Published February 18, 2010
President Obama came to the aid on Thursday of his endangered ally, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, in an apparent nod to concerns about Democratic seats in November.
"We do not quit," Obama said in aligning himself ever closer with Bennet, still new on the Senate scene and now fighting a challenge in his own party.
Obama's message was intended not just for those inside Denver's Fillmore Auditorium or throughout the state. He aimed to persuade people listening nationwide that Democrats are more interested in fixing daily problems than engaging in petty squabbling.
"Michael and I, we don't have time for that nonsense," Obama said in his latest distancing from Washington's political culture. "We're going to keep doing everything in our power to keep turning this economy around."
Along with Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Bennet is one of only a handful of incumbent senators to receive a pledge of support from the president before the party primaries.
Bennet, an incumbent appointed to fill the seat vacated by Ken Salazar when Salazar took a post as interior secretary in the president's Cabinet, is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats running for re-election this year.
A recent Rasmussen Reports survey of 500 likely voters shows Bennet trailing two of three potential Republican challengers by at least 14 percentage points. His strongest challenger, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, leads Bennet 51 percent to 37 percent in the poll.
"I think the president can and will raise money for Senator Bennet and that's always good," Democratic Pollster Doug Shoen said. "But bottom line, Senator Bennet is trailing his three prospective Republican opponents by anywhere from 4 to 14 points. He's in very bad shape and the president is trying to prop him up. I'm not sure it's going to help, it could well hurt."
Colorado pollster Floyd Cirulli disagrees. He told Fox News Obama could very well give Bennet a much needed bump since before Bennet can even focus on the general election, he must fend off a threat from within his own party, from former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.
"Obama's visit will help Bennet in the primary because the president still has a high approval rating among Democrats," he said.
The president is drawing some criticism from within his own party for making appearances to support one Democrat over another in primaries. In the past, presidents have typically waited until the general election for campaigning and fundraising.
Colorado's electorate is divided three ways, almost equally, among registered Republicans, Democrats and independents.
The independent vote helped Obama carry the Rocky Mountain State over Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008 with 54 percent of the vote in the presidential election. However, the president's approval rating has dipped to 45 percent in this state, according to Rassmussen Reports, so wooing voters back for his party in the midterms could require more trips to meet them face-to-face.