Obama Favorite Sen. Michael Bennet Wins Colorado Primary

Former President Bill Clinton endorsed the incumbent Bennet’s primary rival, Andrew Romanoff.

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BY Aliyah Shahid
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Big points for O.

It wasn't easy, but President Obama's endorsed candidate squeezed out a victory in Tuesday night's Colorado Senate primary. And it's being seen as a boon for the President, who has been beleaguered by sagging poll numbers and strong anti-incumbent sentiment.

Incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet beat Andrew Romanoff, a former speaker of the Colorado House who was endorsed by former President Bill Clinton 54.2% to 45.7%, according to The Denver Post.

Of course, it wasn't just the Obama effect that resulted in the victory. Bennet had an overflowing war chest, with more than 10 times the amount of cash on hand as his opponent as of late last month. [See which industries donated to Bennet's campaign.]

Bennet's defeat would have been bad news for the President, who previously has stumped for failed Democratic candidates including Arlen Specter, Martha Coakley and Jon Corzine.

Indeed, many Republicans have been licking their chops over the possibility of big gains in this fall's midterm elections, where the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs.

That is exactly why many pundits are deeming the Colorado victory a psychological one, arguing that the big win could mean positive results for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.

Calling Colorado "the big enchilada," Mark McKinnon, a former strategist for Republicans George W. Bush and John McCain, said Democrats will be more apt to ask the President to campaign for them.

"The practical effect of Bennet's win will be an emboldened Obama political operation," McKinnon wrote in a column for The Daily Beast. "Until Tuesday, the phones weren't ringing much with requests for Obama to campaign in person. The switchboard will be lighting up Wednesday." [See a slide show of 11 hot races to watch in November.]

The President and other Democrats were ecstatic by Colorado's Republican primary, too, in which Tea Party-backed Ken Buck won against former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton. Buck is widely seen by insiders as a weaker general election candidate than Norton.

And although White House officials are heralding Bennet's triumph as a huge success, nearly half of Colorado's Democratic voters ignored Obama's endorsement, Wall Street Journal blogger Peter Wallsten said.

"It's a reminder that a substantial portion of Obama's base is not entirely enthusiastic about how things are going," he said.

And according to a Rasmussen poll released Wednesday, Obama's job performance ratings have hit an all-time low. Only 24% of the country's voters strongly approve of Obama's job performance while 46% strongly disapprove.

Bennet even hedged when asked by ABC if he wanted Obama to campaign with him in Colorado before November.

"We will have to see," Bennet said. "We will obviously do what's right for the campaign."