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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, speaks to a crowd at the University of Denver as part of a discussion hosted by The Colorado Sun. (Moe Clark, The Colorado Sun)
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Hot off his failed presidential bid, Colorado’s Michael Bennet on Friday blamed his inability to break through the primary field on his late entrance into the race and a social-media takeover of politics on top of other candidates running on policies that he championed. 

“I do think that, in the end, people thought I was a credible candidate,” the Colorado Democrat said in a conversation with The Colorado Sun and CBS4 at University of Denver. “They thought I had a credible plan. They didn’t think I had a credible way to win, and it turns out they were right about that.”

Bennet said during the event that he will seek a third term in the U.S. Senate when he is up for reelection in 2022.

“There are a lot of reasons a person would not want to be in the United States Senate, but I feel very privileged to be there and have the opportunity to overcome what I feel is a group of people who have immobilized our exercise in self governance,” he said. “If I can have a role in the Senate in helping overcome that, then I think it’s important to do that.”

Bennet downplayed his interest in a cabinet position should Democrats win back the White House in November. He said, however, that he would consider such a job if it were offered to him.  “It certainly would depend on what it was.” 

Bennet, who ended his presidential campaign after failing to break through in New Hampshire, where his campaign focused its financial and staffing resources, said he thought he could win the Democratic nomination because of what he had done in and for Colorado. 

MORE: Michael Bennet ends his presidential campaign after disappointing New Hampshire finish

“I thought that I could win because I’m from this beautiful swing state of Colorado and that I had a record that could unify the Democratic Party — some of the (millions) of people who voted twice for President Barack Obama,” he said. 

But his message never caught on. “The last two months were not the easiest months of my life,” he said.

Bennet warned that if U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders is the Democratic presidential nominee that the party will suffer in swing states, including Colorado, where Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is vying for a second term.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, speaks to a crowd at the University of Denver as part of a discussion hosted by The Colorado Sun. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

“I think it makes it much more challenging in purple states for Democrats who are running if Sanders is at the top of the ticket,” Bennet said.

He said that if he were running for reelection this year he would make sure Colorado voters understand how different he is from Sanders. Bennet reiterated that he thinks Sanders’ brand of politics isn’t what the nation wants and that he still believes the Democratic party must be united behind a candidate that can attract a wide array of voters to beat President Donald Trump.

Bennet called Medicare for All, Sanders’ signature health care plan, “a promise that can’t be fulfilled.”

“Bernie says the math compels being Bernie and that he is going to turn out so many more young people that he can win,” he said. “If he’s the nominee, I certainly hope that’s true. That’s not what the math looks like to me.”

Sen. Michael Bennet speaks to a crowd at the University of Denver with The Colorado Sun’s John Frank and Shaun Boyd of CBS4. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Bennet did give Sanders credit for being able to attract so many people, saying he understands why voters are drawn to him. 

“Unlike a lot of other politicians on that stage, he is authentic, he believes what he says,” Bennet said. “He’s honest about what he says.” 

An audience member at the event challenged Bennet’s views on Sanders and climate change. Marie Venner, a researcher and consultant, said she thinks Sanders has a strong base of support in Colorado and that Coloradans clearly support his progressive policies.

“I’m wondering if you are going to shift to where the people who elected you are?” she asked.

Bennet pushed back saying that he thinks a lot of progressive policies Sanders is calling for on climate change are reflected in his own beliefs, but that Americans want someone who can bridge the divide and come up with real plans. (Bennet said he would support Sanders if he is the Democratic presidential nominee.)

Bennet declined to endorse a Democrat running in the presidential candidate ahead of Colorado’s Super Tuesday vote next week. He said he hasn’t cast his ballot yet.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....