Since Colorado doesn't have a 2012 Senate or Gubernatorial race we asked some bigger picture questions there than we have been in most of our swing state polling. Here's what we found:
-There's a six point difference between how a generic Republican who's a 'conservative endorsed by the Tea Party' and how a generic 'moderate Republican' do when pitted against Barack Obama. Obama leads the moderate by six points but against the conservative Tea Partier he has a 12 point advantage. The difference is particularly dramatic with independents- a 10 point lead for Obama against the moderate but a 24 point advantage against the conservative. What those numbers show is that a lot of independents in the state are open to voting Republican next year. But they're not going to if there's an ultra conservative nominee.
These results shouldn't be any great surprise, particularly in Colorado. Michael Bennet had paltry approval numbers throughout 2010 but got narrowly reelected anyway because the Republicans went too far right. If the GOP wants to win in a centrist state like this its prospects are going to be a lot better if it stays in the center.
-But...unsurprisingly Republican voters don't want a moderate- 66% say they'd like the party to nominate a conservative candidate next year while only 25% express a preference for a moderate. That is quite at odds with what independent voters in the state say they'd find more appealing- 48% of them think the GOP should go the moderate route to 33% for a conservative.
A CNN poll out yesterday found Republicans say they care more about having a candidate who can beat Obama than they do about ideological purity- but do they really? Republicans in Colorado, Delaware, Nevada, and Alaska certainly didn't demonstrate that by their actions last year and even after losing the state's marquee races last year GOP voters in Colorado don't appear to be interested in going toward the middle.
-Voters there see Barack Obama as being more within the ideological mainstream than the Republican Party. 44% think that Obama's 'about right' on that front while just 27% say the same for Republicans. The percentage of voters who think the GOP is too conservative is higher at 47% than those who think Obama's too liberal, which is 43%. Another 18% of voters think that the Republican Party is too liberal while only 9% think Obama's too conservative, so that shows a considerably greater amount of ideological division within the GOP ranks than Democrats are having to deal with as well.
-Voters don't like the new Republican majority in the US House, saying by a 44/41 margin that they have an unfavorable opinion of it. And by a 51/43 spread they have more faith in Obama than those Congressional Republicans to run the country. Colorado was very much a part of the new GOP majority last fall, flipping 2 previously Democratic held House seats. But in the bigger picture Obama still has more credibility with them than the Republicans in Washington.
Certainly all of these things can change over the next 20 months. But for now the GOP has a serious identity problem at least in this swing state that could make it very hard to take back the White House next year.
Full results here