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Pollster: Fracking Fight Could Doom Democrats In Colorado

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A prominent Denver pollster said an anticipated and highly controversial ballot measure allowing local communities to ban fracking could spell doom for Democrats in November.

The measure is being funded and championed by Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, but is opposed by other high-profile Democrats like Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is seeking reelection.

“Having the party in a major fight could well end the eight-year run of success Colorado Democrats have achieved,” wrote pollster Floyd Ciruli in a blog published Friday.

Hickenlooper tried working with Democratic lawmakers for a last-minute legislative fix that would broaden some local control over fracking, an attempt to head off the ballot measure that ultimately went nowhere.

“That failure may well bring the party to its knees in November,” Ciruli wrote, “which already promises to be a difficult year due to the dramatic decline of the value of the national Democratic brand.”

He went on to list the ways in which Democrats could fall out of power, including in the state Senate, where they only hold a one seat majority, and possibly even in the House, where they’re up by three seats.

Hickenlooper, Ciruli wrote, “has a 5 to 10 point lead, but can ill-afford to look ineffectual and defensive. He risks losing environmental votes.”

And Sen. Mark Udall, who is facing a tough challenge from Rep. Cory Gardner, hasn’t taken a position on the fracking measure, a strategy that Ciruli said won’t serve him well for much longer.

Udall is “unlikely to be able to hide behind ‘it’s a state issue,’” he wrote. “Voters don’t tend to care about the state vs. federal distinction. Is gas and oil exploration an economic boom or a bust; is fracking environmentally manageable or a disaster?”

If party leaders are fighting on both sides of the ballot measure — which must still qualify to appear on the November ballot — the effects could be felt by downticket candidates as well, he wrote.

“Democrats running for Attorney General, Treasurer and Secretary of State tend to win or lose on the national and state trends,” Ciruli wrote. “A divided, quarrelsome party is a loser for them.

“A party that cannot govern its own House is less likely to be asked to govern the state.”

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