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Littwin: Poll showing Hick beating Romanoff is not the one Gardner should be worried about

Here’s the scary news for Gardner: In a new poll of swing-state Senate races, Democrats are leading in each one.

For us political junkies, there are few things worse than a home-stretch poll showing one of the candidates leading by 30 points.

Where is the fun in that?

While I’m playing agnostic in the Senate primary race between John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff, I’m rooting against the poll, because if a respected pollster like SurveyUSA is that wrong, we have a huge angle to the story beyond, well, the huge story of who wins.

You can get a breakdown from the Colorado Sun’s Unaffiliated newsletter, explaining why an online poll with a 6-percentage-point credibility interval is not exactly gold standard, even from a reputable pollster. On the other hand, it’s 30 points, and if the poll, taken for Colorado Politics and 9News, is that wrong, it would be a scandal in the polling industry. I guarantee no pollster would wish to be quite so far out on a limb. 

Mike Littwin

As you may recall, a recent internal poll released by Romanoff had him down 12 points, which seemed more reasonable than 30 points. And yet, at a time when progressives are showing strength in Democratic primaries, Romanoff has had to watch as Elizabeth Warren endorsed the moderate Hickenlooper while Bernie Sanders hasn’t endorsed anyone.

That said, if I’m Cory Gardner — and, as far as I can tell, I’m not — this is not the poll that would worry me, even though it says only 9% of those voting in the Dem primary see Hick as unethical. That’s despite the two ethics committee violations, despite the contempt citing, despite Romanoff, Gardner and GOP dark money all running ads reminding voters of these facts.

Of course, Hickenlooper has far more money, is running far more ads, and there is a dark-money group that has been attacking Romanoff with ads on the anti-immigrant law passed in a 2006 special session when Romanoff was speaker. But interestingly, the Romanoff-supported Green New Deal and Medicare for All were both winners with those polled, even as Romanoff was not. Hickenlooper is obviously counting on the Biden-like electability route to put him over the top.

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But there’s other polling, mostly concerning Donald Trump — by which I mean polling that is very concerning for Trump, and, by virtue of the fact that Cory Gardner has given Trump his full embrace, very concerning for him, too.

In three top-rated recent national polls, Joe Biden leads Trump by 14 (CNN), by 12 (Fox News) and by 14 (New York Times/Siena College). The Times also conducted six battleground state polls, all showing Biden leading. And in smile-busting news for Gardner, three of the six states — Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina — have Senate races this November, and the polling shows the Democrat  leading in all three. Colorado isn’t even considered among the key swing states anymore.

The Times headline says something like Trump is dragging down Republicans in Senate races. And if Gardner is similarly dragged down in November — and remember, it’s a long way from now to then — he can’t possibly beat whoever wins the Democratic primary. (Note to readers everywhere: The importance of voting trumps any poll.)

Meanwhile, as Trump goes mask free and asks for testing to be slowed down, he holds tone-deaf rallies in states in crisis while Mike Pence and Larry Kudlow are telling everyone who will listen that “All is well.” But the fact is that the coronavirus pandemic is raging anew and hitting red states like Texas, Arizona and Florida particularly hard. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered new restrictions on restaurants and bars even as ICU beds in Houston — one of the country’s leading hospital centers — are heading toward a crisis point. All along the sunbelt, from South Carolina to California, cases are suddenly rising. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

On Thursday, there were more than 41,000 new cases of coronavirus reported — a record — and Dr. Tony Fauci has announced a new federal testing strategy, something called “pool testing.” At the risk of understating the situation, Fauci says what we’re doing now is not working. To this point, Colorado is happily an exception.

But for Gardner, and for the more than 20 million people who would lose their health care, the worst news came late Thursday night when the Trump administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court, reaffirming its position that the Affordable Care Act must be taken down in its entirety and that all provisions “must also fail.”

So, the Trump administration proposes during a pandemic in which tens of millions have lost their jobs — and their health insurance — that they should also lose their Obamacare lifeline. Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden both called the concept cruel, which seems like an understatement. And it’s also, it seems to me, a huge political mistake — a ready-made ad for Biden and other Democrats. Not only has Trump mishandled the coronavirus — at the cost, some experts say, of many thousands of lives — he is now doubling, tripling, quadrupling, quintupling down. And Hickenlooper, in a statement, says as many as 500,000 Coloradans would lose their health insurance.

Republicans are, of course, promising to save that part of Obamacare that guarantees those with pre-existing conditions can be covered. But the GOP has no alternative plan to date, has never had an alternative plan that had any chance of passing Congress, and is asking Americans, who finally support Obamacare, to believe they’ll do better.

And where does Gardner stand? As I write this on Friday, the answer is that no one is quite sure. This will not surprise you. He has voted many times, of course, to end Obamacare, but he has, in true Gardner form, repeatedly dodged the question of his position on the Supreme Court lawsuit. 

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State Democrats say Gardner supports the case, and Gardner doesn’t deny it because, well, he doesn’t say anything. In March, The Hill posed the question to as many possibly vulnerable GOP senators as it could find, and Gardner’s office, naturally, did not respond. But Gardner did tell the Hill last August that it’s “the court’s decision,” but also said, “If the Democrats want to stand for an unconstitutional law, I guess that’s their choice.”

It’s an easy call to say that trying to upend Obamacare during a pandemic and unemployment crisis is a stone, cold loser in Colorado. Arguments before the court could come as soon as October. And you don’t need any polling — online, cell phone, whatever — to know that that would be a gift to whichever Democrat Gardner ends up facing.


Mike Littwin has been a columnist for too many years to count. He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.


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