Eli Bremer, a Colorado Springs Republican hoping to oust incumbent U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in 2022, is going to face difficulties during his campaign because of his connections to Donald Trump, according to political experts.

Bremer worked for Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and recently tweeted a thank you to the former president for promoting an op-ed written by Bremer in an email newsletter.

However, when announcing his campaign on Fox News Bremer dodged a question asking whether Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party. While Bremer admitted that Trump is still the most influential Republican, he demurred on the question asked.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for Bremer provided a statement defending the tweet mentioning Trump.

“Eli is appreciative that a former Republican President is promoting his recent op-ed,” the statement read. “If any Republican congressman or senator shared his op-ed, Eli would bring attention to that as well. Eli is already receiving broad support from all parts of the Republican Party which is why so many people believe he can defeat Senator Bennet.”

Since announcing his candidacy last month, Bremer has not yet held a public campaign event in Colorado nor taken a definitive stance on Trump. But this refusal to say outright what he thinks of Trump might be Bremer’s best hope for winning a statewide election in a state where Trump is extremely unpopular, according to Colorado political analyst Floyd Ciruli.

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“Whoever wins the GOP nomination, whether it’s Bremer or otherwise, is going to face the same problem,” Ciruli said. “They’re going to have to signal their dedication to the party’s base, to issues like election integrity, to Trump. But also, they’re going to have to distance themselves from Trump if they have any hope of winning the general election.”

According to 2016 GOP primary results, Colorado Republicans were anti-Trump more than any other state in the U.S. Then-U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in 2016 that Trump was a “buffoon.”

In 2020, even though Gardner endorsed Trump for President, Trump lost in Colorado by over 13%, the largest differential a Republican lost by in the state since 1964.

Ciruli emphasized that any Republican candidate trying to win a statewide election will have to play coy when it comes to Trump.

“This is a universal challenge in a state like Colorado,” Ciruli said. “In some states, it’s an asset to have Trump connections. There it can turn into a contest between candidates competing to say how strong they are for Trump. But that’s not the case here.”

Kyle Saunders, a political science professor at Colorado State University, did not mince words when describing the challenge Bremer is up against in 2022.

“We have a race with a relatively popular, well-funded, incumbent Democratic candidate in Bennet in a state that has not moved back toward the Republican Party much, if any at all, in the last year since those results came to pass,” Saunders said. “That is the buzz saw that Bremer is running into.”

Saunders said that there is a possibility that Bremer’s reticence about Trump could alienate Republican voters, but that the best chances for a Republican win in Colorado lie with a moderate.

“The chances are low for Bremer, but positioning himself as a moderate Republican, provided he can still convince Republican voters to turn out for him, is the best strategy for most Republicans statewide right now — that’s just how far the state of Colorado has moved towards the Democratic Party in the last couple of cycles,” Saunders said. “At worst case, an unsuccessful run for Bremer increases his name recognition and helps him build out campaign and finance infrastructure for future contests.”

With an emphasis on attracting unaffiliated voters, Saunders explained, the Colorado GOP could manage to chip away at the Democratic hold on Colorado, where the party currently holds a triumvirate of power — Governor, Senate, and House — at the state level and the majority of the power — both senators, four of seven representatives — at the federal level.

The Senate primary election is scheduled for July 28, 2022, and the general election is on Nov. 8, 2022. Bremer joins a field of GOP candidates that includes Loveland businessman Peter Yu and Army veteran Erik Aadland.