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Opinion

Colorado straw poll results suggest Republicans may not nominate weak candidates

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Michael Barone,Republican Party,Elections,Colombia

Colorado is one of the hot states--maybe the hottest state--in the 2014 elections for senator and governor. It was carried twice by Barack Obama, and if you array the states in order of Obama 2012 percentage it was the state that cast the 270th electoral vote for him. So although Obama did just slightly better in Colorado (51 percent-46 percent) than nationally (51percent-47 percent), Colorado was arguably the median state in the political spectrum. Entering the 2014 electoral cycle, Colorado had two apparently popular candidates for reelection, Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Mark Udall. But they have not been faring well in public polls, as I have noted several times. Colorado Democrats have been hoping that Republican primary voters would nominate weak opponents who would make self-defeating statements as several Republican Senate nominees did in the 2010 and 2012 cycles.

That doesn't seem to be happening. This straw poll from counties representing 37 percent of the votes at the Colorado Republican nominating assembly to be held in May shows Rep. Cory Gardner way ahead in the race for the Senate nomination, with 83 percent of the votes. Gardner entered the race just last week, and simultaneously two other candidates left the race, including Ken Buck, who narrowly (48 percent-46 percent) lost the 2010 general election to Democrat Michael Bennet. Gardner appears likely to win the nomination without serious opposition.

In the still crowded race for governor Secretary of State Scott Gessler won 31 percent of the votes and former Rep. Bob Beauprez won 22 percent. They were well ahead of the man who is probably the best known candidate, former Rep. Tom Tancredo, known for his spirited opposition to immigration legislation he regards as amnesty. After the 2010 Republican nominee was effectively disqualified by charges that he had misrepresented his past, Tancredo stepped in as an independent candidate and won 36 percent of the vote against Hickenlooper's 51 percent. In the 2012 presidential race Colorado whites voted 54 percent-44 percent for Mitt Romney, but Colorado Hispanics voted 75 percent-23 percent for President Obama. Many Colorado Republicans fear that Tancredo's strongly voiced views on immigration could turn off Hispanic voters. The straw poll results suggest that the party grass roots, for whatever reason, are not rallying to Tancredo.

Taken together, the straw polls suggest that Colorado Democrats may not have an easy time disqualifying their Republican opponents this year.

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Author:

Michael Barone

Senior Political Analyst
The Washington Examiner