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The Colorado Senate race is morphing into a much tighter contest that most seasoned observers predicted. Although a prime Republican target in the party’s attempt to reclaim its former Senate majority, this campaign began with few giving Republican Cory Gardner a strong chance against Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.
Senate Race Recent Developments
According to US News and World Report, a recent (April 2014) poll by Quinnipiac University shows that the Senate race is almost neck-and-neck, with Udall holding a tenuous one point lead, 45 percent to 44 percent. The surprising entry of the formerly unknown Gardner into the race is proving to be strong competition for the better-known Udall.
Much can change before the election, still six months away. Around eight percent of Colorado voters remain in the “undecided” category, a significant percentage of swing votes. Yet, the eventual victory will go to the candidate that sways voters to his side, which Republican Gardner has achieved to date.
Will Colorado Voters Come to the Polls?
Another potentially critical factor is the growing tendency of Colorado voters to “stay home” in non-presidential election years. To sustain Gardner’s momentum, he must motivate his supporters to go to the polls in greater numbers than his opponent’s constituencies.
This may be a bigger challenge to Udall, as Colorado Democrats recently have been unable to motivate their core followers, including women and minorities, to make it to the polls. Republican voters have displayed a higher sense of commitment to cast their votes in non-presidential election years.
Divided Gender Supporters
Candidate Udall continues to hold a decisive lead among women voters, capturing 52 percent versus the 35 percent favoring Gardner. However, Republican candidate Gardner has reversed this result, leading Udall by 53 percent to 38 percent, among male voters, as reported by US News and World Report.
Primary Election Issues
According to the same source, two issues tend to dominate the Colorado election landscape.
- Correcting the malaise of the economy;
- Improving healthcare reform.
Candidate Gardner leads Udall in both of these areas. For example, Gardner leads 53 percent to 40 percent for gaining voter trust to help fuel an economic rebound.
Gardner’s lead on the healthcare issue is even larger, 57 percent to 36 percent. The healthcare reform provisions of Obamacare continues its unpopularity with Colorado voters, with 59 percent opposed and only 37 percent supporting the President’s “signature” plan.
The Colorado Senate race has become too close to call. Denver Channel ABC 7 reports that Gardner has a slight lead among independent voters, 43 percent to 41 percent for Udall.
Some, including Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, believe Senator Udall would be wise to focus on the economy, at the expense of healthcare reform.
Udall has yet to impress Colorado voters with his job performance. Voters remain evenly split at 42 percent regarding Udall’s effectiveness as a sitting Senator.
However, Republican Gardner still faces recognition challenges as around 50 percent of Colorado voters indicate they do not know enough about him to form an opinion, favorable or not. Gardner must continue his focus to define himself and his positions in the coming months.
The Quinnipiac University poll, conducted between April 15 to April 21, included over 1,200 currently registered Colorado voters. The margin of error is rather small, but, in this election, possibly significant, at plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
There will be more polls in the next six months, which will better clarify the predicted race results. But both candidates need to fine-tune their campaign strategies. Gardner must intensify his name recognition, and further clarify his position on the primary issues. Udall must consider strategies that maintain his lead with female voters, and narrow the gap of Gardner’s lead with male voters. So, stay tuned for further developments.