By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
"I'll risk my job to vote for healthcare," Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet told CNN's John King yesterday. For many on the Left, the statement was a rallying cry of martyrdom. "They may take our freedom, but they'll never take our government-run healthcare," the newly-minted William Wallace of the Senate might say. On the surface, it's the bold statement of a politician laying it all on the line. But scratch the surface just a little bit and one is quickly reminded that however Bennet may vote on Harry Reid's healthcare bill, his job is already at risk.
Appointed in January to fill the seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Bennet has never run for elective office. As a Senate candidate and United State Senator, Bennet has not exactly captured the hearts and minds of Colorado voters. Poll after poll shows Bennet's approval rating lagging behind his disapproval and as President Barack Obama's numbers slide, so go Bennet's. A sample Denver Post headline, "Poll: Bennet not wowing voters."
In fairness, Bennet has only been in office 10 months, but he's not solidified the support from his own party, either—while the Democratic Party establishment is backing Bennet, former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff is providing a stiff primary challenge.
(A side question: We keep hearing so much about divisive Republican primaries, why don't we hear more about the Colorado primary? And if the G.O.P. is pressed to declare they're not planning to spend money in the Florida Senate primary, shouldn't Democrats be similarly called to the carpet on Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter/Joe Sestak primary?)
Healthcare is not the only issue Bennet risks being on the wrong side of with Colorado voters. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the stimulus bill, touting its impact on job creation in Colorado. Throwing water on Bennet's claims, the Associated Press reported last week that the impact has been wildly overstated, including in Colorado itself (and that doesn't count job growth in non-existent Congressional districts).
Given the "purple" nature of the state, national trends such as independent voters abandoning Democrats, a potentially bruising primary and former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton waiting to take on the winner, it's no wonder Bennet's Senate seat is listed by both the Washington Post and Politico as one of the seats most likely to flip.
All of which makes Bennet's declaration less genuine political martyrdom and more conceding to reality.