Two new Colorado polls show Cory Gardner getting blown out, but...

Neither one of these surveys comes from a top-flight pollster and the methodology of each one has been questioned by pros. Healthy skepticism of the results is warranted.

I’m giving them to you anyway. For one thing, we’re starved for high-quality state polls at the moment due to the coronavirus epidemic. In a normal world we’d have multiple reliable surveys of a marquee Senate race like Cory Gardner versus John Hickenlooper over the past six weeks, but the people who staff phone banks at polling outfits are coping with the same lockdown problems the rest of us are. That leaves us more dependent on online-only surveys, which may skew towards better educated and higher-income voters. And those voters trend Democratic, which means the numbers for Team Blue may be inflated. But for now, they’ll have to do.

For another thing, the results in both polls are strikingly similar, suggesting that they may not be wildly off from the true state of play in Colorado. And they jibe with the only other poll of the Colorado Senate race, which was taken last year and showed Hickenlooper with a double-digit lead over Gardner. It’s conceivable that we’re headed for a landslide there, with Trump and the NRSC potentially not even bothering to contest the state. If that’s true then the Democrats’ likely win in CO would cancel out the Democrats’ likely loss of Doug Jones’s seat in Alabama. They’d need just three more pick-ups plus a Biden victory to have total control of government.

Keating-Onsight-Melanson, which are Democratic pollsters, have Hickenlooper up 18.

The Keating-Onsight-Melanson poll of likely voters, made available in advance of its release to Colorado Politics, shows Hickenlooper with 54% support to Gardner’s 36% in a hypothetical head-to-head contest, with 9% undecided and 1% picking another candidate.

The Democratic firms’ last survey, in October, found Hickenlooper with an 11 percentage point advantage over Gardner, 53% to 42%.

The new poll also found former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump among Colorado voters by a 19 percent point margin, 55% to 36%. The Democratic nominee has carried Colorado’s nine electoral votes in the last three presidential elections, most recently in Hillary Clinton’s 5-point win over Trump in 2016.

Montana State University was responsible for yesterday’s intriguing but questionable poll of Montana finding Steve Bullock seven points up on incumbent Republican Steve Daines. They polled Colorado as well and found nearly the same margins as Keating-Onsight-Melanson did:

The Keating poll does seem to include too many better educated voters. People with postgrad degrees made up 25 percent of the sample while high-school grads made up just 12 percent. The 2016 exit poll in Colorado had those two groups at near-parity, 20 and 19 percent, respectively. On the other hand, Keating also detected many more self-identified Republicans in its sample than turned out for the 2016 election. Their poll included 30 percent of GOPers whereas the exit poll four years ago in CO found just 24 percent.

One way to look at these numbers is this: Even if they’re off the mark, could they be so far off the mark as to miss that this is actually a close race? That is, even if we assume that methodological errors are padding Hickenlooper’s numbers, realistically could they be padding them by 15 points or whatever? It seems a safe bet that the Democrat is leading decisively right now even if we can’t be more precise about what “decisively” means. On the other hand, a poll taken by a different outfit in early March found Biden leading Trump in Colorado by just three points. A lot — a lot lot lot — has happened in America since then that might have affected those numbers, from the COVID-19 disaster to Biden’s amazing comeback in the Democratic primaries, but turning a three-point lead into a 20-point lead in two months is hard to believe.

Let’s play it conservative and assume that he and Hickenlooper are leading by high single digits. How much do Republicans want to spend on trying to rescue Gardner when Susan Collins and Thom Tillis and Steve Daines all have better shots at winning and could use the extra money instead? Collins in particular is down only a few points and has the advantage of four terms’ worth of incumbency in the Senate. She’s something of an institution in Maine. She’s also been crafty about cultivating a political brand that’s a bit (but only a bit) more independent than the average GOP senator both before and during the Trump era. She supported calling witnesses in Trump’s impeachment trial, remember (knowing that there weren’t 51 votes to actually make it happen).

Gardner has none of that. He’s in his first term, he keeps a low profile in the Senate, and he’s calculated that staying aligned with Trump is his only shot at reelection. He also faces a major disadvantage that Collins doesn’t, running against an opponent in Hickenlooper who’s better known than he is. If he ends up getting blown out this fall in a state that went for Hillary by five points in 2016, he’ll be second-guessed endlessly about his approach. Why didn’t he try to position himself more independently of Trump as a senator? He was so worried about not being primaried, it seems, that he forgot he needs to win a general election too.

Speaking of total Democratic control of government, I’ll leave you with this. Not looking good.

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