Did Colorado’s Liberal Experiment Pave the Way for Gov. Tancredo?

The 2010 election in Colorado was a mess for Republicans. While their comrades in Nevada, New Mexico, and Arizona waged brilliant comebacks, Colorado Republicans accidentally nominated their least electable candidates for governor and U.S. Senate. The governor’s race turned into a fait accompli for John Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver, after conservatives abandoned their nominee and embraced the third party candidacy of Tom Tancredo. Hickenlooper still nearly lost, and had to spend two years negotiating with a Republican legislature.

This made him look good. The Democratic brand shined in 2012 in Colorado; defying some polls, Barack Obama won the state by 5 points. Democrats swept back into power in the legislature. Hickenlooper could work with liberals again.

So this happened.

Colorado voters say 69 - 24 percent that the death penalty should stay on the books and not be replaced by life in prison with no chance of parole, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. At the same time, Gov. John Hickenlooper finds himself running neck and neck with possible challengers in the 2014 governor’s race.

One of them’s Tancredo! Tancredo’s only down by a point! But how flukey is this? Republicans want to credit Hick’s drop to the raft of liberal bills he’s signed, starting with the only background checks bill to make it through a “purple” state. Quinnipiac didn’t poll that, and its general quality-of-life questions are of the sort incumbents should like. By a 34-point margin voters say the economy’s improving; by a 12-point margin they’re “satisfied” with the state’s direction.

No, probably too early to say “Hickenlooper went too far left and destroyed himself. And that’s stupid anyway, because why win power if not to ram your changes into place? But there’s been a strange tendency to pronounce change Done in states captured by the left, and Temporary in swingy states that have gone right, like North Carolina, which has turned into a libertarian petri dish. In Connecticut this week, a low-turnout state legislative race went to the Republican, the first time a Republican won the district since the Nixon presidency. It was the first election since the state passed post-Newtown gun measures. Republicans made sure people noticed.