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D.C. Job Offer Alleged in Colorado Senate Primary

By Denver Post, Denver Post - September 28, 2009

@media print { body:before {content: url(http://cleanprint.net/pt/t?&d=2021&p=0&s=NF,NF); } } var addthis_options = 'facebook, myspace, google, delicious, digg, favorites, live, buzz, twitter, fark, friendfeed'; addthis_pub = 'mngi'; Print   Email   Font Resizedenver and the westD.C. job alleged as attempt to deter RomanoffBy Michael Riley The Denver PostPosted: 09/27/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT var requestedWidth = 0; Related ArticlesSep 20:Dem rivals pit fundraising vs. grass rootsSep 18:Sen. Bennet wins Obama's supportSep 17:Obama endorses Bennet in Colo. U.S. Senate raceRomanoff launches Senate bid: "Colorado is my cause"Sep 16:Romanoff enters Dem race for U.S. SenateA look at Senate hopeful Andrew RomanoffAndrew Romanoff enters crowded Senate raceAndrew Romanoff enters crowded Senate raceRomanoff joins Colo. Senate raceSep 14:Romanoff to make bid for Senate official with launchSep 11:Romanoff files federal paperwork to seek Senate seatSep 10:Romanoff files paperwork to explore Senate bidSep 6:U.S. Senator Bennet hears Plains talk if(requestedWidth < 200){ requestedWidth = 200; } if(requestedWidth > 0){ document.getElementById('articleViewerGroup').style.width = requestedWidth + "px"; document.getElementById('articleViewerGroup').style.margin = "0px 0px 10px 10px"; }

WASHINGTON — Not long after news leaked last month that Andrew Romanoff was determined to make a Democratic primary run against Sen. Michael Bennet, Romanoff received an unexpected communication from one of the most powerful men in Washington.

Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

Romanoff turned down the overture, which included mention of a job at USAID, the foreign aid agency, sources said.

Then, the day after Romanoff formally announced his Senate bid, Obama endorsed Bennet.

It is the kind of hardball tactics that have come to mark the White House's willingness to shape key races across the country, in this case trying to remove a threat to a vulnerable senator by presenting his opponent a choice of silver or lead.

Along with other prominent examples — including an effort to stop New York Gov. David Paterson from seeking re-election — the administration's tactics in the Colorado Senate primary show that Obama is willing to act as pointedly as his Oval Office predecessor, whose political chief, Karl Rove, was famous for the assertive application of White House power to extend the reach of his party.

Job "never offered"

The White House said that no job was ever offered to Romanoff and that it would be wrong to suggest administration officials tried to buy him out of the contest.

"Mr. Romanoff was never offered a position within the administration," said White House spokesman Adam Abrams.

Yet several top Colorado Democrats described Messina's outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration. They asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Romanoff declined to discuss any such communication and said the only job he's focused on is "representing the people of Colorado in the United States Senate."

Presidents often press

It is not unusual for a sitting president, the effective leader of his party, to work to exert influence on local races that affect the balance of power, a tradition that goes back to Franklin Roosevelt and even earlier.

And some Democrats said the aggressive intervention into local races by the White House political team, including both Messina and his boss, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, settles their fear that a president who campaigned on "hope" would not make the kind of aggressive decisions necessary to help the party preserve big majorities in Congress.

State Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, said the White House has "every right" to get involved in the race.

"People locally are taking a position. Why wouldn't Barack Obama, who by the way is more affected by the outcome, have a right to be involved?" said Romer, who is supporting Bennet. "It's absolutely consistent with what other presidents have done in both parties."

Still, the tactics have surprised others in the party, sparking growing concern especially as efforts that should have been kept private spill into public view.

In New York, Obama reportedly asked the unpopular Paterson to step out of the race for governor, prompting uproar and days of unflattering headlines when it was leaked to the press.

In Virginia, Obama called former Gov. Douglas Wilder and asked him to publicly endorse the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds to counter damage Wilder had done by speaking well of Deeds' opponent, a conversation that eventually ended up in the pages of The Washington Post.

Backlash potential seen

"It may make the situation worse for Bennet for them to play the game this way," said state Rep. Kathleen Curry, a Gunnison lawmaker who is supporting Romanoff.

"People in Colorado have an adverse reaction to the external forces coming down and telling them how to think," she said.

The timing of Messina's latest intervention sparked particular concern — because of the appearance that the administration was trying to buy off a nettlesome opponent, to some; to others, because the timing made the effort appear so ham-handed.

A popular state House speaker, Romanoff has had a long interest in issues of global poverty and had talked to the administration about a possible job in early spring. White House officials said those discussions stopped when Romanoff began suggesting he might run for higher office in Colorado.

Bennet's allies have suggested that Romanoff followed an erratic, even grasping path to the primary after his bid to be appointed to the seat by Gov. Bill Ritter in January failed — looking for a job in the administration, traveling to the Middle East and Africa, and applying to become head of the Colorado Children's Campaign, a children's advocacy organization.

Early this year, Romanoff "was recommended to the White House from Democrats in Colorado for a position in the administration," White House spokesman Abrams said. "At that time there were some initial conversations, but no job was ever offered."

But Democrats in Colorado say it was doubtful an administration job would have tempted Romanoff once news of his intention to run for Senate leaked in late August.

A former chief of staff for Montana Sen. Max Baucus and a top official in Obama's campaign, Messina is considered the White House's top political problem solver.

He recently worked the halls of the Massachusetts statehouse as lawmakers considered whether to pass legislation allowing the quick appointment of an interim replacement to Sen. Edward Kennedy — the Democrats' critical 60th vote.

Emanuel sets tenor

But the aggressive tenor of the administration's approach in local races is usually attributed to his boss, White House Chief of Staff Emanuel. The famously profane Emanuel helped orchestrate the Democratic takeover in the House in 2006 by recruiting candidates and clearing the field of primary opponents, tactics now being applied from the offices of the West Wing.

"Is it a breach of the political etiquette? Is it an abuse of the presidency? No. This is the way White Houses work," said William Galston, a former adviser in the Clinton White House. "Every president has to try to figure out the extent to which his actions as head of the party may stand in tension to other aspects of his job.

"Obviously, if a president wants to lower the tone of partisan debate — if he has announced that as a major objective — then putting the pedal to the metal in his role as head of party may weaken the credibility of that claim," Galston said.

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Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's deputy chief of staff and a storied fixer in the White House political shop, suggested a place for Romanoff might be found in the administration and offered specific suggestions, according to several sources who described the communication to The Denver Post.

Romanoff turned down the overture, which included mention of a job at USAID, the foreign aid agency, sources said.

Then, the day after Romanoff formally announced his Senate bid, Obama endorsed Bennet.

It is the kind of hardball tactics that have come to mark the White House's willingness to shape key races across the country, in this case trying to remove a threat to a vulnerable senator by presenting his opponent a choice of silver or lead.

Along with other prominent examples — including an effort to stop New York Gov. David Paterson from seeking re-election — the administration's tactics in the Colorado Senate primary show that Obama is willing to act as pointedly as his Oval Office predecessor, whose political chief, Karl Rove, was famous for the assertive application of White House power to extend the reach of his party.

Job "never offered"

The White House said that no job was ever offered to Romanoff and that it would be wrong to suggest administration officials tried to buy him out of the contest.

"Mr. Romanoff was never offered a position within the administration," said White House spokesman Adam Abrams.

Yet several top Colorado Democrats described Messina's outreach to Romanoff to The Post, including the discussion of specific jobs in the administration. They asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Romanoff declined to discuss any such communication and said the only job he's focused on is "representing the people of Colorado in the United States Senate."

Presidents often press

It is not unusual for a sitting president, the effective leader of his party, to work to exert influence on local races that affect the balance of power, a tradition that goes back to Franklin Roosevelt and even earlier.

And some Democrats said the aggressive intervention into local races by the White House political team, including both Messina and his boss, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, settles their fear that a president who campaigned on "hope" would not make the kind of aggressive decisions necessary to help the party preserve big majorities in Congress.

State Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, said the White House has "every right" to get involved in the race.

"People locally are taking a position. Why wouldn't Barack Obama, who by the way is more affected by the outcome, have a right to be involved?" said Romer, who is supporting Bennet. "It's absolutely consistent with what other presidents have done in both parties."

Still, the tactics have surprised others in the party, sparking growing concern especially as efforts that should have been kept private spill into public view.

In New York, Obama reportedly asked the unpopular Paterson to step out of the race for governor, prompting uproar and days of unflattering headlines when it was leaked to the press.

In Virginia, Obama called former Gov. Douglas Wilder and asked him to publicly endorse the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds to counter damage Wilder had done by speaking well of Deeds' opponent, a conversation that eventually ended up in the pages of The Washington Post.

Backlash potential seen

"It may make the situation worse for Bennet for them to play the game this way," said state Rep. Kathleen Curry, a Gunnison lawmaker who is supporting Romanoff.

"People in Colorado have an adverse reaction to the external forces coming down and telling them how to think," she said.

The timing of Messina's latest intervention sparked particular concern — because of the appearance that the administration was trying to buy off a nettlesome opponent, to some; to others, because the timing made the effort appear so ham-handed.

A popular state House speaker, Romanoff has had a long interest in issues of global poverty and had talked to the administration about a possible job in early spring. White House officials said those discussions stopped when Romanoff began suggesting he might run for higher office in Colorado.

Bennet's allies have suggested that Romanoff followed an erratic, even grasping path to the primary after his bid to be appointed to the seat by Gov. Bill Ritter in January failed — looking for a job in the administration, traveling to the Middle East and Africa, and applying to become head of the Colorado Children's Campaign, a children's advocacy organization.

Early this year, Romanoff "was recommended to the White House from Democrats in Colorado for a position in the administration," White House spokesman Abrams said. "At that time there were some initial conversations, but no job was ever offered."

But Democrats in Colorado say it was doubtful an administration job would have tempted Romanoff once news of his intention to run for Senate leaked in late August.

A former chief of staff for Montana Sen. Max Baucus and a top official in Obama's campaign, Messina is considered the White House's top political problem solver.

He recently worked the halls of the Massachusetts statehouse as lawmakers considered whether to pass legislation allowing the quick appointment of an interim replacement to Sen. Edward Kennedy — the Democrats' critical 60th vote.

Emanuel sets tenor

But the aggressive tenor of the administration's approach in local races is usually attributed to his boss, White House Chief of Staff Emanuel. The famously profane Emanuel helped orchestrate the Democratic takeover in the House in 2006 by recruiting candidates and clearing the field of primary opponents, tactics now being applied from the offices of the West Wing.

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