Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hill and Ciruli: President Trump’s First 100 Days

On May 1, Dean Christopher Hill and pollster Floyd Ciruli will present an analysis of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days at the University of Denver’s Korbel School.

The White House’s successes, failures, the polling results and where American foreign policy is headed are the topics. The White House may deny the historical standard is important, but they are rushing to put points up the final week. But, most importantly, it is useful to pause after the intense 14 weeks of the Trump administration and examine what’s been accomplished and what’s next. Hill and Ciruli will especially focus on foreign policy and what can be expected in Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific.

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?



Register for event here



French Pollsters Nail It

First round of French elections Sunday produced a result predicted for several weeks by French pollsters, even though the last few days of polls showed a very close race.

Emmanuel Macron led with 24 percent and the final poll showed 23 percent. Marine Le Pen grabbed second with 21 percent and the final polls had her at 22 percent. The remaining three candidates’ results were within a point of final polls.

The run-off election is May 7, and pre-election polls show any of the top three candidates would beat Le Pen. Macron was the strongest at about 60 percent and 40 percent for Le Pen. French pollsters published their final pre-election polls on Friday, April 21. They then release a final poll on Election Day.

The five candidates represented 91 percent of the vote.

Although the pollsters nailed it, France’s politics is wide open. Le Pen’s campaign may have stalled from its showing earlier in the year (28%), but the anti-EU populist candidates still attracted nearly half of the vote. And the two major parties – the Socialists and Republicans – are in collapse. Hence, French politics is dominated by outsiders without identified governing majorities creating possibilities for significant change or massive gridlock.

Like recent elections in most Western democracies, there was significant division between the urban and more rural vote. Le Pen received about 5 percent of the vote in Paris and Macron 35 percent. Contrary to Donald Trump’s view, the final terrorist attack did not surge votes to his favorite candidate, Le Pen.

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.