Public Policy Polling wasted no time before conducting its first poll of Colorado’s Senate race, testing two of the best known Democratic contenders against high-profile potential Republican challengers:
- Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper beats former Governor Bill Owens 54% to 42%; he crushes Rep. Tom Tancredo 54% to 37%.
- Rep. Joe Salazar beats Owens 52% to 43% and Tancredo 53% to 40%.
All four of these candidates have enough of a statewide profile to make the poll worthwhile; and the results are very encouraging for Democrats. Owens, who was Governor until 2006, is generally considered to be the strongest Republican candidate - and he isn’t even a sure candidate since he passed on an open seat race in 2008. Tancredo, on the hand, faces clear electability issues; he is a controversial figure with a very conservative profile. That Owen is only minimally outperforming Tancredo is a troubling sign for the GOP.
Has Colorado swung so blue that any Republican would start the race with a double-digit deficit? And don’t forget that whichever Democrat is nominated will have been a two-year incumbent by the time he faces voters in 2010, making the Republicans’ task even more daunting.
In Hawaii, meanwhile, a Research 2000 poll tested a match-up between longtime incumbent Daniel Inouye and the only Republican who could make the race competitive, Governor Linda Lingle. Lingle is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in 2010; in other words, she has nothing to lose in a senatorial run.
Inouye leads 53% to 42%, a significant though not overwhelming advantage that could reassure both parties. On the one hand, Lingle’s 2002 election might have been a major breakthrough for Hawaii Republicans - but she is not popular enough to endanger the Democrats’ control on the Senate seat (for now). And despite his old age (he is 84), Inouye retains a good approval rating (58% to 37%).
On the other hand, these numbers suggest that Lingle would have a shot at an upset, especially if Inouye has a few senior moments. Furthermore, Lingle could be a formidable candidate if Inouye were to retire. She also has a solid approval rating (53% to 41%); if she remains within 11% of Inouye - who has represented Hawaii in Congress since it achieves statewood - she could certainly be competitive against other Democrats.