No one can question Polly Baca's Democratic bona fides. She was elected as a Dem to both houses of the Colorado legislature and served on the Democratic National Committee, including an eight year stint as vice chair.
So she was in unfamiliar territory at a press conference yesterday in front of the local Democratic Party headquarters. After all, she was there to criticize President Barack Obama, for whom she proudly voted, for traveling to Colorado tomorrow to raise funds for Senator Michael Bennet prior to a primary during which Bennet will face off against former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff. Indeed, Bennet and Romanoff just held a public debate last night.
Given Baca's history, was it difficult for her to take this stand? "Absolutely," she says. "It pained me to do it." But in this case, she acknowledges, "I am so disappointed in him."
Baca emphasizes that she wants Obama "to be a successful president. But I think the best way for him to succeed is to focus on his job. And when he gets pulled away from his job to do something like this, it's not good for the party or for him. It just gives people who want to criticize him more ammunition.
"I think it's an example of bad political advice. At this point, people are rebelling against someone from outside of Colorado trying to influence what we do, and it's not healthy."
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Granted, Baca would welcome Obama's presence in Colorado if the primary was over. The problem, in her opinion, is that the president is clearly backing Bennet in the competition with Romanoff, who she supports. But she stresses that she'd be unhappy with Obama's decision to choose a pre-primary favorite no matter who was running.
"I talked to the White House about this," she says, "and my advice, regardless of the candidate, is that the president shouldn't get involved in primaries. You just don't do that. You upset people who are your friends -- and that's not a way to win elections.
"I worked for President Johnson, President Carter and President Clinton, and none of them ever got involved before a primary, nor did any Republican president I know about. I've heard people on the radio say this has been done before, but I can't remember a sitting president of any party doing it.
"Afterward, yes -- invite them in, because they should be fighting for their own political party. But you don't get involved in a primary. It doesn't help anyone."