Last week, the Cook Political Report changed its ratings for Colorado’s U.S. Senate race, moving their prediction to the left from “Toss Up” to “Lean Democratic.”
Today, another national handicapper made an even bigger change: Sabato’s Crystal Ball has adjusted its ratings for Colorado from “Leans Democratic” to “Likely Democratic.”
As Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman write for Sabato’s Crystal Ball:
Last week, the Crystal Ball downgraded the prospects of Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) — we now rate the four-term Maine senator as an underdog against her Democratic challenger, state House Speaker Sara Gideon. Aside from Collins, the only Republican senator running in a Clinton state this year is Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Colorado, at least in 2016, voted a couple of points more Democratic than Maine, and Gardner hasn’t had decades to cultivate a personal brand — as Collins has — so we’ve had his race at Leans Democratic since February.
The picture for Trump is not good in the Centennial State: as of Wednesday, polling aggregates from FiveThirtyEight give Biden a clean 51%-41% advantage. As one Republican operative summed up in July, “Jesus Christ himself couldn’t overperform Trump by double digits.” Senate polling since then has born this out: while Gardner generally performs better than Trump, he often lags his Democratic challenger, former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), by high single-digits…
…Even before the court vacancy, Gardner’s opposition to the ACA seemed to be hurting his electoral standing. So the coverage of the court hearings may emphasize two issues where Republicans are out of step with the Colorado electorate. This pushes our rating to Likely Democratic and emphasizes, in our ratings, that Gardner is clearly the most vulnerable Republican senator.
Of course, this does not mean that Colorado’s Senate race is over — but it’s moving quickly in that direction. Organizations like Cook Political Report and Center for Politics are usually pretty conservative in adjusting their probabilities for individual races; they want to be able to boast in December that their predictions were largely accurate. With a low number of undecided voters in Colorado, Gardner himself seems to be acknowledging this reality.