Lessons of Michael Bennet's Win in Colorado

Obama gets some good news

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Colorado Democratic Senator Michael Bennet defied predictions of doom on Tuesday night and won a hotly contested Democratic primary for his upcoming reelection. Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff still won 46 percent of the vote, however, forecasting a tough race for Bennet in November, when he will run against Tea Party-backed Republican Ken Buck. Bennet, who was appointed to the Senate last year to fill the void left by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, is also the brother of James Bennet, the Atlantic's editor-in-chief. Here's how we won, what it means, and what's next.

  • Why Bennet's Win Was So Surprising  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explains, "Romanoff is a career politician; Bennet was a career corporate strategist and education innovator; the insurgent had more of a base than the incumbent, who had barely been in office; the incumbent was more deeply connected to the status quo than the guy who had been a politician for most of his adult life. ... Bill Clinton's endorsement was the catalyst for Romanoff's surge. Given how well-known Romanoff was, the race should have always been closer than it was. Romanoff ran tough, hard ads against Bennet at the same time that he was basking in the glow of the Clinton endorsement and his own decision to sell his house to finance his campaign."
  • Victory for Obama, Dem Establishment  Politico's John Harris writes, "President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, who have been starved for good news through much of 2010, finally received a generous helping Tuesday night. ... The headline victory belonged to Sen. Michael Bennet, the Colorado Democrat who, with extensive help from Obama and the party establishment in Washington, galloped to a surprisingly wide 9-point victory over challenger Andrew Romanoff. A former state House speaker, Romanoff once looked well-positioned to rally liberal discontent and give the White House a very visible black eye. But the party establishment showed it still has some fight, even in an anti-establishment year."
  • Forecasts the 2010 Elections  The New York Times' Kirk Johnson writes, "it was the race in Colorado that was perhaps more telling for the national political landscape, as it saw Democrats backing the national party’s candidate and Republicans picking the insurgent. ... The challenge for incumbents and establishment-backed candidates — to distance themselves from Washington — was clear in the tone of Mr. Bennet’s victory speech." Johnson says the results "suggested that the anticipated wrath of the American voter might not be quite ready to sweep away all before its path — but the tide is still strong."
  • Nasty Race  The Washington Post's Dan Balz calls the Democratic campaign "a nasty and often personal campaign between a political novice-turned-senator and a legislative-insider-turned-insurgent. [Bennet's] victory provided a welcome boost to President Obama, who had put his prestige and the muscle of his political organization behind Bennet's candidacy."
  • Colorado Dems Facing Serious Rift  The Denver Post's Jennifer Brown writes, "In an e-mail to supporters, Bennet thanked Romanoff for a 'spirited' campaign and attempted to start repairing the rift in the Democratic Party. 'We're in fighting shape now, and any opponent who stands against us will have a heck of a time staring down our unified front of Coloradans,' the e-mail said. A sign of how deep the campaign divided the state party, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine will travel here this week to speak at a unity event, local Democrats said. The event is an attempt to heal wounds and unite against the GOP nominee."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.