Monday, December 17, 2018

The Democratic Frontrunners: The Three B’s – Biden, Bernie and Beto

The first Des Moines Register poll is out (with CNN), and of the 30 or so Democrats running for president, twenty were tested and Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke are at the top of Iowan Democrats’ preference. It is more than a year ahead of the first in the nation’s Iowa caucus, but the polls are starting as are the campaigns (Hickenlooper had 1%).

Biden’s early advantage is that he simply has the top name identification, but he also represents the pragmatic, we need experience concern that Democrats have given President Trump is the non-stop attack campaigner.

Sanders hasn’t stopped campaigning after losing to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has a base of more independent and younger voters who like his outside status and generous plans for reshaping America. Although his views appear somewhat antiquated, like a dog-eared copy of “Das Kapital,” they received a shot in the arm from the out of left field win of socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the 2018 New York primary.

Beto O’Rourke is the Obama of the 2019 field. He ran a spectacular, although losing race in the state Democrats would most like to win - Texas. He has looks and a manner that draws crowds, and possibly most important, he collected millions of dollars of donations online and from national donors.

Needless to say, it’s early with a massive field of candidates. If 2016 was a surprise, both for the path to nomination and the election results, this one will likely be just as unpredictable.

CNN: Iowa Poll: First poll of likely caucusgoers finds Biden, Sanders, O’Rourke atop the field tweet

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

W. Delivers a Great Speech

Many saw President George W. Bush deliver his eulogy for his dad at the National Cathedral, but it also reads well. I’ve linked to it. Bush sends out a weekly newsletter from his presidential library. The peroration was strong and emotional. And, it had a message for 2020.

Last Friday, when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him. The guy who answered the phone said, “I think he can hear you, but hasn’t said anything most of the day. I said, “Dad, I love you, and you’ve been a wonderful father.” And the last words he would ever say on earth were, “I love you, too.”

To us, he was close to perfect. But, not totally perfect. His short game was lousy. (Laughter.) He wasn’t exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor. (Laughter.) The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. (Laughter.) And by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us. (Laughter.)

Finally, every day of his 73 years of marriage, Dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband. He married his sweetheart. He adored her. He laughed and cried with her. He was dedicated to her totally. 

In his old age, dad enjoyed watching police show reruns, volume on high (laughter), all the while holding mom’s hand. After mom died, Dad was strong, but all he really wanted to do was to hold mom’s hand, again.

George H.W. and Barbara Bush | Photo:
Of course, Dad taught me another special lesson. He showed me what it means to be a President who serves with integrity, leads with courage, and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country. When the history books are written, they will say that George H.W. Bush was a great President of the United States – a diplomat of unmatched skill, a Commander in Chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.

In his Inaugural Address, the 41st President of the United States said this: “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it. What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?”

Well, Dad – we’re going remember you for exactly that and so much more.

And we’re going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity, and kind soul will stay with us forever. So, through our tears, let us see the blessings of knowing and loving you – a great and noble man, and the best father a son or daughter could have.

And in our grief, let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Colorado Politics: Dems Circle Overhead, Eyeing Colorado’s Cory Gardner as Their Prey

The D.C. Democratic political establishment believes Cory Gardner’s senate seat is winnable and the race is on. Election 2020 is expected, at least in Colorado, to look a lot like 2018 – high turnout, many young, women and independents voting with Donald Trump on the ballot, no more popular than in 2018 to a substantial majority of Colorado voters. Democrats will also have the benefit of a newly installed majority controlling the governor’s mansion, both houses of the legislature and the constitutional offices, all pulling for the ticket.
Senator Cory Gardner | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a Colorado Politics article, I review the challenges facing Gardner with the caveat that he is the best statewide candidate Republicans have fielded since Bill Owens.

The outline of Senator Cory Gardner’s re-election contest has already taken shape. The key elements are near-constant speculation that he is the most endangered Republican up in 2020 in the U.S. Senate. A host of wannabe candidates promoting their own brands or causes have announced their intention to challenge Gardner, and top candidates are engaged in behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

Gardner shares most vulnerable honors with Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, depending on the analyst. A review of Colorado’s history of federal elections this century reinforces Republicans’ sense of anxiety and Democrats’ anticipation.

Friday, December 7, 2018

John Brennan and CIA Director Gina Haspel

CIA Director Gina Haspel was on her way to brief the U.S. Senate on the Khashoggi murder when she and former CIA Director John Brennan walked past George H.W. Bush’s casket and were pictured together. Hopefully, the President either missed the picture or doesn’t assume Brennan was part of any briefing. Trump is not a Brennan person.

John Brennan and Gina Haspel

Haspel may be in trouble, even without the Brennan walk-by. She was complimented by senators from both parties on her candid assessment of the Khashoggi murder and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s responsibility. President Trump simply wants the story to go away. He’s decided. The alliance is transactional and Iran arms sales, jobs and oil supersede intelligence service assessments or the value of U.S. moral leadership. Trump summed up the intelligence on MBS as “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t” know about the event.

The senators that heard Haspel’s assessment mostly disagreed. Lindsey Graham, always pungent, said there was “zero chance” the Crown Prince wasn’t’ involved in Khashoggi’s death. “There’s not a smoking gun. There’s a smoking saw,” a reference to the discredited earlier presentation by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Mattis said there was “no smoking gun.” They both mostly simply repeated the President’s position that the relationship with Saudi Arabia was too important to disrupt over the Khashoggi affair.

The administration’s problem is that a large bipartisan group of senators don’t agree and are insisting on something happening to express the U.S. government’s outrage.

Bob Corker R
Lindsey Graham R
Rand Paul R
Richard Shelby R
Richard Durbin D
Robert Menendez D
Christopher Murphy D
Chuck Schumer D

The main target of recompense is American support for the Yemen War. While the Senate may only have resolutions, which are mostly gestures, the House Armed Services Committee in January, after the Democrats take over, is likely to be very unhospitable to funding the war.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

DU Hosts the Secretaries of State

Kerry and Albright Concerned About the State of Democracy, But Optimistic About Next Generation

The University of Denver hosted Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and John Kerry at their annual Korbel School dinner on November 29.
(L to R) DU Chancellor Chopp, Floyd Ciruli,
Madeleine Albright and John Kerry

In a conversation I moderated, Albright, who just published a book on the history of fascism
(“Fascism: A Warning”), bemoaned the rise of authoritarian leaders in Eastern Europe and most recently in Brazil, at the very moment America was abandoning its historic leadership of democracy. Kerry said “Our democracy is troubled and that the norms and values that we as a people were raised with are being violated.” He offered three needed remedies for American democracy related to limiting money in politics, ending gerrymandering and securing voter access.

In the nearly hour-long discussion, they both emphasized the need for women and young people to participate in politics and policymaking. They were optimistic the recent midterm elections reflected a revival of the activism of previous youth movements for the environment and against the Vietnam War. I pointed out that the Colorado midterm elections saw a record level of turnout and participation by women and Millennial voters and a result that mirrored the 1974 Watergate election.

The dinner attracted 500 and included former Senators Gary Hart and Hank Brown. Senator Michael Bennet gave John Kerry the Korbel School’s International Bridge Builder Award.

(L to R) Floyd Ciruli, John Kerry and Madeleine Albright

Denver Post: John Kerry, Madeleine Albright slam Donald Trump’s foreign policy at Denver event
DU: John Kerry and Madeleine Albright share messages of optimism at 20th Korbel Dinner

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Did Coloradans Shift to the Right on Ballot Issues? Not Necessarily – Colorado Politics

The midterm election has provided a treasure trove of data on the transformation of Colorado politics due to generational change, new issues and Donald Trump. A comparison of local ballot returns and the defeated state tax results highlights that Colorado voters in the 2018 election were not anti-tax, but selective on taxes favoring local initiatives over statewide efforts.

Colorado Politics published my latest column on the 2018 ballot issues here

CIRULI | Did Coloradans shift to the right on ballot issues? Not necessarily

Although most Colorado voters opposed new statewide taxes for schools and roads in the recent election, they were much more supportive of local tax proposals for schools, special districts and some county and municipal projects. Amendment 73, the $1.6 billion school funding proposal based on an income tax increase for upper-income taxpayers, lost statewide by 46 to 54 percent. Proposition 110, the highway bond proposal based on a sales tax increase, lost 41 to 59 percent.

But, Colorado voters are not reflexively anti-tax. They are selective in their choices, and in many cases, generous with local school districts, special districts, municipalities, counties and some special programs. That includes Republican and Democratic-leaning counties that voted against the statewide ballot issue. The following chart displays five counties, their nearly unanimous opposition to Amendment 73 and Proposition 110, but “yes” support for a host of local tax increases, some of them substantial. Schools were especially successful in their mill levy override and bond proposals, but municipal TABOR override and bond approvals and special district tax increases, such as urban drainage and flood control districts, also won voter support.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Warning: Donald Trump is 43 Percent in Colorado

The 2020 warning light is flashing for Colorado Republicans. Donald Trump, who will be running non-stop the next two years for re-election, has a ceiling in Colorado of 43 percent. He received 43 percent against Hillary Clinton, a candidate he regularly disparages as a totally inadequate campaigner. Walker Stapleton ended up with 43 percent in his statewide gubernatorial race. He lost by a remarkable 10 points, which may have ballooned at the end due to President Trump’s “embrace” in a Monday before Election Day tweet.
Trump embrace: “…His opponent, Jared Polis, is weak on crime and weak on borders – could never do the job. Get out and VOTE – Walker has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
Trump was a disaster for Colorado Republicans, not only giving Democrats control of all the state’s constitutional offices, but also both houses of the legislature, the first time it’s been accomplished in Colorado since Franklin D. Roosevelt crushed Alf Landon in the 1936 landslide. The 2018 losses even exceeded the Watergate backlash that brought Dick Lamm, Gary Hart, Tim Wirth and Democrats in the Colorado House into power. But, as opposed to this year, the Republican Secretary of State and Republican controlled State Senate survived.

The Trump down draft also swept out numerous local county Republican elected officials (commissioners, sheriffs, clerks, assessors) in counties, such as Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson and Larimer.

The most vulnerable Republication now is Senator Cory Gardner, who won by 2 points in 2014, a good Republican year. Expect a fierce contest setting records beyond the massive amounts spent this year. The Republican challenge is how to hold the senate seat and conduct local elections with Donald Trump anxious to embrace.