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No Sen. Bennet in This Race — It’s Just Michael

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Former Colorado Speaker Andrew Romanoff speaks to a small group of supporters at an apartment complex in Lakewood on Friday. To see more photos, click here.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe I was going to win,” Romanoff said Tuesday of his recent loan.

Romanoff has made much of his decision to eschew political action committee donations in his campaign and made Bennet’s support from special interests the main subject of his TV ads. He pointed out Wednesday that the money he has loaned his campaign is merely a quarter of what the Senator has received from special interest groups.

But skeptical Bennet supporters shrug off Romanoff’s decision to forgo PAC contributions as an attempt to turn into a political advantage the fact that he simply can’t raise any money from those groups.

In addition to the financial disparity, Romanoff’s decision to wait until September to jump into the race allowed Bennet a crucial nine months to put a campaign in place and make inroads in places where Romanoff was already well-known.

He was able to secure the support of people such as airline pilot and retired Marine John Flerlage (D), who is running in Colorado’s 6th district. At a candidate forum Thursday in downtown Denver, Flerlage said Romanoff was a “fantastic” Speaker but that he’s backing Bennet because the Senator came out early for Flerlage and “was willing to stand with me and say we can win the 6th district.”

Romanoff said 11 months was plenty of time for the primary.

“There are folks who say, ‘first come, first serve,’” he said. “To me, you’re electing someone to the U.S. Senate, so I think that’s a flimsy assertion.”

Unrefined Charm

While Bennet has a solid lead on Romanoff in the primary, multiple recent polls show him trailing both potential Republican challengers in the general election. Because he’s still introducing himself to voters in the state, Bennet’s biggest advantage over Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck and former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton this cycle has long been his ability to raise big money. So Republicans have been happy to watch the appointed Senator bleed away millions from his war chest in his fight against Romanoff.

And as the Democratic primary has gotten heated, Republican operatives have fostered the image that the Democratic Party in Colorado is in disarray. Republicans trumpeted the fact that the White House talked to Romanoff about a possible position in the administration if he got out of the race as a sign of the administration’s lack of confidence in Bennet despite President Barack Obama’s endorsement. Former President Bill Clinton’s endorsement of Romanoff in June also complicated the picture and further delighted Republicans.

Steve Harvey, a Democratic state House candidate who attended a Bennet fundraiser Friday, acknowledged that the Senate primary has not been a good thing when it comes to the general election in the battleground state.

“I understand [Romanoff’s] disappointment” over not getting the Senate appointment, Harvey said. “But once that ship sailed, I don’t think it serves the interest of the Democratic Party and the progressive agenda for him to primary Bennet.”

Bennet said Saturday that he regrets the amount of money he’s had to spend against Romanoff.

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