Friday, April 21, 2017

Trump Trying to Put Points on the Board

Donald Trump, who lives for ratings and is hypersensitive about crowd size, claims he’s no longer interested in the “first 100-day” standard. In fact, the White House has been obsessed about it for weeks, holding branding meetings and claiming that “no administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days.” Most recently, President Trump has made clear he needs “points on the board” by April 29 and is trying to revive health care.

For the Korbel School and Crossley Center, the historical standard is a useful measure. On May 1, join them for an assessment of Trump’s first 100 days.

Read:
Politico:  Trump scoffs at 100-day mark as ‘ridiculous standard’
CNBC: Trump calls first 100 days as ‘ridiculous standard’ – even though he set it as a standard

Will it be the best 100 days in history or the worst, is the White House a well-oiled machine or chaos center, and is the foreign policy unpredictable or incoherent?



The Beltway Rules – Shutdown

The government shutdown in 2013 was caused by a confrontation with Obamacare opponents and divided party government. It lasted 16 days in October as Republicans shed points in national polls. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell got credit for settling it and has promised it won’t happen this year.

It would be profoundly stupid for the Republican Party, which controls all three branches of government, to let it shut down over internal policy disputes, especially after the Obamacare repeal and replace collapse.

  • “Take all necessary steps to avoid a government shutdown” (65%) or “If it helps them achieve their policy goals” (17%) – support shutdown 17%, with 22% Republicans and 14% Democrats; 23% men and 13% women
Read Politico: Poll: Voters recoil from government shutdown

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hickenlooper, Gardner and Bennet’s Job Approval

Morning Consult, an online poll from web journal Politico, asked a national sample of its participants the job performance of the governors and senators of every state. Governor John Hickenlooper and Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner have middling ratings.

Governor
The highest rated governors received scores in the mid-sixty percent range and above. Charlie Baker, a Democrat in Massachusetts, had the highest approval at 75 percent. The highest rated large-state governor was Greg Abbott (R) of Texas (64%). Westerners Brian Sandoval (R) of Nevada and Gary Herbert (R) of Utah also had 64 percent approvals.

John Hickenlooper was in the upper half of the list of 50 governors with 61 percent, joined by nearby governor Matt Mead (R) in Wyoming (60%) and Steve Bullock (R) in Montana (59%). The governor with the lowest approval was Chris Christie at 25 percent.

Senate
Small state senators were more popular than those in large states. At the top were Vermont Democrats Bernie Sanders (I) with 75 percent and Patrick Leahy (D) 70 percent approvals. Wyoming’s and Maine’s two senators were next with approval ratings above 66 percent. Also, they all had single digit “don’t know” ratings. Their citizens know them.

Colorado’s two senators were in the lower half of the list, with Michael Bennet at 54 percent and Cory Gardner receiving 49 percent approval. They both had high percentage of people who could not rate them.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Beltway Rules – Single-Payer

The beltway prerogatives and attitudes still rule.

In a state Hillary Clinton won by slightly more than 100,000 votes, single-payer health care, called Medicare for All by its public relations-minded acolytes, lost by 1,540,000 million Colorado voters (79% to 21%). Only Democrats deep into beltway politics would endorse Bernie Sanders’s long-time effort to promote a single-payer government system into Congress or American politics. But Diana DeGette and Jared Polis are leading the way locally. If they represented Vermont, Sanders’s home state, it would be understandable, but Colorado has just spoken.

Reps. Jared Polis and Diana DeGette
See: Three More Join HR 676 Single Payer Bill in House

The Beltway Rules – Gorsuch Vote

When Neil Gorsuch’s nomination was announced by Donald Trump on January 31, the stars appeared aligned for a smooth, if not easy, confirmation. Not easy given the current polarized politics, the bitter election result and President Trump’s ability to rile up the country’s left wing. And the Merrick Garland experience added resentment. But Gorsuch’s qualifications, his initial reception and the precedent for allowing a vote on justices led me to claim Gorsuch “gets to 60 and Colorado’s two Senators support him.” Wrong on both counts. Democrats decided to forget precedent and filibuster. Gorsuch supporters could not break it and Republicans went to a majority vote, ending the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. And Michael Bennet went with his caucus and the resistance.

The entire drama was a product of beltway politics.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (right) administers
judicial oath to Neil Gorsuch at White House, as his wife, Marie
Louise, and President Trump look on | Evan Vucci/AP

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

French Elections: Four Top Candidates in Margin of Error

Less than one week out, four candidates in the French election (April 23) are within the margin of error of making the first round. Since early March, the two frontrunners have been Marine Le Pen (22%) and Emmanuel Macron (23%). They remain locked in a tight race (see French Election-First Round Tie, April 10, 2017).

But ex-communist, nationalist candidate (both anti-German and anti-EU), Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has moved into a tie for third with François Fillon, the right of center candidate burdened with an unfolding family patronage scandal. Both are only four points behind the frontrunners. More than 30 percent of the electorate may not vote or was undecided on April 19, two days before published polling must cease.

Two weeks after the Sunday vote, May 7, a runoff will take place with most polls showing that in hypothetical face-off Le Pen loses to whoever joins her after the first round.

Water for Colorado

Colorado’s mountains are the source of much of the West’s water. We, of course, have a stewardship duty to protect it, but Colorado itself is in short supply. We must use our legal share as effectively and efficiently as possible.
South Platte River | Denver Water

Although the Trump administration is struggling to develop a legislative strategy, one top priority, widely shared, is a massive investment in infrastructure, including water development and protection.

I have been engaged in a long-term effort to encourage Colorado to develop its water resources, and today, the most important action is to prepare a strategy and the argument for Colorado receiving its share of any federal funds. An editorial I wrote recently appeared in the Grand Junction Sentinel, Pueblo Chieftain and the Fort Collins Coloradoan. If you agree, share it with your local water leaders.

Colorado has been fortunate to have a long history of exceptional water leaders. We need to be leading today.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Will federal funds flow to Colorado water projects?
By Guest Columnist 
Sunday, April 9, 2017
By Floyd Ciruli

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter attempted to stop funding water projects, including those in Colorado. He was prevented from pulling the plug by the state’s delegation and with the help of the national water lobby. But it marked the end of significant appropriations for water projects and the close of the era of new dams and diversions directed by Washington.

Colorado did not stop advancing its water agenda. The need for storing water, reusing water and moving water from areas of surplus to populations of need continued. But the projects are now mostly funded through local rates or taxpayers. Rueter-Hess Reservoir in Douglas County, the Southern Delivery System of Pueblo and El Paso counties, Prairie Waters in Arapahoe County, Windy Gap Firming Project and the Northern Integrated Supply Project in Northern Colorado (both at the tail-end of their long permitting processes) and the Moffat Collection System Project sponsored by Denver Water represent $4 billion in water investments planned or built in the last decade.  Continue

Monday, April 17, 2017

ABC News Interview with Dean Hill on North Korea

Christopher Hill, dean of Josef Korbel School of International Studies at DU and former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea, told ABC News “This Week” with Martha Raddatz that he thinks President Trump’s rhetoric toward North Korea over its nuclear program “makes people nervous.” However, he believes the some of the administration's actions in response to the North Korean threat are positive.
“[Working with the Chinese] seemed to be an elusive concept at a certain point in time and, yet that, I think, is very much happening.” Hill said.
Watch entire interview here.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Bannon About to Join Flynn?

“It reminds me of the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin when the world trembled at the sound of our rockets. (Captain Ramius, The Hunt for Red October, 1990)
Those were heady days when the boys were gathered around the Resolute Desk listening as President Trump spoke to President Putin.

Will it make a difference without Steve Bannon in the picture? If General Flynn had been handling national security, launching Tomahawk missiles and moving the Carl Vinson, the optics, if not the policy, would be much different. And, the national anxiety levels a lot higher.

Much of what Bannon stands for, his economic nationalism and anti-establishment populism has begun to corrode.
  • Anti-immigrant
  • Anti-multi-lateral trade agreements, anti-TPP, NAFTA, WTO
  • Anti-Russian phobia, Russia is a nationalist ally
  • Anti-alliances, NATO, anti-EU
  • Anti-interventionism, anti-humanitarianism, anti-regime change
  • Anti-legacy media
In a series of interviews and actions, Trump has reversed or significantly deviated from positions on a host of his and Bannon’s previous positions. Then in a New York Post interview, he backed away from Bannon himself.
“When I asked the president Tuesday afternoon if he still has confidence in Bannon, who took over the campaign in mid-August, I did not get a definitive yes.
‘I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,’ Trump said. ‘I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.’”

Supercarrier Strike Force Carl Vinson Changes Course and Returns to Korea

Looking for new options now that “strategic patience” has ended, the Trump administration ordered the Navy Third Fleet supercarrier, USS Carl Vinson, and its compliment of destroyers and cruisers back to Korea, cutting short a port stay in Singapore and diverting it from planned exercises and leave in Australia. The Carl Vinson had just participated with South Korea in naval exercises in March.

U.S. warship on its way to Korean Peninsula | Getty
The order to change course came from Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the Pacific Command in Hawaii. The high-profile announcement signals that the decision is a show of force as the administration attempts to increase pressure on the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un. The fleet move is receiving top Navy leaderships’ attention. Rear Admiral James Kilby is aboard the Carl Vinson and leading the strike group. Overall command is led by the Navy’s Third Fleet commander Vice Admiral Nora Tyson from her headquarters in San Diego.

Secretary of State Tillerson’s and President Trump’s recent statements indicate North Korea has moved to a top priority and strategic threat that policy is changing and some type of military action is possible, although still not likely.

Trump 
North Korea just stated that it is in the final stage of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the United States. It won’t happen. (January)

North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the US for years. China has done little to help! (March)

If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all that I am telling you. (April)

North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them. (April)

Tillerson 
Policy of “strategic patience” is over (March)

U.S. military action against North Korea is “an option on the table.” North Korea’s threat on the South would be met with “an appropriate response.” Twenty years of diplomatic and other efforts have failed. (March)

North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment. (April)

H.R. McMaster  
The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula must happen. The President asked us to give him a full range of options to remove this threat to the American people and our allies and partners in the region. (April)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

DU Sponsors “The First 100 Days” of Trump

On May 1, the Korbel School and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at DU will sponsor a discussion of President Trump’s first 100 days in office.

Was it the best 100 days in history or the worst, is the White House a well-oiled machine or chaos center, and is the foreign policy unpredictable or incoherent?

Join the discussion with Korbel School Dean Christopher Hill and Crossley Center Director Floyd Ciruli to examine the first 100 days and discuss what’s next.

This session is a follow-up on the November 9, 2016 presentation when Hill and Ciruli deconstructed the election results and discussed what could be expected. Surprise has been the constant, from the Trump Tower transition, to the inaugural and first few weeks, to the latest foreign affairs crisis. “The First 100 Days” of Trump discussion will be stimulating and educational.

Join us.

Perlmutter is In

The race for governor has started early, reflecting a lot of pent up interest among the political class.
And although Congressman Ed Perlmutter is now seen as the Democratic frontrunner, a primary is still expected and the general election is likely to be competitive.

Perlmutter is well-liked in a party that has produced a lot of Colorado winners in the 21st century. He is a good fundraiser and represents an important part of the Denver metro area. Jefferson County, his home base, has given statewide Democrats a generous margin of votes.

But, he is unlikely to clear the Democratic field. The open gubernatorial seat has attracted a new generation of Democrats. Perlmutter, a Baby Boomer, represents the establishment. Mike Johnston, Cary Kennedy, Noel Ginsburg and other rumored candidates will not walk away from the race. The primary will rough up Perlmutter’s friendly reputation.

His biggest liability, especially in the general election, is the decade in Washington, mostly during the Obama years. It is hardly the resume builder one wants to run in Colorado on. He arrived in Washington with the super-sized Democratic class of 2006, which made Nancy Pelosi the Speaker. He was a loyal soldier in the Democratic years of control. But since 2010, he has been in the minority.

Most likely, Perlmutter will try to run away from D.C., claiming it’s a mess that he tried to fix. Given his voting record and party loyalty, it may be a tough case to make. He dealt with Obamacare and the gridlock on his watch. He is the candidate of the teachers union, good for a Democratic primary, but controversial in the general election. Perlmutter is a liberal, especially on land use and the environment. The fracking issue is going to dog the Democratic primary and possibly produce division between him and parts of the party. It may leave him with a fractious party and a mass of gas and oil money in opposition.

Perlmutter made a strong entrance, but having started early, it will be a long season.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Democracy in the US: Robust or Brittle? World Poll Conference in Portugal

Democracy worldwide is on the defensive. Attacks are reported daily on independent judiciary, on a free press and on access to political space by opposition political groups. Even American democracy, which is old and its political institution mature, appears to be vulnerable to the anti-democratic trends sweeping Western European nations.

In a panel at the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) conference in Lisbon, Portugal, researchers from around the world will present on the Health of Politics. Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research in the Korbel School at the University of Denver will present a paper titled: Democracy in the U.S.: Robust or Brittle?

Presentation description:

This presentation will review the literature on democratic stability and more recent 2016 election description of vulnerabilities and flaws. These attributes will be tested in U.S. and state-level surveys to highlight possible fractures in public opinion that support or oppose the theory that U.S. democracy is becoming brittle and unstable. Trust in government, party polarization and the desire for change are factors that will be examined.

The willingness of partisans of both parties to ignore their evaluations of the fitness of office of the candidates and vote for them anyway is one variable that will be measured against trust, desire for change and partisanship. A second factor to test with the variables is the statement that the other candidate’s victory will be illegitimate.

Key question: Is the 2016 election and its result the culmination of a long period of dissatisfaction and support for the regime and its democratic process, which will rebound, or is this the beginning of a more profound weakening in democratic culture?

Race and Police Practices in US: Law & Order Meets Black Lives Matter, World Polling Conference in Portugal

The World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) will assemble in Lisbon, Portugal, in July to share research among the world public opinion researchers. Some of the most interesting papers are on major public opinion trends that are impacting public policy in the nations around the world.

Physical security in a nation and a community is, along with economic prosperity and government legitimacy, among the top factors of importance to the public.

The intersection of the need to impose social controls, the desire for liberty, and concern for fair and accountable police practices is a universal source of conflict in public opinion. In the U.S., the conflict has been exposed recently in a series of violent incidents between police and suspects, often minorities, and attacks on police by assailants, sometimes as specific targets of assassination.

The issue was most recently framed in the 2016 presidential election as a conflict between Law and Order vs. Black Lives Matter.

In a panel at the WAPOR conference titled, Racial, Cultural and Ethnic Issues, Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research in the Korbel School at the University of Denver, will present a paper on the topic.

Race and Police Practices in U.S.: Law and Order Meets Black Lives Matter

Use of force by police and their being victims of assassination were among the biggest news stories in the U.S. in 2016. This presentation explores the public opinion gap between the U.S. public, police and the African American community on police practices, especially use of force. The data sources are surveys conducted in Denver, Colorado, and Chicago, Illinois, on police practices and community relations and Pew Research’s 2016 national polls of the public and police personnel on race and policing.

Trump Sees a Line, a Red Line

Donald Trump’s quick action on the tragedy in Syria produced significant political benefits for him and the U.S. when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, believing himself secure, decided to use chemical weapons again. It allowed Trump to frame himself as the world leader for the protection of innocent victims of a brutal, heartless dictator.

The tertiary benefits are astounding.
  • Trump can remind everyone of the near universal condemnation of President Obama’s feckless Syrian foreign policy, especially his walking away from his own Red Line in August 2013.
  • He demonstrated to President Xi and his North Korean associates that “bad things” can happen very quickly. It also rebukes Russia at a nice point to distract the endless Russian investigation and boost his anti-Kremlin credibility.
  • Europe likes it and has been calling for U.S. leadership. Even Merkel has a kind word. Our Middle East allies – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and others – never forgave Obama’s weakness or, in their view, disloyalty. It also rebukes Iran, always positive with Sunni allies.
  • Dictators of the world took notice. Russia, China, Turkey and North Korea just saw that nationalism of the campaign does not mean isolationism. That there are other influences surveilling around the White House, pulling for a more robust national security policy.
  • The action will quiet momentarily Trump’s critics in the Republican national security establishment. McCain, Graham and Rubio were withering in their condemnation of Trump’s and Tillerson’s Syria statements that Assad’s future is up to the Syrian people as a free pass for Assad’s bad behavior. After the chemical attack, they more or less blamed Trump for it. Now, they are praising his action.
  • Numerous liberals and Democrats have grudgingly given Trump some praise. Removing Assad was the diplomatic goal of Obama and Secretary Kerry (leading to endless lunches in Geneva) and held by most liberal Middle East analysts, scholars and advocates.
See my blog: The Red Line: A decision that leveled a foreign policy

Monday, April 10, 2017

French Elections – First Round Tie

The first round of the French elections with 11 candidates will be held April 23. The run-off is May 7, 2017 if there is no majority candidate in the first round. As of April 7, two weeks out, Marine Le Pen (24%) of the right and Emmanuel Macron (24%) of the center-left are the frontrunners and tied. The remaining 52 percent of the voters are scattered among the other nine candidates and undecided. All eleven candidates just debated (April 4) for three and a half hours, an endurance test.

Candidates in French presidential election take part in debate on April 4 | CNN
Polling a run-off between the two evenly matched candidates has Macron winning about 60 percent to 40 percent. The far right position has increased 6 points since the last presidential election (2012, Le Pen 18%) to nearly two-fifths of the electorate in a run-off, but it is still not in position to take over the French government.

Le Pen is not the only candidate advancing an anti-EU position, but she is the favorite of the Trump administration (Steve Bannon’s position) and Russia (Marine Le Pen just visited Vladimir Putin). The anti-EU nationalists are powerful, but not yet dominant in France.

Candidates
Le Pen (48 years old) has been head of the National Front Party since 2011 and came in third in the 2012 presidential election with 18 percent of the vote behind the winners François Hollande (who won) and Nicolas Sarkozy (the former president). She has attempted to reposition the party away from its far right roots, but ride anti-refugee/immigrant sentiment.

Macron (39 years old) began his own party, En Marche! (Forward! or On the Move!), in 2016. A former investment banker and member of the Socialist Party who was in the current socialist government for two years as the economic minister. He resigned in 2016 to run for president. He represents much of the establishment from a center-left position, but claims to be independent with new thinking.

Polling
There has been some shifting among the top five candidates the last two weeks. Macron became the second-place candidate in late January 2017 and tied Le Pen about March 20. Le Pen has gained no ground since January when she held 27 percent of the vote.

Macron took second place after the collapse of François Fillon (The Republican Party – center-right) due to a scandal concerning his family on government payroll. A battle for fourth place shifted position in late March when Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Left Party and “Unsubmissive France”) moved into fourth displacing Benoît Hamon (Socialist Party).

Run-off
In the second round of voting, polling indicated that Le Pen would increase her position to about 40 percent, but lose to Macron, who would win with 60 percent. Fillon would beat her by a similar amount, if somewhat less (55% to 45%).

Hence, unless Mr. Trump’s fake news and rigged polls are at work, the favored candidate of Vladimir Putin and Steve Bannon represents a quarter to two-fifths of the French electorate and will lose the May run-off. There is still a month of campaigning, but it appears France’s two-tier electoral system is moving toward a business-oriented socialist as president.

See:
CNN: French election debate: Macron marches on as Le Pen loses out
Politico: 5 takeaways from France’s chaotic presidential debate
The Buzz: Outsiders take France – April 23

Friday, April 7, 2017

Gorsuch: Partisan Discipline Holds – KOA With Karen Trinidad

Neil Gorsuch is confirmed with 54 votes, including three Democrats. Since Chief Justice Roberts was confirmed in 2005 and received 22 Democratic votes, the number of Senate members willing to cross the aisle and vote for an opposing President’s nominee has declined. Only four Democrats voted for Alito in 2005, nine Republicans for Sotomayor in 2009 and five Republicans for Kagan in 2010. That was down from double-digit support in the 1990s. Even Justice Thomas, who only received 52 votes, managed to attract eleven Democrats.

In an interview with KOA, I said the most difficult vote was Michael Bennet’s. The state’s editorial pages endorsed Gorsuch, as did most of the legal establishment and several Democratic officials. Bennet’s vote didn’t affect the outcome. He voted for cloture and it lost. His vote against confirmation did not stop Gorsuch from taking his seat.

But, Bennet keeps his solidarity with Senate leadership and at least mollifies the Democratic resistance. Generally, a careful play in a tight spot.

See blogs:
DEFCON One (Most Severe) – The nuclear option has arrived
Gorsuch faces filibuster
Gorsuch has Colorado support

American Views on Trump’s Foreign Visitors

As President Trump familiarizes himself with world leaders and begins developing policies, it’s useful to examine public opinion concerning the countries’ favorability with Americans. Opinion tends to be fairly stable. The public’s views are affected by reported events and the positions of American leaders. Most of the public are only mildly interested in foreign affairs and don’t directly interact with foreign nations beyond periodic trips.

Gallup recently asked Americans to rate the favorability of 21 countries. At the top of the list were Canada and Great Britain with more than 90 percent of the public having a favorable view. In the 80 percent range was Japan, France and Germany. At the bottom were North Korea, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq (ranging from 11 percent for North Korea to 19 percent for Iraq). In the middle range of 50 percent were China, Cuba and Egypt.

Some comments:
  • President Trump has met with leaders from the most popular countries, which all correspond to our strongest allies. Each country had some trepidation in the new relations related to trade and security issues. German Chancellor Merkel probably had the most difficult visit.
  • The least favored countries are causing the President his earliest challenges: North Korea (11%), Iran (12%), Syria (17%), Afghanistan (17%) and Iraq (19%). Relations with them have military implications, some with American boots on the ground. North Korea has managed to become a major power pariah, which it apparently believes is an effective strategy to secure its survival and win concessions. President Assad must have felt invulnerable with his allies, Russia and Iran, and America just focused on ISIS and not regime change. A few Tomahawks have likely changed his thinking.
  • The President is attempting to change American policy and perceptions for some of the nations near the middle of the favorability pack. Egypt’s president has just had a successful visit. Cuba moved up the favorability rating due to the rapprochement. It’s not clear U.S. policy will change. Americans are ambivalent about China. They are competitors, could be a threat, but may be a partner.
Check out my blog: America’s views on world leaders

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Sisi Scores a Victory

General Sisi was warmly welcomed to the White House, a coup for the Egyptian government to legitimize its rule and move it above its rank in American public opinion.

Egypt has a mid-level image among Americans, with a 52 percent favorable rating. But Sisi joined a group of American allies at the top of the opinion tree and his welcome was certainly warmer than Chancellor Merkel’s (Germany has an 82% favorable rating).

Sisi does have some assets in Middle East politics for the administration. He has stabilized Egypt and aimed its security resources at Islamic terrorists. President Trump and especially former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn believe the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization – so does President Sisi.

Egypt’s strategic position makes it important to Israel’s security and Libya’s western orientation. Also, as the largest country in the region, if it gets its economy moving, it could be a major player in the anti-Iran strategy of the administration.

Both Gubernatorial Parties’ Primaries Start – Interview With KOA, April Zesbaugh and Steffan Tubbs

George Brauchler, the district attorney for the south metro area, is the first Republican candidate for governor in the field. The open seat caused by John Hickenlooper being term-limited has launched an early start by candidates in both parties. The race will likely be competitive and expensive.

DA George Brauchler at press conference
following announcement of the sentence
 in the James Holmes Aurora theater shooting
Photo: Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Brauchler, who doesn’t have personal wealth, does have a high statewide identity and a good reputation in the party from the 2012 Aurora shooting and subsequent legal proceedings. He was considered a viable candidate for governor in 2014 and for U.S. Senate in 2016. He passed both times, recognizing he probably wasn’t ready due to his DA duties and given the field. But, he will be a frontrunner in 2018.

Republicans have been losing the metro Denver area with big margins in statewide races. One of Brauchler’s advantages is he is well-known in the metro media market and represents two key counties – Arapahoe and Douglas – that could provide a strong base for his run.

He intends on being the conservative candidate and use the caucus, not petition onto the ballot. He is pro-gun, pro-death penalty, has come out against the transportation tax, and importantly, will resist Washington trying to intervene in Colorado’s legal issues, such as marijuana enforcement.

As I said to the Denver Post on Brauchler’s announcement story (April 5, 2017):
Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli said the governor’s race is a major test for the Republican Party. The GOP has claimed state’s top job only twice since the 1974 election and watched Democrat Hillary Clinton take the state in 2016.
The potential for an equally messy Democratic primary, he said, is “a real opportunity for them … which makes the Republicans’ selection very important.”
“If they can manage to have this primary and come out of it unitable. And if the ultimate winner is a person who can both lead the party and hold it together, that will … give them a very good chance of mounting a very strong race,” Ciruli said.
Listen to KOA Brauchler story here

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Donald Trump Is Losing Power

Donald Trump is a well-seasoned practitioner of the photo opportunity. He has built a valuable worldwide brand by mastering the urges and vagaries of modern media. And, while he may not have much experience or knowledge of government, he has applied his media talent with a vengeance to the presidency. From the transition parade into Trump Tower, to use of the “Winter White House,” to the endless signing ceremonies around the Resolute Desk, to the early start of 2020 campaign, Trump has controlled news cycles and become the number one topic in the world.

President Donald Trump signs executive order
halting immigrants from some Muslim-majority countries
 from entering US.| Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images
Usually non-stop coverage of a media savvy White House should accompany an uptick in approval ratings of the president’s job performance. But a host of polls, especially presidential approval, which has been collected since Harry Truman, show Trump’s record-low rating, starting at the inauguration, has slipped to even lower territory during Trump’s first ten weeks.

Historically, low approval ratings weigh a president down and damage his agenda. They drain legislative support, can undermine investor and consumer confidence and, of course, hurt a party’s candidate’s recruitment and fundraising. If ratings in the low 40 percent level continue, it will start a panic in the Republican Party later in 2017 over the possible loss of the House in 2018.

The President’s biggest problem is that the media strategy can’t replace the failure to accomplish some of the most high-profile goals. The current book-ends are the travel ban roll-out on February 27 and the Obamacare defeat on March 24. The two failures, combined with his Twitter posts, press altercations and fights with his own party, reinforce the impression of an administration not in control.

Importantly, the Peggy Noonan problem is a recurring drag on his approval. The country’s moderate to conservative establishment, including independents, supports many of Trump’s policies, but struggle with his style and tone.
“Near the end of the campaign I wrote a column called ‘Imagine a Sane Donald Trump,’ lamenting that I believed he was crazy, and too bad. Too bad because his broad policy assertions, or impulses, suggested he understood that 2008 and the years just after (the crash and the weak recovery) had changed everything in America, and that the country was going to choose, in coming decades, one of two paths – a moderate populism or socialism – and that the former was vastly to be preferred.”
Trump’s performance reinforces these doubts about his fitness for office however it’s labeled: temperament, judgment and character.

As of April 4, Trump’s approval rating is 40 percent and disapproval 53 percent in the RealClearPolitics average. Because it is a rolling average, Trump’s numbers are better than some recent polls that give him 35 percent (Quinnipiac) and 39 percent (Gallup).

Read:
The Buzz: Trump starts at record low
Gallup: Trump’s approval rating unusually low, unusually early
FiveThirtyEight: Trump is beating previous presidents at being unpopular

Democrats Could Retake the House

Democrats need 24 seats to win back the House of Representatives and reinstall Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. Although swings of 24 seats are not common, they do happen and there has been two in the last 10 years.

Pelosi first became the Speaker in 2006 when Democrats gained 30 seats in the second George W. Bush mid-term. He was weighed down with the Iraq War and Katrina. But Barack Obama lost 63 seats in his first mid-term election (2010) as the Tea Party gained prominence and influence in the Republican Party fighting Obamacare. John Boehner became the Speaker.

Prior 2010, the largest shift in seats was the Republican revolution in 1994 when Newt Gingrich and the Contract for America won 65 seats and ended 40 years of Democratic control of the House.

Presidential approval is highly related to the president’s party performance in mid-term election years. The general theory has been a surge and decline rotation where a president is elected as his support surges in the polls, but then declines in the off-year election. But especially as presidential approval drops into the forties or below, seats are lost. Republicans in Congress occupy 23 seats that Clinton won in 2016. The Cook Report lists 36 Republican congresspersons in seats where Trump was not particularly popular in 2016. His approval now hovers near 40 percent.

The health care defeat was a demoralizing factor for Republicans, at least for now, just as Democrats appear highly motivated in their opposition to all things Trump.

Read National Journal: Dems could take House in 2018

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

DEFCON One (Most Severe) – The Nuclear Option Has Arrived

As of Tuesday, April 4, Senate Democrats have more than 41 votes for a filibuster on the Gorsuch nomination. Democrat support for the filibuster in this nomination is likely to end its use if additional Supreme Court openings appear in the next two years.

Michael Bennet joins only three Democratic colleagues who oppose use of the filibuster. As of Tuesday, there is only one senator undecided, Angus King of Maine.

In spite of political efforts to swing vulnerable Democrats to Gorsuch, Casey, Nelson, McCaskill and Tester came out for the filibuster. It indicates the power of the Democratic left to make the Gorsuch vote a litmus test. It also reflects the sense that a majority vote, not the filibuster, is now the rule for the Senate. Both parties have been moving toward it and the public is tired of delay and polarized elites aren’t interested in Senate tradition.

Republicans are united on approving Gorsuch on the court, which will overwhelm any reservations of Senate institutionalists that the filibuster is a historic feature of the Senate’s deliberative process and protection of the minority parties (which they will become in future).

Colorado Governor’s Primary Could Spend $25 million

Although it is too early to know the cast of politicians who seriously intend on contesting the 2018 gubernatorial election, many of those showing interest are in a position to spend significant personal wealth or have access to wealthy individuals and political committees. A back of envelope estimate indicates that a $25 million primary for both parties would not be unimaginable.

Among the Democrats, Jared Polis could be the biggest spender. He has spent whatever it takes to win all the primaries he’s ever competed in (estimated in 2018: $3 to $5 million). Ed Perlmutter is probably the frontrunner and much of the Democratic establishment’s candidate. As a seated congressman, he can call on significant D.C. interests to support him ($2 to $4 million). Noel Ginsburg has funds and personal money that could be spent ($1 to $2 million). Mike Johnston could likely raise funds from individual sources ($1- $3 million).

On the Republican side, Walker Stapleton has major out-of-state sources from the Bush network ($2 to $4 million). Victor Mitchell has indicated he will spend personal money to win ($2 to $4 million). Kent Thiry, who would try to appeal to independent voters (and may run as an Independent), could invest whatever needed ($5 to $7 million). Jack Graham spent $1 million last time and will probably need to commit more this time ($2 to $3 million).

This partial list of guesstimates indicates a low of $18 million and a high of $30 million could be spent in the 2018 gubernatorial primary.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Governor’s Race Could Be Most Competitive in Two Decades

The last time Democrats had a primary was 1998 when Lt. Governor Gail Schoettler won the Democratic primary, but lost the General Election to Republican Bill Owens by 8,000 votes. Democrats had dominated the governorship since Dick Lamm was first elected in 1974.


Since Owens’ eight years, Democrats have won it for a decade, but without primaries. In 2018, a host of strong Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates will seek their party’s nominations in contested primaries. Both current and former elected officials and outside business leaders appear interested in the open seat governor’s position, producing likely record-levels of expenditures.

Although the state has moved slightly to the left since Bill Owens was first elected, Republicans seem to do well in off-year state-level elections, winning all three constitutional offices in 2014. The Colorado governor’s race could be one of the most competitive in the country. Obviously, how Donald Trump is doing will be a factor.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Colorado’s Politicians Unite for Marijuana

Facing a threat from the U.S. Justice Department, Colorado politicians have united to defend the marijuana industry.

Although they have various reservations concerning recreational marijuana, Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, Governor Hickenlooper and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman all have opposed federal interferences in what is now a legal activity protected by the Colorado constitution.

In an article in the Colorado Statesman by Brian Heuberger, Floyd Ciruli analyzed the conflict between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Colorado’s senior political officeholders.
“‘Politicians look at the polling, and public support points toward legalized marijuana,’ said longtime pollster Floyd Ciruli, found of Denver-based Ciruli Associates, a public policy, polling and consulting firm.
‘The Colorado delegation and local politicians are united by not wanting Washington to preempt recreational marijuana and either recriminalize it or begin some new level of enforcement,’ said Ciruli. ‘They want Washington to stay with the pattern that existed, which was that Washington would allow a state – as long as they regulate it well – to follow their own voters, and as our governor points out, it’s in the constitution. Most people are not in favor of changing that. They think they ought to let the states evolve on their own and so the Colorado delegation has united in a state’s rights position.’
Indeed, polls have demonstrated that Colorado officials are in agreement with the American public. For instance, a Quinnipiac poll indicated that voters support legalizing marijuana in the U.S. by a 59-36 percent margin and oppose federal crackdowns on marijuana states by a 71-23 percent margin.
With all this support for legalized marijuana just in Colorado, would Sessions receive enough public support for a national crackdown on legalization? Ciruli has his doubts.
An October 2016 Gallup Poll demonstrated that national support for legalized marijuana has reached an all-time high of 60 percent. As a result, we are already seeing now many national leaders would most likely oppose the position of the White House and the possibility of a crackdown.”

Will the U.S. Legalize Marijuana? Panel at National Polling Conference

The 2016 election was good for the legalization of marijuana. Four more states, including California, legalized recreational marijuana. The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) May national conference will host a panel of leading national pollsters to examine the evolution of public opinion toward marijuana legalization. The change in opinion during the last few decades has been rapid, but there are still groups within the public highly resistant to the spread of legalization. I will chair a panel offering a series of papers describing the depth of that change nationally and within the key states of California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington.

Panel Description: Marijuana and Public Opinion Change

Recreational marijuana is on the move around the country. It was approved in four states in 2016 by mostly narrow votes and now is legal in states with more than 60 million people, or about 20 percent of the country. Pollsters will describe the shift in opinion favoring legalization, some of the future opportunities and road blocks it may face, and status of public opinion in states that approved it in 2012.

After Legalization, It’s Time to Change the Question
Floyd Ciruli, Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

A substantial majority of Colorado voters remain steadfast in their support for the legalization of recreational marijuana. But, there are numerous signs of stress and public resistance to its spread across communities and through the commercial process of manufacture to sale. Polling to capture the stress and in communities resisting its spread recommends different questions from those developed pre-legislation.

Other Panelists and Presentations:

Evolution of Opinion About Marijuana Legalization in the Northwest, Stuart Elway, Elway Research

Legalize it! Examining the Predictors of Support for Marijuana Legalization in California, Lunna Lopes, Public Policy Institute of California

Trends in U.S. Marijuana Attitudes and Use, 1969-2016, Zac Auter and Jeff Jones, Gallup

Which States are Next to Legalize Marijuana – 50 State Survey, Sarah Cho, SurveyMonkey

Gorsuch Faces Filibuster

Judge Neil Gorsuch | Power Line
Although most observers believe the education, experience, judicial record and hearing performance of Neil Gorsuch qualifies him for the Supreme Court, it is possible Democrats will oppose him as a party position. Apparently, he doesn’t qualify for an upper or down vote due to the anti-Trump resistance and anger over Merrick non-action.

If Republicans remain united, a Democratic filibuster is merely a delaying tactic. In fact, Senate President Mitch McConnell is so confident, he stated the vote will be on April 7. That may require ending the filibuster tradition for Supreme Court nominees, which the Republicans can do with their 52-vote majority. Democrats need 41 votes to stop a closure vote of 60. If eight Democrats vote with Republicans, the filibuster is broken. As of March 29, Democrats had collected 25 commitments for the filibuster.

Ending the filibuster rule would be a major change in how the Senate operates and in its tradition of protecting minority positions. But in today’s polarized and hyper-partisan environment, it may be inevitable.

Western and conservative state Democrats hold the key, including Michael Bennet who is assumed
Sen. Michael Bennet
will be a vote against a filibuster. But Jon Tester of Montana, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota are facing pressure to break from progressive interest groups and support a vote. A number of Senate veterans, including Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Dianne Feinstein of California, may also be a possible vote for closure. But as of today, the vote appears very close.

Read my blog: Early Returns: Gorsuch Gets to 60 and Colorado’s Two Senators Support Him

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Did the Polls Get It Right? National Polling Conference Review the 2016 Election.

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) national conference will assemble some of the nation’s leading pollsters to review the accuracy and reporting of polls in the 2016 presidential elections.

President Trump now regularly attacks polls he does not like, along with the media outlets that report them as fake and rigged. His patented riffs to delegitimize polls is to claim “the election polls were a WAY OFF disaster,” as he tweeted most recently attacking CNN. In fact, the poll reported was a Gallup Research poll showing Trump’s approval rating had sank to 37% after starting at 45% shortly after the inauguration.

So, were the polls inaccurate November 8? Even if they were within the margin of acceptable error, were they misreported? Clearly, the nation’s political establishment and citizens were shocked by the result.

A four-day conference in New Orleans on May 18-21 will deconstruct the 2016 election polling and reporting and propose improvements.

The theme for AAPOR’s 2017 Annual Conference is: Embracing Change and Diversity in Public Opinion and Social Science Research.

Among the panels featured are:
  • A polling post-mortem and related papers spawned by the extraordinary 2016 election.
  • Latest research on survey methods, including non-response, question wording, questionnaire design, interviewers and interviewing, and sampling.
  • Diversity: Public opinion and research on racial, ethnic, religious, gender and sexual orientation issues.
  • Public opinion in shaping policy and debate on pivotal topics, like healthcare, immigration, income equality, marijuana and gun control. The Crossley Center will chair a panel on marijuana and public opinion change.
Public opinion and survey researchers are working in a time of unprecedented change, challenge and opportunity. AAPOR’s annual conference is the premier event for researchers, practitioners and consumers of social data to present the latest materials and learn from one another.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trump Could Use Immigration Reform for a Reset

Peggy Noonan, an indefatigable optimist, continues to hope that Donald Trump is going to “pivot” and get a bipartisan deal on health care. She lacks realism. Democrats won’t help Trump or Republicans pass “repeal and replace.” Trump doesn’t appear to have “pivot” in him. But, does another disastrous week lead Trump and his team to look for some action that shifts attention from tweets, Russians and health care?

Recently, we discussed immigration reform, an issue that would disarm critics, attract moderate Republicans and Democrats, and reduce deportations that will produce bad press for years. The latest CNN (ORC poll) confirms that there is a considerable upside for finding a solution to the status of undocumented residents. The public agrees with the President in deporting criminals, but rejects deporting all illegal citizens. Ninety percent of the public suggests illegal immigrants gain citizenship if they meet strict conditions.


Read my blogs:
Is immigration reform possible?
The wall is a problem

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

“The Leaks are Real, The News is Fake.” Trump Won’t Quit Wiretap Claim, It Fits His Narrative

The media continues to chase after any facts that might substantiate Donald Trump’s claim he was “wiretapped” at Trump Tower by the Obama administration.

In additional tweets in the same series he claims it is equal to Nixon/Watergate and that Obama is a “bad (or sick) guy!” This has launched a three-week search for evidence to support the claim embroiling two congressional committees, the Justice Department, FBI and other intelligence agencies.

But Trump’s view of credible evidence is largely determined by the narrative he is telling and selling. The wiretap narrative is a part of the alt-right view that much of the bad news and controversy of Trump’s first eight weeks in office is a product of a conspiracy to disrupt his administration and even possibly remove him. The coup d'état theory is the story Trump saw in Breitbart prior to his tweets.

But the theory Trump was surveilled had circulated among the Trump Oval Office crew since the leaks that were responsible for the removal of Michael Flynn as head of National Security were published. In the Oval Office view the leaks are part of a massive conspiracy from Obama loyalists, Democrats and liberals in the bureaucracy, the legacy media and the deep state that is, military and security forces, to hamper his administration, or as Trump said in his wild Friday press conference, “The leaks are real, the news is fake (2-16-17). Trump believes he is being undermined every day.

Leaks and the Coup that Removed Flynn
  • November 17 - Flynn offered NSC job
  • December 29 - Obama sanctions put on Russia for hacking
  • December 29 - Flynn calls to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak 
  • December 30 - “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!” (Tweet by D. Trump)
  • January 12 - Washington Post publishes there was a call (leak). Spicer – no sanctions discussed.
  • January 15 - Pence reaffirms no sanctions discussed
  • January 23 - Spicer press conference. No sanctions discussed.
  • January 26 - Justice Department informs White House sanctions discussed
  • January 28 - Flynn with Trump during Putin phone call
  • February 1 - Flynn announces at press briefing “putting Iran on notice”
  • February 8 - Flynn denies to Post sanctions discussed
  • February 9 - Washington Post publishes Flynn talked about sanctions (9 different leaks). Flynn modifies position to “couldn’t be certain.”
  • February 13 - Washington Post reports (online) that White House knew for weeks Flynn misled them. Flynn sits in Trudeau press conference. Kellyanne Conway: “full confidence.” Spicer: the President is “evaluating the situation.” Resigns 10 pm that evening. “I inadvertently briefed the Vice President-elect and others with incomplete information.”
Read Washington Post: The fall of Michael Flynn: A timeline

Monday, March 27, 2017

European Populism Not Dead. It has Powerful Friends in America.

Although the European establishment and the EU bureaucracy feels more secure after the Netherlands vote, the attraction of populism and nationalism remains strong in many European countries. It will next be tested in France.

The EU establishment cites recent polls that show EU favoring candidates in France and Germany have been surging into tight leads. But, if one conclusion came out of the recent Donald Trump and Angela Merkel summit, it is that the Trump administration is pro-populist, pro-nationalist and anti-EU. Their meeting highlighted no consensus exists on trade or EU’s open borders.

U.S. populist and nationalist money and online campaigning was spotted in the Netherlands. Expect behind-the-scenes support in France. Because Trump and his policies are an easy target for the European left, low-key campaigning will be the tactic.

In terms of Germany, although Trump and his team would prefer a party of the right, Merkel is such an object of resistance that they would likely prefer any chancellor but Merkel, even a socialist.

The sense of confidence for the European establishment or Brussels bureaucracy should be tempered by the challenges they face and the forces arrayed against them. And then there is, of course, the disinformation and aggressive campaigning of Russia.

Read:
The Buzz: Populism dominates 2017 European politics
The Buzz: European nationalists cheer Trump
The Buzz: Germany vs. U.S. – Policy and political battleground
Crossley Center: Netherlands moves right on immigration, but rejects the chaos of fringe nationalism

Friday, March 24, 2017

Salazar Won’t Run for Governor, KOA Interview, Karen Trinidad

Former U.S. Senator and Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, announced he would not run for governor of Colorado in 2018.

Democrats are expecting their first primary for an open seat since 1998 when Mike Feeley lost to Gail Schoettler. She lost in a close race to Republican Bill Owens. The Democrats could lose this year if there is a divisive primary.

In an interview with KOA’s Karen Trinidad, Ciruli said most observers weren’t surprised Salazar will not run. He’d made it clear that his family came first and that his legal career was important for his family’s financial well-being. A Colorado governor is one of the lowest paid in the country at $90,000 (48th lowest).

Although he always said the governor’s job was one he would like and he would have been the frontrunner, this is not a year that he would have cleared the field. There is simply too much pent up ambition and there are serious divisions in the party between the Clinton and Sanders forces. The party is ready for a fight. Salazar was a Clinton person, known as a political moderate who had been out of the Colorado elective office since 2009.

Former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar | Denver Post
Next up will be Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who has indicated he’s interested if Salazar did not run. Perlmutter has several advantages, including a built-in fundraising machine that could raise millions and a strong voter base in his district. Both parties have run effective statewide races for senate from congressional seats, such as Cory Gardner, Wayne Allard, Mark Udall and Tim Wirth. Although he would give up a safe House seat, he’s been in the minority since 2011 and is likely to remain there.

But even Perlmutter would probably not clear the field. Already running is former State Senator Mike Johnson with a strong, if not well-financed, campaign. An expert on education, he would be seen as centrist in a liberal party.

On the leftwing, giving thought to running are Representative Joe Salazar and Senator Mike Merrifield. Numerous other names have been mentioned as a big field considers the race.

Gorsuch Did Well in Confirmation Hearings, KOA Interview, Steffan Tubbs

Colorado’s 10th Circuit Court Appeals Judge Neil Gorsuch handled his Senate confirmation interlocutors well after the first two days of hearings.

In an interview Wednesday, March 22 with KOA’s Steffan Tubbs, Ciruli said the problem is clearly not Gorsuch’s ability to answer questions, but Democrats continued anger on the lack of a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland and contribution of President Trump’s eight weeks in office to the Democratic resistance. Gorsuch needs 60 votes to get a floor vote, and normally that is easily accomplished. This year it is likely to be a struggle.

In a particularly difficult spot is Michael Bennet, who would normally, at a minimum, support having an up or down vote and possibly due to Gorsuch’s Colorado bona fide and sterling record vote to confirm. But this year it’s a tougher position for a senator who thinks about the presidency or vice presidency.

This will be the most important week in the Trump presidency. Along with Gorsuch and the FBI Director Comey’s testimony, the health care bill will be voted on if 216 votes are lined up. As of Thursday night, the bill was postponed due to the failure of the President and Speaker Ryan’s final appeals to diehard conservatives.

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2017 | Jack Gruber/USA Today

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Germany vs. U.S. – Policy and Political Battleground

The Trump-Merkel Oval Office visit was frigid. No handshake and no consensus on the mission and scope of the Atlantic alliance. Donald Trump and his “America First” team are more interested in a Cold War with Germany and Western Europe’s establishments than with Russia.

President Donald Trump meets Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office  on March 17, 2016 | Evan Vucci/AP

The difference in core issues and values were significant: immigration, NATO, trade and the EU.

Immigration

Merkel
Migration, immigration, integration has to be worked on, obviously. Traffickers have to be stopped. But this has to be done while looking at the refugees as well, giving them opportunities to shape their own lives where they are; help countries who right now are not in an ability to do so -- sometimes because they have civil war.  I think that’s the right way of going about it.

Trump
We also recognize that immigration security is national security. We must protect our citizens from those who seek to spread terrorism, extremism and violence inside our borders. Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question.

Trade and EU

Merkel
Well, I believe that the President has clearly set out his philosophy as to what trade agreements have to bring about for the American side as well. I personally don’t think that Germany needs to negotiate and not the European Union.

But the question is, will it be of benefit to both countries or not, and let me be very honest, very candid -- a free trade agreement with the United States of America has not always been all that popular in Germany either.

Trump
First of all, I don't believe in an isolationist policy, but I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy. And the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. And that's going to stop.

On trade with Germany, I think we’re going to do fantastically well. Right now, I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States. But hopefully we can even it out. We don’t want victory, we want fairness.

NATO

Merkel
...obviously, defense and security has a lot of different assets and facets to it. One the one hand, it’s supporting missions in Africa, for example. It’s also promoting development assistance, but it’s also helping mission in Africa, for example, in trying to stand up for their own safety and security. 

We continue to be in conversation. What was important for us today was that we were able to talk about Afghanistan, talk about, as the President quite rightly said, the continuing mission of Germany in Afghanistan.

Trump
I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense. Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe. 

But the problem Trump has with Merkel is more political than policy. Merkel represents everything Trump doesn’t like, and he often says so.

She is the senior European leader in power since 2005. She was close to Barack Obama; she leads Europe’s best economy with its most stable government. She is conservative, yet a globalist and the leading advocate of the EU’s conventions on open borders and a European position on trade.

For Trump, what’s to like?

But it’s even more personal. She got a Time Person of the Year recognition when he felt he should have received it. She was just labeled “leader of the free world,” not surprising since he only aspires to lead “America First.”

And, during the campaign, he specifically used her as a rally shout out. In fact, she and Hillary Clinton were interchangeable. And, of course, his raison d'être issue, immigration, should sink her. Trump asks, why is she in my office?

Trump

October 2015
“I always thought Merkel was, like, this great leader,” he said…about her decision to allow more than a million refugees into the country. “What she’s done in Germany is insane,” he added and predicted: “They’re going to have riots in Germany.”

December 2015
After Time magazine made Merkel its Person of the Year, Trump took to Twitter to declare that the outlet picked the person “who is ruining Germany.”

March 2016
Referring to the Cologne New Year’s Eve assaults on hundreds of women, Trump, during a rally in Iowa, again predicted unrest in Germany and lashed out against Merkel. “The German people are going to riot. The German people are going to end up overthrowing this woman [Angela Merkel]. I don’t know what the hell she is thinking.”

“Germany’s being destroyed. I have friends, I just left people from Germany and they don’t even want to go back. Germany’s being destroyed by Merkel’s naiveté or worse.”

October 2016
“Hillary Clinton wants to be America’s Angela Merkel, and you know what a disaster this massive immigration has been to Germany and the people of Germany. Crime has risen to levels that no one thought would they would ever see.” Trump said.

“We have enough problems in our country, we don’t need another one,” the candidate said.

Neither the Atlantic alliance nor the German-American relations were helped by this summit. But, Merkel’s reelection may receive a boost. Trump is not popular with much of the European public. In fact, Merkel’s main German opponent, Martin Schulz of the center-left Social Democratic Party, has received considerable attention for his criticism of Trump and “America First.”

However, neither Merkel nor the EU establishment should have any illusions. Trump represents a direct challenge to them and their vision.