For months now, Senate Republicans have been quietly optimistic about Joe O’Dea, their candidate running against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado.
Enter Donald Trump.
O’Dea, who has run as a common-sense moderate, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday that he didn’t think Trump should run for president again in 2024. O’Dea also said that if Trump did run, then he would “actively” campaign against him.
Which, fine, right? After all, to win in Colorado likely requires a Republican to chart a different course than Trump has done nationally. Once a swing state, Colorado has moved in favor of Democrats in recent years.
Most politicians understand that a candidate in a position like O’Dea is going to have to find distance from national party leaders in order to give himself the best chance at victory. And most are just fine with that fact – focused on the bottom line of winning the election.
Trump is, of course, not most politicians.
On Monday, Trump hit back at O’Dea, blasting him as a “RINO” and decrying O’Dea’s attempts to create distance from him. “MAGA doesn’t vote for stupid people with big mouths,” wrote Trump on his Truth Social site. “Good luck Joe!”
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In response, O’Dea said in a statement to CNN: “President Trump is entitled to his opinion but I’m my own man and I’ll call it like I see it.”
What Trump is doing here is actively sabotaging O’Dea’s chances.
In order to have a chance at pulling off an upset against Bennet, O’Dea needs the Trumpist Republican base fully behind him and the support of independents and moderates across Colorado. He can’t win without both parts of that equation – and Trump just made it much harder for O’Dea to keep the GOP base strongly aligned behind him.
The back and forth is just the latest example that Trump cares about himself first, second and third – and does not put what’s best for the Republican Party anywhere in that mix.
In an ideal world, Trump would understand that O’Dea is simply doing what he needs to do in order to have a chance at winning in a state like Colorado. After all, Republican candidates distance themselves from the likes of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all the time and he has no qualms about it. McConnell gets that it’s not about him, it’s about the prospects of the party as a whole.
Trump is unable or unwilling to ever put anything before his own self interest. And so, he has to respond when a Republican tries to create a little space between themselves and him. That in so doing Trump is likely costing O’Dea votes from the base of the party doesn’t matter to Trump. He’s all about himself, not the broader GOP.