Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Polls Show Variation in Crowded Republican Field

The multitude of Republican candidates and the small percentages that separate them shows up in the rapid movement in rank order.

A couple of recent polls have had Dr. Ben Carson ahead or tied with Donald Trump, although Trump leads by six percent in the RealClearPolitics average. Marco Rubio, who has moved up in recent polls, is now in a race for third place with Carly Fiorina.

The message is that the placement of candidates has considerable variation, although there is a discernable top tier with Trump, Carson, Fiorina and Rubio challenging; and a second tier with Bush and Cruz. A third tier barely registering in national polls has Kasich, Huckabee, Christie and Paul hanging on.

At the state level, there has been considerable repositioning. Trump is down four points on average in the first three states, although he still leads. Carson moved up to third place in New Hampshire, replacing Jeb Bush. Ted Cruz is now in third place in South Carolina where Bush has dropped to fifth. Following her national climb, Fiorina is now third in Iowa, tied with Cruz, and second in New Hampshire, replacing Kasich, who fell to fifth. Scott Walker dropped out on September 21, 2015.

Pre-Democratic Debate Polls: Clinton Leads Field, But Looks Vulnerable in General

Hillary Clinton is below her 60 percent super leads in July, but with about two-fifths of the vote in RealClearPolitics polling average, she is still the solid frontrunner.

She has a modest lead in Iowa (6 points) and continues to lag behind Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire (9 points). But beyond the first two states, there is no sense her support among rank and file or minority Democrats has collapsed. Sanders draws his biggest crowds on the coasts and the campuses.

But, Clinton has problems and they are highlighted by the Joe Biden boomlet. His moving around on the sidelines is a sign senior Democrats believe Clinton could be so wounded by the email scandal that she can’t credibly lead the party next November. That crisis, if it comes, may not happen until 2016, making a Biden entrance now very contentious since neither Clinton nor Sanders are likely to move aside.

The numbers that scare Democrats the most are from a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that shows her losing or tied with everyone except Donald Trump. That is the second recent poll that has undermined one of her main arguments for her frontrunner status – that she can win the presidency and help Democrats win back the Senate.

Whether or not Michael Bennet goes back to the senate rests to a large extent on the President’s approval rating next year and the quality of the party’s presidential nominee and campaign.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Obama’s Syrian Policy Collapses

UN building
The September 2015 United Nations meeting in New York will be seen as the nadir of President Obama’s foreign policy. America’s and the West’s biggest adversaries – Russia and Iran – have joined with the Middle East’s least favored failed state, Syria, and perennially unstable Iraq to form a new relationship that will enhance autocracy and greatly accelerate the violence. Very little of this appears to have been known or anticipated by U.S. policymakers or intelligence services.

In Syria, Obama’s preference for diplomacy appears naive and irrelevant. His minimum military engagement appears feckless and an invitation to despots. Presidents Putin and Rouhani are now in charge of the outcome with America’s alleged ally and protectorate in tow. The collapse of President Assad’s government is halted and his survival for the foreseeable future assured.

Just to highlight the crisis of Obama’s foreign policy, the Taliban, mostly thought of as a southern regional force, just took an Afghan provincial capital, Kunduz, in the far north of the country. It reflects another failure of intelligence and calls to question the withdrawal policy that dominates the White House.

Value Proposition: Is College Worth it?

Colleges and universities around the country are concerned about the changing demographics of students, the cost and financing of school, and the disruption of technology, especially online education. But the most serious challenge may be the declining value students put on college education.

A new Gallup poll conducted with Purdue University surveyed 30,000 college graduates and found that barely half (50%) “strongly agree” their higher education was worth the cost. Among recent graduates (alums from 2015 to 2006), only 38 percent “strongly agree” their education was worth it.

Fifty-two percent of all graduates in public schools “strongly agreed” the education was worth the expense, 47 percent of private school graduates and just 26 percent of for-profit college graduates.

Nearly 10 percent of recent graduates were unemployed and nearly half were underemployed. About two-thirds of student graduates with an average of $30,000 worth of debt and only 33 percent of alumni with that level of student debt thought their education was worth it.  Delaying buying a house, getting married, having children or starting a business are related to high student debt.

The Washington Post: Is college worth the cost? Many recent graduates don’t think so.
Fortune: Is college worth it? This is what recent grads are saying.

School Politics in 2015

K-12 school politics in Colorado is largely a fight between the teachers union and right and left reform interests, each of whom have a different set of allies, but some similarity in goals. The conservatives that control the Douglas and Jefferson school boards pursue charter schools as do the liberals who control the Denver schools. And both suburban and urban reformers are opposed by the unions. But, there are stark differences.

Denver’s reformers don’t directly confront the union’s right to bargain, don’t meddle with social science or humanities curriculum and don’t advocate for vouchers. But in Douglas County, conservatives have decertified the union and institute voucher program, although it’s currently in a court challenge. Conservatives in Jefferson County have opened up union negotiations to the public, added teacher evaluations to pay, and tried to advise on history curriculum. The union and progressive activists have not been able to defeat the Douglas County Board except in court, but they have successfully mounted a recall against the three-person Jefferson County conservative majority that will be voted on in November.

In general, Colorado teachers union has been on the political defense from the right and the left for more than a decade. They are still formable, but in the Denver metro area, they have lost significant ground.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Government Shutdown is a Loser: Wise to End It

Both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner knew a government shutdown over Obamacare was a political loser in 2013, but House Republicans and a handful of senate advocates managed to force a partial shutdown of the government starting October 1.

Senator Ted Cruz, who had mounted a 21-hour filibuster in late September, was adamant and frenzied at the start. But the media coverage featured daily laments of seniors and veterans turned away from the Washington monuments and national parks being closed. The collapse of the Republican hardliners came on October 10 when a Wall Street Journal poll showed what most observers and certainly the entire Washington establishment believed – the public was rejecting the strategy in droves. They did not like the shutdown, they did not approve it as a strategy to defund Obamacare and they blamed the Republicans for it, not the President or Democrats.

And the signs were not good for Mr. Cruz and his House allies this time either. A new Pew Research poll shows, in spite of the controversy surrounding the Planned Parenthood videos, the organization maintains considerable popularity. Sixty percent of Americans want funding continued, and if the government shuts down, blame will accrue to Republicans by nearly two-to-one (40% Republicans vs. 26% Democrats) (new poll Sept. 27, 1,505 adults).

The dilemma for Hill Republicans is that their partisan constituents are strongly against Planned Parenthood funding (66% against funding), but they lose the public in general because even more Democrats favor funding (83% favor funding) and Planned Parenthood funding is winning independents by nearly two-thirds (64% of independents).

Also, this poll shows Republicans are internally divided with conservative Republicans – 78 percent against funding – but among moderate to liberal Republicans, only 39 percent are in favor of eliminating funding.

As the two polls made clear, this shutdown scenario looks much like October 2013. Pew Research, joined by a new CBS News/New York Times poll, show nearly the same percentage of Americans who were more likely to blame Republicans in 2013 will be blaming Republicans today. Leadership and rank and file were smart to end shutdown strategy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Boehner Accelerates Retirement, But Had a Good Run

John Boehner
Speaker of the House John Boehner decided to speed up his retirement in the face of growing chaos in the House Republican caucus, but he will still have served longer than Nancy Pelosi (18th longest serving) and Newt Gingrich (19th longest serving) and be the 12th longest serving speaker out of fifty-two. Boehner nearly made it five years (1,756 days as of the end of October and his retirement) compared to Pelosi, 1,457 days or just under four years.

The longest serving speakers were in the post WWII era as Democrats maintained a near monopoly on control of the House.

1. Sam Rayburn, D, more than 17 years
2. Tip O’Neill, D, nearly 10 years
3. John McCormack, D, nearly 9 years
4. Dennis Hastert, R, nearly 8 years
7. Carl Albert, D, nearly 6 years
9. Tom Foley, D, more than 5 and a half years

In the current anti-Washington political environment, Boehner may keep the record, even if the Republicans hold the House majority for a decade or more.

Boehner is only the latest casualty of the Tea Party disruption that was first visible in the 2010 U.S. Senate primary when long-term Utah Senator Bob Bennett was beaten, Indiana’s Senator Richard Lugar was defeated in 2012 and the primary lose in 2014 of U.S. Representative Eric Cantor. It was Cantor’s loss that kept Boehner on the job for another term.

And, of course, frontrunner Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina highlight the current lack of affection for the Republican establishment in the presidential race.

The longstanding disapproval of Washington, which was featured in The Buzz on September 1 (Why an Outsider May be President), was confirmed by the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which reported 72 percent of Republican primary voters were dissatisfied with John Boehner’s and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ability to accomplish GOP goals.  Thirty-six percent said they wanted them removed from power. Talk show listeners, Tea Party supporters and Trump supports were the most in favor of immediate removal.

It is unlikely this internal war is going away very soon. The next speaker will face the same challenges of how to reconcile the view that winning the presidency and holding the senate requires showing the ability to govern versus the view that standing on principles regardless of the consequences; i.e., shutdowns, is the way to govern and win elections.

NBC News: Poll: 72% of GOP voters dissatisfied with Boehner, McConnell
New York Times: Boehner’s exit, the role of red states and the outlook for 2016
FiveThirtyEight: John Boehner had a good run