Republicans can be forgiven for growing a bit confident that they will retake the majority in the Senate in the Fall.
Polls suggest that GOP candidates in states like Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana will eventually emerge victorious. Though securing an outright majority may have to wait for at least one runoff race before the GOP can be assured that they will have a majority in both chambers of the 114th Congress.
But Republicans are starting to open up alternative paths to a simple majority in the Senate. In Iowa and Colorado, two Republican candidates are emerging as contenders. Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) is performing perhaps the best of all the marginal GOP Senate candidates in his race to unseat incumbent Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO).
On Wednesday, Gardner got among the best polling news he has enjoyed of the entire 2014 election season. A CNN/ORC poll released on Wednesday showed Gardner receiving the support of a majority of the Centennial State’s likely voters with 50 percent to 46 percent support for Udall.
“Hurting Udall is an underwater favorability rating of 45 percent — with 51 percent of those surveyed saying they have an unfavorable opinion of the Democrat,” CNN reported. “Gardner, meanwhile, is viewed favorably by 50 percent of likely voters, with just 42 percent saying their opinion of him is unfavorable.”
So, Gardner has this race in the bag, right? Not so fast.
Liberal poll-watchers have been concerned about the quality of polling in the races this cycle, and in this state in particular. Several recent surveys of this race have suggested Udall underperforming among Hispanics, and even losing this key demographic to Gardner. This is giving some political analysts pause, and they have good evidence to back their concerns up.
In 2010, GOP senatorial nominee Ken Buck appeared to be breaking away in his race against Michael Bennet. Heading into election day, Buck enjoyed a 3 point advantage over Bennett in the Real Clear Politics average of polls with the trend line suggesting the race was his to lose. Bennett, it turned out, emerged victorious.
Gardner may be a victim of the same phenomenon. This state’s minorities are notoriously difficult to poll in midterm election cycles, and pollsters may not have learned the lessons of 2010.
That note of caution aside, the electoral wind is unquestionably at Gardner’s back. He may yet prove that Colorado is still a purple state in November, but those who are urging skepticism are smart to do so.
This post has been updated since its original publication.