DENVER, Colo.—Some Republican candidates are working to revamp their campaign websites, updating their positions on abortion to align with the general electorate.
Not Joe O’Dea. It’s not because his staff has failed or because he refuses to bow to media pressure, but because the pro-choice Republican from Colorado doesn’t think he has anything. either to flee in a year when abortion has become a central element. campaign issue.
O’Dea is perhaps the most disciplined Republican candidate for the Senate this year. Sometimes his simple message borders on boring. Still, in the current Republican Party environment, that can be a winning strategy, and Colorado is turning into a beacon of hope for a party that feels less than enthusiastic about retaking the upper house.
“If any of the other candidates can learn anything from me, it’s just to stay disciplined,” O’Dea told the Free Washington Beacon. “Stay on the message and make sure we deliver the message that will get us across the finish line.
A Republican Attorneys General Association investigation finds O’Dea in a statistical tie with Sen. Michael Bennet (D.) in a state President Joe Biden won by 13 points. Few, if any, other Republicans running for office in a competitive district or state are in such good shape at the start of September.
Democrats know that O’Dea’s campaign is resonating with voters. In what Politics described as a ‘panic’, Democratic organizations have spent millions of dollars in a desperate attempt to bolster O’Dea’s former chief opponent – state Rep. Ron Hanks, who boasted during the campaign campaigner to be “100% pro-life” and rallied on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6, in the final weeks of the race.
The Democratic effort to nominate Hanks could backfire in the general election as voters were inundated early in the race with ads portraying O’Dea as a moderate disloyal to former President Donald Trump. With O’Dea as the nominee, the race went from ‘probably Democrat’ to ‘lean Democrat’, according to the Bake the political report.
O’Dea’s message to shut down immigration, ban radical sex ed in schools, and cut spending doesn’t differ much from the rest of the Republican Party field nationwide except on one problem: abortion. O’Dea is pro-choice. He supports restrictions on abortion after 20 weeks, a practice adopted by many European countries.
At a candidates’ forum in Littleton last month, arch-conservatives sporting Trump t-shirts and “Let’s Go Brandon” signs seemed relatively indifferent to those views. Instead, they focused on critical race theory, illegal immigration, and a stream of fentanyl crossing the southern border.
One woman, who identified as Catholic, accused O’Dea during a question-and-answer session of being no different from Bennet on the issue of abortion. The audience was silent. A few rolled their eyes or shook their heads.
“I am a Catholic, I have my own faith. I really think my detractors [on abortion] need to do the research,” O’Dea told the woman. “Michael Bennet came out and said he supports late abortion, up to and including in the birth canal. I think that’s outrageous. I think we need a certain balance. I expressed very early in the primary my position on this subject and I was for the right of a mother.
There’s a long-standing belief among Colorado political operatives that moderation on abortion could be the key to the Republican Party’s success. Bennet has never reached 50% in a race since being nominated to the seat in 2009, and political operatives believe Republicans missed an opportunity the following year, when the Republican Party scored long-running victories. breath in states across the country such as Massachusetts, but not in Colorado.
A Colorado political operative working with the O’Dea campaign pointed to the 2010 Republican Senate nominee, Representative Ken Buck, who took a staunchly pro-life stance, including in cases of rape and incest – a view he aired on Meet the press two weeks before the election and which Democrats drew attention to in the final days of the race. Bennet went on to win with 48% of the vote, despite Buck leading by an average of 3 points in the polls just before the election.
The belief that Buck’s interview hurt his chances isn’t just shared by moderate Republicans in Colorado. “Social issues…distracted” from the race, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said shortly after the election.
It’s also possible that Buck misread his own party’s electorate. Just 56% of Republicans in Colorado were polled in February, before the Supreme Court overturned deer v. Wade, disagreed with the statement that “all women in Colorado should have access to abortion care.” An overwhelming majority of voters in the state, including a critical Republican constituency — whites without a college degree — agreed.
Voters in Pueblo, Colorado, which sits in a rural district represented by Rep. Lauren Boebert (R.), were not animated by the issue of abortion. Everyone who spoke with the Free tag were open to voting for a Republican in November and said they were far more concerned about economic issues and Democratic prosecutors and judges leaving felons on the streets with light sentences.
“I’m not big on any of the elected politicians in the state right now. I mostly watch the platforms and make a decision on who will do the best thing for the state,” said Chris Diaz, a rancher. in his twenties from a nearby town who says he leans conservative. “I do not take a hard stance on abortion when deciding to vote, as I understand that there are circumstances where it may be necessary. Similarly, I personally disagree with the practice.”
Another woman, Angela Texo, said at a cattle auction at the Colorado State Fair that she was personally pro-life. But, Texo added, a candidate’s stance on abortion was not something she pays attention to during this election cycle.
“I don’t think abortion should be banned here,” she said. “It’s just not something I really consider when choosing a candidate.”
Sights like these, in a red light district like Pueblo, show how describing the Colorado electorate is a challenge for many Republicans. Judging by presidential election results since 2008, the state is bluer than Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
But anyone who lives in the state knows that’s far from the case. Gov. Jared Polis (D.) has broken with his party on issues related to COVID-19 and taxes. Most of the state remains rural, and many voters who moved from California to the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas left their home states to flee what they saw as incompetent liberal governance.
Bennet is well aware of this, and the central argument of his campaign is that he is a hardy, centrist Colorado who enjoys frontier life. He wants voters to forget about his immense wealth, which skyrocketed during his tenure, and his voting record — more than 98% of the time with Biden — in a state suffering from a Biden hangover.
It is here, on the question of authenticity, where O’Dea may have the biggest advantage over his opponent. The adopted son of a police officer, O’Dea first worked as a union carpenter before landing at Colorado State University on a scholarship. Then he gave up to start his own construction company.
Bennet was born in New Delhi, India to longtime Democratic operative Douglas Bennet. He grew up in Washington, DC, and attended the prestigious St. Albans School before graduating from Wesleyan University and Yale Law School.
After law school, Bennet worked for Ohio Governor Richard Celeste, a former colleague of his father’s. He then served in the Clinton administration before becoming managing director of Anschutz Investment Company. His net worth is estimated at tens of millions.
That privileged background, says O’Dea, ended up costing Colorado dearly. Bennet hasn’t cut the same number as moderate Democrats such as Kyrsten Sinema (D., Arizona) or Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) or managed to win concessions from the White House and the leadership of the party on the main laws. “Bennet should have made his Senate vote count for Colorado,” O’Dea told the Free tag. “He waits and asks Joe Biden what vote he should take and then automatically approves the agenda. And that’s a problem and that’s why I’m going to get elected here.”
Unlike candidates who dashed Republican hopes in years past — unfortunately, there’s an entire Wikipedia page devoted to “controversies over rape and pregnancy claims in the 2012 U.S. election” — O’Dea avoided soundbites that grind their teeth.
He speaks in simple English. “We’ve got fentanyl killing our kids” and “We need to finish the wall” are the kinds of things you’ll hear O’Dea say to voters on the campaign trail. O’Dea’s remarks don’t make voters frown in confusion at references to buzzwords or ideological concepts found on Twitter or niche political journals.
As the Mitch McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund pulls Arizona spending plans amid fears the Republican nominee won’t be eligible, Colorado Republicans are growing hopeful national groups could start to spend big on O’Dea. For now, the O’Dea campaign is focused on retail politics.
“We’ve built a huge coalition across the state. We’ve got Trump Republicans, we’ve got GOP Republicans, we’ve got unaffiliated and we’ve got really disgruntled Democrats who are mad at their party for all these policies” , O’Dea told Littleton, “I want to do what’s good for Colorado.”