Colorado Democrats fighting their party’s ‘brand’ in 2014 races

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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The biggest hurdle Colorado Democrats will face in the 2014 election may not necessarily be Republican opponents but a tainted Democratic “brand.”

Colorado voters disapprove of the president’s job performance by 59-37 percent in a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday, “close to his worst approval rating in any Quinnipiac University state or national poll since he was elected,” according to a press release announcing the results.

By almost the exact same margin, 60-37 percent, voters dislike his signature Affordable Care Act, which flopped in Colorado during the first few months of its rollout and resulted in about a quarter million people receiving cancellation notices for their existing healthcare policies.

“This is a huge factor and in this state in particular, the image of the Democratic brand, which is a combination of the president and the [health care] law, could clearly decide the congressional race,” political analyst Floyd Ciruli of Denver-based Ciruli Associates told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The congressional race pits incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall against a field of GOP contenders. Ciruli said Udall “married himself” to Obamacare earlier this year when his staff tried to pressure the Colorado Division of Insurance into walking back the number of cancellations, arguing that most were offered extensions of the plans.

“It is the factor that has now got Udall on a watchlist,” Ciruli said. “It is overwhelmingly because of the decline in the value of the Democratic brand and of course because he’s made some significant missteps.”

“He is off to a very bad start and that primarily goes to his misstep with the data suppression or whatever was going on there,” he said.

Udall’s favorability slipped Quinnipiac poll from 44 percent to 42 percent since November.

Udall “can hear the footsteps of three challengers, all within a few percentage points of him,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a press release.

And while Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper can parse out some good news in the latest Quinnipiac poll that shows him gaining distance over a field of Republican contenders for his job, other indicators show that he may also be fighting against the Democratic brand his party forged inside the state.

While the majority of voters polled approve of the job he’s doing by 52-39 percent, they’re divided 45-45 as to whether he’s earned a second term.

That could be because most voters disagree with him on the death penalty, education and gun policy, all major issues that have made headlines in the past year.

Hickenlooper came under fire from all quarters for granting convicted mass murderer Nathan Dunlap an indefinite stay of execution, a decree that can be overturned by a future governor and which critics said represented his inability to make a decision.

Voters disapprove of how Hickenlooper has handled the death penalty issue 36-28 percent, with 66 percent of voters saying the death penalty should be continued.

Voters also generally oppose Colorado’s strict new gun control laws 52-43 percent (although they favor expanded background checks by an overwhelming margin of 86-13 percent) and think teachers should be armed by a margin of 50-45 percent.

“Coloradans don’t think much of where Gov. Hickenlooper comes down on guns and think more guns in schools might be a better answer,” Malloy said.

Perhaps most troubling for Hickenlooper is a trend pointed out by the conservative blog Colorado Peak Politics, in which independent voters — who comprise about a third of all registered voters — are against his reelection by a wide margin of 51-40 percent.

“In a state that divides itself in thirds — a third Democrat, a third Republican, and a third Independent — the candidate who captures the most independents usually wins,” the blog wrote.

But Ciruli said it’s too early to write off Democrats, even though they have their work cut out for them. Republicans — who have fielded a number of candidates against both Udall and Hickenlooper, none of whom are significantly rising above the others — must run good candidates.

“The numbers show there’s no distinction between these [GOP] candidates,” he said. “Though we’re looking at vulnerable Democrats, I still think they’re going to mount expensive, effective campaigns and these Republicans need to be good basic candidates, but also not make mistakes.

“I don’t think this is going to be decided by some massive wave coming through one way or the other,” he said.

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.