Friday, May 1, 2015

Short Takes

Elections – First Week of May
Mayor Hancock
Denver will elect and re-elect most of its political establishment on Tuesday – Mayor Hancock, senior City Councilman Chris Nevitt as the new auditor and the re-election of council incumbents. Surprises are possible, but appear unlikely. The only question is will an anti-development trend dominate the multi-candidate open seat races?

Thursday, May 7, the UK will hold an election where not only will the two major parties not receive a majority, but they will need not one, but possibly two additional parties to form a government. One of the world’s most stable two-party parliamentary systems has fragmented and became highly unstable.

Bad Week for U.S. – Iran Treaty

Foreign Minister Zarif
While the Obama Administration remains busy trying to effectuate the Iran nuclear agreement (deadline on July 1), Iran has been behaving badly. Their Yemen intervention is leading to a serious regional conflict, which includes the use of the Iranian Navy off the Yemen coast, their seizure of a cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, a top general claiming the U.S. orchestrated 9/11 to justify intervention in the Mideast and, most unexpected, the usually diplomatically contained Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif decides to tell a U.S. college crowd the Senate is of no importance to adoption of any agreement “whether Senator Cotton likes it or not.”

Lots of evidence for opponents to the agreement to argue that Iran is belligerent, arrogant, and in the case of a senior military officer, seriously conspiracy-minded.

A few more weeks like this and Secretary Kerry will not need to spend as much time in Geneva as expected this summer.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cuba’s Politics Won’t Change Fast

The Associated Press reported on Sunday, April 18, that two non-communist party dissidents had
made the opening round of voting for local elections in Cuba for the first time since the passage of the local election law in 1976.

There was brief speculation that it reflected some relaxation in the party’s monopoly approach to power. The candidates themselves cited the U.S. recognition and rapprochement just highlighted by Presidents Obama and Castro in Panama as a reason for their local support.

But by Monday morning, the alleged opening was closed – both candidates were eliminated.

The 24-hour drama provides a cautionary tale about Cuba’s one-party state and its likelihood of maintaining a monopoly on power.
  • Although “independent candidates” are legally protected, they have never, in fact, been allowed and no one has won even the first round of voting in 40 years. As the incident made clear, the state and the party will defend the monopoly.
  • The skepticism of Americans and Cubans that the Obama rapprochement will produce more than a handshake and an embassy in terms of island politics is well-placed. Clearly, at the operational level, the party is making no moves not ordered by the party hierarchy and none have been given. (See blogs: Castro Brothers in Trouble and U.S. vs. Cuba – Finite)
  • Interestingly, a party that has 27,000 candidates to fill 12,600 seats in municipal assemblies that obsesses over two outliers is highly insecure. And, maybe it should be given the recent stealth poll reported by the Washington Post that shows most Cubans would prefer a choice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Women Increase in Power in Latin America

In spite of vestiges of a patriarchal social structures and cultures of machismo, women are leading three of Latin America’s most important countries – Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Needless to say, the most famous woman in Latin American politics was Argentina’s Eva PerĂ³n, who never held office, but whose memory still has power. Since 1970, eight women have been elected head of state from Latin America and the Caribbean, including Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama) and women also hold about 20 percent of the continent’s legislative seats. Women were highlighted at the recent OAS meeting. Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (locally called Sista P) welcomed President Obama to a high-profile meeting in Kingston before the OAS – Summit of the Americas in Panama. Women are leading the OAS as permanent representatives of their countries of Suriname, Niermala Badrising; and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines, La Celia Prince.

Diplomatic Courier: Latin America’s leading ladies
Washington Post: Political exclusion lingers for women in Latin America

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Colorado Presidential Primary – Had One, Dropped It

Colorado tried a presidential primary for three nominating contests, did not consider it much of a success and dropped it before the 2004 election when paying for it became a state budget burden.

With the exception of the 1992 primary, Democrats got more participation in the 2008 caucus when 120,000 turned out in the Obama vs. Clinton fight. And, it’s likely any primary in 2016 will bring out more Republicans, who have a wide open contest, than the Democrats who, as of now, have no contest.

More Republicans participated in Colorado’s three primaries than Democrats, even with mild contests. But even with a primary only, about a third of the party voted. The first President Bush beat Pat Buchanan handily in 1992 and the 1996 contest was mostly over by the time of the Colorado primary, with Bob Dole beating Buchanan and Steve Forbes two-to-one. Same was true in 2000 when the second President Bush had already won the contest with John McCain.

Democrats in their big 1992 turnout gave a boost to Jerry Brown, with Bill Clinton and Paul Tsongas in close pursuit. The lack of a contest in 1996 (Clinton’s re-election) and the race being over in 2000 (Al Gore vs. Bill Bradley) produced lackluster participation.

Competition and timing are necessary to get voters engaged, especially Democrats. In 2008, the Democratic caucus had record turnout and was one of the important victories for Barack Obama. Republican caucus turnout was higher than usual in 2008 when Mitt Romney won against McCain and in 2012 when Rick Santorum led Romney and the field.

Shifting Colorado to a primary might be justified as a measure to give more voters the ease of participation, but given that, at the moment, Colorado’s nominating event is being held simultaneously with eight other states, it will most likely not produce more interest from the media or the candidates.

Denver Post: Colorado lawmakers want bigger role in 2016 presidential election
Ciruli Associates Variable – January 2000

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Short Takes

Harry Reid

Colorado voters and the Denver Post bet last November that more Senate business would get done under Mitch McConnell than Harry Reid. For a variety of reasons, the Senate has been more productive the first four months of this year than in the last four years.

The retirement of the pugnacious Reid no doubt has contributed, but style and process (use of committees more and direct floor action less) alone are not responsible. Both parties, but especially the Democrats, have decided that the gridlock and high-profile partisanship were hurting election prospects.

Stalled out
Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton claimed the economy had “stalled out” in a New Hampshire campaign stop earlier this week. The press saw some daylight between her viewpoint and the White House optimism about the economy and recovery. The Federal Reserve agrees with Clinton. They are concerned enough about the economy to again delay any interest rate adjustments or even much talk about it citing the strong dollar effect on trade and inflation and the slow first quarter.

See The Hill: White House takes issue with Clinton remarks on economic growth

Coffman vs. Bennet

The general assumption is that Congressman Mike Coffman would be the strongest Republican candidate against Senator Michael Bennet in the 2016 Colorado senate election.

There are other names tossed out, especially since it is at least six months before speculation gets really serious. Congressman Scott Tipton has run up a trial balloon, and while there wasn’t a lot of excitement, he’s on the list, as is Arapahoe District Attorney, George Brauchler, who should be done with the murder trial of the decade in late 2015.

But, a recent Quinnipiac survey shows that Coffman is already competitive with Bennet, and in terms of favorability, has a modest negative rating.

Coffman beats Bennet by three points in the poll, with a twelve-point advantage among independent voters and Coffman wins the gender gap by seven points (wins men by 15 points; loses women by 8).

In early tests between two candidates, favorability is often a more useful variable because it tends to reduce the forced choice between candidates when many voters don’t know the candidate.

The two candidates have a similar unfavorability rating in the mid-20s, with Bennet’s slightly higher. Bennet’s favorability is 10 points higher due to superior name identity. Coffman is not known by 47 percent of the electorate (Bennet 32%), including 37 percent of Republicans.

College Not Affordable

Most people still believe college is worth the cost, but only a fifth of Americans believe it’s affordable.

The cost of college in Colorado has shifted to students over the last 15 years, from 68 percent state funded to now only 32 percent state funded and students picking up two-thirds (68%) of the cost. Gallup reports that over those same 15 years that only a third of students report no college debt (37%), 28 percent report less than $25,000, but 35 percent report more than $25,000 in college debt.

Gallup reports 61 percent of the public believe college is available if you need it, but only 21 percent believe it’s affordable. And the cost of a child’s college education is a top financial worry of 73 percent of parents with children younger than 18 years old; second place is retirement.

Even parents with higher incomes worry. Seventy-three percent of parents with $75,000 to $100,000 in income list tuition their top worry and 61 percent with incomes more than $100,000 per year.

Along with the shift to tuition to pay for the operating of colleges, college building programs have been on a tear, often paid for by student tuition (many non-academic facility funds come from non-tuition sources).

In Colorado, CSU is the most aggressive example, with a huge increase in students, buildings and debt – students up 24 percent and debt up 500 percent. CSU also plans $400 million more in construction with a new football stadium and medical center.

BizWest: Debt puts higher ed in the red, students bear brunt of costs in lieu of dwindling state funds