John Hickenlooper is bucking the trends that have Democrats trailing right now in most of the major races across the country, and that makes him the early favorite to be Colorado's next Governor.
Hickenlooper leads Scott McInnis 50-39. He's up 48-34 with independents, making this only the third race we've polled since November where the Democratic candidate had a lead with that group. And he also has Democratic voters more unified around him (85%) than Republican voters are around McInnis (77%). In the vast majority of races we've looked at recently GOP candidates are doing a better job of keeping their party lined up behind them than Democrats are.
There's absolutely no doubt Democrats are better off with Hickenlooper in the race than they would have been if Bill Ritter had tried for reelection. While Hickenlooper's favorability spread is a positive 51/27, Ritter's approval rating continues to be in negative territory as it has been for the last year at 38/50. That's a 36 point net improvement for Democrats by swapping Ritter for Hickenlooper and given that it's no wonder the party's in so much better shape now.
McInnis' favorability spread stands at 28/27, almost identical to his 30/25 standing when PPP last surveyed Colorado in August. McInnis led Ritter by 8 points then but it's clear now that had a whole lot more to do with Ritter than it did with McInnis, given the 19 point shift in the horse race we've seen since Hickenlooper entered.
There are several other good signs for Hickenlooper within the poll. He's up 47-42 with whites and given the strong Democratic lean of Hispanic voters in the state any party nominee who can even split the white vote will win statewide. And even though it won't necessarily transfer into votes he's relatively popular with Republicans, as 30% of them view him favorably. In a highly polarized political climate that's an unusual level of crossover support.
These poll results are based on a sample that reported splitting its votes 49-49 between John McCain and Barack Obama in 2008, even though Obama won the state by 9 points. So if anything these numbers may be a little on the conservative side for Hickenlooper if he's able to minimize the dropoff in Democratic turnout from the Presidential election to the midterm.
A lot could change between now and November but for now Hickenlooper stands out as a Democrat in a strong position during a difficult time for his party.
Full results here