Andrew Romanoff can't win primary, says Dick Wadhams, and Michael Bennet needs to fess up

According to Colorado GOP boss Dick Wadhams, there's a very simple reason why Republicans like Jane Norton have concentrated more on Michael Bennet and less on Andrew Romanoff in relation to the White House job offer scandal.

Wadhams sees no scenario in which Romanoff can defeat Bennet in the Democratic senatorial primary. And besides, he thinks Romanoff blew his chance to get mileage out of the Obama administration's actions when it would have done him some good.

In recent days, Wadhams has joined the chorus of those lobbying for an investigation into the positions dangled in front of Romanoff and Pennsylvania's Joe Sestak if they decided not to challenge incumbent senators Bennet and Arlen Specter.

"The federal law is so explicit," he says by way of explanation for his stance. "I'm not a lawyer, but it's written in very plain English, and any fair reading of the statute makes it clear that the Pennsylvania and Colorado situations, taken together, show that the White House clearly offered a job to those two candidates to get them to withdraw from the race."

Moreover, "we need to hear from Senator Bennet. He has refused to talk about this situation and answer the fundamental question about what contact did he have with the White House on this job offer to Romanoff. Did he talk to Jim Messina [the deputy chief of staff]? "Did he talk to Rahm Emanuel [Messina's boss]? What's his involvement?

"He won't answer those questions," Wadhams continues. "The only statement his office has made is something to the effect that Andrew Romanoff and the White House's statements speak for themselves, and that isn't good enough. We need to know what Michael Bennet knew and when he knew it and what contacts he had. And that's not only from a legal standpoint, but from an ethical standpoint. He goes on TV all the time saying how bad Washington is and how he's there to change Washington. But this is vintage Washington. So let's see how badly you really want to change things, Michael Bennet. He could have already said I had nothing to do with this, myself and my campaign had no conversations with White House political officials about this job offer to Andrew Romanoff. But he hasn't said that yet."

Predictably, Wadhams expresses disgust with the White House implication that such job offers are pretty much business as usual in big-time politics -- he calls it "cynical" -- and seems unconcerned about the possibility that an investigation could reveal similar actions from his own party: "If it happened under Republican presidents, let's have the revelations," he says.

Why the effort on the Republicans' part to make the story more about Bennet than Romanoff or the Obama administration, at least locally? Politically, "the focus should be on Michael Bennet," in his view, since "I think it's clear Bennet will swamp Romanoff in the primary with the $3.5 million he had in the bank coming into this quarter. I don't see how Romanoff ultimately wins the primary against Bennet with that funding disparity. That's why our primary has gotten competitive. Financially, Ken Buck and Jane Norton have found themselves in a very competitive position, but I don't think that's the case on the Democratic side."

Besides, Wadhams believes Romanoff seemed "shaky" in responding to the job offer last week, "and I think he missed an opportunity to parlay this bribe opportunity into an advantage for him. If he'd talked about it last September," when the Denver Post first mentioned the possibility of such a proposal, "he would have done himself some good. But I don't think he's benefited politically from the situation because it took him nine months to confirm that he got a very specific job offer from the White House."

In other words, despite all the attention Romanoff's been receiving from the national press in recent days, he's a political non-factor in Colorado. That's why Wadhams is more interested in "seeing if Michael Bennet will fess up" than if Romanoff will spill any more details.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts