Gov. John Hickenlooper’s (D) performance in office has led many political observers to predict that the Centennial State’s gubernatorial contest will drive voter turnout in 2014, and not national politics. Making the situation even more interesting, the first post-primary Rasmussen Reports poll (June 25-26; 750 likely Colorado voters) finds Hickenlooper and former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO-7) running neck and neck, falling into a flat tie with the results projecting both men tallying 44 percent support.
Rasmussen went into the field just a day after Beauprez claimed the Republican nomination. Despite winning the GOP primary, the former congressman received only 30 percent of the Republican vote, so it is doubtful that a post-nomination bump has artificially inflated Beauprez’s total against Hickenlooper.
The governor, his administration, and the Democratic legislature have taken major legislative steps in the areas of gun control, agriculture, energy, marijuana, and government spending, moving the state decidedly leftward. Enough opposition voters responded to the initiatives with a backlash of activity, first by successfully running recall efforts against state Senate President John Morse and Pueblo Sen. Angela Giron, the first time any Colorado state legislator had met such a fate. Then, leaders in 10 mostly northeastern Colorado counties qualified ballot proposals to actually begin proceedings to leave the state, several of which passed. Largely as a result, Gov. Hickenlooper’s popularity and ballot test numbers began to fall precipitously. This spurred Republicans to recruit stronger candidates for the 2014 midterm election, not only against Gov. Hickenlooper but also in down ballot campaigns.
Beauprez defeated controversial former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6), Secretary of State Scott Gessler, and former state Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp in a close 30-27-23-20 percent intra-party result. Therefore, his first order of business is to unite the Republican base vote, a task this Rasmussen poll suggests he is already accomplishing.
Democrats had hoped Tancredo would find his way through the primary, believing that his extreme views on immigration would give Hickenlooper his easiest path to re-election. Now with Beauprez as the nominee, Republicans believe their chances have greatly improved, despite his poor performance as the party’s 2006 gubernatorial candidate (losing to former Denver County District Attorney Bill Ritter (D), 56-41 percent).
Perhaps the senator least in control of his own political fate in this election is Colorado’s Mark Udall (D). For reasons largely attributed to our discussion above, Udall again finds himself reading a poll that forecasts him to be in a toss-up battle against eastern state Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO-4).
In the Senate contest, Rasmussen Reports finds Sen. Udall clinging to a slim one-point, 43-42 percent edge, a conclusion consistent with other polling being reported from across the politic al spectrum over the past few months. The fact that Udall is registering only low single-digit leads and routinely scores in the low 40s means that this contest can also legitimately be characterized as a toss-up campaign.
The fact that this seat could conceivably decide which party controls the Senate in the next Congress also means that outside organizations from both ideological perspectives will be advertising heavily in the race, yet another campaign facet that Sen. Udall can’t control.
Both Senate candidates will have to correctly position their federal message to reflect what is driving the voters to come to the polls. Thus, we will be witnessing a very interesting and complex federal campaign that must contend with a state issues’ charged political climate that could well eclipse a national message.