Friday, October 18, 2019

Pelosi and Trump are Near Tie in Favorable Public Opinion

The Speaker Confronts the President
Photo: White House
After more than a decade being pummeled by Republicans in congressional campaigns, Nancy Pelosi is now nearly even with Donald Trump in public favorability. She is the leader of the national Democratic Party and well ahead of her congressional colleagues on public approval.

Mitch McConnell is rapidly becoming the favorite target of Democrats anxious to take control of the Senate in 2020.

Arapahoe County Jail. Not Needed. Just Let the Inmates Go.

In 2019, whenever you hear the word “justice” in an organization’s name, expect extreme positions with undisclosed motivations and consequences. The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition with a “bevy of liberal groups, including the ACLU of Colorado, the Colorado People’s Alliance and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition” as labeled by the Aurora Sentinel, condemned the Arapahoe County jail improvement proposal and pushed for their “alternative justice system reform,” which could be better described as “immediate release prisoners proposal.”

In the name of reforming the system, they ignore the crowded, dangerous living conditions of current inmates. They want to change laws to charge fewer people, release most without bail and provide a near perfect diversion system. Of course, many of these reforms are untested, could have major consequences for crime levels and public safety, and are years from being realized.

In the near term, more than 1,000 prisoners are in inhumane conditions and not receiving the mental health or rehabilitation services they need. Inmates are left as hostages to their reform agenda. In addition, public safety personnel are endangered. The Arapahoe County proposal they are fighting offers all the improvements the “justice” groups claim to desire, but condemn it in their ill-conceived disinformation campaign.

Arapahoe County Justice Center and jail | Photo: CPR

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The West’s Top Pollsters Gather in San Francisco to Preview the 2020 Election

The annual Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR) will meet December 5 and 6 in San Francisco to present new research on public opinion trends and

One of the most anticipated panels brings together top western states pollsters in a panel titled, “Election Issues in Western States,” to discuss the factors that will shape the 2020 elections, especially in the West. Among topics are the presidential primaries, a host of which are looming on or before Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020. There are at least two competitive senate races – in Arizona and Colorado. And, of course, the presidential race and its impact on lower ballot races, for example, congressional races in Orange County.

The panel has assembled some of California’s best public pollsters:
  • Mark Baldassare – President of Public Policy Institute of California, frequently conducts statewide polls on political, social and economic topics
  • Mark DiCamillo – Director of the Berkeley IGS Poll. With the Los Angeles Times, polling California presidential primary and other public policy topics
  • Jill Darling – Survey Director of USC Dornsife College’s Center for Economic and Social Research, conducting national and California polls, often with the Lost Angeles Times
I will moderate the panel. My topic will be the shift in several states and sub-state jurisdictions from competitive and Republican-leaning areas to blue status today. What are the primary factors causing it and can the Republicans recover during or even post the “Trump era”?

For further information on the conference, go to the PAPOR website here

Colorado Water Congress Joins Host of Agriculture, Business and Recreation Organizations for Proposition DD

The Colorado Water Congress (CWC), the association of the state’s water community, including municipal and special district water organizations, has endorsed Proposition DD, the sports gaming for water funding proposal. They joined dozens of businesses and agricultural associations that realize the critical place water has in Colorado’s prosperity and quality of life.

Among the water agencies endorsing the proposal are: Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and Water Roundtables in the Rio Grande Basin and North Platte Basin.

Endorsements are still being collected.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

One Year to the 2020 Presidential Election, Nov. 7 Event

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research would like to invite you to attend an event it is cohosting with the Office of Global Engagement, One Year to the 2020 Presidential Election, that will be held on Thursday, November 7, 2019, at 5 p.m. in Maglione Hall at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

Can America Be Great Again?

Former Ambassador Christopher Hill and Director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, Floyd Ciruli, will assess the changes in American democracy and the impact on American foreign policy with one year remaining to the 2020 59th presidential election. What does “America First” mean and can America be great again? This event follows the November 8, 2016, “Election Ramifications;” May 1, 2016, “First 100 Days;” and November 1, 2017, “One Year After the Trump Election” events in a series evaluating the Trump presidency with Hill and Ciruli.

5:00 PM – Doors Open / Reception 
5:30 PM – Presentation 
6:15 PM – Q&A
7:00 PM – Event Concludes

Maglione Hall
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex

University of Denver
2201 S. Gaylord St., 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80208


Aurora Sentinel Endorses Prop 1A Arapahoe County Jail

In a strongly worded editorial, the Aurora Sentinel encouraged voter support for Arapahoe County Proposition 1A, which will construct a new jail with vital mental health, addiction and rehabilitation programs.

The editorial strongly scolded the opponents, for example, the ACLU of Colorado for their callous disregard of current prisoners who “must dangerously suffer inside the current jail” and the safety of sheriff personnel while they demand the end of bail and release of most inmates.

EDITORIAL: We can’t wait for sentencing reform, Prop 1A will end Arapahoe County jail peril and cruelty now – Yes on 1A

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The House Will Indict President Trump

At the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s turgid testimony (July 2019), there were 100 House members ready to proceed to an impeachment inquiry. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “no.” There was no Republican support, and most importantly for her most vulnerable members, only a third of the public was in favor.

Slowly, actions by President Trump (obstruction to congressional inquiries), the pro-impeachment politics in member districts and pressure to move forward within the beltway got that number to 150 by early September. So, when the much clearer and more dramatic Ukrainian whistleblower story broke, it didn’t take long to assemble the current 225 members in favor on an inquiry, move Pelosi to say “yes” (Sept. 25, 2019), and after waiting five months, proceed with speed.

Prediction: Trump will be indicted by the House. Pelosi, Adam Schiff and House leadership must only handle Trump’s defense and keep a majority of the public satisfied that the process is fair and well-managed. (More than 50% now favor an inquiry and very near a majority (49%) favor impeachment.)

Observation: Trump is so convinced that Joe Biden will beat him in key swing states, he has repeatedly engaged in Ukraine-type acts and empowered his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to do likewise. “Biden fear” has launched Trump’s impeachment – like Dick Nixon’s fear of Democrats in 1972.

Mueller Report: The Mueller Report and Robert Mueller’s testimony remain a powerful constant in the impeachment story. One hundred members said they were for an inquiry after the testimony. For them, the Ukrainian imbroglio is just more evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

See The Buzz:
DU Panel on Colorado 2020 Primaries Attracted a Packed House
Fast Moving Impeachment Story Driving Public Opinion

DU Panel on Colorado 2020 Primaries Attracted a Packed House

Does impeachment spell doom for Cory Gardner? Can Hickenlooper survive the Democrats’ climate change agenda? Will Bernie Sanders be a viable candidate in the Colorado March 3rd primary? Will the unaffiliated vote in the primaries favor Biden, Warren, Buttigieg, others? Can Proposition CC overcome the voter skepticism of state tax initiatives?

The panel of political experts opined on these and a host of other topics shaping Colorado’s 2020 political environment and likely to influence the March 3rd presidential and June 30th senate primaries. The panel was bipartisan with longtime participants in the political process who are often called on to make public observations.

Steve Welchert, Democratic consultant, Channel 7
Sheila MacDonald, Democratic consultant, Denver City election
Kelly Maher, Republican consultant, Channel 9
Dick Wadhams, Republican consultant, former state chair

Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, moderated. The event was organized by the Crossley Center. The panel had some sharp disagreements, but they made a point of describing their friendships and observed that politics can be civil in spite of differences of opinion.

More than 60 community members, professors and students participated and offered commentary and questions.

The Crossley Center will sponsor another forum in the spring as the political year gets underway.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Who Votes in Colorado’s Presidential Primary?

Will 200,000, 600,000 or a million voters participate in the March 3 presidential primary? In Colorado’s first presidential primary in 1992, Governor Jerry Brown just edged out the comeback kid, Bill Clinton, and Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas in a contest that attracted 235,000 voters. That vote total was the decade-long high for turnout in Colorado’s presidential primaries.

In 2000, the last year a primary was conducted, 178,000 voted in the Republican primary between George Bush and John McCain, and 84,000 Democrats showed up to support Al Gore over Bill Bradley.

Governor Bill Owens, with legislative help, shifted back to the caucus system, which parties operate and pay for. They usually don’t attract much more than 100,000 to 150,000 voters in competitive years.

But, Colorado’s recent June 2018 gubernatorial primary attracted more than a million participants, including over 200,000 unaffiliated voters who can now participate in party primaries. The Democratic side of the primary saw 640,000. Combined with the ease of mail-back voting, will 600,000 Democrats show up on March 3 presidential primary? Will opposition to President Trump attract any Republican partisans?

Brian Werner Takes a Break After 37 Years as Northern’s Public Affairs Guru

Brian Werner
A generation of water leaders, many starting their careers in the 1980s, are retiring. Brian Werner, after 37 years heading up Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s public communications activity, is going fishing – he will be retiring at the end of 2019. Brian has a Masters in history and was also the unofficial historian of water development and management in northern Colorado.

His job became more and more important in recent decades as Northern Water, with local community partners, took up major projects to preserve and extend supplies. Windy Gap and Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) will be two projects Werner will receive major recognition for his public affairs accomplishments.

I have had the good fortune to work with Brian for more than a decade. His projects are in construction or near final approvals. They are among his many legacies. Northern Colorado residents will benefit from his efforts for decades.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Surprise, Denver Post Opposes TABOR Override – Proposition CC

With a huge financial advantage, drafted by the dominant Democratic Party and supported by many within the business, local government and nonprofit establishments, Proposition CC was assumed to be the recipient of endorsements from organizations hostile to TABOR and favoring bigger government.

Not the Denver Post. In a Sunday editorial, the paper criticizes the proposition’s revenue allocation as “fatally flawed” and the override’s permanent aspect making it impossible to correct.

The Post, of course, does not like TABOR and believes more money is needed for education and transportation, but Proposition CC will:
  • Exasperate K-12 educator inequalities
  • Create a lobbyist windfall for higher education funding
  • And leave transportation allocation undefined
Drafters knew the permanent aspect was an overreach. We shall see if they can sell it. The Denver Post said “no.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

KOA: Age is Becoming an Issue in the Democratic Primary

Bernie Sanders’ cancelled events and hospitalization was the topic in an October 3 interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz. Shortly before Sanders’ health crisis, former President Jimmy Carter had suggested an age cap might be appropriate for serving as president.

Bernie Sanders leaves Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in
Las Vegas after suffering heart attack, Oct. 5, 2019 | Photo: CNN
Sanders, who is 78, had political problems before his heart attack (later confirmed). He was never able to get even with Joe Biden in the polls, and most recently, he’s slipped behind Elizabeth Warren nationally, but more importantly, in early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire and Super Tuesday mega state, California.

Sanders is not alone at the top of the Democratic primary field dealing with the age question. Joe Biden is 76 and was challenged in the last debate by Julián Castro, and Elizabeth Warren is 70 and demonstrates her vigor by often jogging up to the podium at events. And, for course, President Trump is 73, and frequently feels compelled to say he is a “stable genius.”

If one of the septuagenarians wins the nomination, age may become a vice presidential selection criterion. Fortunately, most of the second- and third-tier candidates – Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet and others – are younger and would most likely accept second-place.

Former President Jimmy Carter | Photo:
It’s interesting that Jimmy Carter, who is a 96-year-old brain cancer survivor, should suggest an age limit. With chronic illnesses better managed and life expectancy now at 79, limits are unlikely. Voters are likely to continue to use mental and physical performances on the campaign as the best indicator of health and ability to handle the job.

Listen to interview here

Fast Moving Impeachment Story Driving Public Opinion

A majority of the American people (51%) now support the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s Ukraine behavior and 46 percent support impeachment and removal, a 10-point increase of support since July (36% to 46% today).

Although President Trump has been losing the early media exchanges due to the events of the last two weeks and their saturation media coverage, it is still difficult to see how support for removal rises much above the approval of his performance (43%). Also, with nearly 90 percent of Republican-identified voters opposing impeachment, anticipating a break by Republican congresspersons and senators from Trump seems unrealistic (favor impeachment: Democrats 79%, independents 44%, Republicans 2%, Source: 538).

The key group to watch will be self-described independents. They have been 5 to 10 points less in favor of impeachment than the average. If they start to shift in favor, the numbers for impeachment will surge and numerous Senate and House Republicans in competitive states and districts could lose interest in defending the President.

Read The Buzz: Support for impeachment inquiry increases, country now closely divided

Friday, October 4, 2019

Campaigns Underway for Two Statewide Propositions

After a late start, the TABOR override, Proposition CC, campaign finally launched with a $1.8 million war chest and a month to convince voters to shift state tax refunds to education and transportation. Opponents, with much less funding, have been in the field with online media and grassroots activity since the summer.

The major difference in campaign financing between the two groups is that many pro-spending initiatives can call on a host of wealthy individuals and interest groups, such as the educational unions and professional associates. Pro TABOR groups don’t have the same friends and allies. The Koch brothers’ funds are one of the few sources often available.

It is likely at the next finance report on October 25, there will be a considerable increase in money raised.

Not surprising, the sports gaming proposition has nearly all its campaign financing – over $900,000 from the gaming industry. The opposition, self-described Coloradans for Climate Justice, had not reported on September 25 and likely will have little funding.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

U.S. Senate Nomination – Colorado

The Democrats will have a spirited contest for their U.S. Senate nomination against incumbent Cory Gardner. It is assumed the winner has a better than ever chance to defeat Gardner in a state that has been trending Democratic in a year Donald Trump’s re-election will dominate politics. President Trump lost the state by 5 points in 2016, and every recent poll and the 2018 midterm reinforce that he could lose by more in November 2020.

Colorado uses a bifurcated system of nominations, with a caucus-convention process and petitioning. In recent years, both systems have been used with party activists dominating caucus and convention, but often more popular, ambitious nominees use petitions. Current frontrunner, John Hickenlooper, will first have to campaign among the 100,000 to 150,000 party activists that have historically participated in the caucus and convention system. If that appears a problem, he could use the petition process.

In 2018, both gubernatorial frontrunners and eventual nominees used the petition system. Walker Stapleton didn't file his petition due to legal questions and won topline at the Republican State Convention. Jared Polis also participated in the caucus/convention and got 33 percent (above the 30 percent requirement for nomination).

The primary is June 30 next year, which will designate each party’s nominee. Turnout in the 2018 gubernatorial primaries was at record levels due to the participation of large numbers of unaffiliated voters. On June 26, 637,000 Democrats and 503,000 Republicans participated.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Gaming Helps the Environment

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) announced that its latest awards included a $7.5 million grant, which provided half the funds to create the state’s newest park, Fisher’s Peak, with its iconic rock feature near Trinidad.
Fisher’s Peak Ranch in southeast Colorado | The Nature Conservancy

GOCO is one of Colorado’s most successful independent grant-making agencies. It was created by a voter approved initiative, and has invested $1.2 billion of lottery gaming proceeds into the preservation of 1.2 million acres of land, restoration of 900 miles of trails and funded more than 5,000 projects in its 27-year existence.

Ciruli Associates helped design the initiative in 1991 and directed the petition and election campaign and its public opinion research through a 58 percent statewide victory in 1992.

The initiative created the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, which redirected lottery gaming proceeds from prison construction into the preservation of open space and a host of preservation, restoration and recreation projects for the state and local communities.

On the 2019 ballot, Proposition DD proposes using gaming revenue from sports betting for water conservation and management programs. Will the public see the benefit of using a gaming tax for an environmental purpose? They did in 1992.

Colorado Senate Race With Three Million Voters, But Within Two Points, or 60,000 Votes?

Colorado voter registration is racing toward four million (3.9 million active and inactive today) and turnout is exceeding 75 percent. In the 2004 presidential election, registration was 3.1 million, with Republican registrants ahead of unaffiliated voters and 178,000 in front of Democrats. Republican officeholders had dominated the state with President Bush winning the electoral vote, and Republicans having the governorship, both senators and four of the congressional seats.

After a decade of rapid population growth, starting after the Great Recession (2008), Democrats went ahead of Republicans, but unaffiliated voters exceeded them both. They are now at 39 percent of the active electorate, and exceeding second-place Democrats by more than 300,000 voters. Republicans have dropped into third-place.

Turnout is also rapidly increasing. The most recent non-presidential year, the 2018 midterm, had a peak turnout when 2.5 million voters showed up and gave the Democrats an across-the-board win. Interest in the upcoming election and the polarized political environment suggest a robust turnout exceeding 3 million voters.

Although turnout has grown, the results in the U.S. Senate races are frequently tight between the parties, except for Michael Bennet’s 2016 blowout of Darryl Glenn by 155,000 votes. It was a good Democratic year – Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 5 points and Darryl Glenn was not a strong candidate and took a long time to develop a campaign.

The 2010 and 2014 elections were within 2 points and less than 40,000-voter difference. Colorado was considered a swing state and statewide elections were often closely contested. Is the growing Democratic advantage seen in the Bennet senate and Jared Polis gubernatorial races (10-point wins) becoming the longer-term trend or is it just a reflection of the polarization of the Trump era?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Numbers Start to Move – Iowa Caucus First; Warren Surges, Bernie Falters and Biden Drifts Lower

In the September 18 Iowa poll of caucus goers, who will start the run into the 2020 caucuses and primaries on February 3, Elizabeth Warren was ahead of Joe Biden, 22 points to 20. The biggest loss of support was registered by Bernie Sanders, down 5 points since the June CNN/Des Moines Register/ poll. The poll was conducted by Selzer and Co, Sept. 14-18, with 602 caucus goers by phone.

New polls in New Hampshire and California show the same shift with Warren now in the lead in both states.

Iowa is not typical of the Democratic Party’s makeup, but often has massive impact on the frontend of the race. Barack Obama won it in 2008, and in 2016, Hillary Clinton (49.8%) and Bernie Sanders (49.6%) tied. It is a mostly white, middle- and upper-class Democratic electorate that is highly liberal in its policy preferences, although in 2020, tempered by a near desperate desire to defeat Donald Trump.

Reflecting the latest polls, including a couple of national polls showing Warren ahead of or closing in, Biden (27%) remains only 4 points ahead nationally, with the new second-place candidate, Warren (23%), and Sanders now in a double-digit third-place (18%) (RealClearPolitics, Sept. 30, 2019).

Colorado’s primary is one month later than Iowa’s on March 3, Super Tuesday, with 15 other states. The state’s only candidate left in the race, Michael Bennet, did not receive enough first-place votes out of the 602 interviewed in Iowa to round to one percent. Should Mr. Bennet give it up? Does Biden’s downward trajectory create a new opportunity for Bennet? How does, if at all, impeachment change the calculus?

Impeachment Opinion is Moving, But Not Trump’s Approval

Action tends to be better in politics than reaction, and Democrats now have charged into what will likely be the dominant political story for the near future. Congressional hearings through the holidays, a new lead topic at the presidential debates, possible changes in the line-up, and a potentially competing story for next year’s primaries.

Public opinion will be a key factor to watch as the parties and personalities struggle to control the narrative. The ratio that has dominated the Trump presidency is 40/55. The President’s approval and disapproval have ranged within 3 to 5 points, plus or minus of those numbers. As the impeachment process continues and time for the primaries closes, presidential approval, support for impeachment and the President’s head-to-head numbers will be key indicators as to the impact of impeachment on the election. Very importantly will be the movement of Republicans, both voters and elected officials. The following are some early numbers.

“Whether you love me or hate me…” – Donald Trump, Aug. 16, 2019

The most recent Sabato Crystal Ball rates the national election a deadlock, with 248 electoral voters each for Trump’s re-election and a generic Democrat. The 42 electoral vote toss-up states are: Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10) (Nebraska 2nd CD). And, other likely battleground states due to their closeness in 2016 and won by Democrats are , Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nevada. Of course, Trump just claimed New Mexico was a target, which most observers believe is a longshot.

On August 16, Trump brought the road show to New Hampshire, a state that Sabato puts on the “lean Democrat” category due to the President’s repeated low poll approvals. But, the campaign believes he can win it. It was here that Trump announced “Whether you love me or hate me, you have to vote for me” because your financial future will go “down the tubes” without his re-election.

Trump was beginning to recognize that he is ten points behind the Democratic frontrunner and the latest University of New Hampshire poll shows the usual 42 percent approval, 7 points below a 49 percent approval for handling the economy.

Trump is mostly right about the importance of the economy for his re-election. History indicates how important it is to re-election, but in Trump’s case, it also makes up for the fact that his personality is a drag on his approval and re-elect numbers. Trump has the good fortune that in the last 100 years the S&P 500 has been up about twice as often than down, but up 20 percent to 30 percent less frequently. The bigger lift is probably needed by Trump to make up for his grinding personal behavior.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Support for Impeachment Inquiry Increases, Country Now Closely Divided

New polls from Politico since the whistleblower revelations and Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry show that the public has shifted from 36 percent in favor to 49 percent against impeachment, to a tie of 43 percent in favor and 43 percent against. Much of the movement in favor is among Democrats, who are now 77 percent in favor of an impeachment inquiry compared to 66 percent in a poll before the latest developments (only 10% of Republicans and 39% of independents support impeachment). A new NPR/PBS/Marist poll confirms the Politico survey, but suggests more movement toward an inquiry is likely.

Up until the latest revelations, impeachment had been unpopular (see Quinnipiac and Monmouth surveys). And, although support has increased the last few days for an inquiry, it’s too early to judge a shift in sentiment toward indictment or conviction.

Proposition DD: Dealing With Colorado’s Mixed Views on Gaming, Water Funding and State Taxes

Colorado voters have had an ambivalent relationship with gaming, limited experience with tax funding water projects and are decidedly hostile to statewide tax increases.

State Taxes
Elections since the early 2000s reinforce voters’ lack of trust and support for state tax increases, for example, with “no” votes for education funding in 2005 and a deluge of “no” votes in the high turnout, generally liberal, electorate of 2018, defeating tax increases for schools and roads.

The only water proposal using bonds to fund water projects was crushed in 2003 (Amendment A).

After years of effort, a limited gaming proposal was approved in 1990, legalizing casinos in three small mountain communities, with final approval in 1992. Since then, efforts to increase gaming to other locations, such as a host of small counties and cities outside the Front Range and at race tracks, have been defeated. Only a proposal to expand hours and betting limits in the three casino cities passed (2008) since the original authorization.

In the last two decades. Gaming expansion beyond the current footprint has been defeated by super majorities (81% in 2003 and 70% in 2014). In both cases, the gaming industry mounted well-funded opposition campaigns. In 2003, the proposal expanding gaming to video lottery, to horse and dog racing tacks, and again in 2014, the goal was to provide economically-struggling race tracks with off-site betting – the answer was no.

Legislative and industry proponents of Proposition DD, the 2019 gaming sports proposal, have tried to carefully tread this difficult history. Their proposal offers the following:
  • Limit expansion to benefit current casinos. Get existing industry to support.
  • Protect from tax revenue shifts from current beneficiaries, such as the Historical Society and local governments.
  • Attract as much of the political establishment as possible, but at least avoid the animosity of the governor. Previous governors, especially Roy Romer and Bill Owens, were decidedly anti-gaming expansion.
  • The beneficiaries of the gaming revenue have seldom been much help. Economic development for small communities, tourism and K-12 education have not especially attracted voters to overcome the determined opposition of the current casino industry. But, water funding has its own problems – witness the 2003 debacle. Using the well-regarded, but little known State Water Plan, was an effort to reduce the usual arguments related to East and West Slopes and conservation vs. storage. The small amount of money (possibly $20 million) also reduces the arguments since it is obviously a program modest in size and scope.
  • Finally, due to TABOR, the ballot language highlights the state tax increase. Hence, the proposal will need to emphasize the tax is modest and only on the gaming users. The proceeds are for regulation enforcement and the principle beneficiaries.
The campaign will start in earnest in early October and mail-back voting shortly begins after October 14.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Anna Staver: Colorado Voters Have an Ambivalent Relationship to Gaming, Denver Post

In a front page, top-of-the-field story, Denver Post reporter, Anna Staver, captures Colorado voters’ ambivalence toward gaming. After having authorized casino gaming in 1990 and 1992 in three historic mountain towns, they have decisively said “no” to expansions off those footprints. She points out that at least some of the resistance is based on the mixed results in the three communities, especially in terms of historic preservations as key original purpose.

I related some history of gaming elections:

Ciruli has asked voters about several gambling ballot measures over the last two decades. The only successful campaign was in 2008, when Colorado voters gave the existing casino towns permission to raise bet limits, add games and stay open round-the-clock. It passed, he said, because it didn’t expand gambling to other parts of the state — giving it critical support from the gaming industry.

“Once we passed gaming, what is very clear is the voters of Colorado do not want to expand it,” he said. “It is where it is, and we don’t want to see it anyplace else.”

She quoted Governor Roy Romer’s opposition in 1990, and I pointed out that proposals in a host of smaller towns and counties were defeated (Pueblo, Manitou Springs and Trinidad, and numerous small cities and counties, mostly in southeast and southwest Colorado).

“Some were quite sympathetic,” Ciruli said. “But we’ve just never been able to get off those campuses.”

My polling (Adams County likely 2019 voters) suggests the vote is close, with nearly a fifth of voters unaware of the issue. But, an effective “yes” campaign should get a “yes” vote.

Longtime Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli told The Denver Post the limited polling so far suggests a coin toss when it comes to the proposition’s chances in November, but he’s still betting on the “yes” campaign convincing enough voters to put DD over the top. If passed, taxes raised from it would go toward the state’s water plan.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Jerd Smith: Proposition DD Off to Slow Start

Jerd Smith, as part of her Water Education Colorado beat, reported that with six weeks until the November 5 election, the public has a low-level of awareness of Proposition DD, legalizing sports gaming to fund the State Water Plan.

Supporters have a major media campaign planned and no funded opposition. But, they still have a lot of voters to convince.

Smith reported on my Adams County voter poll that showed nearly a fifth of voters undecided (18%) and support below opposition as the campaign began. Also, men (47%) are much more supportive than women (32%).

But, I argue:

With campaign coffers full, DD could get a yes from Coloradans, Ciruli said.

“The public, over the years, has demonstrated that water is very valued and the water plan itself was popular,” Ciruli said. “Right now, beyond extreme environmental interests, [DD] isn’t generating much opposition. It could be a good sell.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Frank Evans’ Legacy: Payment in Lieu of Taxes

Frank Evans
It was just announced that Colorado will receive $40 million out of $514.7 million distributed by the Department of the Interior because of the 1976 passed statute, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).

Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet and, of course, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the awards to local communities, mostly smaller rural countries where a large federal footprint deprives local governments of tax revenue. Recently, the funding battle has been to fully fund the distribution.

PILT was one of the most significant legislative accomplishments of Congressman Frank Evans of Pueblo (3rd CD, 1964-1978). Passed in 1976, it took years of work with the National Association of Counties (NACo) to convince easterners that small counties with large federal institutions and land holdings are deprived of essential tax revenue for schools, roads and local services.

Frank, always supported by his partner and wife, Eleanor, worked tirelessly from his perch on the Appropriations Committee (he had seniority and many friends) to pass PILT, which has provided more than $9 billion for local government since its passage.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

DU Panel on 2020 Election: Presidential and Senate Primaries, October 8, 2019

On March 3, 2020, Colorado will hold its first presidential primary in twenty years. It will join fifteen others states on Super Tuesday to help sort out the race. What will the field look like? Who will win Colorado and who’s likely to be the frontrunner on March 4?

Also, Colorado has one of the U.S. Senate races that could decide which party controls the chamber. Will John Hickenlooper maintain his frontrunner status into the June 30, 2020 primary? Does Cory Gardner have a path to victory?

On October 8, 2019, the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Korbel School at the University of Denver will assemble a bipartisan panel of political experts to examine and debate the political environment.

Panel Discussion: Colorado 2020 Presidential and Senate Primaries: 

Moderator: Floyd Ciruli, Director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research

Steve Welchert – Democratic consultant, campaign manager, congressional candidates, ballot issues
Sheila MacDonald – Democratic consultant, campaign manager, ballot issues
Kelly Maher – Republican consultant, 9KUSA commentator
Dick Wadhams – Republican consultant, campaign manager and former State Chair

Tuesday, October 8, 2019
5:30 pm to 8:00 pm
University of Denver Campus
Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex
Room 1150
2201 S. Gaylord St., Denver, CO

RSVP to:

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Photo Op Diplomacy

John Bolton | Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Although there is near universal relief from American allies and adversaries with the departure of John Bolton, at least one of his positions that aroused the ire of Donald Trump was welcomed in foreign policy circles – criticism of photo op diplomacy.

Photo op diplomacy, like handshakes in Singapore, walks across the DMZ, smiles in Helsinki, and proposed Taliban meetings at Camp David and at the UN with Iranian leaders, all devoid of any planning, strategy or follow-up. Of course, Bolton’s opposition was to negotiating at all with the countries and leaders.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un cross the DMZ in Panmunjom,
South Korea, June 30, 2019 | Dong-A Ilbo/Getty Images

Hill and Ciruli: Countdown to the 2020 Election: What’s at Stake for the U.S. and the World?

Ambassador Christopher Hill and Pollster and Professor, Floyd Ciruli, have tracked the Trump administration from Election Night in November 2016 through its first 100 days, to its one- and two-year anniversaries with commentary and analyses. Now, as the administration approaches its re-election effort, Hill and Ciruli will preview the 2020 election, one year out. The presentation will include the Democratic presidential primary and Colorado senate race, review of the main issues and the impact the election could have on the U.S. in world affairs.

Join Ambassador Hill and Professor Ciruli in a night of political and public policy discussion on November 7, 2019, hosted by the Office of Global Engagement at the University of Denver and the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the Korbel School. Save the date. More details later.

November 7, 2019
Maglione Hall
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex

University of Denver
2201 S. Gaylord St., 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80208

Monday, September 16, 2019

Denver Metro Area Continues to Prosper

Recent cautious state and private financial projections of 2020 Colorado tax revenue are incorporating the many factors that appear to be slowing down the U.S. and world economies. But, the Denver metro area continues to show considerable prosperity.

The year-to-date increase in sales tax in the metro area for July is 5.7 percent, a significant increase showing consumer and business activity in the area and a reflection of continued growth in the economy and population. The 2019 rate has held steadily at about 4 percent and not declined yet.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Castro Crosses a Line, Helps Biden

Julián Castro attacked Joe Biden on his age. The audience booed and his fellow debaters criticized it. Biden was helped, not hurt. He gained sympathy; Castro, from his one percent position, looked desperate. He tried to bail out in later interviews, but damaged his already negligible chance to move up.

Joe Biden at Sept. 12, 2019 debate | Win McNamee/Getty Images
Julian Castro at Sept. 12, 2019 debate | Getty Images
The exchange provided two main observations. Ageism is a dangerous strategy when the top three nominees are over 70. Secondly, the media establishment and Democratic-leaning commentariat are beginning to move toward Biden due to 1) his survival after three months of debate attacks, 2) the contrast his image and demeanor provide to Trump (highlighting Trump’s main weakness), and 3) polls that seem to confirm electability (the top nomination criteria).

Hickenlooper’s Position Strengthening

The most serious candidates running for senate in terms of fundraising and experience are dropping out and endorsing John Hickenlooper. Mike Johnston, John Walsh and Dan Baer have begun the consolidation behind Hickenlooper, which is reflected in the polls of the Democratic rank and file. As I blogged yesterday, Democrats want to beat Cory Gardner and Mitch McConnell, not engage in an intraparty fight.

John Hickenlooper, along with other contenders for the Democratic primary
 runoff,  at the Durango Public Library, Sept. 7, 2019 | Jerry McBride/Durango

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hickenlooper in Trouble?

The mostly unknown group of U.S. Senate candidates is hoping that the Colorado Democratic Party is as divided between progressives and moderates as the national party appears.

Some local political observers seem to agree, but that viewpoint is countered repeatedly by polls. A just released poll makes it clear that John Hickenlooper is a 60-percentage point favorite for the nomination (PPP, 8-28, 30, 2019), and in a host of polls, he’s the ten-point leader over incumbent Republican Cory Gardner.

Even among very liberal Denver Democrats, Hickenlooper receives nearly half the primary vote. Why isn’t the progressive/moderate divide helping the arguably farther left candidates, especially Andrew Romanoff?

Answer: Because the overwhelming interest of Democrats isn’t the right-left contrast, but defeating Cory Gardner, who they consider far-right. In this calculation, Romanoff’s handicap is that he’s lost two high-profile races. He has little credibility that he can win statewide. The other candidates are mostly unknown and untested in the critical criteria of defeating a strong campaigner like Gardner, who will have millions of dollars available for negative advertising. A two-term gubernatorial track record is a huge advantage for Hickenlooper over lesser known candidates without similar political experiences.

Hickenlooper was a bust in the presidential race, but he’s going to be hard to beat for the senate nomination.

John Hickenlooper, along with other contenders for the Democratic
primary runoff, at a forum at the Durango Public Library,
Sept. 7, 2019 | Jerry McBride/Durango

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Crow Gets a Challenger

Steve House, former State Republican Chairman and recent party CEO, has just announced a challenge against freshman Congressman Jason Crow. In an interview with April Zesbaugh and Ed Green, the question was why since Crow just won a huge victory over seemingly indestructible Republican Michael Coffman, mostly attributed to an outpouring of opposition to Donald Trump, and Trump will be on the ballot in 2020.

The Republican Party recognizes that without winning back, or at least making inroads, in a key county like Arapahoe, they can’t win back the U.S. House or hold the Senate.

Their calculation includes the following:
  1. Freshman congresspersons historically are most vulnerable in their first re-elections. That is less true with Crow given the high visibility race to win and the deep polarization in U.S. politics.
  2. To win back the House, the suburban Sixth District has to be on the list. Hence, House should be able to expect funding if any early polling shows his candidacy has some traction. Mid- to late summer will likely decide his support from D.C.
  3. A good ground game and active party operation in Arapahoe will be critical to Cory Gardner’s turnout statewide.
  4. Finding a message that will appeal to unaffiliated voters is a key to winning Arapahoe County. The party needs to step up its effort more beyond the base to be competitive in the metro area. Can House help do that? 
  5. Finally, can the Colorado Republican Party separate votes for and against Trump and its state and local candidates? In 2018, sending a message produced a 10-point plus Democratic advantage. It’s a difficult task.
Crow is obviously moving away from a less partisan and moderate image. On July 31, he endorsed initiating an impeachment inquiry against Trump. In May, he did not join his liberal colleagues, Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse, to start an impeachment inquiry. Most voters do not support impeachment. So, many Democratic House members from swing districts, including a cautious House leadership, remain opposed to a formal inquiry starting. Crow must feel confident the 6th District is leaning very blue, especially with Donald Trump leading the Republican ticket.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Dick Kirk

Richard A. Kirk
Dick Kirk was one of the civic leaders who helped guide Denver into its global ascent. As the chairman of Wells Fargo, he was responsible for Denver’s most distinct modern building – the “cash register.” Although Kirk made major contributions to most of Denver’s big projects – DIA, Convention Center, stadiums and light rail – it was flora and fauna, the Denver Botanic Gardens, that got special attention.

From various leadership positions at the Denver Chamber and DDI, Kirk put his expertise, networks and support to the city’s major investments. He was a part of the group of business leaders who realized that only by working together with local government, nonprofits and civic associations would anything substantial get done.

Dick’s second wife, Susan, was as committed to her causes as he. Together they were a fun, dynamic couple.

Thank you, Dick. Generations will be living on the legacy.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Sports Betting Coming to Colorado?

Online sports betting is moving rapidly into the states since the Supreme Court 2015 ruling it was allowed. Some states, like New Jersey, allow wide-open online sports gaming. Eighty percent of all New Jersey legal wager games are now online, with betting tied with Nevada. Other states, like Colorado, are considering legalization, but limiting it to casinos. Twelve states currently allow sports betting, and four of them limit betting to physical locations, which is the approach Colorado voters will decide on November 5, 2019.

Colorado’s Proposition DD starts with little public awareness, but a good chance of passage if strongly promoted. However, as a tax increase, even if a sin tax, TABOR language applies, so as opposed to the happy talk language of the TABOR override (Proposition CC), the sports betting initiative opens with: “Shall state taxes be increased by $29 million annually…”

Proposition DD: Authorize and tax sports betting

A recent poll among Adams County likely November voters showed support and opposition both well under 50 percent and about tied with a significant, but not surprising, 18 percent undecided (40% favor, 42% oppose).

But with funds going to valued Colorado water programs and support but no opposition from the gaming community, the proposition should be able to overcome initial concern about giving more tax dollars to the ill-trusted state government. One hostile group is the most adamant anti-water management environmentalists. They are trying to rally their constituents in opposition.

A well-funded campaign has already started public relations with endorsements from agricultural organizations. It is also endorsed by the water provider community and business community.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Mike Johnston. The First Casualty of Hickenlooper’s Shift: KOA Interview, Jerry Bell

Mike Johnston, possibly the strongest candidate in the Democratic senate field, just quit the race. The $2.6 million he raised since the first of the year was more than John Hickenlooper collected in his failed presidential bid. But, with Hickenlooper’s entry into the race, winning the primary would require an all-out intraparty war, which was very much a longshot and likely to be broadly criticized by Democrats as self-destructive to the effort to defeat Cory Gardner. Johnston is likely to be the first of several candidates who make a similar calculation.

Hickenlooper is a very lucky politician. While he won’t be president, his senate nomination is looking more like his gubernatorial nomination in 2010 – a near appointment to the job.
Mike Johnston drops out of senate race | Andy Cross/Denver Post

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

John Ensslin’s Last Beat

John Ensslin loved politics. In his final election, the long-time Rocky Mountain News reporter and recent Colorado Politics scribe threw himself into the Denver’s mayor’s race. He moderated a major debate, conducted a podcast, and reported on the ups and downs of the fast-moving race. A contribution to the city he knew and loved.

Read The Buzz:
Ensslin and Westergaard: Dedicated to Fact-Based News
Colorado Politics and John Ensslin on Watching the Denver Mayor Returns

Charlie Brown and Lynn Bartels opine on the Denver
city election | John C. Ensslin/Colorado Politics
John Ensslin addresses Denver mayoral candidates for One
Colorado's mayoral forum at the EXDO Event Center
in Denver, April 4, 2019 | Andy Colwell/Colorado Politics

Sloppers Eating Contest at Fair: Winner Downed 28 in 8 Minutes

The Colorado State Fair’s Labor Day weekend had an eating contest featuring Pueblo’s famous and unique slopper, an open-faced cheeseburger smothered with Pueblo green chile, cheese and onions.

The event attracted national professional eaters. The winner was from Virginia and consumed 28 of the sloppy burgers.

The slopper and the local sausage sandwich (grinder) are Pueblo traditions. The Gradose family provided the green chile and Pagano’s Pass Key has the grinders.

Read Pueblo Chieftain: Colorado State Fair: Virginian gets crown after 28 sloppers
First-ever Slopper Eating Contest at the
Colorado State Fair in Pueblo, Aug. 31, 2019 | KRDO

Friday, August 30, 2019

Mattis’ New Book – September 3

General Jim Mattis is beginning to speak. His book, “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” is published September 3, 2019. In an essay in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday (Aug. 28), he outlined his concern with the country’s political polarization and its international go-it-alone approach, especially related to maintaining allies. Along with his resignation letter, the two documents serve as a clear rebuke to President Trump and his governing philosophy and style, especially as applied to his foreign policy. The book tour will be as interesting as the book.

Read Mattis’ resignation letter here

Gen. Jim Mattis and President Donald Trump | PBS NewsHour

Cavuto Fires Back

Neil Cavuto blasted President Trump on his show
Aug. 29, following the president’s latest attack on
the network | Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post
Neil Cavuto, who broadcasts one of the few opinion shows on Fox Business that tries to present a
balanced perspective, responded to President Trump after his attack on the conservative news organization for a lack of support:

“First of all, Mr. President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you. Just report on you – call balls and strikes on you.”

Nicely phrased Neil.

Read HuffPost: Trump’s War With Fox News Heats Up As Neil Cavuto Delivers Fiery Takedown

KOA Interview: Hickenlooper Goes for Fast Break

John Hickenlooper rushed into the Colorado U.S. Senate race with his third video of the year, racking up a game of pool at his old brew pub, the Wynkoop (his announcement was March 4 and his withdrawal August 15). He moved quickly because there are 11 Democrats already in the race and they appear unlikely to drop out or stop their fundraising, endorsement seeking or organizing. In an interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz on August 23, we discussed what challenges he faces in the transition from a failed presidential campaign to frontrunner in the Colorado Senate race.

Failed President Campaign

It had been clear to most observers that after the second presidential debate in late July that Hickenlooper had little to no possibility to make the next debate round. And, in spite of his repeated efforts to downplay any interest in the Colorado Senate race, a host of D.C. politicians and media personalities told him to drop out and switch.

Once a decision was made, he conferred with his colleague, Michael Bennet, and began a fast and well-planned transition as the video and some early endorsements show.


Numerous polls confirm that Hickenlooper would enter as the frontrunner against the little known Democratic primary field (more than 50 points in one poll) and that 2020 was likely a Democratic year in Colorado, with a 10- to 13-point advantage (much of the Democratic ticket won by more than 10 points in 2018).

Hickenlooper’s problem is that there are two Democratic parties voting in the Democratic primary next June. There are about 150,000 party activists. They represent the more progressive wing of the party and various important interest and identity groups, like organized labor, environmentalists, women and minorities. (There will also be a new bloc of unaffiliated voters who can participate.)

Previous elections and recent polls confirm that the progressive wing comprises more than half of these activists. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren supporters are part of this group and don’t appreciate Hickenlooper’s anti-Medicare for All and Green New Deal positions. Anti-frackers have become more powerful in Colorado since Hickenlooper left office. They will actively oppose him. The teachers union opposes his position on charter schools and will likely find other candidates. At least early on, Hickenlooper will face the ire of Democratic groups that didn’t support him for president and won’t back him for senate unless forced to by the choice of Gardner vs. Hickenlooper.

Establishment Candidates

Hickenlooper likely wouldn’t be in the senate race, but for the effort of the Democratic Party establishment, especially in D.C. and its media-friendly organizations, like MSNBC, to encourage him. Minority Leader Schumer and a host of other Democratic senators believe that Hickenlooper was needed to help retake the majority. Within a couple of days of the announcement, the DSCC endorsed him with its financial clout and team of top D.C. consultants.

The only problem is that Colorado Democrats resent and usually resist the party establishment. In 2016, Bernie Sanders crushed Hillary Clinton among the Colorado activists who tend to dominate the party nominating apparatus. Hickenlooper will likely need to go by a petition nominating route to minimize the rank and file resistance. Republicans should benefit from the Democratic Party’s nomination donnybrook.

A couple of side notes:

Hickenlooper mentioned Mitch McConnell as often as Cory Gardner in his video. McConnell polls worse than Gardner. Expect a lot of attacks on McConnell.

One visible message was that Hickenlooper is a straight shooter. His repeated disparagement of the Senate as not a place that gets things done and his disinterest in it will be a long-term political weakness. The sudden switch has made him appear a partisan politician, which he’s tried to avoid his entire career.