How Vulnerable Are Colorado's Establishment Senatorial Candidates?

April 2010
If you're wondering why U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is standing in front of a camera in Washington County, Colorado, for his latest campaign commercial, chalk it up to the "Establishment Factor." Though an arguably relative political newcomer, who was appointed to the Senate by Governor Bill Ritter, Bennet has been hounded by former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who has portrayed him as an insider. In the 30-second spot, the camera switches to images of Bennet in the two Washingtons: the one on the East Coast and the one with a population of 4,926 in northeastern Colorado. "In this Washington, they spend money they don't have," Bennet says, referring to D.C. "In this Washington, families are looking for ways to get by," he adds, of the plains town. It's part of a $335,000 push over the next two weeks to help Bennet, who trailed Romanoff in recent caucus results, connect with ordinary voters in Colorado and distance himself from politics as usual, according to The Denver Post. Steve Adams, a freelance journalist in Colorado Springs for the Washington Examiner, thinks voters this election season view Washington "insiders" with deep suspicion, and prior political experience is almost seen as a liability. Political consultant Jim Pfaff, host of the "Jim Pfaff Show" on KLZ 560 AM, thinks Jane Norton, the former Republican lieutenant governor, faces the same problem on the Republican side. He expects Norton to ultimately prevail in the election but says her battle will be tough. "There are those calling her a liberal, and that's just flat-out false," he says. "She's not a liberal, but she is the establishment candidate right now, and in this election cycle the establishment candidate does not have the upper hand, as in previous election cycles."