And…Romanoff Jumps the Shark

Mark it down. Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010: The date that the Andrew Romanoff for Senate campaign officially “jumped the shark.”

Romanoff’s campaign just sent out an email today from none other than former U.S. Senate hopeful Mike Miles. The full text of the email is after the jump, but here’s a smidgen:

So let’s help Andrew.  I don’t want to sound like other fundraising emails that exaggerate the significance of the race they are asking you to contribute in, but the stakes here are actually significant.  All candidates have a strong interest in getting elected.  If someone gets elected because people supported him rather than wealthy corporations others will notice.  Others will copy.  It takes a lot of little money to get big money out of politics.

For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase “jump the shark,” here’s a quick definition from The Urban Dictionary:

The precise moment when you know a program, band, actor, politician, or other public figure has taken a turn for the worse, gone downhill, become irreversibly bad, is unredeemable, etc.; the moment you realize decay has set in…

…Origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on waterskis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show.

Look, we have nothing against Mike Miles. But Good God, man!, Romanoff’s campaign can’t possibly want anyone to associate what he is doing with — let’s face it — the completely hopeless bid that Miles made for the U.S. Senate in 2004.

Miles raised $363,000 in his 2004 race — that’s a total amount — and ended up losing the primary to Salazar 73-27 (173,167 to 63,973, if you’re counting votes at home). Miles was a nice guy with nice credentials who was in wayyyy over his head. Hell, his campaign manager even went on vacation the very summer of the primary.

Romanoff supporters have been trying to downplay the Miles comparison (with Sen. Michael Bennet in the role of then-Attorney General Ken Salazar), and for very good reason. Romanoff is certainly not Mike Miles, but any mention of the two in the same sentence is terrible for Romanoff’s campaign.

Most people knew that Miles’ campaign was completely hopeless, even after he won the most delegates at the 2004 state assembly. Using Miles to publicly drum up money for a Romanoff campaign that is looking more and more hopeless by the week only helps to increase that perception.

By sending out this email, Romanoff’s campaign is either a) incredibly, amazingly ignorant to the damage it could cause by making a direct comparison, or b) so completely desperate for money that they don’t care (and considering that Miles couldn’t raise money for his own campaign, what makes them think his name will raise money for Romanoff anyway?)

Either way, this email signals the final bell for Romanoff. There is a long way to go in this race, and Romanoff may very well hang on all the way until that fateful Tuesday in August. But we’re calling it here. Mark it down.

The shark has been jumped.

From the desk of Mike Miles

Dear XXXX,

I am supporting Andrew Romanoff for the United States Senate and I hope that you will as well.

Washington is owned by the special interests, and the recent Supreme Court decision will only make this worse.  I ran for office in 2004 because I cared about the needs of real people.  There are very few members of Congress who are willing to stand up for people against the power of wealth.  There are very few members of Congress who care about universal health care, who opposed the war in Iraq, who stand up for civil liberties.  The members of Congress seem to care more about their jobs than our welfare.  Many of them say the right things but they don’t have the courage to do the right things.

Andrew is the only candidate in the race for the United States Senate in either party who has made a commitment to refuse special interest PAC contributions.  He has taken a strong position against the money driven, “you come to my fundraiser and I’ll vote for your bill,” culture in Washington.  Other candidates say they are for reform but they take the money and somehow never get around to actually changing anything.

Another reason to support Andrew is his record of leadership and accomplishment.  After two years in office his peers elected him to be the Minority Leader.  From that position he led the effort to get the first majority in the Colorado House in three decades.  As Speaker, he passed needed legislation — Referendum C which saved us from a fiscal crisis, Build Excellent Schools Today (BEST) which put a billion dollars into our crumbling school infrastructure and HB 1407 which created double penalties for insurance companies who failed to pay valid claims — are examples.  I contrast this with the gridlock in Congress.

So let’s help Andrew.  I don’t want to sound like other fundraising emails that exaggerate the significance of the race they are asking you to contribute in, but the stakes here are actually significant.  All candidates have a strong interest in getting elected.  If someone gets elected because people supported him rather than wealthy corporations others will notice.  Others will copy.  It takes a lot of little money to get big money out of politics.

Thanks for your consideration.

Mike Miles

Did Romanoff's Campaign Just Jump the Shark?

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Has an Incumbent Ever Lost in a Primary in Colorado?

UPDATE: Thanks to Voyageur, who notes in the comments below that Wayne Aspinall and Bryon Rogers, both Democrats, lost primary challenges in 1972 and 1970, respectively.

Calling all Polsters! We need your help!

We were curious about this question given all the discussion about the Democratic primary between Sen. Michael Bennet and former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff: Has there ever been a successful primary challenge of an incumbent in a top-tier office, such as Congress, Senate or Governor?

We’re not going to argue about what makes a “true” incumbent. Bennet was appointed to the U.S. Senate when Ken Salazar left the office, just like Republican John Suthers was appointed to be Attorney General when then-AG Salazar was elected to the Senate in 2004. Neither Bennet nor Suthers got their respective titles by winning an election, but they were both “incumbents” because you could call them “Senator” or “Attorney General” heading into their first election.

So, with that definition cleared up, we looked back 20 years, beginning with the 1990 election. Some of that data is still available, and some is not, but from what we found (and what we remember), there have only been two primary challengers of a sitting incumbent in the last 20 years, and neither were successful.

1. 2002 CD-1 Democratic Primary

Ramona Martinez challenged incumbent Rep. Diana DeGette in a Democratic primary. DeGette won an easy 73-17 victory over Martinez (who, ironically, was one of Romanoff’s first supporters in the Senate race).

2. 2008 CD-5 Republican Primary

Two 2006 candidates, Jeff Crank and Bentley Rayburn, challenged former opponent and incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn in the 2008 primary. Lamborn won easily with 44% of the vote (compared to 29.5% for Crank and 26% for Rayburn).

Polsters, we need your help to know if we’re missing someone. How many other times in modern Colorado political history has someone challenged an incumbent in a Primary election? (and we mean serious challengers, not just people who put their name on the ballot and raised $2,000) Has there ever been a successful challenge of an incumbent — in a top-tier race — in a primary?  

That Wasn’t So Hard, Now Was It?

We haven’t been the only ones confused by Democrat Andrew Romanoff’s complete lack of messaging as to why he was running against Sen. Michael Bennet. From day one, Romanoff has been unable to articulate just what he would do differently if you voted for him instead of Bennet, which has always struck us as a remarkably strange deficiency. “What’s your message?” is kind of the first or second question you need to ask yourself when you decide to run for office. If you can’t answer that question, well, then you should probably re-evaluate your whole plan.

But while we’ve been critical of the fact that Romanoff spent the first several months of his campaign completely sans message, we can also acknowledge the fact that he has finally started to figure it out. This doesn’t exactly differentiate Romanoff from Bennet, but at least Romanoff is finally starting to say what he would do if elected. From an email sent to supporters today:

Speaking in Pueblo today to more than 100 people from Pueblo and Fremont counties, U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff called on Congress to solve America’s health care crisis, save money and save lives.

“If I were in the U.S. Senate today, I’d fight to take the pork out, put the public option back in and remove the health insurance industry’s antitrust exemption,” Romanoff said. “Congress should put an end to its backroom deals and pay-to-play politics and put the health of Americans first.”

Gee, that was easy. It was expensive, apparently, but it was easy. If Romanoff had been doing this from the beginning of his campaign, things might look a lot different for him than they do today.


How Long Can Buck and Romanoff Keep the Lights On?

When fundraising numbers for Colorado’s U.S. Senate candidates were all announced earlier this week, it continued a rabid conversation about what individual reporting numbers mean for each campaign. Less discussed, but no less important, is whether or not each campaign is raising enough money just to keep the lights on.

As we’ve said before, fundraising reports are normally a reliable indicator of potential electoral success, because most large donors (people that give at least $500 to a candidate) write checks to the candidate that they believe is most likely to win.

But the other reason that fundraising is so important is for very fundamental purposes: You need a lot of money to both support a statewide campaign and to get your mug on television. It’s no secret that the candidate who does best on TV is often the candidate who ends up winning the election, so an effective campaign has to be able to pay for its day-to-day operations while also saving as much as possible (70-80% is a general rule of thumb) for television.

Obviously, a U.S. Senate race is a costly affair. In 2008, Democrat Mark Udall outspent Republican Bob Schaffer $11.7 million to $7.4 million. Now that the fundraising reports for the 2010 batch of Senate candidates are available, we thought it would make sense to look at just how much money they are going to need just to fund their campaign. The answers tell us a lot about which candidates are in a position to win, and which are just treading water right now.

In 2008, neither Udall nor Schaffer had a primary to worry about, yet both spent significant amounts of money in the first three months of the year on general campaign operations (staff, travel, office space, phones, copies, etc.) Here’s how those numbers stack up:

2008 U.S. Senate Race

Campaign Expenditures for Q1 (Jan. – March)

Mark Udall: $824,828

Bob Schaffer: $361,400

The 2004 election is a little more difficult to compare. Because incumbent Sen. Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell didn’t announce his retirement until March 2004, there isn’t any Q1 data from that year to compare. But take a look at the expenditures from the first report on the Republican side, which featured an expensive primary between Schaffer and Pete Coors:

2004 U.S. Senate Race (GOP Primary)

Campaign Expenditures for Q2 (April – June)

Pete Coors: $813,541

Bob Schaffer: $457,296

Now, back to 2010. Of the current field of candidates, only Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet and Republican Jane Norton have cracked the $1 million mark in fundraising, and only those two candidates are currently raising enough money each quarter to allow them to both cover expenses and save for television (we don’t include Tom Wiens because he’s only had one quarter of ahem, fundraising). Here are the current “cash on hand” numbers for each candidate:

Michael Bennet (D): $3,482,581

Jane Norton (R): $595,563

Tom Wiens (R): $540,132

Andrew Romanoff (D): $480,000

Ken Buck (R): $276,000

Recent history shows that it costs at least $400,000 per quarter at this point to keep a strong campaign operation running. History also shows that if you don’t have a strong television buy, you can’t win; TV is still the most effective way to reach the large number of voters you need to win either a primary or a general election.

Given those two realities, it’s hard to see how Romanoff and Buck will be able to win their respective party’s nominations if they don’t significantly increase their campaign coffers, either through fundraising or self-funding. Unfortunately for both candidates, they have likely exhausted the low-hanging fundraising fruit at this point; most candidates have their strongest fundraising quarters early in their candidacies because the first people they call for money are the most likely to donate.

Both candidates have already brought in relatively highly-paid staff (Walt Klein for Buck and Celinda Lake, Joe Trippi, etc. for Romanoff), and both candidates have to staff up heavily now in order to do well at the caucuses. They are both going to have to spend a lot of money in the next few months, but neither is raising enough cash to do more than just cover those bills. And in Buck’s case, he’s not even raising enough to do that.

Look, we’re not saying that Romanoff and Buck won’t or can’t win in August — a lot can change in the next few months. But as it stands right now, the numbers don’t lie. When you combine their fundraising pace with both the money they need to spend on their campaign and the need to squirrel away funds for TV, there’s just no way that each campaign can stay in the black financially.

If Romanoff and Wiens can’t maintain a balance for heavy television advertising, then there is absolutely no way they can win in August. Buck is getting some help from outside interest groups, and perhaps Romanoff will get some outside help as well, but you can’t rely on those groups for your only televised outreach to voters; those ads should be the icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

This fundraising quarter could, and should, be the most critical period for both campaigns. If Romanoff and Buck don’t significantly increase their warchests, there’s not going to be a happy ending for this story. Buck and Romanoff will probably stay in the race until the bitter end, but at this pace, they won’t be doing much when the end comes.

Big Numbers for Wiens, Not for Buck

As The Denver Post reports today, Colorado’s candidates for U.S. Senate will report vastly different results from the Q4 fundraising period:

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet raised more than $1.1 million last quarter, nearly 3 1/2 times more than his Democratic opponent, Andrew Romanoff.

On the Republican side for the U.S. Senate seat, Jane Norton collected more than $550,000.

The campaign for Tom Wiens, the newest Republican candidate for the Senate, said it raised more than $725,000 but declined to give any details or say how much of the money came from the candidate…

…On the Republican side, Norton’s donations last quarter were nearly 14 times more than those of Ken Buck, whose campaign netted about $40,000, according to federal filings…

…Wiens’ campaign did not elaborate on the $725,000 besides saying it had about $550,000 on hand. Detailed contribution records for the period are not yet available.

“Those are the only two figures I have,” said campaign spokesman John Ransom.

Walt Klein, adviser to Buck’s campaign, said the low totals were the result of the splash Norton made when she entered the race last fall.

“It was a disappointment but not one that was unexpected,” Klein said. The campaign has more than $276,000 on hand.

Wiens has said before that he is prepared to put $500k into his own campaign, so it will be interesting to see how much of the $725,000 his campaign is reporting having raised came from the candidate himself. But whether Wiens dipped into his own bank account, raised the money or had it delivered by a magical fairy, $725,000 is still a lot of money. This result pretty much can’t help but put a few dents in Jane Norton’s ‘aura of inevitability.’

The biggest news from Q4 on the Republican side is the anemic $40,000 raised by Buck, whose spokesman termed it “a disappointment.” We wouldn’t call it a disappointment so much as a “disaster,” since most of Colorado’s congressional candidates pulled in much more than that in Q4.

While Buck does have the support of outside groups, we hear that Republicans who are supportive of Buck as a candidate are now starting to encourage him to run in CD-4. If Buck can only net $40,000 in a quarter, then he’s not ready to be a candidate for U.S. Senate, although he has shown the chops to be a strong candidate for another office.

Given the fact that Republican Cory Gardner continues to make stupid mistakes and has been weak to this point in his campaign against Democrat Betsy Markey, it’s no surprise that many Republicans view Buck as a better choice for that seat anyway. Buck has a natural base in Greeley, which is a major population center in the district, and his relatively weak fundraising would be less of an issue in a congressional race than a Senate primary with two big money opponents. Democrats would probably prefer that Buck stay in the Senate primary and make Wiens and Jane Norton spend every last penny that they raise, but we can’t disagree that it would make sense for a lot of reasons for Buck to switch gears.

Obama Will Stump for Bennet

From The Associated Press:

The White House has confirmed that President Barack Obama will visit Colorado in February to attend an event with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

White House spokesman Adam Abrams said Thursday that the details are still being worked out.

Craig Hughes, Bennet’s campaign manager, says Obama will be in Colorado to campaign for the senator, who is running for election. A date hasn’t been set.

Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run…

Andrew Romanoff held a press conference today to announce that he is still running for the U.S. Senate and will not seek any other office or accept any other job offer in the meantime.

So there’s that.

On one hand, this is the first good bit of strategy (okay, really the only strategic move) that we’ve seen from Romanoff as a U.S. Senate candidate. Romanoff got a lot of free media attention by holding a press conference to announce basically nothing, while at the same time trying to beef up the impression that he is still a sought-after politician due to all of the people who encouraged him to run for Governor. Romanoff also needed to publicly affirm that he was staying in the race for Senate because of so much speculation to the contrary. In that regard, today’s press conference was a good move.

On the other hand, it’s hard to really understand this decision in general. Romanoff is a talented policy wonk who is widely liked and respected by both Democrats and Republicans, but his campaign for Senate has been downright awful…and it’s destroying his political future in the process. Romanoff has tried meekly to distinguish himself from incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet on the basis of not accepting PAC money or special interest contributions, but policy-wise and issues-wise, there’s really not much difference between the two. The lack of a strong, clear message for why Romanoff is running for Senate has been startling, and his campaign in general has been a mess. Witness this weird item today from Westword:  

The morning after Bill Ritter announced that he wasn’t going to run for governor this year, I reached out to Romanoff spokesman John Schroyer for a comment about whether or not his guy would consider switching his focus from the senate to Ritter’s gig.

Schroyer pointed me to a comment Romanoff had made at a public event the evening before about still being a candidate for the Senate — but when I asked followup questions about how his challenge to Michael Bennet was going, Schroyer said someone else from the organization would have to provide answers. I suggested new campaign manager Bill Romjue. Schoryer said he wasn’t sure if he could get in touch with Romjue, but he would have someone contact me shortly.

That didn’t happen — and after Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar endorsed Denver mayor John Hickenlooper amid his own announcement that he wasn’t going to step in for Ritter, it was clear that Romanoff’s window of opportunity had closed.

Nonetheless, I received e-mails from Schroyer later that day, and for several days thereafter, asking if I’d gotten what I needed in terms of an interview. Each time I replied that I had not — that neither Romjue nor anyone else from the Romanoff campaign had contacted me. But these notes never prompted any action. No call ever came.

The Westword story pretty well sums up Romanoff’s campaign in general. He waited way too long to begin his campaign, he went months without a campaign manager, and he still hasn’t really articulated what he would do as a Senator that Bennet isn’t already doing. Romanoff had to announce soon that he was either running for Senate or switching to Governor, but ironically, it is the disarray of his Senate campaign that precluded a real run for Governor. We heard from more than one politico in the last two weeks who would have supported a Romanoff bid for Governor six months ago but had lost confidence in his ability to run a strong statewide campaign. Had Romanoff stayed on the sidelines and waited for his next opportunity, there likely would have been a strong sentiment that he should be the Democratic nominee for Governor.

But because he has spent the last six months running a head-scratcher of a campaign while simultaneously alienating a good number of Democrats with his messageless Bennet challenge, Romanoff was never going to be able to elbow someone like John Hickenlooper out of the race.

The reason we’re having such a hard time understanding today’s announcement is because there’s really no good ending in sight for Romanoff. His fundraising numbers for Q4 haven’t been released yet, but there’s no way he’s going to be able to keep up with Bennet. Romanoff doesn’t need to outraise Bennet in order to beat him in August, but he does need to raise a considerable amount of money just to keep his campaign running. You cannot run a truly effective statewide campaign when many of your staffers are volunteers, as they are for Romanoff. But if Romanoff spends the money he needs in order to staff up appropriately, then there’s no way he’ll have enough money for the kind of TV ad buy that will overcome Bennet. Remember, Romanoff may be popular and well-known with activist Democrats, but 85% of primary voters are uninformed, generally uninterested voters. Most primary voters don’t know Romanoff or Bennet, because most primary voters aren’t all that different than most general election voters. By and large, those voters will select the person they are most familiar with come August, and Bennet will be able to go up on TV with an ad buy that will all but assure that he has strong ID among Democratic voters.  

In order to be a success in politics, you need either to be feared or loved (or, ideally, both). In less than a year, Romanoff has gone from being universally loved and respected (if not-quite feared as a candidate for higher office), to only somewhat loved and not-at-all feared. As long as he remains in the Senate race, nobody who has seen Romanoff’s campaign to this point will ever again fear what he might do as an opponent. As long as he stays in this race, Romanoff will never again enjoy the kind of popularity among Democrats that he once had. The only positive outcome for Romanoff at this point is an all-or-nothing gamble that seems like more of a long shot than anything. . He’s risking his entire political career on a bet that he’s going to get dealt two or three amazing cards between now and August – cards that will somehow propel him to an improbable victory.

Maybe Romanoff will surprise us and go on to win both the primary and the general election, but no serious observer can watch this race at this point and really, truly believe that Romanoff has a significantly better chance than Bennet. If Romanoff exits the race soon, he can chalk his crappy campaign up to wrong place, wrong time and write it off as an aberration. If Romanoff gets out now, he can start to rebuild the relationships he has broken while continuing to serve as a leader to those who support him now. Romanoff is talented and young, and he can live to fight another day. But if he loses the primary to Bennet while running a bad campaign, then he’s done. Or even worse, if he loses the primary and then Bennet loses the general election, Romanoff will be blamed (fairly or not, he’ll be blamed) for damaging the chances of Democrats to hold this seat.

Perceived political power is as important, if not more important, than actual legislative or executive power. If Romanoff loses to Bennet, then he also loses his place in line for future races. No other Democrat is going to defer to Romanoff if he has already proved that he can’t even win a primary, but if Romanoff exits the race now, he can do so while preserving some chits in his pocket to use for a future run.

Look, we didn’t think that Bennet was the right choice when Gov. Bill Ritter appointed him to replace Ken Salazar last year; we thought that it should have been Romanoff, Hickenlooper or Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and we said as much. We were skeptical of Bennet when he fumbled around early, and we wrote that Romanoff and Perlmutter might have been better. There was an opportunity for someone like Romanoff to challenge Bennet and even emerge as the frontrunner while doing it. But that time passed in late spring while Romanoff waited, and waited, and waited. When he finally made a decision in August, it was too late; Bennet had raised a lot of money and was picking up more and more support. Similarly, there was a time, back in 2005, when virtually every Democrat in Colorado would have moved over to allow Romanoff to be the Democratic candidate for Governor. But Romanoff passed, and the political world moved on without him.

Did Romanoff get screwed over by not being appointed to the Senate or as Secretary of State by Ritter? Probably, but you can’t ignore the fact that Romanoff also passed up opportunities of his own. Either way, perhaps Romanoff does deserve better than this; but as Clint Eastwood once said, “Deserve ain’t got nothin’ to do with it.”  

It looks like Romanoff is going to continue ahead with a Senate campaign that he most likely cannot win, and that’s a shame. Politics is as much art as science, and you’ve got to know (to use another poker analogy) when to hold ’em, and when to fold ’em. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just not there for Romanoff in 2010.

Romanoff Considers Suicide Switch?

UPDATE: Treasurer Cary Kennedy (mentioned in the story below) very smartly extricated herself from this discussion and endorsed John Hickenlooper a few minutes ago.

We can’t verify what KMGH-TV reported yesterday as a sidebar to coverage of John Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial campaign announcement, and then amended, but we think it deserves a brief mention:

Hickenlooper decided to run for governor on Sunday, and met with Romanoff Monday night, sources told 7NEWS. During the meeting Romanoff pressed for a Romanoff-Cary Kennedy ticket for governor and lieutenant governor. Kennedy is the state treasurer.

They met again Tuesday morning.

“He never tried to dissuade me from running,” Hickenlooper said. However, he refused to discuss the details of their conversation, saying they have been friends for a long time.

Hickenlooper decided to make the announcement Tuesday to pre-empt any announcement by Romanoff that he would enter the race for Colorado governor, sources said.

Apparently redacted from the original report (but not before being posted in a comment here):

Romanoff asked Hickenlooper not to run, but Hickenlooper adamantly stated he was running, according to sources.

We’ve heard more rumors today that Romanoff is considering leaving the Senate race and challenging Hickenlooper in a gubernatorial primary. Certainly he could make that hard-to-imagine midflight switch from a federal to a state race, but we have grave questions about how that would be received by voters, not to mention the practical problems of such a move–Romanoff was having trouble raising money for a Senate race with contribution limits significantly higher than those for Governor, and none of the money he has raised for Senate would be usable in a race for Governor. How many of those people who donated to his campaign for Senate would be interested in donating again to a campaign for Governor after seeing how poorly his campaign for Senate has been?

There’s the possibility Romanoff could get the Lt. Gov. nod, thus alleviating tensions, but that seems less likely with another male from Denver headlining the ticket.

Short of joining the ticket, to “step down” to the governor’s race from the Senate primary would be a frank admission that he couldn’t win where he was–and if he can’t beat Michael Bennet, arguably in a more vulnerable spot than Hickenlooper, how could he possibly expect to beat a sitting mayor of Denver with 80% approval ratings?

But beyond that, the optics of Romanoff making such a switch now would be absolutely horrible: it would reek of desperation, signaling that personal power–and career insecurity–really were the driving force behind all his agitation these last few months. Unfortunately the damage may be done at this point, any speculation about Romanoff switching races cannot help but weaken him in the race he’s nominally running in now.

For as critical as we have been of Romanoff’s quixotic nonstarter of a Senate campaign, we would be pained to see this get any worse for him than it already is in terms of future political viability–and that means he needs to stop the appearance of erratic “shopping” for his next office right now. There was a time back in the day, in 2005, before Bill Ritter (or even Hickenlooper, for that matter), when Romanoff could have had the same deference in a gubernatorial campaign from other contenders that Hickenlooper enjoys today. And Romanoff is still a pretty young guy–if he doesn’t flush his reputation reaching for things that lie just beyond his grasp this election cycle, which involves some swallowing of pride and realism, he could be back to triumph another day.

Or, maybe Romanoff will become a punchline: this decision could be the crucible.

If You Just Keep Saying It, Maybe It Will Come True

The campaign for Democrat Andrew Romanoff likes to say that he is the leading candidate for U.S. Senate according to independent polling results.

Except that he isn’t.

In mid-December, the Romanoff campaign sent out an email to supporters claiming that he was the favored candidate in a Rasmussen Reports poll from September. He was not.

Today, in an email from new Campaign Manager Bill Romjue, Romanoff’s campaign again claims that he outpolls Bennet in the most recent Rasmussen Reports poll. But he doesn’t. Check out this sample of the email sent today (full email appears after the jump):

Andrew Romanoff outperforms his primary opponent among voters of every political party, every age group, and every other demographic category. (Rasmussen Reports, Dec. 8, 2009)  Andrew has consistently earned the highest ratings since entering the race. [Pols emphasis] (Rasmussen, Sept. 15, 2009)

Not only has Romanoff not “consistently earned the highest ratings since entering the race,” we don’t know of any public poll showing that Romanoff leads anybody. That’s nothing to worry about, because it’s still early in the race, but it’s not okay to just lie about stuff that is easily verifiable.

Neither the December 8 Rasmussen Poll nor the September 15 Rasmussen poll show Romanoff leading Bennet. In both polls, Bennet outperforms Romanoff by a small margin against potential matchups with Republicans Jane Norton and Tom Wiens. Bennet doesn’t outperform Romanoff by much — and that is certainly a message they could exploit — but it just simply isn’t true to continue to say that Romanoff polls better than Bennet.

We’ve not been shy in expressing our confusion over the apparent lack of direction and message coming from the Romanoff camp (nor are we the only ones confused), but this is a different story altogether. Romanoff’s campaign has now sent two separate emails in the same month touting false information that anyone with an Internet connection can easily check themselves. It’s one thing to try to spin the results of a poll, but it’s another entirely to just flat-out lie, repeatedly, and expect that nobody will notice.

Coloradans want new leadership in the U.S. Senate.

Click here if you do, too.

That’s the clear conclusion of two recent polls on the Colorado Senate race.   (The surveys were not commissioned by any of the candidates.)  Voters would prefer a new senator by a margin of more than two to one. (Public Opinion Strategies, Dec. 12-15, 2009)

Andrew Romanoff outperforms his primary opponent among voters of every political party, every age group, and every other demographic category. (Rasmussen Reports, Dec. 8, 2009)  Andrew has consistently earned the highest ratings since entering the race. (Rasmussen, Sept. 15, 2009)

The fundraising quarter ends in 24 hours. Help put Andrew over the top.

Andrew is not only the most popular Democrat in the race; he’s also the most qualified.  No one has done more to turn our state around.  From winning the largest Democratic majority in nearly 50 years to tackling Colorado’s fiscal crisis, Andrew Romanoff has demonstrated enormous courage, vision and leadership.  Those are exactly the qualities we need in Washington today.

Someone has to stand up to the special-interest groups that run the Senate–and the members of both parties who let them.

Andrew Romanoff will.

In fact, he already has.  Andrew is the only candidate in this race to turn down contributions from corporate political action committees–the cash that so many big insurance companies, drugmakers and financial firms use to subsidize Congress and stifle reform.

Andrew Romanoff is leading by example.  That’s the only way real change ever comes.

Washington needs a wake-up call.  It’s time for us to deliver one.


Bill Romjue

Campaign Manager

Romanoff for Colorado

“Where’s Andrew?” Storyline Continues

Sorry to break it to you, anti-Romanoff conspiracy theorists, but we’re not the only ones wondering what the hell is going on with Andrew Romanoff’s Senate campaign. As Susan Greene writes in The Denver Post:

Andrew Romanoff promised a barn burner.

I’ve seen barn burning. This isn’t it.

The former state House speaker lacks ignition in his primary bid for the U.S. Senate. Three months into his candidacy, he’s is still without a voice, a campaign manager and a reason why Democrats should oust Michael Bennet from office.

“Where’s Andrew?” I’m asked at least once a week.

“Where’s Andrew?” I ask two of his advisers.

“In the bunker,” they say in campaign- speak that’s irksome not only to war veterans.

Romanoff’s bunker is an office suite on South Monaco Parkway where he’s hunkered down making fundraising calls and thinking about strategy.

“A lot of things we’ve been doing, it’s true, are sort of under the radar,” the candidate says.

Thing is, laying low doesn’t energize voters, especially in an insurgent campaign against a sitting senator.

And he has other problems.

Like money – that Romanoff has far less of it than Bennet.

And staffing woes. He has yet to hire a campaign manager after Sue Casey, a former Denver councilwoman, ended her stint in the job earlier this fall.

And a sorry lack of attendance at campaign rallies, often billed as “Coffees with Andrew Romanoff.” The candidate doesn’t even drink coffee, a beverage he says is “just an expression for me.” Ever the self-promoter, he says his low turnout encourages intimacy. “We packed the house in Trinidad last week,” he notes weakly.

“I think it’s safe to say most people haven’t tuned in yet,” adds the candidate who has given little reason to tune in.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Romanoff really has some brilliant strategy for winning this race that involves being virtually invisible. Maybe this really is all part of the plan.

But even if that were true, and we don’t think it is, Romanoff is really handicapping his own campaign because of the storyline that has been created. As we’ve said time and time again, perception is everything in politics, and Romanoff has created the perception — true or not — that his campaign is a complete mess. That kind of perception snowballs over time, because the more potential donors and supporters hear that his campaign is rudderless, the harder it becomes for Romanoff to reach them.

What’s the message? That there is no message.

And that’s not a good message.

Under the Radar or Barely ON the Radar?

(Bumped into Thursday by popular demand – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Politico takes a look at Democrat Andrew Romanoff and his challenge to Sen. Michael Bennet, coming to many of the same conclusions that we’d already reached:

Romanoff’s campaign is shaping up to be a far lower-profile — and less damaging — effort than Democrats anticipated. Three months after announcing his bid, Romanoff remains a distinctly under-the-radar candidate, picking up little media coverage and shying away from launching pointed barbs against his establishment opponent.

“I don’t think he’s been able to give an answer to the question, ‘Why are you running?'” said Floyd Ciruli, an independent Denver-based pollster. “It’s left the campaign without a clear constituency and without a clear message.”

Perhaps most surprising to state insiders, Romanoff has overseen a Senate campaign that is decidedly lacking in infrastructure. Sue Casey, a veteran party operative who ran Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 effort in the state, confirmed to POLITICO that she left Romanoff’s campaign in October – a departure that has left the campaign without a manager for the past several months…

…With Casey gone, sources familiar with the campaign say Romanoff has largely relied on a staff of informal advisers, including his cousin Melissa Caplan and Ken Gordon, a former Democratic leader in the state Legislature. Dave Hemrick and Tom McMahon, two veteran Washington-based Democratic strategists, have also been advising the campaign.

To Democrats in the state, Romanoff’s relative quietness in a contest many expected to be a barnburner has raised broader questions about whether he should have stepped into the race in the first place.

We first noted that Casey was out of the Romanoff campaign back in November, wondering who was driving and where they were headed. Some Romanoff supporters have jumped to his defense here on Colorado Pols, but we’ve just been calling it like we see it — despite the spin attempts.

“There’s no sense of momentum; there’s no sense anything is happening,” said another well-connected Democrat in the state. “I’m not sure anyone is running his campaign, quite frankly.”

In a statement to POLITICO, Romanoff spokesman John Schroyer said the team was “delighted with how the campaign is developing. The campaign staff continues to grow.” Schroyer noted that the campaign “has been endorsed by 200 elected leaders, has 900 volunteers … and has collected more than 2,600 contributions, with 95 percent of those from in-state donors.”

Look, this is what you are supposed to say when you are a campaign spokesperson — that you are “delighted with how the campaign is developing.” But no rational observer could look at this campaign and think everything is just swell.

The Politico article runs down basically the same issues and concerns that most Colorado political observers — including us — have had about Romanoff’s campaign. There’s no message, no clear direction, and not much to get excited about now that the potential of Romanoff as a candidate has given way to the reality.

The only part of the Politico article that we don’t agree with is Ciruli’s nonsense statement that a Romanoff victory in the caucus will make this a race; Romanoff is supposed to win the caucus because hardcore Democrats are more familiar with him. The real question is whether Romanoff’s campaign can make it that far.

Head, Meet Brick Wall. Commence Banging

We’ve been tough on Democrat Andrew Romanoff and his bizarre campaign for U.S. Senate, but we’re not saying anything that a lot of political observers aren’t.

Romanoff continues to be silent in terms of any sort of platform — hell, we haven’t even seen talking points — that mention what he believes in and why you should vote for him over incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet. While Bennet makes national headlines with his bold statement that he would risk losing his seat over his vote on health care reform, Romanoff says…nothing. About anything. (Well, except for talking about how he’s a leader and stuff, which is, in a word, pointless).

The criticism aimed at Romanoff’s campaign has largely been about the total absence of any position, yet inexplicably he keeps feeding the beast. Witness, if you will, an email sent today from the campaign with this headline” “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

We’d normally make a joke here, but this narrative has gone from amusing and ironic to confusing to just, well, just plain sad. A candidate criticized for not having a position on anything sends out an email with the headline “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Are they trying to look silly?

Full text of said email below.

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

I was reminded of that line today when I read about the GOP’s new Contract with Colorado, dubiously dubbed the “Platform for Prosperity.”  We should educate our workforce, rebuild our roads and bridges, and save for a rainy day, the platform says – but we don’t want to pay for it.

Click here to call their bluff.

This is not a new trick.  It’s one of the oldest in the political playbook: Promise the voters anything they want, and then hope that no one bothers to do the math before the election.

Such short-sighted schemes are one of the reasons our economy is ailing.  It’s the same sort of fact-free snake oil that so many seductive salesmen – from politicians to predatory lenders – have been peddling.  

Instant gratification, by definition, doesn’t last.  And the side effects can be devastating: ever-deepening debt, rising foreclosure rates, a crumbling infrastructure.

We can do better.  We can put an end to partisan gamesmanship.  We can demand leaders who solve problems rather than point fingers or pick fights – and we can hold those leaders accountable.

Principled leadership.  That’s what I’ve sought to provide for the past eight years, first as a state legislator and then as speaker of the House.  It’s what I’ll bring to the U.S. Senate.  The stakes we face are too high to settle – or fall – for anything less.

More Weirdness from Romanoff Campaign

A few strange items from today’s Denver Post regarding fundraising numbers from the Senate races. In the period from Sept. 10-30, Sen. Michael Bennet outraised challenger Andrew Romanoff $364,000 to $181,000. But Romanoff’s spokesperson had an explanation. Sort of.

During those three weeks, Bennet raised twice as much as Romanoff, $364,000 to $181,000, among itemized individual donors giving $200 or more…

…Joelle Martinez, spokeswoman for Romanoff, said her candidate’s fundraising did not begin in earnest until the last 10 days of the month.

“I think we felt really good about what we were able to bring in during that 10-day period,” Martinez said.

We don’t believe for a second that Romanoff didn’t bother to really start raising money until the last 10 days of the month, because he certainly understands the importance of showing solid fundraising numbers. But as we’ve mentioned before in this space, we’re baffled that Romanoff has gotten off to such a plodding start in his campaign, particularly given this revelation:

His filing also showed he paid $27,500 out of his own pocket for a poll in March, six months before he announced his candidacy.

“It’s a big decision whether or not to run,” Martinez said. “That was one of the things he turned to as far as making a decision.”

So Romanoff had solid numbers on a potential matchup with Bennet in March, yet waited until September to bother lining up donors? Combine this lack of planning with the total absence of any message from Romanoff, and it’s getting harder to see where this campaign is really going.

Romanoff Pushes On, Still Sans Message

We’ve questioned before the complete lack of any real message coming from Andrew Romanoff’s campaign for U.S. Senate. As the campaign enters its second full month, there is still no clear message from Romanoff.

Click below to read Romanoff’s latest email sent out to supporters. It’s filled with the same vacuous stuff that his previous emails have included. “Grassroots effort,” “Meaningful and lasting progress,” and our favorite, “Real reform requires risk.” It all sounds so very…vague. And that’s not going to get Romanoff elected.

And please, we offer a simple plea not just to Romanoff, but to hundreds of other candidates: Stop using the “Not trolling for dollars on Wall Street but talking to people on Main Street” line. It’s soooo played.  

“You gotta dance with them what brung ya.”

Most candidates for Congress spend the bulk of their time raising money from powerful interest groups – the same groups they’re expected to regulate once in office.  No wonder so many politicians are reluctant to rock the boat.  You can raise more money, and stay in office longer, by playing it safe.

That’s not acceptable, especially not now.  History has handed us a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make meaningful and lasting progress on a host of issues, from health care to the economy to the fate of the earth itself.  To make the most of this opportunity, we need bold leadership in the U.S. Senate.  Timidity won’t do the trick.  Real reform requires risk.

Click here to take action.

If we are serious about curbing health-care costs, for example, we’ll need to reform the ways in which we deliver and compensate care, so that providers are rewarded for improving outcomes, not simply for prescribing procedures and ordering tests.  If we are serious about securing a higher standard of living for ourselves and our children, we’ll need to retool our schools, retrain our workforce and rebuild our infrastructure, rather than rely on financial gimmicks and foreign debt.  If we are serious about safeguarding our environment, we’ll need nothing less than a revolution in the production and use of energy, so that we no longer have to spill our blood or spoil our skies just to power our planet.

Click here to make a difference.

None of these steps will be easy.  But few will even be possible unless we reform our political system.  Too many elections are foregone conclusions – contests in name only – or yard sales, in which public offices are auctioned off to the highest bidder.  The politicians who prevail pose little threat to the status quo; their victories are bought and paid for by an incumbent-protection racket that regards democracy as bad for business.

How do we break the grip of these plutocratic potentates and reclaim our democracy?  We restore the power of people.  That’s why I’m writing to you today.  We are building a broad, grassroots campaign, fueled by and focused on the people of Colorado.  I’m proud to have enlisted more than 2,500 Coloradans in this cause, covering every county in the state.

Join us.  Together, we’ll prove that you can get elected to national office not just by trolling for dollars on Wall Street but by talking to people on Main Street.

Someone once said there are two kinds of politicians in the world: those who want to be somebody and those who want to do something.  I’m running for the Senate because I want to get some things done.  I will not flinch from tough decisions.  I will fight every day for the far-reaching reforms we deserve in health care, job growth and energy policy.  And I will jam the revolving door on Capitol Hill, so that lawmakers and lobbyists can no longer form job-sharing agreements that turn public office into private gain.

If you believe, as I do, that we need to change the tune in Washington, not just the politicians who dance to it, sign up right now.

Pols Poll 2: U.S. Senate (Democrats)

It’s been a month since we did this last, so it’s time to poll again. We’ll compare the results from this month and last month after voting is complete.

As we’ve done in other election years, we regularly poll our readers on various races to gauge changing perceptions. These obviously aren’t scientific polls, but they do help to show how the perception of various candidates are changing. We’ll conduct these polls each month and then show the results to see how the winds are shifting.

As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

Who Will Be the Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senate?

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Vote Romanoff for Senate – He’s a Nice Guy and All

Former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff’s campaign for U.S. Senate is only about a month old, but much of the buzz surrounding his bid to take out incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet has not been positive.

As we’ve said before in this space, it’s amazing that Romanoff could have been thinking about running for Senate for so many months, yet still be this unprepared for what it’s going to take for him to win. An email sent yesterday by Sue Casey — who is being called a “Senior Advisor” to Romanoff’s campaign — makes our point perfectly:

Learn for yourself what we know:

  • Andrew knows how to lead.

  • He has a record of solving problems and crafting solutions to tough problems.

  • Andrew’s career has been all about bringing people together to make a difference in the lives of hard working people here in Colorado.

  • Andrew is someone all Coloradans can count on to make their concerns his cause.
  • What a bunch of complete nonsense. Romanoff has absolutely NO message at this point for why you should vote for him for Senate other than “Vote Romanoff: He’s a Nice Guy and All.” Andrew knows how to lead — that’s something you’d expect to see on a website for someone running for the state legislature.

    If Romanoff is going to gain any real traction in this race outside of a core group of supporters, he needs to come up with an actual reason for why he’s running aside from the unspoken “because I’m still pissed off at Bill Ritter” rationale. That he doesn’t have a coherent message is not only inexcusable, it’s potentially fatal.

    Bennet Raises More than $1 Million. Again.

    Senator Michael Bennet’s campaign announced yesterday that they had raised more than $1 million for the third straight quarter, for a total of $3.65 million raised in about 8 months.

    No official word on how much money Bennet has in COH, though the National Journal (no link available – subscription only) reported that Bennet was sitting on $2.85 million. If true, that would indicate a pretty high burn rate, but we’ll wait for the filing to be available to check ourselves in a day or two.

    New Chief of Staff for Bennet

    From The Fix:

    Appointed Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) has hired high-level party operative Guy Cecil to serve as his chief of staff, a recognition of the political peril in which he finds himself in 2010.

    Cecil, who is currently the president of Thomas Circle Strategies, a public relations firm, spent much of 2008 as the political and field director for then Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (N.Y.) presidential campaign. Prior to that, he served as political director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

    Romanoff: 21 Days, $200,000

    As the Denver Post reports:

    The campaign for U.S. Senate candidate-come-lately Andrew Romanoff said Tuesday that it had raised more than $200,000 in the 21 days he was eligible to collect donations in the third quarter.

    Romanoff needed a big start to show he’s viable, though he will have to keep up the pace to compete with the fundraising juggernaut of Sen. Michael Bennet, who has taken in $2.5 million and counting since his appointment in January, analysts say.

    Romanoff fundraisers collected cash from more than 1,500 individuals, said spokeswoman Joelle Martinez, using that figure to bolster Romanoff’s image as the race’s grassroots candidate…

    $200,000 divided by 21 days equals $9,523 per day. Given the reduced amount of time Andrew Romanoff had to raise funds compared to opponent Michael Bennet, the per-day number is the best indicator available for how Romanoff is matching up so far. Extrapolating that per-day figure across 90 days, or one whole quarter of fundraising, $9,523 a day would total just over $857,000.

    Of course extrapolated money isn’t real, and Romanoff’s early fundraising was the low-hanging fruit. We expect Bennet will report more than a million dollars for the third consecutive quarter, so will Romanoff’s curved total be enough to stay viable? This brief fundraising quarter was a free pass for Romanoff, so to speak. Now the real work begins; what he raises in Q4 will say a lot about whether he can really win a primary against Bennet. Ultimately, this brief report doesn’t tell us much. It isn’t high enough to get overly excited, but it isn’t low enough to worry about, either.

    Rothenberg Political Report Not There Yet

    The Rothenberg Political Report recently released new assessments of Colorado’s Senate race and Governor’s race, and we think they’ve got the assessments a little, um, not correct.

    Rothenberg lists Sen. Michael Bennet as having a “Clear Advantage for Incumbent Party,” while Gov. Bill Ritter is listed as a “Toss-Up.” We think they’ve got both races listed incorrectly, because we’d put both the Senate and Governor’s race in the “Narrow Advantage for Incumbent Party” position.

    This is a classic example of Washington D.C. outsiders looking at races across the country based on limited information. For example, Republican Josh Penry has been getting good national press as the “new, fresh face” in Colorado Republican politics, but that ignores the facts: Scott McInnis beats him easily in head-to-head polling, and Penry has yet to show that he can be a strong fund raiser. Ritter is by no means safe for re-election, but given that there is a tough GOP primary with two flawed candidates, this is still his race to lose.

    On the Senate side, Bennet has a tough primary with House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and finally has a strong potential GOP challenger in Jane Norton. Again, this is Bennet’s race to lose, but we certainly wouldn’t say he has a “clear advantage” at winning re-election.

    What say you?

    Which Democratic Seat is Most Likely to Stay in Democratic Hands?

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    Pols Poll: U.S. Senate (Democrats)

    With less than a year until the 2010 primaries, it’s time to start the annual Colorado Pols Polls.

    As we’ve done in other election years, we regularly poll our readers on various races to gauge changing perceptions. These obviously aren’t scientific polls, but they do help to show how the perception of various candidates are changing. We’ll conduct these polls each month and then show the results to see how the winds are shifting.

    As always, please vote based on what you think will happen, not on who you would vote for or which candidate you support personally. Think of it this way: If you had to bet the deed to your house, who would you pick?

    Who Will Be the Democratic Nominee for U.S. Senate?

    View Results

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    Obama Endorses Bennet

    Talk about the mother of all endorsements. As The Denver Post reports:

    President Barack Obama endorsed U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet today, throwing the force of the White House into a Democratic primary battle that officially is just over a day old.

    “Families in Colorado and across America need (Bennet) in the United States Senate to help us revitalize our economy, improve our public schools and pass health-insurance reform,” Obama said in a statement released by the White House.

    “Michael has had my full support from day one, and I look forward to working with him in the Senate for years to come.”

    The direct endorsement of a president still enormously popular among progressive voters is perhaps the biggest hammer that national Democrats can bring to Bennet’s primary battle against former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, and they wasted no time in wielding it.

    Some Democratic operatives in the state were unsure how strongly Obama would weigh in, if at all, given Romanoff’s popularity among the party’s rank and file. Romanoff began a three-city kickoff tour just yesterday.

    But faced with a race that has the potential to trip up the party’s efforts to consolidate its gains in the Rocky Mountain West, national Democrats have quickly rallied behind Bennet, who was appointed to the seat vacated by Ken Salazar less than nine months ago.

    Bennet’s Office Bungles Terrorism Alert Report

    Not good news for team Michael Bennet, as the Denver Post reports:

    As news broke of a possible terrorist cell in Denver, Colorado’s lawmakers worked furiously to reassure the public that they knew what was going on and that the situation was under control.

    But Sen. Michael Bennet’s office appeared to be largely in the dark.

    That’s according to a confidential string of e-mails inadvertently sent to the media that show Bennet’s staff desperately trying to find out information from law enforcement officials while openly worrying how the media might play the fact that he was out of the loop.

    An e-mail chain accidently attached to a two-paragraph news release offered a glimpse of the upheaval that breaking news can create in official corridors…

    We received this press release yesterday evening. Our first thought was, “why is it so long?” Then we scrolled down, and read this back-and-forth between Sen. Michael Bennet’s staff as our eyes slowly widened. We didn’t anything last night because, frankly, we weren’t sure if this inadvertent leak contained classified or otherwise privileged information. But with or without that added complication, the narration of Bennet’s staff’s singleminded focus on favorable press coverage during a major terrorist investigation — and discussions as though it were just a “missed opportunity” — is really, really bad.

    As the thinking of his staff unwinds in e-mails and proposed talking points, much of their conversation focuses on whether the lawmaker will appear uninformed compared with colleagues.

    Bennet’s staff suggested that he tell reporters he had been “in close contact” with the FBI since that morning, when he was apparently still waiting for an FBI briefing late in the afternoon.

    Bennet’s staff also openly fretted that he would be upstaged by his Democratic colleague, Sen. Mark Udall, who had been briefed by the FBI and had spoken to reporters.

    “Bummed we missed this – I was under the impression we were being asked not to talk – looks like everyone else did and will lieky (sic) get the press. Lesson learned for next time,” Sarah Hughes, Bennet’s deputy chief of staff, wrote in one missive.

    Two things to keep in mind: first, earned media is the primary concern of every Senator’s communications staff. It’s not like Bennet (or any other politician, for that matter) is really involved with a freshly-breaking terrorism investigation, their job is mostly to keep out of the way and to reassure the public. Second, some of the frustration expressed by Bennet’s staff is understandable–as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, it sounds like the FBI could have done a better job keeping him in the loop.

    Even so, we doubt anyone really wondered about what Bennet’s response was yesterday. It’s not like anyone, us included, was thinking, “Hey, what does Michael Bennet think about all this?” When Sen. Mark Udall eventually issued a statement, we just assumed he was the person being briefed initially because he is Colorado’s Senior Senator. Bennet’s staff didn’t need to pretend that he was being consulted about this, because nobody was asking. And NOBODY would have known that Bennet wasn’t informed unless his staff told them.

    But the larger point is that we should not even be having this conversation at all. Inadvertently copying the whole staff email reply chain about this kind of event into a press release is totally inexcusable. In fact, thank goodness the FBI was too busy to brief them, or the disclosure might have been much worse. There are things you can screw up this badly and draw a gaffe pass, national security is not one of them.

    Ritter Hopes Primary Won’t Split Democrats; Also Wants a Unicorn

    From The Denver Post:

    Gov. Bill Ritter says he would have been better off politically if he had picked former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat Ken Salazar.

    But the governor, speaking Monday on the Mike Rosen Show on 850 KOA, said he is sticking by his appointment of Michael Bennet to the seat…

    …”What I am hopeful of is that it (the primary) does not split the party or split it in way that causes damage in the November election,” Ritter said. “I obviously would have counseled Andrew against this, but this is something he decided to do, and I’m going to be with Michael Bennet.”

    Ritter, who has repeatedly cited Bennet’s personal qualities as assets for the Senate post, said his choice wasn’t the safe, easy one.

    “I could have appointed Andrew, and it would have been better for me politically to have done that because he had sort of a longer history in Colorado politics,” he said.

    Make no mistake: Romanoff’s challenge of Bennet is also a clear challenge of Ritter as well. Even if Ritter wins re-election, a Bennet loss will significantly weaken Ritter’s position among Democrats. In fact, it’s fair to say that a Romanoff win would make him the acknowledged leader of the Democrats in Colorado, even with a two-term Ritter in the Governor’s mansion.

    So, yes, picking Romanoff (or John Hickenlooper, or Ed Perlmutter) would have been safer politically for Ritter. Smarter, too.

    And you thought that whole discussion was over in January.

    Public Option Important for Bennet in Primary

    UPDATE: Westword’s blog says that Bennet was backing away from the public option on the air, but Polster redstateblues found the quote from the show, and it’s not nearly as damning:

    Silverman: “Are you for a public option? Because when it comes to business, I think about the PXs on a military base, and I’ve never been able to shop there because I’m not a member of the military, but I understand they have low prices. How could King Soopers and Safeway compete with a PX?”

    Bennet: “Well, I have supported… I do support a public option, and I have supported it. [Pols emphasis] Let me tell you why, and then I’ll answer your question. The reason is, that I have heard so many stories from people all over the state from people who have paid in every single year and then when they needed it or, you know, when their kid got sick, and they needed it, it wasn’t there anymore. And they are really resentful of the fact that somebody earned a profit off that commercial transaction. There are… the weird thing about insurance is that you pay for it way in advance, usually, of when you use it, and there have been a lot of folks who have had terrible experiences with that. I don’t think we should have a subsidized plan that would compete unfairly, as some have said, in the market, but I think a non-subsidized plan that, like I said, doesn’t have the high administrative costs and is available just as a choice–just as an option in the market–I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”

    We still say that strong support of the public option will be critical for Bennet in a primary battle, but it definitely looks like Westword’s claim that he was “backing away” in this interview is not correct.

    Original post after the jump…

    We’ve written before in this space that Sen. Michael Bennet and his political advisors erred greatly in trying to make him appear as a centrist while a potential primary challenge from Andrew Romanoff was still looming. Focusing on what Bennet would present to general election voters is great if you know you won’t have a primary, but Romanoff was always the bigger threat to Bennet’s election than any Republican candidates out there.

    Nonetheless, it doesn’t appear is if Bennet has learned his lesson. Or maybe nobody told him that Romanoff is running. Westword writes this morning that Bennet was backing away from the “Public Option” piece of health care reform on an appearance on KHOW radio:

    Naturally, the topic of healthcare reform was front and center, and Bennet, like so many other members of his party, made it clear that a public option is no longer a make-or-break facet of the plan. Indeed, he said too much attention has been paid to this element, thereby obscuring many of the proposal’s other fine and important aspects. He also used a buzz term we’ll be hearing much more in the coming weeks: “deficit neutral” — meaning that he doesn’t want the final bill to push the nation’s finances any deeper into the red. In truth, there’s no way to say with absolute certainty that this will be the case, since any such determination will be based on projections, estimates and other sorts of guesswork — but it sounds good.

    What. Are. You. Doing?

    A “public option” is very popular among Democrats, and the more Bennet backs away from this, the bigger an opportunity he presents Romanoff. If we were Romanoff, we’d make certain that affirming support for a public option was one of our main talking points at tomorrow’s campaign kickoff. “Romanoff supports the public option, Bennet doesn’t,” would be a very clear delineation for Democratic voters.