2022 Colorado Senate Odds: Might Republicans Pull An Upset?

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on January 17, 2022
michael bennett

One of the potentially intriguing Senate races in 2022 midterm elections is shaping up to be Colorado, where Michael Bennett is trying to win another term for Democrats as the clear favorite in 2022 Colorado Senate odds.

But, with a sagging approval rating for President Joe Biden and the results in Virginia last year, could Bennett be in danger?

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2022 Colorado Senate Odds: Which Party Will Win?

PartyJan. 17, 2022 PriceEquivalent Odds
Democratic$0.76-317
Republican$0.25+300

The Incumbent

One of the Senate’s most impressive campaigners, Michael Bennett managed to hold on to the seat he was first appointed to at the beginning of the Obama Administration in the red wave of 2010, before winning again in 2016.

Winning by just under 2% in 2010, Bennett at least managed to boost his winning margin to a shade under 6% in his re-election campaign, and he did so as the other Democratic Senator managed to lose his 2014 re-election bid, making people think his seat could be competitive in 2016.

Running again this year, Bennett is widely expected to be fine, but there is at least enough intrigue in this PredictIt price to justify looking at whether or not the seat could be close.

The Case For Colorado Being Competitive

If you’re inclined to make it, there’s actually a more than decent case for how Colorado could be close this year, and it starts with Joe Biden continuing to be a clear drag on his party.

Given Biden’s got a worse net approval per 538 today than he did the day Democrats got creamed in Virginia, it’s not exactly hard to envision a state where Biden’s approval continues to be very bad for Democrats into the fall, and if that happens, then Colorado could get very interesting.

In Virginia, Democrats managed to lose a state that is trending hard to the left at a Presidential level due to strong rural Republican turnout, Democratic-supporting ethnic minorities not turning out to the same degree, and some amount of down-ballot residual support for non-Trump Republicans from well-off white social liberals in the suburbs.

Colorado fits a lot of the potential boxes for a Virginia-style upset – Democrats in the state are heavily reliant on Black and Hispanic turnout for their wins, the Denver suburbs have some residual Republicanism that shows up in races when Donald Trump isn’t on the ballot, and they lost a Senate seat the last time the nation turned against them.

After the four truly competitive GOP targets – Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, and New Hampshire – there’s a dearth of elite targets, a function of the Senate map up this year and the fact that states are much more polarized this year than historically. Given that, Colorado being the clear fifth seat to target – and, given the fact that GOP candidate issues seem to be consigning New Hampshire to Democrats, you can even make the case it’s the fourth – will attract attention and money if it’s shaping up to be a wave.

The problem with this argument is that it’s not 2014 anymore, and Democrats aren’t losing the seat.

The Case For Democrats Easily Winning

In 2014, Democrats were so busy playing defence in eight other states – including 6 McCain-Romney states, plus Iowa and North Carolina – that Colorado got relegated to the side, as did Virginia, where Democrats nearly got run down.

The history of having lost that seat means that if the national environment is that bad again, Democrats won’t be willing to risk Colorado, given that losing that seat was hugely damaging to them in the 6 years before they would win it back, and Michael Bennett’s electoral history is more impressive than Mark Udall’s.

Additionally, the Virginia Governor’s comparison, while nominally valid, ignores the very basic point that Virginia wasn’t a Federal race. As Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Kansas (amongst others) all show, there is a much greater willingness to vote for Governors of the opposite political persuasion, but no such interest in electing Senators from the other side.

Is Michael Bennett for sure going to win? No, but other than some very small tail risk where Joe Biden is somehow substantially less popular than he already is – which would be quite the accomplishment, given the lows he is currently at – Bennett will win again. Will it be overwhelming? Probably not, but he’ll win.

Look at 2018, when Republicans lost 2 Senate seats (and gained 4 others) to Democrats in the blue wave. The seats they lost were Arizona and Nevada – a Trump state by 3.5% and a Clinton +2% state, while Colorado voted for Biden by 13.5%.

The better comparison would be Texas, where Democrats managed to turn the Trump +9% state into a close race, but one where they didn’t really get that close. That’s the overwhelmingly likely outcome here as well.

Even in 2014, Republicans won 9 Senate seats, yes, but 7 of the 9 were states that had just voted for Mitt Romney, the next was Iowa, a historical swing state that has been trending right basically starting with that race, and the last was Colorado, but Colorado that had just voted for Barack Obama by just over 5%, not the state that voted for Biden by 13.5%.

Even in that Senate year, the GOP couldn’t win a Senate seat in that kind of blue terrain, and they won’t start now.

Closing Thoughts

Michael Bennett is not some endangered incumbent in a swing state, but he’s priced as if he’s at some real and credible threat when he just isn’t. Thinking the GOP could win Colorado is as ludicrous as it was to ever think Democrats could win South Carolina in 2020, and as someone who made that error, it’s the same one.

Parties do not win Senate seats in this deep of opposition territory anymore unless there is some clear and pressing scandal against the incumbent or candidate. Bennett, whether one is a fan of his politics or not, is not some Roy Moore-esque disaster of a candidate, and unless he somehow were to become one between now and election day, he will win.

The belief that 2022 will be bad for Democrats is a perfectly reasonable one, even if it’s not a view completely shared at this point. That said, thinking Michael Bennett is at credible risk is an act of partisan hope over fact, because there is an ocean between “Democrats are going to have a bad night” and “Democrats are going to have a bad enough night to lose Colorado”.

Michael Bennett’s going to win.

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