SENATE MIDTERMS 2022: As GOP struggles with challenger, can Bennet keep Colorado blue?
Heading into 2022, the Democratic Party controls the office of Governor, the State Senate, and the State House of Representatives in Colorado. Democrats also account for the state's two US Senators and four of seven Representatives. With the odds stacked against them, it seems like the Republican Party has little power in the state, which Biden carried in 2020 as did Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Yet, with the 2022 midterms, Republicans are looking at any and all opportunities to seize back control of the Senate, which is what makes the race in Colorado so interesting. Incumbent Senator Michael Bennet is up for reelection this year, and it seems like the GOP has sniffed an opportunity. Despite Colorado being a solidly Democratic state, it appears the party is gearing up for a battle in hopes that it can help flip the Senate.
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To do that though, the GOP would need a much bigger, and more consolidated campaign than it has in the past. It may seem difficult, but there are certainly opportunities that the party could use to take down Bennet. Here's where things stand in the state as of January 2022.
Bennet's record in the Senate
Politicians' records are of little meaning without the context of the state they represent. When it comes to Colorado, it seems like voters in the state have found a solid ally in Bennet. Since being appointed in 2009, Bennet has been reelected in 2010, and 2016 each time by a healthy margin. In fact, in 2016, Bennet reportedly won more votes in Colorado's rural counties than any other statewide Democrat in state history. So it's safe to say, voters are extremely happy with his positions.
A more moderate Democrat, Bennet has been able to bridge the gap in a deeply divided Senate. In June 2021, he along with Senators Angus King (independent) and Rob Portman (Republican) introduced legislation to improve broadband access. It's just one of the many times he's reached across the aisle, making it harder for the GOP to attack him the way they attack Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or other far-left Democrats.
Unlike some of his colleagues, Bennet has also stayed well away from controversy. While he did vote to convict Donald Trump, Bennet has stayed away from attacking the former President or his allies over their claims the election was stolen. It's given the GOP little ammunition with which to attack Bennet, as it has in other states. So with the state so loyally blue, it seems like the GOP has little inroads. But, as The Lines reported, there are plenty of opportunities for them to flip the seat.
Opportunities for Republicans
With President Joe Biden's approval ratings continuously sinking, Republicans have a good opportunity to flip numerous states, as they did in Virginia in the 2021 Gubernatorial election. The Lines reported, "Colorado fits a lot of the potential boxes for a Virginia-style upset." It should also be noted that the state wasn't always this blue. The Democrats' widespread control over all levels of state government was the first time since the 1930's they managed to do that.
Colorado Politics also noted that unaffiliated voters make up 43% of the state's electorate, meaning there are plenty of people who can vote Republican enough to boot Bennet out. "That massive group of unaffiliated is clearly anti-Republican because they hated Trump. I’m convinced many of those unaffiliateds are going to be open to voting Republican," former Chairman of the state GOP Dick Wadhams told the publication.
If GOP nominees can stay well away from the Trump agenda, they might be able to convince voters to give them a chance. Republican consultant Ryan Lynch added, "While Trump was personally unpopular in many places, his ideas were very popular. As a candidate, if you can focus on his ideas and initiatives instead of the man himself, that’s a good way to answer that question." So the big question is - can the Colorado GOP stay well away from Trump?
Party struggling to pick a challenger
Whether they can or not remains to be seen, but will also depend on who the GOP ultimately picks to challenge Bennet. That's where things get a little dicey. As of October 2021, nine contenders filed paperwork to run, but few have made any significant progress. Worryingly, most do not have a national profile or even a significant statewide profile. Even more concerningly, several like Ron Hanks and Erik Aadland have openly embraced Trump and supported his claims the elections were stolen.
So far, none of the challengers have raised significant sums, whereas Bennet has raked in over $2 million in the final quarter of 2021. Those coming closest to him are Joe O'Dea ($1 million) and Gino Campana (around $950,000). Given the lack of enthusiasm any of them have managed to raise, it does seem like the party is on the back foot at the moment. However, there are still a few months to go, and if the GOP can play its cards right, without Trump's influence, it might find itself in a competitive race. If not, Dems can rest easy that at least one seat will remain in their hands, as they gear up for a very competitive election cycle.
The 2022 midterms are scheduled for November 8, 2022, and Colorado's primary race is scheduled for June 28, 2022.