DENVER — After his worst two weeks of press this year, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is polling at just 44 percent and running neck and neck with his newly-minted Republican challenger Bob Beauprez, who won last week’s four-way GOP gubernatorial primary.
The survey of 750 likely voters from Rasmussen Reports out Tuesday was conducted by phone last Wednesday and Thursday, immediately following the Tuesday night primary in which Beauprez finished ahead of Tom Tancredo and two other challengers.
Eight percent of respondents in the poll are undecided, while four percent prefer another candidate.
Rasmussen is regarded as a conservative polling firm that often favors Republicans, but consider: Rasmussen’s poll Monday of Colorado’s U.S. Senate race had Democrat Mark Udall a point ahead of Republican Cory Gardner.
Hickenlooper, widely thought to be a safe bet for reelection after recovering politically this year after a rough 2013, has already locked up more than $1.3 million in fall TV ad time and has raised close to $3 million for the campaign.
But his June 13 comments to a group of Colorado sheriffs in which he appeared to apologize for signing a controversial ban on high-capacity magazines into law — a law the same sheriffs are suing to overturn — reignited last year’s divisive battle over the state’s tougher gun laws and allowed Republicans to argue that Hickenlooper isn’t guided by strong personal convictions.
Hickenlooper later told FOX31 Denver that he’d sign the laws again and was merely attempting to acknowledge the sheriffs’ concerns and apologize that last year’s legislative process around the bills wasn’t more constructive.
Beauprez, who lost the 2006 governor’s race by 17 points, is expected to announce his pick for Lieutenant Gov. some time Tuesday.
The poll, which has a four-point margin of error, may give Beauprez a chance to claim momentum and to accelerate his fundraising efforts as he gears up for the general election fight.
“It’s no surprise this race tightened up as soon as there was a single strong Republican as a counterpoint to Hickenlooper,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “John Hickenlooper has never suffered the scrutiny of a one-on-one race, and now he is going to have to answer to Coloradans for his utter inability to lead. Showering with his clothes on is not going to cut it this time around.”
The Hickenlooper campaign doesn’t believe the race is actually tied, noting Rasmussen’s 2012 survey that had Mitt Romney winning Colorado by three points right before he lost it by five.
“Head-to-head matchup polls should be taken with a hearty dose of salt, because voters are still largely uninformed about the candidates,” said Jason Bane, founder of the liberal blog Colorado Pols.
“Two months ago, nobody could have named a player on the U.S. World Cup team, but they can probably identify someone today.”