Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays from Ciruli Associates

Blog will be back January 2 in the new year.


Obama – “Was 2013 Your Worst Year?”

Barack Obama’s final press conference was framed by his weak poll numbers, “Was 2013 your worse year?”

He is slightly below where President Bush was at the start of his disastrous 2006 midterm election year, and Obama just hit his all-time high disapproval.

The ACA rollout and “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” cost Obama’s personal credibility. The question is will it affect Democrats among the 35 Senate seats, 435 House seats and 36 governorships up next year?

Projecting the impact of the President’s low approval today to November 4, 2014 has limitations. Ten months is several lifetimes in politics, and the advantage, as the few weeks between the government shutdown and the Obamacare rollout demonstrated, can shift quickly.

As this website has documented, politics is becoming more volatile in the age of polarization, with an increasing percentage of voters choosing independence and moving quickly between media covered events, foreign and domestic. Also, there has been a downward shift in voters’ opinions toward the federal government. Low regard today is not comparable to low regard in 2006 as President Bush approached his last midterm. For example, the metrics of right direction and wrong track and now the approval of Congress are double-digit lower.

See Sabato’s Crystal Ball: The threatening thirties

Hickenlooper, Despite Bad Year, Still has Advantage

Although John Hickenlooper had a bad year, as the incumbent governor, he still has the advantage in his re-election.

Incumbent governors tend to win re-election. Only one lost in Colorado in the last half century.

Johnny Vanderhoof, who passed away this year, lost to Dick Lamm in the 1974 Democratic wave after President Nixon’s resignation. Vanderhoof, not really running for re-election, had moved up from Lt. Governor.

Reuters – Hickenlooper Moves to the Center – Promises a Veto

In a final pre-2014 press conference, Governor Hickenlooper makes clear he heard the message – move back to the center of the electorate and get control of his party.  While it was a bit of a joke, he made clear to his party leadership a veto is coming.

Reuters describes Hickenlooper’s problem:
In his first two years as governor, Republicans had control of the state House of Representatives, which independent Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli gave Hickenlooper political cover and played to his image as a moderate.
But an aggressive agenda on the part of legislative Democrats who now hold majorities in both houses and who Hickenlooper seemed unwilling to confront gave ammunition to potential opponents, Ciruli said.
Still, analysts said it was far too early to write Hickenlooper's political obituary.
The Republican Party in Colorado is fractured between pragmatists and Tea Party groups, and a messy primary could weaken the eventual nominee, Ciruli said. The governor could regain momentum with a strong, bipartisan State of the State address when the legislature reconvenes in January. (Keith Coffman, 12-20-13)
Hickenlooper, like President Obama, had a difficult year. His approval was in the 60s in January and the 40s in December. He is in a major repositioning as he starts his re-election year. He advocated bipartisanship in an effort to reestablish his moderate image and to reach out to Republicans, especially in rural areas. Republicans will be a tough sell in an election year. They believe he and his party are in trouble. But also he messaged Democrats that their most partisan bills and procedures will be resisted.

Hickenlooper was conciliatory. On gun issues and the renewable energy bill, he stated he would sit down if something could be done to make the legislation work better. He said no to new gun controls, but it’s unlikely he will back up on current legislation.

Mostly, Hickenlooper focused on the economy in an effort to get back to the public’s top issue and his roots, which is small business.

His fourth State of the State speech will be his toughest as he launches an effort to recapture some of the previous era of good, or at least better, feelings while dealing with a defensive party and aggressive opposition.

See Reuters: Shootings, other woes take political toll on Colorado governor

Tea Party Less Favored, But Record Number Sees Government Biggest Threat

Two new Gallup polls show that, although the favorability of the Tea Party has dropped to 30 percent down from 47 percent in early 2011 after its considerable influence in the 2010 election, the public increasingly agrees with one of its key political views that government is the “biggest threat to the future of the country.”

Between the Affordable Care Act and the meta-spying of the NSA, combined with dislike of Washington D.C. in general, government as a threat to the future of the country is at an all-time high (72%).

Only 22 percent of the public claim to be Tea Party supporters, down from a high of 29 points in early 2011. On the other hand, the Tea Party has been a major contributor to focusing light on the growth and danger of government, which is the issue Republicans will run on in 2014.

The challenge for Republicans is that, although smaller in number, the Tea Party remains a major influence in the party with 58 percent of Republicans rating it favorable. But intransigence and perceived extremism of the Tea Party for shutting down the government and not compromising on the recent budget deal is widely seen as harmful to the Republican election chances in 2014.

The GOP must find a strategy to avoid the Tea Party’s reputation as extreme, but benefit from its credibility as opposing the growth of government. Fortunately for the GOP, the Obama administration’s handling of the Obamacare rollout and NSA spying is creating opportunities.

One other Gallup poll sheds light on the 2014 election environment. The Republican Party remains on the defense as its reputation is at an all-time low of 28 percent favorable with the American people. It is only 47 percent favorable with conservatives; that is, many Tea Party activists don’t respect it. But the bad news for Democrats is that although they have 42 percent favorability overall, that percentage is equal to their favorability going into the disastrous 2010 election.

See Gallup polls:
Tea Party favorability falls to lowest yet
Record high in U.S. say big government greatest threat
Democratic Party maintains favorability edge over GOP

Friday, December 20, 2013

9NEWS – Millions Spent on Fracking Fight; 2014 Will be Election Year for Fracking

A million dollars has been reportedly spent in the November four-city fight on fracking moratoriums and bans. Another major traunch of money can be seen in television ads right now as the oil and gas industry try to reinforce the statewide public view that the industry is a safe and valuable contributor to the economy.

The money is being spent in December 2013 because:
“Well, I think 2014 will be an election year for fracking,” said 9NEWS political analyst Floyd Ciruli.
Ciruli lists two main objectives for next year for the oil and gas industry:
1. Prevent more attempts to block fracking, especially a statewide ballot question
2. Protect Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado,) a supporter of fracking
“The forces in favor [of fracking] would like to have a positive political environment for him as much as possible,” Ciruli said.
The danger for the incumbent Democrat is that he’s doesn’t see eye to eye with environmentalists on this. “That’s the base of his party,” Ciruli said. “And that’s one of the bases of his support is the environmental community.”
Ciruli says people who live close to fracking often have lower opinions of it, and the industry learned that spending money to fight for votes only gets you so far. “They feel a better investment at the moment is to try and sort of move public opinion in general,” Ciruli said.
See 9NEWS: Fracking ads remain on air after election

Denver Post – Giron Mulls Statewide Race

Denver Post reporter, Lynn Bartels, blogged that recently recalled State Senator Angela Giron is testing the waters for Colorado Secretary of State. One problem Giron faces is that Democrats already have an announced candidate. Although the candidate is largely unknown, CU Regent Joe Neguse has an impressive resume and the support of most the Democratic Party establishment, including Hispanic elected officials.

But, Giron’s more fundamental problem was that her recall was in the heartland of the Democratic Party in a strongly Hispanic district. The Pueblo district recall reflected not just a gun rights vote, but a broader judgment of her political style and voting record.

The likelihood a candidate recalled in a safe Democratic district will have the credibility to rally Democrats and appeal to independents seems farfetched.

Her explanation that her defeat was an artifact of an in-person vs. mail-back ballot is also not credible.

As quoted in Bartels' article:
Political consultant Floyd Ciruli disagrees.
The way the election was conducted, he said Wednesday, “might have cost her a point or two, but it didn’t defeat her.”
“She carried none of the constituencies Democrats are supposed to be ascendant with. She lost women, Hispanics, the young, independents and a third of Democrats,” he wrote in a blog in September, pointing to an unpublished poll that had correctly predicted a 12-point loss in the heavily Democratic Senate district.
The manner of election might have made a difference in the Morse recall, Ciruli said. That vote was 50.8 percent for the recall, 49.1 percent opposed, or a difference of 319 votes.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

College Crisis

Colleges and universities around the country are examining their operations and core missions more seriously than any time since the beginning of the great expansion of higher education after WWII.

Enrollment is down for many, expenses have grown, tuition increases are reaching a ceiling, and federal and state money is tight or retrenching.

However, a series of recent polls show that the public still intensely values a college education. By more than ten-to-one, Gallup reports the American public says college is “very important” (70%) over “not too important” (6%). A quarter of the population lands in the middle, answering “fairly important” (23%).

Women, minorities, Millennials, already college educated and Democrats value college higher than average. Many of those groups have the least resources; hence, the challenge of the next few decades is how to provide college access to the most passionate and most in need.

2014 Looks Good, Not Great, for GOP

A new Pew Research poll compares Republican voters’ outlooks on the 2014 midterm election to attitudes before the big Democratic win in 2006 and prior to the huge swing back to Republicans in 2010. In both cases, the speakership changed parties. The GOP rank and file’s 2014 expectations are upbeat, but not at landslide proportions like 2010.

A slight edge in expectations and enthusiasm (Republicans are about 6 points more enthusiastic than Democrats. They were 14 points more enthusiastic before the 2010 wave.) are good signs for the GOP, but as of now, do not indicate a wave.

Republicans are aiming for six Senate seats and Democrats 17 House seats. Colorado’s most competitive race, as of today, is Mike Coffman’s sixth district. The good news for Coffman is that Republicans in Washington aren’t making his race more difficult beyond the handicap of being a member of Congress – a profession with a 9 percent approval rating.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Shutdown vs. Obamacare Rollout

The race for the worst policy of the year from Washington D.C. has been won by Obamacare.

The Wall Street Journal poll on October 11 showed the Republican and especially Tea Party strategy of shutting down the government to defund the Affordable Care Act was a failure and the Republicans were taking the brunt of the public’s ire. By October 16, when Republicans finally capitulated, they were down 6 points to Democrats on the generic congressional ballot test as captured by Real Clear Politics. It was assumed at that point that Republicans were beginning their 2014 campaigns in a very deep hole.

But, then came President Obama’s disastrous management of the Affordable Care Act start-up. In the two intervening months, the President and his team have lost 9 points of advantage as the Republicans are now 3 points up on the generic ballot test. Obama is pulling down the entire Democratic ticket, as measured in local polls, including in Colorado.

The latest Wall Street Journal poll of December 11 shows that Obama’s disapproval is at an “all-time high of 54 percent.” And, as a host of polls have reported, his personal reputation for honesty and leadership ability has significantly declined. Also, he’s losing young people and Hispanics – the two groups he marshalled for his 2008 and 2012 victories.

But, probably most devastating to Obama is the public turning against his legacy, Obamacare. What Republicans were unable to do in dozens of defunding votes and the shutdown, the roll-out accomplished. Half the public believes Obamacare is a bad idea and only a third believe it is a good idea (34%).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Republicans are in a Weak Third Place in Denver Metro Area

The Republican Party is in third place in the Denver metro area, 9 points behind Democrats and 3 points behind unaffiliated voters. The metro area represents 57 percent of the state’s voters, and the registered voter tilt gives Democrats a significant regional advantage. Although Republicans maintain a statewide voter registration lead over Democrats by 28,000 voters, they are behind a surging bloc of unaffiliated voters.

Arapahoe County, the old anchor of metro Republican strength, may be the most surprising, with Republicans now in third place (31%) behind unaffiliated (34%) and Democrats (33%).

Republicans lead in only one county, Douglas (46%), and in addition to Arapahoe, they are in third place in Adams, Boulder and Denver.  In Jefferson County, their other historic stronghold, they are in second place with 32 percent of registered voters behind unaffiliated (35%).

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Day Kennedy Died

It had just snowed hard and Trinidad was freezing cold as we walked up the steps of the Junior College and first heard from a student that the president had been shot. We were in town for a statewide speech contest and had just arrived in the Pueblo Catholic High School bus.

We went into the cafeteria, which had large black and white TVs up high enough to see from a distance. Walter Cronkite was on. I noticed his white button down shirt and skinny tie, but no coat. It seemed unusual in those days when we had no continuous news and anchors always wore coats.

It was near noon and just as we started to listen, he said: “Dan Rather has confirmed President Kennedy is dead.” He removed his glasses and appeared to tear up, but then put them back on and kept reading the wire stories handed to him.

We were stunned. Much later, we realized how much the entire country felt and learned that day. I wasn’t the most focused high school student, but speech was my favorite activity, and from that moment on the authority of Cronkite and the power of television were riveted into my consciousness.

Pueblo Catholic High School has been closed for many years, but it was a fortress of Catholicism and ethnic pride in our community. We were the “Shamrocks,” and the election of John Kennedy was like the elevation of a pope. We rooted for him, prayed for him and followed his travels.

Given that students had come from around the state in bad weather, they held the meet. Pueblo Catholic did well, winning various individual awards, and my partner and I won the senior debate contest, arguing before a large audience the negative side of “Resolved: Medical care should be provided to the aged.” The topic seemed remote. Few of the authorities we cited in our case believed its enactment was imminent, but Kennedy’s death made it one of President Johnson’s post-assassination achievements.

November 22, 1963, was a devastating day I will never forget.

See Pueblo Chieftain: Expert on politics remembers clearly where he was on fateful day

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It’s Close to Panic – New York Times

State Senator Evie Hudak was forced to resign for the good of the party and her legislative caucus. Making the announcement right before Thanksgiving, Democrats were hoping for a one-day story. However, the longer-term narrative continues, Colorado Democrats remain on the defensive after losing their third state senator.

If Hudak had been recalled, power could have changed in the State Senate. Along with the high risk of losing the seat, the battle would have carried over to the beginning of the legislative session, leaving the Democrats defending a vulnerable legislator and talking about gun control, a subject they would like to get some distance from.

Democrats now enter the 2014 election with a one seat majority and having to defend at least two seats difficult to hold; the Morse seat in Colorado Springs and the Hudak seat in Arvada. Governor John Hickenlooper’s re-election has also been hurt by the Democrats legislative battles.
New York Times, Jack Healy
But Floyd Ciruli, a political analyst in Denver, said Ms. Hudak’s resignation amounted to a surrender before the fight began and was another sign of trouble for state Democrats. It comes weeks after voters overwhelmingly rejected a $1 billion tax increase to reform Colorado’s schools, a measure championed by Gov. John W. Hickenlooper and other prominent Democrats.
“When you add all that in together and stir in the collapse of the national brand, the congressional Democrats, the president and the Affordable Care Act, it’s close to panic,” Mr. Ciruli said.
Reuters, Keith Coffman
Independent Denver political pollster and analyst Floyd Ciruli said it was clear Democrats had pressured Hudak to resign to avoid losing their slim majority in the state Senate. Democrats have 30 days to appoint a successor, and that person must stand for election next year.
“I don't think the Democrats wanted to take the risk of losing another seat,” Ciruli said. “This way, they can keep the majority at least through the upcoming legislative session.”
Colorado Public Radio, Ben Markus
To political observers, the resignation comes at a curious time.
“Doing it right during this holiday I think the assumption is it will be a short story,” Floyd Ciruli, a longtime Colorado pollster, said. “But it does add one more piece to this sense that Democrats are playing some serious defense.” 
Ciruli said Hudak’s resignation is embarrassing for Democrats and sets up tough election battles next November – not just for state legislators but also for Governor John Hickenlooper, whose popularity is suffering. 
“To lose three legislators in one year out of your state senate is pretty extraordinary,” Ciruli said.
It’s also unprecedented.
Also see The Colorado Observer: Analysis: Dems feared collateral damage from Hudak recall

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Coffman Feels Better, Udall Worse

Campaigns are important, but Colorado’s political environment is sufficiently balanced that good or bad news from Washington can change the calculus quickly for federal officeholders.

Democrats during most of 2013 were leading the generic congressional ballot test, and during the shutdown debacle, surged ahead by 8 points, a sure sign that 2014 could have added Democratic seats, possibly even restore Democrats to power in the House. Today, Republicans are up one point, a bad sign given Republicans have a slight edge in a non-presidential year turnout. Could Democrats now lose six seats and control of the Senate?

In Colorado, President Obama’s approval deficit and the significant collapse of Obamacare as a perceived desired program have buoyed politicians, like Congressman Mike Coffman who is seen as vulnerable in his fiercely contested district.

And, the Democrats’ problems have put Senator Mark Udall, thought to be heading to a comfortable re-election, on the watch list.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

K-12 Educational Reform

Reform of education is a lot like red sauce – there are many similar ingredients, but every nonna has a recipe. From Denver’s more liberal big city version to Douglas County’s wealthy district conservative version, reform is tailored to the local culture, but a Ciruli metro poll shows there are some similarities:
  • Education choice is supported in both urban and suburban metro school districts
  • Independent, private, parochial and charter schools rate higher than public
  • Accountability with merit pay and testing are broadly supported
  • Majorities of Democrats, minorities and K-12 employed families agree with the above
The majorities that believe choice is an effective elixir for improvement in dropout rates and college acceptance contain extra high proportions of minority voters who have soured on the public system. For example, 54 percent of Hispanic metro residents believe choice is “very effective” and 61 percent of African Americans (42% of public overall).

Democratic politicians are increasingly sensitive to the rhetoric of reform being taken to mean “anti-union” positions, especially now that suburban reform movements are taking hold. Unfortunately, trying the rebrand the effort won’t be easy. Teachers and public education households are far less anti-choice than their national and local union leaders, who remain inexorably opposed to the key elements of “reform,” namely choice and merit

Monday, December 2, 2013

Udall Re-election Complicated by Washington D.C.

Mark Udall has not been on the list of threatened U.S. Senate seats (see blog: When Do Democrats Panic? Nov. 19, 2013). But, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows his re-election numbers are weak and have significantly declined the last five months, corresponding to voters’ growing frustration with D.C. in general and now specifically with President Obama and his poor management of the Affordable Care Act rollout.

Voter approval has remained in the mid-40 percent range since June, but disapproval of Udall has risen 13 points as many voters shifted from “don’t know” to “don’t approve.”  Also, more voters now claim to oppose his re-election than support it (41% re-elect, 47% don’t).

President Obama’s approval in the state has collapsed to even below his weak national numbers. Barely a third of Colorado voters approve his job performance. Obamacare has also suffered and is now opposed by a majority of Coloradans (56% oppose it and only 40% support it).

The Republican doing the best against Udall is Ken Buck, Weld County D.A. and 2010 failed senate candidate against Michael Bennet. Even with considerable baggage, Buck is benefitting from the Obama and Washington fallout and is only 3 points behind Udall (45% Udall vs. 42% Buck).

Republicans need to win six seats to take control of the Senate. Although the election is nearly a year away, as of now, even Udall is on the threatened list.

The Buzz: Udall in trouble
The Buzz: Udall faces challenge
Quinnipiac poll, Nov. 20, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Obama Takes Down the Democratic Ticket

Barack Obama won Colorado’s electoral vote twice, most recently by five points, but today his dismal approval rating and failed health care rollout is taking down the entire Democratic ticket. Senator Mark Udall and Governor John Hickenlooper are both at low points in their career approval ratings as they begin their re-election campaigns.

But, Obama’s 15 point negative approval is even dragging down the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. In a hypothetical match-up with Governor Chris Christie, she now loses Colorado by 6 points, her lowest point this year.

Two takeaways from the latest polls: First, the Washington D.C. contest to produce the worst policy in the American peoples’ view has pushed voters to the edge. If they had a choice of “none of the above,” it would do very well.
Second, there is no doubt that, as of today, Colorado is a battleground state.

Voters Don’t Like Recalls, But Many Like the Results

In the extraordinary Colorado politics of 2013, two Democratic state legislators, including the State Senate President, were recalled by angry voters. But when voters statewide are asked if they approve of recalling a person for political disagreements, voters stated they prefer to defeat the person in a regular election (36% favor recall and 57% wait for re-election).

However, in a recent Denver metro poll, voters were closely divided as to their support for the removal of the two state senators last September (39% favor, 35% oppose, 26% no opinion/don’t know).

And when statewide voters in the same Quinnipiac survey were asked if another Democratic legislator, Evie Hudak, should be recalled, 38 percent said yes and 49 percent no. But among the 38 percent who said recall, 60 percent of Republicans said yes, and if they are well-represented in her legislative district in a low turnout election, they can prevail.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Fracking Loses Cities, Wins the State

Fracking may have been banned by voters in five North Front Range Colorado cities (mostly moratoriums, one vote in a recount), but when voters statewide were asked if they support or oppose it, 51 percent said support and 34 percent oppose in a new poll by Quinnipiac University (1,206 voters, Nov. 2013).

Republicans overwhelming support it; Democrats oppose, but only two-to-one; and independents are near the statewide percentage.
This poll offers good news for Governor Hickenlooper. His is anxious to reach a compromise on fracking rules and regulations to remove it as an issue next year. Its lack of support will help him by encouraging environmentalists to compromise since they lack a statewide majority.
As reported in 9 News: 
Ciruli thinks the governor genuinely thinks more regulation is the best policy, but there are politics behind this announcement that can't be ignored.
Oil and gas has been making a splash as a political issue in the state, with voters passing four local-level ballot questions aimed at banning or delaying approval of new drilling operations.
The governor doesn't want this to be a statewide issue when he's up for re-election next year.
“Nothing would be more difficult for him to be a fracking advocate at the same time that many citizens and certainly the environmental movement were actively backing a ban,” Ciruli said.
9News: Politics meets policy in Hickenlooper’s air pollution proposal

Kopp May Be Strongest Opponent to Hickenlooper

The latest Quinnipiac poll confirms that John Hickenlooper has only a modest advantage against the Republican field in his re-election, and former State Senator Mike Kopp may be the strongest opponent.

Kopp had the narrowest point spread and holds Hickenlooper to 44 percent.
Kopp’s strength is that he only loses 5 percent of Republicans. Tancredo loses 11 percent of Republicans, and Gessler and Brophy lose 7 percent each.
Kopp was the newest addition to the field and has low name identification. In his announcement and early debates, he avoided attacking, and although he’s as conservative as his fellow Republicans, he left a bit of room to maneuver.
The key to the race is for a Republican to motivate his base, but not alienate moderate Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Denver Metro Economy Slows

The Denver metro economy is increasing at half the pace of last year. As of September, retail sales, as measured by sales tax collections, have increased 3.3 percent over September 2012. Retail sales grew 8.8 percent in 2012.

A recent business study confirms the slower growth when it reported that the region’s “gross domestic product” (value of all goods and services produced) was down to 2 percent this year from 2.5 percent last year.

The stock market, of course, has ignored the economy and boomed. It broke an intraday high of 16,000 this week, and is up 22 percent since January.

Hickenlooper Still Vulnerable

After Governor Hickenlooper received favorable media coverage from his activism during the state’s response to the recent floods in the North Front Range, it was assumed his approval rating might recover from a steep decline measured last summer. But, he’s still below 50 percent, about 14 points below his approval rating taken by the same polling firm in fall 2012.

Any positive media coverage from the floods may have been countered by the crushing loss he suffered in the defeat of the billion-dollar tax increase, Amendment 66, this November.

If 2014 is a bad Democratic year based on President Obama’s sinking approval, Hickenlooper will be in an even more difficult position than he was in 2010. Although it was a bad Democratic year, Hickenlooper had a high favorability, few controversies and a totally fractured Republican Party.

The Buzz: A vulnerable governor
The Buzz: Hickenlooper looking for a bigger win
The Buzz: Hickenlooper’s approval drops 15 points since last fall
Quinnipiac poll: Colorado gov has early lead in reelect bid

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Colorado Ready for Third Party?

With more than a third of its voters unaffiliated with a political party, Colorado has been more hospitable to third party candidates than most states.
Ross Perot
Ross Perot gained 23 percent of the vote in Colorado in 1992, above his national average of 19 percent and tossing the state to Democrat Bill Clinton (Clinton 40%, G.H.W. Bush 36%). He was mostly positioned on the right as a populist, highlighting the federal deficit.

John Anderson, a moderate progressive Republican, contrasted with Ronald Reagan in 1980 and gained 11 percent in Colorado, well-above his national average of 6.6 percent. It was his sixth best state, but Reagan won Colorado and the presidency.

Theodore Roosevelt, who came in second in the 1912 election ahead of President Taft, won 27 percent of Colorado’s vote and 17 percent nationally. He was the most successful third party candidate in the nation’s history.
Theodore Roosevelt
Colorado’s electoral votes (3) were actually captured once by a third party populist. In 1892, James Weaver received 57 percent of the popular vote (the winner Grover Cleveland wasn’t on the Colorado ballot) and 22 electoral votes (he also carried Idaho, Kansas, Nevada and North Dakota).
Governor Dick Lamm, who was never comfortable in the Democratic Party (fiscally conservative and socially conservative on a few issues, but an environmentalist committed to limited growth and abortion rights). Although he remained a Democrat in his three terms as governor, in 1996 he ran for the nomination of Reform Party. Ross Perot decided to run again and eliminated Lamm.
Most recently, Tom Tancredo ran on the American Constitution Party label and received 36 percent of the vote for governor in 2010.
Could a third party candidate in either Colorado or nationally become viable in the current polarized and gridlocked political environment?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It’s Really “Pelosicare”

Although President Obama is ultimately responsible of the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it was drafted in 2009 by then Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her House Committee colleagues, especially her loyal California caucus members George Miller and Henry Waxman.

The 1,900 plus-page act was weaved together from odd bits of health care legislation and ideas that Congress and especially Democrats had been considering for years, some at least since Hillary Clinton’s failed effort in 1994.

At least one reason Pelosi has remained Minority Leader after the failed effort to retake the House in 2012 was to guard against either Republicans’ efforts to repeal or defund the Act and Obama’s inclination to modify it in light of pending implementation problems. Thus, Pelosi and her House colleagues share responsibility for today’s problems.

Not only is her signature piece of legislation in danger of political collapse, but it may become a significant political drag on Democrats in the 2014 election and the primary cause of her never regaining the Speakership.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When do Colorado Democrats Panic?

Vulnerable Democratic senators and congresspersons from around the country have begun to panic. They are introducing bills to delay or modify the Affordable Care Act (ACA) introduction.
Democratic senate incumbents in competitive states are especially criticizing the implementation of Obamacare as they watch their approval levels decline. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina have been the loudest.

Democrat Seats At Risk
Mark Begich, AK
Mary Landrieu, LA
Kay Hagan, NC
Mark Pryor, AR
Max Baucus, MT
Jay Rockefeller, WV
Tim Johnson, SD

Colorado’s most vulnerable federal politician is Senator Mark Udall, who voted for Obamacare and is up for re-election in 2014. He has introduced a bill to maintain the insurance of persons who have lost it due to ACA’s impact on the rules and regulations.

In response to the Democrats’ revolt, President Obama has begun his own modifications of the ACA. It may be too little, too late. Udall’s vulnerability will mostly be a product of Obamacare’s ongoing problems –failed technology, inadequate signup, cancelling current policies and more expensive coverage, and angry constituents.

Denver Post: Colorado’s House, Senate Democrats stay loyal to Obama and Obamacare
Washington Post: Obama approval rating drops – November 2013 Post-ABC poll

Monday, November 18, 2013

Losing His Legacy

President Obama is about to lose his legacy due to his fumbled rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

There is irony in the collapse of support as Obama has been absolutely rigid in arguing the Act couldn’t be modified or delayed, but now to salvage it, he must delay, modify and apologize. His four years of intransigence contributed to the problem. His newly found flexibility is unlikely to improve peoples’ views of him or support for ACA.

His overall approval rating is now below 40 percent and approval of handling of health care only 37 percent. And, support for the ACA, which was never above 50 percent, is now 15 points in negative territory and moving down.

Accelerating the slide is peoples’ longstanding negative expectations and lack of confidence the program was going to be helpful. A Colorado health care poll in September of this year showed Coloradans disapproved of it overwhelmingly (52% to 33%).
Not only has Obamacare become much less likely to be a legacy and more likely a long lingering conflict in American politics, but for the President, Obamacare has become a combination of Katrina and a War in Iraq as he approaches the 2014 midterm.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Obama Losing Support on Obamacare

The torrent of bad news about the Affordable Care Act is beginning to rapidly move public opinion against President Obama.

The latest Pew Research poll shows a 22-point spread between approval of Obama’s handling of health care and disapproval.

Opinion has shifted rapidly since September and continues to collapse.

His repeated claim that no one loses their coverage if they want to keep it is being belied daily by local headlines of lost coverage. A new Quinnipiac poll shows that people find him untrustworthy and dishonest by 44 percent to 52 percent. His approval rating is collapsing and dropped below 40 percent (39%), with 54 percent disapproval.

Unless Obama can stop the slide, he will completely lose his clout on any second-term agenda items (immigration), lose leverage in the budget negotiations (which he expected to dominate), and begin to watch vulnerable 2014 Democrats break ranks.

Wall Street Journal: Trust in Obama plunges in new poll

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Two-Thirds of Americans Believe in Global Warming and Support Keystone Pipeline

To the ongoing frustration of environmental interest groups, the American public accepts the theory of global warming, but also supports building the Keystone Pipeline.

A couple of new Pew Research national polls (Sept. 26 and Nov. 1, 2013) show that the policy conundrum exists for extreme elements of both parties. Democrats have to deal with their environmental wing, which commands money (billionaires and millions in contributions) and publicity (movie stars), who promote the most extreme versions of cap and trade and want the Keystone Pipeline permanently stopped.

For these activists, hydrocarbons are an evil and there is not bridge to renewables, such as natural gas. They are not interested in bridges. They want punitive measures now against coal and the new issue du jour, “fracking.”

And while 84 percent of Democratic Party adherents sign off on “solid evidence the earth is warming,” only 43 percent oppose construction of the pipeline and a majority (51%) favor building it.

But, the Republican Party also faces internal divisions on energy beliefs and policy outcomes. Although only 46 percent of the party believes in global warming, there is a significant split between the Tea Party adherents of whom only a quarter (25%) accept the notion vs. 61 percent of non-Tea Party Republicans. The party is united in support for building the pipeline (82%).

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hickenlooper and the Energy Divide

Tuesday’s election highlighted the energy divide in Colorado. A majority of Front Range cities considering a fracking moratorium or ban adopted them and, although not all northeast counties voted to secede (5 out of 10), the protest continues and a significant issue is their economy is benefitted by gas and oil. They oppose fracking bans and resist paying for Democrats’ preference for wind and solar energy. In an interview with the New York Times, the political importance of the election was described:
“It’s an important vote,” said Floyd Ciruli, a pollster and political analyst whose Denver firm advises clients on how to marshal public support for initiatives. “People here are concerned about the real impact of fracking — the effect on the air, the noise, the dust, contaminated groundwater.”
Mr. Ciruli said the approved measures were likely to prompt state legislators and Mr. Hickenlooper to consider tightening regulation of the shale gas industry, in part to blunt future efforts by antifracking groups to expand bans or moratoriums. (Michael Wines, NYT, 11-7-13)
Governor Hickenlooper supports the gas and oil industry and believes from his scientific background that fracking is not dangerous to groundwater or other claims made against it. He has tried to appease his environmental base in the Democratic Party with renewable legislation and stronger state regulations on fracking. To rural voters, Hickenlooper offers opposition to fracking bans. Neither group is very happy with him.

Hickenlooper is not alone among his fellow Democratic governors and senators in dealing with a country highly divided on energy policy. Pew Research reports that there is growing support for the more liberal positions on energy policy. The shift is largely a reflection of Democrats getting on board. One exception is the Keystone Pipeline, which has even Democratic support for building. But, on restrictions related to coal, nuclear power and fracking, support has recently increased. However, on policy questions, there is significant partisan disagreement.
  • 65% support building the Keystone Pipeline (51% Democrats, 82% Republicans)
  • 58% support increased offshore oil drilling in U.S. waters
  • 38% favor increased use of nuclear power (58% opposed)
  • 65% like limits on emissions from power plants (74% Democrats, 52% Republicans)
  • 44% favor increased use of fracking for gas and oil drilling (49% oppose)
  • 58% rate alternative power sources more important than expanding traditional energy sources; i.e., wind and solar vs. oil, coal and gas
Pew Research: Continues Support for Keystone XL Pipeline
New York Times: Colorado cities’ rejection of fracking poses political test for natural gas industry

Monday, November 11, 2013

Denver Post Editorial Hits the Mark

legislation, deciding the tax amount and structure, the signature effort and the ballot campaign, the Denver Post provided editorial support. It endorsed the initiative on October 6, albeit it was weak, criticizing the excessive tax level and union deceit (supporting the tax, opposing the reforms).

On October 8, Vince Carroll offered his analysis of the difficulty Amendment 66 was facing in a likely lower turnout election with a massive tax increase in a state with a long history of saying no to new state taxes.

But after the defeat, the Post’s post-election editorial hit the mark, citing the high price tag of the proposal, the still sluggish economy, poor reputation of education bureaucracy, and the lavish but ineffectual campaign.

What’s next in the Post’s view is to keep the reforms and be creative on how to fund them. But, appropriately, they were skeptical that another version of Amendment 66 was possible.

The Buzz: Denver Post endorsement of Amendment 66 weak
The Buzz: Vincent Carroll sees “tough sell” for billion-dollar school tax increase
The Buzz: Organized labor all in for Amendment 66
Denver Post Editorial: Amendment 66: a $1 billion bust

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Win Two – Lose 62

Amendment 66 only carried two counties in the entire state, Boulder, which votes for every liberal proposition offered to it, and Denver – the new definition of overreach.

But, it lost Democratic stalwarts, such as Conejos and Costilla. In fact, it lost the entire Valley, counties that would have allegedly benefitted from the tax revenue.  It lost Democratic Pueblo more than two-to-one. Obviously, a lot of Democrats voted against it. It also lost Arapahoe and Jefferson, Denver metro swing counties that Democrats have been winning lately. Even liberal strongholds, such as Pitkin and San Miguel, rejected it.

A comparison of the results of Amendment 66 with Proposition 103, which was defeated by a similar margin in 2011, shows the same voting pattern with a few differences. For example, Boulder’s own Senator Rollie Heath did better there [in his hometown] with his Proposition 103 than did Amendment 66. Heath lost Denver in 2011. In Tuesday’s election, Douglas County appeared to especially dislike Amendment 66 (7-point spread), no doubt a reflection of high Republican turnout due to the contested school board race.

However, the main difference between 2011 and today is that Senator Heath, who is famous for getting about a third of Colorado voters to support his candidacy and his initiatives, had a few hundred thousand dollars in 2011 and Amendment 66 spent $10 million.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Governor Hickenlooper and the public education establishment were crushed two-to-one by voters unwilling to raise their income taxes to provide billions to K-12 education.

Amendment 66 was not beaten by a better campaign. In fact, opponents had no real campaign. This vote was the collective will of Colorado voters saying no to the proposal and more state taxes.

Just two years ago, voters defeated a less expensive school funding proposal by the same two-to-one margin. The main difference is that Senator Rollie Heath campaigned with a few hundred thousand dollars in 2011. Hickenlooper and allies spent – or wasted - $10 million dollars.

Amendment 66 was:
  • Too burdensome. The real cost for the average voter would have been $200 or more per year.
  • Too hostile to business. The split tax was a major burden on small businesses and upper-income professionals.
  • Too rich. The billions for schools was seen as excessive and not for desperate needs, but add-ons and extras.
  • Too little reform. Not only was the complex reform proposal judged modest by many, but the union allies made it clear they would fight it every step of the way.
The vote was a rejection of the proposal, not reform and choice. Reform-oriented candidates for school boards won in Denver and Douglas counties and in many school districts around the state. Nor is it merely opposition to new revenue for schools. Voters in 2012 supported funding requests of one billion dollars worth of local school district bond and revenue overrides.

Colorado voters don’t trust state government with more money. Since TABOR passed in 1992 and voters were allowed to vote on taxes, they have said no – no to transit sales tax, no to gas tax increases, no to TABOR overrides, no to severance tax increases and now no to income tax increases.

Hickenlooper, the businessman, would have likely warned against the tax hike, but as the governor, leader of the Democratic Party and friend of the education establishment, especially the reform wing, he went along with it. Clearly, he wasn’t the happy warrior campaigning, and now his political reputation has been damaged.

Statewide school reform has been set back and funding schools, transportation and higher education just heard a loud and collective “no chance.”

See articles:
Washington Post: Six of 11 counties reject secession in blow to Colorado effort
Washington Times: Biggest loser: Bloomberg’s election spending won little for departing NYC mayor
Colorado Springs Gazette: Amendment 66 “crushed”; Colorado Republicans see opportunity
9News: Colorado voters don’t care too much for money
Esquire: This week in the laboratories of Democracy
Washington Times: Colorado says yes to tax on pot, no to higher levies for K-12 schools
Reuters: Colorado voters to decide on marijuana, education tax issues
Colorado Observer: Election 2013: Ciruli’s 6 trends to watch
Bond Buyer: In angry Colorado corner, counties vote on exit

Thursday, November 7, 2013

School Board Battleground

Just as Tim Gill and gay rights activists figured out how to target their money to win a majority of the Colorado legislature in the last ten years, school reform advocates are targeting selected school board races for major campaign contributions.

In what was a sleepy backwater of campaign politics dominated by teachers unions and local school activists with a few thousand dollars in contributions, hundreds of thousands of dollars are now being spent. Most of it in a few high-profile metro area races in Denver and Douglas counties, but increasingly contributions from wealthy education reform advocates are being targeted in school districts around the state – and they won more than they lost, including Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties. Although Amendment 66 was an ill-positioned disaster, reform and choice won Tuesday night.

School Board Races with Reform and Choice vs. Union Competition
Colorado Springs (District 11)
Denver County
Douglas County
Greeley-Evans School District
Jefferson County
Loveland (Thompson School District)
Mesa County (Valley School District 51)

See Denver Post:
Financial backers widen reach in support of vouchers, school choice
Bloomberg, Jeb Bush are 2 donors
Douglas County school reformers sweep into office

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Michael Bloomberg and Colorado

Mayor Michael Bloomberg should think about a different post-mayor career. Investing in Colorado elections is not only a losing proposition, but his name and money is counter-productive. His $350,000, the largest single contributor in the recalls, was wasted and became a talking point for recall activists.
And while Amendment 66 was ill-positioned from its inception, Bloomberg did not help and possibly reinforced, if not initiated, some late “no” votes.
Move on Michael, move on.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Six Items to Watch for in Tonight’s Election

In Colorado’s nearly constant election environment, the following are six Election Night outcomes that highlight new and continuing trends that will influence 2014 and beyond.

Turnout: Does $10 million and the new voting procedures (universal mail ballots) increase the turnout from an expected one million to 1.3 million or 1.5 million voters? Can proponents motivate a new mix of voters adding occasional (i.e., presidential-only) voters? Turnout is likely to be the difference for Amendment 66 passing or not.

Narrative: Democrats have been playing defense since their hyper-liberal legislative session ended in May, facing two recalled legislative leaders, a High Plains secession movement and weak poll numbers. Amendment 66’s failure or success will extend or truncate the narrative.

Money: The Amendment 66 campaign is following the two drink rule. If you can spend up to two drinks per likely voter, they should be in a good enough mood to offer support. Although Amendment 66 was locally conceived, the election funding was dominated by out-of-state interest groups and billionaires on the left. More than half the $10 million spent came from national players interested in the salaries and benefits or the potential improvements in education policy. The trend follows the September recall election where national Democratic/liberal money dominated the election 10-to-1 against the recalls.

School board positions, which pay nothing, have attracted more than $1.5 million between Denver and Douglas counties. The unions are battling reformers and business interests for control of school policy around choice and teacher accountability. Reformers tend to dominate the money race 3-to-5-to-1. Expect more union/management conflict in the 2014 legislative session.

Rural/Urban Split: The Denver metro area is likely to provide the bulk of the pro-Amendment 66 votes. It represents about 56 percent of registered voters, but would need to contribute more than 60 percent of the Amendment’s support if it is to have a chance.

The success of the ten-county, northwest county secession movement will be a barometer as to the passion of the urban/rural divide. If it carries most of the counties, the 2014 legislative session and the governor’s race will be awash with passionate speeches and partisan maneuvering to extend the conflict or tamp it down.

Fracking and the Wind: The I-25 Corridor has become a dividing line in the state’s energy war. On its urban west side, anti-fracking activists have placed bans on four municipal ballots – a direct challenge to state regulatory authority, Governor Hickenlooper and one of the state’s most powerful industries.

The ten-state secession movement (11 counting Western Slope Moffat, a Coal County) has a major pro-oil and gas component to it. Supporters resent the anti-fracking attitudes of the state legislature and resist the Democrats frequent and, in their view, heavy-handed regulatory strategies to make local consumers pay for expensive wind and solar renewable projects.

Also, west of the I-25 Corridor is the City of Boulder anxious to pay $200 million, or three times as much, to buy its electrical utility so it can use wind and solar as its primary supply. Nearly a million dollars is being spent in the fight.

This election will illuminate the divide and which side has the most momentum. It will be another issue that bedevils the Governor and the legislature next year. It could also be a 2014 statewide ballot issue.

Dope and Guns: Colorado’s national image as a presidential battleground is now painted in bolder and brighter colors. Ask people what they’ve heard about Colorado lately and it’s dope and guns – a dangerous combination. Along with last September’s recalls, the secession movement has a big gun rights component. And in this election, Colorado voters will vote to put in place the financing of its new regulatory structure for legal marijuana use and sales. Retail sales start in January 2014.

Is Colorado more comfortable with sin taxes or income taxes? Bet on sin.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The I-25 Corridor and Tuesday’s Election

I-25 north of Denver is a seam that divides the state between its pro- and anti-hydrocarbon politics. Four cities west of I-25 will vote Tuesday on fracking bans promoted by local activists and supported by state and national anti-oil and gas interest groups.

Ten counties east of I-25 are voting to secede from the state due to hostility to the Democratically-controlled legislature and especially its opposition to gas and oil development and aggressive promotion of high cost renewable energy.

The I-25 split is especially difficult for Governor Hickenlooper who supports fracking, which angers his environmental base, but also supports and signed renewable energy legislation.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Amendment 66 – Will it Pass?

The Amendment 66 campaign claims it will pass handily. And that the $10 million five-week advertising placement has won voters in all demographics and throughout the state. And that the massive get-out-the-vote canvasing will boost turnout from the one million votes cast in 2011 to 1.3 to 1.5 million.

In reference to the poor turnout numbers in Denver, the campaign says it’s a product of a slow count in the Denver Clerk’s Office.

The campaign admits that the group it has not won over is the “chattering class,” by which they mean business people, public officials and a lot of stakeholders in the local government and education institutions.

Most of the Amendment 66 campaign is based on a big metro Denver win, which has been a key to the Democrats’ recent dominance in Colorado. For example, if the amendment can win by 8 points in the Denver metro area, it can lose by 10 points statewide.

On Monday, final analyses of turnout and other election metrics will be conducted getting ready for final blogs and Election Night.

Rocky Colorado – Ron Brownstein and National Journal

National Journal reporter Ron Brownstein just published an analysis of Colorado’s politics that captures the conflicting forces of empowered Democratic politicians on the defense, but Republicans still unable to take advantage due to failure to find a unifying leader or message.
This record [legislative] might not seem excessive for California Democrats, but it is testing the boundaries here. “Every poll shows that [on] individual issues like gun control or civil unions, the public was with them,” said Floyd Ciruli, an independent Denver-based pollster. “But the collective sense that they were going too far has hurt them.”
This backlash has manifested itself in two successful recalls of Democratic state senators, driven by gun-rights advocates; an ongoing third recall that would provide Republicans control of the state Senate if it succeeds; ballot initiatives next week seeking support for secession from the state in 11 small rural counties; and a tumble (although not collapse) in Hickenlooper’s once-lofty approval ratings.
Brownstein’s bottom line is that Colorado – the ultimate swing state – mirrors and anticipates the national political landscape.

See article:  Colorado is America, writ small

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Why Did Bloomberg and Gates Toss Two Million into the Amendment 66 Campaign?

After two weeks of mail-back voting and only seven days until the election, America’s two most hyperactive billionaires poured two more million dollars into the now $10 million campaign of Amendment 66 proponents against the mostly non-existent ($10,000 or so) campaign of opponents. Why?

Well, without $10 million, the Governor and Amendment 66 supporters decided it’s losing. But for more saturation media, and most importantly a final week of browbeating infrequent but liberal voters into returning ballots, the proposal would lose.

Can $2 million more buy it? Tuesday night will be interesting.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Gun Laws Divide Americans

Nearly half the public (49%) in a new Gallup poll support stricter “laws covering the sale of firearms,” more than a third say leave the laws as is and 13 percent believe laws should be less strict.

Public support for stricter laws has declined since the Newtown tragedy last December, down from 58 percent who then said make laws stricter.

Although there is almost no support for less strict laws, there is also little support for more severe laws, such as banning handguns. Three-quarters (74%) of the public oppose a handgun ban and only a quarter (25%) support it.

Does the decline in support for more strict gun laws help the Colorado recall advance or does the decay represent a lowering of interest and passion, which hurts their efforts?

See Gallup:  U.S. remains divided over passing stricter gun laws

Monday, October 28, 2013

Obama Still in Trouble

Presidents seldom win political points when Americans believe the country is in trouble and Washington politics is an embarrassment. In the post shutdown environment, euphoric Capitol Democratic leaders have been celebrating their good fortune of defeating Senator Ted Cruz and House Republicans after the Obamacare showdown.

But, the President’s approval, which had been in the doldrums since its high between his re-election (52%) and inauguration (50%), has taken another hit in the latest budget crisis. Obama’s average approval is at 44.5 percent for the July to October quarter as measured by Gallup.

It has declined steadily since the beginning of 2013. The average from January to April 2013 slipped to 48 percent, a period which included gun control, immigration reform and the sequester.

In the last three months, along with the long and mostly fruitless discussions around the budget and the Affordable Care Act, the President dealt with Syria, which arrived at a preferred result, but haphazardly in public opinion terms. During the budget confrontation, his October approval rating dropped as low as 41 percent. The last time his approval was that low was at the weak start of his re-election campaign in November 2011.

Obama’s approval is near President George W. Bush’s in October 2005 (43.9%) when Bush was dealing with Hurricane Katrina. Recall the 2006 midterm was a disaster for Republicans.

Although Democrats clearly got a boost from the October budget and shutdown, the President may be of no help to their partisan aspirations in 2014 and have limited clout to move any of his agenda in the remainder of 2013.

And, of course, that is not considering Obamacare, which appears to be an ongoing political burden for the President and his party.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hickenlooper Looking for a Bigger Win

As Governor John Hickenlooper approaches his re-election, he would like to exceed the weak 51 percent win of 2010. The narrow margin was a surprise in some ways and expected in others.

Although he faced a very weak field between Dan Maes, the discredited Republican nominee who barely received double digits (11%), and former Congressman Tom Tancredo, who ran as an independent (36%), 2010 was a Republican wave year and nearly swept away everything in front of it.

Hickenlooper’s polling was never that high, no doubt reflecting his lack of statewide exposure (no previous election, no primary), the continued close division of Colorado politics and the good Republican year.

Unfortunately for Hickenlooper as he begins his re-election, several factors have kept him on the defensive. In his own party, his support of natural gas production and fracking makes him the recipient of much public berating from anti-hydrocarbon activists. His handling of the Nathan Dunlap reprieve was broadly panned and the Democratic legislative session was judged by many as too aggressive with insufficient gubernatorial restraint (no vetoes). Gun rights activists have targeted him and Republicans, in general, have gotten more engaged in defeating him.

In recent history, Colorado governors have been re-elected by solid percentages, often above 60 percent.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Obamacare Implementation Major Problem

But for partisan shading, the majority of the public believe the implementation of is not just a computer “glitch” as President Obama likes to refer to it, but a “harbinger of bigger problems for the Affordable Care Act.” (Washington Post, 10-21-13)

Washington Post poll reports voters see the website as part of broader problem for ACA implementation:
  • Republicans more than 8 in 10
  • Independents – 55%
  • Democrats – 60% isolated incident
Nearly half oppose the law and 46 percent support it, but only 33 percent don’t support the law and want to repeal it.

Shutdown Puts Washington Dysfunction at Top of Public’s Agenda

Since the 2008 financial meltdown, the economy and jobs have been the “most important problems facing America today.” But, in the first week of October, Washington’s poor performance has made dysfunctional government the most important problem facing the country.

The last time a failure of government leadership dramatically appeared on the public’s radar was during the last shutdown in 1996. But, then only 17 percent of the public cited it and the deficit and budget rated higher.

Beyond the high percentage of voters who identified leadership as the problem was the rapid movement from less than 20 percent to a third of the public in less than a month. Movement shows interest and intensity. And, it signals a problem for incumbent, especially D.C., politicians.

See Gallup: Dysfunctional gov’t surpasses economy as top U.S. problem

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Coffman Most Hurt by Shutdown

Congressman Mike Coffman is in the second most vulnerable seat in the county and has been hurt by the shutdown.

The generic ballot test, which tends to measure the advantage or disadvantage local congressional candidates can expect from their party identity, gave Democrats a two-point advantage most of the year. Historically, that suggested no real affect due to Republicans’ slight advantage in non-presidential year election turnouts.

That number jumped to six points favoring the Democrats in the last two weeks. The speed of the shift suggests much voter interest and aggravation with Washington. The bulk of the blame landed on the Republicans, which will likely, if it is sustained, harm candidates, like Coffman, in closely contested seats.

9News: Shutdown deal reflects Colorado delegation politics
The Cook Political Report: October House overview: GOP risk factors

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Unions and Reformers Battle Over School Boards

Although the teachers’ unions are spending millions in partnership with school reformers in support of the billion-dollar per year revenue increase, they are battling reformers for control of local school boards.

It is at the school district level where reform is implemented and revenue is distributed in salaries and benefits. And, it’s at the local level where unions tend to dominate.

But, the November election will feature high-profile school board races in Denver and Douglas counties, where the union is on the defensive. The two counties are the center of the statewide effort to support school choice and teacher accountability.

Organized Labor All in for Amendment 66

Colorado and national teachers’ unions have contributed to Amendment 66 a combined $4 million, which represents half the funds raised by the mega-financed proposal.

Labor obviously believes the billions in new revenue, which will largely go to unionized teachers, is worth having to endure any reforms they oppose.

Of course, they have made clear they will oppose the reforms in court, future legislatures and at the school district level. In fact, the Denver Teachers’ Union is currently financing anti-reform school board candidates.

Will organized labor’s spending of millions on TV and for paid canvasing GOTV be enough to overcome the obvious lack of voter enthusiasm for the tax increase or does it just reinforce the public’s skepticisms that the reform elements in the proposal are illusionary?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pelosi Wants Obamacare Fixed

The Democrats are on a roll post the shutdown and want to translate it into taking back the House.
This, of course, is what Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lives for. But, the strategy is endangered by the poor performance of the Affordable Care Act rollout. Hence, Pelosi shouted out on Friday that the “computer must be fixed.” It’s a problem.
  • Obamacare has been a long-term controversy for Democrats, and the failed rollout reinforces its poor image.
  • It is mostly Pelosi and her House majority in 2009 and 2010 that crafted, passed and, in recent years, protected it.
  • The problem plagued rollout aligns with Republicans’ argument the law is a disaster. They will use it extensively in the 2014 election.
  • Pelosi has a chance, if not yet seen as likely, to pick up the 17 seats needed to give Democrats back the House. Their chances greatly improved the last two weeks, but months of Obamacare bad press could replace the negative news of the shutdown.
Ms. Sebelius may not be pushed out, but she is definitely not seeing her home much.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Third Party?

Organizing a third party is extremely difficult, but support for it has never been higher. Gallup reports that opinion has moved from an already high 55 percent of the public that believed a third party is necessary in 2012 to 60 percent in today’s gridlock and shutdown.

A third party can be organized à la Ross Perot and Ralph Nader, but requires:
  • A nationwide effort to become legally qualified at the state level
  • More than a billion dollars, the most recent expenditure level of a presidential campaign
  • A charismatic personality to capture public attention
Expect to see America’s surfeit of billionaires begin to think about being in the White House as the occupant, not just a regular guest.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Republican Field

The Republican field for governor now appears in place with the announcement of Mike Kopp.

Kopp, one of the most respected young Republicans in legislative leadership in recent years, will have a challenge breaking out of the crowded field. He will rapidly need to accumulate money and organization to take on previous gubernatorial candidate and former Congressman Tom Tancredo and Secretary of State Scott Gessler. Also in the race is State Senator Greg Brophy from Eastern Colorado.

Comments on the candidates: Tancredo, Gessler, Brophy and Kopp:

The Republican race is wide open. Governor Hickenlooper is vulnerable, but ready for the contest. Republicans will need a very solid candidate.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Not Another Recall

Recalls are now in the repertoire of issue activists as a method to punish legislators in swing districts who vote “wrong” on high-profile controversial legislation (Huffington Post).

The third recall effort since the end of the 2013 legislative session targets Westminster Democrat Evie Hudak. Her narrow 2012 re-election highlights her vulnerability to gun rights activists. If this recall is successful, the Democrats would lose their majority and Republicans would “get control in the middle of the session” (KFGO).

Republican Party leaders have already distanced themselves from the effort, knowing that the public and opinion leaders are firmly against the endless elections and use of the recall for political and policy objectives. They believe another four- or five- month recall effort will be a distraction to their effort to develop candidates and issues for the 2014 election (9 KUSA).

However, the activists are unlikely to be deterred. They are anti-establishment and not interested in the views of either political party. The successful recalls in Colorado Springs and Pueblo were mostly locally driven and inspired. The results sent a message.

As the Huffington Post reported:
“Conservatives are learning how to use social media. Both Pueblo and El Paso counties’ gun-rights activists initiated and organized online. Also, while recalls are expensive and difficult to mount, expect more in this highly polarized environment and Internet age,” said pollster and political analyst Floyd Ciruli in an editorial published on The Denver Post before Hudak’s second recall effort was announced.
But in Senate District 19, recallers have a major challenge in getting nearly 20,000 valid signatures, about twice what was necessary in the September recall elections.

Denver Post: New recall effort targets state Sen. Evie Hudak
Huffington Post: Sen. Evie Hudak recall: Effort re-energized after successful recall of Morse, Giron over gun control laws
KFGO: Third Colorado lawmaker faces possible recall for gun control votes
9News: Recall effort resurrected against Senator Evie Hudak
Denver Post: Caldwell: Would Evie Hudak recall really be so bad for Colorado Dems?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Public Opinion is on the Move

Panic hit the Republican Party in Washington last Friday with the Wall Street Journal and NBC News publication of a poll showing that the shutdown not only was a failed strategy, but that public opinion was on the move.

Americans have disapproved Washington and its major governing institutions for several years, but in the last two weeks, disapproval shifted to pure disgust, and the Republicans were the main recipients of it.

As Professor James Stimson (University of North Carolina) wrote in his public opinion classic of 2004, The Tides of Consent: “It is the movement [of public opinion] that matters.”
His analysis of the 1995 shutdown is worth rereading because it describes many of the similar elements to the current crisis, except that most of the indicators are worse today. Republicans are receiving the bulk of the blame and people believe the problem is more serious (73% today compared to 57% in 1995).
The movement away from the Republican Party has been massive the last four weeks. Negative feelings shot up from 43 percent in September to 53 percent today, while President Obama’s numbers improved slightly – all very similar to 1995. Recall that Speaker Newt Gingrich and his Republicans declined in approval and President Clinton recovered from his poor numbers post the 1994 midterm disaster.  Even if early, bad omens for 2014.
The Metrics – WSJ/NBC Poll
The shutdown:
  • Serious problem – 73%
  • Hurts the economy – 65%
  • Wrong direction for country – 78%
  • Blame Republicans – 53%
  • Negative feeling toward Republicans – 53%
  • Replace very member of Congress – 60%