To hear the Fort Collins Coloradoan report it, kind of a rough night for Sen. Michael Bennet:
Sen. Michael Bennet met with about 100 Larimer County Democrats on Monday night at New Belgium Brewing and frequently wound up giving them answers they didn’t come to hear.
Facing a respectful but clearly skeptical audience of party activists, Bennet spent 90 minutes in a free-flowing discussion that ranged from local issues such as Glade Reservoir to national issues such as the economy.
Several questions dealt with the decision by Bennet and fellow Colorado Sen. Mark Udall to join a group of 15 Senate Democrats calling themselves “The Moderate Dems Working Group.” Rachel Maddow of MSNBC tagged them the “conservadems.”
“I’d like to have you talk about the ‘conservadems’ group of senators, and I think there are a number of us troubled by that,” Ann Molison of Fort Collins said to applause.
Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Bill Ritter in January when Ken Salazar was appointed secretary of the Interior, said the idea behind the group was to help push through President Barack Obama’s budget plans.
“The reason this group came together was to help Kent Conrad, among others, who’s the chair of the Senate Budget Committee, with the very difficult task of getting a budget passed by the Senate that would support, not interfere with but support, the president’s objectives for his budget, which were the new energy economy, education, health care and deficit reduction,” Bennet said.
We scratched our heads a little over Bennet’s self-identification with the “Conservadem” working group, and it’s clear that public ridicule from media liberals like Rachel Maddow has done its work in terms of encouraging a skeptical eye. On a base-pleasing superficial level (which matters a little more right now, we’ll admit), Bennet didn’t do himself any favors with that.
But lost in yesterday’s tense questions over Bennet’s “membership” in the “Conservadems” and the identity politics spinning out of that cheesy discussion is the fact that Bennet voted for the Obama budget plan, along with Sen. Mark Udall, unlike much-vilified “Conservadem” leaders Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson. This matters far more to us than some informal meeting they have every other Tuesday–it’s what should matter to people like Maddow and others hoping to justify a primary challenge on the back of every wire story.
Like we said originally, it’s the votes that determine whether Bennet “deserves” a primary–votes on the Obama budget (passed), on climate change (the real vote that is), on whatever emerges from the current impasse over Employee Free Choice–the immediate fate of which is not in Bennet’s hands, talk-radio angst in both directions notwithstanding. We apologize if this throws cold water on anybody’s particular burning desire, we’re not really making a judgment on the larger related questions you’re all constantly chatting about. We’re just trying to keep the chatter, you know, based in reality.