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Rockier Road for Democrats

US President Barack Obama speaks alongside Colorado Senator Mark Udall and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (R) at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, July 22, 2012, following a visit with victims and family members of last week's shootings during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, 'The Dark Knight Rises,' at a nearby movie theater that left 12 killed and 58 injured.
National Journal
Steven Shepard
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Steven Shepard
Nov. 20, 2013, 6:45 a.m.

Col­or­ado Gov. John Hick­en­loop­er (D) re­mains vul­ner­able, with Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity polls for the past six months show­ing voters di­vided on his job per­form­ance. But an­oth­er statewide race is emer­ging as con­gres­sion­al Demo­crats suf­fer fol­low­ing the rocky rol­lout of the health care law, ac­cord­ing to the new Q poll: The per­cent­age of voters who dis­ap­prove of Demo­crat­ic Sen. Mark Ud­all‘s job per­form­ance has been climb­ing since the spring, and he now ap­pears to face a tough­er reelec­tion battle than pre­vi­ously thought. Once again, Col­or­ado looks like a battle­ground state, as it was in the pres­id­en­tial race in 2012 and 2008, and in the 2010 Sen­ate race.

— Ud­all’s ap­prov­al rat­ing now stands at 44% ap­prove/44% dis­ap­prove. While the per­cent­age of voters who ap­prove of Ud­all’s per­form­ance is steady from early June, the per­cent­age who dis­ap­prove rose from 31% in the late spring. As a res­ult, his reelect is up­side down, and he holds only a 3-point lead over 2010 nom­in­ee Ken Buck (R). Hick­en­loop­er, mean­while, is in sim­il­ar shape. He holds mid-single-di­git leads over the GOP crop of can­did­ates, but more voters say he doesn’t de­serve reelec­tion.

— Col­or­ado Re­pub­lic­ans have two big op­por­tun­it­ies, but it’s less clear that they have the can­did­ates to cap­it­al­ize on them. Buck and former Rep. Tom Tan­credo (R) re­main pop­u­lar among the GOP base, the Q poll shows. But roughly 2-in-5 voters say they haven’t heard enough about the two to form an opin­ion, and Demo­crats won’t lack for TV-ad fod­der if one or both is on the statewide tick­et.

— Ud­all is the more in­ter­est­ing case. He has gone to great lengths to dis­tin­guish him­self from Pres­id­ent Obama on two is­sues: health care and gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance. Still, it’s clear that Obama’s abysmal ap­prov­al rat­ing — 36%, down 7 points from June — is weigh­ing on Ud­all’s reelec­tion pro­spects.

Demo­crats — even in­clud­ing those in second-tier seats without im­press­ive Re­pub­lic­an op­pos­i­tion, like Ud­all — are hop­ing that Obama’s sink­ing ap­prov­al rat­ings rep­res­ent the nadir for their party, and not the first signs of a rising wave against them. They have a lot rid­ing on the con­tinu­ing im­ple­ment­a­tion of the health care law, and, if things don’t turn around soon, flawed GOP op­pos­i­tion might not be enough to save them.

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