Gibbs says Obama was unaware of outreach to candidate Romanoff

The White House press secretary said Thursday that President Barack Obama was unaware of the administration's outreach to Colorado Senate candidate Andrew Romanoff, who was approached about the possibility of a job in an effort to keep him out of the Democratic primary.

"The president, as the leader of the party, has an interest in ensuring supporters don't run against each other in contested primaries," said Robert Gibbs.

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The White House's preferred candidate in the race is Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

Gibbs acknowledged in an early morning statement Thursday that the White House did try to prevent Romanoff from running against Bennet but stressed that no specific job was offered. 

In his daily press briefing, Gibbs said he did not know of any other attempts by the White House to dissuade candidates from running.

Asked about criticisms that suggest these incidents show Obama has not changed the way Washington does business, Gibbs pointed to the release of visitor logs and other ethical standards the president has set as proof that this White House has made changes.

"Those are efforts that we're quite proud of," Gibbs said.

According to the administration's account, White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina contacted Romanoff to follow up on an application he had submitted during the presidential transition to work at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). After Obama took office, Romanoff had called White House personnel about the position.


“Jim Messina called and e-mailed Romanoff last September to see if he was still interested in a position at USAID, or if, as had been reported, he was running for the U.S. Senate,” Gibbs said in his morning statement.

“Months earlier, the president had endorsed Sen. Michael Bennet for the Colorado seat, and Messina wanted to determine if it was possible to avoid a costly battle between two supporters.

“But Romanoff said that he was committed to the Senate race and no longer interested in working for the administration, and that ended the discussion,” Gibbs said. “As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job.”

This post was updated at 3:37 p.m.