Andrew Romanoff on Obama visit: "There's obviously an incumbent protection racket in D.C. that has a distaste for democracy"

Supporters of Andrew Romanoff's senate campaign held a rally for their guy yesterday that was considerably lower profile than the one staged for his opponent, Michael Bennet -- an event starring a certain President Barack Obama.

But while Romanoff backers like Polly Baca fault the president for picking sides before the primary, the candidate himself questions the amount of influence Obama's actions will have on the average Colorado voter.

"I've been running around the state for the last five months, or however long we've been doing this," Romanoff says, "and I don't think I've met more than two people who've said, 'I'm just going to defer to the president. I'm not going to make my own decision.'"

Not that Romanoff would have automatically rejected efforts by Obama on his behalf.

"I recognize that some of our supporters would have liked the president to do an event that was open to them, and open to anybody," he notes. "Actually, that's what we had proposed: Do an event in addition to the one for the other fellow's campaign."

That didn't happen, and Romanoff doesn't seem heartbroken about it.

"As much as I respect the President, I think he understands that this decision rests with the voters of Colorado," he allows. "Three million people are registered to vote in this state, and he's not actually one of them. I respect his right to weigh in, but I'm focused on the folks who are actually going to make this decision."

Is there a danger that members of that electorate will conclude that the primary race is already over because Obama's backing Bennet?

"I think that's absurd," Romanoff responds. "There's only one person who's cast a vote so far: The governor filled a vacancy."

At the same time, he concedes that he upset plenty of Democratic powers by choosing to challenge Bennet in the first place.

"There's obviously an incumbent protection racket in D.C. that has a distaste for democracy," he argues. "They don't like the primaries. They circle the wagons and protect their own -- and they made that clear to me before I even got into this race. They said, 'You've got a nice little reputation you've built for yourself. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.'"

After that, "I told somebody that I expected to wake up with a donkey's head in bed beside me. But I don't think that sits well with most people in this state. In Colorado, we don't like to be told what to do.

"It's a little troubling that all the special interests in D.C. are subsidizing my opponent's campaign. They seem to be scared of our grassroots effort -- and I think that encourages us. It leads voters to think, 'What do I have to fear? What will happen if the voters of Colorado stand up to them?' That's why I'm not taking their cash. We're going to take on the national political culture, the pay-to-play politics."

Of course, this principled stand is made easier given that such cash isn't being offered to Romanoff. But money remains the fuel of big-time politics, and the cash discrepancy between Bennet and Romanoff has led many observers to conclude that the latter doesn't have a chance. Consider the comments of Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton during his appearance on KHOW this morning. Between weighing in on marijuana, gay marriage and whether or not Westword cares about facts, Singleton said Romanoff couldn't defeat Bennet at the primary level because he hasn't gained any traction.

"I think that's funny," Romanoff says, adding, "We have been struggling to get traction in the Denver Post" -- a clear reference to the comparative lack of attention the paper has paid his efforts thus far. He then elaborates like so:

"I don't want to pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel. I respect the publisher, and he gets a vote in the race if%

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