Poll: Republican Cory Gardner now leads Mark Udall by one in Colorado Senate race

This one’s not quite “gotta have” the way reliably red states like Arkansas and Louisiana are. But it’s most definitely “wanna have.” Badly.

Every time I see a poll on this race, I think of something Jay Cost wrote a few weeks ago. If the GOP can’t win in a battleground state in this political environment, with the public gagging on Hopenchange and Democratic turnout destined to be lower than it is during presidential years, when can it win? As a despairing Guy Benson noted last week, Cory Gardner’s a solid candidate who’s run a solid campaign, yet he trails narrowly in most polls. What more will it take? I mean, really:

More from USA Today:

The survey shows Udall at 42%, Republican challenger Cory Gardner at 43% in what is essentially a tie. The poll of 500 likely voters, taken Saturday through Tuesday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points…

By 2-1, 37%-19%, those surveyed say they think of their vote for Congress as a vote against Obama, not for him.

What’s more, by 55%-37% they say the Affordable Care Act, the signature health care law Obama signed in 2010, generally has been bad for Colorado…

For Udall, the most frequent specific responses were “Obama follower/puppet,” “liberal” and “dishonest/untrustworthy.” His job-approval rating is 42% approve, 49% disapprove. His favorable-unfavorable rating is 43%-44%.

Likely voters are 33 percent Republican and 31 percent Democrat so Gardner has a built-in advantage — and yet, despite President Bumblefark trying to give this seat away, it’s the first time Gardner’s led in a Colorado poll in two months. Scan through the table at RCP and you’ll find that Udall has a had a small but durable lead of low single digits. Not only that, but Obama’s pal John Hickenlooper leads by two points in this same poll over Republican Bob Beauprez in the race for governor. (Big caveat: A Quinnipiac poll out today shows Beauprez up — by 10.) Two obvious possibilities here, then. This could just be an outlier; Gardner has had slim leads in a couple of earlier polls only to see Udall surge back in front in the next round of surveys. Could be happening again.

The other, less eeyorish possibility is that the GOP wave is only now beginning to gather and we’re seeing the first stirrings of it in this result. This isn’t the only eyebrow-raising data lately to support that point. Most polls, including a new one yesterday from ARG, show Jeanne Shaheen leading Scott Brown comfortably in New Hampshire — but CNN sees the race tied in its latest. Is that an outlier too or something more? No poll has found Brown tied with her since January. The Iowa poll that Noah wrote about this morning showing Joni Ernst suddenly six points up on Bruce Braley is another eye-popper. That could be a blip, or it could be a sign that low-information voters are finally starting to pay attention to the elections and are breaking, as everyone expects, for the Republicans on balance. That is to say, while each individual race has its nuances, they’re tied together to some extent by voters’ feelings about the state of the country generally. If you’re an independent in Colorado who’s skittish about Gardner but unnerved by Obama’s disengagement, maybe you hold your nose and vote GOP anyway — and if that’s happening, independents in Iowa and New Hampshire are having similar feelings about Ernst and Brown. If there’s a wave building, now’s about the time you’d start to see it on the horizon. Is that what’s happening here?

Exit question: Is another lead for Gardner coming tomorrow? Hmmmm.