Quinnipiac has an interesting poll in Colorado, showing Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper less popular than I had assumed. Hickenlooper is a former brewpub owner and mayor of Denver who has a very appealing personality. But his job approval is only 47 percent, with 43 percent disapproving, and he leads former Rep. Tom Tancredo by only 42 percent-41 percent. He gets 42 percent and 43 percent against lesser known Republicans.
Colorado voters are pretty upbeat about the economy, more so than voters nationally. So what’s Hickenlooper’s problem? Capital punishment. Hickenlooper gave an indefinite reprieve to convicted murderer Nathan Dunlop, who killed four people at a Chuck E. Cheese in 1993 and was sentenced to death. Voters disapprove of that by a 67 percent-27 percent margin. By a 69 percent-24 percent margin they reject replacing Colorado’s death penalty with life-without-parole. The only group with a plurality for abolition of the death penalty is Democrats, and they favor that by only a 49 percent-41 percent margin. Interestingly, Hispanics favoring keeping the death penalty by a 75 percent-18 percent margin.
There was speculation that the Aurora movie theater massacre last year would make Colorado voters more supportive of gun control. The Democratic legislature passed and Hickenlooper signed a gun control measure. There’s a recall petition being circulated against the state Senate leader in response. It may turn out that the issue on which the Aurora massacre affected opinion may not be gun control but the death penalty instead.
By the way, though Colorado has a Democratic governor and legislature and two Democratic U.S. senators, it is not heavily Democratic. Barack Obama carried the state 51 percent-46 percent in 2012 and Hickenlooper was elected governor with just 51 percent of the vote in 2010, the same year in which Democrat Michael Bennet was elected to the Senate by just a 48 percent-46 percent margin. Hickenlooper won by a wider margin because most Republican voters abandoned the scandal-plagued Republican nominee and voted for Tancredo, who got 37 percent of the vote. The state’s other Democratic U.S. senator, Mark Udall, is up in 2014. Perhaps these poll numbers will spur a strong Republican candidacy.
UPDATE: Here’s an interesting special election result, from the state that follows Colorado in alphabetical order. The winner in Connecticut’s 53rd state House district was Republican Samuel Belsito, who opposed the gun control measures backed by Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy and the Democratic legislature. The district incudes the towns of Ashford and Willington and most of the town of Tolland in eastern Connecticut–Democratic country: in 2012 Ashford voted 61 percent-37 percent for Barack Obama, Willington voted 55 percent-43 percent for Obama and Tolland voted 51 percent-47 percent (the national average) for Obama. Connecticut state House districts are small (average population: 23,670) and candidates can cover most of a district door-to-door. Belsito