Friday, January 12, 2018

Colorado Democrats Start 2018 Ahead, But Face Risks

Colorado has slipped to the left during the last decade, and a couple of recent polls confirm Democrats start the year in the lead for the governor’s race.

Both polls by respected Democratic firms assume Tom Tancredo is the Republican nominee. As of now, he has the highest name identification and firmest base of voters. But, Tancredo is also controversial within the Republican Party and highly polarizing to the overall electorate. It is very early, with most Republicans candidates still in fundraising and grassroots mode. But for purposes of polling, Tancredo’s two previous races for governor and his Trump/Bannon-like position on immigration makes him a reasonable stand in for the Republican frontrunner. The party doesn’t lack potential serious gubernatorial nominees, including State Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

Democrats also have a frontrunner who is only slightly less controversial than Tancredo. Jared Polis, the liberal libertarian Boulder congressperson, who has spent most of his political career promoting himself from outside the party and aggravating the Democratic establishment, has the highest profile and most money (his own) in the race. The Democratic field also has several competitors with sufficient name identification to be tested in a poll. Considered the most competitive is former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy, former State Senator Mike Johnston and current Lieutenant Governor Donna Lynne. Tancredo loses to the Democratic field in the PPP poll from 8 to 4 points.

In his 8-point loss to Polis, Tancredo gets 71 percent of Republicans, 12 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of unaffiliated.

The poll has a Democratic lean, with 36 percent identifying as Democrats and 30 percent as Republicans. Registration is more likely 31 percent for each party, and off-year turnout has been slightly more Republican historically. But Democrats have been pulling even in Colorado, and anti-Trump enthusiasm may have them more likely to vote.

It’s very early, but probably the strongest Democratic candidate today is Kennedy, who is the best regarded among Democrats (76%) with considerably less baggage than Polis. Outside of self-funding Polis, Johnston is the best fundraiser. The Democratic danger is that primary voters and liberal interest groups will nominate a candidate with a platform of unworkable and unaffordable proposals. With the exception of Boulder liberal Rollie Heath (2002), the party has nominated candidates with positions that are more reflective of Colorado’s pragmatic center than the national party’s approach.

If the Democratic Party veers too far left and Tancredo is the Republican nominee, expect a serious independent candidate for governor.

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