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HUFFPOLLSTER: Are Colorado Dems Riding High Off Pot Laws?

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Good poll numbers for Colorado's Democratic governor leads to some speculation about a different kind of political buzz. One political scientist has a Senate forecast; another thinks it's too early for forecasts. And this isn't "close to call:" Pollsters will miss Marty Plissner. This is HuffPollster for Thursday, February 6, 2014.

COLORADO POT BUMP FOR DEMS? -Yesterday's HuffPollster included a link to new Quinnipiac poll in Colorado, which was also written up by the Denver Post's Lynn Bartels: "Gov. John Hickenlooper holds a comfortable lead over his Republican challengers in a new poll that shows Coloradans give him good marks for trust, leadership and understanding their needs....The poll, released Wednesday, shows 52 percent of Coloradans approve of the job Hickenlooper is doing — the highest since Quinnipiac started polling in Colorado in June 2013." Voters were evenly split on whether Hickenlooper does or does not deserve reelection (45 percent each), but the Governor holds early leads of between 6 to 10 percentage points over four potential Republican challengers. [Denver Post]

Chuck Todd speculated... - via Twitter: "In all seriousness, have had multiple strategists tell me they think Dems in CO are getting a pot bump in the polls." Todd's tweet pointed to the Denver Post poll write-up. [@chucktodd]

...which prompted a reminder from Josh Green - Via Twitter: "That's been a theory for several years." Green pointed back to his article from November 2012, which floated one Democratic consultant's theory for how pot initiatives could help Democrats: "It went like this: Having marijuana on the ballot would activate a group of voters who don’t usually participate in elections—mainly younger voters who, perhaps by dint of their fondness for pot, are not the most civically engaged. Young voters, he pointed out, overwhelmingly favor Democrats. Lured to the polls by the chance to vote for weed, these youngsters would presumably pull the lever for the Democratic ticket while they were there." Green also quoted social scientist Stephen Nicholson who saw a parallel to the nuclear freeze initiatives of the 1980s. "'In the 1982 midterms, 10 states had ballot initiatives on the nuclear freeze,' Nicholson told me. 'This had a significant positive effect on Democratic candidates.' In states without them, Democrats saw no effect." [@JoshuaGreen, Businessweek

So is Hickenlooper's current standing the result of a 'pot bump?' It is difficult to tell from the data available, but probably not. First, the theory Green floated assumes an impact on turnout ("If enough young voters turn out to vote pro-pot and also vote for Obama, it could tip the state to Democrats"). The Quinnipiac poll surveyed all registered voters, so in theory at least, likely turnout is not taken into account. Second, the Quinnipiac poll found evidence of other factors, particularly the economy, that help explain Hickenlooper's current standing: "In an open-ended question, where respondents can give any answer, a total of 20 percent of Colorado voters name the economy or jobs as the most important issue in this year's governor's race, while 10 percent list education or education funding, another 10 percent list gun issues and 4 percent cite taxes. No other issue tops 3 percent. Colorado voters approve 53 - 37 percent of the way the governor is handling the economy and jobs." [Quinnipiac]

If there's a bump, it's not helping Hillary - A second set of Quinnipiac, released today, shows Clinton trailing two both Sen. Rand Paul (43 to 47 percent) and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (43 to 48 percent) in hypothetical 2016 general election match-ups. [Quinnipiac]

2014 AN 'UNLUCKY YEAR' FOR DEMOCRATIC SENATE CANDIDATES - Ben Highton: "Every national election year, one class of seats is up for election. In 2014, the 33 class 2 seats are up….the Senate treats states as equal – irrespective of population – and this gives the Republicans an advantage because on average, less populous states are more Republican than more populous ones. What about the states that fall into each of the three Senate classes? Compared to the national two-party presidential vote margin in 2012, class 2 states are 10 percentage points more Republican on average. Of the three classes, this is the largest skew toward the Republicans….Moreover, the partisan balance across the states holding special elections in 2014 also tilts Republican. " [WaPost's Monkey Cage]

-Political scientist Alan Abramowitz responds: "Let's wait til we see how many unelectable candidates Republicans nominate to make predictions on the Senate outlook?...There is NO WAY to make a meaningful prediction now on Senate outlook and Senate seat forecasts are very inaccurate even in the fall...Does GOP have 54% chance of winning Senate majority? The only honest answer is that there is no way to know what the chance is right now." [@AlanIAbramowitzhere, here and here]

DSCC TRYING TO MAKE 2014 LESS LIKE A MIDTERM - Ashley Parker: "The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is preparing its largest and most data-driven ground game yet, relying on an aggressive combination of voter registration, get out the vote, and persuasion efforts. They hope to make the 2014 midterm election more closely resemble a presidential election year, when more traditional Democratic constituencies — single women, minorities and young voters — turn out to vote in higher numbers, said Guy Cecil, the committee’s executive director….Even with new funding and tactical tools, the Democratic Senate campaigns face considerable challenges. The voting rates of core Democratic constituencies — African Americans, Hispanics, unmarried women, younger voters — historically drop off considerably in midterm elections….In many ways, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s efforts are simply reflective of a broader shift in electoral politics toward a more data-reliant and empirical approach: The effectiveness of television ads — which experts agree reach a point of oversaturation near the end of campaigns — is difficult to measure, while improved data-modeling and analytic techniques allow campaigns to more closely target their ideal voters….'Your program will live and die by the strength of the data available to you on the voter file,” read a memo provided to the field teams.'" [NYT]

RIP: Marty Plissner - Plissner, the legendary former CBS news political director credited with coining the phrase, "too close to call," died today at the age of 87. [Politico]

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