Colorado Senate race a gauge of how big a GOP wave could be in November

When Democrats openly assess the party’s prospects for November, their reactions range from bad to terrible to curled up and whimpering in a fetal position.

It appears that all but certain Democrats will lose control of the House of Representatives, while Republicans only need to win four seats. The partisan redefining of congressional districts after the last census should just about cover this spread.

The real battle is for control of the 50-50 Senate, where Republicans have saddled themselves with some dubious prospects.

If Democrats stay in control, it will be down to candidates like Herschel Walker, the epically clueless former college football star who could easily fumble away one of the best GOP pick-up opportunities in Georgia, and stand-outs like Adam Laxalt in Nevada.

But let’s assume the red wave is big. Let’s say it’s powerful enough not only to carry GOP flotsam like Walker and flotsam like Pennsylvania’s Laxalt and Mehmet Oz, but also powerful enough to sweep a Republican to victory in a blue state like Colorado.

In that case, the Democrats’ November could actually be very bad.

Democrat Michael Bennet, the state’s amiable US Senator, should be rolling for re-election. President Biden carried Colorado by more than 13 percentage points. Republicans haven’t won the governorship in more than 20 years, and the last Republican to win a Senate seat in 2014 barely gained ground in a landslide year for the GOP.

But strategists on both sides say the race is far from over, even as it moves in Bennet’s direction. As Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania appear more problematic, Republicans are looking at Colorado as a place where they could potentially capture a Democratic seat and increase their chances of a Senate seat.

Think of the state as a barometer. Or, if you don’t mind mixing metaphors, name Bennet a canary on the shore to gauge how high the Republican tide might go.

“He’s not in danger yet,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver pollster who has spent decades polling Colorado voters. “But [President] Biden is in a terrible state and if that becomes an important factor, many candidates who we assume would be safe could find themselves in trouble.”

The Democrats did their best to keep the Senate race out of reach of the Republicans. The party and its allies spent millions on the primary promotion of GOP state senator Ron Hanks, a stoker on the mad Trump train, hoping to land him as Bennet’s opponent.

The strategy that worked elsewhere failed in Colorado.

Instead, Republicans chose Joe O’Dea, 60, a fourth-generation Coloradan who made his fortune building a construction company and describes himself as “Republican Joe Manchin,” who is willing “with sane people on both sides.” of the course to work together”.

“I’m going to choose my conscience, I’m going to make tough decisions, I’m going to ruffle some feathers,” he said after winning the primary. “No political party will own me.”

Which is not a bad thing to say in a state where there are more independent voters than registered Democrats or Republicans.

O’Dea rejects much of what has become GOP orthodoxy. He dismisses Trump’s lie about the stolen 2020 election, opposes repealing the Affordable Care Act and says he supports the right to abortion “early in pregnancy” and later in cases of rape, incest or for the sake of a woman’s life rescue. (Democrats note that he has not endorsed state or federal legislation that would legislate abortion rights.)

Like most Republicans, he would prefer to campaign against Biden and the scourges of crime and inflation that have soared the president’s approval rating here in Colorado, as elsewhere.

That’s the weight hanging around Bennet’s neck.

The legislature was appointed to the Senate in 2009, when Ken Salazar joined President Obama’s cabinet, and scrapped an election against a clumsy opponent in 2010, another peak year for Republicans. Bennet was re-elected in 2016 with less than an impressive 49.97% of the vote, also against a weak opponent.

Summing up the 57-year-old senator in one word would be harmless; even political opponents say Bennet is a nice guy. Another word would be without exception.

Bennet was free from controversy and avoided scandal. But he hasn’t won any major victories in legislation either. He ran an unforgettable 2020 presidential campaign and, unlike some previous Colorado senators, hasn’t built a huge national reputation.

He certainly wasn’t as flashy as Colorado’s other senator, quirky former governor John Hickenlooper. (Whimsical, like jumping out of a plane and showering in a shirt and tie in campaign ads.)

“He’s more of an indoor intellectual,” Ciruli said of the state’s top senator.

Which is hardly a sin, though it’s notable in this nature-loving state that Bennet’s first ad showed him walking through the mountain greens in a plaid shirt and hiking pants while debating lobby reform and shunning PAC money.

Democrats say there’s enough on O’Dea’s record to paint him as another standard Republican. They cite his opposition to new gun controls, his support for cutting Medicare and Social Security, his slow-paced approach to addressing climate change, and his stated willingness to support Trump if he is the 2024 Republican nominee.

“The GOP brand is still battered in Colorado,” said Alan Salazar, chief of staff to Democratic Mayor of Denver Michael Hancock. “O’Dea must overcome this by making a clear break with Trump.”

But that risks alienating Republicans and walking a fine line from O’Dea. As a political novice, it is not clear that he has the capability.

Being a Democrat in a pro-democracy state should be enough for Bennet to prevail in November.

If he loses, it’s probably not because of anything Bennet said or did or a lack of great performances.

Rather, it will be the maelstrom of a deeply unpopular president and a Republican wave so big it will wash over the towering Rockies. Colorado Senate race a gauge of how big a GOP wave could be in November

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