Picture it: Michael Bennet, the insurgent.
It’s almost a journalistic requirement to use mild-mannered to describe the 54-year-old senator from Colorado. Bennet comes off as the standard guy in a suit with the standard guy-in-a-suit haircut. He has a calm smile and a voice that creaks through conversations about provisions of bills he’s helped write. He’s sober. He’s serious.
But now, the prep-school and Yale Law graduate—and the man who is in elected office only because of a surprise appointment to the Senate—tells me,“I gotta live off the land.” He wants to be part of a revolution, he says: Make the presidency normal again.
Last Saturday, Bennet and I ducked into the coffee shop of the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco. Bennet sipped tea and nibbled on a croissant. (He couldn’t believe that the two items together had run him $12.96.) The day before, he’d trashed the Democratic National Committee and what he referred to as its “stupid and self-defeating” rules about polling and online donors for qualifying for the September debates. He’s one of the 11 candidates who failed to register at 2 percent or higher in four different polls and hit 130,000 donors, thus preventing him from participating in the next debate. He likely won’t make the cutoff for the October debate either, but he says it doesn’t matter. He’s going to keep going: TV ads are in the works; hiring is under way. He’s flying to Iowa over Labor Day weekend, and in a minor coup, his wife will be campaigning with Christie Vilsack, the wife of the state’s popular former governor. He’s staying in the race, he told me, at least through the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020, and the New Hampshire primary a week later. “I would never have gotten in the race if I didn’t think I could win,” he said. “And when I think I can’t win, I won’t be in the race.”