Q-poll: Gardner 44, Udall 42 in Colorado Senate race

Noah wrote up Quinnipiac’s gubernatorial poll yesterday, prompting me to wonder over at Townhall whether the polling outfit was holding back its Senate numbers for separate release.  We now have our answer. A virtual deadlock, and advantage Gardner:

The closely-watched U.S. Senate race is tied with 44 percent for U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, the Republican challenger, and 42 percent for Sen. Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. Another 10 percent are undecided. This compares to the results of an April 24 survey by the independent Quinnipiac University showing Sen. Udall at 45 percent to 44 percent for Rep. Gardner. Today, Udall leads 86 – 5 percent among Democrats, while Republicans go to Gardner 85 – 5 percent. Independent voters go 43 percent for Udall and 40 percent for Gardner. Colorado voters give Udall a negative 42 – 46 percent job approval rating, his lowest net approval ever and down from a 42 – 42 percent split in April. Voters say 49 – 40 percent that Udall does not deserve to be reelected, tying his lowest score on that measure.

Gardner and Udall have each consolidated their respective bases, with independents cutting ever so slightly in favor of the Democratic incumbent.  In most national polling, independents are leaning heavily toward the GOP this cycle, so Colorado appears to be anomalous.  Notable is the fact that this poll is among registered, not likely, voters — so if nationwide trends hold up, November’s electorate could tilt further in Gardner’s favor.  On the other hand, the Colorado Left’s operation has been ruthlessly effective at turning out voters in recent cycles.  In 2012, RealClearPolitics‘ final polling average showed Barack Obama very narrowly leading Mitt Romney in the state; the president ended up carrying Colorado by a comfortable five-and-a-half points.  The GOP hasn’t won a major statewide race there since 2004.  All of which is to say that while this survey is no doubt welcome news to the Gardner campaign, there is much work to be done.  From Udall’s perspective, there are a number of worrisome nuggets in the Q-poll data, beyond his all-time low scores on job approval and “deserve to be re-elected” trackers:

– Gardner leads by five points on helping the middle class, with the Republican challenger outpacing the incumbent on the measure of who “cares about [voters’] needs and problems.”  Udall’s struggling badly on bread-and-butter Democratic advantages.

– The two candidates are tied on handling the minimum wage and immigration, issues Democrats typically try to exploit.

– Udall is getting clobbered on government spending and gun control; Gardner has clear a advantage (eight and 13 points, respectively) on each.

– President Obama’s approval rating in Colorado remains deep underwater, at 39/58.

Udall has a slight edge on “energy and environment” issues, but Gardner has been pounding away on the Keystone XL, which Udall (and one of Udall’s wealthiest benefactors) opposes.  The Democrat has recently been forced to backpedal away from an anti-fracking initiative, as Democrats worry that Republicans are gaining the upper hand on energy.  Perhaps the most concerning data point for Gardner — aside from his nine-point deficit with women, for which he compensates with a double-digit lead among men — is that voters split exactly evenly (41/41) on which candidate is preferable on Obamacare.  Polling from earlier this year shows that Colorado voters strongly disapprove of the law, yet Gardner is thus far failing to capitalize on what should be a winning issue for him.  He’ll have an opportunity to prosecute that case in debates and over the air, and he’ll have plenty of resources on the latter front.  The Republican hauled in a substantial $2.7 million in Q2 fundraising, though he still trails the money race overall.  The Democratic incumbent’s coffers were topped off earlier this month when President Obama held a high-dollar fundraiser for Mark Udall, a glitzy event that wasn’t attended by, er, Mark Udall:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday will headline his first fundraiser for a Senate Democrat in danger of losing this fall — but the candidate, Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, won’t be by his side. In a last minute switch, Udall’s campaign says the senator plans to stay in Washington to vote on Obama’s nominee to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The decision is likely to spark new questions about the political risks for vulnerable Democrats in being linked with an increasingly unpopular president.

It’s also worth pointing out.  Polling in this race is all over the map.  A new Marist/NBC poll gives Udall a seven-point lead over Gardner, while Gravis shows Gardner ahead by four.  I’ll leave you with a pair of web ads from the Gardner campaign, shackling Udall to the aforementioned “increasingly unpopular president:”

Udall touting Obama’s commitment to veterans (in the process of dodging question about whether he’ll campaign alongside the president) is especially painful in light of the VA scandal that has since exploded. By the way, Mark Udall votes with the president with whom he doesn’t want to be seen 99 percent of the time.  The Gardner camp would be wise to drive that message home relentlessly.  Independents may not care for Udall’s rigid partisanship and slavish devotion to a president of whom they disapprove by a whopping (35/61) margin, according to Quinnipiac.