Name That Opponent: WashTimes Reporter Leaves Sen. Bennet's Dem Primary Challenger Out of Story

February 16th, 2010 2:16 PM

In a story primarily about President Obama's plan to campaign on behalf of incumbent Democratic senators in Nevada and Colorado, Washington Times reporter Joseph Curl did not name Colorado Senator Michael Bennet's opponent.

That oversight would ordinarily be defensible if the Bennet's primary competitor were polling weakly. But he is most decidedly not, at least where it ultimately counts -- in general election match-ups against the current Republican primary front-runner.

Former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who claims to have the support of "a majority of the Democrats in the state legislature," is that competitor.

Here are the paragraphs from Curl's report germane to the Colorado situation (bold is mine):

Mr. Obama on Thursday will head to Colorado to deliver remarks at an event for Sen. Michael Bennet, who is trailing both Republicans vying for their party's nomination. Mr. Bennet, 45, took office in January 2009 when Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. appointed him to fill the seat of Ken Salazar, whom Mr. Obama appointed to his Cabinet as secretary of the interior.

Mr. Bennet trails Jane Norton, a former lieutenant governor and state representative, by 14 percentage points, and Ken Bush, a district attorney and former congressional aide, by four percentage points, according to the most recent Rasmussen Reports survey.

The president's appearance likely will help Mr. Bennet survive the Democratic primary because he "is still very popular with base voters," said Ms. Chadderdon. "But will Obama's numbers have rebounded enough in the general [election] not to be an albatross?"

... Mr. Obama is aware of voter dissatisfaction, and two weeks ago took the extraordinary step of allowing embattled Democrats to sternly question him about his policies. During a televised policy conference of Senate Democrats, he took questions almost exclusively from those locked in tough re-election campaigns - Mr. Reid, Mr. Bennet, Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, New York's Kirsten Gillibrand, California's Barbara Boxer and Mr. Bayh.

The only direct poll result I could find for Bennet v. Romanoff goes back to September, and shows the incumbent with a 41%-27% lead in a Tarrance Group survey (PDF here).

But, ominously for Bennett, according to the very Rasmussen survey Curl cited (HT Real Clear Politics), Romanoff currently matches up better against the GOP's front-runner, former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton. In the February 2 poll, Norton leads Romanoff by 7% (45%-38%), but leads Bennet by twice as much (51%-37%). What's more, Romanoff has closed on Norton a bit in the past three weeks (from 12% to 7%), while Bennet's position has deteriorated (from 12% to 14%).

Bennet and Romanoff are having a debate tonight.

It seems odd that Curl would avoid mentioning Romanoff, especially as the damage to President Obama within the Democratic Party would be significant if the challenger were to pull off what seems to be an at least conceivable upset in the wake of Obama's personal effort to help Bennet. Even if Curl believed that a Romanoff win isn't going to happen, the fact that he does better head-to-head against Norton would seem to have been worthy of at least a mention.

Ultimately, Curl's report provides a degree of protection to an incumbent liberal -- something not usually seen at the Washington Times. 

Cross-posted at