Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea hasn’t been gaining much traction against incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in any important campaign measurement, but he has had some success in one metric: Picking up national press coverage. Unfortunately for O’Dea, that “success” comes with an asterisk.
O’Dea has recently been featured in national outlets such as The Washington Post, NBC News, and — today — The New York Times. In fact, O’Dea has probably gotten more significant national news coverage than he has managed to earn in Colorado. Yet while these national hits appear under attractive mastheads, once you read past the headlines you start to realize that they are all basically the same story.
Here’s the Cliffs Notes version of every one of these national clips:
Senate Republicans are struggling across the country because they nominated a bunch of asshats in key states (Herschel Walker in Georgia and Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, for example). The little-known Joe O’Dea seems like less of an asshat by comparison because he is willing to admit things that normal people know to be true (Joe Biden is President, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West…stuff like that), which in the 2022 Republican Party makes him seem like a Mensa member. Perhaps O’Dea can present a real challenge for Democrats because he is a wealthy contractor who rides a horse.
On the other hand, O’Dea can’t articulate a usable position on abortion rights and just gets mad whenever someone asks him about it. Also, O’Dea isn’t very good at raising money and most pundits and even conservative pollsters can’t come up with numbers showing that O’Dea is even within the margin of error in November. The end.
Think we’re exaggerating? Let’s examine some key parts of today’s story from The New York Times:
Mr. O’Dea has been a welcome relief for Senate Republicans who have seen their once-strong chances of retaking the Senate shrink with a field of problematic arch-conservatives struggling in what should a favorable midterm year. Mr. O’Dea has been willing to say that Joseph R. Biden Jr. won the 2020 election [Pols emphasis] and that President Donald J. Trump did not and should not run again. In this cycle, that is enough to qualify a Republican as moderate.
O’Dea acknowledges that the man living in the White House is Joe Biden. What a man! When does the parade begin?
Despite differences on complex policy issues, the race sometimes seems more like a clash over who is the most authentic Coloradan. Mr. Bennet’s first ads have shown him hiking and fly-fishing, though he was dinged after Axios reported that he obtained a one-day permit for his fishing shoot. An ad for Mr. O’Dea features him loping on horseback, and he is quick to note that he comes from a fourth-generation Colorado family.
Bennet hikes and catches fish. O’Dea rides horses (even to sushi restaurants). How will Colorado voters ever be able to make a decision?
…while Mr. Bennet remains the favorite, the Cook Political Report recently shifted the contest from “Likely Democrat” to “Lean Democrat.” The Republican is threatening to make a race of it if he can increase his fund-raising and land his message that he is not a typical partisan politician…
…So far, Mr. O’Dea has badly lagged Mr. Bennet in financial resources, with less than $1 million in the bank at the end of June compared with Mr. Bennet’s $8 million.
Oh, well, that’s a letdown. But what about abortion rights?
Mr. O’Dea, who has positioned himself as a supporter of abortion rights with limits, acknowledged recently to The Colorado Sun that he voted for a failed statewide referendum in 2020 that would have banned abortion after 22 weeks without exceptions for rape and incest. [Pols emphasis] Democrats pounced, saying his vote showed that he would join Republicans in imposing a nationwide ban on abortion.
“You can’t escape the fact that he voted for an abortion ban,” Mr. Bennet said after a re-election rally at the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs. He accused Mr. O’Dea of “creating” an abortion position for a general-election audience…
…Mr. O’Dea dismissed the criticism and said the Bennet campaign was distorting his views and exaggerating his position on the referendum. “They are trying to attach a stigma to this that just doesn’t exist,” he said, portraying Mr. Bennet as an extremist for supporting abortion at all stages of pregnancy. [Pols emphasis]
This last part is where these stories all fall apart for O’Dea. Ten days ago, O’Dea inexplicably told The Colorado Sun that he voted in favor of Proposition 115.
The next day, his campaign told the Sun that O’Dea actually supports something even MORE restrictive: A ban on abortions at 21 weeks.
Literally an hour later, O’Dea’s campaign said, No, wait, the REAL policy that O’Dea supports is a ban on abortions at 20 weeks.
It is laughable that O’Dea has the temerity to tell the Times that Bennet is “distorting” and “exaggerating” his position on Proposition 115. O’Dea’s own campaign went out of its way to make sure that the Sun reported that O’Dea ACTUALLY supports a much more restrictive abortion ban than Prop. 115, which lost in Colorado by a 59-41 margin.
Bennet’s campaign doesn’t NEED to exaggerate O’Dea’s position on abortion rights because the Republican candidate keeps doing it to himself. From saying, “Personally, I’m very pro-life,” and affirming that he would have supported all of the Supreme Court Justices who overturned Roe v. Wade, O’Dea has done all of Bennet’s work by himself. His weird moonwalk on Prop. 115 is just the finishing touch on a pitiful effort to pretend to have a “moderate” position on a massively-important issue for voters this fall.
While the O’Dea campaign and national Republicans have managed to get a bunch of national reporters to talk about our state’s U.S. Senate race, they still haven’t figured out a way to make an argument for why Colorado voters should support O’Dea or even how this might actually become a competitive race.