Conservatives, welcome to the O’Dea factor.
The O’Dea factor isn’t the title of a new evening commentary show on Fox News, and it’s not even something that’s tangible within the boundaries of today’s mostly-united Republican Party. But the budding feud between Donald Trump, Colorado Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is worth examining in the context of intra-party GOP dynamics and what’s happening in America as a whole.
It's a big picture thing.
The controversy started months ago when businessman O’Dea was engaged in a competitive Republican primary with Trump’s endorsed candidate, Ron Hanks, the winner to take on the always wishy-washy rubberstamp liberal Democrat senator Michael Bennett in November. You may recall Bennett was one of a couple dozen or so Democrat presidential candidates (along with current Colorado Senator and former governor John Hickenlooper) who tossed their names into a hat and hoped lightning would strike the others down so as to allow one of them to prevail.
No such luck. Democrat voters wanted Bernie Sanders, and then the party establishment intervened to elevate broken-down senile old goat Joe Biden -- and the rest is history.
I don’t live in Colorado but am marginally familiar with its politics since my brother resided there for a couple decades and used to share his views on the Rocky Mountain State’s internal partisan struggles. Most of his observations were negative as he watched Colorado turn from a reliable mostly red state (except for Denver) into a purple-ish toss-up and then unfailing blue enclave, populated with an influx of transplants from our bluer than blue native California.
The liberal Golden State invaders brought with them their Democrat voting preferences, too. Otherwise, how would a dufus like Bennett even have a chance?
Obviously, O’Dea won the primary, which wasn’t shocking in an anti-Trump state like Colorado. But O’Dea went further than just win the nomination – he threw the former president under the proverbial bus and called for a new Republican standard bearer in 2024. As expected, Trump didn’t take the slight kindly and began telling his MAGA supporters via social media not to vote for O’Dea.
At any rate, perhaps because O’Dea is now viewed as a “moderate” – or the fact that Bennett is so non-descript and spineless – the Republican is running close enough to the Democrat incumbent to merit national attention as a possible GOP pickup opportunity. Adding additional intrigue to the already sandy mix, contrary to Trump’s wishes, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is in the midst of his own reelection campaign, opted to publicly endorse O’Dea.
And that leaves conservatives with a possible dust-up between the two most popular and recognizable GOP politicians on the national scene. Is this a problem? Welcome to the O’Dea factor. In a piece titled “Trump, DeSantis, and O’Dea: What Is Going On?”, Scott McKay wrote at The American Spectator last week:
“…Biden is underwater 44-47 in Colorado, which is a little better than his 40-52 national number, but he’s getting killed 35-52 with independents and by a 96-2 count Republicans disapprove. Colorado Democrats love them some Joe Biden in ways which aren’t healthy, but even within that there are still 7 percent disapproving. We’ll assume those are the bluish-purple types who might cross over and vote for a Republican if Trump isn’t involved.
“So yeah, there could be a path to 50 percent plus one for O’Dea if he consolidates the GOP vote and carries the independents and a few Dems, and maybe this is a way of doing that. Trump publicly griping at DeSantis would even lend some weight to the gag.
“If somebody is executing that plan, it’s pretty clever. It might even work. I’m not saying that’s what’s happening. I’m just theorizing. Because that’s a lot better than the prospect of a brewing Trump–DeSantis war that only degenerate slimeballs like Charlie Crist and the people who handle Joe Biden want to see.”
Definitely. McKay is one of the most astute observers of politics today and I rarely find fault with his analysis. The American Spectator writer lays out the background to the dispute in more detail as well as the potential pros and cons of having a Trump-critic like O’Dea in the senate rather than a Trump-endorsed firebrand MAGA conservative who could join the growing ranks of boat-rockers and disrupters who are on their way to taking over the party next week.
McKay surmises O’Dea might end up serving in a GOP senate in a similar fashion to soon-to-be former Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, a man with a pretty solid conservative voting record who never spared his less-than-flattering feelings about the inappropriateness of Donald Trump’s behavior. Sasse didn’t vote to impeach Trump the first time the Democrats tried getting rid of the president – only squirrely RINO loser Mitt Romney did that – but joined six others (including Romney again) to vote to convict him in the second trial last year.
Sasse rarely equivocated in his opposition to Trump yet remained true to his campaign promises and usually voted to further the party agenda. Sasse’s support was never in question when it came to confirming Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, put it that way. He didn’t hold out for special media attention like other Republican Trump-bashers did, like Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, or Arizona’s Jeff Flake, or Maine’s Susan Collins and… Romney. Therefore, Sasse wasn’t necessarily just a glory-hog (like the aforementioned pols) who got thrills by getting Trump’s goat.
Joe O’Dea also strikes me as this hybrid type of would-be Republican senator. The Coloradan certainly comes across as a principled fiscal conservative and he’s believable when claiming that he hopes to bring some semblance of sanity back to the Washington DC budget. O’Dea’s entrepreneurial and business background lends credence to his insistence that he’s someone who understands how payrolls work and that government doesn’t “build” things the way Barack Obama boasted a decade ago.
In his presentation, McKay pointed out that O’Dea is Colorado squishy on abortion and would probably gravitate towards the mushy center on the conservative values agenda, but even someone who doesn’t necessarily vote for these issues could help the cause by favoring a Republican senate leader who would at least bring the matters up for consideration.
If Bennett wins reelection, however, he’ll go all-in for another term for “Chucky” Schumer as upper chamber leader, and the conservative agenda has NO chance of advancing with that guy setting the calendar and deciding what gets done and what heads to the senate’s cold storage to die an ignominious legislative death.
The real value of the majority comes in figuring out what has a chance to go through and what doesn’t. With Cocaine Mitch McConnell (or hopefully somebody new and more “with it” strategically) at the helm, there’s some possibility of success for social conservatives. Schumer, on the other hand, lives to see conservatives fail. And let’s face it, Schumer is pretty darn effective at getting what he wants – including shooting down reform bills.
At the same time, as someone who served in Congress and had a front-row seat on the battlelines of trying to get positive momentum in the slow-moving institution, Ron DeSantis recognizes that next to nothing will be accomplished unless your party possesses the power to do it. To DeSantis, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. Therefore, it made a lot of sense for the Floridian to intervene on O’Dea’s behalf.
DeSantis’s move involved more than silly pride. It was a very practical calculation of, “If you’re not for us, you’re against us,” which is the way things are done in Washington.
I personally doubt that a potential 2024 presidential primary race against Trump had much, if anything, to do with Ron lending his name to O’Dea’s effort.
Trump, on the other hand, cannot/will not stand for being criticized by anyone – including an otherwise acceptable party member – without a rapid and hard-hitting response. If Trump suddenly reversed course on O’Dea simply for partisan considerations, then he wouldn’t be acting much like MAGA Leader Trump, would he?
Trump is a smart man but he may not fully understand the way things work in Congress like DeSantis does, the latter having been there not too long ago. Trump is conditioned to fighting his skirmishes through the media and always positioning himself as the one who’s right, even if common sense would indicate otherwise. For the former president to basically instruct his supporters not to vote for O’Dea because of a personal slight looks awful petty to many of us.
And while Trump would seem to possess the upper hand in party opinion over DeSantis, it would do him absolutely no good to try and gain leverage in a potential 2024 matchup over something like a party endorsement for the general election. How would Trump benefit from having O’Dea lose and Democrat Michael Bennett serving another six-year term?
It certainly looks like O’Dea, similar to Ben Sasse, would vote for most of what Trump advocates for. Michael Bennett would not only vote against Trump’s proposals, he would raise money for future Democrat candidates who would equally oppose anything having to do with MAGA. And Bennett wouldn’t just be the winner in a tight senate race, he’d be an incumbent senator who would command a platform from the liberal establishment media, too.
Joe O’Dea doesn’t strike me as a Liz Cheney turncoat type, and not even a Ben Sasse clone. O’Dea makes regular appearances on conservative media shows and clearly seeks to distance himself from Trump the man, not the MAGA agenda. Hopefully the voters will take this into consideration, as apparently Ron DeSantis did.
The 2024 Republican primary race for president hasn’t even begun, yet conservatives seem anxious to get it started and weigh-in on the next campaign. Ron DeSantis may or may not run for the party nod, but his decision to support Colorado’s Joe O’Dea for senate won’t matter much either way. The GOP needs all the reinforcements it can get in the next Congress. Let’s hope O’Dea wins.
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