The Democrat making a longshot bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert in Colorado’s GOP-leaning 3rd Congressional District argued Tuesday that a new internal poll suggesting he has a real shot of beating the Garfield County Republican should draw more attention to the race and support from deep-pocketed national groups that have so far ignored his candidacy.
Former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch’s campaign commissioned the survey that showed him trailing Boebert by just 2 percentage points. Forty-seven percent of those polled in the Keating Research survey of 500 likely 3rd District voters said they would vote for Boebert, while 45% said they’d back Frisch. Seven percent of those polled said they were undecided.
The poll was conducted from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2 and had a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. The margin of error means the race, according to the poll, is in a statistical dead heat.
A July poll by Keating Research, a Democratic firm, showed Frisch trailing Boebert by 7 percentage points, 49% to 42%, with another 9% saying they were undecided.
Jake Martin, vice president at Keating, said Frisch made gains between July and recent weeks among unaffiliated voters, who make up the largest percentage of registered voters in the district.
In Keating’s July poll, Frisch had the support of 49% of the unaffiliated voters polled. In the latest survey, he got 57% of unaffiliated voters’ support, with Boebert’s support among unaffiliated voters dropping by 9 percentage points.
“This points toward a campaign that really should be getting a lot of attention as we head into these final five weeks,” Martin told reporters Tuesday.
It’s hard to imagine the 3rd District swinging away from Republicans given the electoral makeup of the district and how its voters have cast their ballots in the past.
Boebert won her first term in 2020 by beating Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, a former state representative, by 6 percentage points. During last year’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process, the 3rd District’s boundaries were redrawn in a way that made it even more favorable to Republicans, prompting some big-name Democrats, namely state Sen. Kerry Donovan, to decide against challenging Boebert.
Voters in the sprawling district, which stretches across the Western Slope and into Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas River Valley, backed Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s unsuccessful reelection bid by 11 percentage points in 2020. In 2018, a year that was devastating for Colorado Republicans, voters in the district backed Republican Walker Stapleton’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid by 6 percentage points. And former President Donald Trump won the district by 14 percentage points in 2016 even as he lost statewide.
A nonpartisan analysis by redistricting staff of election results in the district dating back to 2016 revealed it leans 9 percentage points in the GOP’s favor.
Voter registration in the district also leans in Republicans’ favor. As of Oct. 1, 24% of the district’s active registered voters were Democrats, while 31% were Republicans and 44% were unaffiliated.
(The Keating Research poll was weighted to a turnout of 26% among Democrats, 33% among Republicans and 37% among unaffiliated voters.)
There’s also been little interest in the 3rd District this year from national Democratic and GOP groups on the race.
In 2020, national Democratic groups spent nearly $3.9 million opposing Boebert, according to the campaign finance tracking website OpenSecrets, while Republican groups spent nearly $4.6 million opposing Mitsch Bush. This election cycle, outside groups have spent only about $600,000 in the 3rd District, mostly in support of Boebert.
“The Democrats have a large field they need to spend in,” said Madeleine Schmidt, a spokeswoman for Frisch. “We’re hopeful that these really strong numbers are going to increase investment because people see that this race is viable.”
Chris Keating, the Colorado-based pollster’s principal, defended his work Tuesday as reporters pressed about the survey’s findings.
“I believe in these numbers,” Keating said. “There’s obviously a margin of error, which means there can be a margin around what the results can be. It also means we could actually be in the lead.”
Keating has a B/C rating from FiveThirtyEight, the statistical sports and political news website. The pollster called 80% of races analyzed by FiveThirtyEight correctly.
FiveThirtyEight also, however, gives Boebert a 98% chance of winning reelection. No national election prognosticators believe the 3rd District contest is competitive.
Frisch, who since entering the race has said he can beat Boebert despite the electoral headwinds he faces, is pitching himself to 3rd District voters as a moderate Democrat in line with their values. Last week, during a speech in Pueblo, he attacked his party’s stance on oil and gas and education.
“There’s not a better place to produce oil and gas in the United States,” he said. “I’m all for making sure that we make our (renewable energy) transition, but I think we need to be realistic about how it’s going to happen,” he said.
Frisch said Democrats have “been incredibly disrespectful to the men and women that work in that oil and gas and natural gas industry.”
“They’ve done a horrible job of understanding that the only path to success is not (pursuing) a four-year college degree,” he said. “The Democratic Party has botched working-class America, blue-collar America and rural America.”
Frisch, who until last year was an unaffiliated voter, has criticized Boebert for being at the center of national controversies and attacked her voting record in Congress.
Boebert, meanwhile, has tried to paint Frisch as toeing the policy platform of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, criticizing his record in Aspen and the votes he cast on policies aimed at combating climate change.
Boebert’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday about the Keating poll.
Boebert’s campaign said Tuesday that it raised $900,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30. It had nearly $2 million to spend at the beginning of the month.
Frisch’s campaign hasn’t released its latest campaign finance numbers, which aren’t due until Oct. 15. He has self-funded his campaign to the tune of $750,000.
Frisch had raised more than $2.6 million through June 30 and had about $570,000 cash to spend to start July. His campaign spent about $306,000 on TV advertising through Oct. 2, compared with the nearly $394,000 spent by Boebert.
Colorado Sun correspondent Sandra Fish contributed to this report.