voter participation.
That might also hold true in other parts of the state, where University of Colorado at Boulder political scientist Kenneth Bickers says apathy could diminish Hispanic turnout at the polls.
"If they come out and vote in very large numbers, given the polls, it would suggest that would be a very strong margin for the president's reelection," said Bickers. "If Latinos stay home in large numbers, that will make it really difficult for the president to carry this state."
With that in mind, Obama supporter Teresa Trujillo, of the Colorado Progressive Action group in Pueblo, is coordinating canvassing efforts with other groups.
"Where we see increased engagement is out of door-to-door canvassing and ground efforts," Trujillo noted.
One Hispanic hoping to see that effort fail is Republican Silverio Salazar, who says many voters are discouraged by the poor economy.
"The question is: 'Are they better off than they were four years ago?' And maybe one out of a group of 40 or 50 is still maintaining a job, the rest are unemployed," said Salazar. "And no, they are not better off."
Salazar says Republicans could benefit in this election if Hispanic Democrats remain discouraged.
"They may just stay home and say, 'Let someone else decide this election, I'm not,'" Salazar added/
As Election Day approaches, canvassers from both parties will be making an intense effort to get their voters to the polls.