Kelly David Burke --- Fox News
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is in a fight for a second term that’s turning out far tighter than anyone would have expected, with recent polls showing him virtually tied with Republican challenger Bob Beauprez.
His challenger’s strong base of conservative support is proving problematic for the Democratic incumbent.
Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado pollster and political analyst, noted that Colorado governors typically get re-elected, and “John Hickenlooper really looked strong about a year and a half ago."
But the outcome of this year’s Republican primary, as well as public pushback over the governor's support for gun control laws and other decisions in office, are creating the perfect political storm.
"There's a lot of dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs with John Hickenlooper," Beauprez said.
Several requests by Fox News for an interview with Hickenlooper went unanswered.
The former Denver mayor easily won his first race for governor against a Republican Tea Party candidate with little support and third-party candidate Tom Tancredo. However, he now faces a much stiffer challenge from Beauprez, considered an establishment Republican.
"The Republicans for the first time in almost a decade managed to get through a primary with a strong candidate," Ciruli said. "And they have united behind that candidate very quickly."
That's not to say Hickenlooper hasn't had successes. His handling of the state's response to several devastating wildfires in recent years and the unprecedented massive flooding that hit northern Colorado last fall received high marks from those involved.
He also earned praise in preparing for the nation's first legal recreational marijuana sales, which began in January, though Hickenlooper had campaigned against the amendment that voters passed. As the governor noted in this year's State of the State, "This will be one of the great social experiments of this century. And while not all of us chose it, being first means we all share a responsibility to do it properly."
Hickenlooper's handling of other controversial issues, though, has contributed to his approval ratings falling from a high of 66 percent to under 50 percent.
"People's constitutional rights, their liberty," Beaupreaz charged, "is being trampled over and over again at the state level."
One of the biggest turning points in Hickenlooper's popularity came in 2013 when Colorado's Democratic-controlled legislature passed what was then reported to be the strictest gun control measures in the country.