Washington (CNN) - Former President Bill Clinton announced Tuesday that he is endorsing challenger Andrew Romanoff in the battle for Colorado's Democratic Senate nomination, rather than support incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet. The move puts the former president at odds with his national party.
In an email to supporters, Clinton said that he supports Romanoff, "and I hope you will too. Please make a generous contribution to his campaign today."
In the email, the former president says he first met Romanoff in 1992. Clinton then goes on to describe what he calls the many accomplishments by Romanoff as a state lawmaker and then as Colorado's first Democratic House speaker since 1976.
"Colorado is far better off today because of Andrew Romanoff's leadership. America will be too," add Clinton.
While Clinton is backing Romanoff, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is helping Bennet, who was plucked out of political obscurity early last year when Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter named him to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who stepped down to serve as Interior Secretary in the Obama Administration. Prior to moving to Denver, Bennet served as a counsel to the Deputy Attorney General at the Department of Justice during the Clinton Administration.
Romanoff, who is no longer serving as House speaker, faces off against Bennet in Colorado's August 10 primary. Romanoff scored points at Democratic precinct caucuses this spring, but a recent poll suggests Bennet leads the Democratic Senate battle by double digits. Bennet also maintains a large advantage of Romanoff in the race for campaign cash, thanks in part to an appearance by President Obama at a Bennet fundraiser in Colorado in February.
Regardless of who wins in the primary, the Democrats will have a fight on their hands to keep the seat in November's general election. Clinton thinks that Romanoff would be the stronger candidate.
"Andrew brings to this race both an extraordinary record of public service and an extraordinary capacity to lead. I believe that those assets, as well as his deep commitment to Colorado, give him the best chance to hold this seat in November," says the former president.
Earlier this month Romanoff said that a senior White House aide suggested last year that three administration jobs might be open to him if he abandoned plans to run against Bennet. But Romanoff also noted that he was never offered a position by the White House.
In a statement, the White House said that Romanoff applied for a position at USAID during the presidential transition, applying online. After Obama took office, he followed up by phone with White House personnel, the statement said.
White House Deputy Chief of Staff 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," said the statement from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.
"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."
Romanoff told Messina he was committed to running for the Senate and was no longer interested in working for the Obama administration, "and that ended the discussion," the White House said. "As Mr. Romanoff has stated, there was no offer of a job."
–CNN Political Research Director Robert Yoon contributed to this report