The conventional political narrative around Colorado is that this the old purple state now leans towards blue. And there’s plenty of evidence for that: Democratic presidential candidates have won the state in every election. since 2008Democrats have occupied the governor’s mansion since the 2006 elections and the state is currently represented by two Democratic senators.
This year’s midterm elections were supposed to go Republican, as they often do for the party not in the White House, but the GOP has seen previously accessible Senate races in Arizona and Pennsylvania become more challenging, all while races in Georgia, Nevada and Wisconsin remain close. In the midst of this, some Republican strategists and national leaders are hoping the Centennial State could once again become a battleground.
To be sure, FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 midterms forecast gives incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet a 9-in-10 chance of beating his Republican opponent, Joe O’Dea. And Colorado hasn’t elected a Republican senator either. since 2014. (The time before that was in 2002.) But both sides are taking this year’s race seriously: In an interview with Politico, Bennet warned that “Colorado remains a swing state”, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recently assured Republicans that he is “fully invested” in the race and lavished praise on O’Dea, whom he called “the perfect candidate” for the state.
There are many reasons why some meteorologists think Bennet could be in trouble. But arguably the biggest reason, despite FiveThirtyEight’s polling average giving Bennet a nearly 9 percentage point lead, is that O’Dea has largely avoided the not-so-good headlines that have plagued other Republicans in races initially considered easy. grab for the Republican Party.
Think of someone like Herschel Walker, the Republican challenging Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia. Walker is under scrutiny for allegedly do not reveal all his children, despite repeatedly criticizing absentee black fathers. He is also under fire for exaggerating your business other academic records. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters carries his own troublesome baggage: He once blamed Black people for gun violence in the US, and has promoted the “great replacement” conspiracy theorydiscredited belief advanced by republicans who claim that Democrats support more immigration to “replace” white American voters. And in Pennsylvania, Republican candidate Mehmet Oz has struggled to gain ground after accusations of rug hoarding other be out of touch with the voters.
In other words, an avalanche of controversial or rejected candidates could cost Republicans the Senate, a reality that even McConnell has acknowledged. There are also signs that the party is beginning to slowly withdraw its support from some scandal-ridden Republicans. In late August, there were reports that the Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-aligned Republican super PAC, planned scrap about $8 million worth of ads in Arizona throughout september, delaying its entry into the race until early October. This could be one of the clearest signs that the party is directing its resources toward states where candidate quality is less of an issue.
That’s why states like Colorado could appeal to the Republican Party, even if the odds are currently stacked against them.
One of the reasons Bennett might be a weak candidate is that he didn’t pass the majority vote threshold in either. 2010 either 2016. That’s not necessarily surprising in the 2010 election, given that the two-term senator was originally designated to the Senate by the then governor. Bill Ritter in 2009 and senators who are first appointed to office often have weaker electoral records. But what’s worse for Bennett is that he too had a race closer than expected against Republican Darryl Glenn in 2016, despite outspending his opponent more than 4 to 1.
“Candidates who don’t excite people and who don’t excite voters don’t get much support. And I just don’t think Senator Bennett gets people excited,” he said. sarah handornpolitical science professor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.
Bennett’s favorability numbers in the state also leave a lot to be desired. A Global Strategy Group/ProgressNow Colorado The June poll, for example, showed that he had a positive net preference of 10 percentage points among registered Colorado voters, but a surprising proportion, 28 percent, did not know or had no opinion of him. Compare that with the governor. Jared Polis, whose net favorability was 5 points better than Bennet’s and only 9 percent of voters didn’t know or had an opinion about him. That said, the poll had Bennett significantly ahead of President Biden among Colorado voters: Biden’s net favorability was down 14 points.
And there are other reasons why the national media has pounced on Colorado as a pickup opportunity for Republicans. O’Dea, a first-time candidate, has mostly avoided running as far to the right as many of his Republican counterparts. weather The vote for former President Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020, he has openly said he hopes Trump not running for president in 2024 and that he does not question the legitimacy of Biden’s victory in 2020.
It’s also possible that social issues, such as the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, that has encouraged other Senate races will not be so much of a problem in Colorado, where the right to abortion is encrypted in state law. Also, O’Dea is not so conservative like many Republican politicians on abortion. While doing it vote for a failed ballot measure in 2020 that he would have banned abortions after 22 weeks of gestation, and has said that he is personally “pro-life” He opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. In fact, she has said that she would support abortions up to about 20 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in later months for rape, incest and the life of the mother. And just last week O’Dea publicly declared would not support a bill proposed by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Still, Bennet has tried to do the abortion a defining line in his carrer. In August, his campaign launched a new commercial where five women are heard criticizing O’Dea for allegedly opposing “the law that protects access to abortion in Colorado” and for supporting Trump’s three Supreme Court nominees, who voted to overturn Roe.
It has also been difficult to catch the political winds of the state since a draft of its voters are not affiliated with any of the parties and the polls on his Senate race have been scant so far. Most Democratic-funded polls give Bennett a double-digit lead over O’Dea (not surprisingly, since partisan polls are often dodgy and biased), and at least one Republican-funded poll has the two head to head (also not surprising). Meanwhile, an independent poll by Public Policy Polling showed less support for Bennet than in Democratic polls, but still gave him a fairly large lead.
“The large number of unaffiliated voters here means there are a lot of people who are tired of both Republican and Democratic politics,” Hagedorn said. And a Republican like O’Dea who is willing to oppose his party line on issues like abortion could speak to those voters, he added.
So do the Republicans really have a chance here? At a minimum, the lead-up to November should be competitive, as that’s how both sides are treating it. But, according to our midterm forecast, O’Dea is much more of an underdog here. Bennet not only has a big bonus fundraiserbut a Democratic rally could also help him pass re-election this fall.
However, this race is worth watching as it could become a harbinger for Democrats in what would normally be a difficult election year for the party. And while Colorado hasn’t recently been a bastion of competitive statewide races, O’Dea isn’t a bad candidate for Republicans, and if the political climate worsens for Democrats, the tide could turn for the GOP in Colorado.