Friday, June 22, 2018

Ballot Total Heading to 800,000 Plus

The rate of ballots processed this week has been about 50,000 to 60,000 a day. At that rate, the final total should exceed 800,000 votes by Tuesday. Final ballot chasing by the campaigns and the sudden realization by procrastinators that time is up may produce a final surge. Also, expect 200,000 unaffiliated votes.

If It’s Stapleton vs. Polis, Who Wins?

A recent poll from Service Employees International Union conducted by Strategies 360 claims that in a race between the party’s respective frontrunners – Walker Stapleton and Jared Polis – Polis, the Democrat, would win by 5 points. It also reinforced earlier polls that Polis is ahead of Cary Kennedy by more than 10 points.

General election polls more than four months before an election are highly unreliable, but it does reflect the view that Colorado Democrats have a generic advantage just based on shifting partisanship and recent voting behavior – namely, Hillary Clinton’s 5 point win in 2016. But, that advantage depends on a base of voters turning out and the large bloc of less committed, weak partisans and unaffiliated voters being attracted to, or at least not put off by, the Democratic candidate. As Cory Gardner highlighted, Republicans can win statewide even against well-funded incumbents. What are some of the factors that will define the race?

As Dick Wadhams, a top Republican strategist, argued in the Denver Post, a Republican candidate must run a nearly flawless campaign. Republicans simply have no room for error and they must aggressively exploit every misstep of the other side. Wadhams pointed to Democratic weaknesses – a very far left nominee, expensive new programs and attacks on powerful economic interests (e.g., gas and oil), or as wordsmith Wadhams put it: “The new Bernie Sanders/Democratic Party.”

In a parallel commentary, Alan Salazar, the Democrats’ top strategist, a person who has boosted the careers of Udall, Hickenlooper and now Hancock, sees the Trump factor the greatest asset promoting Democrats, especially motivating the base, but also providing regular controversies that will put Republicans in an explaining posture. Salazar is correct that Trump was not only unpopular in Colorado in 2016, but recent polls reinforce that beyond committed Republicans and some blue collar conservatives, he continues to lack appeal to Colorado’s swing voters, critical in the state’s general election.

Considering party positioning and the 2018 environment, it appears that Colorado Democrats have a slight, but fragile, advantage. Although the state has shifted to the left, the Democratic ticket may be even more to the left. The Blue Wave may be strong in November, but Democrats have a poor record of turnout in non-presidential elections.

This analysis did not consider the candidates or their campaigns. I predict July and August will rapidly highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the two candidates and their ability to construct campaign organizations. This is a major political transition for Colorado, and both local and national media and interest groups have a powerful stake in the outcome – they will be watching.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It’s the Money: Governor’s Primary Could Spend $25 Million – Predicted April 4, 2017

The biggest story in this primary election is money. The Denver Post reports $24.6 million in spending by the eight gubernatorial candidates.

In April of last year, The Buzz predicted a $25 million primary. I had some candidates who dropped out or never announced on the list (Ed Perlmutter, Jack Graham, Kent Thiry), but Jared Polis, Mike Johnston, Vic Mitchell and Walker Stapleton were all listed as likely multi-million dollar fundraisers. Expect the final figure to get to $30 million.

The $25 million is just personal contributions. Another $10 million is recorded as PAC spending.

About Half the Vote is In and Unaffiliated are Nearly a Fourth of Turnout

Of the more than 478,000 ballots returned and received by the close of Tuesday, June 19 (one week before the June 26 election), 23 percent, or about 109,000, were from unaffiliated voters.

Polls and pundits had expected 15 to 20 percent would be the ultimate unaffiliated share of the total vote. That means if the total vote is above the 645,000 the Secretary of State reported voted in the 2016 primary and it could get close to one million, approximately 150,000 to 200,000 will be unaffiliated voters – a very significant number.

Voters are overwhelmingly older (58% 61 years old or older) and more likely to be women (53%).

Eighty percent of the returns a week before the election are from the eleven largest counties, with El Paso, Arapahoe and Jefferson leading the pack. A few notable facts: Denver is lagging in early returns; Democratic returns are slightly ahead in both Arapahoe and Jefferson; and large numbers of Democratic ballots were used by unaffiliated in Arapahoe, Boulder, Jefferson and Larimer.

See Secretary of State ballots received here

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

From Bush to Trump, Colorado Republican Party Faces a Challenge

A number of factors have slipped the Republican Party into third place in Colorado in presidential performance. George W. Bush won the state by 8 points in 2000 and Donald Trump lost it by 5 in 2016. That 13-point swing wasn’t just about the charisma of Barack Obama. Even the highly unpopular Hillary Clinton led the Democrats to a 5-point win.

Because of recent growth, the power driver of the state has become the metro area, and Trump was crushed in metro Denver. He lost all the large counties, except Douglas. He lost Arapahoe County by 14 points and Jefferson by 7 points. Denver, the dominant population center, gave Hillary Clinton 74 percent, or a 55-point deficit for Trump.

A comparison between the Republican Party’s strength in the 2000 presidential election by county shows the swing from Bush to Trump in 2016. Bush carried Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, and comparing 2000 to 2016, Republicans performed 12 points better in 2000 in Arapahoe and 9 points better in Jefferson. Bush lost Boulder and Denver, but managed to get into the “thirties,” or more than 10 points above Trump’s total in each. In more blue collar Adams, Trump was only 3 points behind Bush. Although Trump won Douglas, he trailed Bush’s 2000 win by 10 points.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Judy Schwartz Passes Away

Judy and her partner, Taffy Lee, were great friends of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). They helped with several campaigns of Ciruli Associates in the 1990s. Judy became a style editor for the Rocky Mountain News and the Colorado Statesman.

She was a big hugger, a tremendously positive force in people’s lives.

Thank you Judy.

Read obituary here

Friday, June 15, 2018

Metro Counties on a Growth Tear for More Than a Decade

Colorado’s rapid growth is one of the major influences affecting Colorado’s politics. The state’s county commissioners recently heard a presentation at their annual Colorado Counties Inc. conference that included a slide about the growth in the Denver metro area since 2000. The PowerPoint slide shown below presents the growth in the six largest metro counties from 2000 to 2017, the most recent census data.

Colorado’s population has grown from 4.3 million in 2000 to 5.6 million today, or a 30 percent increase. More than half that growth has been in the six-county metro area, which jumped 684,000 residents from 2.4 million to 3.1 million.

Some facts about the metro area 17 years of rapid growth:
  • Arapahoe County’s 32 percent growth moves it from the 3rd largest county to second, behind Denver (704,000) and third statewide behind El Paso (699,000).
  • Boulder and Jefferson counties are the metro laggards with 11% and 9% growth, respectively. Boulder dropped to the smallest population in the six-county metro area behind Douglas. Jefferson added only 47,000 new residents.
  • Denver’s addition of 150,000 new residents has been extraordinary, especially in the last 7 years. It has changed the politics of the metro area (more Democratic) and made growth a political issue in Denver (traffic, density, gentrification, stress on city services and facilities).
  • Adams and Douglas counties, the north and south counties on the metro Front Range, have the fastest growth rates and still have room for considerable growth.
Note: Broomfield wasn’t a county in 2000 and would increase the current total metro population by about 50,000.

The Millennials Are Coming

Millennial voters are flooding into the electorate and will after 2020 be a greater voting bloc than the all-powerful Baby Boomers who have so long dominated. They are more liberal and their full cohort of 75 million will be voting age if they choose to vote. One reason there is doubt as to the Democrats’ blue wave this November is because the young Millennials may sit out 2018 to wait for a more interesting or inspiring presidential election.

But, Millennials are already having impact. A new wave of under 40-year-old leaders in democracies and dictatorships are shaking up the system.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

University of Denver Campus Framework

In 2014, when the University of Denver (DU) selected Rebecca Chopp as its first female chancellor, she inherited a school with good bones, but lacking an updated vision. Now with its Campus Framework, it has a sense of direction, and the good news for Denver is that it includes an extensive neighborhood plan.

The new framework includes linkage with Denver’s mass transit, softening the edges of the campus for neighborhood connections, enhancing housing (students stay in campus housing longer today), and making DU more commercially vibrant with stores and dining found in Denver’s most robust retail centers.

The plan sees DU and its 125-acre campus as a college town in the heart of the city.

Conceptual design for northeast side of campus | Photo: DU

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Blue Wave or Just a Ripple?

The recent primaries and national dashboard are sending mixed messages on the blue wave. The presumption, based on history, has been that Democrats should be able to pick up at least the 24 seats they need to retake the House and get the Speaker’s gavel back.

And although President Trump’s approval rating remains historically low, it has improved from last fall when it was at 38 percent (negative 18%).

In addition, the generic congressional spread, which was double-digits in favor for the Democrats last fall, is now 8 points and has been as low as 3 in the last thirty days.

The general sense is that the political environment that so favored the Democrats the last year has shifted to a more neutral position, still favoring the Democrats, but offering them less comfort.

Possibly the best recent poll was conducted by Anthony Salvanto and his team at CBS who are polling in 64 competitive or likely competitive congressional districts. Their latest survey showed the Democrats winning 219 seats, one more than needed to win the House (of course, there is a margin of error). Republicans liked the economy and disliked immigration. Democrats worried about health care and disliked Trump.

The most recent primaries also offered ambiguous signs for Democrats. Although Democrats avoid a lockout in several California congressional districts, in 5 out of 7 they received less than 50 percent of the primary vote, increasing a likely tough race in the November general election.

The conclusion of this analysis is that, as of June 1, Democrats have some modest advantage based on the historical precedence of voters wanting to reign in a new presidency and a highly polarizing chief executive, but the battle for the House will mostly be waged seat by seat.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Flood of Initiatives Trying to Get to Colorado Ballot

Colorado in recent years has been attempting to limit the volume of initiatives going to ballot, especially changes in the state constitution. In 2016, voters passed Amendment 71, which requires a super majority for constitutional amendments (55%) and signatures to be collected throughout the state. But, Amendment 71 has not slowed a mass of initiatives from being filed or heading to signature efforts (98,492 required in 2018).

More than 150 initiatives were filed in 2018, and as of June 1, the legislature put six constitutional amendments on the ballot and at least six more, including several constitutional amendments, are seeking signatures.

Most of the initiatives in circulation are statutory to avoid the new constitutional rule of super majority. Proponents assume future legislatures that might have majorities opposed to the initiative will be reluctant to repeal or modify it due to voter majorities have passed it. Only two of the legislative initiatives are important and have significant support. They will create commissions to design new congressional and state legislative seats post the U.S. Census (Amendments Y and Z).

None of these proposals may collect sufficient signatures. Items of important and early observations:
  • Reapportionment legislative referrals good chance of passage. Well financed, broad support. Parties seem quiet (Amendments Y and Z constitutional).
  • Bonds for transportation, sales tax increases. Denver Chamber leads a civic consortium, but already has significant opposition in El Paso County (Initiative 158 statutory). Competing measure to use existing revenue for roads (Caldera’s Fix Our Damn Roads, Initiative 167 statutory).
  • Complex income/property tax charge for more K-12 money. Early opposition due to complexity. Similar measure lost huge three years ago (Amendment 93 constitutional).
  • Limits on growth. Very controversial, major opposition (not in circulation as of June 1). Proponents quiet as opposition money is assembled.
  • Severance tax for various causes (not in circulation yet) and minimum distance for drilling (Initiative 97 statutory). Major opposition from gas and oil. Minimum support from Democrats.
  • Taking of property for public use (Initiative 108 constitutional). Opposed by most local government and economic interests.
  • Anti-sanctuary laws for immigration (Initiative 169 constitutional). Very controversial topic in governor’s election.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Trump Rally is Over

The Trump rally, which began in November 2016, is over. The Dow hit its top on January 26, 2018 at 26616 and is now down more than 1400 points, with a year-to-date loss at the end of May of one percent.

The Dow Jones Industrial average began its decline as volatility increased. Two hundred-point daily fluctuations have become common. It hit a low of 23957 on March 22, and climbed back to 24415 by the end of May. But few expect the gains of the last year and a half to resume. Trade wars and problems in Europe join the volatility of the White House to roil the market in spite of job growth, tax cuts, positive earnings reports and deregulation.

Trump’s anti-establishment, anti-immigrant positions have encouraged Italian and other anti-EU, ethno nationalists. The administration’s pro tariff and combative foreign policy has alienated old allies and emboldened new adversaries. Beyond the politics, there is a sense the long boom is ending, interest rates are climbing and a recession is looming.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Hirschfelds Win the Bonfils-Stanton Award for Community Service

Civic activists, Arlene and Barry Hirschfeld, just received the prestigious Bonfils-Stanton Foundation award for community service. Their years of service in the Denver community span a variety of charities and causes, but it was culture, a Bonfils-Stanton focus, that got the most attention.

Arlene has been one of the chief fundraisers for the Denver Art Museum’s decades-long building program, including the Hamilton Building and now the new Ponti improvements.

Barry was one of the founders of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) in the mid-1980s and has been a supporter ever since. The District first voted on in 1988 was just renewed by voters in 2016 by a 63 percent majority in the seven-county metro area. Arlene and Barry hosted a campaign and fundraising event at their beautiful home.

Barry was one of the metro area’s first leaders to understand the importance of culture to tourism and the local economy.

Thank you Arlene and Barry for your leadership.
Barry and Arlene Hirschfeld and KK and Floyd Ciruli pose with Popsicle

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

KOA Interview: The Campaigns Shift to Sprint Over Memorial Day Weekend

After a year of campaigning by many gubernatorial candidates, the Memorial Day holiday marks the beginning of a sprint to the June 26 primary for the eight candidates, four in each party. In a KOA weekend interview with Jerry Bell, the following points were made:

The race is considered competitive in each party, with upward of a third of partisans still making a decision. An additional unknown factor is how many unaffiliated voters will return a ballot. For the first time, all 1.1 million will get a ballot and can select which party primary to participate in. Polls and early ballot requests indicate upward of 200,000 could vote, with a Democratic ballot being selected by about 60 percent of unaffiliated voters.

Ballots will be mailed starting Monday, June 4, about a week away. Voters can expect to be flooded with mailers, robo calls, and Internet, TV and radio advertising for the remaining weeks. A record $20 million is expected to be spent by the campaigns. Congressman Jared Polis has just put another $2 million into his campaign as it approached $10 million.

Attorney General: Important Job and Competitive Race

The second most important race to be voted on June 26 will be for Colorado Attorney General. In a Denver Post interview with Jesse Paul, I posited the issue in the primary: “Do Colorado Democrats want to join the anti-Trump resistance? One Democrat in a competitive primary, Joe Salazar, represents the aggressive left wing of the party. Phil Weiser has more mainstream appeal and has the backing of the party establishment, who are concerned about Salazar’s electability and his political temperament.”

Weiser has $1 million in funding to a few thousand for Salazar, but Salazar is competitive because his last name is a popular Democratic brand in Colorado. Ken Salazar was Colorado Attorney General and Secretary of the Interior. His popularity in 2004 got his brother, John, elected to U.S. Congress as he was going to the U.S. Senate.

I told Paul the race was competitive:

“The Democrats are dramatically different,” said Floyd Ciruli, an independent political analyst in Denver. “A very mainstream, respected attorney-dean in Mr. Weiser versus a sort of insurgent legislator coming from the deep liberal wing of the party in terms of a lot of his positions and a lot of his support. It’s sort of the classic choice we are seeing in primaries across the country in the Democratic Party.”

He added: “I think it’s a competitive race.”

The Republican candidate will slide into the nomination without a primary after George Brauchler’s strategic shift from a tough governor’s race to an empty attorney general field. Cynthia Coffman left a likely re-election to run a stumbling campaign for governor – she raised little money and generated miniscule party support.

Both parties believe the position is highly important. Millions will be spent by out-of-state interests.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

“Diplotainment” Crashes in Korea

President Trump’s top of mind acceptance of the North Korean invitation for a summit mostly reflected his view of foreign policy as a form of public relations with substance as an afterthought. His two recent photo ops with European allies demonstrate the media relations strategy.


The two presidents staged a host of buddy pictures, but on trade and Iran, there was no convergence of differences.

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) and President Donald Trump
at joint news conference at White House, April 24, 2018 | Reuters


Although the warmth with Merkel was lacking, Trump managed to stage several public relations events. Again, no substance on significant issues.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) shakes hands with
President Donald Trump at joint press conference at White
House, April 27, 2018 | Mandel Ngan/AFP
The impression Trump’s “diplotainment” conveys is his talent at publicity moments and his sway with world media. Unfortunately, the real position between the U.S. and our main European allies is at or near a 70-year low.

The concern for the North Korean negotiations was that the President would declare victory for the photoshoot and a Nobel nomination. The North Korean shift to focus on the substance of nuclear disarmament a couple of weeks ago was a wake-up call for the happy talk that had dominated much of the administration’s early discussions.

North Korea got de facto recognition as a nuclear state and Kim Jong Un created a narrative as a reasonable negotiating partner. Negotiations with a cagey adversary are work. They take careful planning and strategic positioning, not just blustery threats and syrupy praise.

The U.S. has already lost some positioning on sanctions. Time for a reset before the correlations of forces that have favored the U.S. position begin to dissipate even more.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Walker Losing to “Undecided,” But Ahead of Mitchell

A new poll in the Republican stronghold of El Paso County (the 5th Congressional District) shows that five weeks out from the primary, “undecided” is ahead in the Republican race for governor, with Walker Stapleton in a close second and Victor Mitchell in third.

Similar to Stapleton’s Republican convention result (44%), he is the Republican leader, but hardly the consensus nominee. Stapleton likely has the money and momentum to win the primary, but Mitchell has shown considerable political talent to maneuver into second-place. The poll also demonstrates Stapleton’s major task will be putting some fire into the party’s base, while uniting its diverse factions. The poll labeled the Republican electorate in three component parts: 37 percent Trump Republicans, 21 percent traditional, 21 percent evangelical or Christian Republicans, and 16 percent not sure their category.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Griswold vs. Williams – Still Need the Big Blue Wave

Jena Griswold
Jena Griswold, the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, will need a major push from partisan Democrats and other voters saying no to Republicans up and down the ticket to beat incumbent Republican Wayne Williams.

Colorado is a state with a good reputation for honest elections. The system is decentralized with 64 elected county clerks running local elections.

Our most recent Secretary of State controversies involved candidate petitioning with the rules and vendor operations appearing incompatible. With all mail balloting and unaffiliated voters now participating in primaries, it’s hard to argue Colorado isn’t dedicated to ballot access.
Wayne Williams | CBS

Even a blue wave may not help Griswold enough as I said to Jon Murray of the Denver Post:

But Floyd Ciruli, a longtime political analyst in Colorado, cautioned against discounting Williams’ chances.

“If there’s a strong wave, I think it could go up and down the ballot and give (Griswold) a bit of a push, some momentum,” Ciruli said. Still, he added, “Wayne Williams will be the hardest person on the ballot to beat, just generically, because he is a very popular incumbent in an office that is seen as less partisan.”

Griswold has a small fundraising advantage, but as of today, an extra $100,000 or two is not enough to change the dynamics of this election.

Read Jon Murray’s article in the Denver Post here

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Denver Post Dominance is Already Gone

The latest trials and tribulations of the Denver Post only confirm what has been obvious to Denver metro news consumers for several years, and that’s to get the daily news, you might not even start with the Post, but go first to a half dozen online sites.

This is in spite of the Post’s continued news excellence. This weekend edition featured in-depth stories on the #MeToo movement as it affected this year’s legislative session and the gaps in the foster care system and youth homelessness. The Post dedicated a full page to its Colorado Press Association and Associated Press editors’ and reporters’ awards.

But, the competition is too great and the paper too slim to dominate metro political news today. I usually start my morning with the news aggregator, Complete Colorado, and usually click on one or two stories before going to the state’s best general political news site, Colorado Politics. The site is getting stronger with additional reporters and expanding coverage. After a scan of the Post’s main stories, I visit the partisan sites, Colorado Pols (Democrat) and Colorado Peak Politics (Republican).

Westword and The Independent frequently have in-depth stories on the latest political topics and are linked by Complete Colorado. Television and radio websites are often the best on breaking news, and many are getting the earliest and best interviews of key news figures.

The Post still has first-rate reporters and is the place for local sports. But, as it gets smaller, it becomes a news source that must be heavily augmented by other sources.

As he quit the Post editorial page, Dean Singleton said circulation is down to 100,000 daily out of more than a million metro households, a minor share of the advertising marketplace and unlikely to sustain its modest overhead and immodest profit margins for the owners.

Westword: Why the Denver Post will never be sold in a standalone deal
Politico: This is how a newspaper dies

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Most Expensive Primary in Colorado History

In 2017, I predicted we would have a $25 million primary race. Six weeks before the election, the campaigns are 60 percent of the way there. I expect them to hit it since the race is competitive in both parties.

The Democratic candidates have raised and spent the most money. The race appears a dual between Cary Kennedy, with much of the party and labor behind her, and Jared Polis, with money being guided into media and grassroots organizations, especially social media aimed at unaffiliated voters. Also, spending money on media is Mike Johnston. Donna Lynn has neither money nor much of a campaign.

Among the Republicans, Vic Mitchell continues to be the big spender, having self-funded his race at the start with a donation of $3 million. Reports appear to show Walker Stapleton only spent $600,000 during the report period, but he has an independent PAC supporting him. Doug Robinson spent $650,000.

Campaign spending observation:
  • Democrats regularly outspend Republicans in elections. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both outspent their rivals, and it’s common in Colorado. Democrats are outspending Republicans two-to-one so far in this primary.
  • The competition appears more intense on the Democratic side. Democrats believe the primary could be electing the next governor. With changes in the state’s partisanship and help from a blue wave from D.C., Democrats hope for momentum.
  • The Republican race is harder to estimate. Much of Walker Stapleton’s money is in the shadows. The Republican convention showed the frontrunners, but not overwhelmingly. His competitors have some support and money, but no public poll shows them in contention. Republican leaders mostly decided this race early, and thus far, the outsiders have not had an impact.
  • Colorado is a big money state, much of it from the coasts. Both parties intensely want the governorship for a host of reasons, but the presidency and next round of 2020 senate and congressional elections is one of the biggest.

Colorado Politics: Colo. Governor’s race: Who has raised and spent the most so far?
7News: Democrats continue to outperform Republicans in Colorado 2018 governor’s race fundraising

Monday, May 14, 2018

Steve Hogan. Region Loses Leader.

Not surprising, Steve Hogan cited his love of Aurora in his statement upon entering comfort care. The speed of his illness and his passing was a shock, but his candid and dignified description added even more honor to the man’s life and accomplishments.

Hogan’s service to Aurora was fierce. It is a city that has often felt ignored and thwarted. It has long-known its image as a housing development with some strip malls and few trees was neither true nor in alignment with its self-image and aspirations as a fully functioning, third largest city in Colorado.

Arvada Mayor Marc Williams, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan,
Greenwood Village Mayor Ron Rakowsky and Denver Mayor
Michael Hancock with Popsicle at Mayors Launch
SCFD GOTV, Oct. 4, 2016
Aurora mayors have been its main cheerleaders and protectors. Hogan was up to the task. But, he avoided being hostile to his neighbors or arrogant about Aurora’s many recent successes. He just wanted to make sure the city got its share and its credit.

Demonstrating Hogan’s confident view of Aurora and his own good nature, he was a friend and respected colleague of his fellow metro mayors and champion of regional projects.

In 2016, Hogan joined a group of fellow mayors promoting the renewal of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), the regional cultural funding program, which benefits all the cities in the region. The renewal passed in all seven metro counties, including Arapahoe (and the city of Aurora).

The citizens of the entire region benefited from Hogan’s long effort at making Aurora a great place to live.

Thank you, Steve.

The Buzz; SCFD – An Economic Powerhouse
Denver Post: “Thank you for allowing me to live my best life”: Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan enters hospice care

Friday, May 11, 2018

Republican Party is Now Colorado’s Smallest – Unaffiliated Voters Rule

The Republican Party was dominant in Colorado as the century began. They had 186,000 more registrants than Democrats and were slightly ahead of unaffiliated voters.

Democrats made an incredible surge in registration just before the Democratic National Convention held in Denver and the Obama election win in 2008. By 2009, Democrats equaled Republicans at one million adherents each.

As Democrats were increasing, unaffiliated registration caught fire, and in 2009, all three parties had one million registrants. But, unaffiliated voter registration tracked more closely to the huge population growth in the state. They are now the dominant group with more than 1.4 million registrants.

Republicans had some modest growth since 2000, but stalled in the late Obama years (2013-2015). Democrats continued modest growth after their 2009 surge and are now the second largest party at 1.1 million and about 40,000 ahead of Republicans.

Unaffiliated voters can now participate in primaries and could have even more influence in the general election. Will they vote in either election?

See CPR: Open primaries for unaffiliated voters come with a catch

Thank You for Remembering 1968

Thanks to an engaged audience and our panel of speakers. The events of 1968 brought back a flood of memories of where people were and what the year meant to their lives.

The Denver Press Club is an excellent venue for friendly conversation and interesting presentations. Another great job by the Club and especially Carol McKinley, Tom Foutch and David Milstead. I will continue to comment on 1968 with comparisons to 2018 during the year. See the collective posts on 1968 here.
Denver Press Club Pulitzer Lounge Bar

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Fifty Years Later, Race Issues as Polarizing Today as in 1968

Race divides America as profoundly today as the time of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in 1968. A couple of recent polls show the continuing divide between black and white Americans.

Although most Americans see Martin Luther King Jr. as a significant historical figure (80% overall, 78% White, 90% Black) and that some of his civil rights goals were achieved, there is a significant difference among the races in views as to whether most of his civil rights goals were achieved. More than a third (36%) of Whites believe nearly all the civil rights goals were achieved, but only a quarter (27%) of Blacks.

The civil rights focus prior to and during 1968 had been on voting rights, segregation in public life (housing, jobs, public accommodations, schools, etc.) and poverty. African Americans believe some progress has been made in those areas, although not much in eliminating poverty. Whites agree, but are generally more positive on the level of progress.

It is treatment by police and the criminal justice system where both blacks and whites believe the least progress has been made. An Associated Press-NORC poll shows:

The civil rights struggle continues to be influenced by the events in 1968. Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young remember the day when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated (April 4, 1968). They were with him at the Lorraine Motel, 50 years younger. They both believe King’s moral authority survives to help the U.S. and worldwide struggle for human rights.

CBS New: Americans view MLK as important, but believe only some of his goals have been achieved
AP-NORC: 50 years after Martin Luther King’s assassination: Assessing progress of the civil rights movements

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

López Obrador Will Win and Mexico Will Lose

Andrés Manuel López Obrador | teleSUR
In a panel sponsored by WorldDenver May 3, the top Mexican pollsters declared the left-leaning populist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, will win the July 1 Mexican presidential election.

At that point, polls showed him at 49 percent. In fact, compared to recent previous presidential elections that have provided the winner with less than 40 percent, Obrador could win in a landslide above 50 percent.

López Obrador lost two presidential elections, at least partially because people feared his brand of politics was too close to the Latin American dictator model – a Mexican Hugo Chávez. But, fear is being blunted today by a greater anxiety seen in many western democracies, reflected in anger at corruption, the economic inequality and, in Mexico’s case, the level of violence. The target of the anger are the established parties, typically center-right and center-left that have held responsibility of governance for many years.

In his third try, López Obrador is benefiting from the same anger that put Donald Trump into office. Ironically, Trumps is helping López Obrador. Protecting Mexico’s sovereignty and demanding respect are López Obrador’s top issues.

The panelists were descriptive and rather insouciant of his presidential win. In fact, Obrador is bad news for democracy.
  • He has a record of using extra-legal confrontational activities, such as shutting down the government in 2006 when he lost by less than 1 percent (35.31%).
  • He likely will not have a majority in the Congress, but a mandate from the people. Most of his authority will flow from executive power. He is a populist, unlikely to be overly restrained by norms or precedence.
  • He is the least committed among the main candidates to free markets and the most committed to government control over major economic sectors, especially oil. He will expand government and spend money.
  • He tends toward nationalism (sovereignty rhetoric), isolationism and disinterest in promoting human rights and democracy.
  • Mexican democracy is new. The first competitive election was in 1994, or barely 20 years ago. López Obrador will test it. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Race and Reaction: 1968 and 2018 Differences and Similarities

America’s difficult race relations are not always rated a top issue, but are forever important. In 1968, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. ended a period of considerable progress, at least from Washington D.C., on civil rights. But, it had been accompanied with considerable conflict and confrontation.

With the death of King, the civil rights movement splintered between advocates of change within the system and those without between non-violence and a more confrontational strategy. Combined with riots that accompanied his death, a massive backlash developed that helped generate the law and order campaign of Richard Nixon and the success of Alabama governor, George Wallace.

Today, race relations continue to be a high-profile issue, with most attention on police-citizen confrontations. Politics of race is still polarized, with Donald Trump staking out his own law and order strategy and taking on defending the police, confederate statues and opposing kneeling football players.

The following chart makes some comparisons on race and reactions in 1968 and 2018. Join us May 8 to remember, compare and contrast.

1968: A Year of Turmoil and Transition
Denver Press Club
1330 Glenarm Place
Tuesday, May 8
Social Hour – 5:30 pm
Panel and presentation – 6:30 pm (no charge)

Pollster Floyd Ciruli and the Denver Press Club host a panel on 1968 and how it compares to 2018.

Wellington Webb – Former mayor of Denver, civil rights activist
Polly Baca – Democratic and civil rights activist, in LA and Chicago in 1968
Dick Wadhams – Republican campaign consultant and activist
Floyd Ciruli – Pollster, professor and in LA in 1968

Monday, May 7, 2018

War and Peace: 1968 and 2018. Different and Similar.

The turmoil and tragedies of 1968 has been described as a turning point in American politics, and indeed, once it was over, the next decade felt very different. Vietnam and domestic demonstrations were mirrored in the radical split among foreign policy elites who had been part of the Cold War consensus.

In 2018, there is considerable anxiety about American foreign policy and specific confrontations, but there are no demonstrations on the streets. Isolationism affects both parties, whereas in 1968, the Democrats became the anti-war/intervention party. In 1968, the military was denigrated by many young demonstrators. Today, they are the most respected profession and in many high government posts.

One similarity was the demographic transition of Baby Boomers becoming voting and draft age in 1968 and Millennials surging into the electorate today.

The following chart makes some comparisons on war and peace in 1968 and 2018. Join us May 8 to remember, compare and contrast.

1968: A Year of Turmoil and Transition
Denver Press Club
1330 Glenarm Place
Tuesday, May 8
Social Hour – 5:30 pm
Panel and presentation – 6:30 pm (no charge)

Pollster Floyd Ciruli and the Denver Press Club host a panel on 1968 and how it compares to 2018.

Wellington Webb – Former mayor of Denver, civil rights activist
Polly Baca – Democratic and civil rights activist, in LA and Chicago in 1968
Dick Wadhams – Republican campaign consultant and activist
Floyd Ciruli – Pollster, professor and in LA in 1968

Friday, May 4, 2018

Denver Post Suffers Another Blow

Chuck Plunkett | Photo: CBS News
Chuck Plunkett, editorial page editor, resigned criticizing the Denver Post ownership after orchestrating an extraordinary editorial tour de force in the April 8, 2018 Perspective section.

Plunkett has been a long-time Post writer on politics. He became the editorial page editor with the retirement of Vincent Carroll in 2016. For many readers, especially those engaged in community politics and public policy, the editorial page is the heart of the paper. Although he will be replaced, the Denver Post’s sagging credibility has taken another blow.

Read Colorado Politics: Defiant Denver Post opinion editor resigns 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Millennials are Marijuana Legalization’s Strongest Supporters

Marijuana legalization is highly polarized by age. In the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, 82 percent of Millennials favored legalization compared to 63 percent of the public overall and only 43 percent of people 65 years old and older.

Of the demographic and political groups reported, only Republicans (33% yes, 62% no) and persons 65 years old or over (43% yes, 52% no) opposed legalization. But among supporters, people aged 18 to 34 years old were the most supportive – 82 percent in support.

The demographic characteristics of supporters and opponents of legalization will be one of the topics at the May 15 American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver panel will consider.

Public Opinion and Legalization of Marijuana
May 15, 5:00 pm, Reception Follows
Sheraton Denver Downtown

AAPOR and the Crossley Center sponsor a panel on Marijuana, Public Opinion and Legalization.
Doug Schwartz – Quinnipiac University Poll, director, moderator
David Metz – President of FM3 pollsters in California
Rick Ridder – Campaign manager, pollster (international), Colorado
Skyler McKinley – Former Deputy Director of Colorado Office of Marijuana Coordination, Colorado government affairs AAA<
Floyd Ciruli – Director of Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, Korbel School, DU, pollster

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Year of Petition Problems: Congressman Lamborn Hangs on to the Ballot

April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz of KOA Radio asked on April 24: What were the chances U.S. Congressman Doug Lamborn would be restored onto the June 26 primary ballot after being removed by the Colorado Supreme Court for faulty petition signatures? The answer was less than 50 percent. But, Lamborn demonstrated his incredible good fortune. A federal district court judge allowed him to remain in the race.

Getting on the ballot is a candidate’s most urgent task, and in 2018, failures in the petition process have been the headline challenge. Walker Stapleton, realizing the complaints to his use of Kennedy Enterprises would dog his campaign and possibly toss him off the ballot, dropped his petition effort even after the Secretary of State had already ruled him on the ballot. He proceeded to challenge the field at the Republican State Convention – smart move, he top lined and pushed out Cynthia Coffman, a possibly strong opponent.

Rep. Doug Lamborn | Hyoung Chang/Denver Post
The 5th Congressional District is the state’s most Republican district; hence, the competition tends to be within the Republican Party. Lamborn has been especially vulnerable to primaries, given he was not the preferred candidate of his predecessor, the popular Joel Hefley. He has never won over the party’s factions nor has modest accomplishments warded off opponents.

Lamborn really had no alternative to using petitions. In his six terms, he’s had primaries in four of them and attracted two tough primary opponents in his latest run for re-election. He faces a local county commissioner and state senator. He barely got the minimum number of convention supporters in his 2016 effort. He assumed he would not have made this year’s convention ballot.

Lamborn had hoped that after his Kennedy Enterprises signers were deemed sufficient by the Secretary of State and a state court judge, after eliminated signatures from an out-of-state circulator, he was on. But objectors appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court. They ruled that additional fraudulently collected signatures must be removed, leaving Lamborn below the threshold needed. He was off the ballot.

Lamborn’s last ditch appeal to a Federal Court, hoping to have the petition requirements for in-state circulators ruled unconstitutional, appears to have been a winning argument; of course, there will likely be an appeal.

Lamborn has often won his primaries by a divided field of opponents. He may make it again.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Denver Press Club Hosts Panel – 1968: A Year of Turmoil and Transition

People say that 2018 is a year of such extraordinary political chaos and disruption that it must be unique in American history. But, 1968 saw even more violence, turmoil and disruption.

Pollster Floyd Ciruli and the Denver Press Club host a panel on 1968 and how it compares to 2018.

Wellington Webb – Former mayor of Denver, civil rights activist
Polly Baca – Democratic and civil rights activist, in LA and Chicago in 1968
Dick Wadhams – Republican campaign consultant and activist
Floyd Ciruli – Pollster, professor and in LA in 1968

Nineteen sixty-eight was the year the Baby Boomers came of age. Most were in high school or a few years out dealing with war on TV, assassinations, the credibility gap, the drugs, feminism, race and the attitude about authority. All issues important today.

Join the panel and relate how you experienced or remembered 1968’s key events in the context of today’s unbelievable year.

1968: A Year of Turmoil and Transition
Denver Press Club
1330 Glenarm Place
Tuesday, May 8
Social Hour – 5:30 pm
Panel and presentation – 6:30 pm (no charge)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Is National Legalization of Marijuana Use Inevitable?

Although polls in Colorado make clear the vote to legalize marijuana would pass again, possibly by somewhat more than the 55 percent in 2012, there remains resistance to widespread use in some Colorado communities and demographic and political groups. Nationally, polls show majority support for legalization, but also with states, populations and politics remaining resistant.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows 63 percent of the country believes marijuana use should be “made legal in the United States.” That is similar to several polls that show national support above 60 percent. A January 2018 Quinnipiac poll showed 58 percent support for legalization.

It is also clear is that legal medical use of marijuana is now a consensus position with 93 percent of the public favoring it. Also, the public does not support enforcing federal laws against marijuana in states that have already legalized it.
  • Medical marijuana legal – 93%
  • Don’t enforce federal laws against marijuana in legal states – 70%
National momentum for legalization will be one of the topics at the May 15 American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver panel will consider.

Public Opinion and Legalization of Marijuana
May 15, 5:00 pm, Reception Follows
Sheraton Denver Downtown

AAPOR and the Crossley Center sponsor a panel on Marijuana, Public Opinion and Legalization.
Doug Schwartz – Quinnipiac University Poll, director, moderator
David Metz – President of FM3 pollsters in California
Rick Ridder – Campaign manager, pollster (international), Colorado
Skyler McKinley – Former Deputy Director of Colorado Office of Marijuana Coordination, Colorado government affairs AAA
Floyd Ciruli – Director of Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, Korbel School, DU, pollster

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Denver Post’s Amazing Shout Out

Much of the nation’s media have written about and praised the Denver Post’s editorial page effort to shout out to Colorado readers that they are losing their only statewide newspaper by steady and accelerating economic attrition. But even after the effort and some suggested remedies, there remains a sense of inevitability about it – the hidden hand of market, technology and out-of-town investors, which can’t really be stopped.

Most of us recognize the quality of political life in the Denver metro region, which represents 55 percent of the state’s population, and much of its economy, sports and cultural infrastructure was diminished by the loss of the Rocky Mountain News. Today, decline of the Denver Post’s finances and reporting reach and depth, often highlighted by the thinness of the Monday edition, are a common topic of the quarter of the population that actively engage in daily local news consumption.

A sketchy version of public policy aspects of good journalism, including accountability in government, coverage of political competition for office and policy differences, and providing the forums for discussion, is moving to digital platforms. Possibly, an Amazon Prime of politics and public policy will replace the print edition. But, we will still miss the connectivity of a well-written and edited newspaper and the public service of investigative journalism that requires exceptional levels of resources and talent.

The transition to digital is leaving gaps in coverage and in our public life that newspapers best filled, but are rapidly diminishing.

Read The New Republic: Finance is killing the news

Monday, April 23, 2018

Foreign Policy Opinions: Public Likes Meetings and Tough Sanctions

President Trump is on sound ground when he advocates meetings with Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. A majority of Americans (52%) believe Trump should invite Putin to the White House to improve relations. Slightly more (56%) support Trump meeting with Kim Jong Un to try to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. They are highly skeptical it will happen (two-thirds not likely to happen), but favor the summit.

Although the public sees Russia and North Korea as threats, they support meetings, diplomacy and sanctions before conflict. For example, the public supports tougher sanctions on Russia. Sixty-eight percent advise “tougher sanctions” against Russia, including Republican (68%). A CNN poll on North Korea asked if people believed the “situation involving North Korea can be successfully resolved using only economic and diplomatic efforts.” Sixty-three percent believed it could.

See Washington Post/ABC News poll findings here

Friday, April 20, 2018

Both Parties Head for Tough Primaries; Kennedy and Stapleton Secure Top of the Ballot

As readers of The Buzz already know, Cary Kennedy and Walker Stapleton are the frontrunners of their respective parties’ nomination ballots as the two parties head into tough and expensive primaries. Both parties will likely have four candidate fields once petition certification is completed by the Secretary of State.

Democratic Convention
At Saturday’s Democratic State Convention, former State Treasurer, Cary Kennedy, crushed Jared Polis for top position on the ballot (62% to 33%). As earlier straw polls had indicated, Polis barely made the ballot.

It is likely to be a four-person primary. Democrat Mike Johnston is already on the ballot by petition and has money, if not much of a base in the regular party. He will need unaffiliated voters. Donna Lynn is awaiting certification, but unlikely to be a factor.

Republican Convention
Although Walker Stapleton still doesn’t have the whole-hearted support of the Republican Party’s rank and file conventioneers (he does better in polls), he crushed his main rival, Cynthia Coffman, who failed to make the ballot. His 44 percent win over former Parker mayor, Greg Lopez, secures his position as top of the ballot and party frontrunner.

The Republican Convention was an embarrassing loss for Coffman. As The Buzz related, she attracted little support in caucus and county assembly straw polls. In fact, Stapleton regularly beat her. His shift to the state convention was her doom, which she recognized, launching a vicious, late, but forlorn attack.

A couple of non-participants in the Republican conventions will likely be players in the primary. Vic Mitchell has money to spend on TV and a good pollster. Doug Robinson will be another Stapleton critic, assuming they both make the ballot. Greg Lopez will not likely be a top finalist once money enters the race. His convention win demonstrates many party activists are still looking for that conservative outsider who will take on the system. All the better if the person is the member of a minority the party must get more of if it is to survive in Colorado.

Read The Buzz:
KOA: Walker Stapleton Drops Petitions and Goes to Convention – April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz
Kennedy and Stapleton Frontrunners in Early Race
9News: Will Unaffiliated Voters Affect the Governor’s Race?
Governing Magazine Lists Colorado’s Governor’s Race Competitive

AAPOR National Polling Conference Panel on Marijuana Legalization – May 15

The American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) will hold its national conference for the first time in its 71-year history in Denver this May. Its opening panel on the legalization of marijuana is co-sponsored with the University of Denver-based Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Korbel School. The panel for AAPOR members is open to the public and will be held May 15 at 5:00 pm at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.

Marijuana legalization will be examined from the perspective of the interaction of public opinion and public policy. Beyond the extensive research of national trends, we now have opinion to study in several states at different stages of implementation with a variety of regulatory regimes.

Not only is public opinion analyses useful, but a variety of other metrics are available as acceptance and resistance within “legal” states continues with local votes on distribution and taxation. Also, there are growing numbers of studies, often using survey research about benefits and costs, including criminal activity, youth usage, health issues and driving.

Some topics for public opinion and marijuana panel are:
  • Current national status of public opinion on legalization of marijuana
    • Is national acceptance inevitable?
    • Which states are next to legalize? Which are not?
  • Change in opinion/political environment due to Attorney General Sessions’ position. Impact on legalization in more states.
    • How does it affect adoption of recreational use in legal states?
    • Impact of President Trump’s comments on enforcement
  • Colorado 5 years into legalization 
    • What is the geography of recreational/commercialization acceptance?
    • What are the economics of marijuana, tax benefits?
  • California one year in
    • Merge of medical and recreation
    • Conflicts between legal and illegal
Public Opinion and Legalization of Marijuana
May 15
5:00 pm
Reception Follows
Sheraton Denver Downtown
Doug Schwartz – Quinnipiac University Poll, director, moderator
David Metz – President of FM3 pollsters in California
Rick Ridder – Campaign manager, pollster (international), Colorado
Skyler McKinley – Former Deputy Director of Colorado Office of Marijuana Coordination, Colorado government affairs AAA
Floyd Ciruli – Director of Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, Korbel School, DU, pollster

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Strengthening American Democracy

Floyd Ciruli speaking at WorldDenver
Before an audience of 150 at a WorldDenver event on the worldwide crises of democracy, the loudest applause came on the topic of defending American democracy.

I related a list of actions the next administration should enact with Congress. Most of the actions were political norms that historically didn’t need statutory rules – they were usually followed, but not today. Hopefully, both parties will see the benefit of ensuring that American democracy continues to function as designed and intended, namely with a constrained executive, within clear boundaries.

Norms, like precedence, are expectations. Codifying and strict enforcement of most of the items on the list – for example, disclosure of tax returns, enforcement of limits on emoluments, prohibition of nepotism, limits on pardons – didn’t appear necessary, but when they are disregarded by an executive and other restraints are failing, statutes are necessary.

Amb. Christopher Hill and Floyd Ciruli at WorldDenver event