By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Republican Scott McInnis has taken the lead from Democrat Mayor John Hickenlooper in the latest Rasmussen poll of likely Colorado voters.
The McInnis campaign believes Hickenlooper’s decision to not take an immediate stance on a series of controversial bills that levied the state sales tax on a variety of goods has at least partially hurt Hickenlooper in the polls for the gubernatorial race. A spokesman for Hickenlooper declined to comment on the possible impact that not taking a stance on the bills has had on the campaign.
A telephone poll conducted on March 4 of 500 likely Colorado voters gave McInnis a 48-percent to 42-percent advantage over Hickenlooper in the gubernatorial race. After Gov. Bill Ritter announced last month that he would not seek reelection, Hickenlooper bounced out to a 49-percent to 45-percent lead over McInnis.
“What’s been different since the last poll has been us just hammering away on these tax increases,” said McInnis spokesman Scott Brown. “Obviously the Mayor has, by his silence, supported them (the tax bills).”
Meanwhile, Hickenlooper Spokesman George Merritt said that they only care about one poll, the one that happens on Election Day.
Political analyst and Denver Daily News columnist Aaron Harber believes the latest Rasmussen poll proves that the gubernatorial race is very close and volatile. He expects the polls to switch back and forth several more times before elections are held on Nov. 2.
“When you have those kinds of shifts within a matter of four weeks, it shows you that there probably is a large number of voters willing to go either way,” he said.
Harber expects that most voters will give Hickenlooper until summer to take a stance on controversial measures like the tax increase bills. For their part, Hickenlooper’s campaign said last month that the mayor “understands and supports the important work lawmakers are doing at the state Capitol,” and that commenting on pending legislation doesn’t make that job any simpler or more effective. Hickenlooper will comment on the bills after the legislature session ends, his campaign said.
But failing to take a position for too long could end up being fatal since voters don’t like candidates not taking a stance on an issue, said Harber.
“The challenge of a campaign and a candidate who wants to avoid taking a position is to gauge how long they can get away with that,” he said. “If you push it too far, you will get a reputation of not being substantive, and that’s very unacceptable to voters in the current political environment.”
Harber noted that McInnis has also been criticized for failing to take substantive positions in the past.
Brown said that Amazon.com’s recent decision to close the accounts of all Colorado sales “associates,” which are people or businesses that advertise Amazon products and make a commission on all sales that they personally generate, proves that the tax bills were a bad idea.
“Scott said if you sign these bills, if you pass these bills, you’re going to cost jobs,” said he said.
But Democrats have blasted Amazon’s decision as a disservice to Coloradans. For one, the bill that requires online retailers to collect and pay the 2.9-percent state sales tax is only enforcing a law already on the books. Ritter in a statement pointed out that his office worked closely with Amazon’s affiliates and associates to modify the bill to protect small businesses and avoid job losses.
“Amazon has taken a disappointing — and completely unjustified — step of ending its relationship with associates,” said a statement from Ritter. “While Amazon is blaming a new state law for its action, the fact is that Amazon is simply trying to avoid compliance with Colorado law and is unfairly punishing Colorado businesses in the process.”
Harber said that while some voters will likely remain upset that they now have to pay the state sales tax on some Internet purchases, others might end up supporting the measure because it evens the playing field between out-of-state giants like Amazon and local stores like Tattered Cover.
The Internet tax measure was one of nine bills that suspended or eliminated tax credits and exemptions on goods like soda, candy, and select software purchases. Ritter signed the bills into law last month.