Surveying the commentary following last night’s Democratic presidential debate featuring both of Colorado’s entries into the race, Sen. Michael Bennet and former Gov. John Hickenlooper, there’s a consensus emerging that Bennet in particular did as well as he could have hoped for–perhaps even enough to transit from the 1% pack into the middle tier of candidates in this packed field. CNN’s Chris Cillizza, a good barometer of the center left, calls Bennet a qualified winner:
Michael Bennet: Look, I don’t think that the Colorado senator is somehow going to shoot from 1% to relevance in the polls based on his performance in this debate. He wasn’t that good. But, for someone who a) no one knew going into this debate and b) had limited speaking opportunities to make his case, I thought Bennet performed well. Bennet’s incredulity with Biden’s belief that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would start working in a bipartisan way if the former vice president won the White House felt genuine — and was powerful. In short: Bennet came out of this debate looking better than he went into it. Which is a win.
The Denver Post’s Nic Garcia from Miami:
The Coloradans left the South Florida art complex where the debate was held just after midnight each saying he took his chance to say what he needed to say.
Bennet, however, had a little more pep in his step.
“I was glad I was able to make the case that we desperately need universal health care in this country,” the senator told The Denver Post in an interview. He slapped the backside of his right hand into his left palm as he compared Sanders’ Medicare for All plan with his own legislation.
Colorado Public Radio notes Bennet’s decent outing but keeps things in perspective:
“Bennet got in a few good moments,” said Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver. “He definitely got across his points on some of his political reforms. He got in some pretty solid critiques of President Trump and those seemed to get some support from the audience.”
…According to trends from Google, Hickenlooper and Bennet were the least searched candidates during the second Democratic presidential primary debate. Near the end of the night, one New York Times reporter quipped “Only so much room for two Wesleyan grads from Colorado.”
Ouch. No really, if fellow Coloradans want to take offense at that kind of bullshit Ivy League snobbery, it’s allowed. But there’s not much either candidate can do about it. It’s fully expected that both Sen. Bennet and Gov. Hickenlooper will stay in this race through the next round of debates set for July 30 and 31 in Detroit–debates they have already qualified to participate in. After that, of course, the next round of debates will have a higher standard for qualification. At this point, failure to make that cutoff will mark the practical end for a number of presidential campaigns.
For both Colorado’s presidential aspirants, it’s all or nothing now with the latter still the most likely outcome. But it does appear that Bennet took better advantage of last night’s opportunity to get on the radar, and that’s to his credit. Now he’s got one month to turn that crack into an opening.