Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo.
Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo.
Brandon Marshall

Dems Have Early Edge in Gubernatorial Race, According to First Reliable Poll

A new poll shows several Democratic gubernatorial candidates ahead of Republican candidate Tom Tancredo and high voter dissatisfaction in Colorado with President Donald Trump.

Public Policy Polling results showed all four Democratic gubernatorial candidates ahead of Tancredo by four to eight points, with nearly one in five voters still undecided.

"We're encouraged by it. I'd rather be us than them," Colorado Democratic Party spokesman Eric Walker says of Republicans. "You see this race to the right in their primary, and that's the story of the Republican Party we've seen under Donald Trump. They've completely abandoned the politics of moderate Republicans. It is the party of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and Tom Tancredo."

Tancredo, a longtime right-wing firebrand who has drawn the support of former chief White House strategist Bannon, announced his candidacy last month, adding his name to an already crowded Republican field.

Tancredo's campaign and a spokesman for the Colorado Republican Party declined to comment for this story.

This poll may lean slightly Democratic for two reasons: one, PPP conducts polls for Democratic clients, but also, the sampling of voters includes a slightly higher margin of Hillary Clinton voters (2 percent higher) than the actual results of last November's election.

"(Democratic House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi's personal pollster (read that, PPP) may have been wrong about (CO-6 Republican) Mike Coffman's election prospects a time or two before," local GOP operative Tyler Sandberg recently tweeted, hinting at Republican skepticism over PPP results.

That said, PPP has a B+ rating in FiveThirtyEight's pollster ratings and was actually found to have an ever-so-slight 0.2 percent Republican bias in recent past results.

This poll is also likely to be a far better snapshot of the race than a dubious October poll released by a former Trump statistician that showed Tancredo and early Democratic favorite Jared Polis neck-and-neck in a hypothetical matchup. The PPP poll shows independents favoring the Democratic candidate in all four hypothetical one-on-one match-ups.

“Jared has a bold, pragmatic vision for Colorado's future, and that vision is resonating with voters from across the state,” said Mara Sheldon, spokeswoman for the Polis campaign, of the poll in a statement. “Jared is already putting together a winning coalition of Democrats, Republicans and independents that will be key to winning in 2018.”

That said, high degrees of undecideds in the poll, ranging from sixteen to nineteen points depending on the matchup, beg for its results to be taken with a grain of salt.

"Generally, a poll this far ahead of an election doesn’t tell us very much about what will happen," University of Denver political science professor Seth Masket told Westword last month. "What it mostly tells us is which candidate has name recognition. Tom Tancredo has a long and very high-profile career in the state, as a member of Congress, a presidential candidate and a gubernatorial candidate. Most of the other candidates, particularly on the Republican side, aren’t very well known yet. As the party fields begin to winnow, the public will become more familiar with just one or two of the candidates, and Tancredo will likely not seem as sure a bet."

Limited data is available on the gubernatorial race so far, but highly regarded Quinnipiac University pollsters will be sampling Colorado and its gubernatorial race in the near future.

Trump's approval rating, according to the PPP poll, stands at 36 percent among Colorado voters, a near-mirror image of national figures. Perhaps most important, the poll found that Colorado independents only had a 29 percent approval of Trump, potentially a dangerously low number for Republicans in a state where voters comprise a large number of independents.

A Keating Research poll released late last month showed Trump at a 35 percent approval rating, closely mirroring the PPP poll's finding showing strong Colorado dissatisfaction with Trump. A Keating poll released shortly before last November's presidential election showed Clinton up by five points in Colorado, which turned out to be an accurate prediction of the race's outcome.

According to a FiveThirtyEight poll, Trump's national approval rating is around 37 percent. Colorado voted for Hillary Clinton by approximately 4.9 percentage points last fall, putting the Centennial State slightly more Democratic-leaning than the country as a whole in last year's presidential election.

From Alabama to New Jersey to Virginia, Trump's unpopularity has hampered down-ballot Republican candidates in elections in recent weeks, and should Trump's approval remain around the same next fall, Tancredo or whoever becomes the Republican candidate is likely to be the underdog.

Colorado's primaries are on June 26, 2018, and the general election is November 6, 2018.

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