DENVER — President Barack Obama pleaded with Colorado Democrats on Tuesday to stick with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in a primary challenge, calling the appointed senator "the person that I want alongside me."
Bennet faces a primary challenge from Andrew Romanoff, a former state lawmaker who has blasted Bennet as being too cozy with corporate interests.
Obama, in a conference call with state Democrats who have yet to return mail-in ballots, disputed the criticism from Romanoff, saying Bennet "stood up again and again" to big corporations and was "one of the key people I needed" in the Senate to shepherd through a financial regulation recently signed into law.
"We've accomplished an incredible amount over the last 18 months, but we've got a lot more work to do, and Michael's the person that I was alongside me when we do it," said Obama.
The president also took exception to criticisms about Bennet's time with a Denver investment firm, the Anschutz Co., a job where Bennet made millions in part by restructuring movie theater companies. After leaving Anschutz, Bennet took a job with Denver's mayor, then was appointed superintendent of Denver public schools in 2005.
"He could've lived a comfortable life. Instead, he's devoted himself in every assignment he's undertaken to make a positive difference," Obama said.
The call was not the first time that the president has publicly supported Bennet. Obama traveled to Denver this year to headline a Bennet fundraiser.
Bennet urged calm in a primary contest that has gotten increasingly testy. Bennet holds a sizable fundraising advantage over Romanoff, who sold his own house last month to stay in the race, but a recent Denver Post/KUSA-TV poll showed Romanoff narrowing on the senator.
"Screaming at each other is not going to get done what we need to get done," Bennet said.
Romanoff didn't respond to Obama's remarks directly. Asked about the call, Romanoff said, "I support the president, and I'm very much looking forward to working with him in January."
Romanoff has been endorsed by former President Bill Clinton, a rare case of a former president not backing an incumbent senator from his own party.
The mostly mail-in primary election wraps up Aug. 10. The Democratic candidate faces the winner of the GOP primary contest, either prosecutor Ken Buck or former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton.