Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Cochran’s Decision in Mississippi; New Colorado Poll

In Governor, Polling, Senate on December 9, 2013 at 11:35 am

Six years ago, quiet veteran Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran (R) didn’t commit to running for re-election until soon before the candidate filing deadline, thus leading to false speculation that he would retire. Cochran followed a similar silent pattern in this election cycle until announcing on Friday that he will run for a seventh term.

Conjecture was becoming brisk that the 76-year-old senator would end his long political career because he is already facing a Republican primary challenge from a Tea Party-backed state senator, and his fundraising has been almost non-existent among individuals. Cochran’s total receipts in 2013 are $402,284 (through Sept. 30), but his contributions from individuals totaled only $31,500, just eight percent of the amount raised. He officially begins this race with more than $800,000 cash-on-hand, however.

In the June 3 primary, Sen. Cochran faces state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville/Laurel). As mentioned, the McDaniel challenge has Tea Party support and will likely enjoy financial backing from the Club for Growth, at a minimum. McDaniel will run as a minimal government candidate and deficit hawk. He will attempt to paint Sen. Cochran with the Washington pork-barrel brush and use the senator’s record of successfully obtaining federal monies for Mississippi through his senior Appropriations Committee position against him.

The Democrats have been paying keen attention to this situation, and action is beginning to transpire on their side. Hoping for a McDaniel upset, defeated former Rep. Travis Childers (D-MS-1) has been openly assessing his general election senatorial prospects. Now that the senator has made his decision public and the political playing field defined, Childers will likely soon make a move.

Colorado

A new Public Policy Polling survey (Dec. 3-4; 928 registered Colorado voters; 355 “usual” Colorado Republican primary voters) again sounds warning signals for the Centennial State’s Democratic incumbents. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has actually gained some strength when compared with previous polls, but still finds himself in precarious political territory.

According to the PPP data, Hickenlooper leads former US representative and presidential candidate Tom Tancredo (R) 48-40 percent. A month ago, Quinnipiac University detected a bit closer 46-41 percent spread between the two candidates. In August, the Q-Poll only forecast the governor’s edge to be 46-45 percent.

When Republicans other than Tancredo are tested a bit of a different picture is painted. Against Secretary of State Scott Gessler, Hickenlooper’s margin is a similar 47-40 percent.

But, that’s not the case if northeastern state Sen. Greg Brophy were the GOP nominee. When he and the governor are paired, Hickenlooper’s margin drops to a scant one percentage point, 44-43 percent. Sen. Brophy represents the counties that held referendums in November to decide whether to split from Colorado and begin the process of forming their own state. Though an opponent of the new state movement, Brophy is apparently gaining residual strength from Colorado’s rural regions.

Turning to the Senate race, first-term incumbent Mark Udall (D) continues to perform poorly against candidates who are considered weak. Opposing 2010 Republican nominee Ken Buck, who lost to then-appointed incumbent Michael Bennet (D) despite a Republican wave occurring around him, Sen. Udall leads only 46-42 percent. If virtually unknown state Sen. Randy Baumgardner were the party nominee, the senator’s advantage is just 47-40 percent. Sen. Owen Hill, having the same name ID status as Baumgardner, trails Udall 37-44%. Finally, state Rep. Amy Stephens fares exactly the same against Sen. Udall as does Mr. Hill.

In the respective Republican primaries, it is ex-Rep. Tancredo with the advantage in the gubernatorial field, culling 34 percent of the respondents’ support. Secretary of State Gessler trails with 15 percent, and Sen. Brophy posts only nine percent. In the Senate race it is Buck, the Weld County District Attorney, with a huge lead. He registers 45 percent of the pre-primary vote. His closest intra-party opponent is Sen. Baumgardner, but he only captures eight percent of those forming the pre-primary sampling universe.

The early polling, and the Colorado political happenings that featured recalling two liberal state senators relating to gun control and several counties voting to form their own state, continue to show that Coloradans will witness a highly competitive 2014 gubernatorial and Senatorial election. Though the state has been trending Democratic, the electorate appears poised to return to the center at least in campaign’s early sector.

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