Muftic – Vote 2010: Inside Out? |

Muftic – Vote 2010: Inside Out?

We have become attuned to looking at political candidates as liberal or conservative. There may be another way to categorize candidates.

Chris Matthews the other day on MSNBC made a passing observation that got me thinking. “This year it is insiders vs. outsiders,” he said. That might explain the challenges to the mainstream, established candidates in both parties. A shifting, angry public is favoring outsiders.

With the economy improving and bailouts, stimulus expenditures, and Wall Street and health care reforms paying some dividends, it is not certain whether anti-insider sentiment will have the same intensity six months from now that it has at this moment.

This year so far we have seen incumbents in the Republican Party battle for their lives against challengers from their right flanks. Those who are perceived as insiders, backed by traditional party stalwarts, have opted to petition onto the primary ballot to avoid failure to qualify at their own party assemblies. In Colorado, Tea Party-supported Ken Buck appears to have stacked the delegate representation, forcing Jane Norton to petition onto the ballot.

The insider/outsider picture in Colorado’s Democratic Senate campaign is more muddled. Ideological differences are a lesser factor. Sen. Michael Bennet, who was appointed by Gov. Ritter to fill a vacancy 15 months ago, barely qualifies as an incumbent. His challenger, Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the Colorado House, was passed over for the appointment and has spent the past year developing a campaign organization and party activist support. Both rely on insider support but are running as outsiders.

Bennet was deemed by national party leaders to have great appeal to Colorado moderate swing voters due to his business and education background as former Denver Public Schools superintendent and as an attorney involved in the private sector finance. He gained some political experience by serving as Denver Mayor Hickenlooper’s chief of staff for a couple of years. Both national money and support are flowing his way. He will have a significant edge in fundraising, which will translate to high media exposure in the primary.

Romanoff, articulate and charismatic, is a veteran of Statehouse politics. He was passed over for the Senate appointment in spite of his vigorous lobbying effort. Freed from office by term limits, he has spent the past year nurturing core party leadership and activist support and developing an organization with the help of many of his former colleagues in the legislature.

Sen. Bennet has staked his claim as an outsider by being only a short time in the Beltway and by being a political novice. He has enhanced his outsider credentials by calling for reform of Senate filibuster rules and by introducing legislation that would prohibit former senators and congressmen from ever becoming lobbyists. He was the deciding vote in the committee in approving the credit card holder bill of rights. Last week he succeeded in amending the Wall Street Reform legislation with his “Pay it Back” amendment that ensures money repaid from bailouts will be used to pay down the national debt, and not recycled to debtors or used for other purposes.

Romanoff has established his outsider credentials by complaining about national party support of Bennet. While both candidates differ little on basic directions, Romanoff has criticized Bennet for not taking the most liberal position on some details such as mortgage cram downs and a cap on a bank’s size. Some liberal talk show hosts have designated Romanoff as the “lefty” in the race, a tag not helpful in wooing moderate voters in either the primary or general election. It is a plus in snagging delegates to the State Assembly, however, who tend to be more liberal. Romanoff is predicted to win a significant majority of delegates at the assembly May 22 . Bennet has already launched a petition drive, insuring a ballot position. In recent past history high Democratic party assembly vote getters rarely win Democratic primaries.

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