AN ODD WAY TO WIN A DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY…. It hasn’t generated quite as much attention as some of the other Senate races, at least not yet, but there’s a pretty interesting contest underway in Colorado, which may prove to be one of the nation’s closest statewide elections this year.
The incumbent is Sen. Michael Bennet (D), who was appointed to the seat last year when President Obama tapped Ken Salazar for the cabinet. The Republican race pits former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton against Weld County district attorney Ken Buck, both of whom seem to be moving further away from the American mainstream with each passing week.
Arguably the more interesting angle, though, is the Democratic primary, where Bennet is facing former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. The challenger is clearly running an aggressive campaign against a like-minded Democrat — in most primaries, the candidates are from different wings of the party, but Bennet and Romanoff seem to agree on pretty much everything — but I’m not entirely clear on his message.
If the frequently-sent press releases are any indication, Romanoff wants to characterize Bennet as an establishment insider. It’s an awkward pitch — Bennet has only been in Washington for about a year, and had never held elected office before 2009. It’s Romanoff who’s been a state party leader and a politician for the last decade.
He’s painting Bennet, a former Denver schools superintendent appointed to the vacant Senate seat last year, as a Washington insider on the take from corporate donors. “The nation’s biggest insurance firms, drug makers, oil companies and Wall Street banks are pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into my opponents’ campaign coffers,” Romanoff alleged at a rally this year. “Why?” he asked. “What have they already gotten” for their money?
Having accused his opponent of corruption, Romanoff announced that “our campaign does not accept money from political action committees.”
He didn’t tell the crowd that a mere four days earlier he quietly shut down his own PAC, the Romanoff Leadership Fund, which freely accepted corporate PAC money. In his eight years in the state legislature, including a stint as House speaker before term limits forced him out in 2008, Romanoff accepted money from those evil “insurance firms, drug makers, oil companies and Wall Street banks.”
The man Romanoff accuses of being corrupt, meanwhile, is the very opposite.
This style of politics gained national attention when Romanoff, unprompted, released emails showing the White House approached him about a job — feeding a pointless media “controversy” — without mentioning that he’d applied for the job the White House was talking about. Romanoff then went on Fox News, of all places, to try to put the president’s team in a more awkward position.
Deliberately trying to embarrass a Democratic president is a peculiar way to win a Democratic primary.