Barack Obama isn't terribly popular in Colorado. But he has healthy leads over all of his potential Republican opponents there anyway and this is looking like one of the states he flipped in 2008 that's most likely to remain in his column for 2012.
Obama's Colorado approval rating is 46% with 50% of voters disapproving of him. That represents a 10 point decline on the margin from when we last polled Colorado in February, when he was at 51/45. Obama's numbers with Republicans (8/89) are identical to what they were then and he's seen only a slight down tick with Democrats (from 84/13 to 82/15). The reason his numbers have slid is a significant drop with independents. Six months ago they approved of him by a 54/42 margin. Now those numbers are reversed and then some with only 38% approving of him to 56% who disapprove.
In spite of that Obama still has solid leads over all of his potential Republican opponents. Only Mitt Romney improves on John McCain's 9 point margin of defeat in the state, trailing Obama by 7 points at 48-41. That's almost identical to the 47-41 lead we found for Obama in February, interesting considering the drop in his approval numbers since that time. Against the rest of the GOP field Obama holds a double digit advantage: he's up 12 on Michele Bachmann at 51-39, 13 on Rick Perry at 51-38, and 16 on both Herman Cain and Sarah Palin at 51-35 and 54-38 respectively.
How can Obama be doing so well despite his own lack of popularity in Colorado? Voters may not like him but they like him a heck of a lot more than any of the Republican candidates. Cain's net favorability is -10 at 20/30, Perry's is -14 at 24/38, Romney's is -21 at 30/51, Bachmann's is -22 at 28/50, and Palin's is -27 at 33/60. Obama's definitely benefiting from a 'lesser of two evils' mindset.
Colorado showed last fall it was perfectly willing to elect someone it didn't like if it liked the alternative even less. Michael Bennet had a 39/47 approval rating on our final poll before the election and still managed to get reelected and Obama's at least faring better than that. What it appears has happened over the last six months is that voters have soured on Obama but they've soured on the Republicans just as much over that period of time and the net impact has been a wash when it comes to the horse race. It's a reflection of the disgust voters are feeling towards politicians across the spectrum right now.
I think the most telling stat about the weakness of the GOP candidate field is this- despite Obama's 38/56 approval with independents he still has the upper hand against every Republican with them- a 2 point lead over Romney, 12 point advantage over Perry, 14 over Bachmann, 17 against Palin, and 19 against Cain. They're down on Obama but they're not buying the alternatives either.
The last few weeks have been some of the darkest ones of the Obama administration and for all that he still has a 7 point lead over his strongest potential opponent in Colorado. This is coming off a year where Democrats in Colorado held their Senate seat and the Governor's office in what was otherwise a terrible year for the party nationally. It's still probably best to call the state purple, but it seems to be shading toward blue.
Full results here