Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Predicting the 2018 Colorado Election - Presentation at Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference, August 24

Political Crystal Ball
Colorado Water Congress
What to Expect in the Year Ahead 
The extraordinary 2016 Presidential election was full of the unexpected. This is one of the most
divided times in our country‘s history, which is why the 2018 midterm elections are more important than ever. There is potential for a major shift in party and ideological control in Colorado with the Governor’s impending term limit, primaries in both parties and unprecedented campaign expenditures. Also, several congressional seats are now open, primaries are expected, and other districts will be contested along the state constitutional offices and state legislative seats. Floyd Ciruli will talk possibilities and the paths to Republican and Democratic outcomes for our state, and what that might mean for the water community.

For more info on the conference, go here

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Denver Metro Voters Solidly Democratic

Hillary Clinton carried the Denver metro area’s seven counties by 58 percent, or more than 300,000 votes. Increasingly Democratic, Denver gave her 74 percent of its massive vote, or 182,000 more over Donald Trump, which equals to more than half (57%) her metro total vote margin. Not surprising, liberal Boulder, which due to residential growth limits, represents a declining portion of the metro electorate, delivered 70 percent of its vote for Clinton.

Only Douglas County gave Trump a majority (55%). He lost the other six metro counties, including what used to be Republican anchors, then at least leaning – Arapahoe and Jefferson – no more.

The latest voter registration data shows that Republicans will have a major challenge winning, or at least closing the gap, in metro Denver. Overall, registration is giving Democrats a ten-point advantage, 36 percent to 26 percent over Republicans. Winning a significant portion of unaffiliated voters in Arapahoe, Jefferson and even Adams will be essential.

Monday, July 17, 2017

WorldDenver Welcomes Young Leaders From Europe

Floyd Ciruli led a discussion with fifteen young leaders from Europe sponsored by the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program. WorldDenver hosted the event and approximately 40 of its members joined the discussion.

After two weeks of visits with U.S. officials and issue experts, the leaders’ questions still focused on President Trump, his foreign policy moves, and the future of the Democratic and Republican parties. The general assumption was that America will be in a hiatus of international leadership for the near future. The group offered the following observations:
  • Merkel was in a very strong position for re-election
  • Merkel and Macron are likely to take lead on host of EU issues
  • Macron was a phenomenon, much like Trump, in his sudden rise and dominance of the French system
  • May now has a fragile majority, but is in charge of the start-up of Brexit negotiations
  • Greens are a larger political group in many countries than far right
  • The Ukraine is still a major challenge for Europe and U.S. leaders
  • The EU has had a respite from overt attack, but faces major challenges and turmoil. Nationalist and populist sentiments remain strong.

Friday, July 14, 2017

British Leave Hong Kong in 1997 – Independence on Way Out 20 Years Later

One of the reigning theories of Western foreign policy since the Nixon era opening to China (1971) was that commerce and contacts would foster a Chinese evolution from authoritarianism to a more pluralistic society. Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997 was wrapped in a “One Country, Two Systems” rhetoric that made it the model of what the evolution could produce – namely, independent courts, an efficient civil service and a free, competitive press.

But China’s evolution under Xi Jinping is toward more centralization and authoritarianism with liberalization seen as a threat. Unfortunately, democracy in Hong Kong in recent years has not performed well in providing for critical municipal improvements for transportation, housing and land development, and education. Rather, political energy has been focused on procedural voting issues for the city’s chief executive. But China has made clear that neither the process nor the city’s policy will become more democratic or independent. Hong Kong’s local political gridlock has allowed Beijing to argue that democracy is a flawed and failing system.

During Xi’s first Hong Kong visit to the swearing-in of the new Beijing-favored chief executive, he made clear that the future of Hong Kong was an internal matter related to China’s sovereignty and security.

Chinese President Xi Jinping inspects Hong Kong garrison of the
People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong, June 30, 2017 | Kim Cheung/AP
The future of Hong Kong’s democratic features and favored status will be greatly influenced by the test local democracy is facing. Can it reconcile its resistance elements to the more Beijing-leaning governing class and address basic problems or is decline of effective governance and quality of life its future?

Read CNN: Xi Jinping warns of 'red line' as Hong Kong marks 20 years of Chinese rule

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The White House is Functioning Perfectly

The last time President Trump had to deny the White House was not functioning was at the wild press conference of February 17 where for 77 minutes Trump took on the press and denied any reported “chaos.” “This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine.”

After near saturation coverage of Donald Trump, Jr. travails this week, much coverage focused on the rancor and paralysis in the White House. Trump claiming to not watch much TV, somehow heard the criticism and tweeted: “The W.H. is functioning perfectly, focused on HealthCare, Tax Cuts/Reform and many other things…”

It was in the wild February press conference where he categorically denied he or his campaign team had contact with Russians. The stories on collusion were just a “ruse.” And claims Russians hacked the election, more fake news: “Russia – this is fake news put out of the media.”

Read The Buzz: “The leaks are real, the news is fake.” Trump won’t quit wiretap claim, it fits his narrative

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

War with FAKE News – Trump Has Won

The opponents of mainstream news have won the war. Legacy media has lost its credibility with most voters after years of attacks from right- and left-wing pundits and alt-news outlets.

The latest PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll reports that only 30 percent of Americans say they have a “great deal” (8%) or “good amount” (22%) of trust in the media. It joined Congress at 29 percent. Surprisingly, the intelligence community had 60 percent trust.

About half of Democrats (56%) had trust in the media, but only 9 percent of Republicans. More than a third of the public (37%) and most Republicans (59%) said they had no trust in the media.

Rush Limbaugh and his colleagues on talk radio have been attacking the credibility, objectivity and factual accuracy of what he calls the “drive-by” media for nearly three decades. The job is done. Donald Trump is only tossing more dirt on the body as far as his Republican base is concerned.

It is ironic, however, that Trump and the new level of attacks have energized the media’s viewers and subscribers. Revenue is up and the defense of the First Amendment is now a top corporate priority. Trump has indeed achieved his goal of damaging the believability of mainstream media. But he has also empowered and emboldened them to keep up the tough scrutiny.

Perlmutter Out – KOA April Zesbaugh and Susan Witkin

KOA interview with April Zesbaugh and Susan Witkin on July 11 generated a blog reflecting the radio comments.

The Democratic Party primary for governor is full of surprises. Congressman Ed Perlmutter’s withdrawal only three months after his high-profile entry into the race is another big surprise after Jared Polis’ surprise June entry into the race.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, with his wife Nancy, announces he's running
for governor, April 9, 2017 | Ernest Luning/Colorado Statesman
Congressman Polis changed the nature of the primary from a few million dollar competition to a $5 to $10 million dollar primary race. It tremendously ratcheted up the competition and made fundraising for candidates that can’t self-fund mostly non-stop for the next year (primary June 26, 2018). The race may also turn negative as candidates try to distinguish themselves and compete for the party interest groups. Competition for endorsements and constituents will likely lead to a robust round of interest groups and identity politics and a general drift to the party’s ideological left.

Perlmutter got in the race after former Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar declined to run. Perlmutter was considered the establishment candidate and frontrunner. It is unlikely the Democratic Party establishment wants to allow Polis to become the nominee. They doubt he can win the general election and many don’t like his politics or his personality.

Expect another surprise. Who else may enter the race – a celebrity, an independently wealthy candidate or a person with a commitment from the establishment to help finance her or his campaign?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trump is the 40 Percent President

Seventy days after celebrating his first 100 days in office, Donald Trump still holds at about 40 percent approval rating. In spite of the Russian investigation, a lack of progress on health care legislation and dozens of grudge tweets, his overall approval has changed little since the April 31 measure, which was 43 percent.

But, a solid majority of Americans still believe he is only marginally fit for office. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Americans were asked about Trump’s leadership qualities. His rating on honesty and trustworthiness, knowledge and experience, and temperament range from more than two-to-one to five-to-one “very poor” over “very good.” More than half (52%) of the public do not believe he has the right temperament for the job.

However, Trump has not lost his core Republican supporters. They believe he is mostly producing change and helping the economy. He is already running for re-election with a laser-like focus on jobs in the Midwest. And the Democrats have not had a successful 70 days with the Russian investigation out of the news and losing a series of replacement House elections.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Health Care Bill Stalls; Polls are Disaster

The Republican health care repeal and replace bill, which passed the House (May 4, 2017), stalled in the Senate just as senators headed home for the 4th of July break.

Polls have not been good for the bill. In an NPR June 28th poll, only 17 percent of the public approved of the bill. Only 35 percent of Republicans support the bill.
  • NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll – 17% approve, 55% disapprove (June 28, 2017)
That pattern was similar in a spate of national polls released starting June 20. Overall support is below 20 percent, and less than two-fifths of Republican identifiers offer support.
  • Wall Street Journal/NBC – 16% good idea (June 20, 2017)
  • Quinnipiac poll – 16% approve (June 27, 2017)
  • USA Today/Suffolk University poll – 12% approve (June 28, 2017)
The legislation is a conundrum for Republicans. After the struggle in the House, they have an outline
Sen. Mitch McConnell
for action. They promised and most campaigned on repeal for over seven years and four campaigns. And unless the revenue elements of the bill are resolved, tax reform is much more difficult. Most importantly, President Trump’s and their agenda and image of breaking the gridlock are seriously damaged.

Unfortunately, to pass a bill, the Republicans need 50 Senate votes from many senators who do not want a controversial bill to run on in 2018 or 2020, which will likely affect voters’ health and pocketbooks. A small group of super conservative senators want less entitlement and more reform in the bill. Interests groups, especially health industry, patient advocates and governors, have mobilized and are pressuring senators for more entitlement spending.

It made for a tough 4th of July break and possibly no repeal and replace in the near future.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Market Ends Mid-Year Up, But Roily

The Dow Industrial is up 8 percent during the first six months of 2017. The 21,349 close is only slightly behind the high of 21,528 hit on June 19. Dow is joined by a host of indexes showing their best years since 2013 (the S&P 500 up 8.2%). The tech-heavy NASDAQ Composite was up 14.1 percent, its best year since 2009, the post-great recession recovery. The strong start has been worldwide. The STOXX Europe 600 was up 5 percent and the Nikkei up 4.8 percent. The rally picked up markets in Chile (up 12%), Spain (up 12%) and India (up 16%).

Strong earnings, growing economies and until recently, accommodating central banks.

But the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ all posted a final down week. Central banks have begun tightening money supplies led by the Feds and President Trump’s political troubles continue with health care reform removed from a Senate vote on the last day in June.

Foreign Policy Disruption Has Costs

Donald Trump’s foreign policy is disruptive. There have been bouts of isolationism, protectionism, nationalism, and shifting allies and alliances in America’s history, but the breadth and depth of change in the administration’s first 165 days has been astounding. Disruption may have benefits, but it definitely has costs, and Trump witnessing some of the blowback at the G20 Summit in Hamburg.

Not surprising, Trump is especially unpopular in Europe. In fact, attacking Trump is an essential election strategy in Germany and appreciated by voters in much of the continent. Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron are organizing a European position at the summit on global issues of importance to them, such as climate change, trade and the rule of international law, each in contradiction with Trump’s position and perceived preferences.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President
Emmanuel Macron in Berlin, June 29, 2017 | Markus
Schreiber/DPA/Zump Press
The latest Pew Research Worldwide survey shows Trump’s weakness with European public opinion as he goes to Hamburg.

A massive shift of 51 percent in “no confidence” in Donald Trump from the end of Barack Obama’s term in just the first five months of his presidency in a 37-nation survey just published. In G20 allied countries, Trump has especially negative ratings.

Allies Germany, France, United Kingdom, Japan and South Korea have 50 to 80 point drops in confidence from Obama to Trump. Neighbors Canada and Mexico also don’t have confidence. Mexico wasn’t that high on Obama either. Only in Israel and Russia of the 37 countries tested did Trump receive more public confidence than Obama.

Trump will find that his G7 lectures in June are less welcomed and his policy views on the defense in Hamburg.

The Pew poll also showed America First and the policies it represents are not particularly popular (leaving climate accord – 71% against, withdraw from trade agreements – 72% against, build a wall with Mexico – 76% against). Trump himself is seen as arrogant (75%), intolerant (65%) and dangerous (62%). But, he also is seen as a strong leader (55%) and charismatic (39%),

Trump and Vladimir Putin are close in their confidence rating at the low end, with Putin at 27 percent and Trump at 22 percent.

Although negative public opinion will not necessarily disrupt long-term relationships, allies support and international solidarity will be much harder for the U.S. and President Trump to achieve.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Democrats Close Margins, But Lose Four in a Row

The national generic ballot test shows that Democrats have an eight-point advantage. And in four congressional races to replace Republican congresspersons who joined the Trump administration, Democrats managed to improve their margins from last November’s election by ten points in the replacement election (62% to 52%).

But still no win. Hence, no bragging rights or momentum. And, continued doubt that Donald Trump’s low approval rating will translate into gaining the 24 House seats the Democrats need to put Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker’s Chair.

One clear message from each of the four races is the vulnerability of the Washington D.C. Democratic establishment. Nancy Pelosi, in particular, is the target of Republican campaign consultants who describe Democratic candidates as a vote for Pelosi.

After the Georgia race, there were calls for her to resign. She refused. Pelosi has been a Democratic liability since she lost her majority in 2010, but she is the master of her caucus. She understands Democratic identity politics, its narrow issue agendas, and the special interests and eccentric billionaire fundraising sources. But, caucus politics does not translate well to swing congressional districts.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Irony and Trump Tweets

How ironic that Donald Trump’s obsessive effort to clear himself of the Russian problem has now led him to be investigated for obstruction of justice.

In the May 9th letter firing of FBI Director James Comey, Trump added the incongruous line “while I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I’m not under investigation…” And at the conclusion of Comey’s Senate testimony on June 8th, Trump tweeted “total and complete vindication,” which his private lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, expanded on: “The President was not under investigations as part of any probe into Russian interference.”

Unfortunately, the President now admits that indeed he is under investigation and for obstruction. Trump’s attorney suggests Trump’s tweets should be ignored as to their factual basis and be treated as expression of sentiment and mental state. But his tweets are driving the media and may be admissible against interest. As the spate of Watergate retrospectives remind us (45-year anniversary), President Nixon had his tapes, which he thought would protect him and help his memoirs. Trump has his tweets, which he believes are essential to correct the media, tell his version of reality and attack his opponents.

But both tapes and tweets were the essential fuel for much of the media coverage and, as in the case of Nixon, the smoking gun for his resignation. More irony.

Witch Hunt and Witchcraft

Donald Trump is tweeting again. He has a new label for his problems, witch hunt. He’s hoping his supporters get it in their head as much as Frank Sinatra’s lyric of Witchcraft (1957) “It’s such an ancient pitch…” (Watch Sinatra on YouTube here)

He hasn’t shifted much from his February 17th press conference where he said the “Leaks are real, the news is fake.” Imbedded in Trump’s tweet was the statement that he was under investigation, which appeared to confirm an anonymously sourced Washington Post article. His lawyers and associated defenders are now claiming the President isn’t under investigation. Time will tell as to Mr. Trump’s legal status.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Republican Brand Endangers Local Races

Colorado Republicans have both opportunities and challenges in an effort to win the Colorado governorship.

Governor elections in Colorado since 1998 have often been close.

Democrats are in their first gubernatorial primary since 1998, after which they lost the general election to Bill Owens. The primary in June 2018 could be a wreck among at least three of the five current leading candidates, with millions spent and party factions at war. In addition, both nationally and locally, the Democratic Party is racing to the far left:
  • Single-payer
  • $15 minimum wage
  • Ban fracking/100% renewables
  • Sanctuary state
But Republicans must get through their own nomination process that in recent years has left them divided and not with their strongest general election candidates.

As I told John Frank in the Denver Post on April 17 in an article where George Brauchler announced for governor:
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.
But, as of today, their bigger problem is President Trump and Congress. In an off-year election, presidential popularity and a party’s general reputation can affect local races, even non-federal.

Congressional accomplishments and the president’s appearance as fit for office will be a factor in turnout and voting preference.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Does Congressional Shooting Cause a Pause in the Hostile Rhetoric? 9KUSA, TaRhonda Thomas

Majority Whip Steve Scalise | WGNO
In a June 14 9KUSA noon interview with TaRhonda Thomas, the political impact of the shooting of Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others was discussed.

Congress was quickly reacting with a pause in the partisan rancor and reflection on the danger current political rhetoric has on unstable individuals.

A few observations:
  • Congressional baseball is one of the few activities congresspersons interact socially between the parties. Hopeful, shooting won’t negatively affect it. Congress would be benefited with more bi-partisan social events.
  • The attack will likely add calls for more security as members move about D.C. At home, Congress depends on local law enforcement, but only if there is an identifiable threat. One hates to see anymore separation of the political class from their constituents and voters.
  • There has been an unusually tense period in American politics with the close and disputed election and polarizing impact of President Trump. Although a brief respite from the partisan wars would be welcome, it is unlikely to last long. The country and Congress are too divided with too much at stake to see a long-term change in strategies, tone and heated rhetoric.
  • In 2011, when Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot, there was a moment of calm, but quickly the partisan battle started again. Almost immediately, finger-pointing began as to who was most responsible. Gun control versus gun rights groups were quickest to engage in blame-placing. 
  • Social media today, along with 24-hour cable news, ramps up the effort to use the shooting for partisan advantage. No doubt today presidential supporters and detractors; i.e., the alt-right and the resistance, will take to social media. Blame is assigned to the “left” as the shooter supported Bernie Sanders, and quickly Kathy Griffin’s bloody mask and New York Public Theater’s production of Julius Caesar were construed as causes of violence.
In a follow-up interview for the 4:00 pm news with Jessica Oh, I commented on the public’s broader concern: “I think there’s a general feeling right now that we have so raised the rhetoric that it may be triggering some things that wouldn’t happen ordinarily.”

Polis in the Race. Is He the New Frontrunner? – Denver Post

Congressman Jared Polis is running for governor. Mark Matthews of the Denver Post broke the story on Sunday, June 11, 2017. I pointed out:
“The game is on, and Mr. Polis will heighten it even more. He definitely changes the complexion of the race.”
Polis is the second congressman in the race. Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who announced several weeks ago, was considered the early frontrunner, but Polis will immediately challenge Perlmutter for frontrunner status. Polis will be seen as the most liberal candidate in the race and he will spend whatever it takes to win. He spent $6 million to win his congressional seat in 2008. Earlier, he had spent $1 million on state board of education seat.

Rep. Jared Polis | AP photo
Polis is an anti-establishment politician with few political allies – Democrat or Republican. He has been the anti-party candidate in most of his career. He championed a ballot initiative (Amendment 41, 2006) to promote government ethics that was considered by many observers as extreme. And, he became the champion and financier of anti-fracking forces, ending up in confrontation with the Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper and much of the Colorado Democratic Party establishment.

But although he may antagonize the party establishment, he was one of the four outside party donors, along with national gay activist Tim Gill, heiress Pat Stryker and computer software millionaire Rutt Bridges, who bankrolled the Democratic Party into becoming competitive in Colorado politics beginning in 2004. He helped create a new Democratic Party. The success is considered a model for Democrats around the country.

With the new primary rules where independents can vote (Proposition 108 passed in 2016), Polis is likely to target them, along with his Boulder and Larimer district constituents, environmental groups and anti-establishment liberals throughout the state. The primary is June 26 in 2018.

The main challenge he will face is being seen as too far left and likely to lose a general election. Democratic Party leaders, especially Governor Hickenlooper, and party pragmatists are anxious to hold the seat. Also, Polis’s years of anti-establishment activism has left pockets of antagonists who will be happy to oppose his career move.

Polis, no doubt, has polling that shows he and his brand of politics can win, but his congressional election experience is weak. He lost Larimer and Jefferson counties in 2014 against a little known, underfunded opponent. There will be a lot of sceptics of Polis’s electability.

Bottom line: Strong primary candidate in crowded field with new rules for turnout. But, no general election record and controversial statewide image.

The Buzz: Colorado governor’s primary could spend $25 million
The Buzz: Governor’s race could be most competitive in two decades

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Race for Colorado Governor Has Just Gotten More Crowded – KOA

Two congressmen decided to get out of Washington. Former lone frontrunner, Ed Perlmutter, must now share that position with Jared Polis. An interview with KOA anchors April Zesbaugh and Steffan Tubbs described the new race for governor.

The race will be unique:
  1. Although Democrats have a slight advantage, the governor’s race should be competitive.
  2. Both parties will have hard-fought primaries. This is a new experience for Democrats.
  3. $20 million could be spent in the primary by both parties. Jared Polis will spend whatever it takes to win. Several Republicans can raise more than $1 million for the race.
  4. The new rules on participation in party primaries could introduce new strategies to motivate independent voters. The primary is June 26, 2018, one year out.
  5. Social and digital media is becoming more important in campaigns. Which candidates can master it will create a new advantage.
Also in the race is former State Senator Mike Johnston (raised $625,000 already), former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy and Denver businessman Noel Ginsburg.

Republicans, who have had many winning campaigns for state attorney general, treasurer and secretary of state, believe 2018 is a year they can win the governorship. They have at least four candidates who should be able to raise significant contributions. George Brauchler, DA and prosecutor of the Aurora theatre shooter; Walter Stapleton, State Treasurer; Victor Mitchell, businessman; and Doug Robinson, nephew of Mitt Romney.

Polis – He Changes the Race – 9KUSA Interview with Brandon Rittiman

In entering the crowded field, Jared Polis, five-term congressmen from Boulder, changes the race for governor. The race had already started with announcements from four other candidates, including 7th District Congressman Ed Perlmutter. But Polis will speed up campaign activity even more. He will make it:
Rep. Jared Polis | AP Photo
  • More competitive
  • More visible
  • More expensive
Polis is:
  • High-profile
  • Seen as a liberal, environmental activist
  • But also independent with some libertarian views
  • Has an anti-establishment track record
  • Social, digital media expert
  • And, most important, rich
If he needs to spend millions he will. Whatever it takes has been his approach.
  • $1 million for seat on state education board (2000)
  • Millions for gang of four effort to jump-start Colorado Democratic Party (2003-07)
  • Bankrolled Amendment 41, so-called ethics in government amendment (2006)
  • $7 million ($6 million from him) for Democratic primary for Congress (2008)
  • $1 million plus for anti-fracking ballot initiative (2014)
The Democratic primary will now move to the left, get more active and require more fundraising. Polis’ major challenge will be to convince pragmatic Democrats that he can win a general election.

Read: Jared Polis enters race for governor

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Another British Surprise Election

Conservative British Prime Ministers should stop calling elections. The Brexit referendum cost Prime Minister Cameron his position and this latest snap parliamentary election has ended Theresa May’s political clout, although she may remain in office for now.

Once again, the British polls missed the full late surge of Labour, although they captured the race closing. In my blog of June 7, British Election Draws Closer, I cited what most British pundits now agree were the major causes of the upset:
  • May’s poor campaign performance, Corbyn’s new style and anti-austerity proposals
  • Conservative election platform problems, Conservatives lost control of the narrative
  • A still divided electorate and anti-establishment attitudes
Post-election polling data and results refine those general observations with the following:
  • The youth vote, which failed to show up in the Brexit vote, came out in strength for Labour. They were mostly anti-Brexit and Labour offered a soft Brexit position (keep as many ties as possible, less harsh on immigration). May offered a hard exit from the EU. They also liked Labour’s anti-austerity positions. 
  • The Brexit fight may be over in terms of leaving the EU, but the disagreements on how to do it are just beginning.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Boundaries of Recreational Marijuana

A panel of polling experts convened at the national conference of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and reviewed the shifts in public opinion and successes and failures of marijuana legalization. National and California pollsters were represented. I provided a description of Colorado’s five-year experiment with recreational marijuana legalization and some of the emerging boundaries of public acceptance.

Presentation description:
Colorado is one of the oldest marijuana adopting states. But, acceptance of recreational marijuana is neither uniform nor universal. More than half the cities and counties do not allow retail sales and most of the public does not want expansion of sales.

Each year for a decade, pro-marijuana legalization advocates rallied on April 20 in downtown Denver for a public smoke-in. But as the mayor of Denver and the Denver Post recently said, the party may be over. Their main point is that the drug is legal and a protest rally is irrelevant and counter-productive. The gathering itself, besides requiring strong police presence and park cleanup, reminds a lot of Coloradans what they don’t like about the legalization. Public smoking shows contempt for the law and dramatizes the constant effort to advance more usage. And, of course, the backdrop is that the new Trump administration is hostile to legalization and considering how to step up enforcement. The following editorial appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette, June 11, 2017, and reflects the AAPOR presentation.

Colorado Springs Gazette

Limitations of state’s legalized marijuana
By Guest Columnist
Sunday, June 11, 2017
By Floyd Ciruli

Colorado is often cited as the bellwether of America becoming a marijuana nation. With our legalization of medical marijuana in 2000, and of recreational marijuana in 2012, we helped open the floodgates to what has become a national movement. Continue

Monday, June 12, 2017

Market Rally Continues as Trump Slumps

A market rally that began November 9th and has broken through a couple of 1,000-point barriers is still on a roll at 21271, up 8 percent this year. President Trump has received, and takes whenever he can, much credit for the market’s movement.
President Donald Trump | New York Times

But as the market rises, Trump’s approval rating falls. His latest average rating in RealClearPolitics is 39 percent approval, with a number of polls out of the field on Tuesday, June 6th that have him between 34 to 40 percent. And although it’s too early to judge if former FBI Director Comey’s testimony will drive the polls down, the number of ongoing investigations by Congress and the Special Counsel will likely continue the controversy.

Major challenge to the president is the gridlock that is affecting his legislative agenda, at least partially caused by the political space being taken by the collusion and obstruction investigations.

Market and Trump Disengage
It was initially assumed the stock market rally would accrue to the President’s benefit. And indeed there was general euphoria related to hope for improvements in the economy and jobs that appeared to be helping Trump. It reflected optimism, perhaps unrealistic, that health care and tax reform were doable in 2017. Possibly, even an infrastructure program had a chance.

The market rally is now far more broad-based. The technology run-up is being accompanied by stock gains across the board. But, Trump support has narrowed. He still holds support from most rank and file Republicans, his fellow Republicans on the Hill and much of the business class. But, that produces only the 35 to 40 percent of support reported. He won’t be impeached, but there are many very nervous Republican incumbent congresspersons.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Comey Joins Some of the Legendary Hearings

Congress periodically produces hearings that change political history. It’s not clear if the James Comey testimony before the Senate Select Intelligence Committee (June 8th) will just be another bizarre event in the first 140 days of the Trump presidency or if it produces more serious and long-term damage.

Three recent high-profile congressional hearings had significant impact on the respective presidents. John Dean’s testimony was powerful in the Watergate crisis of President Nixon, but it was the existence of and then refusal to turn over tapes that led to Nixon’s resignation. President Reagan, with considerable help, survived Iran Contra, but his reputation was damaged. Oliver North’s career was launched. Republicans were seen as overreaching in the Lewinski impeachment and ended up losing seats in 1998 and Newt Gingrich his Speakership.

So, in which category will the Comey testimony fall under? Comey did make a case for obstruction that will linger. Collusion with Russia is mostly the prerogative of the Special Counsel, but at least four congressional committees have some jurisdiction and much interest over the issue. (See blog: Accelerated Investigation Cycle)

Trump’s problems are mostly political. Even though he will survive the hearing and testimony, Comey reinforced what the majority of Americans already believe – Donald Trump is hiding something.

James Comey testifies in front of Senate Intelligence Committee, Jun. 8, 2017 | Reuters

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Democrats Moving to Left

Democrats have rage, but as of yet, no victories. In Kansas and Montana congressional replacement elections, they got close, but still lost. Some party leaders recognize the problem. Just being against Donald Trump is not enough. It will not win over independent and moderate swing votes. Also, the Democratic agenda must appeal to voters that are not part of the party’s core issue and identity politics.

Unfortunately, the party lacks new leadership that appears capable of offering innovative directions or believable solutions. Joe Biden was an interesting candidate in the 1980s and 1990s, not in the 2020s; Nancy Pelosi should have retired in 2010; and Hillary Clinton may blame James Comey and the Russians, but it was her e-mail server and poorly conducted campaign that is mostly to blame for 2016 loss.

And then there is Bernie Sanders, whose primary challenge did much to expose Clinton’s flaws, now offering his bankruptcy-inducing single-payer plan, which dominates the current Democratic Party’s health care debate. The party is moving dramatically left on issues, which will ill-position it for the 2018 or 2020 elections.
  1. Single-Payer. Rejected in Colorado (80% to 20%) as a massive tax increase for government-run health care and now proposed in California with no idea how to pay for the $400 billion price tag. Democratic Party leadership is moving rapidly to endorse it.
  2. Hydrocarbons. The party has moved from all-of-the-above energy sources and subsidies for renewables to full-out war against hydrocarbons. No contributions, no representation and no involvement from traditional energy industries, its constituents and dependent regions.
  3. Sanctuary Cities. Immigration reform or border security is no longer part of the Democratic discussion. How to thwart immigration enforcement is now the exclusive topic.
  4. $15 Minimum Wage. Forcing a federal minimum wage of $15 favored by labor leaders and poverty advocates is becoming the party’s official position. 
The Democratic Party should normally pick up seats in a new president’s first mid-term election. When a president is highly polarizing and at 40 percent approval, there is opportunity for sweeping gains. But, with few new leaders and a D.C.-driven agenda from the ideological left winning 24 House and 3 Senate seats and some new governorships could be much more difficult in 2018.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

British Election Draws Closer

Prime Minister Theresa May wanted to create a strong Tory majority to begin Brexit negotiations with the EU. When she announced the snap election in April, polls gave Conservatives a 17 percent advantage over Labour. Led by Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party looked hopelessly behind. But as of today, nearly all polls indicate a much closer election, albeit still a win for May. What happened?

Analyses are just beginning to flow from the always prolific British media, and the accuracy of the polls will be a major subplot, but the main factors from this side of the Atlantic appear to be:
  1. Campaigns matter. Reporting over the last eight weeks has described a number of mistakes by May and her party in terms of policy. She also has not shown herself to be a strong candidate, while Corbyn has improved in presentation and adapted the basic socialist “something for everyone” message.
  2. Establishment is still disliked. May and her conservatives represent the establishment and there is still considerable distrust and unfavorable attitudes toward the establishment.
  3. Not easy to control the topic. The Conservatives lost control of the narrative. Brexit and how to protect British interests was supposed to be the topics, but respective platforms of the parties have gotten considerable attention and now terrorism.
  4. The British are still divided. The country’s recent elections have been close. In an era of anger and resentment, getting someone to say yes to a governing majority is difficult.
If May only survives a close vote, her clout and even longevity as leader will be damaged.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Is Brown Running?

California Gov. Jerry Brown | AP
As President Trump continues to accumulate adversaries (now add most of Europe) and languishes with his steadfast base of 35 to 40 percent of the electorate, new opponents are emerging who maybe more dangerous to his 2020 plans than the usual Democratic D.C. crowd.

Jerry Brown, 79 years old, the term-limited Democratic governor of California is taking the lead position on climate change opposition. He has a credible track record on the issue, is governor of the largest state, and is moving to organize a defense of the accord and call for local action. He is going to China (a new leader on climate change) and talking to a host of governors and other political leaders about a climate change summit.

Brown is a special problem for Trump and Republicans because he is not the typical Democratic Party leader. Democratic governors tend to be more responsible on finances and less radical in their partisan rhetoric. Brown, for example, is usually the adult in the room for his Democratic, interest group-dominated state legislature. Even his approach to Trump and his administration tends to be less resistance rage and more calm opposition.

Although Dianne Feinstein’s (83 years old) senate seat may be open in 2018, he’s unlikely to consider it. But even without an office, he is a potent adversary for Trump and the environmental agenda.

Read Politico: Jerry Brown defies Trump on world stage

Monday, June 5, 2017

Three Reasons Trump had Two Different Trips

Both the optics and the reaction to President Donald Trump’s nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe highlight that there was, in fact, two very distinct outings. Even Trump made clear how much he enjoyed the Riyadh and Jerusalem visits and was bored and uncomfortable in Brussels and Taormina.

The trip’s dissimilarities corresponded to Trump’s different values, preferences and approaches.

Un-Obama and Obama 
World leaders at the G-7 summit | Reuters
As described in a previous blog, Staging the First 100 Days from The White House, much of what Trump does is to reverse Barack Obama’s policies, rhetoric and actions. The Middle East was the perfect platform to be the “un-Obama.” Obama’s policies toward Iran, Syria and Israel were not liked by most of the major players in the region. Trump reversed them. In Europe, Obama was mostly appreciated, at least west of the Danube. Germany, France, Italy and Brussels shared Obama’s global and high-minded values and mostly supported his restrained policies. Trump’s hostility to the climate change agreement inverted Obama’s position and it won him no admiration.

Bilateral and Multilateral
Trump is a bilateral negotiator. He doesn’t do groups. NATO and the EU are complex and collaborative. He likes the simple single-party deal. The Saudis and Israelis were generous hosts, and he brought arms to the Saudis and anti-Iranian rhetoric and much symbolism from sword dances to wailing walls. In Europe, he was only one of many following in a golf cart.

Autocrats and Democrats
Trump is more comfortable with kings, dictators and leaders with very secure majorities who operate autocratically. The politicians of Europe often depend on coalitions to govern and regularly attend to democratic politics. Trump prefers the royals.

President Trump holds a sword and says with traditional dancers during
welcome ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May 20, 2017 | Evan Vucci/AP
As a nationalist, Trump has some support in Eastern Europe, but little in the West. His emphasis on sovereignty and lack of interest in human rights fits well with the Middle Eastern states’ preferences, but his hostility to established alliances and regional governance was an anathema in Brussels.
Like a royal, Trump dislikes press conferences. It’s harder and more obvious to avoid the press among peer presidents, chancellors and prime ministers than it is among kings and autocrats. This was nine days with the press at bay and an unprecedented trip without a conference.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Beer Hall Awakening

Angela Merkel has finally had enough of Donald Trump and “America First.” After two generally hostile meetings with Trump and especially his worst behavior at Brussels and Taormina, she told her party stalwarts at a Munich beer hall rally that:
“Recent days have shown me that the times when we could rely completely on others are over to a certain extent,” Merkel said. “We also know that we Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands. . . . It became clear at the G7, when there was no agreement with the USA, how long and rocky this path would be. I think it was good not to gloss over the differences,” she added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer
sit in a beer tent, May 28, 2017 | Sven Hoppe/AFP via Getty Images
Most of her colleagues west of the Danube would agree. In fact, new French President Emmanuel Macron practically armed wrestled the always aggressive Trump and later declared:
"Donald Trump, the Turkish president or the Russian president see relationships in terms of balance of power. That doesn't bother me. I don't believe in diplomacy by public abuse, but in my bilateral dialogues. I won't let anything pass.
He said that a leader must show that they will not ‘make small concessions, even symbolic ones’ or over publicize their achievements."
President Donald Trump shakes hands with French President Emmanuel
Macron during a meeting in Brussels, May 25, 2017 | Evan Vucci/AP
Chancellor Merkel is campaigning. Trump is highly disliked by the German public and its elites. Her opponent, a social democrat, makes attacking Trump one of his main campaign strategies. Trump is seen as somewhere between dangerous or a buffoon in the capitals of Europe. Of course, like in America, there are blocs of nationalist leaders and publics that identify with his views. But, they are not dominant in the West.
The upshot of this awakening is that American foreign policy objectives that even slightly misalign with European interests could come in for condemnation, including in the U.N. Security Council. Also, expect Europe, especially Germany, as Merkel articulated, to start thinking seriously about an independent defense – indeed Trump is helping make NATO obsolete.

Korbel School Sponsors Second Session on Trump Presidency – The First 100 Days

Dean Christopher Hill and Crossley Center Director, Floyd Ciruli, teamed up to present an assessment and discussion on the First 100 Days of the Trump administration. A record crowd of 280 filled Maglione Hall on May 1 for the two hour session.

The talk was the second sponsored by the Korbel School since the extraordinary election of Donald Trump. On November 9, the day after the election, Hill and Ciruli presented an early deconstructed what happened and offered some initial predictions.

In this latest talk, the high and low points of Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office were assessed, especially as related to foreign policy.

Several blogs on the main topics discussed have been posted on the Crossley Center site:

Election Dashboard, 6-1
How About the French Transition, 5-24
The EU Get a Boost. Next Up: England, Germany and Italy, 5-24
French Nationalism Now the Main European Opposition to Globalism, 5-24
Lavrov and Trump Meeting as Comey Fired, 5-15
Four Reasons Trump Fired Comey, 5-15
French Nationalism Hits a Wall: Not Good News for Putin and Trump, 5-15
Obamacare Repeal Passes, But Fight Over Replacement Just Begins, 5-9
Flip-Flop or Flexible? Trump First 100 Days, 5-15
Staging the First 100 Days From the White House, 5-12
Pre-100-Day Polls in on Trump: Not Good, 5-12

Go to the Crossley Center website here

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Accelerated Investigation Cycle

Much like the 24/7 news cycle, there is an accelerated investigative cycle that involves at least four major congressional committees in both houses and numerous agencies, some with direct, but others with only tangential jurisdiction.

Although President Trump managed to escape Washington’s relentless politics for nine days, the investigations are issuing subpoenas, booking testimony, and gathering staffs and budgets.

Unfortunately for the White House, a normal ally (although the Breitbart crowd now believes Fox News has sold out) issued a poll on Wednesday, May 24, which supported the arguments supporting the investigations, not Trump’s views on “hoaxes” and “witch hunts.” For example, registered voters nationally believe Russia is a foe, the Comey firing was self-serving and an independent investigation needed. Fox News poll:
  • Russia foe – Voters see Russia as an enemy – 64%. They believe Trump sees it as an ally – 73%.
  • Firing Comey – Voters said yes – 34%, no – 53%. Real reason for firing “because Comey’s investigation was harming Trump’s presidency” – 60%, not because it was harming the FBI – 29%.
  • Special Counsel – Voters approve appointment of appointing special counsel – 68%
The President’s approval rating was 40 percent, not much changed from the previous month, but down from the January Inaugural.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller may be the key player in the overall investigation, but the number of committees, agencies, lawyers, news media and leakers engaged guarantees this will be a story throughout 2017. The White House finally gets it and has hired lawyers and set up a war room. Of course, it may generate news, some of it bad.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Construction Defects Legislation: A Win for Compromise and More Housing

After years of gridlock, a construction defects bill passed both Colorado legislative bodies and was signed by Governor Hickenlooper. Although it didn’t completely satisfy the developer community, the legislation reflected sufficient compromise to get it out of committees and through the leadership of both parties.

The main proponents of change in the law were developers, chambers of commerce and other business promotion groups. The major road block has been a Democratically-controlled House. Most importantly for securing compromise from Democrats were local government officials who argued the hair trigger homeowner litigation rules were undermining providing housing, affordable and otherwise, in their communities. Thousands of potential condo units were being held as expensive rental units due to fears of class action suits easily filed against developers and builders.

Although there are fewer State House reporters than decades past, big stories still get covered from a variety of angles. The Colorado Statesman still publishes, although mostly behind a pay wall. Ernest Luning covered the construction defect compromise on April 19.

Probably the state’s best political website is Colorado Politics sponsored by the Colorado Springs Gazette. Peter Marcus posted a story on the Governor signing the bill, with the sponsor and leadership taking a bow. Democratic House member Alec Garnett and Speaker Crisanta Duran were recognized with Republicans Lori Saine and Cole Wist. A host of interest groups also joined the celebration.

The Denver Post’s John Aguilar did an analysis as to why it had been so hard to reach a compromise, with a focus on the money that trial lawyers and business groups had spent on legislative races in recent years.

My comment was that in 2017 Democrats, with a five-seat majority in the House, were less vulnerable than past years.
But the conversation on construction defects reform had evolved to the point where Democratic leadership in the statehouse was under more pressure to compromise, political analyst Floyd Ciruli said. He noted that not only has there been bipartisan support for reform bills in past sessions, but affordable housing advocates and a wide array of metro-area mayors are now pushing for it.
HB 1279 likely passed this time because of the greater political advantage Democrats gained in the House last November, picking up three seats to take a 37-28 majority, he said. Previous Democratic speakers had less room to negotiate when the balance of power in the House was thinner, Ciruli said, and money from the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association was critical to keeping their majority alive.
“There is no doubt that the Democratic leadership in the last couple of terms found it incredibly difficult to find compromise,” he said. “Their entire control of the body really depends on having access to those funds and having the ability to target those funds to specific seats.
“When their majority is that close, they don’t mess around.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Italy, the Sick Man of Europe

France’s labor markets and productivity are a mess and one of President Macron’s biggest challenges. But, Italy’s are even worse, and there is no sense the politics of the next election will offer a solution.
Italy’s anti-establishment nationalism is intense. Most of the public in Europe support the Euro despite anti-Euro nationalism. Only in Italy does a plurality of the public see the Euro as bad (47%) for the country, not good (41%).

Slow growth, high unemployment, massive debt, low productivity, rigid labor, trade and professional rules, and a general dissatisfaction with the center parties gave birth to the Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo. The so-called party is mostly run as an online movement, but in 2016, it won the mayorships in Rome and Turin. It often looks more like a Bernie Sanders caucus meeting than a national party. But, there is passion and an anti-corruption, protectionist platform that appeals to Italian workers, businesses and dissatisfied voters. At 30 percent support, it is currently Italy’s largest political bloc.
Italy is currently run by an interim government since the constitutional reform referendum of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi failed in December and he resigned. A mid-2018 election is likely, and unless one of the major party groupings can get organized, Five Star could be asked to form a government.

Beppe Grillo, found of the Five Star Movement and Rome’s Mayor
Virginia Raggi during a demonstration in November | Gregorio Borgia/AP