The Colorado political world closed out last week with a poll showing Jared Polis with a 13 point lead over his closest competitor, and we started out this week with a poll showing Walker Stapleton with a 13 point lead over his nearest rival, Victor Mitchell. Make no mistake, the race will come down to these two, who have the resources to run a successful statewide race.
Will the GOP race will play out similarly to the Democratic race? No. With Polis’ deep pockets that cannot be matched by others in the Democrat field, we expect him to fill the airways with ads in the final two weeks to squash any chance that Cary Kennedy could pass him at the tape.
The Mitchell – Stapleton race is a different story. Both men have money to spend, and in Stapleton’s case, a PAC as well. An interesting piece of data from the poll is that in March, 73% had never heard of Mitchell. Today? He’s cut that number to just 20%. On March 17, just 4% had a favorable impression of him. Today, 39% have a favorable impression. Of course, he still trails Stapleton, who has a favorability rating of 51%.
Another data point that we can look at is the prior Magellan poll for Republican governor, released in early March. That pegged Mitchell at a scant five percent, with Stapleton leading the pack with 26 percent. A 39 percent plurality was undecided. In the 12 weeks that followed, Mitchell grew his share of the vote by a factor of more than 4x, while Stapleton also expanded his share of the data sample, but not at the rapid pace that Mitchell did. That said, Stapleton is the State Treasurer. More already knew who he was and that they would vote for him from the beginning.
It is important to note that while the poll showed 27 percent still undecided, and that seems like a big number, if Stapleton truly has a 13 point lead, Mitchell is going to need well more than a simple majority of that remaining undecided vote, and probably peel off some voters from other candidates as well. Impossible? No. Difficult? Very.
Of course the unaffiliated vote is another wildcard here, and Mitchell claims to have broad appeal to unaffiliated voters. The unaffiliated vote in this election is going to be a factor that is pretty difficult to model.
The obvious question is can Stapleton hold off Mitchell’s late charge. If Mitchell continues to add votes at an accelerated pace, it could be a close outcome. Unlike The Democrat race, where Polis’ foes will not be able to match the leader’s resources in the final two weeks of the campaign, we expect Mitchell and Stapleton to go toe to toe through the final round. Fortunately, either candidate would serve Colorado well. The same cannot be said of the Democratic ticket.