Barack Obama's endorsement was a net plus for Michael Bennet's primary campaign, but less than 24 hours after Bennet's victory, the senator and the White House are at cross-purposes.
Immediately after it became clear that Bennet would cruise to victory in Colorado, Democratic officials in Washington began to brag about how much they helped Bennet. Several reporters were sent a bullet-pointed list of presidential and cabinet secretary visits. This morning, Organizing for America bragged in an e-mail, "OFA turns it on for Bennet!"
"We owned this one," a top White House adviser exuberantly e-mailed.
But Bennet's team is belly-aching at the White House braggadocio. "This is our moment. They were helpful, but Michael won this one himself," a senior campaign adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of alienating the White House, e-mailed just now.
The White House needed what Hotline's Reid Wilson called a "moral victory" -- a perceptual victory. Democrats want to demonstrate that their political machine is well-oiled and working. The White House political team now has evidence that Obama isn't an albatross around the neck of endorsed candidates.
Bennet needed the help and he genuinely gets along well with the President, but now he faces a larger audience of voters who are more skeptical about Washington, about President Obama, and about the notion that Washington forces ought to swoop into a state and help a candidate.
That's why he refused to say whether he'll ask Obama to campaign for him in the fall. And that's why his campaign wants Obama's team of advisers to shut their mouths right about now.
Both sides are, in the ultimate sense, right to do what they're doing. But it makes for an interesting spot of post-primary political theater.
Disclosure: Michael Bennet's brother, James, edits the Atlantic.