At this point two years ago, it was becoming clear that the 2018 election in Colorado was going to be very good for Democrats. We wouldn’t find out until much later that the 2018 cycle would be historically good for Democrats, but the signs were there by late September: Democrat Jared Polis was running away with the governor’s race, for example, and there was unmistakable “Crowmentum” in CO-6.
This year, the June Primary gave us an early glimpse that 2020 could be another strong year for Democrats in Colorado. Polling has consistently shown the top of the ticket with unmistakable blue undertones — both Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden and Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper have enjoyed a solid advantage for months now. President Trump’s re-election campaign is virtually non-existent in Colorado, with no indication that the Big Orange Guy will eventually turn his focus back to a state that he lost comfortably in 2016. And Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has turned his own re-election campaign into a vessel focused on making weird imitations of Hickenlooper.
Today we saw three more indications that 2020 is shaping up to be another banner year for the Blue Team: 1) A national prognosticator moved Colorado’s Senate race from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democrat”; 2) The DCCC is spending money on television in order to boost Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in Colorado’s most competitive Congressional race; and 3) Polling results from Douglas County suggests that a once solid-red county is now very much in play. Let’s break down each of these points individually, saving the biggest news for last…
Cook Political Report Projects Hickenlooper Victory
Rating change: #COSEN moves from Toss Up to Lean D
— CookPoliticalReport (@CookPolitical) September 23, 2020
As Jessica Taylor writes for Cook Political Report, Gardner’s decision to support a confirmation process for a new SCOTUS nominee has probably doomed him to a November loss:
In the past we have been hesitant to move incumbents out of Toss Up unless there are extenuating circumstances. We have for two incumbents so far this cycle. First, Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama remains the heavy underdog in a state that Trump won in 2016 by 28 points. We now rate that contest as Lean Republican, with former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville favored to win. Then, in July, we moved Arizona GOP Sen. Martha McSally to the Lean Democrat column — who was appointed to this seat after losing a race for the same position just two years ago — after consistently trailing Democrat Mark Kelly.
There has been a dearth of quality public polling in Colorado too. But in talking with sources privately, Democrats have never had this race very close, often showing a low double-digit gap that has since closed to high single digits. Still, Hickenlooper has retained the edge. And several Republicans who are monitoring the race closely who may have initially hoped that Gardner could outperform the president enough to win now seriously doubt that is the case…
…Gardner’s vote, though, may well seal his fate, even if it was probably heading toward a loss anyway. [Pols emphasis]
The writing has indeed been on the wall for Gardner for some time, as evidenced by the regular reluctance of Republican Super PACs to spend big money in Colorado. The status change by Cook Political Report just says out loud what many political observers in Colorado have been saying for months: There’s no good path to victory for Gardner in 2020.
Democrats Start Spending in CO-3
#CO03: DCCC IE is placing its first TV ad spending here. Start date is 9/29
— Medium Buying (@MediumBuying) September 22, 2020
Diane Mitsch Bush was also the Democratic candidate for Congress in CO-3 in 2018, but she was running against an entrenched incumbent in Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez). Tipton’s loss to the comically-unqualified Lauren “Q*Bert” Boebert in the June Primary opened up a new lane for Mitsch Bush that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is eager to exploit. Remember: The DCCC did not invest significant resources in CO-3 in 2018, and that bet proved correct when Mitsch Bush lost to Tipton by nearly 8 points.
In 2020, things are noticeably different for Mitsch Bush. She earned “Red to Blue” status from the DCCC in August — a marker that she wasn’t able to reach two years ago — and two consecutive polls have shown that CO-3 is essentially a toss-up. Polling shows that Biden and Trump are running neck-and-neck in this district, which is a YUGE difference from 2016, when Trump carried CO-3 by 12 points.
Voters in CO-3 are opening the door for Democrats, who are plenty happy to stroll inside and take a seat on the couch.
Douglas Freakin’ County is a Toss Up
Colorado Republicans are having trouble focusing in 2020; many of their activists are out chasing their tails instead of campaigning for candidates. Whether it is the result of apathy or ignorance (probably a little of both), this sort of behavior is a dangerous combination when you add in a tough national environment for Republican candidates. Sprinkle in a bit of COVID and BLM truther idiocy, and you have a full-fledged recipe for disaster on your hands.
According to the campaign of Darien Wilson, a Democratic candidate for Douglas County Commissioner, polling data shows that this once hopelessly-red county is up for grabs in 2020. Via press release from Meyers Research:
According to the results of our recent survey, Democrat Darien Wilson has a clear path to defeating Republican incumbent Lora Thomas in the contest for Douglas County Commission. The combination of Trump’s collapse of popularity in this county and the Mountain West generally, combined with Thomas’ political attacks on the public health system during a global pandemic, create a dead heat race once contrast messages are introduced.
Wilson has the real opportunity to grow her support thanks to Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. Trump and Joe Biden are locked in a tight race, with neither candidate reaching majority at the outset: 48 percent of Douglas County voters support Biden today while 49 percent support Trump.
Initially, Thomas sits just above the majority threshold, capturing 52 percent to Wilson’s 42 percent. Once voters are introduced to contrast messages on both candidates, the race moves to a dead heat, with 48 percent of voters backing Democrat Darien Wilson and an equal 48 percent supporting Republican Lora Thomas. This race has the potential to go down to the wire come Election Day.
These are what we would call “Holy Shit Numbers.” Donald Trump carried Douglas County by better than 18 points in 2016, and Republican Walker Stapleton’s no-hope gubernatorial bid in 2018 still garnered him 55% of the vote in the southern Denver suburbs.
If Douglas County is this close in 2020, then suburban Republicans should start boarding up the windows.
There is still plenty of work to be done before (and after) ballots start arriving in mailboxes in three weeks, but it is definitely “freak out time” for the Colorado GOP.