Sen. Michael Bennet’s presidential campaign has just hit its goal of raising $700,000 within a month to make Bennet competitive with other top-tier Democratic candidates in New Hampshire.
The money will go toward Bennet’s TV and digital campaign ads leading up to the primary election.
However, Bennet will return to Washington next week for the Senate impeachment trial, alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D.-Mass., and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who are also running for the Democratic candidacy.
Impeachment a distraction?Paul DeBell, a political science professor at Fort Lewis College, said because talking to people on the ground is such a key part of Bennet’s strategy, breaking for the Senate impeachment trial could be a “loss of momentum” that is “particularly tough for him.”
However, it “could ride on how he comes off during the trial,” DeBell told The Durango Herald.
Bennet could have a memorable, televised moment during the Senate impeachment trial, just as Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, did during the Brett Kavanaugh hearing.
But there will be “a lot of Democrats trying” for that, and the “media attention has honed in on a small subset” of presidential candidates, DeBell said.
John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, said the impeachment inquiry will have “very little effect in terms of everyday Democrats” for Bennet’s campaign because he has not been participating in high-profile events like the debate in Iowa earlier this week.
Bennet has been endorsed by former school board leaders and state senators in New Hampshire, and he has even been endorsed by James Carville, the last Democratic campaign strategist to unseat an incumbent Republican president in 1992 with former president Bill Clinton.
But given that Bennet is still polling at less than 1% in New Hampshire, those endorsements won’t do too much to help his campaign strategy there, DeBell said.
“Low polling means everything,” and at this point, it means Bennet is no longer a real contender, Hudak said. But it has raised Bennet’s profile, and a higher appointment, such as secretary of education, is a possibility for the senator given his background as a superintendent of Denver Public Schools.
His presidential campaign has shown his “effective voice” and gained the respect of Democratic colleagues across the country because he never resorted to attacking other candidates and put forward strong policy ideas, particularly regarding education, Hudak said.
What Bennet needs is a “really strong, clear and concise argument” on what about him is right for the Democratic party right now, which is “why we’ve seen him languishing,” according to DeBell.
‘Opposite of Trump’But as of now, the main message of Bennet’s campaign is that he is the “opposite of Trump,” in that he is not a celebrity politician, according to his TV ad campaign in New Hampshire.
His “Real Deal” economic agenda is a direct response to everything he has been hearing in town halls in New Hampshire and Colorado.
“New Hampshire is a lot like Colorado, split evenly among Democrats, independents and Republicans. And what I’ve heard in town halls in New Hampshire is the same things I’ve been hearing from Coloradans for 10 years – they can’t afford some combination of housing, health care, early childhood education or higher education,” Bennet said in a statement.
The main policy focuses of the Real Deal include rebuilding middle class families, ending childhood poverty and expanding education opportunities.
He plans to tackle these challenges by increasing the minimum wage, passing paid family and medical leave and expanding the Child Tax Credit, which would cut childhood poverty by 40% in one year, according to his campaign’s website.
Despite his cogent and transparent policy ideas, “this wasn’t the year and wasn’t the message the Democratic Party was looking for,” Hudak said.
“For most media, it is soap opera, stardom, not the person with the most detailed policy decisions,” Hudak said.
But going forward, his plans in education are plans other candidates will learn from, Hudak told the Herald.
Bennet will continue with town hall meetings in New Hampshire on the weekends while the Senate impeachment trial kicks off in Washington on Tuesday, according to a news release from Bennet’s campaign staff. He also plans on going to the Women’s March in Concord, New Hampshire, on Saturday.
Colorado’s Super Tuesday primaryBy the time Colorado’s presidential primary election comes on March 3, or Super Tuesday, there will be a much clearer idea of who the general election candidate is.
In previous years, Colorado was largely ignored in the primary vote, but with a Super Tuesday primary, Colorado is likely to be a state the candidates are active in.
An endorsement from Bennet, should he drop out of the race, would be “highly sought after by top-tier candidates,” Hudak said.
Leslie Batchelor of Durango said she doesn’t think Bennet has a chance of winning. She said he is not strong enough on climate change or gun control, and not progressive enough when it comes to health care.
“I hope the young people get out and vote,” Batchelor said, as she was “very impressed” with student protests for drastic action on climate change.
As for independent voters, a rapidly growing category in Colorado, Batchelor said it is “hard to take the temperature of everyone,” and it is “hard to know where they will go.”
Christa Turnell, also of Durango, said Bennet is an “amazing overall presidential candidate,” but she doesn’t think he would beat Trump in the general election.
“I like the guy, my problem is that we need him so badly in the Senate” to push for progressive legislation and make a lot of change for Colorado, Turnell said.
Regarding the Super Tuesday primary election in Colorado, Turnell said it is possible a lot of people will turn out to vote because “we are in a constitutional crisis and a leadership crisis.”
DeBell said he will be looking at the number of people who take part in the primary, especially considering it is the first Super Tuesday in Colorado, a day on which five different states will hold a presidential primary election.
FLC’s campus will be pushing civic engagement leading up to the primary, and DeBell said the high energy around Super Tuesday will hopefully encourage young people with a diversity of backgrounds to take part, and help them realize they have a voice.
As for Bennet’s place in the race by then, DeBell said “we will see.”
Emily Hayes is a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.