Andrew Romanoff surges in Colorado Senate

By Chris Cillizza
Monday, August 2, 2010; 9:41 AM

1. Appointed Sen. Michael Bennet is in real jeopardy in the Aug. 10 Colorado primary, according to a new independent poll released over the weekend.

Former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff takes 48 percent to 45 percent for Bennet in the Survey USA poll conducted for the Denver Post. (Survey USA uses an automated system to conduct its interviews, a somewhat controversial methodology in the world of opinion research.)

In June, Romanoff trailed Bennet by 17 points but, as the challenger has raised his name identification statewide, his numbers have markedly improved.

Seeking to blunt Romanoff's momentum from the poll release, Bennet issued poll numbers of his own on Sunday. In a survey conducted by Paul Harstad, Bennet held a 41 percent to 37 percent edge and, among the one-quarter of voters who had already cast their ballots via mail, the incumbent's lead was five points.

Still, even in the Bennet poll, roughly one in five voters had yet to make up their minds about which candidate they preferred -- never a good sign for an incumbent, even one who has spent as little time in Washington as Bennet. (He was appointed to the seat in early 2009, following Sen. Ken Salazar's ascension to a post as Secretary of the Interior in the Obama Administration.)

Bennet, according to a source who has seen private polling, is struggling to convince voters that he is not part of Washington -- a dangerous thing in a political environment like this one where anything coming from the nation's capitol is viewed skeptically by the public.

Romanoff, too, has tried to frame the race as a choice between an insider and an outsider, refusing to take money from political action committees -- a move that has drastically limited his fundraising ability and led him to sell his house last week to raise funds for the final push.

On television, too, Romanoff is pushing the insider-outsider dynamic; his latest ad paints Bennet as a tool of Wall Street -- alleging that in the private sector the incumbent "pushed companies into bankruptcy and looted a billion dollars." (The Denver Post called the ad "over the top".)

If Bennet comes up short in next Tuesday's primary he will join Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) who have already lost their bids for renomination this year. Already more Senators have fallen in primary races this cycle than in any election since 1980 when four incumbents fell short in intraparty contests.

2. Billionaire real estate developer Jeff Greene, who is competing with Rep. Kendrick Meek for the Democratic nod in Florida's Senate race, is shaking up his campaign (again) with a little over three weeks remaining until the Aug. 24 primary.

In addition to bringing on media consultants Tad Devine and Julian Mulvey, Greene announced that he has also hired Vincent Rongione as his new campaign manager, replacing Jessica Vandenberg who was hired just days ago to run the operation.

Rongione worked most recently as campaign manager for Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Lentz (D) in the race for the seat of Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who is running for Senate. He has also worked as communications director for Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.)

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