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COLORADO POLITICS | Poll shows primary voters overwhelmingly choose Hickenlooper

A 9NEWS/ColoradoPolitics.com poll found that despite recent missteps, Colorado voters still favor John Hickenlooper in the Democratic primary.

DENVER — Former Gov. John Hickenlooper holds a commanding lead over former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff with less than a week to go until votes are counted in Colorado's Democratic U.S. Senate primary, according to a new poll released Thursday by Colorado Politics and 9News.

The survey, conducted in online interviews June 19-24 by national polling firm Survey USA, found Hickenlooper leading Romanoff 58% to 28% — suggesting that weeks of bad news and a steady barrage of attacks aimed at Hickenlooper haven't knocked the early front-runner from his dominant position in the primary. The question had a 6% margin of error, the pollster said.

With an enormous fundraising advantage and a persistent lead in the few publicly available polls, Hickenlooper has been seen as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in November, with polls showing him swamping the field since before national Democrats pushed him into the primary last summer after a failed presidential bid.

In the weeks since ballots went in the mail to Colorado voters, however, Romanoff has appeared to gain momentum on the heels of lackluster performances by Hickenlooper in a series of televised debates and rulings by the state's Independent Ethics Commission that Hickenlooper violated a constitutional ban on gifts.

The Survey USA poll is the first from an independent pollster to survey primary voters since the ballot was finalized in early May, though the Romanoff campaign released an internal poll last week that showed the candidate had pulled within 12 percentage points of Hickenlooper.

The new poll found Hickenlooper's favorability among likely primary voters outpacing Romanoff's by double digits. Of the 575 Democrats and unaffiliated voters likely to cast ballots in the Democratic primary, 58% said they have a favorable view of the brewpub owner-turned-politician, with 19% viewing him very favorably. Of those respondents, 24% said they hold a neutral view of Hickenlooper, 15% reported holding an unfavorable opinion and 3% had no opinion.

Fewer voters hold a strong opinion about Romanoff, who last held office nearly a dozen years ago and has been running for the nomination from Hickenlooper's left. The poll found him viewed favorably by 40% of likely Democratic primary voters, with just 7% saying they hold a very favorable view of him. Forty percent have a neutral view of him, 11% view him unfavorably and 10% have no opinion.

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Although Romanoff, Gardner and national Republicans have been flooding the airwaves with millions of dollars of TV advertising hammering Hickenlooper, including brutal ads focusing on his ethics issues, just 9% of likely Democratic primary voters said they consider Hickenlooper to be fundamentally unethical, while 18% say they consider he's fundamentally ethical and 62% say he's "an ethical guy who made some mistakes."

Among all likely Democratic primary voters, 67% say Hickenlooper has a better chance of unseating Gardner, while 18% say Romanoff has the better chance.

The poll also found that 80% of likely Democratic primary voters have a positive opinion of the Black Lives Matter movement, with just 4% holding a negative opinion. In the same group of voters, 66% say they hold a positive view of Medicare for All — a single-payer health care plan endorsed by Romanoff and opposed by Hickenlooper — and just 9% say they oppose it.

The survey asked all voters — not just those planning to vote the Democratic primary — to weigh in on the recent demonstrations at the state Capitol calling for racial equity in law enforcement following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Fifty-four percent of all Colorado voters say they support the demonstrations, with 4% saying they have joined the protests. Another 26% say they oppose them, and 14% said they haven't been paying attention.

More of Hickenlooper's voters say they support him enthusiastically, with 57% choosing that option and 33% saying they're voting for him with some reservations. Fifty percent of Romanoff's voters say they're enthusiastic about their choice, and 43% say they have some reservations.

In results that will likely draw scrutiny from strategists trying to determine whether the Democrats can patch things up after what has turned into a bruising primary, 64% of Romanoff supporters say they're voting for him, and 31% say they're voting against Hickenlooper. Voters in Hickenlooper's camp are more unified, with an overwhelming 91% saying they're voting for Hickenlooper and just 5% voting against Romanoff.

Much of Romanoff's support looks to be drawn from voters who say they used to support Hickenlooper, while only a small portion of Hickenlooper's voters used to support his opponent. A plurality of Romanoff voters — 37% — say they backed Hickenlooper before deciding how to vote, and 32% say they've always been behind Romanoff. That compares to 80% of Hickenlooper supporters who say they've always been with him and just 2% who say they used to like Romanoff better.

Asked to identify the last elected office held by Romanoff, only 20% of respondents were able to choose the correct answer — speaker of Colorado's House of Representatives, a position he held from 2005 to 2009 — from a list of options. Unsurprisingly, the percentage climbs among voters who say they're supporting Romanoff enthusiastically, with 38% of those voters correctly identifying their pick's last political job.

Romanoff scores best among primary voters who describe themselves as "very liberal," with 36% support, but he falls to 24% support among self-described "moderates," who make up 40% of the respondents. Romanoff does best among younger voters, winning support from 35% of those age 18-34, though he still loses that age group by 9 percentage points to Hickenlooper. Among voters over age 50, Hickenlooper clobbers Romanoff, 64% to 26%.

Hickenlooper leads Romanoff among white voters 56% to 31%, and pulls into a wider lead among Hispanic voters, beating Romanoff 64% to 16%.

Ballots started going out to Colorado voters on June 8. They're due back to county clerks by 7 p.m. June 30.

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