Monday, August 04, 2014

Race of the Day- Colorado Governor

92 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (West)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

Not long after he won the Governorship of Colorado in 2010, John Hickenlooper was talked about as a potential Presidential candidate in the near future. Coming from a swing state, with a combination of urban liberal social views and business experience, the former Mayor of Denver was talked about as someone to watch on the political scene. Now, he is in quite a fight to avoid losing reelection and the Presidential stuff is surely on hold. Even more so, he has gotten separated from his wife since becoming Governor, after she had told him that she was willing to stay married if he ran for President.

The current polls show that Hickenlooper is in a dead-heat with Republican Bob Beauprez. If those polls are accurate, the incumbent is very much in trouble. However, I am at somewhat of a loss as to why the race is as close as it is. There are a lot of reasons, both political and financial, why Hickenlooper should have at least a modest edge this year. I certainly hope to be wrong on this one and definitely want Beauprez to pull it off. I just am a bit leery at this point in saying it is going to be a pickup. The race definitely has the potential to become a true Tossup down the road, if it is not already.

Beauprez became the GOP nominee after entering the Republican contest quite late. Several Republicans were running for Governor, and went through the state's system of caucuses and conventions just to try to get on a primary ballot. Seeking a developing opportunity, Beauprez pleased many in the party by entering the race this past March. That move went along with a highly touted and somewhat surprising GOP recruit for the high-profile U.S. Senate race in the state. While every other Republican would eventually exit the Senate contest, it was a bit of a surprise when most of the other Republicans did not concede the field to Beauprez.

A former Congressman, who left his district to run for Governor in 2006, Beauprez lost by a wider than expected margin that year, which was a good one for Democrats. Clearly though, he never got over his Gubernatorial ambitions and believed that 2014 could be a better year for his party. He won the June primary with 30 percent of the vote in a four way field. All candidates on the ballot received at least 20 percent of the vote, including the former State Senate Minority Leader and the current Secretary of State. Finishing second to Beauprez, about three points back was Tom Tancredo, a controversial former Congressman who once ran for President and is vocally anti-illegal immigration. Interestingly enough, Tancredo ran for Governor as a third party candidate in 2010 in the race that Hickenlooper won, and finished second, easily outpacing the GOP nominee who was plagued by damaging revelations.

Had Tancredo become the official GOP nominee this year, many felt that he would have no chance of winning and would in fact be a lighting rod that Democrats could use against Republicans throughout the state in many competitive elections. While Tancredo is not running as a third party candidate this time, he is refusing to go away quietly and has lately been complaining about the role the Republican Governors Association, and its Chairman, Chris Christie of New Jersey played in the primary on behalf of Beauprez.

In his first official act as Republican nominee, Beauprez selected Douglas County Commissioner Jill Repella as his Lt. Governor running-mate. She is considered a good choice in balancing the ticket and helping the candidate appeal to suburban women. In 2006, Beauprez had selected another woman who did not receive much acclaim on the campaign trail, and who backed another GOP candidate this year, even after Beauprez entered the race. Running with Hickenlooper again is incumbent Lt. Governor Joe Garcia.

Being outside the state, I am not exactly sure why Hickenlooper has lost as much popularity as he has. I know that anti-gun measures on behalf of Democrats in the state may play a part and that some legislators may have even been recalled. The Governor was at the forefront of national attention though after a theater shooting and wildfires in the state, and at one point had expected to win a second term fairly easily.

I would like to believe that Beauprez is headed to a win. He will certainly perform better than he did eight years ago, but he's going to have to run at least 17 points better if he is to actually win. Democrats can be expected to come after him with everything they have, such as recently discovered comments from a few years back (pre-Mitt Romney) in which he talked about the 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income taxes. I hope to be wrong, but right now, I still expect Hickenlooper to win narrowly, but Republicans dodged a bullet in picking Beauprez over Tancredo and that could play dividends in several other races across the state.

All sorts of Colorado polls in recent months, including potential 2016 Presidential matchups have shown Republicans doing a lot better than in other swing states and better than could be expected in a purple state that nonetheless, Democrats have won at the Presidential level the last two cycles as well as every contest for Governor and U.S. Senate over the past decade. Could there be a mini-GOP wave building in the Rocky Mountains and in a state that recently voted to legalize marijuana? I certainly hope so. Maybe the Democrats will be too stoned to vote.

Beauprez campaign link:

Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 2 D (1 Safe, 1 Leans) , 4 R (1 Safe, 1 Likely, 2 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 9 D, 11 R (net Republican gain of 1)