The Colorado Republican crossed Trump and lost the race but kept his dignity

The disappointment of Tuesday’s midterm elections, which turned out to be more of a red trickle than a crimson tide, had a spine-hardening effect on Republicans.

Suddenly, they no longer cower before the fear of the MAGALómano ex-president or shrink from the petulant thunderbolts that Donald Trump throws from his Mar-a-Lago bunker.

Shattering decency, inviting foreign interference in our elections, bribing insurrection—all such violations could be tolerated.

But don’t waste a shot at a winnable election. Trump’s leaden political touch has cost Republicans control of the Senate, and many in the party are finally willing to state the obvious out loud. Trump is a loser, whose losing ways are hurting the Republican Party.

That’s a welcome change. But give credit where credit is due: Joe O’Dea took that position before it was easy or popular with many of his fellow Republicans. He called Trump out on his “Big Lie” of 2020 even while campaigning for a US Senate seat in Colorado.

“We’ve become a nation of whiners and whiners,” O’Dea said. “Donald Trump still can’t admit he lost.”

O’Dea was defeated on Tuesday, losing handily to incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet. But you can keep your chin up. O’Dea kept his honor intact, unlike, say, JD Vance.

The “Hillbilly Elegy” author and Ohio Senate candidate responded to Trump’s taunts: “JD is kissing my ass. Of course he wants my support” — keeping his lips firmly set in a puckered position.

Vance heads to Washington after fending off a strong challenge from Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan Vance’s dignity, however, is left behind, last seen at a Trump rally in Youngstown.

Speaking days after the election, O’Dea said it wasn’t that hard to take on the former president, who responded to the Colorado loss with his typical effusion. (“Joe O’Dea lost BIG!” Trump wrote on his social media page, in his first reaction to Tuesday’s results. “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!”)

“He has his opinion,” O’Dea said. “I have mine. I said what I said and that’s it. I wanted to say we need to move the country forward” instead of continuing to litigate the 2020 election.

“I don’t think so,” O’Dea said. “That’s an outlandish statement.”

When visions of sugar candies and a comfortable Senate majority danced in Republican minds, Colorado was one of the states they turned to.

Bookseller Bennet, who was seeking a third term, had not won previous campaigns by overwhelming margins. O’Dea, a fourth-generation Coloradan and millionaire construction business owner, offered a certain down-to-earth appeal.

He broke with Republicans by opposing the repeal of the Affordable Care Act — a gray conservative horse — and supporting access to abortion “early in pregnancy” and later in cases of rape, incest or to save a woman’s life.

Principle aside, O’Dea’s stance towards Trump and the refusal to accept his fatuous electoral claims made good political sense. Trump lost Colorado to Joe Biden by a double-digit margin, 55% to 42%.

O’Dea’s primary victory over a Trump acolyte
a state lawmaker who broke police lines at the U.S. Capitol last January. 6, 2021 — is what gave the GOP hope for a November upset in the first place.

But Trump, whose sensitivity rivals that of the princess and her pea, could not help it.

In October, O’Dea went on CNN and berated Trump for not doing more in January. 6 to “prevent violence from heading toward the Capitol.” Worse, O’Dea said she would “actively campaign against him” if Trump chose to run again in 2024, as now seems likely.

The response was quick. “MAGA doesn’t vote for stupid people with big mouths,” Trump said, a claim that was not only childish but patently false.

O’Dea was on her way home from the office last week when she pulled into a parking lot in Greenwood Village, a Denver suburb, to discuss her Senate race and Trump’s wrath. Don’t regret crossing paths with the pouting ex-president.

“The ‘Big Lie’ hanging around his neck” makes him “unpalatable to a lot of Coloradans,” said O’Dea, who noted that he voted for Trump twice but now believes it’s time for the country to move on.

“You talk to the average American here in Colorado, go down the street and say, ‘Do you want to see a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024?’ and they’ll tell you, ‘Hell no. Let’s do something else. Let’s put people there who want to move our country forward’”.

O’Dea said he took some beating during the campaign from the Trump faithful, but “for the most part … people were saying, ‘Finally, somebody’s talking about what’s good for Colorado, good for America.'” I have a lot of that.”

O’Dea, a first-time candidate, has not said whether he would seek elected office again.

But, like many, he lamented the reflexive partisanship and fluid invective that litters our political climate.

“I would like to see things put in place that make the country better and work. And so if you stay focused there, you have less partisanship (and) division. A lot of it was caused by both sides,” he said. “The insult. Come on, really? Aren’t we adults?”

It has taken too long for many blind Republicans to recognize Trump as the singularly damaging and dangerous political force he has become.

The reason for accepting the obvious — a disappointment from a midterm election that left the Republican Party far short of expectations — is neither disinterested nor pure-hearted. A different outcome and many would likely still be hitched to the pernicious Trump bandwagon.

So someone like O’Dea is to be commended for having the courage to speak up when he did.

As we have sadly seen, all it takes for Trumpism to escalate is for good men and women to say nothing.

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