You know it’s bad when Mike Littwin of the Denver Post is giving the Democrats hell. On May 30, Littwin asked, “Was he [Andrew Romanoff], in fact, offered a job by the Obama administration to try to keep him out of a primary race with [U.S. Senator] Michael Bennet?” At the time, the Romanoff camp had no comment. (Romanoff is in fact running against Bennet.)
What a difference a little Associated Press story makes. In a June 2 story, the AP cited an anonymous source claiming that the Obama administration had indeed offered a potential job to Romanoff. Just a few hours later Romanoff issued his own statement on the matter (prompting the AP to update its story).
The Post links to the email from Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina that Romanoff released. (See also the story from 9News and the Coloradoan.)
Here is Romanoff’s own statement, as released by Roy Teicher:
For immediate release:
Today, U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff issued the following statement:
I have received a large number of press inquiries concerning the role the White House is reported to have played in my decision to run for the U.S. Senate. I have declined comment because I did not want – and do not want – to politicize this matter.
A great deal of misinformation has filled the void in the meantime. That does not serve the public interest or any useful purpose.
Here are the facts:
In September 2009, shortly after the news media first reported my plans to run for the Senate, I received a call from Jim Messina, the President’s deputy chief of staff. Mr. Messina informed me that the White House would support Sen. Bennet. I informed Mr. Messina that I had made my decision to run.
Mr. Messina also suggested three positions that might be available to me were I not pursuing the Senate race. He added that he could not guarantee my appointment to any of these positions. At no time was I promised a job, nor did I request Mr. Messina’s assistance in obtaining one.
Later that day, I received an email from Mr. Messina containing descriptions of three positions (email attached). I left him a voicemail informing him that I would not change course.
I have not spoken with Mr. Messina, nor have I discussed this matter with anyone else in the White House, since then.
About Andrew Romanoff:
Elected to four terms in the Colorado legislature, Andrew Romanoff was Speaker of the House from 2005 to 2009. He led the Democrats to their first back-to-back majorities in more than 40 years. His leadership earned national recognition, including Governing magazine’s top honor as Public Official of the Year.
Or, to put the matter more bluntly, the White House bribed Romanoff to drop out of the Senate race.
What is the political fallout from this? Though Romanoff is blameless in the matter — other than hiding the facts until he had been smoked out by the AP — I think this probably sinks his campaign. He is now hopelessly tainted by Obama’s slimy politics. And now it seems like he was trying to hide the facts from the voters until he could no longer contain those facts.
And that is truly unfortunate for the Democratic Party, not only in Colorado but nationally. I simply do not know what Governor Bill Ritter was thinking, repeatedly shafting the most able and intelligent Democratic politician in the state. (It was Ritter who not only foolishly appointed Bennet to the Senate, but locked Romanoff out of the Secretary of State position in order to promote a no-account loser from Mesa County.) Democratic leaders all but destroyed Andrew Romanoff’s political career — and in the process they probably also destroyed their chances to hold on to the Senate seat.
Obviously this affair further undermines the credibility of the Obama administration. Somehow, I don’t think many Coloradans will appreciate the Obama administration offering up tax-subsidized positions to interfere with Colorado politics. It turns out that we don’t need Obama’s “help” to select a Senator to represent us in Congress. Last time I checked, Illinois already has two Senators of its own.
Perhaps the biggest loser in all of this, however, is Senator Bennet. Who can now argue that he is not thoroughly Obama’s (shall we say for sake of politeness) man? This affair may take Romanoff out of the race, but I suspect it will also irreparably damage Bennet’s chances. If I were either of the Republican candidates preparing to face Bennet, I’d be salivating over this story. I didn’t think Bennet had a chance before this broke; now I think he’s totally sunk. (It would be ironic if Democratic primary voters agreed with my assessment and for that reason went with Romanoff, after all.)
That is, the Democrats are sunk unless the Republican candidate runs such a disastrous campaign that even Bennet looks good by comparison. If the Republican candidates keep chaining anchors like Amendment 62 around their necks, they could sink themselves faster than Obama is sinking Bennet.
It remains an interesting political year. Many of us can only clench our jaws and wonder what’s next.
June 3 Update: As the Denver Post reports, some Republicans are calling for a formal probe of the matter. I don’t know the legalities of the issue well enough to know whether that conceivably could be warranted, but offhand it strikes me as Republican posturing.
There is another issue that strikes me as more interesting. The White House Press Secretary points out that “Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the Presidential transition.” While this detail does not change the essentials of the issue, it does make Romanoff look even worse, as he neglected to mention the fact in his own statement. The Post carries the full statement:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2010
STATEMENT FROM THE PRESS SECRETARY ON COLORADO SENATE RACE
Andrew Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the Presidential transition. He filed this application through the Transition on-line process. After the new administration took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel.
Jim Messina called and emailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the US Senate. Months earlier, the President had endorsed Senator Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.
But Romanoff said that he was committed to the Senate race and no longer interested in working for the Administration, and that ended the discussion. As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.