Friday, February 17, 2017

Senate Elections in 2018 – Major Challenge for Democrats

Democrats’ weaknesses in the interior of the country will be on full display in the 2018 election. They would like to pick up the three senate seats they missed in 2018 (would have needed 2 if Clinton/Keane had won) to control the Senate. But out of the 33 seats up, they must defend 25 (including their 2 independents) and many are in the heartland where Donald Trump did well.

Republicans have only one seat out of 8 in a state Hillary Clinton won – Nevada and Democrats will target it. Democrats will also challenge Jeff Flake, who only won with 49 percent in the 2012 race, but it will still be difficult for them to win Arizona (Trump carried it by 4 points). They will likely take on Ted Cruz in Texas, another difficult win, but they hope he’s vulnerable with his endless shifting position on Trump and changes in the state’s demographics.

But Republican opportunities are huge. Democrats will be defending highly vulnerable seats won in President Obama’s 2012 re-election. Five of those states were carried by Mitt Romney that year. Last year, Donald Trump won them and the Republicans will target them.

Also, a few states Trump won (but not Romney) will be put on the target list, including Florida (Nelson), Ohio (Brown), Pennsylvania (Casey), Wisconsin (Baldwin) and Michigan (Stabenow).

Obviously, Trump’s popularity will be a factor, but if he holds his base and most Republicans, Democrats will be playing more defense than offense in these senate seats. The Democratic Party’s Beltway leadership and messaging has not been appealing to a majority of voters in the states with vulnerable senators. Will the Democrats move off the coasts and out of the big cities to challenge Republicans with the working class voters in rural areas and smaller towns or lose these senators?

U.S. Senate |

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gorsuch Remains Calm Moment in Chaotic First Three Weeks

A new poll reaffirms what conversations from Wall Street to main streets, Capitol Hill to state capitols repeat: Even if you like some of Donald Trump’s policies and cabinet picks, the White House is a chaotic mess. The Flynn resignation is just the most dramatic incident in three out-of-control weeks.

But the selection of Neil Gorsuch Tuesday, February 1, was a calm moment in a sea of turmoil, which most Republicans would like to see repeated and polling seems to agree. Gorsuch has a 51 percent approval in a new national poll (Feb. 3-36, 2017) with 39 percent disapproving. The latest Gallup poll has President Trump at 40 percent approval and 55 percent disapproval, a drop in Gallup numbers over the three weeks of 15 points.

Flynn Out on Busy Day

Michael Flynn was enjoying the company of his White House colleagues on the day of his resignation.

President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House on Feb. 13 | AP photo

All appears well at the 2:00 pm press conference between President Trump and Prime Minister Trudeau. Flynn sits in the front row with Vice President Pence, Reince Priebus, Jared Kushner, Stephen Miller, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

The picture changes rapidly when at approximately 4:00 pm Conway reports Flynn has the President’s “full confidence” after questions that the Justice Department had warned the White House on January 19 that Flynn’s December 29 Russian conversation was a problem and the FBI had an ongoing probe.

Shortly afterward, Sean Spicer contradicts Conway and announces Trump was “evaluating the situation.” By 11:00 pm, Flynn is out.

The 24-day White House career of General Flynn, soared from being a key participant on January 28 in the high-back chair in front of the Resolute Desk as President Trump talks to President Vladimir Putin to February 13 when he lost his desk.

Washington is a tough town.

The Buzz: Gathering around the Resolute Desk
New York Times: The timeline of Michael Flynn’s phone call with Russia: Who know what, and when

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Colorado Moves Two Points to the Left

On a variety of scales, Colorado remains a competitive two-party state. For example, Gallup records Colorado as competitive in its 2016 fifty-state ranking of partisan affiliation. Nationally, partisanship is 47 percent Democrat and 42 percent Republican, or a five-point Democratic advantage. Colorado is cited as competitive with a less than one percent advantage for Republicans. Fourteen states are listed competitive, including Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and Virginia.

In terms of liberal and conservative ideology, Colorado is considered centrist in a fifty-state list, with 35 percent stating they’re conservative, 36 percent moderate and 26 percent liberal. But, it is on the more liberal end of the scale and the scale has moved to the left in recent years. Colorado’s position is confirmed by the shift in attitudes during the last decade toward legalized marijuana, which was defeated as a ballot proposal in 2006 by 59 percent and approved in 2012 by 55 percent. Also, a civil union initiative was defeated in 2006 by 53 percent, but passed by the state legislature in 2013, and polls showed it had 71 percent of Coloradans’ support (Quinnipiac 2013).

Although Colorado remains competitive between the two parties, as shown by candidates representing the two parties winning statewide races and splitting control of the state legislature, in fact, the state has moved at least two points to the Democratic side of the scale since 2006. This is most clearly shown in terms of registration and voter behavior in presidential elections. Republicans have lost their registration advantage. Voters not affiliated with a party are now the largest political group in the state, and polling shows they skew younger and somewhat more liberal and Democratic.

Viewing the presidential races since 1996 shows Colorado shifted to the Democratic side with Barack Obama’s first election and remained in that camp through the 2016 Clinton election.

The next major political race in Colorado is for governor. The ebb and flow of Washington politics and the quality of local candidates will frame the race. And although Republicans could win it, at least the early numbers suggest Democrats have a slight advantage.

See Gallup: GOP maintains edge in state party affiliation in 2016

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Senator Cory Gardner Organizes a Challenge to President Trump’s Foreign Policy

Senator Cory Gardner | Getty
Politico reports that Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner organized a letter to President Donald Trump opposing weakening the U.S. position on sanctions against Russia. He was joined by eight fellow Republicans, including John Cornyn of Texas, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Rob Portman of Ohio.

The blowback from Republicans was triggered by Trump’s statement of moral equivalency between Vladimir Putin and the U.S. Republican leadership disagreed, including the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who called Putin a thug, Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker who proposed sanction legislation, and Committee member Senator Marco Rubio who asked new Secretary of State Tillerson if given the evidence of bad behavior, Putin could be classified as a war criminal.

Gardner is on the Foreign Relations Committee and building a reputation for expertise and a willingness to speak out.

The politics of Gardner’s criticism of Trump is tricky. Left-wing protestors dog his visits (the resistance), Trump supporters feel he’s being disloyal and establishment Republicans worry about the state’s clout with the administration. But Gardner’s positioning appears to have served him well. He has very conservative principles (High Plains Tea Party-type), he is part of the leadership (establishment credentials) and he strikes out with some independent positions (skepticism on Trump’s Russian policy). So far, it’s worked.

Read Politico: Trump’s GOP foreign policy critics grow louder

Monday, February 13, 2017

Trump Starts at Record Low

Donald Trump glided into his first week in office from a poorly rated transition into a record low approval, which continued three weeks into the job. RealClearPolitics started his average with a couple of polls on January 23 at 40 percent approval to 45 percent disapproval.

After three weeks, both numbers have increased, and on February 10 he had 44 percent approval to 50 percent disapproval.

Gallup, which tied Trump at 45 percent for both approval and disapproval in their first poll posted on January 23, pointed out that he is the first president since polling began tracking approval in 1953 (Eisenhower) to be below 50 percent. However, Gallup points out that Trump has his supporters, especially among whites (56% approve), 65 years and older (53%) and Republicans (90%).

Disastrous Three Weeks

Gallup numbers have gotten significantly more negative as the administration has progressed. Trump has lost 15 points in three weeks. Gallup now records 55 percent disapprove (10 points down from 45%) and only 40 percent approve (5 points down from 45%). He will govern as he was elected as a plurality president in a polarized era of low trust for most institutions.

Trump is incredibly sensitive to audience data, including crowd size, polls and approval ratings. He receives it, reviews it, picks what he likes and claims what he doesn’t like is rigged.

Washington Post: Trump decries “phony” polls showing him with low approval ratings
RCP: The president still loves polls

Friday, February 10, 2017

Early Returns: Gorsuch Gets to 60 and Colorado’s Two Senators Support Him

First impressions are important. Neil Gorsuch’s education, legal career and reaction from the early round of Senate interviews appears to bode well for him getting at least 60 votes, which cuts off a filibuster.

Sen, Sianne Feinstein (L), former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte and
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch | Getty
Typically, from nomination to Senate confirmation is about three months. Hence, by April this nomination should be ready for a vote. Hearings tend to take 4 to 5 days. Justice Scalia had two days of hearings, but Alito had five and Roberts four.

Obviously, some issue could arise over the next several months of investigation, interviews and hearings to derail the nomination, but as of now, he appears to fit into mainstream on the conservative/libertarian side of court. But, the Democratic Party could continue toward its strategy of total resistance and drag its Senate members with it.

Nearly all of President Obama’s, Bush’s and Clinton’s judges got more than 60 votes for confirmation. Justice Alito received 58 votes (60 votes needed to proceed to confirmation under current rules, simple majority to be confirmed).

Justice Thomas received only 52 votes after his difficult 11 days of hearings in 1991. The only defeat in recent years was Justice Bork in 1987, who received only 42 votes. President Bush had to withdraw a nominee, Harriet Miers, in 2005 and, of course, Merrick Garland did not get a hearing in 2016.

Judge Gorsuch could have a very long term on the Court. Scalia was 50 years old when he entered the Court and 79 at the time of his death last year. Gorsuch is 49 years old and could serve for three decades if he follows in the average age of retirement in recent years, which is 79 years old.

As a highly qualified appeals court judge and Colorado native, Senator Michael Bennet will be hard-pressed to not join his colleague, Cory Gardner, and vote to consider and vote to confirm. Early polling shows Gorsuch’s nomination by Trump receiving a 50 percent approval, and most importantly, two-thirds (65%) of the public believe “Senate Democrats should allow a vote on the nomination.” Hence, although Democrats are angry about Judge Garland not getting a hearing, it’s been more than a year without a justice and more delay will become a potent argument to get the process done.

The Buzz: Neil Gorsuch pulls Trump out of ditch
Quinnipiac University poll, Feb. 8, 2017