The same Quinnipiac University Polling Institute that delivered good news for Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper yesterday brings a somewhat different message today for the campaign of incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall:
With large gender gaps, Colorado voters approve 45 – 41 percent of the job Sen. Mark Udall is doing, but are divided 42 – 42 percent on whether he deserves reelection this year. Women approve 51 – 32 percent and say 48 – 31 percent he deserves reelection. Men disapprove 49 – 40 percent and say 52 – 36 percent he does not deserve reelection.
Looking at the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Colorado, Sen. Udall gets 45 percent to 42 percent for Republican District Attorney Ken Buck. In other possible matchups:
Udall gets 43 percent to 41 percent for State Sen. Randy Baumgardner;
Udall edges State Sen. Owen Hill 44 – 39 percent;
Udall has 43 percent to State Rep. Amy Stephens with 41 percent;
Udall tops businessman Jaime McMillan 45 – 38 percent.
"Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall may be the front-runner, but he can hear the footsteps of three challengers, all within a few percentage points of him," Malloy said.
On the surface, there's little for Democrats to be happy about in this poll. Hillary Clinton underperforms relative to conventional wisdom (and other recent polls) against every potential 2016 Republican presidential opponent except Chris Christie–enough to make this poll a bit questionable in our minds. President Barack Obama's disapproval is a very high 59%, which Quinnipiac says is "close to his worst approval rating in any Quinnipiac University state or national poll since he was elected." Fully 60% of respondents oppose the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. "Obamacare."
But looking closer, there are notable caveats: although the head-to-head matchups for Sen. Udall have generally tightened, his personal approval numbers have improved over last November: split 44% each way then, now at 45-41% in favor. Also, in November, respondents said 47-41% that Udall didn't deserve re-election, where today that number has drawn even at 42% for and against. With most of Udall's opponents struggling for name recognition, this is a favorable trajectory. As for GOP frontrunner Ken Buck, Udall's three-point edge hasn't changed since last November. Far more interesting to us, or perhaps confusing is the better word, is the apparent recovery in this poll for minor candidate Randy "The Stache" Baumgardner. In November, Baumgardner was down 44-39% to Udall. For a long, long list of reasons, we just can't put much stock in that.
To a certain extent, the divergence between recovery for Gov. Hickenlooper in yesterday's Quinnipiac poll and a close race for Sen. Udall today can be attributed to lingering negatives for the federal government in general, as well as the troubled rollout of the health insurance exchanges. As we've said before, all Democrats holding federal office have a stake in the success of "Obamacare," and their numbers will track up or down with public opinion of President Obama's signature reform law for as long as he holds office (and probably beyond). Working in Democrats' favor is the improving outlook for the exchanges, and growing number of voters seeing the benefits of the new law.
Bottom line: as much as this poll should rightfully put Udall and his campaign on notice that re-election won't be a cakewalk, we need to see a lot more polling before we can draw any conclusions. And try as we might, we just can't suspend disbelief long enough to embrace a poll that shows Randy Baumgardner competitive in a U.S. Senate race.