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Schumer's Best Friend
If not for Trump, getting back the Senate would be a much lower hurdle for the GOP.
Joe O’Dea, the Republican U.S. Senate nominee running in my home-state of Colorado, has surprised a lot of political observers. In the GOP primary earlier this year, he took a big risk by openly rejecting former president Trump’s “stop the steal” narrative, acknowledging — in no uncertain terms — that Joe Biden won the 2020 election.
The construction company CEO also mostly took a pass on the vitriolic, MAGA-fueled culture-war rhetoric that has defined the party in recent years, electing instead to shape his campaign around traditional Republican issues, with some extra attention given to Colorado’s working class.
He spoke intelligently, his tone was civil, and his views were reasonable and socially centrist.
Democrats realized right away that he could be a problem for them, especially in what was shaping up to be a red wave midterm.
Groups aligned with Chuck Schumer spent millions in support of O’Dea’s primary opponent Ron Hanks, an election-denying January 6 protester they felt would make for an easy November defeat for Democratic incumbent, Michael Bennet.
Schumer, of course, desperately wants to remain Senate Majority Leader. He only holds that rank right now because of fellow New Yorker, Donald Trump. Trump famously suppressed Republican turnout in Georgia’s 2020 run-off election with his months-long “stolen election” campaign, losing two easy seats for the GOP. The debacle gave Democrats a razor-thin Senate majority, and Schumer has been pulling out all the stops to keep it.
Unfortunately for him, O’Dea won his primary by almost ten points, advancing to the general election where he’s doubled and tripled down on his pro-democracy stance.
When asked if he’ll abide by the election results if he loses in November (a question many GOP candidates have danced around and played coy with), O’Dea told a reporter, “There's no polite way to put it. We have become a nation of poor sports and cry babies. We'll keep a close eye on things, but after the process is done and the votes are counted, I'll absolutely accept the outcome.”
Unsurprisingly, Bennet and the Democrats have worked hard to present O’Dea in the opposite light, framing him in just about every campaign ad as a close Trump ally (despite O’Dea saying he doesn’t even want Trump to run again) and a pro-life extremist (he’s actually quite centrist on the issue).
Still, the Republican nominee has defied just about everyone’s expectations in my blue-leaning state. Once seen as a very long-shot candidate, a recent poll showed him within just one point of Bennet. With a number of Trump-endorsed Senate candidates under-performing in red and purple states, the GOP can certainly use any help it can get.
There’s just one problem: Donald Trump and his willingness — seemingly even eagerness — to keep Chuck Schumer and the Democrats in charge of the Senate:
First, the obvious: “MAGA” has proven more than willing to “vote for stupid people with big mouths”; even Trump super-fans would probably concede that.
Second, the reason Trump is now working to turn his supporters off of O’Dea has nothing to do with issues (the candidate has been running an issues-based campaign from the beginning). It has to do with O’Dea, in fact, distancing himself from Trump.
Case in point, O’Dea said just the other day that he would campaign for a Republican other than Trump in the 2024 GOP primary (should Trump run). As we all know, such “disloyalty” hurts the former president’s feelings and ego, so much that he would apparently rather lose another Senate seat for the GOP than tolerate such “betrayal.”
Even though Colorado Republicans aren’t as high on Trump as in other states, O’Dea will need the votes of loyal Trump supporters if he hopes to defeat Bennet.
Trump knows this, and it’s apparent — once again — that he doesn’t care. If he did, he would have harsher words for Democratic candidates than he does their insufficiently obedient Republican opponents. But that’s never been the case.
Even the MAGA candidates he’s endorsed don’t get a whole lot of love from Trump. He rakes in all kinds of PAC money, sometimes in their names, but doesn’t direct much (if any) of it to them. When he speaks on their behalf at rallies, he goes into business for himself, and even jokes about how much some of those candidates kiss his ass… which provides humiliating debate fodder for their Democratic opponents.
And frankly, why should Trump care if the GOP loses these races? It’s not as if the Republican base ever holds him accountable for their party’s electoral defeats. He lost them the House, Senate, and presidency — the worst trouncing in over 70 years, yet a strong majority of Republican voters still want him as their presidential nominee in 2024.
The real problem, according to the base, is people like Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, and heck… maybe now even Joe O’Dea.
For Trump, this is about personal power and control over the party, not policy wins.
Like a buddy of mine said the other day, “[Trump] would much rather have 49 Republican sycophants in the Senate than a majority of 51 that includes a couple of independent thinkers.”
Something else to consider is that if Trump does run in 2024, it would probably benefit him politically if the GOP didn’t control the Senate. After all, the less power Republicans have in DC over the next two years, the less responsibility they’ll be assigned for big problems like inflation, which likely isn’t going away anytime soon (no matter who’s calling the shots).
It seems to me that giving Schumer exactly what he wants (again) would set Trump up quite nicely, letting him campaign — one more time — as the country’s last, best hope for making America great again. The Flight 93 Election… revisited.
I’m not suggesting that’s his actual plan. Again, I think he simply doesn’t care about the midterms. For now, he’s far more interested in keeping the party pure and subservient to him.
That’s great news for Chuck Schumer. Not so much for the future of the GOP.
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