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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 9, 20189min3081

Editor’s note: Scott Adler, the director of the American Politics Research Lab, contacted Colorado Politics to say the staff reversed the racial makeup of one of its questions. The original column is below.

The headline from the newly released Colorado Political Climate Survey is that Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, as well as the governor and the legislature, are slipping in popularity.

The report includes a buffet for politicos to chew on, hosever, including whether they believe the forecast that shows a chilly Colorado for incumbents, especially Republicans who have a 239-pound stable genius on their backs.

The findings from CU’s American Politics Research Lab, however, suggest it’s not a good year to wander too far to the right on the campaign trail, but as President Trump can tell you, polls have been wrong before.

Republican political operatives rolled out big time against the survey to undermine the findings, nicking it on methodology, first that the sample was 47 percent Democrats, 33 percent Republicans and 20 percent independents. In Colorado the three are relatively even.

Most of the CU survey doesn’t break out the results by race, but for a question about race relations, respondents who said they were a racial minority outnumbered white respondents more than 2 to 1 — in a state that’s 81 percent white.

That all can be true, but in the “cry wolf” realm, spin doctors complaining about the methodology of an unflattering poll is as much a part of the political game as a punt is to football; you shouldn’t do it too much.

The findings seem consistent with other polls. The CU survey put Trump’s approval rating in Colorado is 34 percent. That’s not significantly lower than the president’s national polling numbers, 38.4 percent approval, with includes his solid support across the Deep South.

Last November, about the same time that CU was asking questions, the Keating Colorado Poll collecting public opinions that indicated 64 percent of Coloradans had an unfavorable view of the president. Pretty close, and the Keating poll was close to evenly divided between party affiliations, plus those polled were 72 percent white.

Besides the worried Republican and giddy Democratic insiders I chat with, my experienced brain knows it’s not a great year to run as a Trump ally.

Don’t believe me? How Tom Tancredo, the most optimistic man in politics who dropped out of the race last week, as our Ernest Luning was quick to report, because he couldn’t raise money.

“It will be hard for any Republican to win this state,” he told CBS4.

This year unaffiliated voters can cast ballots in party primaries, which makes it even more unpredictable and perilous to chum up to the president’s more divisive positions on immigration, women or Russian meddling.

Trump got only 34 percent support from independent voters in a, Gallup Poll, while presidents have typically gotten 60 percent from them after a year.

Gardner has done a good job to support the Republican agenda and yet keep his distance when the president and his base steer the GOP onto the highway to the danger zone.

After a year in which the billionaire who Gardner once called a “buffoon” occupied the White House, the amicable politician from Yuma, a man perceived as politically popular, saw his approval rating slide from 43 percent to 25 percent.

But Gardner is where the cracks in the CU poll show up. The Keating Poll the same month had Gardner at 44 percent approval. A month before, the Morning Consult poll ranked Gardner one of the 10 biggest losers in approval ratings slides, down 18 points to 39 percent approval  among Colorado voters. But 57 percent before seemed a bit unlikely, as well, given a poll, flawed or not, that has him at 25. Polls are snapshots, and the scenery is always changing.

If that’s the Trump burden on Gardner, it should have the attention of politicians who aren’t nearly as skilled or well-liked as Cory. There aren’t many.

There’s all kinds of talk, which now only get louder, about which home-run establishment Democrat will challenge Gardner in 2020. Names that get thrown around: Hickenlooper, House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, off the top of my head.

But if she can put together the money and political infrastructure, University of Colorado scientist Trish Zornio is a bright, likeable candidate Coloradans have been known to embrace. And maybe her time is right. Democrats refused to break from the party’s unspoken line of succession in 2016 and funneled the nomination to Hillary Clinton, when the passion was behind a 75-year-old New England socialist named Bernie.

Congress, however, could only wish for Gardner’s numbers. Only 14 percent of the representative sample of Coloradans approved of the job performance of the legislative branch. This one is the least troubling. Americans have this innate blind spot to separate Congress, the institution, from the person they send there. Down South we say, “He may be a fool, but he’s our fool.”

You could call it the Mike Coffman Effect, because the independent-minded congressman from a diverse swing district has proven hard to beat. If it’s a wave year for Democrats, the tide would have to rise pretty high to take out buoyant Mike. That could be the watermark for what kind of year this is.

Incumbent Republican legislators — in a small pool of competitive districts — will need to conjure up some magic Mike, looking at the CU report. A year ago the General Assembly had a 51 percent approval rating. This year it’s 43 percent. Democrats are still at 60 percent, but Republicans got only 27.

Look, it’s still four seasons until next November, and nothing is as unpredictable as politics and weather.  The mind of the voter  is like chasing autumn leaves, but right now they’re blowing to the left.



Joey BunchJoey BunchAugust 15, 20175min3325

Trish Zornio’s resume says scientist, but it could soon say candidate. The 32-year-old biomedical scientist from Superior is putting noticeable research into her consideration of running against U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020.

A Democrat from a family of New Hampshire Republicans, she has a detailed website about her potential candidacy. Monday evening she held the latest in a series of town hall-style meetings at the Boulder Public Library, and she’s trying to figure out what it would take financially for a newcomer to run.

Zornio brings a resume proving authenticity to her issues. She is a millennial woman with a razor-keen background in science and the environment and an outsider to the political outcomes and baggage many voters are tired of. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump showed the latter.

“The health-care votes were a tragedy,” Zornio said of her reasons to oppose Gardner. “That in no way is what Colorado should have had in a representative, and it in no way is what should have happened on a national stage.”

Zornio has worked on medical research for the University of Colorado Boulder, Denver Health Medical Center and the Stanford University School of Medicine, and most recently on a National Institutes of Health-funded study on rare and undiagnosed diseases.

She said the Affordable Care Act is imperfect, but it improving it makes more sense than creating a vacuum for care. Zornio said she was concerned by Senate Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace it last month, but especially their failed “skinny repeal” without a replacement health-care system for tens of millions of people.

Zornio said the science around the environment is clear.

“We need senators who are in office who understand and appreciate the science, and not only that, but can advocate,” she said. “And when you have a party that’s rising, that’s pulling us from things like the Paris (climate) accord and such, this isn’t acceptable. This isn’t a partisan issue, protecting our environment and our public lands.”

Acknowledging the role energy development has in the state, Zornio supports the advancement of renewable sources, because “we have the opportunity here in Colorado to make headway and be on the forefront of the nation,” she said.

Zornio’s potential candidacy in Colorado was featured in Melissa Healy’s health and science blog in the Los Angeles Times in June. The post is titled, “What happens when scientists leave their labs to experiment with politics?”

Zornio is the lead coordinator for the Colorado chapter of 314 Action, a nonprofit that helps those who work in science, technology, energy and math get involved in policy-making.

But can she raise the kind of bucks it takes to compete? Gardner has collected and spent more than $13 million since he jumped in the Senate race against Democratic incumbent Mark Udall in 2013.

“I think that’s a really good question,” she said with a nervous laugh. “That’s part of the exploration process, but I think there’s a huge movement right now with a number of organizations trying to get women, scientist particularly in office, youth in office … We’ve seen that it’s possible to get candidates elected from the grassroots level. It’s possible to do.”

A Colorado resident since 2009, Zornio has done a lot of work in the community work, as well.

She is a board adviser for the 500 Women Scientists Youth Pod in Boulder County, as well the principal director of CoMusica, a community music program she founded in 2013 .