Bennet survives, bucking wave

Aug 10th, 2010 | By politicsnews | Category: Politics

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet beat back a tough Democratic primary challenge from former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff Tuesday, holding off the electoral wave that has already claimed two incumbent senators and threatened to drown Bennet’s short political career.

With 61 percent of precincts in, Bennet held a nine-point lead over Romanoff, taking slightly more than 54 percent of the vote. He joins Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln in a select group of Democrats to survive vigorous challenges from the left – with the help of a powerful fundraising machine and substantial help from national Democratic Party leaders.

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President Barack Obama endorsed Bennet early in the contest and visited Colorado on his behalf, and just last week held a tele-town hall meeting to drum up late support for the senator. On Monday night, Romanoff was already warning of the impact out-of-state actors might have on the race, telling supporters: “Across the country, in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, that is where the opposition has organized a phone bank, calls coming from Washington to Colorado telling us to how to vote and who to pick to represent us in the United States Senate.”

Romanoff, an aggressive, experienced local pol, struggled with fundraising throughout the race, but appeared to capture an electoral tailwind in early August following his first round of television commercials. The former state legislator attempted to take advantage of the electorate’s anger at Washington with ads linking Bennet to Wall Street and comparing big banks to casinos.

Unlike Blanche Lincoln’s challenger, Romanoff was running with at least tentative support from former President Bill Clinton, who endorsed Romanoff late in June and recorded a robo-call for his campaign that ran this week.

On the Republican side of the race, the establishment-favored candidate was faring less well an hour after the polls closed. With 73 percent of precincts reporting, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck was leading former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, 51.5 percent to 48.5 percent gap.

Buck declared Tuesday he was confident of his prospects against Norton, despite signs that his lead in the race had narrowed substantially in recent weeks. Despite having stumbled over a series of unforced gaffes, and having watched his polling lead shrink, he told POLITICO Tuesday afternoon: “I wrote one speech tonight, not two.”

If Buck’s lead holds up, the general election could become the latest version of a familiar 2010 story: a well-funded, careful Democrat running in a hostile electoral environment, versus a flawed, ideological Republican with the national landscape tilted heavily in his favor.

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