DENVER– Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff reveled in his caucus victory during a press conference Wednesday morning. He called it a populist victory that sent a message to Washington and Wall Street and he leveled a new round of attacks on primary opponent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
“Main Street won. Wall Street lost,” said the popular former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives at his campaign headquarters here. The vote tallies last night reflected the populist sentiment taking hold across a nation tired on the right and left of government’s catering to powerful special interests.
Romanoff dismissed the argument being pushed by the Bennet campaign that the rookie senator’s respectable 41 percent total in the statewide voting could be construed as at least a comparable victory.
“This is the sort of funny numbers that pass for mathematics in Washington DC, where you can spin a resounding defeat into a victory.
Romanoff said all the power of the national party machine, which he suggested also meant Wall Street, had been arrayed against him and yet he won. That is the takeaway, he said.
“Despite an elaborate political machine and robocalls we won… That is a message Washington needs to hear.”
Bennet Campaign Manager Craig Hughes told the Colorado Independent that Bennet wasn’t spinning.
“Given the home field advantage that our opponent had, we were thrilled that Michael was able to keep it that close. We were happy with the grassroots support we received.”
Romanoff repeated a recent line of attack that Bennet was beholden to Big Finance.
“I recognize it is easy to get funding from the banking industry if you vote their way and that is the case here. The banking committee had the opportunity to protect American from foreclosure by allowing people to go to bankruptcy court and to renegotiate the terms of their mortgages. My opponent voted against a bill that would have done exactly that.”
Romanoff implied that finance-industry campaign contributions were working on Bennet and the other members on the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
But Hughes told the Colorado Independent that the Romanoff attacks were baseless, that the record reflected that Bennet was standing up to the industry.
“I think it is extremely unfortunate that Andrew is resorting to these negative attacks on Michael,” Hughes said. “Michael’s record in DC is one of independence and fighting for Colorado. Certainly the banking community was not at all happy that he was the deciding vote for the credit card holders bill of right that helped to reform the credit industry in terms of transparency and new rules for credit card holders.”
Hughes added that Bennet is also pushing for the proposed independent consumer protection agency, one not subsumed into other financial regulatory bodies, so it would better protect against finance industry abuses, including unregulated gouging and creatively ballooning mortgages.
Romanoff said he thought Wall Street had made a bad investment in Bennet.
“We were up against one of the best-funded most elaborate machines ever to emerge from Washington. They poured everything they had into this [caucus] race. They brought the entire national political establishment against us. I have been working hard at the grass roots and I have never seen an effort collapse so completely. I think that it is a pretty rotten return on Wall Street’s investment.”
Romanoff said he was in tune with the everyman discontent that is changing American politics, perhaps most evident in the right-wing Tea Party movement.
“I think that Republicans really took a look at same choice last night and cast a vote for candidates that evoked populist themes rather than candidates who continued to just cater to the elitist interests that seem to [shape] DC.”
Some observers have charged that the 22,000 Democrats who showed up to caucus last night made up only 2 percent of Democrats in the state and that caucuses here have been terribly unreliable measures of success in the past. Romanoff thought that kind of thinking underplayed the energy on display on this off-election year.
“The turn out was stronger last night than about any caucus [outside the last presidential election] that I can remember,” he said.
In 2008, roughly 120,000 Democrats and 70,000 Republicans turned out to caucus. Average attendance at caucuses has been closer to 15,000 for each party.
Hughes agreed the turnout was significant and a good sign for Democratic Party general election prospects.
“We were very excited about the grassroots supporters coming out across the state. We think it is really interesting that both candidates had a lot of supporters both rural and urban and good mix of support across the state.
Hughes said Bennet was solid in his approach to the election.
“Michael is not playing politics. He is trying to make real changes as a reformer and he is willing to take tough votes because he is not a career politician.”