Columns » Between The Lines

Let Colorado decide, please

Between the Lines


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Every day of the year, sometimes more like every hour, political e-mails come my way.

No problem with that. When part of the job entails keeping up with issues and arguments on both sides, it's best to have as many messages as possible coming at you, instead of having to look for them.

Sure, sometimes the content can be shallow, stupid, even repulsive. Wait, that wouldn't be sometimes. It would be often.

But they're worth reading, and sometimes one of them rises above — or drops below — the usual standard. Such was the case Sunday afternoon when a typical-looking message popped up on the home computer.

Having received letters from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, former President Bill Clinton and even pundits like James Carville, it wasn't surprising that this "sender" was none other than Vice President Joe Biden. Clearly, it was intended for Coloradans who might be friendly to the Democratic cause.

Usually, these kinds of messages brazenly ask for money, despite the fact I don't write checks for candidates, political parties or ballot issues. It's always on the brink of some deadline, and they want $10, $50, $100 or whatever. At times, they suggest going to Web sites and signing online petitions, or "writing" letters to the editor. (Note: We hate form letters, and try to keep them out of the Independent.)

My ritual is always the same: Read the message, see what it's about, save portions if warranted, then drop it into the trash file.

This message from Biden had multiple purposes. It asked for letters to newspapers applauding Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, or notes supporting them and health care reform to an online collection place. Then came a postscript, and this one really bothered me. Here it is, verbatim:

"P.S. — Not only is Sen. Michael Bennet facing special interest attacks, but an election looms this fall, and Republicans have pledged to repeal the reform we fought so hard for. We need Sen. Michael Bennet in Washington — will you pledge to volunteer for Sen. Michael Bennet's re-election fight?"

Really. Forget about the fact Bennet is neck-deep in a Democratic primary challenge from former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Forget that, just 24 hours before this e-mail from "Biden," Romanoff had whipped Bennet in a handful of pivotal, urban-market county assemblies, including in Colorado Springs (after Bennet prevailed in the caucuses here last month). And never mind that Bennet's campaign lately has talked about using voter petitions to ensure qualifying for the Aug. 10 primary ballot, which many have taken as a clear sign Romanoff has the upper hand for now.

If we are to believe this missive from Washington, Bennet's focusing on the November election. And the e-mail makes it sound as though Romanoff doesn't even exist, and thus wouldn't be capable of carrying the fight against Republicans.

That's misguided, uninformed and potentially harmful to Colorado Democrats.

Since even before taking office, President Obama's decisions have directly impacted the state party. First he tapped Sen. Ken Salazar as Interior secretary, then openly supported Gov. Bill Ritter's appointment of Bennet to replace Salazar in the Senate. Later, the White House instantly sided with Bennet against Romanoff, and that's obviously not changing.

But given the current circumstances, it's time for the White House to back off — and let Colorado's rank-and-file Democrats make this judgment for themselves. Let them evaluate Bennet vs. Romanoff. Let them see the differences, both strengths and weaknesses.

Most importantly, let them decide the state's Democratic nominee for that Senate seat, without influence from Washington or anywhere. At this point, Bennet doesn't need the "help" from D.C. — if anything, it might be having the opposite effect. Romanoff, meanwhile, has come too far already to have to fight the national party as well as Bennet.

After the primary, Colorado's Democrats don't need to be wondering what kind of impact Washington had on the race. They need to know they're united behind their Senate nominee, no matter who it is.

So with that, here's a simple message to the White House between now and Aug. 10:

Step aside. Butt out. Stay neutral. And accept whatever happens.


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