Rocky Mountain showdown: A renewed Senate race in Colorado
Colorado's Senate race appears to be more competitive than previously expected. Incumbent senator Michael Bennet is vying to be re-elected to a third term against the first-time candidate Republican Joe O'Dea, who is also CEO of a Colorado construction company. Cook Political Report had Colorado's Senate race as a safe seat as far back as February, despite it being a challenging environment for Democrat candidates. However, a recently released report shows Colorado as a "Lean Democrat" as Joe O'Dea continues to campaign as a more traditional Republican rather than MAGA-based candidate.
A recent poll released by the Washington Examiner shows a virtual tie as Senator Bennet leads O'Dea 48% to 47%, with 5% still undecided. Colorado GOP state chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown released a statement saying, "These poll numbers done by a very reputable pollster and firm show what we've been seeing on the ground these past few weeks: Republicans can win in Colorado this November." O'Dea has made up the ground by improving his numbers with independent voters, where he trails Bennet by only 4 points.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell called Joe O'Dea "the perfect candidate" for Colorado and committed to going "all in" for O'Dea's general election campaign. "I just want to assure everybody, we're going to be all-in in Colorado," said McConnell at a D.C. online fundraiser. "We think we can win this race." Senate GOP candidates are struggling in battleground states such as Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Arizona. Colorado presents another path for the GOP to retake the upper chamber.
Joe O'Dea's campaign is adapting to Colorado's purple-leaning political environment. He continues a balanced approach not to turn off conservative voters but also to appeal to the broader electorate. In addition, his campaign is sticking to the issues voters care about: inflation, crime, and high fuel costs. He recently told Axios that his approach to the problems gives him the best chance to win. "We need candidates that can win in Colorado. If you're so far to the right that you can't win a purple state, that's a non-starter."
Senator Bennet and the Colorado Democrats feared Joe O'Dea from the start of the Senate primary. Democratic Colorado, a Democrat super-PAC, spent $4 million on televised media as well $1 million in broadcasting for the fringe candidate Ron Hanks, who promoted conspiracy theories about January 6. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer's Senate Majority PAC paid to run TV ads throughout the state, but it wasn't enough, as O'Dea trounced Hanks by 9 points.
The O'Dea campaign has not let the Democrats use Trump or the 2020 election controversy against him. O'Dea said of a possible Trump 2024 presidential run, "I hope he doesn't run. I don't want to see him as president again." O'Dea also acknowledged that Biden won the 2020 election, stating, "Joe Biden's our president. He's a lousy president."
O'Dea's focus on putting Coloradans' interests over hyper-politics has put the Bennet campaign on the defensive. "Bennet has been Biden's rubber stamp since he hit that office," O'dea said, commenting on the senator's vote for the American Rescue Plan. "That's got us at 9.1 percent inflation. Record gas prices, record crime here in Colorado, those are all things that are the responsibility of the Democratic policies that have been imposed on our state. And I aim to change that." President Biden's approval rating is 14 points below, with a 42%-56% favorable rating in a state he won by 14 points.
Twenty twenty-two is seen as a significant election year for Republicans everywhere, and with Biden's low approval ratings in Colorado, Joe O'Dea has a great chance to upset Senator Bennet. The NRSC spent $241,000 on TV campaign ads that showed Bennett's record modeling President Biden. If O'Dea can continue good poll numbers, the NRSC will spend money into the fall. The O'Dea campaign can even be a model for how national Republicans can run a winning campaign.