Democrat John Hickenlooper leads Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner by 9 percentage points as Colorado voters get ready to receive their ballots in the mail, according to a new poll released Thursday by Colorado Politics and 9News.
The survey, conducted online Oct. 1-6 by national polling firm Survey USA, found Hickenlooper leading Gardner 48% to 39% among likely Colorado voters, with 6% saying they'll vote for another candidate and 8% undecided.
The results, which carry a credibility level of plus-or-minus 3.9 percentage points, suggest the former two-term governor has withstood months of attacks over violations of a state gift ban with a state electorate poised to reject President Donald Trump and his close ally Gardner.
The same poll shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading Trump by 10 percentage points among likely state voters, 50% to 40%, backing up assessments by election forecasters that Colorado's nine electoral votes aren't up for grabs this year.
"Mitch McConnell is in trouble if he is counting on Republican Cory Gardner's re-election to the U.S. Senate to help cement McConnell's GOP Senate Majority," the pollsters said in a memo describing the survey's results.
The Colorado race has been pegged as key by both parties to winning the majority in the GOP-controlled Senate after the November election. Democrats need to net four seats to take the gavel, or three seats if the party wins the White House.
Gardner is considered the most vulnerable Republican senators on the ballot this year, as Colorado's electorate has shifted leftward in the six years since he won the seat and the state has voted for the Democrat in the last three presidential elections.
Mail ballots start going out to voters Friday and are due back to county clerks by 7 p.m. Nov. 3.
Gardner and Hickenlooper have met twice in the last week for debates and are scheduled to face off again Friday in Denver and Oct. 13 in Fort Collins. Their final debate is sponsored by 9News, Colorado Politics, The Coloradoan newspaper and a group of local TV stations from around the state.
Hickenlooper's favorability among all voters outpaces Gardner's by 10 percentage points, with 48% viewing the former brewpub owner-turned-politician favorably and 38% saying the same about Gardner. (The question, which includes responses from registered voters who don't plan on voting this year, has a credibility interval of plus-or-minus 3.7%.)
By an 8-percentage-point margin, Colorado's likely voters say that a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shouldn't be considered until after the president elected in November is inaugurated, with 50% taking that position and 42% favoring a faster track. Gardner sides with the minority on that question, supporting Senate Republicans' plans to seat President Donald Trump's nominee Amy Coney Barrett in the weeks before the election.
Hickenlooper holds a 19-percentage-point lead among women, 52% to 33%, while the two candidates are running virtually even among men, with Gardner leading 45% to 43%. The candidates are close with white voters, where Hickenlooper is ahead 45% to 43%, but Hickenlooper is running away with it among Colorado's Hispanic voters, 57% to 30%.
State voters who describe themselves as independent tilt toward Hickenlooper by a 15-percentage-point margin, 46% to 31%, though that group also reports the highest share of undecided voters, at 14%, compared with just 4% of Democrats and 3% of Republicans who say they haven't yet made up their minds. While the numbers are small, Hickenlooper pulls twice as much support from Republicans as Gardner does from Democrats, with 8% saying they'll cross party lines to vote for the Democrat and just 4% saying they'll do the same for Gardner.
Of those Coloradans voting for Trump at the top of the ticket, 83% are sticking with Gardner down the ballot, while 88% of the Biden voters say they're opting for Hickenlooper.
Gardner scores best among likely voters who describe themselves as conservative, with 81% saying they plan to vote for the Republican, compared to 88% of liberals who are siding with Hickenlooper. But Gardner trails Hickenlooper by 19 percentage points among self-described moderates, the largest share of the state's electorate, with 49% picking Hickenlooper and just 30% going for Gardner.
Geographically, Hickenlooper holds a slight edge over Gardner in Western Colorado, 48% to 45%, and trails the Republican in the Colorado Springs region, 41% to 34%. The former two-term mayor Denver, however, has a wide lead in the Denver metro area, 53% to 36%.
The pollsters interviewed 1,300 adults in Colorado during the six-day period that spanned Trump's announcement that he had COVID-19, making for what Survey USA described as a "time of extraordinary volatility," leaving the races "fluid" and "combustible."
Of those interviewed, 1,109 are registered to vote in Colorado, and of those 1,021 were identified as likely to return a ballot by Election Day. Respondents were weighted to U.S. Census targets for gender, age, race, education, and home-ownership, the pollsters said.