Friday, June 22, 2018

Ballot Total Heading to 800,000 Plus

The rate of ballots processed this week has been about 50,000 to 60,000 a day. At that rate, the final total should exceed 800,000 votes by Tuesday. Final ballot chasing by the campaigns and the sudden realization by procrastinators that time is up may produce a final surge. Also, expect 200,000 unaffiliated votes.

If It’s Stapleton vs. Polis, Who Wins?

A recent poll from Service Employees International Union conducted by Strategies 360 claims that in a race between the party’s respective frontrunners – Walker Stapleton and Jared Polis – Polis, the Democrat, would win by 5 points. It also reinforced earlier polls that Polis is ahead of Cary Kennedy by more than 10 points.

General election polls more than four months before an election are highly unreliable, but it does reflect the view that Colorado Democrats have a generic advantage just based on shifting partisanship and recent voting behavior – namely, Hillary Clinton’s 5 point win in 2016. But, that advantage depends on a base of voters turning out and the large bloc of less committed, weak partisans and unaffiliated voters being attracted to, or at least not put off by, the Democratic candidate. As Cory Gardner highlighted, Republicans can win statewide even against well-funded incumbents. What are some of the factors that will define the race?

As Dick Wadhams, a top Republican strategist, argued in the Denver Post, a Republican candidate must run a nearly flawless campaign. Republicans simply have no room for error and they must aggressively exploit every misstep of the other side. Wadhams pointed to Democratic weaknesses – a very far left nominee, expensive new programs and attacks on powerful economic interests (e.g., gas and oil), or as wordsmith Wadhams put it: “The new Bernie Sanders/Democratic Party.”

In a parallel commentary, Alan Salazar, the Democrats’ top strategist, a person who has boosted the careers of Udall, Hickenlooper and now Hancock, sees the Trump factor the greatest asset promoting Democrats, especially motivating the base, but also providing regular controversies that will put Republicans in an explaining posture. Salazar is correct that Trump was not only unpopular in Colorado in 2016, but recent polls reinforce that beyond committed Republicans and some blue collar conservatives, he continues to lack appeal to Colorado’s swing voters, critical in the state’s general election.

Considering party positioning and the 2018 environment, it appears that Colorado Democrats have a slight, but fragile, advantage. Although the state has shifted to the left, the Democratic ticket may be even more to the left. The Blue Wave may be strong in November, but Democrats have a poor record of turnout in non-presidential elections.

This analysis did not consider the candidates or their campaigns. I predict July and August will rapidly highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates and their ability to construct campaign organizations. This is a major political transition for Colorado, and both local and national media and interest groups have a powerful stake in the outcome – they will be watching.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It’s the Money: Governor’s Primary Could Spend $25 Million – Predicted April 4, 2017

The biggest story in this primary election is money. The Denver Post reports $24.6 million in spending by the eight gubernatorial candidates.

In April of last year, The Buzz predicted a $25 million primary. I had some candidates who dropped out or never announced on the list (Ed Perlmutter, Jack Graham, Kent Thiry), but Jared Polis, Mike Johnston, Vic Mitchell and Walker Stapleton were all listed as likely multi-million dollar fundraisers. Expect the final figure to get to $30 million.

The $25 million is just personal contributions. Another $10 million is recorded as PAC spending.

About Half the Vote is In and Unaffiliated are Nearly a Fourth of Turnout

Of the more than 478,000 ballots returned and received by the close of Tuesday, June 19 (one week before the June 26 election), 23 percent, or about 109,000, were from unaffiliated voters.

Polls and pundits had expected 15 to 20 percent would be the ultimate unaffiliated share of the total vote. That means if the total vote is above the 645,000 the Secretary of State reported voted in the 2016 primary and it could get close to one million, approximately 150,000 to 200,000 will be unaffiliated voters – a very significant number.

Voters are overwhelmingly older (58% 61 years old or older) and more likely to be women (53%).

Eighty percent of the returns a week before the election are from the eleven largest counties, with El Paso, Arapahoe and Jefferson leading the pack. A few notable facts: Denver is lagging in early returns; Democratic returns are slightly ahead in both Arapahoe and Jefferson; and large numbers of Democratic ballots were used by unaffiliated in Arapahoe, Boulder, Jefferson and Larimer.

See Secretary of State ballots received here

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

From Bush to Trump, Colorado Republican Party Faces a Challenge

A number of factors have slipped the Republican Party into third place in Colorado in presidential performance. George W. Bush won the state by 8 points in 2000 and Donald Trump lost it by 5 in 2016. That 13-point swing wasn’t just about the charisma of Barack Obama. Even the highly unpopular Hillary Clinton led the Democrats to a 5-point win.

Because of recent growth, the power driver of the state has become the metro area, and Trump was crushed in metro Denver. He lost all the large counties, except Douglas. He lost Arapahoe County by 14 points and Jefferson by 7 points. Denver, the dominant population center, gave Hillary Clinton 74 percent, or a 55-point deficit for Trump.

A comparison between the Republican Party’s strength in the 2000 presidential election by county shows the swing from Bush to Trump in 2016. Bush carried Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, and comparing 2000 to 2016, Republicans performed 12 points better in 2000 in Arapahoe and 9 points better in Jefferson. Bush lost Boulder and Denver, but managed to get into the “thirties,” or more than 10 points above Trump’s total in each. In more blue collar Adams, Trump was only 3 points behind Bush. Although Trump won Douglas, he trailed Bush’s 2000 win by 10 points.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Judy Schwartz Passes Away

Judy and her partner, Taffy Lee, were great friends of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). They helped with several campaigns of Ciruli Associates in the 1990s. Judy became a style editor for the Rocky Mountain News and the Colorado Statesman.

She was a big hugger, a tremendously positive force in people’s lives.

Thank you Judy.

Read obituary here

Friday, June 15, 2018

Metro Counties on a Growth Tear for More Than a Decade

Colorado’s rapid growth is one of the major influences affecting Colorado’s politics. The state’s county commissioners recently heard a presentation at their annual Colorado Counties Inc. conference that included a slide about the growth in the Denver metro area since 2000. The PowerPoint slide shown below presents the growth in the six largest metro counties from 2000 to 2017, the most recent census data.

Colorado’s population has grown from 4.3 million in 2000 to 5.6 million today, or a 30 percent increase. More than half that growth has been in the six-county metro area, which jumped 684,000 residents from 2.4 million to 3.1 million.

Some facts about the metro area 17 years of rapid growth:
  • Arapahoe County’s 32 percent growth moves it from the 3rd largest county to second, behind Denver (704,000) and third statewide behind El Paso (699,000).
  • Boulder and Jefferson counties are the metro laggards with 11% and 9% growth, respectively. Boulder dropped to the smallest population in the six-county metro area behind Douglas. Jefferson added only 47,000 new residents.
  • Denver’s addition of 150,000 new residents has been extraordinary, especially in the last 7 years. It has changed the politics of the metro area (more Democratic) and made growth a political issue in Denver (traffic, density, gentrification, stress on city services and facilities).
  • Adams and Douglas counties, the north and south counties on the metro Front Range, have the fastest growth rates and still have room for considerable growth.
Note: Broomfield wasn’t a county in 2000 and would increase the current total metro population by about 50,000.