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From left: Colorado's U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and former Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper has a 13 percentage point lead over U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in a hypothetical 2020 contest for Colorado's U.S. Senate seat, according to a new poll of the state's registered voters.

The poll, released Tuesday by Emerson College, comes as Democrat Hickenlooper is expected to announce within days whether he will run in the Democratic primary for Senate.

Hickenlooper withdrew from the race for president last Thursday after several months of campaigning, saying he was giving "some serious thought" to challenging Republican Gardner.

According to the Emerson poll, Hickenlooper leads Gardner 53% to 40% among registered Colorado voters, with 8% undecided.

The Democrat's strong showing is bolstered by his performance with unaffiliated voters, who give Hickenlooper a 55% to 34% lead over Gardner.

Eleven Democrats are already running in a primary for the chance to take on Gardner, considered one of the most vulnerable senators up for election next year.

Earlier polls showed Hickenlooper the potential frontrunner for the party's nomination for Senate.

The Emerson poll also found a close three-way race in Colorado's Democratic presidential primary, with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders leading former Vice President Joe Biden by a percentage point and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren not far behind.

Sanders takes 26% of the primary vote, followed by Biden at 25% and Warren at 20%, the poll shows. California Sen. Kamala Harris is next with 13%, ahead of Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who has 5% and entrepreneur Andrew Yang with 4%.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet comes in ninth in the presidential poll with 1% support, behind New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's 2% and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who scored slightly above 1%, according to the pollsters.

In a general election matchup, President Donald Trump trails Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg among Colorado voters by 10 percentage points — 55% to 45% in each head-to-head contest — and comes up short by smaller margins but still loses the state to Warren 53%-46% and to Harris 51%-48%.

In the Colorado primary, Sanders — who won Colorado's 2016 caucuses by a 19 percentage point margin over eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — does best with younger voters, prevailing with 42% of the vote among voters age 18-29 and 34% of those age 30-49, while Biden takes 43% of the vote among voters age 65 and up, the pollster said.

Warren's support is more consistent across age groups, according to Emerson.

On the Republican side, Trump leads former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld 86% to 14%.

The poll, conducted Aug. 16-19, has a margin of error of 4.8% for the primary contests and 3% for the general election questions, the pollster said. 

Consistent with other recent polling, Emerson's results indicate Trump's job approval rating is upside down in Colorado, with 54% of Colorado voters disapproving and 39% approving. The president does slightly worse among the unaffiliated voters, who make up 40% of the state's electorate, with only 34% approving of the job he's doing, while 57% disapprove.

For the first time in decades, Colorado will hold a presidential primary in 2020 rather than select presidential nominating delegates at caucuses and conventions. Colorado's primary falls on March 3, joining at least 14 other states on Super Tuesday.

“Colorado will be interesting to watch in 2020 because of the change in their nominating rules, going from a caucus to a primary, should increase turnout from about 13% to perhaps as high as 50% and we will see which candidate is able to attract those new voters," Spencer Kimball, director of Emerson Polling, said in a polling memo. "So far they appear split among the top four candidates.”

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