Clinton, Breaking With Obama, Backs Romanoff Over Bennet In Colorado

There were several reasons given for Sen. Blanche Lincoln's come-from-behind victory in this month's Democratic Senate primary runoff in Arkansas, none more prominent than the active campaigning on her behalf by Bill Clinton.

The former president also made a favorable impression when he campaigned in southwestern Pennsylvania for Mark Critz, who won the special election in the state's 12th Congressional District for the seat of the late John Murtha.

In some ways, Clinton did what President Obama could not.  Obama couldn't campaign in Murtha Country, but Clinton could.  Obama has never been popular in Arkansas, but Clinton is.  Some have suggested that Clinton, not Obama, may be the Democrats' biggest draw on the campaign trail this fall.

Still, there's one thing that Clinton and Obama had in common in the two aforementioned campaigns:  they both backed the same candidate.

That changes today.  Clinton sent out a fundraising letter on behalf of Andrew Romanoff, the former speaker of the Colorado state House who is challenging appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in the August primary — a candidate fully backed by the White House.  Most polls have Bennet with a clear lead over Romanoff.  Here's part of Clinton's letter:

As a Senator, Andrew Romanoff will continue to stand up to special interests and fight for working families.  We need Andrew's leadership in Washington — especially now, when so many Americans are losing so much.  "It is not enough," as Andrew put it at the Colorado Democratic Assembly last month, "to put a President of real talent and vision and leadership in the White House if the same qualities are not matched at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue." ...

Andrew brings to this race both an extraordinary record of public service and an extraordinary capacity to lead.  I believe that those assets, as well as his deep commitment to Colorado, give him the best chance to hold this seat in November.

The Denver Post's Allison Sherry writes that the endorsement "brings to the surface 2-year-old fractions between President Obama’s camp and the Clinton establishment camp."  Romanoff endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2008, while Bennet backed Obama.  But, Sherry adds, Clinton "is not expected to do anything for Romanoff — no fundraisers, no stump speeches — beyond the letter sent out to supporters Tuesday," according to Clinton spokesman Matt McKenna.

Still, the endorsement made a lot of observers sit up and take notice.  It "stunned the Democratic establishment in Washington," writes the New York Times' Jeff Zeleny.  Kyle Trygstad, on the Real Clear Politics blog, notes, "The move solidifies the fact that Clinton and Democratic leadership in Washington are not always on the same page."  The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza says it puts Clinton "squarely at odds with the White House."  But, he adds, a "source close to Clinton insisted the endorsement had everything to do with" Romanoff's endorsement of Hillary Clinton in '08 and "nothing to do with opposing the White House's chosen candidate."

Regardless, notes the National Review, it led Colorado state GOP chair Dick Wadhams to crow that the endorsement "reveals the soft underbelly of the Bennet candidacy."

Of course, the Republicans have their own battle for the nomination.  Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the establishment choice, has seen her lead disappear and is now thought to be trailing Tea Party favorite Ken Buck.

That battle is for another story.  Colorado primary: Aug. 10.

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