As we chatted about on last night’s Blog Talk Radio program, the fallout from Bill Ritter’s appointment of Michael Bennet to the U.S. Senate continues. Liberal angst on behalf of the spurned former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff continues to grow. The latest is Susan Barnes-Gelt’s column “What Was Ritter Thinking?” in the Denver Post:
Bennet’s decade-plus resume, elite pedigree and acute intelligence may confer gravitas-lite. However, his utter lack of legislative experience, political/elected bona fides and thorough knowledge of the state, its issues and character cast doubt on the governor’s judgment. What does it say about our state’s chief executive that he passed over an equally young, talented, out-of-the-box reformer who boasts an impressive record of working across the aisle, as well as legislative savvy and leadership?
The political grapevine tells us that Romanoff had assurances (or at least firmly believed he did) from Ritter that he was in line for the Secretary of State’s job. Then the governor passed him over not once, but twice.
In an arena where loyalty and a certain amount of transparency are key to success, Ritter â€” barely two years into his first term â€” kicked the guy who stood by him months before Colorado Democrats were willing to lend their support. For reasons that remain unclear, Ritter turned on the respected professional who masterminded his successful election. In doing so, the governor has overlooked the extraordinary leader who made life much easier for him on the Capitol’s contentious second floor, in favor of someone whose political positions and skills are undefined.
Ouch. If the rumors are true about a promise broken, I would tend to believe Romanoff over Ritter. After all, the governor right now seems to have deluded himself – reports the Denver Daily News:
Gov. Bill Ritter suggested yesterday that other candidates competing for his executive appointment to the U.S. Senate did not have what it takes to be elected in 2010 and did not completely â€œmeshâ€ with the ideology of President-elect Barack Obama like Michael Bennet does.
Speaking at a City Club of Denver meeting, Ritter, a Democrat, said it came down to deciding who was going to be elected in 2010.
â€œAt the end of the day, I wasnâ€™t going to appoint somebody that I believe canâ€™t get re-elected in 2010,â€ said Ritter. â€œSo, I tell you, I believe that (Bennet) is absolutely electable.â€
â€œI believe he is suited to do that at a level different than other people,â€ continued the governor.
The second part of the quoted statement is more interesting than the first. Either the governor invoked the incoming president Barack Obama to cloak himself in political popularity and invulnerability or he gave observers a clue about what kind of a senator Michael Bennet will be. If it’s true that Bennet “completely” meshes with Obama’s ideology, it’s hard to see how he could turn out to be the independent official that would serve Colorado and his own political future well.
Then there’s the phrase “at a level different than other people”? To accept the inferred meaning is to suggest that Bennet is more electable than Romanoff or John Hickenlooper or Ed Perlmutter. Seriously? Such a statement puts Bill Ritter in a class by himself here, defying the conventional wisdom or – more likely – common sense.
But maybe Joshua and others are right: namely, that Ritter appointed Bennet to help take the political target off his own back in 2010. Then he may have been telling the audience candidly (but subtly) that the “different level” of Bennet’s re-election chances are actually less than the front-running peers like the disgruntled Romanoff, Hick, and others. But in looking out for himself rather than being a liberal Democrat team player, Bill Ritter may end up complicating the situation for both Colorado’s gubernatorial and U.S. Senate race next time around.
Self-delusion or subtle self-interest? Memo to Bill Ritter: please keep it up.
Ritter apparently lacks political tactical skill. First he wasted his political clout on unions to spark a poltical firestorm that dominated the ballot. Further, he wasted time and energy on a pro-union bill, only to veto it once it passed the legislature. Now, he picked a clearly inferior person as replacement for Salazar (someone who brought power and pork for Colorado).
Perhaps the situation is really as you suggest. Maybe he knows he needs a distraction to keep the governor’s office in 2010. However, based upon his actions in setting policy for the last two years, I somewhat doubt it.