Senate Race in Colorado Has GOP Observers Pointing Fingers

Senate Race in Colorado Has GOP Observers Pointing Fingers
Joe O'Dea, Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Michael Bennet, speaks during a primary election night watch party, late June 28, 2022, in Denver. (David Zalubowski/AP Photo)
John Ransom
News Analysis

As Republican Joe O’Dea hopes to unseat Democrat incumbent Sen. Michael Bennett in Colorado’s race in November, some GOP observers are pointing the finger at Washington and others at the O’Dea campaign for the GOP’s election struggles in the Rocky Mountain state.

Earlier this month, The Denver Post highlighted dueling election polls which showed O’Dea either losing to Bennett by 11 points with over 10 percent undecided, or trailing only narrowly by a point, depending on the methodology used by pollsters.

But in interviews with The Epoch Times, GOP insiders have complained about either the lack of financial support coming from Washington for the O’Dea campaign, or have claimed that the campaign lacks the requisite grassroots support to win.

“I think there’s a golden opportunity for Republicans to flip the Senate seat, but [Joe’s] going to need help,” Ryan Lynch, general consultant at Polstar Strategies in Denver who is close to the O’Dea campaign, told The Epoch Times.

“Either it comes from DC, Omaha, Denver, wherever it is, he needs more third-party support,” said Lynch.

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 3, 2020. (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) arrives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Feb. 3, 2020. (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

NRSC and Campaign at Fault: Observer

Lynch specifically blamed both the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (NRSC) and the Republican National Committee (NRC) for the funding shortfall.

“I don’t think he’s getting enough support from national interests, whether we’re talking about the NRSC, the RNC or whatever national group that normally supports Republicans,” he said.

But the man who lost to O’Dea in Colorado’s GOP Senate primary says that the campaign’s real problem is with the candidate himself.

O’Dea, says his former GOP Senate opponent, is trying to rely on a third party to rescue him when the candidate’s own party doesn’t like his political positions or the people who represent his campaign.

“Conservatives are feeling as though they’ve been sold out by Washington,” said Colorado State Rep. Ron Hanks, who lost to O’Dea by ten points in an open primary this year where voters of any party could participate.

“Grassroots and conservative Republicans that care about real issues, were sold out by Joe O’Dea and his campaign team that he brought in who were fronts for Liz Cheney [Republicans],” said Hanks.

Republican Tries to Distance Himself From Trump

O’Dea has tried to distance himself from former President Donald Trump by saying he doesn’t want Trump to either run or win the presidency.
“As far as Trump’s concerned, I hope he doesn’t run,” O'Dea said of Trump on a local Colorado podcast. “I don’t want to see him as president.”

But merely distancing himself from Trump won’t be enough to help attract the Democrat and Independent votes that O’Dea will need to win, Lynch believes.

“I think that’s only a component of it,” Lynch said of O’Dea’s refusal to support Trump.

“I don’t think the mere action of distancing yourself from President Trump is enough to gather the support of Democrats and independents and it’s just got to be one aspect of the formula to victory,” he added.

Hanks believes that’s why O’Dea supports abortion and has pledged not to repeal Obamacare, so that O’Dea can make himself more palatable to Democrats, an idea that presents more than just ideological problems for conservatives like Hanks.
Senator Michael Bennet [D-Colo.] shakes hands with President Barack Obama in Denver on Feb. 18, 2010. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Senator Michael Bennet [D-Colo.] shakes hands with President Barack Obama in Denver on Feb. 18, 2010. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Bennet Was Key Senator on Obamacare Passage

Since 2010, the GOP has waited to go after Bennet on Obamacare after the Democratic senator penned a letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the wake of Obamacare’s initial defeat in the Senate.
The letter demanded that a version of Obamacare be brought back to the Senate for a straight up and down vote that included a public option, an exceptional liberty for a freshman senator to take with a Senate majority leader.

“It was the fact that Bennet thought Obamacare didn’t go far enough,” former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told The Epoch Times about the letter.

“That he actually wanted to move towards government-run medicine tells you almost all you need to know [about Bennet],” said Gingrich, before adding, “And the fact that he was favored by the Washington establishment.”

An overhauled version of the Obamacare bill with a public option was then rushed through the Senate and passed without any GOP support, after dozens of Democrat Senators signed on to Bennet’s original letter.

It appeared that Bennet was later rewarded for his help in passing Obamacare by being named chair of the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee, a rare privilege for a junior Senator from a state with nine electoral votes.

That O’Dea has already pledged to keep Obamacare in place to a great extent forgives Bennet despite the many of the sins that Republicans have against him, said Hanks.

Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) talks to reporters in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 09, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) talks to reporters in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 09, 2020. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Grassroots Support

For his part, the consultant Lynch thinks that separation from Trump will make O’Dea’s campaign stronger, arguing that O’Dea can buy a get-out-the-vote operation and dispense with grassroots help that rank-and-file Republicans would normally man.

“Cory Gardner’s U.S. Senate campaign [in Colorado] in 2014 was pretty much an entirely paid-for ground game,” Lynch said.

“It was effective and he won,” added Lynch.

Gardner defeated then-U.S. Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat.

This occurred despite Gardner’s support for the personhood amendment in Colorado that tried to legally recognize life beginning at conception and Gardner’s opposition to Obamacare during the Senate campaign.
Gardner’s victory was so impressive that The Washington Post called Gardner the single best candidate in 2014.
Even the progressive Mother Jones paid homage to Gardner’s grassroots support in 2014 saying that only a maximum “turnout operation” that could “exceed Bennet’s 2010 effort” could beat Gardner in 2014.

The Colorado GOP cited the Obamacare deal by Bennet that O’Dea has already said he’ll uphold as a reason to vote against Bennet.

“Michael Bennet, the accidental Senator, has always been a puppet for the liberal establishment. That was true when he voted for Obamacare, and it was true when he voted for the $1.9 trillion stimulus that’s sent inflation soaring,” said Joe Jackson, executive director of the Colorado GOP, in a statement to The Epoch Times.

O’Dea Vows To Be No One’s Puppet

For his part, O’Dea said that his mandate in going to Washington would to not be anyone’s puppet.

“Michael Bennet has always cared more about his political party than delivering for the people of Colorado. He’s Biden’s Senator, not Colorado’s Senator,” O’Dea told The Epoch Times.

“I’m focused on being a voice for working Americans. Biden and Bennet have delivered record inflation, record crime, and an affordability crisis. I’m going to the Senate to cut back the spending, tackle inflation, secure our border and just bring some common sense to Washington, D.C,” he added.

Zack Roday, O’Dea’s campaign manager said, “I can assure you, we’re doing everything we can to beat Michael Bennet and get this good man elected to the U.S. Senate.”

Whether that effort will be enough remains to be seen.

The Epoch Times has reached out to Bennet’s office, the NRSC, and NRC for comment.