DENVER — Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, ranks as one of the safest governors facing reelection in 2014, according to an early survey by Public Policy Polling released Monday.
Hickenlooper, whose political skills may be tested over the next two years now that Democrats control both the state House and Senate and will be free to send more partisan legislation to his desk, leads a generic Republican by a 54-33 margin.
A “generic” Republican is exactly what some conservatives, keenly aware of the need to broaden the GOP’s appeal with women, Latinos and younger voters, are hoping to avoid.
Two Colorado Republicans whose names are being tossed around as potential 2014 gubernatorial candidates are state Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray and Bob Schaffer, who lost four years ago to Sen. Mark Udall in a fight for a vacant U.S. Senate seat.
Ken Buck, who lost in 2010 to Sen. Michael Bennet in one of the closest senate races in the country, is also believed to be interested in getting his name on the 2014 ballot, although it’s more likely he’d run for attorney general or, perhaps, challenge Udall.
State Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, will be the House GOP Minority Leader in January and is rumored to be interested in the race to take over for Attorney General John Suthers, who is term-limited out of office in 2014.
Treasurer Walker Stapleton also has top-of-the-ticket ambitions, but little name recognition after two years in office; and Secretary of State Scott Gessler, perhaps the most polarizing politician to ever hold the non-partisan office, has stronger name ID than Stapleton but much higher negatives — and he’s now under investigation by the Denver District Attorney’s office, which probably isn’t helping fundraising.
Yuma Congressman Cory Gardner, just elected to a second term in Congress, is the one Republican in the state formidable enough to clear the GOP primary field and possibly compete statewide in 2014; but, given his rising clout and status within the House GOP caucus, it’s unlikely Gardner would risk a chance at a leadership role in Washington to take on a strong incumbent Democrat like Udall.
One top Colorado Republican admitted to FOX31 Denver last week that the GOP’s best, and perhaps only, shot of winning the governor’s race would be if Hickenlooper set his sights higher and opted against a run at reelection.
“If Hickenlooper runs again, we’ll end up with a gadfly candidate, someone who might be smart enough to know they’re going to get trounced, but willing to do it for the experience and the fun of it,” said that Republican, who asked not to be identified.
Last week, Hickenlooper again dismissed a question about his 2016 presidential ambitions and said he wanted to focus on Colorado and plans to run again in 2014.
“I think I can do much more good here than I can ever do in Washington,” Hickenlooper said during a press conference the day after the election.
“In the election environment we’re in now, you really can’t do both. You’ve got to be focused on your home state and everything you can do and be relentless in that, all the way up through, should I be lucky enough to be reelected, through 2018, or you can go out and run for president.
“I’m not going to run for president.”