Friday, January 9, 2009

What was Ritter thinking?

I did an interview with CNN yesterday (watch for it on Saturday) regarding the Bennet appointment. I was asked by the reporter what Ritter was thinking. Let's just stipulate here that appointing Bennet to the Senate was a risky move. Not a bad one -- again, I think Bennet will be a good senator. But given that Ritter could have gone with people with proven records of winning elections outside of Denver, or anywhere at all, this was somewhat risky. So what was Ritter thinking? I have several theories at this point, with limited evidence to support any of them. But here's what I've got.
  1. Goo goo. Ritter just likes the idea of good government and thinks that Bennet, regardless of his prospects for a 2010 election, was the best choice for senator. It's hard to believe that someone would rise to the rank of governor with such a sincere (which, in political science, is a synonym for näive) world view, and it sort of cuts against his own history of moderation and triangulation, but it's possible.
  2. Mile-High Macchiavelli. As described previously, Ritter recognizes that he's going to have a difficult reelection campaign in 2010, so he wanted to put an even weaker Democrat on the statewide ticket to draw the strongest Republicans away from him. Personally, I doubt that he's that cold, and I don't think that the Republicans are really hurting so much for credible candidates that they could only field one good one statewide.
  3. What Barack wants, Barack gets. I'm hearing some talk that Bennet really impressed Obama when they met to discuss the Secretary of Education position. Obama went with Arne Duncan (possibly a safer choice, given Duncan's national reputation), but still wanted to see Bennet involved in the federal government, so he strong-armed Ritter to appoint him. In return, Obama offered to help out Ritter in a big way during the latter's reelection campaign next year. I suppose this scenario is possible, but I'm not sure why Obama would dismiss Bennet as being unready for a cabinet position but ready to be a senator.
  4. It was Hick's idea. Denver Mayor Hickenlooper, considered a top prospect for the Senate appointment, may have actually not wanted the job. He probably could have won the governor's office in 2006 or become a senator last year if he'd expressed any interest in either job. He's got big name ID well beyond Denver's borders and a ridiculously high approval rating, despite multiple tax hikes and a nasty blizzard two years ago. But he seems to like being mayor, and being one of 100 senators might not be nearly as fun or interesting. So when Ritter asked him to be senator, Hick declined, but strongly suggested Bennet for the job and even ponied up a bunch of money for a Bennet election campaign in 2010. (I don't know that this is true -- we'll have to wait for the next FEC reports.) Again, a possibility, although I keep hearing that Hick really did want the Senate seat.
  5. There was no other choice. This seems crazy, but think about Ritter's options. He could have gone with Joan Fitz-Gerald, Peter Groff, or Andrew Romanoff, all of whom have good reputations from their work in the state legislature. However, it wouldn't be surprising if there was some bad blood between the governor and legislative leaders. Interbranch rivalries are real. Ritter also could have gone with Rep. Salazar or Rep. Perlmutter, both of whom have shown an ability to win in moderate districts. But that would expose a congressional district to a special election which the Republicans might well win at this point. He could have gone with Rep. DeGette, but she's widely known as the state's most liberal member of Congress and would likely lose in 2010. And maybe Hickenlooper didn't want the job (see above). So who's left? Bennet.
I'm open to other suggestions.


Steve Balboni said...

Mostly #5 but some of #1 as well. More here,

Mike B. said...

Um, CNN? Nice work, Seth! I'd watch it, but I don't have a TV. Try to get on Stewart - I'll check it out on Hulu.