On Wednesday, Quinnipiac University released poll results regarding the two biggest races in Colorado, the race for Governor and the race for the U.S. Senate. While the polling provided good news for Gov. John Hickenlooper, Senator Mark Udall received confirmation that his race for re-election is tightening up.
The polling results showed three GOP candidates within 2-3 points of the incumbent. While some headlines credited the neck and neck status to Ken Buck, who was behind by three points, two other candidates, Rep. Amy Stephens and State Senator Randy Baumgardner were only behind by two points.
While the Udall campaign cannot be happy about the polling results, it really doesn’t affect his campaign at this point. It is February and we’re months away before we’ll know his true opponent.
However, for the GOP candidates, the polling means quite a bit more.
First of all, it shows the race can be competitive, thanks to the unpopularity of Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act is currently polling at a 60% disapproval rate, and every point against helps the eventual Republican nominee.
Secondly, the tight grouping of the poll shows the GOP candidates that there really is no clear front-runner. While some have ordained Ken Buck as the front-runner, the polling results show that currently voters do not see much difference between him and his Republican competition.
While Buck holds a considerable lead in fundraising and name recognition, that momentum can change. The name recognition may also hurt Buck since he lost a tight race to Michael Bennet, who was running for his first elected position at the time.
Finally, the polling should provide a good warning to the Republican candidates that at this point in the game, voters do not see major differences between them. That will likely embolden lower tier candidates. But the higher profile candidates should understand that polls like this show them that they will need to spend a considerable amount of money in the primary.
It’s the ultimate good news/bad news scenario. The incumbent is within striking distance, but there is little to no distinction between the candidates.
If Ken Buck was the only GOP candidate that was polling close to Udall, he may have seen a primary opponent or two begin to fade away. But since most were just as close or even closer, the race should now tighten for funds and eventually, endorsements.
Several months ago, the race for U.S. Senate did not look like a strong possibility for Republicans. Despite the most recent polling, it’s still going to be a tough climb, but these tight results offer a double-edged sword of hope to the GOP. The incumbent is more vulnerable than most expected at this point, but the near anonymous nature of the GOP competition is a big problem to solve.
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– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.