Poll: Bennet would beat Tancredo, lose to Owens, but is largely unknown

Colorado’s junior senator, Michael Bennet, is viewed more favorably than not among voters who know him but is still a mystery to nearly half of those contacted by Public Policy Polling (PPP) in a survey released Tuesday. The Democrat beat three potential GOP opponents in hypothetical 2010 match-ups — he bested former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo 48-39, and scored six-point leads over state Attorney General John Suthers and former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, though both said Monday they weren’t interested in the race — and polled three points behind former Gov. Bill Owens, who hasn’t indicated any interest in running for the Senate.

Bennet, known to few outside Denver before Gov. Bill Ritter tapped the Denver Public Schools superintendent to replace Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, has some introductions to make among Hispanics and voters in the rest of the state, PPP said.

Bennet’s primary focus over the next two years should come with two groups of voters: Hispanics and those outside the Denver metro area. 58% of Hispanics are ambivalent toward Bennet at this point, a higher percentage than in any other group and an indication he may need to prove he can represent them as well as Ken Salazar did. Similarly, while Bennet has a 40:21 favorability rating in metro Denver, he’s still a blank slate to 54% of voters in the rest of the state. If he can improve his standing within those two demographics he’ll be in good shape for reelection.

Overall, 33 percent of voters have a favorable view of Bennet, against 21 percent with a negative view. That leaves 45 percent who don’t know him enough to form an opinion. Even the 44-41 loss in a head-to-head with Owens “seems pretty strong for Bennet given that most voters in the state had never heard of him five weeks ago,” PPP’s Tom Jensen writes on the polling firm’s blog.

Michael Bennet’s standing is pretty solid for this very early stage of his career as a senator,” PPP president Dean Debnam said in a statement accompanying the poll’s release. “He still needs to become better known to a lot of the state’s voters, but he seems to be pretty well liked by those who have already formed an opinion about him.”

Find the poll’s full cross-tabs here.

The North Carolina firm surveyed 959 Colorado voters by telephone Jan. 23-25. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.16 percentage points, according to PPP.

Debnam said in a cover letter that PPP plans to release “some interesting numbers” on Wednesday about effect the Bennet appointment has had on Ritter’s approval rating in the state.

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