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RATINGS CHANGE: Colorado Governor

Not long ago, Democratic Gov. John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado looked like a sure bet for a second term in 2014 — and a place on the list of dark-horse candidates for the 2016 presidential contest.

But his last few months have been rocky, and a couple of public polls have poked a hole in his political armor. Along with his widely criticized handling of a death penalty case, Hickenlooper enacted a decidedly left-of-center agenda in recent months.

“Among the items passed and signed into law by Hickenlooper were bills cracking down on guns, legalizing gay civil unions, enhancing labor rights, mandating new green-energy requirements, allowing in-state tuition and driver’s licenses for immigrants in the country illegally, and putting forth a $1-billion tax hike to pay for education reform, subject to voter approval this November,” veteran reporter Mark Z. Barabak wrote in a thorough piece in the Los Angeles Times.

A June 5-10 survey from Quinnipiac University showed Hickenlooper with a 47 percent job approval rating, compared with 43 percent who disapprove. An automated April survey from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, gave the governor a 53 percent approval rating with 44 percent disapproving.

But Republicans need a credible candidate to take advantage of Hickenlooper’s potential vulnerability. Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., is running and Secretary of State Scott Gessler is actively exploring a bid. The Quinnipiac poll showed each man running within the margin of error against the incumbent.

This race (or lack thereof) is still taking shape and we need to see more polls to see if there is a trend. But with the quantitative and qualitative evidence, calling Hickenlooper “Safe” seems like a stretch.

We are moving the race from Safe to Democrat Favored in our Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call ratings, though Republicans still have a long way to go before putting this contest seriously into play.