Former Gov. John Hickenlooper has said repeatedly that he has no intention of abandoning his struggling White House bid to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner — but a new poll shows he would be the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination if he reset his sights on the Colorado race.
The Public Policy Polling survey of Colorado Democrats also found former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts leading the field in the state's presidential primary, with Hickenlooper and the other Coloradan in the race, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, back in the pack.
The poll, first reported Friday by The National Journal, showed Hickenlooper with 44% support in Colorado's Senate primary among likely Democratic primary voters, followed by former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff with 12% support.
None of the six other candidates included in the Senate survey scored above 4%, PPP director Tom Jensen told Colorado Politics.
At last count, 10 Democrats were running for the chance to face Gardner, one of only two Republican senators seeking re-election next year in states won by Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Hickenlooper has rejected calls to switch to the Senate contest even as he languishes with zero or 1% support in most presidential primary polling. Earlier this month, Hickenlooper lost a slew of senior staffers, including some who said they had urged him to drop out and instead run against Gardner.
Hickenlooper learned Thursday that he will be appearing alongside nine other Democrats in on July 30 in Detroit on the first night of the party's second round of presidential debates.
"The governor is running for president and believes there are several very qualified candidates who can beat Cory Gardner," Hickenlooper's communications director, Peter Cunningham, told Colorado Politics Friday in an email.
Last week, a Democratic Senate primary poll commissioned by supporters of undeclared candidate Secretary of State Jena Griswold found Romanoff in the lead with 23% support, followed by Griswold with 15% and former state Sen. Mike Johnston with 12%.
None of the other candidates includes in the survey — Obama-era ambassador Dan Baer, former state House Democratic Leader Alice Madden and former U.S. Attorney for Colorado John Walsh — scored support higher than 2%. (In the wake of that poll's release, Griswold formed an exploratory committee this week to consider a Senate bid.)
As far as Colorado's March 3 presidential primary on Super Tuesday, when 14 other states and territories are set to vote, the same Democrats clustered atop the field nationally also appear to be favorites with likely Colorado voters, National Journal's Alex Clearfield reported.
The PPP poll found Biden leading with 22%, followed by Warren at 19%, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at 15%, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris at 9%, and Hickenlooper tied with Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, at 7% apiece. Bennet was next with 5%, former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke had 1%, and 14% of respondents said they weren't sure.
The results mark a sharp drop in support for Sanders since 2016, when the Vermont senator won Colorado's caucuses with 60% of the vote to Clinton's 40%.
Jensen confirmed Clearfield's reporting on the PPP poll, including that it was conducted July 12-14 and surveyed 561 likely Democratic primary voters. He declined to identify the client who commissioned the poll.