A Rasmussen Reports survey taken immediately after the June 24 primary found Mr. Hickenlooper and Mr. Beauprez both drawing 44 percent support among Colorado voters polled, with 4 percent backing another candidate and 8 percent undecided.
The result came as a surprise to Colorado politicos, given that previous polls had found Mr. Hickenlooper with a comfortable lead over all four Republican primary candidates in hypothetical matchups.
What’s more, Mr. Beauprez’s primary win wasn’t overwhelming. The former congressman took 30 percent of the vote, followed by former Rep. Tom Tancredo with 27 percent, Secretary of State Scott Gessler with 23 percent and former state Sen. Mike Kopp with 20 percent.
The Democratic Governors Association even tried to knock off Mr. Beauprez during the primary with negative ads and mailers while promoting Mr. Tancredo.
But Mr. Hickenlooper has had a tough couple of weeks, even without a primary opponent. A video showing him giving a rambling apology to county sheriffs and then blaming a staffer for last year’s gun-control laws prompted hoots from critics who accused him of letting his staff boss him around.
A group of county sheriffs has sued to overturn the 15-round magazine limit and stringent background checks laws signed by Mr. Hickenlooper in March 2013. The laws led to the recalls of two Democratic legislators in September.
“It’s no surprise this race tightened up as soon as there was a single strong Republican as a counterpoint to Hickenlooper,” said Kelly Maher, executive director of Compass Colorado. “John Hickenlooper has never suffered the scrutiny of a one-on-one race, and now he is going to have to answer to Coloradans for his utter inability to lead.”
The Rasmussen survey of 750 likely Colorado voters was taken June 25-26, with a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.