Another impressive candidate

Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet is a moderate consensus-builder

Here are a number of random observations about recent events.

First, a mea culpa. In my last column about the 100th anniversary poster Secretary of State Bill Gardner produced about the New Hampshire presidential primary, I made a mistake in reporting history.

I said John F. Kennedy had a hard-fought primary win in New Hampshire. In fact, as a senator from neighboring Massachusetts, he rather had the field to himself, with opponents waiting to fight it out in West Virginia and Wisconsin, where he did have a tough fight against Hubert Humphrey and others. Students of history will recall that in winning Protestant West Virginia, Kennedy, the first Catholic candidate, proved religious bigotry and concerns could be overcome.

That historic fact raises the issue of how much advantage a candidate from a neighboring state has in the New Hampshire Primary. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts beat Bill Clinton here in 1992. Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton here in 2016. John Kerry won his primary in 2004. That seems to point to a real advantage for neighbors. This year, however, Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Deval Patrick and William Weld, all from Massachusetts, are running. In the Democratic primary, it will be interesting to see if the “neighbor advantage” will be canceled out since there are so many running. Weld has other obstacles.

Next, having watched the impeachment hearings and seen the testimony of impressive members of the diplomatic corps and simultaneous tweets critical of the witnesses from the president, I can only conclude that “Never Trumper = Patriot.”

The weekend before Thanksgiving was an active one for primary candidates to campaign in New Hampshire. I had the chance to observe Governor Weld up close at an event in the Seacoast, where he impressed people with his intelligence, clarity and style. On Saturday evening, and then again on Monday morning, Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado spoke at events at Southern New Hampshire University and then at this writer’s law firm in Manchester. Bennet, not faring too well in the polls, was very impressive, to Democrats and Republicans alike. There were a number of reasons for this.

Bennet is a relatively moderate, consensus-building senator from a swing state. A graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut (where his father was president) and the Yale Law School, Bennet practiced law in Washington and moved to Colorado when his wife got a job with an environmental defense firm.

He went into the private sector there, then worked in government and, somewhat inexplicably, became the superintendent of schools in Denver, which had almost 100,000 students, the majority of whom were minority students. He was appointed to the Senate after the incumbent was appointed to the cabinet under President Obama and has been elected twice in the purple state, first in 2010, when the Tea Party was gaining traction, quite an accomplishment for a Democrat.

Bennet points to the bipartisan groups he has worked with in the Senate. Most impressively, in this year when no one is asked about or raises the issue of debt and deficits, Bennet cites the award he received last year from the “Fix the Debt” organization as its only champion who had the guts to vote against several measures that greatly increased the debt and deficit.

Bennet has an easy and friendly manner, and obviously does not take himself too seriously. He obviously is smart and has been a leader in many fields. All those in attendance at both events I witnessed were impressed and confused.

Impressed by his manner, his intelligence, his reasonable explanation of positions, and the real potential for someone like this to lead the country and bring people together. Confused because he has not gotten more press coverage and support.

Many of those listening to Bennet had the same reaction to the Democratic field, which has grown by two candidates, Patrick and Michael Bloomberg. Instead of narrowing the field, the situation became more confusing, with the danger of several quality candidates splitting the vote and someone who otherwise would not have been able to do so winning in the fractured field. This happened on the GOP side four years earlier.

This observer hopes we are not seeing history repeat itself.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass & Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He can be reached at bcook@sheehan.com.

Categories: Cook on Concord

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