We laughed over the weekend after political neophyte Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea was obliged to pull down a campaign ad that featured footage of Russian fighter jets overlain by the slogan “SUPPORT MILITARY”–which during the present state of conflict between Russia and most of the world over the invasion of Ukraine was a gaffe of significantly greater heft than the usual substitution of out-of-state mountains for the Colorado Rockies.
But as the Colorado Times Recorder’s Heidi Beedle reported over the weekend and then O’Dea personally confirmed in a fumbling Twitter clapback, O’Dea appears to be just as capable of screwing up on real issues. Asked about abortion in the context of the likely overturning by the new 6-3 right-wing U.S. Supreme Court of Roe v. Wade, O’Dea gave an answer that most likely pleases no one–but will please Colorado’s solid pro-choice majority much less:
“Well, actually, if [Roe v. Wade] gets overturned, it’s going to push it to the states,” said O’Dea in response to a question about what kind of legislation he would support around abortion. “And this bill [Reproductive Health Equity Act] that just came through at our gold dome, that Polis signed a couple of weeks ago, to me, it’s reckless, it approves third-term abortions, and I’m not in favor of that. So it’s going to be a local-level issue.”
Summing up the problem is longtime local reproductive rights activist Karen Middleton:
“Joe O’Dea’s opposition to the Reproductive Health Equity Act means he does not agree with the vast majority of Coloradans on abortion access and reproductive rights, at a time when the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade and take those rights away. O’Dea’s opposition to RHEA and abortion rights are disqualifying for anyone running for elected office in Colorado.”
Perhaps sensing the danger of wading into this treacherous minefield–especially ahead of the June 28th primary, when the smallest concession on any number of litmus test issues including this one could spell doom against an opponent with a natural advantage winning base GOP hearts and minds–O’Dea responded sharply but vaguely to the Colorado Times Recorder’s story via the Twitters:
Here’s the truth fake reporters: abortion was legal long before your grandstanding bill this year and even before Roe. You go ahead and run Mark Udall’s campaign. I’m focusing on inflation, crime, & Biden’s soft foreign policy. That’s why I’m running, not social issues. 3/4
— Joe O’Dea (@ODeaForColorado) April 24, 2022
While it’s true that abortion will remain legal in Colorado after the repeal of Roe v. Wade, that’s not the case for dozens of other states–and in Colorado, it’s the very bill O’Dea criticized that has now codified abortion rights into statute. And if O’Dea is trying to signal beneath this bravado that he’s okay with abortion being legal, that’s something every Republican primary voter needs to know. The only thing that’s truly clear is that O’Dea doesn’t want to talk about abortion at all, calling unwelcome questions on the issue “Mark Udall’s campaign” in a slight to the U.S. Senate who lost to Cory Gardner in 2014 warning that Gardner was a clear and present danger to abortion rights.
The problem for Joe O’Dea is that Mark Udall was right. And every voter in Colorado knows it now.
In 2022, with Roe about to fall after Gardner made good on the worst fears of his detractors in 2014, Mark Udall’s warning to Colorado is as salient as ever. Joe O’Dea has already expressed his support for right-wing judges ready to carry out the edicts of the new overwhelmingly conservative Supreme Court that Cory Gardner helped install. Especially in the likely event Roe is overturned or dramatically weakened this summer, this issue that O’Dea would like to sidestep is going to collide with his campaign head-on whether he likes it or not.
Whether it becomes obvious before June 28th or afterward, Joe O’Dea is just not up to the job.