For Republicans from Denver to Washington, D.C., the Senate race in Colorado this November is the "Cinderella story" of all Senate contests in 2022.
Although most recent polls show Republican Joe O'Dea trailing Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet by about 10 percentage points, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is making the O'Dea candidacy a priority.
In addition, former President George W. Bush has just announced he is making a stop in the Centennial State on O'Dea's behalf one of his rare campaign appearances these days.
Much of the enthusiasm about construction company CEO and first-time candidate O'Dea stems from the two weak trips to the polls by Bennet.
Appointed to fill a vacancy in the Senate in 2009, Bennet eked out victory in a special election a year later against Republican (now Rep.) Ken Buck by about 29,000 votes out of more than 1.7 million cast. In 2016, as Hillary Clinton was sweeping Colorado, Bennet defeated Republican nominee and then-El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn by 50% to 44.3%.
"Bennet faced two inept Republican opponents who allowed Bennet to win elections he should have lost," former State GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams told Newsmax, "especially in 2016, when Darryl Glenn was totally bewildered about how to run a general election campaign after the Senate Conservative Fund spent more than a million dollars on him to win the Republican primary."
O'Dea is almost unique among GOP Senate candidates this year. He says flatly Joe Biden won the 2020 election and hopes Donald Trump won't run again in '24. The GOP nominee said he would have voted for Biden's infrastructure bill and appreciates the Inflation Reduction Act's $4 billion earmark for the Colorado River.
A devout Roman Catholic, O'Dea has been critical nonetheless of the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the abortion issue to the states. But O'Dea supports national legislation banning late-term abortions and requiring parental approval for abortion and is against taxpayer funding of abortion.
However, some on the Republican side see these as strong signs he is backing away from contemporary conservatism and will lose some of his party's base.
Veteran Colorado GOP operative Jim Pfaff pointed out that the state "has been consistently trending against the country in elections. And O'Dea has positioned himself as a Republican who's a lot like his Democrat opponent. The voters see no difference in the candidate and are inclined to vote more Democrat than Republican. Theae factors make it nearly impossible for O'Dea to win."
Colorado is now dominated by the 46% of the electorate who are unaffiliated, with Democrats trailing at 23% and Republicans at only 21%. Those unaffiliated voters will decide whether O’Dea goes to Washington or Bennet is returned.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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