Friday, May 22, 2020

China’s Delayed Congress Meets May 22 – Sign All is Well?

After a two-month delay, the National People’s Congress’s annual meeting of political and business elites will start on Friday, May 22. It represents a risk to assemble several thousand of the country’s top leaders in Beijing, but it signals China wants the narrative to be that it managed the virus and is back to normal.

President Xi’s and the leadership’s handling of the coronavirus will be the lead topic as it is a part of the global public relations effort to counter criticism and assert China’s growing global strategy.

But, the economic rhetoric and plans will be critical. President Xi Jinping has recently placed more emphasis on restoring jobs and less on growth projections. That’s partially a reflection that the economy has contracted more in the first quarter than since Mao died in the mid-1970s. The credibility of his leadership and the legitimacy of the party are at some risk.

Also, the reports and conversations on Hong Kong will be watched closely. Hong Kong has mostly exhausted the central government’s patience due to riots, parliamentary disruption and the damaged economy. China argues sovereignty is threatened and national security. It alleges interference from the U.S. Also, a surge of nationalist fervor is affecting China’s rhetoric and possibly the substance of the relationship. Expect tighter control.

Chinese leaders have been wearing masks. How many actually show up versus teleconference will be a sign of the risk assessment. Upwards of 5,000 participants and associated interests could show up for the Congress and the parallel meeting of the party’s political advisors at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Cory Gardner Runs on “Bringing Home the Bacon”

Although President Trump is one of Senator Cory Gardner’s major burdens in his re-election, he is also helping Gardner make his case that he is the best person to serve Colorado and should be re-elected. Gardner has scored a host of impressive wins for Colorado in his first term, mostly with the help of Trump and backed by his Republican Senate colleagues.
  • Move Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction
  • Place start-up of new Space Force in Colorado Springs
  • Fund Arkansas Valley Conduit ($28 million)
  • Fully fund Land and Water Conservation Fund 
  • Acquire masks from Asian contacts due to Senate Committee work
President Trump brings Sen. Cory Gardner to the stage as
he speaks to supporters at the Broadmoor World Arena,
February 20, 2020 | AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post
Senators who focus on bringing in projects and funding to their states as a primary congressional activity and campaign message has falling out of favor, especially during tough re-elections, with the rise of nationalized campaigns, polarization and intense partisanship. But historically, it has been a frequent approach by Colorado senators, with Republicans Ben Campbell and Wayne Allard, both re-elected, adept at it in recent years. It fits with Gardner’s primary advantage of being in the majority senate party and having a friend in the White House. The election in 2018 made clear it’s impossible for Republican candidates to avoid Trump. They may as well use him as best as possible.

Gardner also emphasizes that the projects often had bipartisan support. Bipartisanship always tests well in Colorado polls and is a characteristic voters say they like.

Pandemic and Public Opinion: Colorado

Colorado is beginning to open up its businesses. The media is covering the uneven lifting of restrictions due to different state and city rules, along with a few outlier businesses opening on their own timelines and rules. Protests of the regulation have received coverage. But, public opinion polls – both nationally and in Colorado – tell a different story, one of a broad consensus on safety first and only then relaxing the rules.

Open and Close
The majority of the public still support restrictions with just a modest shift in the last few weeks toward fewer restrictions.
  • Nationally, 68 percent say their greater concern is that restrictions on public activity will be lifted too quickly, while 31 percent are more concerned that states will not lift restrictions quickly enough, essentially unchanged since early April (Pew, 4/29-5/5).
  • Three-quarters say the country should keep trying to slow the spread of the virus, even if it means keeping many businesses closed. A quarter instead say the country should reopen the economy, even if it results in more infections (Post/Ipsos, 4/27-5/4).
  • Colorado also records 64 percent prefer restrictions over quickly easing up – Colorado: keep rules – 64%, ease up – 29% (see chart below). (Magellan Strategies, 4/15-4/21)
Although like nearly everything in America, there are partisan differences. Republicans are closely divided in Colorado, with 44 percent preferring keeping rules and 49 percent wanting to ease up. Democrats (80%) and independents (68%) are in favor of keeping rules. The Colorado poll reported in the Denver Post was done in April online.

Another Colorado poll also done online in May reports 78 percent of Coloradans support masks in stores and workplaces. It had bipartisan support, with 68% Republicans and 87% Democrats in favor (Keating Research, 5/1-5/3).
  • Nationally, use of masks continues to increase: 77 percent now say they’re sometimes (28%) or always (50%) wearing a mask when they leave the house (Axios/Ipsos, 5/8-5/11).
Confidence in Information
Magellan also reported that only 29 percent of Coloradans trust information on the virus from President Trump versus 50 percent who say they trust Governor Polis.
  • Nationally, only 36 percent view the president as a trusted source of information about the outbreak (CNN, 5/7-5/10). Along with social media, more than half (54%) identify the Trump administration as one of the two most common sources of misinformation about the virus (Gallup, 4/14-4/20).
  • Eight in 10 Democrats say they trust Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC as sources of information about the outbreak. Fewer Republicans, albeit still majorities, say the same – 61 percent and 72 percent, respectively (CNN, 5/7-5/10).
Keating’s poll states Polis’ approval rating went up from 50 percent last fall to 66 percent today.

Lifting Restrictions
David Brooks, in his New York Times commentary reprinted in the Sunday Denver Post Prospective section, agreed that America is less divided than we seem online or between our partisan cable news shows. Indeed, the Keating poll indicated that 68 percent of Coloradans supported Polis’ “safer-at-home” phase easing of restrictions. Interestingly, more Republicans supported it (75%) than Democrats (63%). Republicans probably liked the relief and opening up of businesses and the Democrats the continued emphasis of health rules.

Of course, polling is a snapshot of opinion, and in a fast moving political environment, it will shift. But for now, neither Coloradans nor Americans are ready to ignore science-based

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pandemic and Petitions

The pandemic threw Colorado’s 2020 petition process into a gridlock. In response, Governor Jared Polis just changed the rules of signature collection and has added chaos to the environment.

Typically, Colorado has a half dozen to a dozen propositions on a November even-year ballot. This year, petition proponents – mostly on the left – saw an opportunity for their favorite causes, from tax changes (increases), to fracking limits, to paid medical and family leave. Initially, a record 318 initiatives were filed. And at least 24 are ready for circulation. But, they were all waiting for the stay-at-home order to be lifted to start circulation.

But Polis on May 15, with a long-standing inclination for controversial ballot initiatives – witness his 2006 Amendment 41 on lobbying or his 2014 oil and gas initiatives – listened to the liberal advocates and changed the rules. Due to the Governor’s rule change, the two dozen initiatives lined up could use the new mail and email rules, which may make it much easier to achieve the needed valid signatures of 124,632.

The state’s business and public affairs establishments rushed a lawsuit that is likely to add more delay and confusion to the process. Polis had been on a roll on executive orders. He may have run out of luck on this one.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Pandemic and Colorado Senate Race: Gardner Starts TV, Democrats “Debate”

Cory Gardner started his Senate TV advertising with a traditional Colorado-type ad emphasizing the themes that were more common in politics a few decades back: nonpartisan attitudes and working for the state. The ad uses news footage of getting masks through contacts from his Senate experience in the Far East. It includes Governor Polis praising him and highlights his non-partisan efforts.

Gardner is trying to simply improve his image, while Democrats are distracted with their June 30 primary. Gardner has been the target of a host of negative attack ads from left-wing PACs and advocacy groups. He is considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent up in November. Recent polls have him running behind even President Trump in voter favorability.

On May 14, John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff held a Zoom forum. Few noticed. Romanoff wanted a debate and tried to land a few punches. Hickenlooper used the format to mostly stay above the fray. No real winner and not much of an audience. Zoom is a difficult platform for a debate and the Democratic Party isn’t encouraging a fight.

The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Five

COVID-19 Deaths
The world count of COVID-19 victims just crossed 300,000 as America records 90,258 victims on Sunday, May 18, a 20,000 plus increase in approximately the last two weeks (a 32% increase).

The Tension
A major fight has broken out over the best; i.e., safest and fastest, strategy to lift the stay-at-home and essential business orders. President Trump, seeing it as a way to revive his flagging campaign and focus on the economy as the narrative he runs on, has been encouraging states to rapidly reopen, supporting protests, and criticizing governors and health officials (Dr. Fauci), who he believes are too cautious.

Although there is a constituency for his agitation, it’s modest, and his offhand references to safety are drowned out by his blunderbuss economic cheerleading. Although the states are opening at a variety of rates, most are taking a slow, phased approach watching infection rates and hospital utilization.

The growth of victims in New York City has slowed and represents 31 percent of the national total. The next 9 states represent 37 percent, and many haven’t slowed yet (68% total). The remaining 40 states represent 32 percent of total deaths. Changes in these proportions will be an indicator of the application of caution and best practices in the states as they open for business.

Unemployment claims continue to climb as 2.9 million filed the last week, increasing the total filings since March to 33.5 million. The latest Wall Street Journal survey of economists from May 8-12 reported an expected unemployment rate in June of 17 percent, up from the April 14.7 percent reported last week. The economy, as it enters a second quarter of downturn, is approaching nearly twice the slowdown of 2008-10. Many economists believe the unemployment rate is more accurately 20 percent.

The economists agree with our blog observations of a slow “Swoosh” shaped recovery. Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, who earned an “A” from 72 percent of the economists for his early monetary actions (interest rates to near zero, purchase trillions of government debt and loans to American businesses) said on Wednesday, May 13:

“There is a growing sense the recovery may come more slowly than we would like…and that may mean that it’s necessary for us to do more.”

He implied another major spending bill was needed. The House of Representatives just passed $3 trillion package for states and local government and other programs with a slim 9-vote margin. The bill is opposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump. But, expect the May unemployment report released in June to be very painful. Trump and the Republicans are going to start looking for political cover.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

China, the U.S. and Global Leadership in the Pandemic

Is America a dysfunctional state? Can it recover a global role? Could the COVID-19 argument lead to conflict?

Two American foreign policy’s most urgent concerns today are the deteriorating U.S. relationship with China and the lack of global leadership. This Thursday, I will join Professor Suisheng (Sam) Zhao as we explore both of those topics, specifically the origin, causes and likely outcome of the growing confrontation with China and what should be the U.S.’s role in global leadership. Please join us at 3:00 pm (MT) on Zoom for the conversation.

Thursday, May 14, 2020
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm MST
Zoom Meeting Details
Meeting ID: 926-3541-6507