DENVER (AP) — Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet won reelection to the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, besting businessman and first-time challenger Joe O’Dea, the rare Republican candidate to run on his support of Roe v. Wade.
Bennet won his third race on his pledge to protect abortion rights, an indication of how important the issue is in Colorado. Bennet's campaign hammered O'Dea on his opposition to abortions late in pregnancy despite his support of Roe v. Wade, the abortion rights ruling that conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned this summer.
“We won this race because we focused relentlessly on strengthening our economy, saving our democracy, and protecting the right to choose — and because Coloradans from every corner of this state joined us in the fight,” Bennet tweeted shortly after receiving a congratulatory phone call from President Joe Biden.
In a concession speech, O'Dea called the outcome “a tough pill to swallow.”
“So many people poured their hearts, their souls into this race. We all did," he said.
Still he congratulated Bennet.
“I hope he’ll lean into his commitments that he made during the campaign and work to move the nation forward out of this terrible rut of partisanship and gridlock,” O’Dea said. “The country is suffering, people are struggling, and our leaders need to elevate themselves to the great challenges of the day.”
Bennet and his backers dramatically outspent the novice candidate on the airwaves, while O’Dea only got rhetorical support from Senate Republicans in Washington, who never sent significant financial resources his way.
O’Dea tried to position himself as a future “Republican Joe Manchin,” referring to the conservative Democratic West Virginian senator as an example of a nonpartisan deal-maker who could end Washington gridlock. The son of a police officer, O’Dea said crime and the economy were his main concerns, not social issues.
He had voted twice for Donald Trump, but O’Dea said he’d campaign against the former president in the 2024 GOP primary, citing better options like South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. That led Trump to slam O’Dea on the former president’s social network, Truth Social. “MAGA doesn’t Vote for stupid people with big mouths,” Trump wrote.
The result cements the state’s transformation from a competitive swing state early in the century to a more reliably Democratic one. Only one Republican, Cory Gardner, has won a statewide federal race in Colorado since 2004, and voters ousted him from the Senate in 2020. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis was reelected to a second term on Tuesday.
Some Republicans hoped the feud with Trump would help O’Dea lure back onetime conservative voters who were disgusted by the former president — not a trivial number in Colorado, which Trump lost by 13 percentage points in 2020. But Republicans are a shrinking share of the Colorado electorate and O’Dea had challenges uniting them behind his candidacy. His primary rival, state Rep. Ron Hanks, called for conservatives to vote for Libertarian Brian Peotter, calling him “the only conservative on the ballot.”
About 7 in 10 Colorado voters say things in the country are heading in the wrong direction, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 2,700 voters in the state.
About three-quarters of voters say the condition of the economy is either not so good or poor, the survey found, compared with about a quarter who call it excellent or good. About a third say their family is falling behind financially.
In deciding how to vote in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, a vast majority — nearly all — say party control of the chamber is a factor in their vote. About half of voters say it is the single most important factor.
The Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade also played a role in most voters’ decisions, with about 8 in 10 calling it a factor in how they cast their ballot. About a quarter call the court’s overturning of Roe the single most important factor in their vote.
Associated Press writers Sarah Rankin in Washington, D.C., and James Anderson in Denver contributed to this report.
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