Michael Bennet beat back a challenge from Republican businessman Joe O’Dea, who broke with Donald Trump, defended the 2020 election and took relatively moderate positions on abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
The race tightened in recent weeks, but despite economic headwinds favoring Republicans, O’Dea could not overcome Bennet’s fundraising advantage or the changing demographics of Colorado, which have seen the state go ever bluer in recent elections.
While O’Dea got help from Republican senators like Tim Scott of South Carolina and Joni Ernst of Iowa, national Republican-aligned groups did not invest much in the race. Meanwhile, O’Dea raised just over $7 million for his run, compared to Bennet, who brought in more than $20 million for his run and got help from Democratic-aligned PACs.
On the campaign trail, Bennet said he was running like he was 20 points behind, even as polls consistently showed him with the lead. Both candidates barnstormed across the state during the final weeks of the campaign.
In his pitch to voters, Bennet focused on his accomplishments — including bipartisan bills passed during the last two years, from infrastructure to gun safety, and argued that Republicans would not prioritize the middle class if they win power.
In Greeley, Kim Nash, an unaffiliated voter who leans liberal, was happy to cast a vote for Bennet, saying she’d “seen what he did last time… and he did an amazing job.”
The incumbent Democrat also got support from some unaffiliated voters who leaned conservative but were concerned about the direction of the Republican Party.
Lyle Darrah, who considers himself a moderate, left the Republican party after the Jan. 6 riot. He said he wasn't impressed by O’Dea, citing attack ads that defined the Republican as anti-abortion and supporting cuts to Social Security. “I don’t see how, as a moderate, how you would take those positions,” he said.
O’Dea’s campaign argued those ads misrepresented his position on both issues.
Voter James Elkins liked O’Dea’s business background, but in the end, didn’t think O’Dea could do anything to deal with issues like crime and fentanyl. And ultimately, Elkins said, he wasn’t willing to risk giving Republicans a majority in the Senate, concerned they could further restrict abortion access, try to defund social programs or give new tax breaks to the rich.
This victory makes Bennet the longest-serving senator from Colorado in modern times. (The last senator to be elected for a 3rd term was Republican Sen. Gordon Allott.)
Andrew Kenney contributed reporting.
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