Former Rep. Tom Tancredo, the Constitution Party candidate (left), Republican candidate Dan Maes (center), and Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, at a television debate last month. Tancredo's presence in the race has split the Republican vote.
Democrats have been successful in Colorado in recent years and President Obama easily won the state in 2008, but polls show the pendulum swinging back toward the Republicans, and congressional races in the state could help decide who wields power on Capitol Hill next year.
"The Republican base is passionate and fired up," said Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado pollster. "Many more Republicans, for example, turned out in the primary than did Democrats."
But the race for governor may be the one bright spot for Democrats in the state. Republican Party infighting and scandals have all but handed that race to Democrats.
Former Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO) was the GOP favorite early on, but his campaign disintegrated after it was revealed he plagiarized an article on water issues that he was paid to write. Political newcomer Dan Maes won the GOP primary election, but he has since made a series of gaffes, including calling a public bicycle program in Denver part of a U.N. conspiracy.
Without a strong Republican candidate, former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) tried to secure the GOP nomination. Tancredo, who retired from Congress in 2009, is best known as an outspoken critic of immigration.
He also has a habit of causing his own party grief. That was clear this summer on KHOW, a Denver talk radio station, where he was on with state Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams. Tancredo proceeded to air his party's dirty laundry in public, saying that in private Wadhams had referred to Maes as "a joke."
When Tancredo failed to convince Republican leaders to let him enter the race, he chose to run under the banner of the American Constitution Party. Now, polls show him with about 35 percent of the vote. Maes has around 15 percent.
Those numbers make "it quite clear that had there been one credible Republican in this race, that individual had a very, very good chance of winning," Ciruli said.
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, the Democratic candidate, has been the primary beneficiary of the turn of events. Although he is polling at less than 50 percent, Ciruli says he is likely to win in November.
As if this race couldn't get more interesting, there's another issue: If Maes fails to get at least 10 percent of the vote in November, the GOP would technically become a minor party in Colorado.
Republicans have downplayed this, but there would be consequences under current law, such as fundraising limitations for candidates at all levels. Still, for Tancredo supporters, this does not matter. They plan to vote for him even if it hurts the GOP.
"It doesn't worry me because I have long ago given up on both parties," said Elsa Schroeder, a registered Republican who lives in Kiowa, Colo.
"I don't think it will hurt the Republican Party," said Carl Weil, a Republican from Elizabeth, Colo. "I think it will substantially help it by slapping it in the face to make it pay attention."
And, Weil said, perhaps next time the GOP in Colorado will nominate a candidate he wants to support.