Friday, November 17, 2017

The National Dashboard – Trump and Republicans in Trouble

The November 8 election results, when combined with exit polling, confirm that the President’s tone and language have become a liability that Democrats are exploiting. Trump’s presence so dominates current politics, Republicans can’t separate from him, and if they try, anger his base. Twelve months is a long time, but the Virginia governor’s race, in particular, highlighted that the historic metrics used to predict elections have not been suspended in the Trump era.

Trump is treating his approval rating like a reality show rating. Thirty percent of the cable TV market is high, but in a two-party political environment, it’s doom, which is what happened on Tuesday night.

One year ago, Trump won the presidency with 46 percent of the vote. He began his administration with 44 percent approval on January 20, 2017. Today, he is regularly in the mid-thirty percent range. Trump’s strategy of playing his base everyday has contracted his support. And even some of those voters are losing interest. He either changes strategy or takes the party into minority status 12 months from now.

The Dashboard we maintain to track the major indicators are all flashing red warnings for the President and Republicans.

Presidential Approval. His approval rating is at a record-low at 38 percent. Approval is the most potent metric, especial when the president is high profile with specific vulnerables – Trump by definition.

Congress. Congressional approval is also at historic lows – 14 percent, and when combined with a generic ballot indicator of metrics, 7 percent. The sense in 2018, as of today, looks like s worse election.

DOW. The President likes to cite the record-level DOW. It is his best number, but stock indexes can become volatile. The public is also capable of ignoring it when they see behavior or results (or a lack of) they don’t like.

House. The Democrats need 24 seats to take the House and put Nancy Pelosi in charge, including of investigations.

Senate. Democrats need three seats and have to hold ten that are vulnerable. It was not thought likely they could do both, but if Steve Bannon really wants to damage the party by attacks against incumbents, anything is possible.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Great Dictator

President Trump is impressed with his friend President Xi’s recent coronation as paramount leader of China.

Indeed, Xi has exceeded all the leaders of Communist China except Mao. He is today the most powerful authoritarian ruler in the world, both because of his consolidation of power in China and because of the country’s dynamic economy. But Xi’s standing is even greater due to his vision, which he is implementing through a newly empowered and invigorated Communist Party.

As Xi made plain in his 3.5 hour speech to the Party Congress, he intends on the nation to be a great modern “socialist” state in the center of world affairs and dominate in its own near territory (i.e., the waters, islands and neighbors in the Far East).

Trump’s goals of dealing with the North Korean threat and trade imbalances are worthwhile tactics, but his nationalism and isolationism makes it near impossible for America to lead on alliances and multi-lateral trade that is necessary to counter China and establish America’s strategy in the Far East.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Growth is Becoming an Issue for 2018 Politics

Not since the battle over growth controls early in this century has the topic of growth and how to discipline it been more on Coloradan’s minds. A growth control initiative was placed on the ballot in 2000 that initially polled with majority support. It was defeated by a massive campaign by the business and political establishments. The topic shifted to the state legislature until the dot-com bust of 2001 cooled the economy and Colorado’s high influx of new residents.

But the state has been on a growth tear for the last decade, with a population surge that is affecting traffic, roads and quality of life. The latest population projections show a state with more than 8 million people, up from 5 million by 2050. A significant amount of that growth is on the Front Range, from El Paso County and Colorado Springs north to the Wyoming border. Colorado Springs will become the state’s largest city and opens lands in Adams, Larimer and Weld will fill in.

Numerous Front Range local governments are trying to deal with the issue. Using zoning to slow down development are frequent and volatile topics in many metro cities, including Denver, Littleton and Lakewood. Denver’s billion dollar bond initiative and Colorado Springs water fee increase reflect the stress on urban taxpayers to maintain quality of life and public safety. The anti-fracking movement is a symptom of the rapid Northern Front Range suburban and small town growth colliding with the oil and gas extraction industry.

Addressing a near doubling of Colorado’s population during the next 30 years will be a topic in 2018 and well beyond. The issue will be highly visible in the governor’s race and especially in the Democratic Party primary.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Colorado Politics – The Year of the Independent

Colorado’s million plus unaffiliated voters can become a major factor in the June party primaries for the first time in history. Candidates in both parties have motivation to take advantage of the new law that gets every unaffiliated a primary ballot.

The just completed elections, especially in Virginia, rewarded the candidates who ran a campaign against the strident tone and political gridlock of Washington D.C. Colorado’s independent voters have anti-establishment elements and in general believe both parties are bankrupt. Beside the primaries, they may become the force for independent-type candidates in next November’s general election. The following column was published in the state’s leading political website, Colorado Politics:

The year of the independent

America’s two major political parties are under assault. The 2016 election was a shock for both party’s establishments, and they haven’t recovered. The divisions highlighted in the 2016 primaries are now becoming exacerbated by insurgent groups wanting to take complete control.

As the parties spend time and resources on their internal wars, this may be the year for independent voters and candidates to make a difference. Colorado’s gubernatorial race will be a good test case. The largest partisan bloc in the state is independents and it’s growing. But historically, participation by independents has been low. As unaffiliated voters, they’ve been mostly thought of as an add-on after the parties’ respective partisan bases have been motivated. But several factors suggest 2018 could be different. Read more…

Monday, November 13, 2017

Colorado’s Off-Year Election

Slightly more than a third of the electorate took the time to return their ballots, with half the votes coming in the last weekend and Election Day (3.2 million mailed, 1.2 million returned 11-9-17, 38%). Most of the major decisions were old battles or proposals that voters have seen before.

Denver. Denver voters continue to support investing in the city’s infrastructure. They approved a billion dollars in bonds for transportation, public safety and anchor institutions, such as libraries, hospitals and cultural facilities. The passage helps secure Mayor Michael Hancock’s political control over the city and his run-up for a third term. Growth, density and traffic are residents’ major complaints, and Hancock hopes the bond initiative’s transportation funding will address the issue sufficiently. Liberal voters did defy considerable civic opposition and approved the Green Roof initiative with a narrow win. A four-to-one Democratic over Republican ballot return was too much ideology over pragmatism.

Schools. Organized labor’s biannual effort to control school districts had more success in 2018. The pro-labor, anti-choice slate swept the Douglas County School District, retained their incumbents in Jefferson County and picked up two seats on Denver’s seven-person board. Tuesday night may signal the rise of the Colorado teachers union with their national affiliates targeting the state Democratic primary next June and the general election. The union would like a friendly governor and state legislature.

Fracking. The anti-fracking forces continue to win local battles, but lose to the courts and state regulators. The hydrocarbon industry has spent plentifully to fight what they consider misinformation from the anti-fracking advocates. Their audience is voters and especially opinion leaders. But Broomfield voters passed an anti-fracking measure in spite of the industry spending more than $300,000 against it. Expect the issue to morph into the 2018 Democratic primary for governor and Northern Colorado legislative and local elected officials.

Winners and Losers

Colorado’s election results portent much for the 2018 midterms and especially the governor’s race:
  • Voters signaling yes on infrastructure
  • Teachers union wins (Does is help Kennedy? Problem for Polis, Johnston?)
  • Brakes on school choice, performance pay, testing
  • Anti-fracking activists win (Bother Polis?)
  • Oil and gas on defensive, but in the battle
  • End of Hickenlooper era (school unions, anti-frackers?)
  • Democrats recharged from national and local wins (Could they win governor and both houses?)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Coffman Shakes Up the Governor’s Race – KOA, Taylor Summers

Three years ago, Cynthia Coffman won more votes statewide than any other candidate, including Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Cory Gardner. Coffman’s entrance into the fragmented Republican gubernatorial primary highlights that there is no one candidate who has a clear path to the nomination and who would be a credible candidate for the general election.

Early frontrunner Tom Tancredo has a substantial base, but a low ceiling. His entrance into the race damages District Attorney George Brauchler, who hoped to be a conservative frontrunner (Brauchler may drop out and run for attorney general). State Treasurer Walker Stapleton has some name identity and considerable access to money. But it’s hard to believe a Bush family member can win a Republican primary in 2018. While President Trump may not be an asset in a general election, his impact on the party in primaries remains potent. Coffman and Stapleton will directly compete.

By early next year, if Coffman is ready for the race, both in terms of her personal presence and a well-formed campaign, especially with potential financing, she could quickly become the person to beat.

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, Feb. 24, 2017 |
Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Natalie Meyer – An Exceptional Secretary of State

Wayne Williams just honored Natalie Meyer an exceptional Secretary of State. She always maintained a professional and fair-minded approach, serving throughout the Reagan years while Democrats Dick Lamm and Roy Romer were governors.

Her test for professionalism was having to deal with Douglas Bruce as he began his multi-year effort to pass the TABOR Amendment (finally made it in 1992). Bruce was a template for the abrasive protagonist, but Meyer maintained her decorum.

Congratulations on the NASS Medallion Award.

Three Colorado secretaries of state: Wayne Williams (C)
and Donetta Davidson (R) honor Natalie Meyer (L)
with NASS Medallion Award, Nov. 6, 2017 | Colorado SOS
Read SOS news release here

Monday, November 6, 2017

November 7 Election: Low Turnout, Usual Patterns

Out of 3.4 million Colorado voters, as of Friday before the November 7 off-year election, only one in five Coloradans, or 612,000, have returned ballots. But the usual patterns are holding.
  • More women are voting than men – 321,000 (52%) to 288,000 (48%) {data rounded to nearest thousand)
  • Republicans are out polling Democrats and both are beating the lagging unaffiliated voters, even though that’s the opposite pattern of current registration percentages. (There are 10,000 more Democrats registered than Republicans.) 
  • As expected, voters 40 years old and younger – mostly Millennials, are the smallest voting bloc (14%) and older voters (61 and above) are the largest group (55%).
  • Denver, with the most registered voters in the state (403,000), lags behind (54,000 votes cast) a host of smaller, but better performing counties, including Douglas (55,000), El Paso (84,000) and Jefferson (68,000).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tom Tancredo Runs for Governor – KOA Interview

Tom Tancredo announced a run for governor to “shake up the race.” As we blogged on October 13, Tom Tancredo will start as the Republican frontrunner. He’s mainly running because about a fifth of the Republican Party is extremely anti-immigration, illegal or otherwise, and he is the most anti-immigrant candidate. Also, Tom is well-known since his third race for governor. In the 2010 governor’s race, his first effort, he stated that the Republican nominee was a sure loser. He was right. The stakes are higher this year with an open seat, and several Republican candidates appearing to have the qualifications for governor and capable of winning a general election.

Tom Tancredo, Sept. 21, 2017 | Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics
Tom may have a floor of about 20 percent, reflecting the party’s far right, but he also has a ceiling among Republicans for whom his losing record will be a bar, as is his history of comments that will make powerful negative ads.

Although primaries are sometimes destructive of a party’s chances in the general election, the Republican who can fight for the party’s base and unite a sufficient number of the pragmatists could be a stronger candidate in the fall. Tancredo claims he lost the 2014 primary for governor due to late expenditures by opponents. A lack of funding may well be a problem this year. Tancredo is trying to use some of Steve Bannon’s celebrity status to increase his credibility and raise some funds.

A recent poll shows, not surprising, Tancredo starts with 22 percent of the Republican vote. Although the poll’s credibility is unknown and the initial positions are mostly name identity, it has been a boon to Democrats ready to use it for fundraising. Tancredo is good to unite the left.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Trump had a Better Week, But Approval is Still Low

Last week (pre indictment) was good for President Trump and House and Senate Republicans. They moved a budget, helping put in place the possibility of tax reform before the end of the year. Trump managed to not confuse or disrupt the presentation of the opioid initiative. The Russian investigation appeared to be stalling and the Democrats have become embroiled in their own Russian-related controversy. And, of course, the market keeps going up. Although Trump’s Republican critics (Flake, Corker) got a stage, they had no followers and are leaving the party to Trump.

But, in the midst of all the good news, Fox News came out with a poll that placed Trump’s approval rating at 38 percent, an all-time low for their poll. Although he still maintains Republican support (83%), they are only 35 percent of the electorate. Democrats’ 47 percent of voters only offered Trump 7 percent support. And, 30 percent of unaffiliated supported Trump.

 The Fox News results are near the RealClearPolitics average of 39.4 percent.

Although the 83 percent approval among Republicans is high, it represents decline from Republican support in most polls earlier in the year. A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this week also has the President’s approval at 38 percent and Republicans at 81 percent.

But the most stunning number from the Fox News poll is the generic ballot test, which claims Republicans are now 15 points behind Democrats – 35 percent to 50 percent. Although the number is likely a bit of an outlier, the RealClearPolitics generic test has Democrats ahead by 10 points, reflecting a slow, but steady increase for Democrats this year.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Colorado Politics: Higher Education in Crisis

Political polarization is affecting higher education. Higher education institutions have lost respect with the public in recent years, especially among Republicans. Many institutions are also facing a crisis in revenue, including public funds, enrollment and student debt, which has affected the value people ascribe to a four-year degree. Even Colorado’s respected anchor institutions are dealing with a rapidly changing business model and educational marketplace.

In a Colorado Politics article, I examine the politics of the crisis.

Higher education is in political trouble

Higher education is facing turbulent times. It must navigate tight budgets, high prices, enrollment shortfalls and sky-rocketing student debt.

Since the Great Recession, state budgets for public higher education institutions have declined by 16 percent per student, and during the past decade, tuition at four-year colleges and universities nationally is up 35 percent by almost $2,500. In Colorado, the triumvirate of the recession, TABOR limits and competing state budget interests has caused tuition increases of 63 percent since 2008. And, without other recourse, students have made up the difference by going into debt, which has increased by 59 percent since 2000.

Private schools face their own budget demands, leading to dramatic tuition increases and piles of student debt. A single year in a private college can easily cost $40,000, relieved by some grants and student aid, but still requiring loans in most cases.

The financial surge has translated into an enrollment crises. Large percentages of the population are beginning to question the value of a four-year degree. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows only half of the public believes “a four-year degree is worth the cost because people have a better chance to get a good job and earn more money over their lifetime.” And 47 percent said it wasn’t worth it “because people often graduate without specific job skills and with a large amount of debt to pay off.” Among Millennials, 57 percent said it wasn’t worth it. That reflects an increase of 19 points from Millennials who said a degree wasn’t worth the cost just four years ago.

Addressing higher education budget and enrollment problems is compounded by political divisions. Read more...

Monday, October 30, 2017

Korbel School Sponsors Third Session on Trump Presidency – One Year After the Trump Election: Is America Great Again?

Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli deconstruct the impact on American democracy and foreign policy one year after the election of Donald J. Trump. Join us in Maglione Hall on November 1 for the two-hour session. The presentation is the third in a series that began the day after the election (Nov. 9) and continued on May 1 at the administration’s 100 days mark. The event will be held at the Korbel School as Dean and former Ambassador Hill begins his new campus-wide duties as special advisor to the Chancellor for international engagement and a professor of diplomacy.

For more information and to register for the event, click here

The New Chinese Politburo

Xi Jinping will be China’s principal leader for another five years, even though China still maintains a veneer of collective leadership represented by the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee. At 64 years old, Xi is like most members, a Baby Boomer born in 1953. Xi has strengthened the grip of the party, purged or sidelined rivals, and could break recent precedent and remain president for a third five-year block, or until 2027. He would be over 70 years old, the nominal retirement age for Politburo Standing Committee members. But by not selecting any member less than 60 years old, Xi signaled no replacement was being groomed for a transition.

The 2017 Chinese National Congress marks the beginning of the Xi era. His leadership team is in place. In a three and one-half hour speech, Xi presented a vision for not five, but 30 years in which he sees China as a “great modern socialist country” at the center stage of the world and a new authoritarian model for other developing countries to follow. He believes the West is dispirited, divided and distracted while China is a confident, growing power. In a final act before adjournment, the party faithful amended the party constitution to add Xi’s thoughts as a guiding principal: “socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era.”

Although the entire production looks solid, it has a fragile base. Xi is attempting to instill ideological discipline with dated Marxism and strict Leninism to justify the party and its exclusive hold on power. But legitimacy is mostly based on satisfaction with the direction of the economy and improved quality of life. In fact, Xi and his team must work every day to ensure growth and the distribution of its benefits like every other great state. It is not clear Xi’s latest modification of the model can do it.

It is also unlikely that the world’s largest, most opaque and most repressive political party will become a model welcomed by most countries, regardless of Xi’s personal charisma or China’s public relations tools.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Is America Great Again?

Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli deconstruct the impact on American democracy and foreign policy one year after the election of Donald J. Trump. The presentation is the third in a series that began the day after the election (Nov. 9) and continued on May 1 at the administration’s 100 days mark. The event will be held at the Korbel School as Dean and former Ambassador Hill begins his new campus-wide duties as special advisor to the Chancellor for international engagement and a professor of diplomacy.

For more information and to register for the event, click here

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Taxes, Gridlock and the Market

The stars are aligned for tax cuts to pass before the holidays. The converging forces are the 2018 midterm elections without a legislative accomplishment, the latest Gallup poll recording Congress at a recent low in approval (13%), Washington dysfunction rated the country’s top problem (health care is second), and several polls showing Democrats with double-digit leads in the generic ballot test.

Of course, the dissatisfaction is being framed by the spectacular failure of health care repeal and replace and specifically a revolt against the Republican establishment fanned by Steve Bannon, the Breitbart populist-nationalist.

The only metric that has been working for Republicans has been the stock market with its dramatic 26 percent rise from a year ago to 23000. Tax cuts are seen as critical to investor optimism and the market’s buoyancy.

It’s hard to imagine a better or more urgent moment for Republican action.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Colorado Politics: Millennials Move Colorado Left

The Millennial generation, 75 million strong, are finally fully within voting age. They are shifting politics to the left, especially on many cultural issues, and helped give Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton their Colorado wins and make the state one of the first in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

In a Colorado Politics column (4), the impact of Colorado’s Millennials on the 2012 election is described:

Millennials Moving Colorado to the Left

Although Colorado remains competitive between the two main political parties, with candidates representing both parties winning statewide races and splitting control of the state legislature, the state has, in fact, moved at least two points to the Democratic side of the scale since 2006. This is most clearly shown in terms of registration and voter behavior in presidential elections. Republicans have lost their registration advantage. Voters not affiliated with a party are now the largest political group in the state, and polling shows that they skew younger and somewhat more liberal and Democratic. The presidential races since 1996 offer evidence that Colorado has shifted to the Democratic side with Barack Obama’s elections, and has remained in that camp through Hillary Clinton’s win in the state during the 2016 presidential election.

One reason for the shift is that voters under 35 years old are flooding the voter rolls nationally and, when motivated to vote, are changing the politics of the country and Colorado. 

Millennials have now overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest population cohort, and as they register and turn out to vote, they will become the dominant voting bloc by the 2020 presidential election. In 2016 presidential election polls conducted by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver’s Korbel School, Colorado’s Millennials distinguished themselves with a number of characteristics. More

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dow Ignores the Chaos

President Trump and his wild 271 days in office haven’t slowed one of the most impressive market climbs in history. The market is up 26 percent since Trump’s November 8 election in 2016 (market was 18333) and up 17 percent year-to-date. And although nervousness abounds, there are still reasons to believe the ascent may continue.

In spite of Trump’s low approval ratings, lack of legislative accomplishments and near daily controversies, the investor class is still confident that the business climate will continue to improve due to regulatory relief and a tax cut by the end of the year. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has told Congress the market is linked to their fast action.

Highlighting some of the anxiety about the direction of the boom, a spate of stories pointed out it was 30 years ago, October 19, 1987, that a fast climbing Dow dropped 22.6 percent, or 508 points (Black Monday, Dow started 2246). The market is up 4800 points since the November election.

The Dow is benefitting from a world that appears in a synchronized recovery with Europe, China and Pacific Rim countries all experiencing steady growth after the lingering Great Recession. Federal Reserve is holding calm, oil has stayed in a tight range and earnings are still good. No doubt, a correction is coming, but as of today, the market looks slated for more growth.

Also see The Buzz blogs:
Soaring market and plunging polls
Trump surge builds on Obama’s recovery
Trump gives the rally a boost
Trump rally breaks 20000 in near record speed

Friday, October 20, 2017

Guns are a Tough Issue for Americans

Dealing with gun issues in America is complicated. The public has strong feelings about guns and many are contradictory. Cultural anthropologists and sociologists cite the American experience as shaping the nation’s views on guns. It begins as European immigrants in a wilderness, and continues with the nation’s aggressive expansion across the continent. Add to the national experience, a media culture crowded with depictions of gun violence and the high rate of gun ownership (42% report being in a household with a gun, Pew, June 2017). Finally, the Second Amendment being included in the Constitution at the founding has made the gun issue a right.

Polling concerning guns must also deal with the cross currents and passion. The public’s viewpoints are affected if the questions treat the issue as gun control, gun rights or gun safety. Questions concerning a general restriction produce different results than questions focused on specifics, such as registration. And, the timing of the inquiry is critical, with the horror of a shooting causing spikes in opinions that decay quickly. And today, of course, partisanship has a major effect on Americans’ positions.

Within these challenges, it’s possible to view patterns of agreement on public policy. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, the public showed its division on a general question about stricter gun laws – 54 percent yes and 42 percent no. But on a question asking about a specific restriction, the public offered overwhelming support – 94 percent yes. A comparison of the two questions showed 39 percent of the public that opposed stricter laws, in fact, support background checks.

The American people would welcome reasonable gun restrictions. The gridlock of the congressional system is contributing to the decline in confidence in Congress.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Bannon: Keeper of the Promises

Before he was removed by General Kelly, Steve Bannon’s cluttered West Wing office had a wall of sticky notes with the promises that he used to track President Trump’s program from January 20, 2017, starting with rejecting the TPP trade pact to approving the XL Pipeline. Although nearly all of the promises kept are executive orders and not supported by legislation, there are many changes in regulations related to business, the environment and education that are having a major effect.

Bannon, now the political freelancer, has transferred that mission to a war on the Republican congressional establishment for their failure to follow up with legislation on core issues, such as health care and immigration, including the border wall.

The power of the Bannon strategy is that Trump voters are overwhelmingly in alignment with Trump’s performance and his agenda. Bannon can indeed probably use them as a wrecking ball.

The Trump voter is with him on Russia, terrorism, his temperament and taking a knee.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Colorado Politics – DACA Deal Dead?

It seemed too good to be true. Briefly, it appeared Washington could settle an immigration issue that has lingered for years harming young people, while more than 80 percent of the American people supported a resolution. But quickly, the bipartisan agreement was dashed by White House demands for immigration security proposals well known to be unacceptable to Democrats.

In a weekly article in Colorado Politics, the latest polling is reviewed, highlighting the benefits to both parties to find a majority for compromise.
  • President gets a bipartisan deal and solves a problem to his credit
  • Democrats serve a constituency, compromise on some but limited border security proposals
  • Republicans want a solution that attracts sufficient votes in the House and Senate to get border and immigration funding (no wall) 
  • Both parties relieve some gridlock. Of course, the extremes in both parties are unhappy.
Is the DACA deal dead?

On September 13, President Trump met with the minority leaders of their respective houses, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, over a meal of Chinese food. Reportedly, they agreed to a deal on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which included more border security without building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. Though there were immediate disputes as to what was agreed to, the session offered some hope for a resolution to an immigration problem that has dogged the federal government for at least half a decade. More than 800,000 individuals are affected by a program started in the Obama administration in 2013 to protect mostly young illegal immigrants. DACA took form as it became clear that broader immigration reform was not possible.

Unfortunately for the September 13 deal, the White House has returned with a proposal that includes limits to legal immigration, sanctuary city punishment and border wall funding – all non-starters for Democrats.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Denver Voters Have Historically Valued Their Cultural Institutions

The major metro area cultural institutions are asking Denver voters for $117 million in bond financing as part of the nearly one billion dollar bond package ($937 million) on the Denver election ballot November 7, 2017. Denver voters have historically been willing to maintain their cultural institutions’ operations with sales tax from the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) and the facilities, buildings and exhibit space through City and County of Denver property tax bond initiatives. The last major bond package, which included cultural facilities, was approved by voters in 2007. It totaled $550 million for all city projects.

Denver is one of the core metro cities in this country that has flourished since the 2008 Great Recession, at least partially because the city’s business, civic and community leadership and voters have been willing to invest in its infrastructure and quality of life. The Millennials and empty nesters that have moved here in the last decade cite the vibrant cultural life as one of the city’s great attractions.

The bond improvements, which tax dollars are supporting, are often matched by prodigious private fundraising efforts. The Denver Art Museum’s expansion and reconditioning of its historic Ponti building will triple the impact of the public funds with more than $100 million of private gifts.

Because the institutions are regional and, in fact, top state cultural attractions, these improvements go to the benefit of the entire region and state. It’s one way Denver thanks the region’s voters for their support of the SCFD. In November 2016, Denver voters supported the Cultural District by 73 percent and voters in the seven-county region gave the District a 63 percent affirmation.

Prediction: Denver voters will, in a fashion similar to the 2005 bonds, strongly support Denver cultural facilities.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Polis and Tancredo Frontrunners for Governor

A nightmare scenario for Colorado’s political establishment is the possibility Congressman Jared Polis and former Congressman Tom Tancredo are the frontrunners for their respective party nominations.

If the crowded fields don’t reduce, the primaries could be won by 30 percent. In 2014, Bob Beauprez won with only 30 percent. Tom Tancredo, close on his heels, received 26 percent. If Tancredo runs, he potentially starts with a quarter of the party as the Trump/Bannon candidate. In the 2016 Senate primary, Darryl Glenn won the late June primary with 38 percent. The five-person field had Jack Graham in second at 24 percent and Ryan Frazier bringing up the end with 9 percent.

Democrats haven’t had a statewide primary since the 2010 U.S. Senate race, which only had two candidates, Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff. But the Democratic field looks strong with Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy, Donna Lynne, Noel Ginsburg and Jared Polis.

Each can raise some funds, have civic history, if not political experience, and knows the issues. If no one drops out, 35 percent is likely to be enough to win. Polis, with his name identity, congressional base and money, is in front, with the rest of the field all Denver-based not yet distinguishing itself and likely dividing the anti-Polis vote.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Iran Deal. In Trouble?

The Iranian nuclear agreement has little current American public support. Barely a third of the public (35%) favor it in a recent Fox News poll. In 2015 when the agreement had sufficient votes in the U.S. Senate to sustain a veto (42 senators committed, enough to sustain veto or filibuster a Senate resolution, September 8, 2015), most opinion polling showed a majority of the public opposed the agreement.

That reflected a fall-off in support from when the agreement was signed in July 2015 by the five members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Germany and the European Union. Several polls showed a barely informed public was supportive (when offered details of agreement, support went up 9 to 10 points) (see below).

President Obama, Susan Rice, Benjamin Rhodes, Joe Biden, Jack Lew
and Denis McDonough. Onscreen: John Kerry and Ernest Moniz,
 March 15, 2015 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) 
Public opinion was in contrast to much of the foreign policy establishment and more liberal media, which considered it a victory for “smart, patient and disciplined diplomacy” as President Obama described it (some supporters felt it was simply the best deal under the negotiating conditions).

In general, as the debate proceeded in 2015, partisanship, pro and anti-Obama sentiment, and criticism of the agreement took a toll on its support. The bottom line is that Iran is not a popular country in the U.S.; its general behavior in the Middle East is controversial; and the agreement, for its benefits, still is a negotiated document with many unpopular compromises.

So not surprising, today the public is divided, with a quarter holding no opinion. There is a 28 percent difference in support between Democrats and Republicans, although even half of Democrats either oppose the agreement (21%) or don’t know (29%).

The future of the agreement, which is still supported by the other signatories, is in the hands of the Trump administration, Congress and the foreign policy establishment.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Colorado Politics – Fake Polls

As we near the one year anniversary of the most tumultuous presidential election in the modern era, it’s time to reflect on the polls and reporting of November 8, 2016.

Most people believe the polls failed. And President Trump and his media team often criticize current unfavorable polls as fake and refer to that night. In the second article in Colorado Politics, the state’s top political website, I take on the Election Night reporting and analyses and the charge of fake polls.

Fake polls – just a Trump put-down or a real problem?

At a recent press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders brushed back a question from a CNN reporter about a Fox News poll that showed 56 percent of the American people saw President Trump as “tearing the county apart.” She used Trump’s favorite put-downs: 

“A lot of those same polls told you Donald Trump would never be president, and he’s sitting in the Oval Office as I stand here, so I don’t have a lot of faith in those polls.”

She then quoted a poll she liked about support for tax reform. Some polls are fake, others useful.

Listening to Sanders or Trump, you would believe all polling in the 2016 election was a disaster and entirely baseless. Clearly, the narrative going into Election Day created an expectation that turned out to be wrong. But the polling itself was mixed, with most state and national polls accurately capturing the final results. It is important to establish what happened in 2016 and correct any mistakes, as polling has become an essential element in protecting democracy in the Trump era.

Wolf Blitzer, Election Night 2016 | CNN

Friday, October 6, 2017

Crossley, Roper and Gallup Establish Presidential Polling and Remedy Early Errors

Political polling as we know it began more than 80 years ago. Soon after its introduction, the polling industry gathered in Central City, Colorado, in 1947 to establish itself as a professional association and define its set of rules. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) will return to Colorado for the first time since 1947 with its national convention in Denver next May.

The 1936 presidential election became the first election to include a statistically based presidential poll. The polling began as a curiosity, but today it dominates much of the national media coverage and political conversation.

In 1936, for the first time in a presidential election, polling pioneers Archibald Crossley, Elmo Roper and George Gallup put polls in the field for dozens of media clients, including the Hearst Publication and Henry Luce’s Fortune Magazine. The risk was high. A miss could doom their credibility and stifle a nascent industry – or at least delay it for several years. They predicted a Franklin D. Roosevelt win over Alf Landon, which refuted a projected Landon win by the heralded presidential poll of the era (non-random) sponsored by a national magazine, the Literary Digest.

After their winning result, the three pollsters became known as the “Trio of ‘36” and went on to conduct accurate polls in Roosevelt’s next two elections, 1940 and 1944. They gained personal renown and established the legitimacy of polling as an accurate gage of public opinion in high stake elections.
“Trio of ‘36”: Archibald Crossley,
George Gallup and Elmo Roper
Life Magazine, 1944

All three men, and especially Gallup, became proselytizers for frequent polling, arguing that it helped counter special and well-off interests from dominating government. They saw polling as a way of bringing the public to the table when policy decisions were made, especially during the periods between elections when specific issues arose that might not have dominated the most recent election.

Gallup posed: “Shall the common people be free to express their basic needs and purposes, or shall they be dominated by a small ruling clique? In other words, how does one make those holding high public office responsive to the needs and wishes of the public?”

But the 1948 election shook the new industry to its core. All three pollsters predicted Thomas Dewey, the Republican, would win the election over incumbent Harry Truman. And, as Truman famously quipped, “That ain’t how I heard it.”

The leaders of the profession realized that mistakes were made and that changes were in order. They acknowledged that they had prematurely quit fieldwork weeks ahead of the election in 1948, believing it was over. Most importantly, they recognized flaws in their sampling procedures and shifted to improve their random selection methods.

AAPOR was created after the first organizing meeting in Central City. It became the professional association that established the rules and ethics of the polling industry. The rules required that published polls provide basic information to readers, such as the date of the poll, sponsor, population polled, sample selected, questions asked and margin of error.

Gallup Inc. became an international company with polls conducted in many countries. Crossley’s specialty was surveys of radio audiences, but he continued to poll for political parties, leaders and public policy. His family, including daughter Helen Crossley, also a renowned public opinion researcher, established the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Roper operated a national market research firm and created a polling archive that became the Roper Center, first at Williams College, then the University of Connecticut and now Cornell University. Each made a lasting mark on a fledgling field that is now universally used to understand public preferences toward both domestic and international policies and leaders.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Colorado Politics – State’s Premiere Political Website

I have been asked to join Colorado Politics, the state’s top political website, to provide regular analyses of state and national politics. My first article criticizes Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened.” I suggest Democrats would be better served for 2018 and 2020 examining why voters were so desperate for change that millions of them voted for someone they considered unfit for office.

The website, a creation of the Colorado Springs Gazette, incorporated the old respected Colorado Statesman into its platform. Top political writes, such as Joey Bunch and Dan Njegomir, guide the publication.

“What Happened”? Clinton’s book asks the wrong question 

Hillary Clinton will bring her book tour to Denver on December 11th. Tickets have already sold out. Unfortunately for her fans, Clinton’s long explanation of the 2016 election loss is focused on the wrong moment and wrong place to either identify the fundamental reasons she lost or to do much good for the Democratic Party’s need to re-position for 2020.

The question is not what happened in the last few days with Mr. Comey’s inexplicable poor judgement or the final 77,000 votes she lost by in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Rather, the question is how did Donald Trump collect 63 million votes after a majority of the public said he was unfit for office? How was she crushed in Ohio and Iowa, and how did she lose North Carolina and Florida – all states that Barack Obama and Democrats had won? “Change” has been judged the main force driving the Trump vote. The key to understanding the election, especially for Democrats, is to understand “change from what?”

Hillary Clinton | Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Korea: A Dangerous Moment

A politically weak president with no foreign policy or military experience confronts a 33-year-old, insecure, ruthless dictator. Both men control nuclear weapons. America’s generals have been cautious and restrained. North Korea’s generals follow the young man around with notebooks. A dangerous moment where language and misread intentions could lead to a violent escalation difficult to pull back.

The West, of course, can’t know North Korea’s public opinion, but American polls describe a wary public preferring negotiations and sanctions, but skeptical of their effectiveness. Still wanting to avoid war, but more willing to use military force than in the past. Importantly, they trust the military more than President Trump.
  • North Korea is an immediate threat – 50% (CNN, Sept. 20, 2017)
  • Can it be resolve only with economic and diplomatic efforts – Yes 43%, No 45% (CNN, Sept. 20, 2017)
  • Would you favor military action if diplomatic and economic efforts fail – Yes 58% (CNN, Sept. 20, 2017)
  • Other countries must participate – Yes 63% (CNN, Sept. 20, 2017)
  • Americans are against a preemptive attack (66%) and nearly all favor tougher sanctions (74%) (ABC/Washington Post, 2017)
  • Do you think the way Donald Trump talks about North Korea is helpful 23%, not helpful 70% (Fox News, Sept. 26, 2017)
  • Approval of Trump’s handling of North Korea – 36% (NBC/Wall Street Journal, Sept. 19, 2017)
  • The public trusts the military more than Trump

Wells Fargo – Behavior Affects Reputation

In the last two years, the reputation of Wells Fargo Bank has dropped six points of favorability in the Denver metro area, with an increase of 17 points in negative views from the residents of the region’s seven counties. Its unfavorable rating now nearly equals its favorable (41% favorable and 40% unfavorable).

In a survey conducted in June 2017 and compared to a similar regional survey in 2015, Wells Fargo has dropped from top position in the region’s banking community to behind Chase Bank and First Bank in favorability.

Although Wells Fargo has taken corrective action, continued stories about abuses probably require even more sweeping change.

Both surveys, 2017 and 2015, were conducted by Ciruli Associates by telephone – cell or landline – with 500 adult residents randomly selected in the seven-county Denver metro area. The margin of error is ±4.4 percent points.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Trump Takes on Professional Sports for Lack of Patriotism

In what most observers believe was a head fake to shore up his core supporters and to distract from another bad week in D.C., President Trump attacked NFL players and owners for a lack of patriotism for not forcing players to stand for the playing of the national anthem. Others felt it was simply Trump doing his tweet and troll routine about something that irritates him. He obviously knew it would rile up both his base and his opponents.

Trump may win short-term (early polls show more of public support anthem 49% than protest 43%, CNN 2017), but he has dramatically reinforced the Charlottesville problem. Although Trump and his advocates deny it, his language, audience, tone and targets give the presumption of playing to his base’s racial sentiments more credibility.

His action also adds weight to the primary weakness he has in finding support beyond his base – his character. The vast majority of voters now see him as a divisive figure, bent on dividing the country to serve his political interests and his personality.

Finally, he’s found another group of powerful, wealthy supporters, or at least supporting some of his policies, walking away from him. Like the corporate executives after his August 15 Charlottesville press conference, club owners see Trump as bad for business in a diverse, complex and interconnected economy. In this case, Trump took a marginalized movement of a few players and turned it into a cause célèbre uniting owners and players, but still potentially damaging the sport’s bottom line.

Of course, Steven Bannon, Trump’s Svengali, believes racial polarization is more valuable for his purposes than partisan polarization. And since much of the reaction to Trump is framed in racial terms, Bannon’s populist, anti-establishment movement may be helped. We shall see in November 2018 and 2020. But until then, there’s going to be a lot of power hitting.

The Dallas Cowboys | CNN

Friday, September 29, 2017

Merkel Wins, But a New Right Arises

German Chancellor Angela Merkel won a fourth term on Sunday, making her Europe’s longest surviving and premier leader. But the election saw the emergence of the far right anti-immigrant, nationalist party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD), as a major parliamentary opposition party. It received 11 percent of the vote in Western Germany, but 23 percent in the East to be the region’s second largest party after Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU).

Merkel’s campaign slogan was “Die Mitte,” The Center. Unfortunately, the center parties, CDU and Social Democratic Party (SPD), part of the ruling coalition, suffered major losses in this election. They went from a combined 67 percent of the vote in 2005 to 54 percent today. The SPD, which lost 20 percent of its 2005 vote, now claims it will go into opposition and not be part of the ruling coalition.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses supporters
after election win, Sept. 24, 2017 | Reuters
The rise of the AfD on Merkel’s right is largely a product of her immigration policy. Most CDU voters who did not vote for the party told the exit poll it was because of Merkel’s refugee policy. But the new right didn’t just draw from Merkel’s CDU. In fact, it took nearly a third of the SPD lost votes (500,000) and 40 percent of CDU/CSU decline (1 million). AfD also attracted more than 1.2 million non-voters from the 2005 election.

While Merkel won, forming a new government will be difficult and the new coalition less stable. Her party is now weaker and the pro-EU, pro-refugee policies will be on the defensive.

Wall Street Journal: Rising right dents Merkel’s win
Wall Street Journal: Strong Showing by Nationalist Party Jolts German Politics
The Guardian: What the stunning success of AfD means for Germany and Europe

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Japan Calls Snap Election in Korean Crisis

Shinzo Abe, given good marks for handling the North Korean crisis and building a relationship with Donald Trump, has called a snap election one year earlier than required. Abe has been moving up in recent polls after a drop due to corruption scandals affecting him and his wife (79% of public say they are unhappy with government’s explanation of the scandal in new Kyodo News poll).

With his recent improvement in the polls, he wants to hold the election before new rivals and controversies erupt. The latest polls show his party (LDP) in the lead, but with many people undecided.

Abe was the first world leader to establish a relationship with President Trump at a high-profile visit to Mar-a-Lago in February. It has helped keep him in the limelight at subsequent meetings of world leaders. In office five years, Abe is hoping the North Korean missile threat and his quick actions with Trump will give him momentum to hold a majority for another term and refresh his mandate.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo
and President Donald Trump dine at Mar-a-Lago
A new political movement based around the popular governor of Tokyo may be Abe’s and the LDP’s main threat. Yuriko Koike could be the center pole in a new national party (Party of Hope). Like many mature democracies, old center parties are vulnerable.

A few other factors effecting the election:
  • The economy has improved after years of stagnation
  • The Emperor will abdicate soon, an important cultural event
  • Changing the constitution to modify the pacifist clause is still controversial without a clear mandate to change
  • There are 475 seats lower house (Diet) has power. LDP-Komeito bloc has 316 (66%). Election scheduled for October 22.
Read CNN: Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo calls snap election

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Republicans’ Dance Card Nearly Full

State Treasurer Walker Stapleton
Photo: Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette
With the entry of Walker Stapleton, the Republican line-up for governor appears complete. However, just to maintain a little suspense, two names continue to be mentioned. Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has been coy about her intentions. She would be a formidable candidate from having been the highest Republican vote-getter in 2014 and after three years of sparing and periodically cooperating with Governor Hickenlooper.

Also back in his self-promoting mode is perennial insurgent Tom Tancredo. He would be mostly a spoiler, but his anti-immigration, anti-establishment position attracts reliable activists among the party’s faithful.

Stapleton must be considered a frontrunner for the nomination. His assets include serious fundraising depth with national Bush family contacts and a host of issues to run on – PERA reform, anti-tax positions (opposing single-payer/billion dollars for education initiatives) and term limits. But Stapleton is the epitome of the establishment in an era that seems to reward the outsider and the edgy insurgent.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Partisanship Defines the Era

Although people still like to deny party loyalty, party-line voting is on the rise. In fact, partisanship is so intense that 33 percent of Democratic parents do not want their children to marry a Republican and 49 percent of Republican parents would have their daughter avoid a Democrat, a tenfold increase of parents holding the view since 1960. Party prejudice is now stronger than race or religion.

It’s not surprising that the presidency, the peak of partisan identity, is highly polarized. Today, more than 80 percent of Republicans regularly tell pollsters they approve president’s job performance and barely 10 percent of Democrats do the same. That split, as the table below shows, is at record levels. Seventy-one percent of voters now have opposite positions on presidential performance, up from 35 percent in the 1960s and in the 50 percent range as recently as the Clinton and Reagan presidencies.

Partisanship has also spurred down ticket voting, with 90 plus percent of partisans voting through a ballot of federal officials, starting with the president and staying with one party through senators and congresspersons. But partisanship affects voters’ views not just of candidates, but on a host of issues, including the state of the economy. The supporters of the party in control of this White House tend to be more positive about the economy today and its direction than the out party. Of course, media audiences are highly skewed by partisanship, with Republicans watching Fox and online with Breitbart and Democrats watching MSNBC and linking to Huffington Post.

And now, who do you want your daughter to marry?

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Trump Presidency: “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”

Two hundred and fifty participants of the OLLI educational program began the 2017-18 school year with a presentation on the Trump presidency after seven months. The title, “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly,” provided a framework for a view of what has gone right, gone wrong and what the politics is producing, which in America today tends to be ugly.

The 1966 Spaghetti Western, which was initially mostly criticized as too vulgar and too violent, is now recognized as bringing a new and much copied style into the American Western film genre. The film offers an instructive framework for the political era we are in. Today, anti-heroes rule, the language is caustic, the demonstrations and the talk shows are more violent, and everyone is against the establishment. In the Sergio Leone film, the anti-heroes fought law enforcement, the army and each other, and today, it is anything from Washington.

The nature of the presidency and how historians judge it began the presentation, followed by a review of the:

Watch tribute video of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly here

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Record Crowd – Hill and Ciruli Speaking to Denver Eclectics

Former Ambassador and Dean of the Korbel School of International Studies, Christopher Hill, and Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, will present a talk on November 10 to a record crowd of 330 members of the Denver Eclectics.

The following describes the program.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Afghanistan: A Decision That Both the Public and the Base Dislikes

The Afghanistan decision may have been President Trump’s most difficult. He did not want to raise the ante in what looks like a losing proposition. He has railed frequently on how poorly it’s been handled and how we should just get out. But after weeks of wrangling with the Pentagon and the generals in his administration, he went with their recommendation for more time and troops.

He only made it only after a long meeting at Camp David with his full national security team.

While he gave a speech as to why he went against his preference, he was vague as to what exactly was committed. But Trump’s instinct on ending America’s participation in the Afghanistan war is in alignment with a plurality of public opinion and his most ardent supporters of the Steve Bannon wing of the base. In fact, Bannon’s exit from the White House was expedited by his resistance to the military’s recommendations on Afghanistan.

Although Republicans supported Trump’s decision, with 66 percent among whites with no college degree (4-year), only 48 percent agreed with nearly two-fifths opposed (39%).

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bannon Goes to War Against GOP Establishment

Charlie Rose interviews Steve Bannon on
"60 Minutes," Sept. 10, 2017 | CBS News
A bigger problem for the GOP than what Trump working with Democrats could do to the Republican senate and congressional races in 2018 is what Steve Bannon announced on 60 Minutes that he’s going to do outside the White House. Even before Bannon’s interview, speculation was rife that Trump has fatally damaged incumbent Republican Senators Flake’s (AZ) and Heller’s (NV) reelections. He praised and cajoled Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp for a tax cut/reform vote at his North Dakota rally, while Republicans had made her one of their top targets. In addition, between Trump and the ridged ideologists in the Republican House, two swing district incumbents in Pennsylvania and Washington State announced retirement.

But, Bannon and his alt-right media outlets, like Breitbart, intend direct action to fight Republican incumbents that don’t tow the Trump line. They are setting in motion a local dynamic where Trump acolytes and more general supporters are blaming Republican congresspersons and senators for Trump’s many problems (lack of progress on health care, Russian investigations, Charlottesville press conference, etc.). In the interview, Bannon made clear he and these voters are either encouraging primaries or are suggesting they simply won’t vote for various incumbents in 2018. And, of course, it’s state and swing district incumbents who are most likely to express some reservations about Trump concerning his character or the legislative agenda.

Bannon’s and Trump’s strategy of internecine conflict is making it much easier for “Nancy” and “Chuck” to achieve their November 2018 majorities.

President Donald Trump and former White House Chief
Strategist Steve Bannon | Getty Images

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Trump Approval Should Pop Up

Donald Trump is having an overdue good week. Presidents and governors who handle weather crises benefit; they even get extra benefit when the damage is less than expected.

The public loves bipartisanship and is desperate for some action in Washington. His “Chuck and Nancy” moment has been well-received, especially by legacy media, which at the moment, he doesn’t believe is fake.

Hope for a tax cut increased slightly this week, along with the market and investor optimism. Trump appears to be staying focused on it.

Charlottesville produced the worst numbers of his presidency, 57 percent negative to only 37 percent positive on the RealClearPolitics average (August 13, 2017). He spent most of August below 40 percent. Today, his average has improved to 56 percent negative and 40 percent positive. Expect Trump to finally get back above 40 percent positive. His recent high was 44 percent positive on May 2 right after his first 100 days. It’s been a slog since then.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Studio 1600

Donald Trump rearranged the politics of Washington on Wednesday, September 6 with his decision to go with “Chuck’s” and “Nancy’s” three-month debt limit. He did it in his Studio 1600, where with the Resolute Desk and the Oval Office couches he stages most of his political theater (see blogs: Trump Backs the Democrats’ Debt Limit and Kelly Needs to be a Theater Director).
President Donald Trump meets with bipartisan group of
congressional leaders and members of his economic team in
Oval Office, Sept. 6, 2017 |
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
The political impact was felt most abruptly on the Hill where Republican leadership and its legislative strategy were upended. A round of media and pundit speculation was launched concerning the impact on Paul Ryan and his seldom happy or unified caucus and on Mitch McConnell being able to align the Senate with the administration on the legislative agenda.
The broader political effect is also beginning to register. Trump, the independent, was one story in the New York Times suggesting he could run as an independent in 2020, but suggesting for now, the Republicans may need to assume Ross Perot was elected in 2016 and negotiate accordingly.
Expect Studio 1600 to be the staging ground for a major challenge to the establishment Republican Party, its leadership and its power.