Monday, March 30, 2020

Gardner vs. Hickenlooper – A Two-Point Race?

The new political environment has mostly secured John Hickenlooper’s Democratic senate nomination (see Democratic Primary: Is it Over? 3-26-20), but it has also enhanced incumbent Senator Cory Gardner’s position. The general rule is that a national crisis helps incumbents. After 9/11, President Bush’s approval rating skyrocketed (90%, an all-time record). But, it also helped local politicians, such as Bill Owens and Wayne Allard, whose popularity surged, leading to re-elections in 2002. President Trump’s average approval rating (47%) is reaching the top of the ravine it’s been on during his entire term in office (35% to 45%) (See Trump’s Winning Support as Nation Rallies in Crisis, 3-27-20). In recent elections, Colorado has tended to mirror national voter results. Today, national polling between Trump and Joe Biden, his likely Democratic opponent, is now down to 3 percent, or margin of error.

The Colorado Senate race in 2014 was within 2 points for much of the year, with Mark Udall ahead before Labor Day, but the lead changed in the fall. Is the Colorado race destined to be close? Although polls six months ago showed John Hickenlooper winning by 10 points, the new political environment suggests that the partisan polarization may be muted by Trump’s stronger position and the emphasis on national unity. That provides a better platform for Gardner to argue that incumbency benefits Colorado, with less drag from Trump, who has been highly unpopular, especially among Colorado’s burgeoning unaffiliated voters.

President Donald Trump campaigns with Senator Cory Gardner
in Colorado Springs, CO, Feb. 20, 2020 | CBS Denver

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