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Obama kicks off Denver trip with dinner, game of pool

DENVER — In a couple hours after landing in Denver tonight, President Barack Obama bounced around Lower Downtown from one seemingly impromptu event to another, dining with a group of Coloradans and talking about pocketbook issues, shaking hands in a crowd of onlookers along 15th Street and making it over to the Wynkoop Brewing Company to share a beer and game of pool with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The nightcap at the brewery the governor founded years ago took place before a bevy of television cameras and still photographers and served as a sunny rebuke to the Republicans who have argued that Hickenlooper and Sen. Mark Udall are afraid of being seen with the president.

The populist photo-ops come as President Obama, with his approval rating stuck in the low 40s, ventures back onto the campaign trail on behalf of Democratic incumbents.

His Denver trip continues Wednesday morning with a speech in Cheesman Park and two fundraisers for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Udall’s campaign.

Udall and Hickenlooper won’t be attending the speech, the only scheduled event open to the press.

Udall will attend the fundraiser for his campaign later Wednesday at a home in Cranmer Park.

“The president has two fundamental problems: he’s a deeply polarizing leader and he has failed in the leadership of our country,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, during a conference call with Colorado reporters organized by the state GOP. “And I understand why someone who’s on the ballot doesn’t want to be associated with either one of those two.”

Air Force One landed in Denver shortly after 6 p.m. Tuesday.

President Obama’s motorcade then traveled along vacated highways and roadways before stopping in Denver’s LoDo neighborhood around 6:45 p.m..

The president dined at the Wazee Supper Club with five Coloradans who wrote him letters about their economic struggles.

Obama was welcomed by a surprised, but excited group of diners at the restaurant, a crowd that stood up and applauded when he entered, according to pool reports. The President shook hands with many of the people in the restaurant and then made his way to the bar and, eventually, his dinner guests.

He dined with Alex Dooley, who sent correspondence to the president thanking him for raising the minimum wage — Dooley said she received a raise from her employer the day after the State of the Union address.

Obama also dined with college student Elizabeth Cooper, small business owners Carolyn Reed and David Johnson, and teacher Leslie Gresham, Nelson reported.

After leaving the restaurant, Obama headed to the motorcade and was halfway into the presidential limousine when he changed course and decided to head down 15th Street and greet the crowds that had formed.

Obama strode down the street, shaking hands and meeting people. He worked both sides of the street, calling kids over to meet him. One woman asked for a high five, and Obama obliged. “High fives, fist bumps,” he said as he offered a few of each.

“Thank you for the work that you do,” one woman said. Others cheered as he approached.

One onlooker wore a large horse head — no one knows why.

After dinner, Obama met up with Hickenlooper at the Wynkoop, where the two played a game of pool upstairs in view but out of earshot of reporters.

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