Talk to Republicans in Colorado these days, and you'll hear an unfamiliar tune: optimism.
- It sounds discordant in a state where Democrats control the Capitol and hold all but one statewide office. But a handful of GOP strategists told Axios a midterm election that typically favors the out-of-power party, and a good list of potential candidates, gives them hope.
Why it matters: Today marks one year from the 2022 primary elections when Colorado voters will decide the GOP nominees.
State of play: A handful of Republicans have filed candidacy paperwork for governor and U.S. Senate, but none of them are expected to be marquee contenders.
Instead, Heidi Ganahl, a University of Colorado regent and the only statewide elected Republican, looks all-but-assured to challenge Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.
- In recent months, she's traveled the state attending local GOP meetings and tested her messages in a weekly opinion column in the Denver Gazette.
And Clarice Navarro — a former state lawmaker, Trump administration official and current district director for U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert — is being encouraged to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.
- Other GOP Senate contenders include Eli Bremer, a 2008 Olympian, and Dan Caplis, conservative radio personality and attorney.
Threat level: Incumbents hold significant advantages, and Democrats are expected to spend big money to hold their seats.
- Polls show Polis remains popular but GOP strategists point to controversies around the governor's handling of COVID-19, economic questions and an aggressive Democratic legislative agenda as weaknesses.
- Bennet just scored a huge victory with his child tax credit, but Republicans say he's more vulnerable than most realize because of how his votes align with the party's liberal leaders.
What they're saying: "I just think a year from now there could be a much different atmosphere. I think it's starting to turn," said Dick Wadhams, a former state GOP chair.
- "2022 will be a good year for Republicans and we're going to make the most of it," added Republican strategist Ryan Lynch.
What's next: Colorado GOP chairwoman Kristi Burton Brown told Axios that the state party is drafting a "contract with Colorado," set for release in August.
- "It's a game plan … for what Republicans will deliver on for Colorado if elected," she said.
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