Andrew Romanoff: Pennsylvania, Arkansas votes bode well for him beating Michael Bennet

Like Republican senatorial hopeful Ken Buck, Dem Andrew Romanoff is in a strange position vis-à-vis his party's assembly this weekend: He'll win, but that doesn't mean most people think he can defeat his better-heeled opponent -- in his case, Senator Michael Bennet -- in the August primary.

Romanoff remains confident, however, and his mood was buoyed by this week's election results in Pennsylvania, where longtimer Arlen Specter was defeated by Representative Joe Sestak, and Arkansas, whose senator, Blanche Lincoln, was forced into a runoff by a challenger, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter.

"Washington runs an incumbent protection racket in a futile attempt to squash dissent," he says. "That didn't sit well with the voters in Pennsylvania, and not with the voters in Arkansas, either. And I don't think it'll sit well with the voters in Colorado."

The Dems will gather at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, with Romanoff scheduled to speak an hour later. But there's not a heckuva lot of suspense about the outcome. Although Bennet made moves to petition onto the ballot in case he fell short of the 30 percent support needed to be named, Romanoff has no doubt he'll clear that threshold. "We're heading into the convention with about 57 percent on my side, 41 percent on his, and the rest undecided," he says.

In Romanoff's view, the petitioning gambit represented the Bennet camp's bid "to lower expectations. It's all spin, it's all a ruse. That way, when they get 40 percent or more, they can say, 'We did better than we thought we would.'

"That's consistent with what they did at the caucuses. They said my victory shouldn't count because I was playing on my home turf -- I take it they mean Colorado. And they said, 'You should have won by more -- that somehow, our eight point victory was a devastating loss. So we took their advice and doubled that up to sixteen points in the county assemblies.

"But at the end of the day, these games don't matter. And all the money in the world doesn't matter if you've got nothing to say."

The role of cash in politics is a frequent subject of Romanoff rants -- not surprisingly, since Bennet has a lot more of the stuff than he does.

"The system we call democracy has been distorted, disfigured and mangled by money," he argues. "It's warped the pool of candidates who choose to run, it warps the candidates who win, and it's dramatically distorted the democracy we get as a result. When the most powerful special interests in America are able to buy Congress and block reform, that's grotesque, that's obscene."

Granted, dollars are the best way for a candidate to build name recognition, which explains why Bennet has been spending piles of greenbacks on television ads. But Romanoff doesn't see moola as the be-all and end-all. He notes a conversation he had at a campaign event in Littleton last night: "Someone said, 'I'm here because I watched your opponent's TV commercials,'" he says.

Romanoff, who isn't accepting donations from political-action committees (Bennet is), counters with tales of his growing grassroots support: "We've had roughly 350 people sign up to host house parties over the next three months. We've got a couple of thousand folks who have signed up to make phone calls or knock on doors or volunteer in other ways."

He adds that fundraising picked up after his caucus win, and he expects the same to happen "after we win the primary. Then we'll hear from a lot more individuals from his camp and others."

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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