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Poll: Hickenlooper vulnerable on gun control, death penalty

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper’s stance on the hot-button topics of gun control and the death penalty have given him a “lackluster” approval rating, according to a new poll that has him in a dead heat with Republican challenger Tom Tancredo.

Hickenlooper’s approval rating is 48 percent, according to the Quinnipiac poll, which shows him leading by only single digits over all the GOP candidates.

The race is tightest against Tancredo, a former congressman, with Hickenlooper ahead 46-45. Hickenlooper leads Secretary of State Scott Gessler 47-42 and state Sen. Greg Brophy 47-40.

Earlier in the year, Hickenlooper took the highly unpopular step of indefinitely staying the execution of convicted mass murderer Nathan Dunlap, who was to have been put to death this week for gunning down four people in a restaurant in 1993.

Forty-eight percent of those polled disapprove of how Hickenlooper is handling the death penalty issue, compared to only 27 percent who support it.

And 52 percent disapprove of how Hickenlooper has dealt with highly controversial gun control legislation. He signed into law several measures, including one that limits the size of ammunition magazines and one requiring universal background checks.

Those laws have led to two historic recall elections against Democratic lawmakers who supported them and they among the reasons several rural counties have sought to secede from Colorado to form their own state.

Pollsters said Hickenlooper’s fate could rest with the one-third of Colorado voters who aren’t affiliated with any organized political party.

“The key for Gov. John Hickenlooper, as it is for many issues in America today, is the attitude of independent voters,” aid Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a release.

“These voters go against the governor on his handling of gun control and the death penalty, but split 46 – 46 percent on his overall job approval,” he said.

Kelly Maher, the director of Compass Colorado, which is working to defeat a Hickenlooper-supported tax increase to fund education, said the polling results underscore the “leadership void” in the governor’s office.

“Gov. Hickenlooper has consistently refused to stand up for the people of Colorado while his legislature pushed through a radical far left-wing agenda,” she said in a statement posted on the group’s website. “Coloradans were promised a moderate, business-oriented governor, and, instead, received an empty suit with a rubber stamp for special interests. It’s clear the citizens of Colorado are recognizing the bait and switch.”

The poll also showed that despite state government having been controlled by a Democratic majority, Colorado is still a swing state when it comes to the 2016 presidential election.

Running hypothetical match-ups, pollsters found a dead heat in a race between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (42-43 percent, respectively), and too close to call between Clinton and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (45-42).

Vice President Joe Biden trails both Christie (50-33 in favor of Christie) and Cruz (45-39 in favor of Cruz).

The only clear Democratic advantage in a state controlled by Democrats is in voters’ perceptions of Hickenlooper’s character and leadership style. Fifty-seven percent say he has strong leadership qualities and 56 percent say he’s honest and trustworthy.

“Gov. Hickenlooper has gone against popular opinion on the death penalty and gun control, but he is doing better on that bread and butter issue — the economy,” Malloy noted.

“Let’s see how that plays out in the next 14 months.”

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