According to Public Policy Polling in a robopoll of 510 voters from August 4-7th:
President Obama’s approval rating in Colorado has plummeted since PPP last surveyed the state in February. 46% of Coloradans approve of the president’s job performance, and 50% disapprove, about where he stands nationally. But that is down from 51-45 in the previous survey, with independents moving from 54-42 to 38-56. Despite this, Obama has maintained his advantage over Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney and the other competitors.
. . .
Since, as almost everywhere, the president is still more popular than any of the Republicans, he leads the rest of the slate by even larger margins than he does Romney. Obama tops Bachmann, 51-39; Perry, 51-38; Cain, 51-35; and Palin, 54-38. Despite falling with independents, the president still leads by two to 19 points with them, because they like all the Republicans even less. All of these candidates except Romney perform worse than John McCain did in a similar turnout environment to 2008. Poll respondents report having voted for Obama by nine points, his actual victory margin.
As Jensen points out, just because Coloradans don’t like you, doesn’t mean they won’t vote for you. Maybe even more than elsewhere in the country, voters here hold their noses and pull the levers.
“Colorado showed last fall it was perfectly willing to elect someone it didn’t like if it liked the alternative even less,” Jensen writes. “Michael Bennet had a 39/47 approval rating on our final poll before the election and still managed to get reelected and Obama’s at least faring better than that. What it appears has happened over the last six months is that voters have soured on Obama but they’ve soured on the Republicans just as much over that period of time and the net impact has been a wash when it comes to the horse race. It’s a reflection of the disgust voters are feeling towards politicians across the spectrum right now.”
Ramesh Ponnuru says that a choice election like the one Bennet won in 2010 by painting Ken Buck as “extreme”–where the incumbent argues that their reelection is a better alternative than the opposition, rather than a strong endorsement of their own record–will likely favor Obama as well:
It followed, though, that a president could win re-election even with approval ratings that would once have spelled doom. In a 50-50 America, every presidential election was a choice between the incumbent and the challenger and not just a referendum on the incumbent. If voters who didn’t approve of the incumbent could be persuaded to prefer him to the challenger, the incumbent would win.
. . .
This time, Republicans are the ones who want a referendum. The message they have in mind is simple, and the question they want voters to consider is the same as in 1980: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is unemployment higher or lower? The national debt? Do you think Obama is up to the job?
Mitt Romney kicked off his campaign by delivering a succinct verdict: “Barack Obama has failed America.” After last weekend, Republicans will also say: Has America’s credit improved or deteriorated?
If the election is fought on those lines, then Obama will almost certainly lose. His strategy will therefore be to make it a choice election. He is going to want the small number of swing voters to think: No, I’m not satisfied with how things are going and I have my doubts about Obama, but I’m more worried about the radicalism of the Republicans on Medicare and their fealty to big business.
. . .
That suggests that the election is going to be a choice — and that merely being an acceptable alternative to a failed incumbent won’t be enough for the Republicans to win the White House.
If the election is close in Colorado, according to public and internal polls in the summer of 2012, and Obama feels confident that he will eke out a victory in the state, then Colorado could be a soft hold. In other words, while still a battleground state, Obama’s campaign efforts and resources will focus elsewhere on tougher holds where possibly more electoral votes are at stake.
If Colorado becomes a dead heat, then Obama will likely view the state’s 9 electoral votes as a hard hold, a symbolic state (where he was nominated and where Democrats have enjoyed successes even while losing elsewhere) that will see a return of the Obama campaign full-press seen in 2008.
It is clear that Obama would like to solidify his position in battleground states he took from Republicans in 2008, shoring up his position by ensuring his opponent, Romney or any other candidate, is “destroyed.”
Democrats know that in a state like Colorado with weakening party affiliation vis-a-vis increasing numbers of “independent” voters that a choice election like the Bennet/Buck 2010 battle may be their only hope for recapturing certain voter blocs, such as urban single women, that they appealed to in last year’s U.S. Senate race. They rode the “extremist” label they gave Buck to a small victory after the GOP candidate lead for weeks heading up to the election. Those following the crosstabs in the polls noted that Buck faltered over the month of October, losing support quickly among independents and women.
Women voters outnumber men in the vast majority of Colorado counties and in every single one of the 11 most populous up and down the Front Range.
This type of choice election–”I’m bad but the other candidate is worse”–will likely cause Colorado voters to feel deja vu all over again once the Obama campaign hits the airwaves. The question is, can the GOP candidate force the referendum onto the incumbent, maintain message discipline, and avoid fatal, self-inflicted gaffes? Will Colorado voters buy the Democrats’ argument again in 2012?
It’s hard to tell from one flawed poll. Expect there to be an expensive effort to find out.
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