CO-Sen: Primary Challenge Pushes Bennett Left

Former state house Speaker Andrew Romanoff seems to be the progressive favorite in the Colorado Democratic Senate primary, but Senator Michael Bennett’s worth another look. The freshman Senator is still deciding what type of lawmaker and candidate he wants to be, and Romanoff’s challenge is helping push him to the left.

This cycle’s health insurance fight is drawing to a close, but let’s not stick it away in the back of our memories just yet. Alan Grayson wasn’t the only progressive hero to step forward. Across the Capitol, it was Bennett who took the lead in fighting for a public option via reconciliation and organized 23 other senators to join him.

But you already knew that. Here’s what’s new: 22 Senators, including Bennett, have signed Tom Udall’s letter to Harry Reid emphasizing the link between job creation and comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. The 22 are pushing for a floor vote on the issue this year to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the short calendar shuffle amidst immigration, financial regulation, and other job reform measures. It seems that Bennett is showing as much progressive spine on the environment as he did on health care, even in his purple state.

At the moment, Romanoff does better in general election match-ups than does Bennett from both PPP and Rasmussen. Part of this is due to the fact that Bennett was appointed, not elected, to his office, and 22 percent of voters don’t know enough about him to have an opinion one way or the other. That means, however, that unlike most incumbents, he still has time to define himself, and would likely do better in November than currently seems.

Both Romanoff and Bennett have the burden of the incumbent Democratic label, but only one would get to use the positive tools of the office. I don’t know enough about Romanoff to pick one candidate over the other, but I will say that his push from the left sure is helping Bennett be a better Senator (as David Sirota predicted it would). Don’t count Bennett out yet, and be a lot happier about him now than you were a year ago.

Tags: CO-Sen, Michael Bennett, Andrew Romanoff (all tags)

Comments

11 Comments

Romenoff

Am for him in the primary, but am not working it in anyway. While doing research for CTG, Markos and I talked with him in CO. A sharp guy who understands new media politics and I've been impressed with his aggressive campaign.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-22 07:43PM | 0 recs
RE: Romenoff

I just finished CTG last week... a little late, no?

Aside from Shrum's incompetency, most of the stuff about the core DC constultant group was new to me. Is the 2010 landscape looking any different with OFA and the Chicago/Iowa people taking over the DNC?

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-22 09:51PM | 0 recs
Andy really doesn't have the incumbent thing

Or at least as far as I can tell from the Dems and independants here on the ground. He was Speaker in Colorado for a bit, but has been out of it for a while.  He is a great guy and has pretty much always stuck to his progressive guns.

He has a very strong, pro-Colorado record and everyone knows him here- this is why he leads in polling.  Think Colorado version of Tester before he got into office.  Tester is a Montana boy, Andy is a Colorado boy.

You are right though, Bennett would have been complete toast in the Caucuses and the August Primary if he did got to bat for the PO with his letter.  This makes it a bit of an interesting match.  If Bennett does more than just a letter, i would actually consider supporting him.

by linc 2010-03-22 08:08PM | 0 recs
RE: Andy really doesn't have the incumbent thing

"Think Colorado version of Tester before he got into office.  Tester is a Montana boy, Andy is a Colorado boy."

Does the comparison go deeper than favorite son? Because if it does, I'll have to look more into Romanoff. Jon Tester is one of the greatest politicians I've ever met.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-22 09:52PM | 0 recs
RE: Andy really doesn't have the incumbent thing

It does actually.  I remember when Jon Tester and Dave Wanzenried stormed the state of Montana for an entire summer, in a pickup truck.  It is what turned the Montana legislature blue after nearly two decades.

Andy has done similar in Colorado.  He has been behind or significantly supported every single major progressive referendum in Colorado in the last decade, some successful, some not so.  He contributed significantly to the C&D referendum a couple year back that managed to repeal bits of of the Tax Payers Bill of Rights/TABOR (of course, a Repug anti-government spending bill passed under false pretense).  In 2008, he had a similar set, most of his initiatives failed, some passed, but he has never stopped trying.  Very passionate, very sincere.  Very well liked because of it, not just because he is a native son.

Jon is a great guy and certainly an amazing Senator.  Way back, when I was representing students and he was Senate President (I think he was in leadership then, could be wrong) I was fortunate to witness his populist spirit and drive first hand.  Great guy indead.

by linc 2010-03-24 12:56AM | 0 recs
RE: Andy really doesn't have the incumbent thing

Exactly.  I think it really wasn't that "progressive" of Bennet considering he didn't write the letter until after it was overwhelmingly clear that a vote on the public option wasn't gonna happen in the Senate (thanks Barack!).  If he actually introduces a public option amendment to the health insurance fix, THEN he's really stuck his neck out.

I have to say that I'd be okay with either one, but I'm pulling for Romanoff as of now.

by jlars 2010-03-23 04:02PM | 0 recs
I'm Either-Or on Who Wins

Neither candidate would be mistaken for Alan Grayson, but either candidate seems to be a decent choice for a pale-blue state like Colorado. Our Democrats are more liberal than Bennett or Romanoff, and our Republicans extremely conservative. Conventional wisdom in the state holds that you have to be a centrist to win the general. Registration has improved to approximately 33/33/33, but in fact the enthusiasm of the base will be significant.

Romanoff showed well in the beauty-pageant caucuses, but these tend to be political activists, with a high proportion of Romanoff supporters. By the time we get to the actual primary, Bennett's name recognition and incumbency will be a greater factor.

The biggest issue in the primary is the simple fact that Bennett was appointed, bypassing the Party activists, most of whom are fairly progressive. So, the primary has been beneficial as it forced Bennett to defend himself by making some decent, progressive votes, and he has shown a willingness to stick his neck out on some key progressive ideas. Also, Bennett has provided good constituent service and made a big effort to market himself. I wouldn't read too much into his sponsoring of the Public Option letter; I don't think it had much chance of actually winning, so the most you can say is that Bennett was willing to go on the record... no small thing. 

I think the biggest criticism you can make of Bennett, is that we don't have a sufficient record on him to know whether he is just running to the left because of primary pressure.

While Andrew Romanoff is no conservative, it's not like he has a huge progressive record. To be fair, his career started in the midst of a Republican ascendency and he presided during a period of slow, steady Democratic gains. His background is DLC, not Liberal. In trying to run from the progressive side, Romanoff simply doesn't have the record, and carries the embarrassment of calling for a stupid "special legislative session on Immigration", which was intended to inoculate Colorado democrats from the accusation of being soft on immigration. Health care reform efforts in the Colorado legislature have been carefully neutered by the Party mucky-mucks, despite strong pressure from the Party base. I mean, they didn't even get much through on Health Insurance regulation.

I think the biggest criticism you can make of Romanoff is the ineptness of his campaign.

by MetaData 2010-03-23 01:00AM | 0 recs
Romanoff won the caucus vote. . .

So Bennett's claim was that this was "just party activists" who vote in caucuses. I don't know, but it's likely that only active Democrts will vote in the primary either so if this is an indication of his level of support he's not doing that well.

Living in Denver I've heard a bit from Bennett (which wasn't that hard for him since I contacted his office several times), but I've heard nothing so far from Romanoff whose campaign has been invisible so far.

Gail Norton, the Wicked Witch of the West who's running for the GOP has a huge war-chest so she'll be on TV 24/7 this fall for sure, spreading her evil lies. She really is a foul bitch queen, but is a lot more polished a politician than their usual GOP standard-bearers who tend to be crackpot Billionaire businessmen like Pete Coors.

Bennett has amassed some money, but Romanoff will have to prove he can be funded to the necessary degree to win this race.

I'd say it's a toss-up race right now and the outcome will depend on what happens to the economy between now and then (probably not a whole lot in terms of jobs but there might at least be an attempt at a new jobs bill in Congress).

I'd prefer Romanoff, but Bennett's recent activism makes him palatable as well.

My one fear is that Bennett would revert to being a Blue Dog once he's been elected and start blathering about the desperate need to reduce the deficit.

by Cugel 2010-03-23 01:01AM | 0 recs
RE: Romanoff won the caucus vote. . .

The Denver Post ran a piece on Sunday saying (if I remember correctly) that the last two Democrats to win in the caucus went on to lose in the primary.  There probably is some truth to the "activists only" meme.  My wife went to the caucus last week and there were six people there from our precinct.  When we used to go to the caucus in Minnesota, there would be closer to a hundred.

by the mollusk 2010-03-23 10:11AM | 0 recs
Activists and Political Junkies

As well as high-information people who have the time.

"Only" is to strong, but certainly these are the people who spend time in the trenches, get volunteered as precinct captains, sometimes go to district meetings and/or feel the civic duty to participate.

You could also say these are the people paying attention six months out from the election. The full-primary electorate is a larger pool, which has to mean lower-intensity, and lower percentage of activists. Thus, Romanoff benefits more in the caucus because he has nurtured that audience a good many years, and the Party activists don't like the fact that Governor Ritter ignored them to appoint someone without Party credentials.

Politicians in Colorado can't win without any party grassroots support, but the Party machinery is not all-powerful, and to win the primary means appealing to the broader audience where advertising, TV, press are more important than contacts in your political network.

The grassroots beauty-pageant showed that Bennett has sufficient support that he will probably pull in the win at the primary.

by MetaData 2010-03-23 11:33AM | 0 recs
Giving Bennett a new look

I like Romanoff a lot, but Bennett is making a decent run. His actions the past few months have been solid. Either one of these guys at this point seem to be a decent choice as far as Colorado Dems go. Your never again going to get a Gary Hart type pol as a CO senator so let's not delude ourselves. But what Bennett managed to pull off lately while representing this state AND did so without sparking tea bagger riots in the streets of Colorado Springs is pretty deft. He pulled off a very focused political maneuver that not only salvaged his political career, but kept HCR alive and did it all with pinpoint messaging and activism. I have more respect for him now than I did last year.

I don't fear Norton. She's is truely nasty. She'll need to soften that against these fresh-faced, affable, and positive young men. The moment she tries to come across as anything other than a cut-throat bitch she'll smack of insincerity and her messaging will sound hollow. And if she aggresively attacks, either one of these guys can easily rise above it in a very Obama-like manner.

Now, if they can get Hickenlooper on message we'll be doing ok.

by JerryColorado23 2010-03-23 12:27PM | 0 recs

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