Sunday, March 23, 2014

Showdown in Colorado

One of the Senate seats that the Republican Party thinks can be competitive is the Senate seat in Colorado.  Senator Mark Udall (41% approve/40% disapprove) is running for re-election.  Udall is one of the more moderate Senators in the Senate during his first term as Senator.  In 2012, Colorado voted for Barack Obama at about the same rate as the nation did, 51-46 compared to 50-47 nationally. Udall won election to the Senate in 2008 with 53% of the vote.  The combination of the Presidential party generally losing support during non-Presidential years and the general rightward shift of the electorate during mid-term elections, it's easy to see why Republicans think that this is a potential pickup for them.

There are two Republicans, at this point, competing for the Republican nomination in this race.  The choices are between U.S. House of Representative Cory Gardner (CO-4) and State Senator Randy Baumgardner.  Gardner is the heavy favorite to win the nomination.  In a recent poll by Public Policy Polling, they found that in the Republican primary 44% of primary voters named him as their preference for the nomination compared to Baumgardner's 15%.  But still, Baumgarnder has vowed that he will not drop out of the race for the favored Gardner.

Gardner, according to GovTrack, is ideologically around the same mark as Representative Kristi Noem (SD-0) and Stephen Fincher (TN-8), indicating that he is a rank and file Republican by their standards.  23% of Coloradans view Gardner favorably compared to 25% who view him unfavorably.  Gardner's favorability is bolstered by Republicans, 38/10.  Even among independents, Gardner has a +5 net favorability (22/17).  Those who identify as Democrats view Gardner unfavorably 8/46. The key number in there is the relatively low name recognition with Republicans and Independents.  Udall has about 80% favorability among all groups.

In a head to head matchup between Gardner and Udall, it is going to be a close election.  Udall is up by 2 points, 42-40.  If we look at it by party id, we see the following:

Mark Udall
Cory Gardner
Not sure

Gardner has a slim lead with independents with Udall holding a much higher name recognition.  This is a much more competitive election than I initially thought it would be. Gardner would be hurt with independents with a typical Republican primary.  But because a number of Republican primary candidates have dropped out prior to the primary, Gardner is in a much better position to win in 2014.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Republican National Committee continues to press Baumgardner to drop out of the primary, as it will help their Senate chances. 

Udall voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and it might be hurting him some.  34% of Independents in Colorado view the law favorably.  29% of Independents view the implementation of the law at least somewhat successful.  66% of Independents view the implementation as unsuccessful.  As we've seen with other states over the months, the law is continuing to gain approval and more people view the law as being successfully implemented as more time passes.  It is entirely possible that by November the lead Gardner has with Independents will disappear because of the continual march of approval for the ACA.  

This election will hinge on how independents vote in 2014.  Every weapon in the arsenal for both parties will be on display during this election.  I think the Senate election slightly favors Udall because of how people are viewing the ACA as time moves on. 

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