Monday, May 6, 2013

Hickenlooper in Trouble?

John Hickenlooper will be very happy when this legislative session is over (May 8). As predicted, his decade-long honeymoon with Colorado voters has finally run into the reality of 2013 partisan politics. His negatives are up 18 points since November, mostly a reflection of his fellow Democrats aggressively taking on the whole Democratic legislative agenda with considerable flair (PPP, April 2013).

Hickenlooper tried to frame the session as simply addressing major needs in a moderate fashion with a minimalist state-of-state address advocating gun registration and civil unions.  But, he lost control of the messaging as national interest in the issues overwhelmed local positioning and, for example, made Colorado a gun control success story for embattle advocates.

Democrats are pleased with Hickenlooper’s and the legislature’s partisan performance. Support increased 16 points since November. But Republican and independent disapproval surged (21% to 48% independents, 20% to 72% Republicans).

The sheer volume of Democratic proposals on guns, gays, drugs, taxes, death penalty, spending and regulation took over and altered Hickenlooper’s moderate image to that of a leader of very socially liberal, anti-business state government. As of today, gun control, the legislature’s signature issue, is not very popular in Colorado, with only 49 percent of the public supporting either stricter laws in general or an assault weapons ban specifically.
Hickenlooper would probably be in election trouble if Colorado wasn’t trending left and the Colorado Republican Party wasn’t so directionless. As of today, it’s not clear who will even take him on. Hickenlooper only won in 2010 with 51 percent of the vote. Although it was a bad Democratic year, he faced a couple of weak opponents. 

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