Thursday, April 30, 2015

Cuba’s Politics Won’t Change Fast

The Associated Press reported on Sunday, April 18, that two non-communist party dissidents had
made the opening round of voting for local elections in Cuba for the first time since the passage of the local election law in 1976.

There was brief speculation that it reflected some relaxation in the party’s monopoly approach to power. The candidates themselves cited the U.S. recognition and rapprochement just highlighted by Presidents Obama and Castro in Panama as a reason for their local support.

But by Monday morning, the alleged opening was closed – both candidates were eliminated.

The 24-hour drama provides a cautionary tale about Cuba’s one-party state and its likelihood of maintaining a monopoly on power.
  • Although “independent candidates” are legally protected, they have never, in fact, been allowed and no one has won even the first round of voting in 40 years. As the incident made clear, the state and the party will defend the monopoly.
  • The skepticism of Americans and Cubans that the Obama rapprochement will produce more than a handshake and an embassy in terms of island politics is well-placed. Clearly, at the operational level, the party is making no moves not ordered by the party hierarchy and none have been given. (See blogs: Castro Brothers in Trouble and U.S. vs. Cuba – Finite)
  • Interestingly, a party that has 27,000 candidates to fill 12,600 seats in municipal assemblies that obsesses over two outliers is highly insecure. And, maybe it should be given the recent stealth poll reported by the Washington Post that shows most Cubans would prefer a choice.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Women Increase in Power in Latin America

In spite of vestiges of a patriarchal social structures and cultures of machismo, women are leading three of Latin America’s most important countries – Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Needless to say, the most famous woman in Latin American politics was Argentina’s Eva Perón, who never held office, but whose memory still has power. Since 1970, eight women have been elected head of state from Latin America and the Caribbean, including Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama) and women also hold about 20 percent of the continent’s legislative seats. Women were highlighted at the recent OAS meeting. Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller (locally called Sista P) welcomed President Obama to a high-profile meeting in Kingston before the OAS – Summit of the Americas in Panama. Women are leading the OAS as permanent representatives of their countries of Suriname, Niermala Badrising; and the St. Vincent and the Grenadines, La Celia Prince.

Diplomatic Courier: Latin America’s leading ladies
Washington Post: Political exclusion lingers for women in Latin America

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Colorado Presidential Primary – Had One, Dropped It

Colorado tried a presidential primary for three nominating contests, did not consider it much of a success and dropped it before the 2004 election when paying for it became a state budget burden.

With the exception of the 1992 primary, Democrats got more participation in the 2008 caucus when 120,000 turned out in the Obama vs. Clinton fight. And, it’s likely any primary in 2016 will bring out more Republicans, who have a wide open contest, than the Democrats who, as of now, have no contest.

More Republicans participated in Colorado’s three primaries than Democrats, even with mild contests. But even with a primary only, about a third of the party voted. The first President Bush beat Pat Buchanan handily in 1992 and the 1996 contest was mostly over by the time of the Colorado primary, with Bob Dole beating Buchanan and Steve Forbes two-to-one. Same was true in 2000 when the second President Bush had already won the contest with John McCain.

Democrats in their big 1992 turnout gave a boost to Jerry Brown, with Bill Clinton and Paul Tsongas in close pursuit. The lack of a contest in 1996 (Clinton’s re-election) and the race being over in 2000 (Al Gore vs. Bill Bradley) produced lackluster participation.

Competition and timing are necessary to get voters engaged, especially Democrats. In 2008, the Democratic caucus had record turnout and was one of the important victories for Barack Obama. Republican caucus turnout was higher than usual in 2008 when Mitt Romney won against McCain and in 2012 when Rick Santorum led Romney and the field.

Shifting Colorado to a primary might be justified as a measure to give more voters the ease of participation, but given that, at the moment, Colorado’s nominating event is being held simultaneously with eight other states, it will most likely not produce more interest from the media or the candidates.

Denver Post: Colorado lawmakers want bigger role in 2016 presidential election
Ciruli Associates Variable – January 2000

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Short Takes

Harry Reid

Colorado voters and the Denver Post bet last November that more Senate business would get done under Mitch McConnell than Harry Reid. For a variety of reasons, the Senate has been more productive the first four months of this year than in the last four years.

The retirement of the pugnacious Reid no doubt has contributed, but style and process (use of committees more and direct floor action less) alone are not responsible. Both parties, but especially the Democrats, have decided that the gridlock and high-profile partisanship were hurting election prospects.

Stalled out
Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton claimed the economy had “stalled out” in a New Hampshire campaign stop earlier this week. The press saw some daylight between her viewpoint and the White House optimism about the economy and recovery. The Federal Reserve agrees with Clinton. They are concerned enough about the economy to again delay any interest rate adjustments or even much talk about it citing the strong dollar effect on trade and inflation and the slow first quarter.

See The Hill: White House takes issue with Clinton remarks on economic growth

Coffman vs. Bennet

The general assumption is that Congressman Mike Coffman would be the strongest Republican candidate against Senator Michael Bennet in the 2016 Colorado senate election.

There are other names tossed out, especially since it is at least six months before speculation gets really serious. Congressman Scott Tipton has run up a trial balloon, and while there wasn’t a lot of excitement, he’s on the list, as is Arapahoe District Attorney, George Brauchler, who should be done with the murder trial of the decade in late 2015.

But, a recent Quinnipiac survey shows that Coffman is already competitive with Bennet, and in terms of favorability, has a modest negative rating.

Coffman beats Bennet by three points in the poll, with a twelve-point advantage among independent voters and Coffman wins the gender gap by seven points (wins men by 15 points; loses women by 8).

In early tests between two candidates, favorability is often a more useful variable because it tends to reduce the forced choice between candidates when many voters don’t know the candidate.

The two candidates have a similar unfavorability rating in the mid-20s, with Bennet’s slightly higher. Bennet’s favorability is 10 points higher due to superior name identity. Coffman is not known by 47 percent of the electorate (Bennet 32%), including 37 percent of Republicans.

College Not Affordable

Most people still believe college is worth the cost, but only a fifth of Americans believe it’s affordable.

The cost of college in Colorado has shifted to students over the last 15 years, from 68 percent state funded to now only 32 percent state funded and students picking up two-thirds (68%) of the cost. Gallup reports that over those same 15 years that only a third of students report no college debt (37%), 28 percent report less than $25,000, but 35 percent report more than $25,000 in college debt.

Gallup reports 61 percent of the public believe college is available if you need it, but only 21 percent believe it’s affordable. And the cost of a child’s college education is a top financial worry of 73 percent of parents with children younger than 18 years old; second place is retirement.

Even parents with higher incomes worry. Seventy-three percent of parents with $75,000 to $100,000 in income list tuition their top worry and 61 percent with incomes more than $100,000 per year.

Along with the shift to tuition to pay for the operating of colleges, college building programs have been on a tear, often paid for by student tuition (many non-academic facility funds come from non-tuition sources).

In Colorado, CSU is the most aggressive example, with a huge increase in students, buildings and debt – students up 24 percent and debt up 500 percent. CSU also plans $400 million more in construction with a new football stadium and medical center.

BizWest: Debt puts higher ed in the red, students bear brunt of costs in lieu of dwindling state funds

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Castro Brothers in Trouble

The stealth poll of 1,200 Cubans finally provides credible findings out of the communist-controlled nation and shows what most objective observers expected. The revolution is over, the Cuban people dislike their own system of government even more than other governments in the West, and the Castro brothers will have a serious challenge moving the single party, communist legacy forward.
Fidel (L) and Raul (R) Castro

And, while most Cubans don’t expect much political change, they see the improved relationship with America as hugely important in their personal lives and prosperity.

Not only is the regime’s hold on public opinion weak, but the poll’s findings undermine much of the rhetoric of the Cuban apologists in Latin America’s leftist governments, political parties and intellectual cadres. One of their most repeated arguments is that Cuban dissidents are all CIA operatives. In fact, if Cuba had a multi-party system, a more free market alternative would likely be in power.

Data points from the poll challenging the Cuban status quo include:

Cubans See Economic Benefit

Americans are in favor of the re-establishment of the Cuban relationship – so even are Cuban Americans – but, as the unauthorized poll from Cuba shows, Cubans themselves express the greatest support for the new relationship.
  • 97% of Cubans interviewed believe normalization would be good for Cubans
  • 64% believe it will change the economic system, but 54% believe the political system will remain the same
  • 96% favor ending the embargo
Cubans Like the U.S.

After 50 years of U.S. demonization by the Cuban government, dramatized by Raúl Castro’s hour-long diatribe against U.S. at the recent Panamanian summit, the average Cuban still likes America and wants to live here.
  • 55% want to emigrate and half of Cubans polled (52%) say they want to live in the U.S.
  • President Obama has an 80% positive rating among Cubans, and 89% believe he should visit the island
  • Only 10% see the U.S. as not a friend of Cuba
Cubans Want to Change the System

Raúl and Fidel Castro rank in popularity among Cubans about where Barack Obama ranks in U.S. popularity, which, in a democratic system with regular elections, is manageable, but in an octogenarian autocracy about to pass off control, is dangerous.

Of even more danger to the regime and its allies, Cubans voice dissatisfaction with their communist system and express interest in alternatives. Not surprisingly, 72 percent of Cubans are satisfied with the education system and 68 percent with healthcare, but only 19 percent are satisfied with the economy and only 39 percent with the political system. More than half (52%) said there should be more than one political party. Nearly half (49%) complained about the lack of political freedom, and one-quarter (26%) about the lack of economic development.

Seventy percent said they would like to start a business; i.e., not work for the government, and, along with travel, opening a business was a top goal for Cuban families “in the next five years.”

Most people (75%) said they had to be careful about what they say, and the Communist Party had one of the lowest scores in the survey, with 32 percent giving it a positive rating.

Although no one should expect a revolution, the direction of Cuba in the next 10 years will unlikely be a continuation of the past 50, and the rate of change should intensify as Cuba begins to absorb the heightened influence of its diaspora to its neighbor to the north.

The survey, conducted by the Miami-based research firm Bendixen & Amandi International (B&A), was designed and administered without authorization of the Cuban government. Interviews were conducted in person among a random sample of 1,200 Cuban adults from March 17 to 27, 2015. The overall margin of sampling error for the poll is plus or minus three percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Univision Noticias and Fusion and the Washington Post sponsored the survey.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Pink Tide Recedes?

Even as Castro’s Cuba achieves recognition and overtures of friendship from its longtime capitalist adversary, the left wing tide of governments of Latin America, which surged in the last decade, appear to be receding. Stagnant economies, spectacular scandals and increasing authoritarian measures are diminishing their support among workers, students, and financial and media elites.

Although the circumstances of the Latin left are different in each country, they have generally been united in their socialist orientation, anti-American rhetoric and preference for non-Western trade and diplomacy.

Not every left-leaning government is in crisis; however, the main players are in trouble – Argentina, Brazil and especially Venezuela. With commodity prices in decline and easy money tightening, the Latin left’s economic model may have hit its high point in the latest cycle of socialist ascendance. And, although the Cuban regime is receiving a short-term bump in survivability, the one-party socialist system will be severely challenged with the growth of American money and visitors in Cuba.

U.S. vs. Cuba – Finite

How quickly 50 years of enmity has subsided. Recognition announced December 17, 2014, and on April 10, 2015, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama shake hands and sit down for the first substantial meeting in more than 50 years.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul
Castro at the Summit of the Americas on April 10, 2015 in Panama City
(Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
As opposed to many of President Obama’s recent foreign policy initiatives, the rapprochement with Cuba was immediately welcomed by Americans who believed the policy of isolation had failed.
Although there are dissident voices on the U.S.’s shift on Cuba due to the island’s continued record of human rights abuse, even the majority of Cuban Americans, who left Cuba due to the Castro regime or are the decedents of that tenth of Cuba’s population, approve the opening of relations with Cuba.
Polls since the December decision confirm both Americans and Cuban Americans support the change in relationship.
Still, recent polls show the public divided on their views of Cuba with a favorable rating improving, but not yet half the public in positive territory (48% Gallup, Feb. 2015) and most people skeptical that the overtures will lead to more freedom for the Cuban people (60% about the same, 32% more democratic, Pew)

Most interesting due to the lack of data, a stealth poll just out from Cuba shows the island’s inhabitants may be the most famished for a new relationship.
  • 97% of Cubans interviewed believe normalization would be good for Cubans
  • 64% believe it will change the economic system, but 54% believe the political system will remain the same
  • 96% favor ending the embargo
  • 89% believe President Obama should visit Cuba
One tertiary benefit of the shift in American policy was the positive reception it received at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama. The meeting of 35 countries represented in the Organization of American States (OAS) was the first since Cuba’s 1962 expulsion (which the U.S. barely secured with opposition of six countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico) with both the U.S. and Cuba present. Even though the suspension of Cuba was lifted as soon as Obama took office (June 2009), Cuba refused to participate in the OAS.

Although regional Marxists still bemoan the slow pace of ending Cuba’s embargo and American capitalist-orientation; i.e., the use of trade and investment to promote open markets and civic space, in general, America’s position is enhanced in Latin America.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Comparing the Republican Field With Hillary Clinton

About 80 percent of the Colorado electorate are prepared to express a choice for president, and they are nearly equally divided between the Republican field and Hillary Clinton. In an early April Quinnipiac poll, Colorado voters placed Rand Paul as the top Republican challenger and Jeb Bush as the weakest in a field of seven candidates.

The following table shows the Republican candidates’ total support vs. Clinton’s placed in “( )” and the Republican support in each of the variables listed in a head-to-head with Clinton.

Paul vs. Clinton

Paul beat Clinton in the survey (44% to 41%) by capturing a larger percentage of Republicans (87%), two-fifths of the declared independents and the top percentage of men (50%) compared to in the field, similarly losing the least number of women to Clinton (38%) against the field.

A Clinton advantage against Paul and most of the Republican field is her hold on about 90 percent of Democrats. One exception is with Bush where she gets her lowest percentage (85%) and he picks up the largest share of Democrats (6%) among the Republican field. Bush tends to frighten Democrats less, but underperforms with Republicans. The gender gap is present, with Paul having a 15-point advantage with men but losing women by 7 points, the least in the field giving him an 8-point positive gap (the best among his fellow Republicans).

Bush vs. Clinton

A major reason for Bush’s last place position, along with him only receiving 81 percent of Republicans, was his gender gap numbers. Worse than losing women by 8 points was only winning men by 4 points, the lowest percentage in the field and 9 points below Paul, giving Bush a 4 point net gender deficit.

Among independent voters in this sample, the Republican field won them against Clinton by 5 points (Paul – 5, Christie – 4, Huckabee – 5, Walker – 7, Rubio – 3, Cruz – 5, Bush – 1). Bush’s losing independents by a point was another reason for the weak position in the field.

KOA Radio: Hillary Clinton is in the Race

April Zesbaugh and Steffan Tubbs on Monday morning at 6:41 am, the early drive time for Colorado's most powerful radio station, 850-KOA, launched their discussion with me on Hillary Clinton and her prospects for winning the 2016 presidency.
Steffan Tubbs & April Zesbaugh

I started with KOA with Election Night coverage in 1982, with a legendary voice of the Denver Bronco’s Bob Martin, who could read election results as expertly as football statistics.

Sports has always ruled Denver radio, but in the decade starting in the late 1980s, KOA, 9KUSA and the Rocky Mountain News used Ciruli Associate polls in joint programming of political coverage. Today, in spite of Colorado’s swing state status, political coverage is still not as important as sports and regular news, but political advertisings has made Denver’s media a valuable property. And consequently, elections have moved up on most stations’ programming.

Our most newsworthy item Monday morning was that Clinton’s handlers expect to raise and spend $1.5 to $2 billion dollars, double the 2012 Romney vs. Obama budget per candidate. A big number, and one reason why Colorado media is valuable.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hillary Clinton in Colorado

The Clintons have won one presidential election in Colorado and lost one. In 1992, Bill Clinton, with the help of Ross Perot, denied what should have been an easy G.H.W. Bush victory. Four years later, Colorado reverted to its long history of preferring Republican presidential candidates and gave Bob Dole the nod by less than 2 points, while Clinton was winning the presidency by 8 points.

But Barack Obama broke the Republican hold on Colorado presidential politics with two substantial wins in 2008 and 2012. At the presidential level, Colorado is now considered a top tier swing state, but for many observers, there is a slight Democratic presumption based on Democratic advantage in a higher presidential turnout and the party’s very strong campaign apparatus.

Although Hillary Clinton inherits that platform, she faces significant challenges. She lost the Democratic activists in 2008 as Obama won the state caucus with major turnout from young voters and liberals. The party’s Hispanic and more moderate caucus attitudes favored Clinton. She won Pueblo and Adams counties. Motivating the state’s younger, liberal and African American voters will be a challenge.

As Mark Barabak wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Colorado and the interior West has become more competitive between the parties not less. Early in the Obama administration, Democrats hoped Colorado, Arizona and Nevada would be solidly Democratic and Montana a swing state. As we approach 2016, all three of the former appears in play and Montana more solidly Republican.

Monday, April 13, 2015

LA Times: The West is “Back in Play”

Mark Barabak
Photo: LA Times
Mark Barabak, a top national reporter with the Los Angeles Times, wrote Sunday on the front page that, although Barack Obama was able to bring much of the West into the Democratic fold in his two elections, most of the states in the interior Rocky Mountains are now in play for the 2016 presidential election. He quotes a host of Colorado political players and observers:

Mike Stratton, Colorado native, longtime Democratic strategists:
“It [Obamacare] glommed onto a lot of fears people have in the West about federal intrusion,” said Mike Stratton, a native Coloradan and longtime Democratic strategist. “From there it became part of a larger narrative, about big government and the IRS and Obama supposedly coming to take away your guns.”

Paul Harstad, Colorado-based Democratic pollster, worked for Obama’s presidential campaign:
“It is the hysteria and distortions of the right-wing media and Koch brothers apparatus and Republican officeholders that have polarized and alienated some. This is the same crowd that blindly denies climate change, appeals to bias against minorities and gays, doubts Obama’s citizenship and legitimacy and often won't even affirm evolution.”

Dick Wadhams, former Colorado Republican Party chairman agreed:
“To win, he said, Republicans will have to nominate someone with greater appeal, especially among women and minorities, than John McCain or Mitt Romney, the party’s last two nominees.

‘We can win with the right kind of candidates,’ said Wadhams, who has fought within his party to expand the outreach to Latinos and other minorities and tone down some of the harsher rhetoric surrounding issues like immigration. ‘A candidate who represents the future, who can articulate a Republican agenda in a way that attracts voters and doesn’t repel them.’”

Governor Hickenlooper:
“Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who survived a tough 2014 reelection fight even as Republicans knocked off the state’s senior U.S. senator, Mark Udall, said the winner here will be the candidate who can best ‘navigate toward the middle,’ regardless of party.

‘We’re one-third Republican, one-third Democratic and one-third independent,’ he noted in an interview. ‘There’s a lot of negotiation that has to go on.’

That, Hickenlooper said, is how things work in the West.”

I was quoted saying:
“But even some defenders lay a portion of the blame on Obama and his policies, especially the enactment of sweeping healthcare legislation, which they said did more than anything to undermine his image as a less activist, more moderate style of Democrat – especially after the law’s botched rollout. Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Denver pollster who has charted decades of Colorado public opinion, said Obama’s support collapsed during the fight over healthcare and, though he carried the state in his 2012 reelection campaign, never recovered.”

Friday, April 10, 2015

9KUSA – The 2016 Presidential Election has Official Competition

As of Tuesday, April 7, the 2016 presidential contest has two declared competitors: Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. And in Colorado on Tuesday, undeclared but actively campaigning candidate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, was fundraising with gas and oil and other supporters.

Early returns from the declared candidates are mixed. Cruz raised a record sum from Super PACs in two weeks, $31 million, but he has since been overshadowed by the regular news and the sheer volume of prospective Republican candidates.

Photo: 9News
Rand Paul is still trying to explain his rapidly evolving foreign policy views. From his 2010 start in politics, he has represented the anti-war, anti-intervention sentiment among many Americans, especially young libertarians, his base. But events and the Obama administration’s foreign policy struggles have made the position untenable, especially in the Republican Party. Hence, Paul has shifted on Iranian negotiations, intervention against ISIS and foreign aid to Israel. And his explanations have included testy run-ins with the Washington cable news press corps.

Finally, in the busiest week in the nascent presidential campaign, reports indicate Hillary Clinton is on the cusp of her announcement for the Democratic nomination.

Colorado will continue to be a platform for aspiring nominees. It is a swing state with many passionate partisans who will work for candidates and help fund them.

Let the 2016 campaign begin!

See 9News: Campaigning for 2016 without a campaign

Could Rand Paul Win Colorado Caucus?

Senator Rand Paul has a national base of libertarians to begin his campaign with, but he has a major task to expand beyond the distant finish his father achieved in 2008 and 2012.

Ron Paul came in fourth in Colorado in the last two Republican nominating contests, which were won by Mitt Romney in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.

Although Rand Paul polls nationally in the second tier (9%) after frontrunners Jeb Bush and Scott Walker (both 16%) (see The Buzz: Bush frontrunner and Paul tied in second tier), he does better in Colorado, where he placed at the top of the Republican field with Scott Walker in a February Quinnipiac poll and only lost to Hillary Clinton by 2 points (Bush lost by 8). In the latest Quinnipiac survey (out of the field April 7, the day Paul announced), Paul leads the Republican field and beats Clinton 44 to 41 percent.

Paul’s anti-career politician, anti-Washington, libertarian message is attractive to Colorado voters. And his effort to expand the party’s reach to younger voters, minorities and the tech-savvy (trips to Berkeley, Detroit and Silicon Valley) is smart and in the party’s interest.

Paul Rand presidential announcement, April 7, 2015
Photo: Reuters
But Paul remains an interesting longshot. Although there is a libertarian base of voters and funders, it’s modest compared to what is needed to win primaries and caucuses with typically 40 percent or more of the vote and many millions for media buys in expensive states, such as Florida. Like Ted Cruz, he’s young, won his first and only election for Senate in 2010, and populates the crowded conservative wing of the party, but Paul, similar to his dad, appears to have staying power.

See The Buzz: Clinton ahead by less than margin of error in Colorado

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bush Frontrunner and Paul Tied in Second Tier

Real Clear Politics lists twelve Republican candidates as presidential possibilities. The top six candidates hold two-thirds of the vote, and former Governor Jeb Bush, as of the first of April, is tied for first with Governor Scott Walker. Senator Rand Paul, who announced on Tuesday, is in a four-way tie for second place with nine percent.

Bush excels at raising funds, mostly using the old Bush finance machine, and his visit to Denver was no doubt lucrative. However, he does not appear to be particularly strong in early nominating states and loses to Hillary Clinton by seven points in the Real Clear Politics average match-up.  He’s not unique among the Republican field in losing to Clinton. No Republican on the list is closer than seven points with her, and Walker loses by eight.

Rand Paul’s launch started strong, hitting a lot of applause lines that appeal not only to rank and file Republicans, but some constituencies that are more independent of parties, such as Millennials and libertarians. But his argumentative temperament with reporters changed the storyline from his message to whether or not he is ready for prime time. Paul has had to change his pre-cast libertarian views after four years in the Senate and he struggles to explain the shifts or even what his positions are now. He may still receive a one- or two-point bump in his polling position, but it remains unclear if he can climb above his libertarian base in terms of fundraising and organization.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Nigeria – Africa’s Biggest Democracy Changes Governments Without Violence

On March 28, after a delay of six weeks, Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy, had a reasonably orderly and largely peaceful election, which changed the governing party for the first time in 16 years.

President Goodluck Jonathan and his PDP (People’s Democratic Party) lost by more than 2.5 million votes to former military dictator (1992) Muhammadu Buhari (APC, All Progressives Congress).

Pre-election polls had considerable variation and Nigerian media outlets like to promote African
soothsayers as much as opinion polls. A couple of credible polls did make clear that the incumbent party faced a very dissatisfied electorate with:
  • 74%  saying country going in wrong direction (Afrobarometer with Pew Research)
  • 86% say corruption very big problem
  • 86% crime very big problem
  • 81% electrical shortage very big problem
  • 72% Islamic extremism very big problem
In all the major criteria – security, economy and governance – Jonathan and PDP were on the defensive.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Hart Endorses O’Malley

Gary Hart doesn’t opine often from Troublesome Gulch, but when he does, it’s interesting. He
Gary Hart
weighed in on the presidential campaign with some of the first honest talk, most of which is on the mind of many Democrats.
  • Too much campaign money needed and spent ($1 billion – minimum)
  • Too few qualified, interesting newcomers
  • Too much dynasty
  • Democrats and Hillary are ill-served by no competition and no specifics
Hart knows Martin O’Malley as a friend and clearly favors him as an anti-establishment underdog, the role he played in 1984 – and he nearly won.

Politico: Gary Hart: Billion-dollar Clinton campaign should ‘frighten’ Americans
The Buzz: Democratic Party’s stressful support of Hillary Clinton

Monday, April 6, 2015

Terrorism Top Issue as 2016 Presidential Race Begins

As the economy has improved and concern about it declined, terrorist incidents and groups and states sponsoring it have moved up in public concern. Gallup reports terrorism is now a top national problem identified by Americans, having increased by 12 percentage points in the last year. The economy and the availability and cost of health care are also listed by more than half the electorate, but have declined in concern during the last year.

National problems tend to track media reports as interpreted and projected by the individual. Health care is likely affected by reports on the ACA. Social Security has not been in the news, but the huge Baby Boom generation is more focused on it as they move past retirement ages.

The size and power of the federal government and income and wealth inequality are among the key political divisions, which both parties express concerns about.

Friday, April 3, 2015

British Election is Up and It’s Close

The May 7 British election appears to be as close as the recent Israeli election, with Prime Minister Cameron’s Conservatives and Ed Miliband’s Labour nearly tied. Neither party is near half the electorate in a system that, until recently, produced a stable two-party government.

Cameron’s current partner, the Liberal Democrats led by Nick Clegg, has collapsed in voter support and is now exceeded by the new independent anti-EU and anti-immigration Independent Party, UKIP, represented by Nigel Farage.

Again, like Israel, governing will require a coalition, and it will likely be less stable than the past and could lead to a significant shift in direction in foreign policy, especially related to European relations, but there will also be strain in holding the nation’s disparate pieces together since a Scottish independence party is likely to win many local seats, most of which were in the Labour camp.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Nuclear Weapons and the Kremlin

While much of the world’s attention has been focused on a rogue state like Iran building nuclear
Vladimir Putin
weapons, the greater threat facing the world, especially the West, is a current nuclear state going rogue.

Russia and its autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin, just announced that on the evening he authorized the surreptitious seizure of the Crimea that he was prepared to raise the alert status of Russian nuclear force to anticipate any military reaction from the West.

Putin and Battlefield Nukes

The revelation came in a television production celebrating the first anniversary of the annexation of Crimea. It follows a number of recent threatening statements and reports that Russian conventional forces are preparing to use battlefield nuclear weapons.

The February 14 edition of The Economist reported that restraints related to use of nuclear weapons have diminished since the Cold War experience and use of nuclear weapons have become a more commonplace part of Russian military doctrine.

It is unclear who Putin thought he needed to threaten with nuclear weapons. There was no force in the West capable of action and no will to engage even if there was an army. But it is Central Europe that should take the threat seriously. When Putin says he could be in Kiev in two weeks, does he think with the benefit of battlefield nuclear weapons he could be on the Oder in a month while German elites are casually quaffing Bavarian lager in Berlin?

DEFCON 3 – 9/11

America pledges to only use nuclear weapons defensively, and on three occasions the U.S. alert status; i.e., DEFCON, has been raised. The closest moment to nuclear war was in the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev faced off over Cuba. President Nixon raised the status in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, but for many people, it was just another of the regular flare ups in the Middle East. Finally, President George W. Bush put the U.S. at DEFCON 3 after 9-11.

Except for old Cold War arms analysts and patrons of WarGames (1983), most people and nearly all students have little awareness of the concept of DEFCON or nuclear weapons as regular threats in dealing with ambitious and expansionist powers (or in the case of WarGames, a runaway computer program).

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Polls, Elections and the Media

A plenary session on “Polls, Election and the Media” is being organized by former CBS News public opinion expert Professor Kathy Frankovic at the June World Association of Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) to be held in Buenos Aires.

Participants in the panel are:

This panel will discuss polling, especially election polling, in its international context. The quality of polling, its reporting, and the impact of changes in technology and techniques are the main topics.

There are also plenary panels concerning recent Latin American elections and their continent-wide trends and the upcoming presidential election in Argentina.

Marijuana Debate Begins in California

Powerful political and financial forces are beginning the campaign to legalize recreational use of marijuana in California in the 2016 presidential election. A new PPIC poll shows that support for legalization has climbed to 53 percent, an all-time high, although support has been above 50 percent since 2013.

Democrats favor legalization by 63 percent and Republicans oppose it by 54 percent. It has produced an early split among top Democrats, in spite of support from two-thirds of the rank and file. Governor Jerry Brown expresses reservation about legalization, but the current frontrunner to replace him in 2018, former San Francisco mayor and now lieutenant Governor, Gavin Newsom, is an avid supporter.

A new study of the challenge legalization of marijuana in California must address was just published. It includes a litany of issues the Colorado State Legislature has been working on starting in the 2013 session related to child safety, driving and taxation.

Contra Costa Time: Marijuana legalization in California: ACLU-Gavin Newsom panel releases road map on the issues
The Sacramento Bee: Gavin Newsom’s pot legalization panel identifies challenges
LA Times: Newsom, other supporters call for study before 2016 pot ballot measure
The Buzz: California ready for marijuana?