Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Incumbent Rule is: Destroy Your Opponent’s Favorability by Labor Day or You’re in Deep Trouble

In ancient times, the public face of campaigns began after Labor Day. In modern times, if an incumbent politician hasn’t crushed his challenger’s favorability by Labor Day, he or she is at best in for a nightmare contest, but very likely a new career.

The ultimate practitioner of this earlier, more aggressive and very expensive strategy was Barack Obama. He began his attack on Mitt Romney in Colorado months before Romney was to be nominated. The goal was to make Mitt into an unsympathetic plutocrat. It mostly worked by July 2012.

Today, it’s Cory Gardner who’s the target of Democratic independent committees and Udall’s own effort to drive up Gardner’s negatives before Labor Day. The current emphasis is a multi-million dollar ad campaign aimed at women using abortion and the Hobby Lobby decision to put Gardner on the defensive. It is accompanied by daily online campaign communications styled as media releases that attack on a host of issues. Also, the Internet is awash with ads calling Gardner an extremist.

Polls in late August will be able to tell if the strategy is working.

Some examples:

“FLASHBACK: Garner cheered radical personhood effort at 2008 event”
“Are voters concerned about a bill that could outlaw both abortion and IVF?”
“Anti-discrimination order a stark contrast to Gardner’s anti-LGBT agenda”
“As Udall votes to bring jobs home, Gardner sticks to outsourcing pledge”
“Gardner pushes to outsource Colorado jobs”
“Gardner’s radical economic agenda would hurt middle class Coloradans”
“Gardner’s votes to slash workforce training would hurt Colorado workers”

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Good News for Udall, Bad for Hickenlooper

A new panel survey technique from YouGov with the New York Times and CBS has released results of a non-partisan, non-probability, but massive 100,000 respondent poll on the U.S. Senate and governor’s races.

YouGov uses large panels of subjects selected by a non-probability technique (it’s a lot cheaper), but they weigh the data according to the U.S. Census Bureau and some assumptions about partisan turnout. There is a considerable argument about the validity of non-probability panels, but the data was published in the 2012 presidential election and compared well with published non-partisan surveys and the election’s final results.

Although they show a 70 percent chance the Republicans will win the Senate, similar to the well-known New York Times forecasting model (60%), it shows Senator Mark Udall winning by 4 points over Congressman Cory Gardner, similar to the recent NBC/Marist polls (Udall up by 7), but different than PPP and Quinnipiac surveys showing the race within 2 points and Udall losing in one.

This survey shows Governor John Hickenlooper tied with Bob Beauprez, similar to several recent polls.

Is Democratic Control of Legislature in Danger?

The latest PPP poll asked a generic state legislative question and produced a 7-point Republican advantage.

Probably the most impressive part of the Democratic and liberal strategy to become dominant in Colorado was its state legislative effort:  recruitment, candidate guidance and funding.

The Republican “wave” of 2010 helped them win the House by one seat, but Democrats won it back plus four more in the 2012 Obama presidential win.

Can the Republicans turn the wave plus the controversial 2013 session and subsequent recalls and resignation into a one-seat win to take the senate, and less probable, but doable, produce a 5-seat win in the House?
Democrats have leveraged pure campaign skill and massive amounts of money to fight well above their natural strength in the Colorado electorate. In 2014, Republicans will have some national advantages to level the playing field a bit. But, they will still have to win it seat by seat.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Can Putin be Moved?

The terrible tragedy of MH17, and Russia’s likely involvement, has created a moment where America and Western Europe, if they choose, have new leverage to pressure President Putin and the Russian governing elite.

Putin has overwhelming support at home due to Russian pride from the Odessa annexation, reinforced by insecurity with encirclement and a generalized hostility to the West. It is all highly managed by a renewed propaganda operation reminiscent of the old Soviet Union, but far more sophisticated.

However, even prior to the MH17 crises, Putin and Russian had little public support in Western and U.S. public opinion, and with only a few exceptions, the rest of the world had a negative view of Russia.

Majorities or pluralities of national populations are recorded by Pew Research as having an unfavorable view of Russia and of Putin doing the “right thing regarding world affairs” (March/June 2014, 48,643 respondents in 44 countries). The survey was conducted prior to MH17, but post the annexation of Crimea, and among most countries, worldwide opinion of Russia and Putin wasn’t positive before the Crimea, it simply got worse, especially in the U.S. and Europe.

Out of the 44 countries in the Pew study, negative views increased in 36 from 2013 and 2014.
Negative views increased in the U.S. and Europe since 2013 Although German elites are reluctant participants in sanctions, their citizens have one of the most negative views toward Russia.
In Ukraine, the negative opinion (60%) is up from 11 percent negative in 2011, the last time Pew asked the question.
There are a handful of countries where majorities of the public have favorable views of Russia and belief Putin is doing the right thing.
The shooting down of MH17 over the Ukraine’s unstable region will add consternation with Russia and Putin in most of the world.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

PPP: Razor Tight at Top, Doom Below

The latest poll from PPP, a Democratic firm who, like Quinnipiac, has a long track record in Colorado (if less rigorous methodology; i.e., robo and online), gives both incumbents a one-point advantage: John Hickenlooper and Mark Udall at 44 percent and their Republican opponents 43 percent each.

But more ominous for Democrats is the down ballot numbers, which presage a Republican wave could be building that sweep the state constitutional offices below governor as it did in 2010. Republicans could also pick up legislative seats due to a 7-point advantage in the generic legislative ballot test.

Could Democrats lose their legislative majorities? Most lobbyists, the top handicappers, don’t believe so. They are even skeptical Democrats will lose their one-seat majority in the State Senate. But, waves can do amazing things. The 1984 Reagan/Armstrong wave sent both Houses veto proof for Republicans, up from their previous majorities.

The Incumbents

I keep writing that Colorado incumbents don’t tend to be defeated (The Buzz: Colorado Polling Averages, 7-22-14) and then see polls that say, as of today, these two incumbent Democrats could definitely be beat. Comparing this poll to the Quinnipiac survey shows some similarities and problems for Hickenlooper and Udall.

They will need very skillful campaigns and probably some luck to win. A one-percent advantage translates to about 18,000 votes, given expected turnout.

So in spite of the Governor’s support among some of the business and civic community and the power of incumbency he is in a difficult re-election against Bob Beauprez.
Udall has been in a tight race since Cory Gardner announced and has not gained any ground after a month and many millions spent in advertising on the Hobby Lobby and abortion issues.
The Democrats’ problem is partially a reflection of the weak national brand and President Obama’s problems, but it also reflects Democratic mistakes over the last two years and a Republican recovery since the start of this campaign season.
Republican Sweep
Although it’s 100 days away, as of now, the three statewide Republican candidates are crushing their Democratic counterparts by an average of 8 points, well beyond the margin of error.
  • As we reported earlier (The Buzz: The Republican Midterm Advantage, 7-22-14), the three state constitutional candidates – Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Treasurer – are trending Republican and, if this poll is correct, it’s an indication of the across-the-board negative position Democrats are in. These races tend to be metric for a party’s advantage in an election.
  • If Republicans work at it, Democrats could be swept from both houses of the legislature, but that requires overcoming several election cycles of Democratic superior candidate recruitment and campaigns.
Generally speaking, if there was an election for the state legislature today, would you vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate from your district?

Immigration has Gotten Trickier

Before the surge of children at the U.S.-Mexican border, public opinion on immigration had been mapped and looked reasonably stable.

Democrats had the advantage with a majority of the public supporting immigration reform (a path to citizenship) and a passionate minority of Republicans believing any change (or even discussing reform) was amnesty and encouraged more migration north.

The Central American surge has put Democrats on the defense. It shifted the discussion from citizenship to enforcement. Democrats are divided on welcoming the immigrants and sending them back. But, a majority of the public prefers a speedy process to send children back, which is why Colorado politicians, especially Democrats, are becoming very cautious with the issue.

Mayor Hancock is welcoming some children to stay in Denver. His constituents will be supportive. Denver is the state’s largest and one of its most liberal cities, with a significant Hispanic population. The children also come with some federal money. But, the announcement was not rushed. And, Governor Hickenlooper delayed any statement about Denver’s action, and then offered minimal support on humanitarian grounds.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and, in general, Colorado Republicans have been avoiding the immigration issue, a do no harm strategy, believing there was more to lose than gain bringing it up. But, the new environment provides them room to seek an advantage.

Some polls:
9News: Governor weighs in on bringing migrant kids to Colorado
National Journal: In Colorado, Republicans avoid talking about immigration
Denver Post: Colorado advocates say immigration reform not “a play for amnesty”

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Majority of Coloradans Support Hobby Lobby Decision

Somewhat surprising, the latest Quinnipiac Colorado poll shows that a majority of the public supports the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. It carved an exception out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for family-owned corporations that have religious objections to providing free and subsidized contraception for employees as an ACA requirement. If you had been watching television political advertising the last few weeks or following Senator Mark Udall’s legislative activities, you would assume the public was overwhelmingly against the Hobby Lobby exception.

But 50 percent of Coloradans support it and only 46 percent take the Udall position. But, a majority of women oppose it and Udall and his independent expenditure supporters are primarily targeting women. Although a majority of women oppose the decision, 43 percent agree.

This finding is no doubt affected by the continuing dislike of the ACA (Obamacare) in general. But support for religious rights appears to have some resonance and the Democratic Party’s commitment to universal free and subsidized contraception as a right is not yet a valiance issue.