For all the chatter about the White House's ability to get out the vote in Colorado's Tuesday night primary, the election produced one statistic that could leave Democrats unsettled.
The losing candidate in the Republican race, former Lt. Gov Jane Norton, actually earned more votes (197,143) than the winning candidate in the Democratic primary, Sen. Michael Bennet (183,521).
A voting breakdown like that is troubling enough for the party. That it occurred in Colorado -- a state targeted by the Obama presidential campaign and turned into a potential Democratic stronghold in 2008 -- makes it slightly more frightening. When the loser in the Kentucky Democratic primary, Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo, received more votes (221,269) than the winner of the Republican primary, Rand Paul (206,159 votes), it was routinely highlighted by party officials as a sign of viability in the bluegrass state.
Party officials refused, on Wednesday, to downplay Bennet's win because of the aggregate voting trends. Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, noted: "nearly three times as many people voted in the 2010 Democratic primary election in Colorado as participated in the 2008 Democratic presidential caucus in Colorado." The Secretary of State's office, meanwhile, reported that more than 35 percent of all Democratic votes on Tuesday evening were cast by voters who had no previous primary election vote history.
"That means our team knows how to motivate unlikely voters (like the Obama surge voters) come the fall," argued Schultz.
Whether that motivation extends to -- or, more importantly, accelerates in -- the general election is the essential question on the party's mind. Operatives are increasingly convinced that electoral enthusiasm will play a determining role in 2010, which is why grumblings were audible on Capitol Hill after White House spokesman Robert Gibbs mocked liberal constituencies for their unreasonable demands.
It was telling that Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine didn't show any reluctance to poke fun at the president's press secretary when asked about Gibbs' remark.
"That was definitely one where, you know, it should have stayed in the thought bubble over his head than being spoken," Kaine said, during an appearance on "Morning Joe" on Wednesday.
"Look, it's been a hot summer in Washington and I've said things like that too and my temper got the best of me... As Democrats, we tend to be an impatient party. This is something that I know and I kind of love about us. Edison said discontent is the first sign of progress. If you're complacent, you don't push."
Kaine rarely addresses weighty political topics without first coordinating with the White House. So it stands to reason that Gibbs offered both the DNC chair and others in the party the green light to distance themselves from his remarks.
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