New political forecast gives Democrats the advantage in Colorado's U.S. Senate, governor's race

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 20:27:34-04

DENVER — Historically, midterm elections serve as an evaluation of the party in power. When things aren’t going well, it can be a referendum. When things are going well, it can serve as an affirmation for political parties.

For months, Republicans across the country have been predicting an impending "red wave" this midterm election, given the country’s current inflation. However, an updated FiveThirtyEight forecast shows that red wave may be more of a ripple in Colorado when it comes to some of the biggest midterm races.

According to the forecast, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is clearly favored to win Colorado’s senate election.

“The FiveThirtyEight 2022 midterm election forecast gives incumbent Senator Michael Bennet about a nine in 10 chance of beating his Republican opponent,” said FiveThirtyEight political reporter Alex Samuels. “This race is definitely Bennett's to lose. He has a very lofty fundraising advantage, he's an incumbent. There's a lot working in Bennet's favor.”

The most recent polls give Bennet as much as an 11-point advantage over Republican businessman Joe O’Dea. Republican-backed polls, however, call for a much tighter race and only give Bennet an advantage within the margin of error.

Political analyst Steve Welchert says normally, Republicans would be in a much better position two months before the midterms than they are. Part of the reason Bennet is doing so well is because of what’s happening on a national stage.

“Republicans are playing defense in so many other states around the country. It's harder for Republicans to consolidate money and play offense against Bennet here in Colorado,” Welchert said.

However, Bennet himself has said that the race will be competitive and that the state is in play. Meanwhile, Republicans believe they have a moderate candidate who would be a strong choice for Colorado and could potentially sway unaffiliated voters.

Unlike Republican candidates in other states, O’Dea has managed to avoid major controversy.

“O’Dea has largely avoided these not-so-great headlines that have plagued other Republicans and races that were initially viewed as easy grabs for the GOP,” Samuels said.

He has also garnered major support from Sen. Mitch McConnell, who called O’Dea the perfect candidate for a place like Colorado. O’Dea has managed to garner national attention in the race and national support.

Last week he was slated to attend an event in Miami with Sen. Rick Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Chuck Grassley, another event in Georgia with more than a dozen other U.S. senators and a third event hosted by Sen. McConnell on Monday.

Political media strategist Laura Carno, meanwhile, says Bennet also doesn’t have much to take ownership of in terms of legislation.

“Senator Bennet hasn't done much while he's been in the U.S. Senate. There isn't big landmark legislation, and so a lot of people are looking at, well, is there an alternative,” Carno said.

Another factor to consider: Bennet didn’t clear the majority threshold in either 2010 or 2016. In 2010, he earned 48.08% of the vote, enough to win, but not a clear majority of the state. In 2016, meanwhile, Bennet earned 49.97% of the vote. Samuels says this is one reason why Republicans are looking at him as a potentially vulnerable candidate.

“There's recent polling suggesting that his favorability in the state also leaves much to be desired,” Samuels said.

A Global Strategy Group/ProgressNow Colorado poll found that 28% of respondents didn’t know or had no opinion of Bennet.

Another major Colorado election forecasted to be in favor of Democrats is the governor’s race. The FiveThirtyEight poll predicts that Gov. Jared Polis is clearly favored to win over Republican challenger Heidi Ganahl.

The race gives Polis a 97 in 100 chance of winning in November. The most recent polls give Polis a 5–7-point advantage over Ganahl.

“Governor Jared Polis has a net favorability five points higher than Bennet’s, and only 9% of voters in the state didn't know or had no opinion of him,” Samuels said.

Financial reports show Polis also has a sizable money advantage over Ganahl at nearly $9.7 million in total contributions, with more than $3.4 million cash on hand, as of his September filing. Meanwhile, Ganahl has roughly $1.76 million in total contributions, including $500,000 in loans, and $434,000 cash on hand as of her September filing.

“The governor's race is a little bit different, just because of the big disparity in spending. Can Heidi Ganahl or people who are supporting Heidi Ganahl raise enough money to get her on the air? To get her message on the air?” Carno said.

She also pointed out that Polis was able to more or less self-fund his prior gubernatorial campaign last time around, pouring millions into the race, something he’s also capable of doing this time around as well.

New political forecast gives Democrats the advantage in Colorado's US Senate, governor's race

Nevertheless, on election day, Carno says voters in the state have a lot to consider in the governor’s race on issues affecting their everyday lives, like inflation, public safety and more.

“I think what the Ganahl team should be focusing on, and they certainly are, is what has gone on in the last four years in Colorado that's made it arguably a worse state when you look at crime, when you look at fentanyl deaths, when you look at a homeless problem,” Carno said.

Welchert, however, believes the downfalls with Ganahl’s campaign go beyond money and are more about messaging and political missteps.

“I think the governor's race has all been over,” Welchert said. “The Ganahl campaign hasn't been well run. She's got a number of missteps and a number of misstatements, and I guess it's been tough for her moving forward.”

One race the FiveThirtyEight team is forecasting is leaning slightly red is the race for Colorado’s newest congressional district. Republican state Sen. Barbara Kirkmeyer has a six-in-10 advantage over Democrat state Rep. Yadira Caraveo.

The forecast has changed in recent months to show the race narrowing between the two candidates. At the end of July, Kirkmeyer had a projected seven-in-10 chance of winning.

However, even with the slight advantage, this could be a close race. The forecast predicts Kirkmeyer will win the race by a little more than 1% of the popular vote over Caraveo.

Because Congressional District 8 is new, though, it’s difficult to forecast the exact outcome.

On a state level, Republicans believe they have a better chance of flipping the Colorado Senate than the Colorado House of Representatives since they would only need to win a few seats to take the majority. They are also hopeful that they might be able to pull out wins for the attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer’s races.

FiveThirtyEight combines a number of political polls and scours new sites and online platforms, as well as historical data, to come up with its forecasting models.

“I think for now, what we have in the forecast should be a pretty accurate gauge of what we could expect this fall,” Samuels said.