Colorado Senate: Mark Udall Still Favored

Stuart Rothenberg April 22, 2014 · 12:34 PM EDT

Rarely has so much been made of so little.

I ought to know, since I am in the middle of the to-do.

During the past weekend’s edition of CNN’s State of the Union, I happened to suggest that Republican Rep. Cory Gardner might upset incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in the Colorado Senate race.

My comment came at the very end of a segment, a response to host Candy Crowley’s question about a possible upsets in November.

I wasn’t prepared for the question, but that shouldn’t matter. I’ve responded to dozens of similar questions in the past, and my usual response is to defer, pointing out that I prefer not to guess about races six or nine months away.

But the segment had been unruly – the Republican National Committee’s Sean Spicer and the Democratic National Committee’s Mo Elleithee had spent most of their time yelling at each other – and I decided, in a fraction of a second, to answer Candy’s question. That was not a wise decision on my part.

My response was not a measured, thoughtful answer. It’s TV, after all, where dead air is the only thing worse than off-the-cuff, ill-considered remarks.

In a matter of seconds, I decided against answering New Hampshire, Iowa and Georgia. I picked Colorado because of the state’s competitiveness, Gardner’s candidate quality and questions in my mind about Mark Udall’s preparedness for a real test.

Well, it didn’t take long for the folks at Daily Caller to proclaim that I had “predicted” that Udall would lose to Gardner. Then came a Gardner fundraising e-mail with the headline “Political analyst: Udall Loses in Colorado.”

Of course, both of those characterizations are nonsense.

I don’t make “predictions” six months before Election Day. As I have noted repeatedly, I evaluate campaigns and elections continually, updating my assessments all the time. Six months ago, Colorado was not in play. Now it is. I have no idea where it will be three months from now.

But Candy asked me for an upset, and, unwisely, I gave her a race. The fact that it would be an upset at this point confirms that Gardner is an underdog in the race.

The reporter at the Daily Caller who wrote up the item never called me to ask for greater analysis or to find out why I said what I did. I’m guessing he really didn’t care. That’s modern “journalism.”

The Rothenberg Political Report has the Colorado Senate race currently rated as “Lean Democrat.” We’ve moved the race twice after Gardner’s entry, reflecting our growing concerns about Udall’s standing in the race.

But make no mistake about it: Gardner has to prove that he can oust an incumbent Democrat in a state won twice by Barack Obama. There are plenty of other better opportunities for the GOP. But Gardner is strong nominee, and in a good Republican year, he certainly should be seen as capable of pulling off an upset.

At this point, however, all that anyone can reasonably say is that the race looks competitive and bears watching. Is an upset possible? Sure. But that’s about as far as anyone should go, including me.