As Colorado lawmakers sent an $18.8 billion budget to Democratic Governor Bill Ritter–which could mean cuts in payments to private prisons, doctors who treat Medicaid patients, and forced vacations for state workers (via The Associated Press)–the governor may have another struggle on his hands: re-election in 2010.

His job approval ratings have gone from positive to negative since January, according to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted last week (via Congressional Quarterly ). Forty-nine percent disapprove of how he’s doing his job, and 41 percent give him positive marks.

Moreover, the governor would face tough competition from Republican opponents, including former Congressman Scott McInnis, who leads Ritter 48 percent to 41 percent, with 11 percent of voters undecided. One sore spot: Latino voters, who likely recall Ritter passing over Latino candidates as a replacement for U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, instead appointing political newbie Michael Bennet, writes The Colorado Independent.

Over at, a blogger challenges PPP’s credibility, particularly after attributing Bennet with 75 percent name recognition with voters in polls reported yesterday. An addendum to the news of Bennet’s polling: His campaign manager tells The Pueblo Chieftain he doesn’t think PPP’s poll is “an accurate barometer of where Coloradans stand right now.”