WASHINGTON — Democratic congressional candidate Andrew Romanoff used to be a frenemy of President Obama — a friend but also a rival of his fellow Harvard alum. But that was so three years ago.
In town for a private fundraiser Tuesday, Romanoff and Democratic congressional leaders did not acknowledge or highlight his positions on the Affordable Care Act or a controversial proposed overhaul of immigration laws, nor did they mention Obama by name.
Defending the President’s signature health-insurance law and supporting immigration reform — and President Obama — have been staples among Colorado Democrats.
“Andrew Romanoff has proven he can bring people together to get things done … That’s the kind of forward-thinking leadership we need in Washington right now,” read a campaign brochure that Romanoff supporters made available to those who attended a fundraiser at a private home on Capitol Hill Tuesday evening.
“He’s terrific. He’s a former speaker of the house in Colorado. He’s a very able communicator. He’s been in the leadership in Colorado … I think Andrew Romanoff’s going to win,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said at his weekly briefing with print reporters Tuesday.
Romanoff’s campaign web page does refer to his support for a “steady source of health care,” an allusion to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
Yet his campaign web site and latest brochure do not invoke the name of the President or his support for easing immigration rules, a key priority of Obama’s in his second term in office. A Romanoff campaign spokesman and a DNC spokesperson did not return an email message for comment.
Romanoff, 47, and Obama, 52, were bound to be allies.
Both graduated from Harvard University. Both were young idealists; Obama worked as a community organizer while Romanoff taught English in rural Costa Rica and Nicaragua, according to a campaign biography. And both come from the same upper-middle class, socially liberal wing of the Democratic Party.
Their relationship was close enough that Obama administration officials offered Romanoff a federal job to steer him away from challenging ally Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2010 Democratic primary (then-Governor Bill Ritter appointed Bennet to the Senate in 2009 after Obama tapped Ken Salazar to become the Interior Secretary).
Even after Romanoff leaked the embarrassing information he had turned down the administration’s job offers, he felt close to Obama to state his support for him on the eve of the Democratic primary.
“It is possible to be pro-Obama and pro-Romanoff at the same time,” he told CBS News in August 2010. “I am, and thousands of Coloradans like me who support the President point out that the decision gets made in Colorado.”
After Romanoff lost the race, he stayed out of the spotlight until he announced his bid for the Democratic nomination of the 6th Congressional District in February. Romanoff’s relationship with Obama after the latter won a second term in office last November, and it reflects the two men’s political standing.
Romanoff is locked in one of the tightest House races in the country. Last month, the Cook Political Report moved Romanoff’s likely showdown with U.S. Rep. Coffman (R-Aurora) from “lean Republican” to “pure tossup.”
According to the Federal Election Commission, Romanoff has raised $1,545,517 and spent $211,017. He has $1,334,500 cash on hand.
According to the FEC, Coffman has raised $1,655,679 and spent $450,320. He has $1,227,658 cash on hand.
Democratic leaders consider Romanoff a prime candidate to unseat Coffman. Colorado senators Mark Udall and Bennet hosted the fundraiser Tuesday at the home of Democratic field operative John Jameson and invited luminaries Hoyer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Obama faces a different dynamic. Barred from seeking a third-term in the White House, Obama does not need to be as sensitive to public opinion as Democrats in tight races. His approval ratings reflect this. According to RealClearPolitics, around two in five Americans (41 percent) approve of the President’s job performance.
Although Obama’s approval ratings started to dip during the government shutdown, they have plunged since the problematic rollout of Obamacare. Romanoff has pivoted away from the President’s issues. As recently as 2010, Romanoff identified a Canadian-style, health-insurance plan as a key policy difference between him and Bennet. “I support a universal, single-payer, non-profit health policy …” he told the Denver Post.
Romanoff’s policy priorities have shifted. According to his campaign brochure, he seeks to boost energy efficiency as well as spending on renewable energy, “slicing red tape” to help small businesses grow, and to increase spending on education.
“Andrew brought Coloradans together to balance the budget and get our economy moving again,” the brochure reads. It referred to Romanoff’s support for Referendum C in 2005, which relaxed state spending limits on health care, public schools, transportation, and fire and police pensions for five years.
Obama has sought to revivify the Senate’s immigration bill, which has stalled in the House. The President met with faith leaders in the White House Wednesday to discuss the need to pass the legislation. Yet Romanoff has not mention his stand on the Senate bill in his brochures or website.
Also, Romanoff does not mention his support for a 2006 immigration law that required local-law enforcement to report those suspected of being an illegal alien to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Colorado political analyst Floyd Ciruli said he does not expect the national political climate to determine the Romanoff-Coffman race, but he said this might change.
“One of the most important things would be the Democratic President staying underwater every day,” Ciruli said.