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 Palin–there’s a story, anyway, we’d say has parallels closer to home.