Interesting, both candidate were on the ballot in 2014 with Hickenlooper’s reelection and Gardner’s upset win for Senate. Both races were close.
The following are some early observations on the next three months:
- Expect record turnout. Colorado’s convenient ballot system, the presidential race and a flood of newly eligible unaffiliated voters will increase participation.
- Very expensive. $10 million was spent in a not especially contested primary, mostly from national sources. With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, expect tens of millions to flood in on both sides. The expenditures will have lulls, but will not cease until Election Day.
- Driving up your opponent’s negatives before Labor Day is a well-established campaign rule, and it was visible in 2014 and has already started in Colorado, much of it by outside groups. The primary provided the Republicans much material, but President Trump tends to make life difficult for incumbents that need to appeal to an electorate broader than just his base.
- Advertising will dominate as neither candidate will be very accessible. Hickenlooper is a gaff machine, both candidates will attract protesters, and Gardner wants to avoid commenting on Trump’s tweets and random behavior. Gardner needs the debates, assuming he starts behind in the polls; Hickenlooper will want to limit them. Both candidates will blame the pandemic.
- It is assumed Gardner is behind and “the most vulnerable senate incumbent” up for reelection. He will need Trump to close the race nationally and he will want his race to be a Colorado choice and not a referendum on Trump. Gardner believes his record of delivering for the state, bipartisan efforts and campaign ability will give him an edge in a head-to-head race with Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper hopes the shift in Colorado politics and Trump on the ballot will form a blue wall. But, he will stay on the attack on core 2020 issues of the economy, pandemic, race relations, plus the usual Democratic agenda that tends to match with Gardner’s views, such as on guns.