WASHINGTON – Sen. Michael Bennet has derided the nation’s capital as a “Land of Flickering Lights” that can’t reach deals on the federal debt limit and annual budget until the last moment and was one of two Democratic senators who voted against the fiscal-cliff deal last year.
Yet Bennet’s new fundraising letter on the debt-ceiling agreement Congress reached last week suggests that fiscal conservatives would do nothing less than wreck the economy and put the country into default for voting the same way.
“We came together to speak with one voice, to say that we do not want our leaders to govern from one fiscal cliff to the next, that we cannot allow a small faction of out-of-touch extremists to threaten our economy or neglect to pay America’s bills,” Bennet wrote in a recent email to supporters.
Bennet’s pitch is a thinly veiled jab at the tea-party wing of the Republican Party. Although the letter mentions neither his political affiliation nor the words Democrat or Republican, it urges readers to donate money to his Senate campaign. Bennet is up for re-election in 2016.
“I don’t think the word ‘Democrat’ has to be in the fundraising letter,” said Nathan L. Gonzales, deputy editor of The Rothenberg Political Report, a non-partisan newsletter. “We have to remember who he’s emailing to, a list of possible Democratic donors, who have been previous donors to the Democratic Party in most cases.”
Conservative activists accused Bennet of a transparent ploy.
“It’s truly an amazing political feat to use a bipartisan compromise to fundraise in a partisan appeal. Luckily, Coloradans see the hypocrisy of Sen. Bennet’s games,” Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado, said in an email to TCO.
Bennet’s relationship with tea-party Republicans in Congress has varied.
He has sponsored legislation with some conservative Senate Republicans, such as Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Yet he has criticized more insurgent-minded conservative Republicans such as Ted Cruz of Texas, though he has not done so by name. It was Cruz who sought to filibuster the debt-ceiling deal last year.
Bennet’s indirect criticism of conservative insurgents is not accidental, Gonzales said. It reflects a widely-held view among Democrats that blaming Republicans for the 16-day government shutdown in October is a winning-hand, politically.
Poll results show that support for congressional Democrats rose last October, a period that coincided with the government shutdown and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. A generic congressional Democrat gained five percentage points while a Republican counterpart gained one point, according to a RealClearPolitics average of surveys measuring congressional intent.
Congressional Democrats’ advantage has since been erased — the two parties stand tied at 42 percent, according to the RealClearPolitics.
Yet Bennet’s support also took a hit after the government shutdown and botched rollout of Obamacare. His approval ratings dropped three percentage points and disapproval ratings rose five percentage points from August to November, according to Quinnipiac University.
Bennet’s job-rating figures in early February showed that 39 percent supported and 36 percent opposed him.