Obama touts Bennet as outsider
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President Obama did his best to present Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet as a Washington outsider who's only in the nation's capital to change it.
Obama pointed out that this is the first election for Bennet, who was named as Colorado senator just over a year ago. He told a story of how Bennet recently stood up in a Democratic caucus meeting and challenged his colleagues on the ways of Washington.
Obama talked about how the two of them have no time for politics. Bennet, he said, is so new to political scene he's "still kind of puzzled" by it all.
"He's a heck of a public servant, but he's new to politics," Obama said at a fundraiser rally for Bennet, who stood on the stage behind him during his 20-minute remarks.
"So he hasn't learned the best way to keep your poll numbers up is just to smile and wave and pretend like you're doing something and not really doing anything that might offend anybody," Obama said. "He hasn't perfected the seven-second sound bite. He's never even made a TV ad. Heaven forbid. And he's facing election in a tough political climate."
Bennet is facing a Democratic primary challenge from Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and is polling behind potential Republican opponents. Obama's trip to Colorado to help Bennet came a year and a day after he traveled to Denver to sign the economic stimulus bill.
Obama headlined two fundraisers for Bennet, which the senator's campaign said were expected to raise as much as $700,000. Obama offered similar remarks at both events, vouching for Bennet and characterizing him as a politician in the Obama mold.
At a $1,000-per-person fundraiser at the Sheraton, Obama called Bennet a "rookie" who could become "one of the most outstanding senators we've ever had." Obama called on his supporters in the room to work harder for Bennet than they did for his 2008 presidential campaign.
"Are we going to channel that anger and frustration we feel sometimes understanding that Michael's not part of the problem, he's part of the solution and that he's somebody that's going to change Washington if you send him back there and give him the mandate that he deserves?" Obama said. "My bottom line is this: As hard as you worked in 2008, you've got to work harder in 2010. If you raised money for me, I want you to raise more money for Michael Bennet. If you made phone calls for me, I want you to make more phone calls. And I want you to Twitter too, for Michael Bennet. If you knocked on doors on your block, I want you to go in your whole neighborhood for Michael Bennet."
At the first event, at The Fillmore Auditorium, Obama rallied a crowd that the Bennet campaign estimated at 2,700, where tickets sold for $25 to $100.
"Now, some of you might support him just because he's got an adorable family," Obama said, turning to look at Bennet's wife and three daughters who were in the audience. "But for those of you who need additional reasons, let me testify about this guy. He has been an agent of change in these parts for a very long time."
At both events, Obama repeatedly attacked "the Washington where every day is election day" the "politics as usual." At one point, at the Sheraton, he said, "It doesn't help when you have an opponent that's more interested in tearing the other party down than building America up."
Obama chided Republicans for voting against the stimulus bill, but taking credit for the projects it's funded in their districts. And he declared: "Every other Republican and Democrat will acknowledge that if it hadn't been for that Recovery Act, we would have seen police officers, firefighters and teachers laid off."
Obama promised not to "walk away" from health insurance reform. To do so, he said, would result in rising costs and millions of people losing their insurance. He said his meeting next week with congressional Republicans and Democrats is the next step in the process.
"I want to see what their ideas are," he said of Republicans.
For his part, Bennet described Obama as a tireless fighter "who happens to live in Washington."
The two spent much of their time at the podium trying to out-outsider the other.
Obama cast Bennet as a reluctant warrior in all of this.
"Now keep in mind, Michael answered the call to service at an extraordinary challenging time for Colorado and for America," Obama said. "He knew it would be a tough time to serve, but he knew that's when you can make the greatest difference. He knew that he might take a few licks as a politician but he also knew it would be nothing compared to the licks that working families all across this state and all across this country have been taking every day."
The president acknowledged that Bennet is facing election in a tough environment -- and without naming Republicans as the reason, he placed blame with the GOP.
"It's a whole lot easier to say no to everything," Obama said, reprising the common Democratic criticism of Republicans as the "Party of no." "It's a whole lot easier to blame somebody else. That politics that feeds on people's insecurities especially during tough political times, that's the easiest kid of politics. There's a long storied history of that kind of politics."
"So Michael is running in a very tough environment but he's got one very powerful advantage," Obama continued. "He's got you. He's been fighting for each and every one of you in Washington. He needs you to fight for him now."
First Published February 19, 2010 12:00 am