While we wait for recounts, runoffs and remaining races to be called, it’s never too early to start getting ready for 2020. Right now, we’re off to a good start in Colorado:
A post-election poll of unaffiliated voters released Thursday has a sobering message for the Colorado GOP: President Donald Trump’s unpopularity may have accelerated the party’s growing disadvantage in state politics by sinking its chances with independents.
The phone poll, conducted by a Republican firm Nov. 7-9, confirmed that unaffiliated voters — whose participation surged to historic levels for a midterm election — broke with tradition by favoring Democrats by huge margins on Nov. 6. Unaffiliated voters who turn out in midterms in Colorado tend to break for Republicans, while leaning left in presidential elections.
And unlike previous Democratic electoral routs, the poll suggests, it’s less likely Republicans will be in a position to bounce back in two years, when Trump is up for re-election.
“What is still the most important voting bloc is all of the unaffiliated voters,” said David Flaherty, the founder and CEO of Louisville-based Magellan Strategies. “And the bottom line is that boy oh boy, they did not like what Republicans were offering up. And boy oh boy, they do not like this president. … It could not have been a darker day.”
The poll of 500 Colorado unaffiliated voters who participated in the election found a 34 percentage-point advantage within that group for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis over Republican Walker Stapleton. Among all voters, Polis’ winning margin was 10.5 percentage points, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
At the same time, the poll says that unaffiliated voters who cast ballots have a dismal view of the Republican Party, with only 25 percent of the sample reporting a favorable impression of the GOP.
Over the weekend, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, who heads the National Republican Senate Committee, joined President Donald Trump and Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott in fanning conspiracy theories — baseless and irresponsible theories, that is — about possible vote stealing in Florida.
On Monday, a story ran in the Denver Post under this headline: “Colorado Republicans’ conundrum: Donald Trump and the unaffiliated voters who loathe him; Insiders say Cory Gardner’s re-election prospects are grim unless GOP can develop new message.”
The report went on to explain:
“Before the election, Colorado Republicans controlled the state Senate, occupied three of the state’s five statewide offices and held five of the state’s nine seats in Congress.
“Then nearly 900,000 unaffiliated voters cast their ballots and handed decisive victories to Democrats.
″ ‘The barn has been completely cleaned out,’ said David Flaherty, a Colorado Republican pollster. ‘We’re trying to learn what motivated them. But you’re kidding yourself if you say President Trump didn’t have something to do with it.’ ”
As for Gardner, his home state paper reports, “Democrats have not been shy about their next target: U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The Yuma Republican now will be one of only two statewide GOP officeholders, and his political fate is tied to how he and Republicans answer these existential questions . . . In an interview with The Denver Post on Thursday, Gardner didn’t shy away from Trump — in fact, he invited Trump and the entire Colorado congressional delegation to Colorado for a statewide tour.”
Umm. Do you get the sense Gardner’s not paying attention — or is in denial?
The 2018 election results aren’t official yet, but minds are already turning to Colorado’s next big electoral contest: U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s 2020 re-election bid.
Given the mood of Colorado’s electorate in 2018, the Republican’s chances appear at first blush to be grave. And Gardner’s critics piled on again after the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee defended Republicans’ objections over vote counting in Florida on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. However, a lot can happen between now and Election Day 2020, including a Democratic primary election that will pick Gardner’s opponent.
There is no shortage of potential challengers, political watchers said this week. However, four names are on top of most lists: Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, former state Sen. and gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston, U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Gov. John Hickenlooper.
“The field is very much in flux, and there are a lot of conversations to be had,” said Craig Hughes, a Democratic campaign strategist who helped U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet win his first election in 2010. Hughes also ran Johnston’s gubernatorial bid.
The stakes are high for whichever Democrat emerges from the primary. Gardner is one of only two Republican incumbents in Senate races that Democrats will likely target as pickups. The other is U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. That means, Hughes said, the general election will be “incredibly expensive, competitive and negative.”