Two weeks ago, The Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter asked a powerful question which prompted many in the Republican Party to do some soul-searching. The GOP has fielded strong candidates in Senate races in Iowa and Colorado, but the polling in those states showed that voters were still predisposed to back the Democratic candidate. If the GOP could not win in these purportedly purple states in a Republican year like 2014, she asked, how could they even hope to compete in them in 2016?
Just two weeks later, it seems as though the Republican Party may not be the moribund institution it once appeared to be in the Centennial and Hawkeye States.
On Wednesday, a Quinnipiac University poll showed GOP Senate candidate Joni Ernst securing the support of a majority of likely Iowa voters. Her opponent, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), managed only 44 percent support and suffered from the perception among voters that he is less honest, cares less about their problems, and possesses fewer desired leadership traits than did Ernst.
Today, Quinnipiac released its findings for the race in Colorado where incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) faces off against Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO). The news is even worse for those hoping this Rocky Mountain state will again serve as a Democratic firewall as it did in 2010.
Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall trails U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, his Republican challenger, 48 – 40 percent among likely voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Independent candidate Steve Shogan gets 8 percent.
With Shogan out of the race, Rep. Gardner leads 52 – 42 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. This survey of likely voters can not be compared with earlier surveys of registered voters.
This is the second poll released in the last 24-hours to show the race for U.S. Senate in Colorado is a competitive one. A USA Today/Suffolk survey released yesterday showed Gardner leading Udall by 43 to 42 percent. While this is a statistical tie, it is also a marked shift from the first half of September when a series of public polls showed Udall beating Gardner by healthy margins.
Gardner’s lead is not insignificant, but this Quinnipiac poll does include some issues the GOP candidate should be concerned about. Gardner only leads Udall among self-described independent voters by 2 points, and he has only locked in 88 percent of the Republican vote compared to Udall who has sewn up 90 percent of the Democratic vote.
But that is really where the bad news ends for Gardner in this poll. The GOP nominee is viewed favorably by 47 percent Colorado’s likely voters, compared to Udall who is viewed unfavorably by 50 percent.
• Voters say 54 – 28 percent that Gardner is honest and trustworthy, compared to 42 percent who say Udall is honest and trustworthy and 46 percent who say he is not;
• Gardner cares about their needs and problems, voters say 51 – 37 percent, compared to Udall’s 46 – 47 percent split;
• The challenger has strong leadership qualities, voters say 57 – 25 percent, compared to 51 – 41 percent for the incumbent.
It’s not just Gardner who might engineer a GOP comeback in the Centennial State. Polls have consistently shown incumbent Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is facing a tough race against GOP nominee Bob Beauprez. Quinnipiac’s findings released yesterday suggest that voters may be breaking for the GOP candidate; In that poll, a majority said they backed the Republican candidate while only 40 percent supported the incumbent Democrat.
More polling is needed before a definitive trend can be identified, but it does seem like Colorado will be a competitive state this year. There, Republicans have a real opportunity to knock off two key Democratic incumbents.
Amy Walter was right. If the GOP can’t win in Colorado and Iowa in 2014, they probably cannot win them in 2016. The opposite is also the case. If Republicans pull off victories in these swing states, the race to succeed President Barack Obama in the White House is likely to be a competitive one.