Thursday, June 13, 2013

Say WHAT? Anti-Immigration Firebrand Tom Tancredo TIED w/ once popular Gov in purple Colorado

Gubernatorial candidates John Hickenlooper (left) and Tom Tancredo (right) debate in 2010. Photos courtesy of Floyd Brandt.

Quinnipiac University lit up the twitter-sphere this morning after releasing their first survey of the 2014 Colorado Governor's race showing anti-immigration firebrand and 2010 loser Tom Tancredo (R) trailing the once popular Gov. John Hickenlooper by ONE point, 42-41%.

Hickenlooper burst onto the scene in 2010, a year not remembered for impressive Democratic landslides by any stretch. Yet that was what the 1-term Colorado Governor accomplished when he defeated Tom Tancredo (Constitution Party) and Dan Maes (R) in a 3 way race, 51-36-11%.

In his first two years in office, Hickenlooper enjoyed widespread and bipartisan support from Colorado residents, averaging a rare 59/25% job approval/disapproval rating. In fact, during the presidential year alone, where partisan loyalties typically result in increased polarization, and thus, lower ratings for elected partisan officials, Hickenlooper managed to never dip below 54% job approval in a single poll, while never rising above 36% job disapproval. He actually averaged 60/26% for all of 2012:

Compiled from TPM Poll Tracker and various internet searches.

But a series of deeply unpopular legislative moves have eroded the good will and bipartisan support he enjoyed his first two years (such as granting a temporary death penalty reprieve for a convicted murderer, a move opposed by 67% of Colorado voters, according to Quinnipiac). 

And though polling data has been limited so far this year with regards to Gov. Hickenlooper's job approval, the two pollsters to survey this question have shown serious deterioration in his numbers.

Public Policy Polling had previously measured Hickenlooper's job approval just before the presidential election, when he clocked in with an impressive 55/26%, or +29. But just 6 months later, their April survey found him at 53/44%, a net 20 point drop.

Quinnipiac's shift was even more drastic, if you can believe it. They too found Hickenlooper's job performance widely admired in their last survey taken pre-election (59/21%, +38). Yet 9 months later, in the survey released today, they find Hickenlooper's ratings have collapsed by a net 34 points!

Movements in public perception of this size in such a short span are pretty rare. But nothing drives home the reality of Hickenlooper's decline more than the fact that Tom Tancredo is nipping at his heels for the 2014 Governor's race, if Quinnipiac is to be believed:

Why is this fact so indicative of a besieged incumbent? Because Tom Tancredo doesn't exactly fit the profile of someone who should be competitive in modern-day Colorado on a statewide level. His stances on immigration are considered outside the mainstream by even some Republicans. He introduced the anti-immigration Mass Immigration Reduction Act of 1999 that proposed a moratorium on immigration, and proposed an Amendment to the Constitution establishing English as the official language of the United States.

Not only are Tancredo's politics a bit right of Colorado's political center, he was unable to pull off a victory in a wave GOP year that in some ways exceeded the 1994 Republican takeover. Sure, the conservative vote was split between Tancredo and Maes, but even if you gave Tancredo every single Maes vote (which is not a given by any stretch), Hickenlooper would have won with a 51% majority. Besides, exit poll respondents told survey takers they would have voted for Hickenlooper 49-45% over Tancredo had Maes not been in the race. 

And if poll watchers are thinking the Hickenlooper vs. Tancredo Quinnipiac topline must be the result of some quirky demographic crosstabs, they'd be largely incorrect, at least with respect to past Colorado exit polling.

Quinnipiac found an electorate only slightly less white than 2008, and with slightly less Hispanics than 2012. And while they found a bit more young voters and less old voters than 2010 exit pollsters, the small margins in the candidates performance among these groups meant the finding made little differenc:

Exit poll information provided by CNN. For a look at the math behind the reweighting, see here.

As the chart above would indicate, the only Quinnipiac finding that differed substantially from both 2012 and 2010 Colorado exit polling was partisan identification.

In the 2010 midterm election, exit pollsters found Colorado voters identified as 33% Democrat, 27% Republican, and 40% Independent. The breakdown was similar in the 2012 Presidential election. Yet Quinnipiac finds Republicans with the partisan identification advantage in their new survey (24% Democrat, 27% Republican, and 42% Independent). Had they found party I.D. the same as the last two Colorado elections, Hickenlooper would be much better positioned for reelection

But before the DC press' head explodes from the notion of a Governor Tancredo, it's obviously unwise to read too much from a single poll. And lets not forget that PPP found Tancredo trailing Hickenlooper by a more substantial margin than Quinnipiac. But Colorado Republicans should definitely take notice: if Tancredo is even within spitting distance, much less tied with Hickenlooper...imagine what a non-Akin/Mourdock-like GOPer could do.

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