Colorado Senate debate between Sen. Michael Bennet and Joe O'Dea

By Elise Hammond and Seán Federico O'Murchú, CNN

Updated 10:51 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022
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10:24 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

Bennet and O'Dea make their closing arguments to Colorado voters

In their closing arguments, the candidates touched on issues that have dominated the election cycle across the country, including the economy and inflation.

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KUSA

Republican Joe O'Dea talked about his rise from a dishwasher in his teenage years to a business owner that has created jobs in Colorado.

He reiterated his argument that Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet has been ineffective during his time in Congress, saying he has been a "rubber stamp" for President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

He pointed to issues that have become campaign talking points for Republicans across the country, including inflation, the state of the economy and crime.

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KUSA

Bennet pushed back on the criticism, saying that there is a need to create an economy that “when it grows it grows for everybody not just the people at the very top."

"That’s what I will do if I go back to Washington, DC," he said, adding that issues like health care and energy policy also needed to be addressed.

10:12 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

One big reason why Bennet has been leading the race

Analysis from CNN's Harry Enten

Colorado was, at one time, a reliably red state. From 1968 to 2004, it voted only once for a Democrat for president (Bill Clinton in 1992).

Since 2008, however, Democratic presidential nominees have carried the Centennial State in every election.

The cause? Educational polarization. Colorado ranks among the top 5 states for the most residents with a college degree, as a percentage of its population. Other states with a similar percentage of college-educated adults are the blue bastions of Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont.

As college-educated voters become more Democratic, Colorado is the perfect state to track that trend.

10:10 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

O'Dea says election is about the Biden economy. Bennett highlights some of his differences with the President

Analysis from CNN's Chris Cillizza

Joe O’Dea ended the debate the way he started it — by insisting that the election was a referendum on President Joe Biden and "his economy.” 

The Republican added that Sen. Michael Bennet had been a “rubber stamp” for that agenda, which was why Coloradans needed to replace him.

Bennet, clearly aware of the danger of being too closely linked to Biden, went out of his way on multiple occasions to make clear issues on which the two men differed.

10:11 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

This race may be closer than you think

Analysis from CNN's Harry Enten

 

When you ask people about competitive Senate races this fall, Colorado usually doesn’t rank high on the list. It’s at No. 10 on CNN’s list of the top 10 Senate seats most likely to flip. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the contest Likely Democratic.

A look at the data, however, suggests that this race between Democrat incumbent Michael Bennet and GOP challenger Joe O’Dea may end up tighter than a lot of people expect.

A Marist College poll taken earlier this month had Bennet up by just 6 points among those who said they would definitely vote in the election.

Keep in mind, too, that Bennet won a surprisingly close reelection bid six years ago. His victory by a little over 5 points came after most experts had expected him to cruise to victory by a wider margin.

So while Bennet will probably win again, it’s not a sure thing.

10:08 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

O’Dea says Bennet should borrow Manchin’s tactics to keep US Space Command in Colorado

From CNN's Eric Bradner

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KUSA

Joe O’Dea, the Republican who has broken from former President Donald Trump, said Michael Bennet should have drawn inspiration from a Democratic thorn in his own party’s side: West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

O’Dea’s comments came as the two discussed the planned move of US Space Command from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Huntsville, Alabama -- a decision made while Trump was in office.

Bennet said he has made the argument with the White House and the Pentagon for keeping Space Command in Colorado.

But O’Dea said Bennet should have exercised the same sort of power that Manchin has to extract concessions in a Senate evenly divided 50-50, where Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote and Democrats cannot afford to lose a single vote on their priorities.

“I’m going to use my seat like Joe Manchin has used his seat to get good things for West Virginia,” O’Dea said. “All Michael Bennet had to do was say, ‘You know what, I’m going to hold up this appointment. I’m going to hold up this bill. I’m going to hold up that bill.’”

“Fifty is what the count is, and they needed every vote. And I would use my seat to make sure that we keep Space Command here in Colorado. It’s that important,” O’Dea said.

He added: "If you would have held up one just of those votes — one of those votes — we would have Space Command here."

Bennet shot back that O'Dea didn't rescind his support for Trump at the time the Space Command move was announced, but rather waited until just before the Senate election to break with the former president.

10:28 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

Bennet to O'Dea: "You're a liar, Joe"

Analysis from CNN's Chris Cillizza and Alex Rogers

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KUSA

“You’re a liar, Joe,” said Sen. Michael Bennet. 

The Democrat is clearly perturbed by Joe O’Dea’s repeated refrain that Bennet has been ineffective in Congress, saying he was the prime sponsor of only a single bill during his 13 years in the Senate. 

Veteran Congress watchers know that the attack on sponsored bills is a bit of a red herring, given the way that legislation wends its way through the legislature. 

But, that doesn’t take away the potency of the attack — and Bennet knows it.

Bennet claimed earlier in the debate that he has written over 100 bills that have passed, including dozens with a Republican co-sponsor.

9:59 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

Candidates show vast differences on issue of immigration

From CNN's Dan Merica

Republican Joe O’Dea and Democrat Michael Bennet highlighted the vast differences between the two parties on immigration during Friday night’s debate.

When asked if he would vote for a narrowly tailored bill that gave a path to citizenship for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program but did not include funding for border security, O’Dea said no.

“We need a comprehensive bill. We need one that safes up and secures the border, which includes putting up a barrier,” O’Dea said. “In that same bill, I would support legislation that would include DACA recipients getting their citizenship. In addition to that, we need to streamline our immigration system. It needs to be predictable.”

DACA, created in 2012, was intended to provide temporary reprieve to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, a group often described as “Dreamers.” Many of them are now adults.

Bennet couldn’t wait to say that he would support such a bill.

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes,” Bennet said. “That puts me in a totally different place than where Joe O’Dea is, who just said he wouldn’t vote for a standalone bill for DACA.”

And then Bennet used the issue -- as he has throughout the debate -- to link O’Dea to former President Donald Trump.

“Unfortunately, the president that Joe O’Dea voted for twice after he called Mexicans rapists on the first day of his campaign, made it impossible for the national Republican Party to move forward on immigration,” Bennet said.

9:50 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

Bennet believes abortion is a winning issue for his campaign

Analysis from CNN's Chris Cillizza

Sen. Michael Bennet clearly believes that abortion is a winning issue for him.

In answering about keeping Space Command from moving from Colorado to Alabama, Bennet managed to get a mention of the fact that people in Colorado didn’t want to move from a state where abortion is codified in state law to one where it is not.

9:47 p.m. ET, October 28, 2022

Bennet criticizes Biden on student loan debt forgiveness

From CNN's Eric Bradner

Sen. Michael Bennet criticized President Joe Biden’s approach to student loan debt forgiveness, saying the President should have more narrowly targeted his move to forgive up to $10,000 in student loans for those earning less than $125,000 per year.

“I don’t think he should’ve done it the way he did it,” Bennet said, noting that it should be added to a laundry list of ways in which he disagrees with Biden.

Bennet’s comments were an effort to demonstrate his independence, even though he is seeking reelection in a state that Biden won by 13 percentage points.

“It wasn’t nearly what I thought they should do, which is do it for the people that need it the most, the poorest people in our country that have that debt, and not go above median family incomes. … I just think it’s wrong for them to do it that way,” Bennet said.