Your Mileage May Vary

The Denver Post’s Michael Booth writes today on the local spin emerging from this week’s primary elections elsewhere–how much does the anger expressed by voters in places like Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and Kentucky matter in Colorado’s Democratic Senate primary? The answer to that question may defy easy narration, which brings us back to, um, local spin:

What Sen. Michael Bennet’s camp heard was a high-volume protest against just about anything Washington has been doing for years. Its response: ruined before we got there, and we’re cleaning up the mess.

Romanoff on Wednesday called the trend “a determination for people to exercise their own judgment. . . . We can think for ourselves, thank you very much.”

For Romanoff, that means taking heart that Colorado primary voters will resent Gov. Bill Ritter’s appointment of Bennet to the open Senate seat 16 months ago and the White House’s backing of Bennet…

Bennet’s reaction is to emphasize how he’s trying to break up the obstructive power of old Senate rules and insider connections. He’s pushing restrictions on lobbying and Senate “holds” on presidential appointments.

“Michael became a senator when problems in Washington were already very much ingrained,” his campaign manager, Craig Hughes, said Wednesday. “He quickly saw that the system had broken down and was preventing good ideas from becoming reality.”

Outside observers didn’t see much help for Romanoff in Tuesday’s mix of Democrat and Republican revolutions. Pennsylvania Democrats threw out an incumbent senator, yes, but Specter was a recent party-switcher and an entrenched veteran with 30 years in the Senate.

In Arkansas, Lt. Gov. Halter nearly tied and forced a pending primary runoff with incumbent Democrat Lincoln, but voters there perceived major policy differences between the contenders. [Pols emphasis] Halter rode a multimillion-dollar wave of outside spending by progressive Democrats angry at Lincoln’s conservative tilt.

Colorado voters are still waiting for Romanoff to find major policy differences with Bennet, said longtime state pollster Floyd Ciruli.

Bottom line: the situation in Colorado is quite different from the Democratic Senate primaries in Pennsylvania and Arkansas. Michael Bennet hasn’t been in the Senate long enough for the full weight of voter resentment of incumbents to apply to him. Moreover, Bennet is not a target of progressive Democrats like Blanche Lincoln is, because what record he has in the Senate is demonstrably more favorable to those progressives. The fact that Barack Obama happened to have endorsed Arlen Specter and Lincoln isn’t why they got the results they did, it just shows that his endorsement can’t save a candidate from him/herself. Both Specter and Lincoln were up against self-inflicted circumstances that are unique, and made them uniquely vulnerable.

And above all, the clear choices that existed for voters Tuesday–an ex-Republican in Pennsylvania, and a widely-lampooned intransigent Democrat in Arkansas–do not exist here. The easy distinction possible in those races has not been seen in the race between Bennet and Andrew Romanoff, who has failed to sufficiently contrast himself with a clear message against his opponent. We’ve been saying so for months now, and catfight-of-the-day aside, this remains the biggest reason why Romanoff hasn’t gained traction in polling or fundraising.

Like we said at the beginning, each of these races has their own narrative, and any attempt to read ‘omens’ for Colorado into Arlen Specter’s defeat, or Blanche Lincoln’s forced runoff, is a logically hazardous exercise. On the other hand, Ken Buck and Kentucky primary victor Rand Paul on the GOP side have some noteworthy circumstances in common, one exception being the endorsement of Sarah Palinthere’s a story, anyway, we’d say has parallels closer to home.

16 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Ah Choo says:

    (Bad) Polling, (inept) fundraising, (100% burn rate) spending, (non) message, (chaotic) organization, (damaging) earned media have nothing to do with anything! Bringing those things up just shows you are biased. Specter analogies are so much more applicable.

  2. StrykerK2 says:

    I think one thing that Tuesday did show was how little ability to influence local elections both parties have.  I agree with the statement that they didn’t lose because of the endorsement of the president or other national figures, but it is an interesting note that it didn’t help much either.

    Obama/DSCC/OFA support wasn’t enough in Penn or Arkansas, and Mitch McConnell’s handpicked choice got creamed by a tea party guy in Kentucky.

    Whether there is resentment about the national parties jumping in or people just don’t care much about their view is hard to say without things like exit polling, focus groups, etc, but it seems like one of those two conclusions (or both to some extent) are valid.

  3. allyncooper says:

    The pundits and talking heads who try to draw inferences between what happens in an election in PA or some other state and apply that so called “message” somewhere else ignore one of the fundamentals of politics:

    “All politics is local” –  Tip O’Neill

    As for endorsements, they’re just as meaningless.

  4. This race is not all of those others, in other places each with unique circumstances.

    Like many of the recent previous races where people have tried to read in some all-encompassing narrative (VA and NJ Gov, MA-Sen, NY-23), each election is still its own race.  There are no easy cookie-cutter predictions to be made.

  5. H-man says:

    While other race results should not be applied blindly Bennet has huge unfavorables for somebody who has barely had time to drink a cup of coffee in the Senate.  That is where you see the anti DC sentiment.  The numbers from the Rasmussen poll (PPP polls job performance for Bennet)for May for favorable/unfavorable are as follows:

    Bennet very favorable 20%  very unfavorable 27%

    Buck very favorable 13%  very unfavorable 12%

    Norton very favorable 17% very unfavorable 21%

    Romanoff very favorable 14% very unfavorable 14%

  6. dmindgo says:

    At the least, I would spin the Lincoln-Halter primary a bit differently.  Lincoln has become a target, not because she is conservative, but because she has often flouted the Dem caucus and voted with the Republicans at critical points.  I think Ben Nelson is the only other Dem in the Senate who can raise as much the hackles of party faithful.  

    The big story out of Washington, D.C., for the last two years has been that the Senate is the place where good ideas go to die.  Lincoln has been a big part of that and she is now reaping the rewards.

    Bennet, on the other hand, has consistently worked with other Dems, and Repubs, to move legislation forward.  He might end up not getting the nomination, but he has been working to move things forward and that will serve him better than Lincoln’s efforts.

  7. constancec says:

    This article, like every other one by Coloradopols, about Romanoff and Bennet repeats it’s same old complaints about Romanoff. How about Romanoff winning the caucus? How about all his wins at  the county assemblies? Seems like people respect and vote for him, despite his not having millions to spend on campaign ads and free water bottles.

    • Ah Choo says:

      Poor formula for winning the war.

      Especially when you spent as much as you raised in the process.  

    • The Dead Guvs are once again just posting someone else’s analysis – that of a Post columnist.  It happens to agree with what they and a number of other people here on this site have been saying for a while (including some people who are undecided or are even cautious Romanoff supporters…).

      Do you really expect this site to continue writing about the county assemblies and caucuses now weeks (months) old?  And do you, unlike most posters here, really think that the caucus/assembly process is representative of the Democratic primary electorate?

      The spinning – and beyond that the whining – is getting pretty overpowering.  Romanoff needs to create a good news cycle; until then, this is what we’re stuck with.

      • Rainidog says:

        It seems that most of the AR folks posting here are really very naive politically.  Politics is a tough, fast-moving game.  They are having a hard time keeping up, and an even harder time accepting that, much as all of us wish it weren’t so, there is no absolute purity to be had.

        If Romanoff himself can’t generate some juice, some mojo, some power, then his lack of positive and ongoing press coverage is certainly not the fault of the press itself, of Sen. Bennet’s campaign, of Gov. Ritter or of Pres. Obama.  The whining, as you say, just saps the Romanoff mojo even more and makes him look weaker by the day.  And keeps his supporters and his campaign in a constant mode of complaint, denial and spin.  

        Which, I fear, is not a winning mode.

  8. AlanR says:

    If you look back at the polling in both Arkansas and Pennsylvania two months before the May primary (back to Feb) you’ll see that the eventual narrative had not begun to reveal itself yet.     In Pennsylvania Specter was leading (by more then Bennet is currently leading) and the question was when will Sestak makes his move.   In Arkansas Halter was stalled, and the question was will Lincoln’s high negatives be enough to sink her.   Tomorrow (State Assembly) will be the beginning of the next stage of this campaign.

  9. AlanR says:

    Up until now,  the two biggest arguments being made by the Bennet campaign have been 1) he is the incumbent and incumbents shouldn’t be defeated unless there is a specific reason to fire him and 2) he has so much money and washington/wall street connections that he is inevitable and our strongest candidate.  

    Both of those arguments are now clearly in the toilet.   The next two months will be exciting and fun.

    • “Is Andrew Romanoff going to do a better job than I have been doing?”  And on that point he’s been successful: Romanoff has been unable to articulate to the masses a clearly “better” future under his guidance.

      Also, I think Romanoff is running an idealistic campaign in an era where cynicism has taken the average voter’s expectations down a notch to the “can get it done” level.  Bennet has been showing some signs of, well, I’m not sure “success” is the word, but at least “ability”.  This is rather sad, actually; we need a serious overhaul in the Senate, and I’m not sure you can get enough Senators to build the right bridges to get it done the old-fashioned way.

      Romanoff IMHO needs to have a true break-out moment.  He needs to come out of the State Assembly with a Barack Obama style speech, a strong vision that really resonates with voters.  His best foreseeable press opportunity will be at the Assembly – he has to hit it out of the park to jump start his campaign.

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