The White House's political team is breathing a major sigh of relief with the results of both the Colorado Republican and Democratic Senate primaries on Tuesday. Which result is more welcomed, however, depends upon who you ask.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, Senator Michael Bennet's win put to rest, at least temporarily, the narrative that the president's political touch could be toxic. Bennet was flush with cash to make it through a bumpy primary ride, and was aided as well by assists from Obama and the rest of the Democratic establishment.
Before the results were final, aides to the president were already claiming a portion of credit. The White House, an aide emailed, helped raised more than $700,000 for Bennet's candidacy over the course of three fundraisers with administration officials and the president himself. Obama hosted a tele-town hall last week with voters who had not yet cast ballots, was featured on a get-out-the-vote mailer, and produced a robo-call and a television spot for the incumbent. The White House even helped secure comedian George Lopez for a pro-Bennet robo-call aimed at Latino voters.
For these efforts, the party got a candidate that strategists believe is better positioned to handle the general election terrain. The White House, meanwhile, was spared another chapter in what could have been a deeply problematic storyline.
"The press would have killed us," said one top administration official, predicting a cable news onslaught had Tuesday's results been different. Bennet's opponent, Andrew Romanoff, had been offered a job by the White House, and was endorsed by President Bill Clinton.
Instead, the Obama administration received some much-needed favorable news. Indeed, perhaps more important than Bennet's victory was news from the other side of the political aisle, where Tea Party favorite Ken Buck pulled off an upset over former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton.
Bolstered by a major ad investment from the outside group, Americans for Jobs Security, Buck's win doesn't necessarily guarantee that the Senate seat will remain in Democratic hands. But everyone from the White House to strategists from both parties acknowledges that it makes such a development more likely. Buck's victory was barely minutes old before opposition research on him was being shopped to reporters. The lead item (for what it's worth) dealt with his belief that there should be a "much closer relationship" between church and state.
Taken together, the Colorado primary results said as much about voter preferences in the state as they did about the influence of national party campaign committees. The Democratic Senate campaign arm is in as strong a position as it could be going into November -- only one candidate that it supported (explicitly) ended up losing a primary election, and that was a 30-year Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter. The DSCC wanted former state Senator Cal Cunningham to be their nominee in North Carolina. But the primary winner in that race, Elaine Marshall, still sits in relatively strong position against incumbent Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
The same dynamics simply aren't true for the GOP. Republicans may still make major gains this fall but Ken Buck joins fellow Tea Partiers Sharron Angle, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio as candidates that the National Republican Senatorial Committee either didn't want to see win their nomination or officially chose not to endorse.