Is Romanoff Ready for Primetime?

After Tuesday’s press conference that might be better described as the preacher gamely chatting with the choir while the rest of the Democratic world focused on Massachusetts, it’s time to take a good look at why Romanoff’s timing in all things campaign related continues to be a day late and a dollar short. This is an important factor for Democrats to consider, because keeping this seat in Democratic hands has taken on new importance since Tuesday’s special election. Moreover, it’s why we spend so much time talking about viability–things like experience, message, organization, and fundraising ability.

One of the main talking points coming from Andrew and his supporters is that Andrew has won election four times in HD-6, thus proving that he has what it takes to run statewide for office. And yet, ironically, he claims to be a political outsider…

As with most things, a little background sheds some light on whether or not Romanoff has ever been in a truly competitive race–which in the end goes a long towards explaining why a supposedly “experienced” candidate for U.S. Senate has been running such an inexperienced campaign.

Let’s start by examining House District 6. HD6 is the heart of the Democratic Party, both literally and figuratively. It encompasses Arapahoe and Denver Counties, the seat of political action. Is it fair to tout as experience winning a House seat four times in a district that’s practically impossible for a Democrat to lose, particularly when he had no opponent for one of the four elections?

Let’s look at some demographics in the district first. The numbers show a clear trend for Democrats, starting with 38.8% that affiliated themselves with the Democratic Party in November 2000. As of August of 2009, a whopping 45.1% affiliate themselves with Democrats.

The loser here is the Republican Party that started off at a anemic 28.5% and is now down to a paltry 22.4% in the district. Unaffilateds have remained virtually the same, ranging between 32.9% and the current 31.8%. This is all a fancy way of saying “Safe Seat.”

Unconvinced?

Let’s take a look at some election results. As we have been reminded on multiple occasions by both Romanoff and his supporters, he has won election four times. From Romanoff’s speech at the press conference on January 19th:

I ran for office four times –  and got elected four times – by engaging as many voters as possible.  I recognize that the stakes in this race are a little higher.

No one disputes that he served in the House Legislature for 8 years.  No one disputes he was elected–that’s kind of how our political system works. We cast votes. And I do believe that Andrew had great outreach with the voters in his district. However, it cannot be discounted that Romanoff has only run for office in a district that leans overwhelmingly Democratic. It cannot be discounted that he ran in a district that had no opponent in 2002. It cannot be discounted that he ran in a district that ran a sacrificial Republican for 3 of the 4 elections with no hope of winning.  

2000 Election:

District total votes cast:

Romanoff (D) 14,687

Eldon Strong (R) 8,795

Dawn Reader-McCreery (L) 812

2002 Election:

District total votes cast:

Romanoff (D) 18,208

AR-no Republican opponent

2004 Election:

District total votes cast:

Romanoff (D) 23,782

Jeff Taton (L) 821

Gregory Golyansky(R) 9391  

2006 Election:

District total votes cast:

AR (D) 19,640

Jeffrey Hecht (R) 6,308

Usually, in a safe seat like this, the competitive election boils down to the Democratic primary. You could say it would have been the only relevant “campaign” in Andrew’s career. So maybe the August 2000 Democratic primary is the barometer of Andrew’s campaign experience? Nope. He had a clear field in that one too in 2000.

Romanoff’s campaign continues to falter while he struggles to differentiate himself from his opponent. His campaign continues to make the type of errors more common from a rookie running for the local city council than a seasoned House legislator who “was elected to four terms.”

As the Denver Post succinctly puts it:

Multiple analysts have criticized the Romanoff campaign for failing to give Democratic voters a reason to vote against an incumbent senator out of office.

In recent weeks, reports have cast Romanoff – once a leader of his party – as a falling star.

Is the fact that a state politician that ran (four times!) for office in one of the safest districts in Colorado actually an explanation of why Andrew hasn’t quite been able to grasp the Campaign 101 fundamentals of a statewide campaign in a state as competitive as Colorado? When the average voter hears him tout his four-time winning streak for the House, perhaps they are unaware of just how easy a ride Romanoff has had in campaigns…until now. He can’t continue to have it both ways–touting his incredible experience as a candidate and a legislator and then claiming he’s a political outsider. The facts do not bear out his assertions.

Long story short, is Romanoff ready for primetime? The answer is important, because at the end of the day this is about who is the strongest candidate to beat Jane Norton in November.  

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38 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Libertad says:

    Nice driveby MOTR.

    I really think Romo knew Choakley was a bad story a week before election day and was doing his best to do a compare-contrast or offer the people an alternative to the interim Senator.

    • RedGreen says:

      Well, no, but he isn’t boasting that surviving four cakewalk elections means he’s the best candidate to keep the seat for Democrats. Both candidates have their strengths. It’s entirely fair to examine whether purported strengths mean anything.

      And I can guarantee you the Mass. election had zero to do with Romanoff’s timing for his press conference.

    • Ah Choo says:

      That’s the point.  

      • Libertad says:

        “In Colorado, Mr. Obama has endorsed Senator Michael Bennet, a Democrat who was appointed to fill a vacancy. Mr. Bennet faces a primary challenger, Andrew Romanoff, a former speaker of the Colorado House, who many Democrats think could be the strongest candidate. But Mr. Bennet was assured that the White House would support him should he face a primary.

        Mr. Romanoff said he was not deterred by the endorsement. ‘I haven’t met a single person who said: ‘Gosh that’s it. I’m going to give up my independent judgment and give my decision to the White House, ‘ he said.”

        Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer….

  2. The realist says:

    It’s going too far to hold AR’s electoral history against him.  I see it as a lesson to people like me who run in a District that’s a “safe seat” — for the opposition!  In my case, I did better than the numbers indicated I should do, and on not a lot of money.

    Everyone who knows Andrew knows that he became a VERY well-known and well-liked officeholder all around Colorado.  That of course is not the same thing as running an effective statewide race.  But time will tell.  Be patient – the caucuses are in March.

  3. Automaticftp says:

    When you have to hold a press conference to remind people you are still running for an office, and have not distinguished yourself from your opponent, that means you have no idea what you’re doing.

  4. WestSloper says:

    In most areas in the Mountain west, Democratic primaries are a form of political suicide. Not that Dems across the Divide don’t like Andrew, but even from a couple of hundred miles away it appears Andrew has a half-assed campaign.

    Sen. Michael Bennet has done a much better job in outreach to Western Slope voters. He makes a run down I-70 about every six weeks or so to Andrew’s one-time skipping-stone visit. Great to see Andrew, but no depth on his views of oil-and-gas issues.

    Sorry, Andrew. It just ain’t happening up here any more. No one is eager to go into their county assembly with a divided US Senate race — not with the MA election in mind.

  5. Ray Springfield says:

    I attended the Colorado Labor Imititive of the Democratic Party, as I do Monthly. Speaker Romanoff was there. He made encouraging remarks regarding immigration. I believe that he believes in civil rights. Not everyone in Labor does , though not as bad as the Teabaggers. Immigration is a wedge issue for both parties. The right thing to do is not. Immigration reform that gives 12 million human rights must come to pass

    I still back Sen Bennet. I still respect Andrew Romanoff.

    • Middle of the Road says:

      Now how do you feel about the subject we are talking about here?

    • Voyageur says:

      Like you, I still respect both men.  As to MOTR’s comments, I don’t think AR’s admirers have ever hung our hats on his four wins in a safe Democratic district.  [Though even in a safe seat, you have to get nominated and through the assembly and primary process, something Bennet has never done.]

       Our respect for Romanoff comes from his skillful efforts to help elect a state majority in the House, which succeeded (with a lot of help, but he played a key role.)  Also we respect the ability he showed as first minority leader and then speaker.  He was fair and eschewed hyper partisanship.

        MOTR, we love you, but you’re beating a straw man.  It’s irrefutable that Romanoff has more experience in elective politics and elective office than Bennet.  That doesn’t make Bennet a bad man and it doesn’t make Romanoff a bad man.

      • indipol says:

        Sorry MOTR, but I have to agree with Voyageur here.  And the more I see “Bennet is inevitable so AR should just get out of the race” comments (there are dozens every single day on this site) the more I think of Hillary ’08 and Coakley ’10.  I will again state my neutral preference for either, and again say I want a primary and I don’t want to hear one more time from anybody how Bennet has already won this thing and AR is just a spoiler, because it just isn’t true.

        • Middle of the Road says:

          I am, however, asking for an explanation as to how winning a safe seat four times in a district that a Democrat has virtually no chance of losing and in one of the four races, there was no opponent becomes a Romanoff camp talking point as to why he is more viable and electable.

          That is the question. I have been told on this site, on Daily Kos and have read it on other sites that AR deserves this because he’s run for office before and has so much experience with campaigning and winning. Again, that talking point doesn’t stand up to the facts of his elections and his district.  

        • DavidThi808 says:

          (and I support Bennet). But that means Romanoff has to start swinging. If he thinks he’s going to win if neither campaigns – he’s not paying attention.

          • DevilishlyModerate says:

            If you want a Dem to win the Senate seat this year, we CANNOT have a primary. The last thing we need is for Bennet and AR to pull each other further left at a time when folks are already upset with Dems and Independents are quickly moving to the right. Remember folks, Colorado is still a red-purple state.

            We need to be focusing our messaging, opposition research and war chest against the against the big elephant in the room who currently has the momentum due to the political climate nationally.

            This is not going to be an easy race by any means and we don’t have the luxury this year to bloody each other up and still win.  

            • DavidThi808 says:

              Bennet has never run for office before. I don’t want him learning in the general. I also don’t see Romanoff and Bennet racing to the left.

              • DevilishlyModerate says:

                Good point, I think its going to be a risk either way. Neither one has experience running state-wide and appealing to independents.

                As of now they aren’t running to the left because AR isn’t challenging Bennet on the issues. However, if the primary heats up it would be inevitable that they go left.

              • Gray in Mountains says:

                and what I want is the strongest progressive Democrat likely to support President Obama’s agenda, that means whoever wins in the primary. Since I believe Bennet is doing a good job I have already supported him financially and expect to do so again. I also would vote for him if primary were today.

                Whichever cadidate we have will be superior to the R candidate ethically and intellectually.

              • Gray in Mountains says:

                and what I want is the strongest progressive Democrat likely to support President Obama’s agenda, that means whoever wins in the primary. Since I believe Bennet is doing a good job I have already supported him financially and expect to do so again. I also would vote for him if primary were today.

                Whichever cadidate we have will be superior to the R candidate ethically and intellectually.

            • indipol says:

              just like Hillary was back in November 2007

              • redstateblues says:

                But at this point, I don’t think we’re going to see a spirited primary that puts all our strengths on the table.

                What I’m more curious about than anything is whether or not people like JO and Sharon Hanson will be continuing their daily assault on Bennet after the primary is over.

                Because we all know how effective those PUMAs were in 2008…

        • Colorado Pols says:

          Bennet has raised a lot of money and done a lot of campaigning around the state for a year now. Romanoff has not raised a lot of money, got off to a late start, and has never articulated how he would be different than Bennet if elected.

          Bennet does not deserve to have this race to himself. But neither does Romanoff deserve to be considered an equally strong candidate just because of who he is. You cannot ignore that Romanoff, thus far, has run a really poor race.

          Forget about who should or should not have been appointed Senator; we said repeatedly that Romanoff should have been appointed over Bennet, but that’s irrelevant at this point. If you stood the two candidates together and just looked at their campaigns — at their fundraising, their field campaign and their messaging (or lack thereof) — there’s a very clear reason why Bennet is the odds-on favorite to beat Romanoff. And it has nothing to do with anything other than their respective performances as candidates.

          Romanoff has every right to run against Bennet, but we just don’t see how this could possibly turn out well for him because of the reasons listed above. Romanoff shouldn’t get out of the race because Bennet has ‘dibs’ on the seat, but he shouldn’t ignore the reality of his situation, either. That’s been our main point in other diaries: Sometimes, despite your best efforts or intentions, it’s just not there.

  6. Craig says:

    That AR got an above-the-fold article on the front page of the second section of the Post by basically announcing that he was doing the same thing he was always doing.  I’d say that’s pretty good.  The rest of this is just inside the beltway garbage.  What were his fundraising numbers for the last quarter of 2009?  That’s the real question.

  7. Willy Wonkish says:

    First, I want to make clear that I am not affiliated with Romanoff’s campaign.  I’m not a Romanoff campaign apoligist either–so far I’m not impressed with how the campaign has been run.  I worked in the state legislature when Romanoff was a freshman and while watching over the years developed a great respect for him.

    MOTR makes some good points and his argument is very well laid out, but I think the argument to begin with misses the point.  Of course Romanoff touts his four election wins (whether or not they were really competitive)–prize fighters still tout their undefeated records including those uncompetitive fights that were setup for them while they were coming up the ranks.  But the four wins in themselves are not the point.

    The point is the experience he has from those eight years–four of them as speaker.  A couple of critical things I remember him being involved in (off the top of my head) include the role he played balancing the state’s budget and putting down his foot with regard to redistricting.  On a lot of important issues Romanoff appeared to be a key player that put forth his own proposal (typically something that appeared to be a reasonable compromise) that eventually got adopted in one form or another.

    A leader like that–someone who can get things done, someone who can steer the ship–is the type of leader we need.  Over the years, I’ve come to think that Romanoff has these skills, he can steer the ship.

    As for Bennet, I’m not sure yet.  He has business experience, but so did a certain former U.S. President I know.  Bennet seems to have a lot of politically influential friends now too, which is good as long as he is steering the ship and not just taking commands and operating the radio.

  8. WSYS says:

    “If that’s Sen. Bennet, tell him I’ll call him back.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v

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