Jul 25, 2022 - News

Republican Joe O'Dea embraces "moderate" label in U.S. Senate race

Joe O'Dea celebrates the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate after the June primary. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post
Joe O'Dea celebrates the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate after the June primary. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

We now know who made the $4 million bad bet to boost Joe O'Dea in the Colorado Republican U.S. Senate primary.

Why it matters: The gamble to spend big to portray first-time candidate O'Dea as a moderate — in the hopes of convincing Republicans to nominate far-right candidate Ron Hanks — may cost Democrats the majority in the U.S. Senate if the challenger can use that appeal to upset Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet.

The big picture: With O'Dea's victory in the primary, national Republicans landed the candidate they believe has the best chance to win in November.

  • His allies also pitch him as one of the better contenders on the national map, particularly when compared with Trump-esque candidates in Pennsylvania, Arizona or Georgia.

What to know: O'Dea is a unicorn for the GOP at a time when its voters prefer MAGA-aligned candidates, writes Axios' Josh Kraushaar.

  • O'Dea called himself a pro-abortion access and gay-marriage-supporting centrist, but vowed to protect gun rights and opposed the new bipartisan gun control and mental health funding law.
  • "We need more moderate candidates," O'Dea said in an interview. "We need candidates that can win in Colorado. If you're so far to the right that you can't win a purple state, that's a non-starter."

Between the lines: Earlier in the campaign, O'Dea's team tried to distance him from the "moderate" label, but as he noted, he'd need to win over centrists to take the seat.

The other side: Bennet debuted the first ad of his re-election campaign this week, touting his efforts to ban members of Congress from becoming lobbyists or making personal stock trades.

  • He's trying to showcase his independence from Washington at a time when disillusioned voters are inclined to vote out the party in power.

Keep reading … the national landscape.

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