DENVER — Not lost in the latest survey of Colorado voters by Public Policy Polling is this nugget: Republicans hold a five-point edge over Democrats on a generic ballot heading into state legislative races next year.
According to PPP, a typically Democrat-friendly polling outfit, voters across the state would prefer a generic Republican candidate for legislative seats over a generic Democrat by a 47-42 percent margin.
With independents, the third of Colorado’s electorate that typically decides statewide races and other toss-up elections, the Republicans’ generic ballot edge is even larger, 41-30 percent.
After two successful recall elections against two Democratic state senators in September, part of a backlash over the passage of several gun control measures in March, Democrats hold just a one-seat edge in the upper chamber.
“In just one year, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Democrats in the statehouse lost the trust of their constituents by forcing through a radical agenda that is hurting working families, job creators and senior citizens,” Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call told FOX31 Denver.
“Voters know that, unlike Gov. Hickenlooper and his out-of-touch friends in the statehouse, Republicans are listening and understand the concerns that everyday Coloradans face.”
Senate Republicans have a prime opportunity to re-take the majority next November, if their actual candidates — “generic” Republicans exist only in poll questions, after all — can close the deal in a handful of contested races.
Democrats are optimistic about winning back one of the seats they lost in the recall election, the one now held by Sen. George Rivera, R-Pueblo, who was elected to replace Democratic Sen. Angela Giron in a district where Democrats hold a voter registration edge.
Democrats also believe they have a shot at taking back the Senate District 11 seat, now held by Sen. Bernie Herpin, R-Colorado Springs, elected in September’s recall election that saw the ouster of former Senate President John Morse.
But Republicans are optimistic about winning the Senate District 19 seat that’s currently vacant after the resignation of Democratic Sen. Evie Hudak late last month. A vacancy committee will appoint one of two Democrats to take her place on Tuesday night; the appointee will face a strong Republican challenge in 2014.
And Republicans have several other pickup opportunities, with a number of Democrats facing reelection or retiring: Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Blackhawk, Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village (who is term-limited), Sen. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, and Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton (who is term-limited).
“Sadly for the Colorado GOP there isn’t a generic option for Republicans to vote for in 2014,” Colorado Democratic Party Chairman Rick Palacio told FOX31 Denver. “This year GOP voters are forced to pick one of the many out of touch extremists that dominate the Republican lineup.”
The Republicans’ generic ballot edge at the legislature, coming just a year after Democrats swept 12 competitive House races to amass a 37-28 majority in the Capitol’s lower chamber, shows just how fickle public opinion can be — and how swiftly voters may be willing to punish the party in power for going too far.
It also speaks to the potential vulnerability of Gov. Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, two Democrats who will be atop the 2014 statewide ballot, should credible GOP challengers emerge from primaries to take them on.
“Those numbers are perhaps also indicative of how much trouble Democrats would be in at the top of the ticket next year if the GOP candidate fields were a little bit stronger,” PPP concludes.