Udall's Colo. Senate Seat Suddenly in Play

Image: Udall's Colo. Senate Seat Suddenly in Play

Wednesday, 27 Nov 2013 08:39 AM

By John Gizzi

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Considered a sure bet for re-election six months ago, Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall now finds himself locked in a tough battle for re-election.

Republicans in the state point to his record in support of Obamacare and the recent snafus surrounding its website as reasons for the sudden low polling numbers and prospects of a close race.

"Sen. Udall's deciding vote that passed Obamacare has finally caught up with him," former state GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams told Newsmax. "He parroted President Obama in promising Coloradans they could keep their health plans. These actions define his otherwise undistinguished five years in the Senate. Udall rode the Obama wave into the Senate in 2008 and he's riding it right back out in 2014."

According to a just-completed Quinnipiac Poll, the freshman senator leads all six of his potential Republican rivals by single digits.

What makes the prospect of Udall fighting for his political life so newsworthy is that none of the six was considered a particularly well-known or formidable opponent until now.

For example, former Weld County District Attorney and tea party favorite Ken Buck was widely criticized among Centennial State Republicans for fumbling a lead against Democrat Michael Bennet and narrowly losing the 2010 Senate race.

But, according to Quinnipiac, Buck actually is Udall's strongest potential rival and trails the incumbent senator by a slim margin of 45 percent to 42 percent among likely voters.

Another Republican Senate contender is state Sen. Owen Hill, who came within an eyelash of ousting the state Senate Democratic leader in 2010 and then won a state Senate seat two years later. But the U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and stalwart conservative had been widely considered as moving too quickly to be U.S. Senate material.

Nevertheless, the Quinnipiac Poll showed him losing to Udall by a margin of only 45 percent to 39 percent.

Udall also manages unimpressive margins against two other GOP hopefuls, state Sen. Randy Baumgardner (44 percent to 39 percent) and state Rep. Amy Stephens (45 percent to 38 percent).

When pitted by Quinnipiac against two businessmen and first-time candidates, Udall again has less-than-stellar margins, defeating Jaime McMillan by 43 percent to 40 percent, and Mark Aspiri, 45 percent to 36 percent.

Udall's poll numbers are almost the polar opposite of a Public Policy Polling survey of Colorado voters in April, which found him with a 50 percent approval rating and 33 percent disapproval.

These are "the best numbers we've found for him so far since he took office," concluded PPP at the time. "Most importantly for his re-election prospects, he's at a 50/31 spread with independents similar to his overall numbers."

Republicans in Colorado agree that Udall's sudden vulnerability is directly related to the president's recent drop in popularity nationwide and outrage over the failures surrounding implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

According to Quinnipiac, the president's approval rating in the state — 36 percent, compared to 55 percent who disapprove — is the worst Obama has experienced in the poll since he became president.

Among Republicans, Obama's disapproval is at 98 percent and among independents, 65 percent, according to Quinnipiac. By a margin of 78 percent to 15 percent, Democrats still approve of his performance as president.

Related stories:

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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