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U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, left, and his Republican challenger, Joe O'Dea. (Colorado Sun photos)

A super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says it has injected $1.25 million into Colorado’s U.S. Senate race in what represents national Republicans’ first major significant effort to try to help first-time GOP candidate Joe O’Dea unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in November. 

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The dollars are the first the Senate Leadership Fund has spent in Colorado in 2022. The group says it gave the money to the American Policy Fund, another super PAC that has already been supporting O’Dea for several months, on Friday. 

“We’ve been monitoring Colorado and we like what we see there. We think Michael Bennet is vulnerable,” Senate Leadership Fund President Steven Law said in a written statement to The Colorado Sun.

The $1.25 million is far less than the SLF has spent to help Republican Senate candidates in other states, like Pennsylvania and Georgia. 

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, first previewed the spending Friday in an interview with The Sun. Scott was in Colorado to campaign with O’Dea, who owns a Denver construction company. 

Scott said he believes Republicans have a real chance of unseating Bennet. “Senate Leadership Fund is coming to the state,” said Scott, a potential 2024 presidential candidate. “So the good news is (McConnell is) investing.”

The SLF spending means national Republicans’ are finally walking their talk. 

McConnell said during a July fundraiser in Washington, D.C., that he was “all in” on O’Dea, according to Axios, but he hasn’t backed that up until now with any money. Polling still shows Bennet has a wide lead in the race. The Real Clear Politics polling average in the contest has Bennet with an 8.3 percentage point advantage.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the other well-funded national GOP working to elect Republicans to the Senate, hasn’t spent money in Colorado since August, when it dropped $241,000 on cable TV air time to run an ad linking Bennet to Democratic President Joe Biden.

Thus far, the American Policy Fund has spent nearly $3.8 million in the U.S. Senate contest, mostly on TV ads opposing Bennet. The group also helped O’Dea win his June 28 primary against state Rep. Ron Hanks, spending more than $1 million. Colorado contractors and business interests funded that effort.

The American Policy Fund reported Friday receiving $4 million from Timothy Mellon, a wealthy investor with a home in Saratoga, Wyoming, who is the grandson of banking tycoon Andrew Mellon. The group raised about $4.2 million from July 1 through Sept. 30. The Senate Leadership Fund money wasn’t reflected in that filing.

National Democratic groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority Fund, which is aligned with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, haven’t directly spent money in Colorado so far. But other political action committee money has come into the state on Bennet’s behalf.

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A newly formed Democratic super PAC, 53 Peaks, has reported spending nearly $2.9 million on TV ads attacking O’Dea over his stance on abortion. That group must report its funders for the first time Saturday, which is the next Federal Elections Commission quarterly campaign finance filing deadline.

Giffords PAC, a Democratic-aligned group pushing for tougher gun regulations, reported spending nearly $2.6 million criticizing O’Dea over gun violence in TV ads. 

Giffords began airing two new ads last week, one featuring a mom worried about her kids at school and another featuring a Denver Navy veteran saying that “weapons of war” are dangerous. Both ads claim O’Dea “stands with the gun lobby.”

Meanwhile, the LCV Victory Fund, a PAC affiliated with the League of Conservation Voters, began airing TV ads attacking O’Dea on Saturday. The group is spending $1.3 million on the ads, which accuse O’Dea of being open to cutting Social Security and Medicare

Schumer, D-New York, donated $500,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee earmarked for Bennet’s campaign. The DSCC and Bennet’s campaign are spending the money on TV ads across the state.

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette