Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)
Colorado Republicans have endured weeks upon weeks (upon weeks) of positively brutal headlines as the race for the Republican Senate nomination enters its final month, so we can understand why some in the GOP would be overjoyed to come across some negative news about Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.
Before we get to bursting the GOP’s bubble on this particular piece of Bennet news, let us pause to allow our Republican friends to bask in the dim glow of this story from the Denver Post:
The Colorado AFL-CIO dealt a surprising rebuke to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet over the weekend when the union federation declined to endorse the Democratic incumbent in his bid for re-election.
Bennet was the only Democratic lawmaker in Colorado’s congressional delegation who failed to gain the support of the state’s AFL-CIO chapter…
…Sam Gilchrist, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, said the vote on Bennet was close, but that he fell short of the required two-thirds majority needed for an endorsement because too many union members were unhappy with Bennet’s support of a measure last year that gives the White House more power to cut international trade deals.
That authority is broadly seen as a pathway for the Obama administration to approve a new agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would ease trade barriers among 12 Pacific Rim countries, from the U.S. and Canada to Japan and Chile.
While the Colorado AFL-CIO declined to endorse Bennet’s re-election campaign because of the Senator’s perceived support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Bennet hasn’t exactly been bullish on the idea, either. As the Colorado Independent reports:
Bennet has not yet taken a public position on TPP.
But Bennet voted on a measure giving Obama the authority to “fast track” negotiations for it and other global trade agreements, and Bennet has drawn fire from the AFL-CIO for his stance on trade before. Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have come out against TPP.
Failing to lock up the endorsement of the Colorado AFL-CIO is certainly not a positive development for Bennet, but it’s not nearly as problematic for 2016 as Republicans would like you to believe. Bennet is a moderate Democrat who goes about his business on Capitol Hill as a moderate Democrat would be expected to act. Bennet’s moderate credentials may not make him beloved by the liberal Democrats in Colorado, but he is who he is. Maintaining his centrist approach to the Senate is a big part of the reason why he is widely favored to win re-election this fall.
Bennet may not get the official support of the Colorado AFL-CIO, but he should have plenty of backing from other labor groups who prefer Bennet over any of his Republicans challengers. Concerns about the TPP issue as a political millstone are overblown as well; you may recall that Bennet supported the Keystone XL oil pipeline in 2015, yet still received the endorsement of prominent environmental groups such as the League of Conservation Voters and the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The very fact that the AFL-CIO felt comfortable enough to not support Bennet also bodes well for progressive politics in Colorado. The AFL-CIO made its point with Bennet; the message was received and understood, but not at the expense of mortally wounding the only swing-state incumbent Democratic Senator up for re-election this year.