Sen. Michael Bennet, the Obama administration-backed candidate in Tuesday’s Colorado Democratic primary, glided to an easy victory over former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff, winning his party’s US Senate nomination 54 percent to 45 percent with most precincts reporting. Despite staging a late comeback in the polls, and unleashing a barrage of attack ads revolving around past financial dealings of Bennet’s, Romanoff, the more liberal candidate, never closed the cash gap—heading into the primary vote, Romanoff had raised only $1.96 million while Bennet had raised $7.7 million. It’s that financial advantage, coupled with the Obama grassroots machine’s support for Bennet, that likely helped the former Denver Public Schools chief come out on top.
Bennet will now defend his Senate seat against Republican Ken Buck, the district attorney for Colorado’s Weld County, in the general election this fall. Buck defeated former lieutenant governor Jane Norton by a slim margin Tuesday, 51 percent to 48 percent.
According to Public Policy Polling, Tuesday’s results in Colorado set up what could be a tight race for November, with Bennet edging out Buck 46-43 in a November projection. Complicating the picture, PPP found, is the sheer dislike of both candidates as voiced by voters. In August, 48 percent of voters said they didn’t like Bennet, and 46 percent said they didn’t like Buck. So while Bennet might have a small edge right now, the likely winner in November is anyone’s guess.
From a campaign finance perspective, Bennet’s victory on Tuesday marked a win for big, deep-pocketed donors over small contributors. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, only 10 percent of Bennet’s donations came from people giving $200 or less; Romanoff, on the other hand, raised 62 percent of his funds from small donors. (These totals are through July 21, the last day covered by Colorado election reports.) The GOP’s Ken Buck, meanwhile, saw 50 percent of his donations come from small voters. Now, with Bennet squaring off against Buck, we’ll see whether the GOP’s grassroots efforts can match the fundraising prowess of the well-connected, wealthy Bennet.