Bennet Strategy Provided Blueprint for Obama

Bennet Strategy Provided Blueprint for Obama

An Obama supporter at a Nov. 1 rally in Boulder, Colo., wears a cowboy hat signed by the First Lady and festooned with Democratic campaign stickers.


President Barack Obama’s winning strategy in Colorado relied on an army of campaign workers on the ground and appeals that targeted key groups like suburban women, Latinos and young voters. The Obama team borrowed heavily from Senator Michael Bennet, the Democrat who won in Colorado two years ago using the same model against similar odds. From Washington, DC, David Frey reports.

Listen to the story here: Bennet Blueprint

The race was a tight one in Colorado – down to the wire until Election Day. Voters were closely divided, but polls just before the election showed the Republican in the lead. When the results came in, though, it was the Democrat who won.

That could describe the latest presidential race. In the days before the election, polls suggested Mr. Obama might lose in Colorado, but in the end, the Centennial State was one of several key swing states he won to secure the election.

But it could also describe a Senate race two years ago. Democrat Michael Bennet was tied going into the final rounds of the campaign, but after an eleventh-hour blitz, he defeated Republican challenger Ken Buck by targeting key demographic groups.

The Obama campaign says it relied on Bennet’s strategy as a blueprint for its own. Here’s Colorado Democrat Mark Udall, an Obama supporter.

[UDALL: “Senator Bennet’s playbook was the basis for the president’s victory here. There’s a strong emerging coalition in Colorado of Latinos, the youth vote, independents and suburban women. Those groups played an important role.”]

Bennet was appointed to the Senate seat left vacant when Obama picked Sen. Ken Salazar to head the Interior Department. In 2010, Bennet was running to hold on to that seat. His challenger, Republican Ken Buck, had Tea Party support in a year when the Tea Party was flexing its muscle.

The two were polling neck-and-neck, but Bennet crisscrossed the state to make personal campaign appearances, and he made a last-minute appeal to women voters with ads like this one:

[AD: “Ken Buck would ban common forms of birth control and Ken Buck wants to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest. That should be a woman’s decision, not a politician’s. As far as I’m concerned, Ken Buck is just two extreme for Colorado.] [20 sec]

Bennet narrowly won, in a year many Democrats met defeat.

Senator Bennet:

[BENNET: “There was a very clear difference between my opponent’s position and my position and that led in the end to the largest gender gap of any race in the country.”] [9 sec]

Using Bennet’s outreach to women, Latinos and youth, the Obama campaign sought to cobble together its own victory in Colorado, a state that was just about evenly split between President Obama and Governor Romney.

In the end, Obama won, in part because of support from these key groups in a state where Latinos have a growing share of the vote.

[BENNET: “It’s an important vote throughout the Rocky Mountain West including Colorado and those demographics are going to continue to change.]

On Election Night, Mr. Obama praised his campaign team.

[OBAMA: “To the best campaign team in the history of politics.”]

That’s what candidates usually say on Election Night. But observers say the Obama team was the most data-driven team in the history of politics. After reading the nation’s changing demographics and appealing to key voting groups, the Obama team succeeded in winning swing states — like Colorado — they otherwise might have lost.

For Aspen Public Radio News in Washington, DC, I’m David Frey.