As goes Colorado...

A cautionary tale of party fratricide in Colorado's primary. Coming soon to a state near you?
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Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet

A cautionary tale of party fratricide in Colorado's primary. Coming soon to a state near you?

Is Colorado a foretaste of national politics, with each local party bitterly dividing? Washington so far seems immune, unless the Clint Didier Tea-fueled challenge to Dino Rossi proves potent. But be not complacent: many states are following the Colorado pattern of meltdown, quirky novices, and lasting feuds.

Tuesday's primary was one more act in a sour drama that began when Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter yielded to pressure from Obama and named the relatively unknown Michael Bennet to succeed Sen. Ken Salazar, who had ascended to Interior secretary. Most Democrats were furious with the governor, who subsequently decided not to seek re-election. They feared the loss of Democratic ascendency in the state, until recently a Republican stronghold.

Bennet, a very bright fellow, had risen from a business career to being chief of staff to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (the likely next governor, by the way), to running Denver's troubled school system. His inexperience in national and state politics may have attracted the Obama team, looking for young disciples and fresh ideas. But to Colorado Democrats, some of whom wanted the senatorial appointment themselves, the Bennet naming seemed a reckless indulgence. The state is rich in senior statesmen, such as Gary Hart or Tim Wirth, who could easily have taken the spot, cast some courageous votes, and pledged not to seek the permanent seat. That would have bought time for a strong Democratic candidate to emerge and patch together a winning team.

Bennet has struggled to find his feet. Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanof, with a broad base in Colorado, was a more logical appointee, so much so that Obama operatives reportedly waved jobs at him if he would get out of the way. Instead, Romanof ran a tough race against Bennet, attacking him as a creature of the establishment, and losing 46-54. (Looks like you become a creature of the establishment after serving only a few months in the Senate?) Now the party has a lot of healing to do, as depicted in this Denver Post story.

There were similar fireworks on the Republican side, where the establishment-blessed candidate, former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton lost, 48-51, to an insurgent, Ken Buck, who ran a gaffe-filled campaign painting his opponent, a conventional conservative, as too much an insider. Buck is a small-county prosecutor, rough around the edges, and noted for telling someone to vote for him because he "doesn't wear high heels." In the governor's race, the GOP is in total disarray, with the winner of the primary, complete novice Dan Maes so weak that others will probably jump in as independents.

Meanwhile, there is Connecticut. And South Carolina. And Kentucky. And Utah. And...


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