A new Third Way poll shows Republicans in the driver's seat with Independents in the 2012 election.

Third Way, a moderate Democratic group, polled Independents in swing states including Colorado. Here are a few key points.

  • Only 40% of these Independents voted for John McCain in 2008, so they ought to lean Obama. (Not exactly, as you'll see.)
  • 47% of these Independents view both Obama and Romney unfavorably, and nearly 60% see both Republicans and Democrats in Congress in an unfavorable light.
  • Despite this wide distaste, by 39% to 34% they intend to vote for a Republican for Congress, with Romney and Obama tied at 44%. Compared to 2008, Obama is down 6%, Romney up 4% over McCain.
  • On a nine-point scale, Romney was perceived to be about half a point more conservative than they saw themselves; Obama, they thought, was more than 2 points more liberal than they. Our presumed candidate more closely shares their thinking than does Obama. This is crucial.
  • Republicans are up 8% over Obama in handling the economy, up 14% on the budget deficit, up 19% on government spending, up 7% on having a plan to make “America a stronger economic power in the world.”
  • We can strengthen our economy, these Independents think, by cutting the budget deficit (37%) or reducing regulations and taxes on business (32%) – both Republican ideas, while only 19% think we get a stronger economy if we reduce income inequality (the Obama proposal). By 83% to 11%, they want a president to focus on economic growth and opportunity, not “reducing income inequality.”

As you can see, Republicans are on the “right” side of of these concerns and questions, even if Gallup shows less happy numbers. These winning messages can cut more than two percent from Obama's '08 winning numbers in Colorado – just among Independents. We must also reduce Republican support for Obama from his 2008 numbers.

Where we aren't so strongly perceived is the issue of taxes. (Taxes?!?)

Most of these Independents do favor higher taxes on the rich … because the wealthy aren't paying their fair share and they've benefited more from our laws and infrastructure.

When it comes to handling taxes generally, Obama (41%) and Republicans (43%) are in a statistical tie given the poll's margin of error.

This clarifies what Colorado candidates must do in 2012. They must stick to these messages we are already winning and not get sidetracked. A new WaPo poll shows that side issues benefit Obama. They must also clearly explain that Colorado's Democrats are off-base on the tax issue.

Fortunately, Colorado voters will find about six billion reasons proving Democrats aren't in synch with the needs of our state. It's not just Democrat's tax hikes. It's the consequences of raising taxes during this Great Recession. BAD NEWS for Democrats here.

Watch next week for details.