If you’re looking for reasons not to vote for Joe O’Dea in his U.S. Senate race against Michael Bennet, Democrats will provide you a long list, starting with O’Dea’s confusing pro-life, and yet somehow also pro-Roe v. Wade, stance on abortion rights. 

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Or his NRA-backed position on guns and gun violence. Or his advocacy for making Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy permanent, which, as British PM-for-now Liz Truss could tell O’Dea, may not be the best possible policy proposal, unless you want, as the Economist pointed out, to have the “shelf life of a lettuce.

Or, hell, let’s just say it: Nothing could be more frightening than the likelihood that an O’Dea victory would mean that Mitch McConnell reclaims his role as Senate majority leader.

I mean, Bennet’s team sends out emails virtually every hour of the day detailing to Coloradans why they shouldn’t vote for O’Dea. Of course, O’Dea’s team does much the same, telling Coloradans why they shouldn’t vote for Bennet. It’s sort of standard fare in politics. 

And we haven’t even mentioned the inescapable TV ads, which in just a few short weeks will thankfully disappear and allow us to concentrate on the truly important issues facing our state — like whether to fire Broncos newbie coach Nathaniel Hackett or to just write off the season altogether.

But there is at least one argument to sideline O’Dea that makes absolutely no sense. And it hasn’t come from Bennet or Bennet’s team or the DNC or the pro-Bennet, dark-money Super PACs attacking O’Dea on a variety of fronts.

You’re probably ahead of me by now, but the latest, and possibly the most predictable, broadside against O’Dea comes courtesy of one Donald J. Trump, the still-now-and-maybe-forever leader of O’Dea’s party, the, uh, same leader who seems intent on sabotaging whatever chance O’Dea has against Bennet and possibly the Republicans’ chance to win back the Senate.

Of course it’s predictable. O’Dea went on one of the Sunday shows and said some, uh, disloyal things about the famously thin-skinned former president. He had to know Trump would respond in kind. The former guy is a very, very small man, and that goes well beyond his alleged short fingers.

The big question is whether O’Dea actually sought this condemnation. And if he did, whether it was a brilliant reverse-psychology move or a desperately bad case of overthinking a bad situation.

After all, It was nasty enough when some Democratic-linked groups actively promoted the Boebert-level-crazy Ron Hanks in his primary run against O’Dea, figuring that Hanks would be a far easier candidate for Bennet to defeat. The plan backfired in Colorado, even though it did work in other states, which is one reason why Democrats are a slight favorite to keep control of the Senate.

Now Trump has not only called O’Dea a RINO — a Republican in Name Only, the epithet conservative Republicans once reserved for the dwindling few GOP near-moderates, but which now means anyone who isn’t slavishly devoted to Trump — but much, much worse.

Here’s the punch line, found in a Trump missive from Truth Social, his personal social media site, with typical Trumpian capitalization: “MAGA doesn’t Vote for stupid people with big mouths.”

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MAGA is, of course, shorthand for the many residents of Trumpworld. And while the contention that MAGA supporters don’t vote for dumb people may not be the biggest lie Trump has ever told, it’s in the ballpark. How else would you explain those who vote for Lauren Boebert, Louie Gohmert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Ron Johnson, Doug Mastriano, Kari Lake, et al?

The question is whether, on Trump’s advice,  Colorado’s MAGA people — a distinct, but significant, minority in this state — will abandon O’Dea and basically guarantee that Bennet returns to the Senate. Or is this a strategy to move unaffiliated voters O’Dea’s way while hoping Republicans hold their powder. Hanks, who is as MAGA as they come, has already said he wouldn’t vote for fellow Republican O’Dea, but would vote libertarian instead. 

I’ll confess I have no idea what the answer is. But let’s also note that O’Dea, or any Republican running statewide in bluish Colorado, is in a tough spot. If O’Dea wants to win unaffiliated voters, he has no choice but to separate himself as much as possible from Trump, who has lost both election bids in Colorado — and by 13 legitimate points in 2020.

Maybe O’Dea is onto something. You have only to look to Utah where independent Evan McMullin, a longtime conservative Republican, is challenging GOP Sen. Mike Lee on the basis that Lee tried to help Trump in his scheme to promote fake electors in states that Joe Biden actually won. Although Lee ended up voting to accept all the legitimate electors, McMullin called Lee’s discussions with Trump’s people on the matter “the most egregious betrayal of our nation’s Constitution in its history by a U.S. senator…”

Here’s what O’Dea told Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union”: Not only that he hoped Trump wouldn’t run in 2024, which he has said before, but that he would “actively campaign against Donald Trump” in a presidential primary. He has touted as possible Trump replacements and/or opponents, Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott. He later added former Trump Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his list. Bash didn’t ask whether O’Dea would vote for Trump if he won the nomination. Previously, O’Dea has said he would.

And if you missed Trump’s reply: “There’s this RINO character in the Great State of Colorado, Joe O’Dea, that is running against the incumbent Democrat for the United States Senate, who is having a good old time saying that he wants to ‘distance’ himself from President Trump, and other slightly nasty things…MAGA doesn’t Vote for stupid people with big mouths. Good luck.”

A brilliant ploy by O’Dea? Desperate? Somewhere in between? That depends, almost entirely, on how much sway Trump actually has with MAGA voters in Colorado. I’m leaning toward desperation. But while mail-in voting has already begun, there’s still plenty of time to place your bets by Election Day on Nov. 8.

Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.

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Mike Littwin

Special to The Colorado Sun Email: milittwin@gmail.com Twitter: @mike_littwin