UPDATE #3: And here’s Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver):
Right now, Cory Gardner, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Andrew Romanoff are all running attack ads against @Hickenlooper. It’s clear who Republicans fear in November—and rightly so. pic.twitter.com/5aRCQMDH7o
— Michael Bennet (@MichaelBennet) June 19, 2020
UPDATE #2: Romanoff’s negative ad has even convinced Gov. Jared Polis to speak out:
Winning the US Senate seat in Colorado is essential to achieving a Democratic majority and moving our nation forward. I’m disappointed that Andrew Romanoff has chosen to throw mud and attack John Hickenlooper instead of focusing on his own vision and record. (1/2)
— Jared Polis (@PolisForCO) June 19, 2020
UPDATE: Prominent Democrats have had some strong reactions to Romanoff’s negative ad. Here’s former Senate candidate Alice Madden, who served as House Majority Leader when Romanoff was Speaker of the House in the state legislature:
I have held off commenting on this race but this ad is a lo blow & a gift to the #GOP. I have known both Andrew & John for a long time. I may diasagree with John on some issues but NEVER have I doubted his integrity.
Bad form Andrew.
We have to beat Gardner.
Take it down.
— Alice 🇺🇸#BLM #ReclaimDemocracy #Vote! (@AliceforCO) June 19, 2020
And as Ernest Luning reports for the publication formerly known as the Colorado Statesman:
Former U.S. Rep. John Salazar, who switched his endorsement from Romanoff to Hickenlooper earlier this week, panned Romanoff’s latest attack in a statement to Colorado Politics.
“You don’t build yourself up by tearing another man down,” Salazar said. “That’s why I am supporting John Hickenlooper. He doesn’t do negative campaigning against his friends.”
State Rep. Bri Buentello, D-Pueblo, called Romanoff’s ad an “affront to Democratic values.”
“If he has any decency, he would take this ad down today,” she said in a statement. “We do not sling mud at each other. He and I may have legitimate policy differences, but when you resort to baseless personal attacks, it shows you cannot win on your own merits.”
On Thursday, Andrew Romanoff’s campaign for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination announced bits and pieces of an internal poll showing that he “only” trailed former Gov. John Hickenlooper by 12 points with 12 days to go before the June 30 Primary.
On Friday, Romanoff’s campaign dropped the other shoe: A full-on negative television ad criticizing Hickenlooper for all sorts of things:
Colorado U.S. Senate: “We can’t take this kind of risk if we’re going to beat Cory Gardner,” narrator says in anti-Hickenlooper ad that Andrew Romanoff’s campaign began airing this morning. #cosen #copolitics pic.twitter.com/fLcuemUb2V
— Greg Giroux (@greggiroux) June 19, 2020
Going negative with what little money he has left in his campaign account is a strange strategic choice for Romanoff — particularly when Republicans are already spending more than a million dollars on television with a negative message against Hickenlooper (both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Sen. Cory Gardner are running anti-Hick ads). The smarter move for Romanoff would have been to run nothing but positive ads; since Republicans are already making the case against Hickenlooper, it would have made more sense to focus attention on making the case for Romanoff.
A few more negative TV spots about Hickenlooper isn’t going to change the fact that Romanoff struggles with low name ID among voters because he hasn’t been in public office since 2008. The goal of this new ad is clearly to make the argument that Romanoff might be more electable than Hickenlooper in November, but voters still need to know more about Romanoff to choose an alternative. It’s not enough to just hit Hick.
Romanoff has apparently not taken lessons from his own electoral history. Late in the 2010 U.S. Senate Primary, Romanoff decided to use his remaining campaign funds to go negative against Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver). The move backfired on Romanoff, who would lose to Bennet a few weeks later by a 54-46 margin. It was clear at the time that Romanoff’s decision to go “nuclear” on Bennet ended up turning off a good chunk of Democratic voters; it’s not clear why 2020 would be any different.
History has not generally been kind to Colorado Democrats who first make the decision to go negative in a Primary. Remember the negative ad that an education group did on behalf of Cary Kennedy in the 2018 Gubernatorial Primary? That one exploded bigly in Kennedy’s face, and her name wasn’t even on the ad.
We’ll leave it to others to argue about the general decision to run negative ads in a Democratic Primary, but we can say without hesitation that it’s not a decision we would have made had we been advising Romanoff’s campaign.