Friday, August 23, 2019

Gallup Polls Forewarn Political Crises in Argentina and Italy

Argentina

Pollsters were surprised that an expected close primary election became a 16-point rout of incumbent President Mauricio Macri’s government in a national vote August 16. A stalled economy and a revitalized Peronist Party with a more mild-mannered nominee, Alberto Fernández, put Macri on the defense.

A Gallup poll published August 17 showed 62 percent of Argentinians said the economy where they lived was getting worse. The negative view of the economy started shortly after Macri was elected and various austerity measures were enacted. An anticipated economic recovery failed to appear.

Presidential hopeful, Alberto Fernández (right), and former president, current
 senator and vice-presidential hopeful, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at
campaign rally in Rosario, Santa Fe, Aug. 7, 2019 | Frente de Todos/AFP

Italy

Confidence in the Italian government is at 21 percent among citizens according to Gallup (Aug. 20, 2019). It is down 10 percent in the last 5 years, from 31 percent in 2014. On Tuesday, the government fell as the center-right party withdrew its support and the prime minister resigned, possibly leading to a new election. Matteo Salvini, an anti-immigration, Eurosceptic nationalist, is gambling on winning a majority for his League party and govern without his current coalition partner, the Five Star Movement.

Giuseppe Conte (C) with ministers Matteo Salvini (L) and Luigi Di Maio
during his resignation speech, Aug. 20, 2019 | RTÉ Newsroom

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Sanders and Warren Control Half the Colorado Democratic Electorate

Colorado’s Democrats have been on the left of the party’s national center for years and generally are not fond of the establishment’s primary candidates when given a choice. In 2016, they overwhelmingly went for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in spite of her near universal endorsements from the party’s elected leadership. Hillary Clinton was also beaten by the more left outsider, Barack Obama, in the 2008 nominating contest.

In a new Democratic primary poll, Sanders leads it with 25 percent over Joe Biden with 25 percent, followed closely by Elizabeth Warren at 20 percent. Sanders and Warren have 45 percent of the Colorado field as of August. Sanders’ support in Colorado, as nationally, is mostly made up of the old guard of 2016 supporters, whereas Warren is attracting more women, higher social economic status voters, and people curious about her plans and momentum. (Emerson College robo poll with panel for cell phones, N1000, 8/16-19/19.)

Michael Bennet scored one point in the poll.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Michael Bennet: A Decision is Near

Michael Bennet faces the same deadline as John Hickenlooper. On August 28, the DNC debate rules close the door on the September 12 debate at 2 percent in four reputable national polls. John bailed out on August 15. The Fox News poll of August 13 had both Hickenlooper and Bennet at zero percent. That is, none of the more than 1,000 respondents offered support after their names were read in a list of more than 20. Unfortunately for Bennet, the latest CNN poll of 1,001 completed on August 18 has him at zero percent, down from one percent in May. Bennet will not be alone in having to make a decision soon. At least a half a dozen additional candidates will be shut out by the rules.

The polling bottom candidates likely to be out soon:
  • Congressman Tim Ryan
  • New York Mayor Bill de Blasio
  • Senator Michael Bennet
  • Congressman John Delaney
  • Washington Governor Jay Inslee

Warren Surges, Bernie Falters

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the campaign
 trail in Iowa, Feb. 2019
Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Elizabeth Warren is now second in Iowa, newly ahead of Bernie Sanders and second in the RealClearPolitics national average.

Sanders, who remains ahead in fundraising and number of donors, has his hardcore 2016 supporters, but Warren has the momentum. Sanders, realizing his campaign had stagnated after the first debate, rebooted to a bigger commitment to Medicare for All and a more forceful presence in the second debate. Unfortunately for him, the debates may limit the field, but a good performance has only rarely moved many Democratic voters. And, of course, Warren was also judged to have performed well in both debates.

Notice the other changes in the Iowa line-up. Tom Steyer now makes the top 7 list at 2 percent. He also in on the list in New Hampshire. Not only is Warren ahead of Sanders in Iowa, but Kamala Harris is tied, and Amy Klobuchar replaces Beto O’Rourke from his national sixth position.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at a rally
in Council Bluffs, Iowa, March 7, 2019
Photo: Nati Harnik/AP
One of Sanders’ strengths is his consistency of message, even if it is three years older and about a century out-of-date. But, it is being overshadowed by Warren’s plan a week for America’s ills. And
Sanders’ Medicare for All, which has never been very popular with the general public, is increasingly seen as flawed due to the party moderates attacking it as inimical to private insurance, massively expensive and politically impractical. Sanders, of course, was hoping to be the main foil to the Democratic establishment’s centrist, Joe Biden. And now, he’s being forced to share the platform with Warren and face a stage full of critics.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Job Growth: First Six Months in Colorado

Although Boulder, the heartland of the new Colorado Democrats, has the top job growth the first six months of 2019 (a little surprising since they often eschew growth and jobs), it is shared with Republican Colorado with Grand Junction, Greeley and Colorado Springs joining it in the top four.

Will Hickenlooper Run for Senate? Rudin’s Weekly Podcast

Ken Rudin
Ken Rudin’s weekly podcast featured John Hickenlooper on the day he quit his unsuccessful presidential race and started speculation on a U.S. Senate run against Cory Gardner. Rudin, for years, was a regular on NPR’s All Things Considered with his feature show, “Political Junkie.”

After a long conversation on Hickenlooper’s failed presidential campaign and the 2020 political environment in Colorado, Rudin asked me three questions?
  • Will Hickenlooper run for senate?
  • If there is a primary, will he win it?
  • Will he win the general election?
  1. I answered the last question first. Odds are very high Hickenlooper would win senate race. But, as of today, the year looks so positive for Democrats, several of the top declared candidates could likely win.
  2. The field can’t be cleared. There will be a primary. The national and Colorado Democratic political establishment has limited influence in Colorado. The top candidates have raised more money for their senate campaigns than Hickenlooper for his presidential campaign. Hickenlooper has never been in a Colorado primary contest, and the activists in the party have many objections to Hickenlooper’s Colorado record and presidential politics.
  3. The pressure on Hickenlooper to run is growing, even as he has said it may not be a good fit for him. He will not be able to wait for months to decide. The people in the field are building fundraising bases and grassroots organizers.
Listen to my speculations here

Ken Rudin's "Political Junkie" website
Rudin goes in-depth on issues. This week, besides Hickenlooper, he featured a Democratic pollster on whether after years of inactivity on gun control has the politics changed (Yes!)? Also, he examined why Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential ambitions have stalled. Is it at least partially due to Democratic activists and funders unhappy with her role in Al Franken’s resignation from the Senate (Yes!)?

Listen to the full interview here

Monday, August 19, 2019

Airport Needs New Leadership?

In 1993, Wellington Webb, in danger of a re-election defeat, sent his top manager to get the long delayed airport and its failed automated baggage system back on track. The manager had two special assets: political skill and her close relationship to City Hall power.

Is it time Michael Hancock takes charge and the airport bureaucrats follow directions? The Denver Post documents there has been a massive and expensive mismanagement and a significant failure to communicate the problems in a timely fashion.

John Hickenlooper, Kim Day and Mayor Michael Hancock at an event at DIA.

Friday, August 16, 2019

News From the Campaign – Medicare for All in Trouble and Guns in Duck and Cover

Medicare for All

New polling shows voters with reservations about Medicare for All’s cost and impact on private insurance. Bernie Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s proposal is under assault by Joe Biden, John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet and all the party’s moderates. They are warning that if the goal is to win the election and not just ideological fights, Medicare for All is a general election liability. Numerous polls agree.

And, although a majority of Democratic voters still like it, even larger majorities support the Affordable Care Act with improvements. Especially popular is the public option, which Biden and other moderates support.

Guns After El Paso and Dayton

After the El Paso and Dayton shootings, polls are detecting a shift in opinion on guns that may not be as temporary as after previous mass shootings. The desire for gun legislation appears broader and deeper than after the tragedies at Sandy Hook or Parkland. How long lasting is yet to be determined, but more than 90 percent of the public support gun background registration and more than two-thirds support Red Flag laws. President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled movement on the issues, at least partially to protect Republicans in swing states and districts.

In 2018, former Congressman Michael Coffman was on the defensive in his suburban Denver district due to his high level of NRA contributions. He got little help from Trump or Congress. Currently, Cory Gardner is 4th on the national contribution list.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Can Polis and Becker Revive the Republican Party? They’re Trying.

The controversial TABOR override the Democratic legislature put on the ballot has already helped revive the Republican Party around an issue that always unites them – opposing taxes and the growth of government.

At the moment, Democrats have abandoned Proposition CC. In desperation, they tried to maneuver a special session that would have made the TABOR change more palatable. But not unexpectedly, the high-profile re-write effort alerted people to the Democratic strategy and provided endless talking points for the Republican opposition. The TABOR override is on the ballot, and Democrats and their allies must make an effort to pass it in the face of unified Republican opposition. Governor Polis, House Speak KC Becker and the Democratic legislative leadership will be dealing with the issue and its impact on their 2020 plans.

But possibly an even greater Democratic misstep was their lightning speed passage of the National Popular Vote legislation. With little discussion or debate, the law could take Colorado out of the Electoral College and link it to the popular vote for president.

The bill, one of the first taken up by Democrats, passed the legislature in February and was signed by Governor Polis with no media coverage in March. But nearly as fast, a group of grassroots activists launched a petition campaign, which just turned in more than 225, 000 signatures for a repeal referendum. The speed and number of signers demonstrates considerable passion and a well-organized opposition.

The vote will be in November 2020 with the presidential election. It will be a distraction for the Democrats from their strategy of a landslide against Donald Trump and for the statewide Democratic ticket. It will be a useful organizing issue for Republicans.

House Speaker KC Becker speaks at a press conference while Gov. Jared
Polis listens in the background, April 2019 | Photo: Scott Franz

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Placement and Polls Structure the Debate

As expected, the July Democratic debates mostly reinforced the positions of the polling leaders. The placement of the top tier candidates between the two nights set the dynamics for the show. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren dominated the first debate and the topics became the promotion and defense of their left position, especially on health care. The most interesting dynamic was a group of moderates challenging the frontrunners speaking and grabbing some attention.

The “1” percent challengers – Steve Bullock, Amy Klobuchar and John Delaney – all got more than ten minutes. Although John Hickenlooper got a couple of good exchanges, he didn’t engage much.

Joe Biden was the dominant participant the second night, with race the main topic, especially for Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. The three of them got the most time, and Biden and Harris spent a major portion of it defending themselves and their records.

Michael Bennet was the only moderate besides Biden, and he challenged the left’s attack on race as focusing on ancient history and not the problems of today. He also criticized Harris and her health care proposal as a dishonest presentation of the cost.

A couple of rounds of national polls are now out, and there was little repositioning detectable due to debate performance.

The debate criteria will shortly limit the field, but the events are having modest impact.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Does Hickenlooper’s Presidential Campaign End August 28? Interview With April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz at KOA

August 28 is the last day for Democratic presidential candidates to qualify for the September 12 (and 13 if needed) Democratic debate. John Hickenlooper is not even close to qualifying with having made 2 percent, the threshold in only one national poll, and receiving no measurable support in several others conducted post the July debates. He’s now at the bottom of the list of 21 candidates reported by RealClearPolitics with a 0.0 average. In fact, in the latest list, he’s been dropped as Tom Steyer was added. There is also a donor threshold of 130,000, which he’s far from meeting.

Hickenlooper’s campaign for president is effectively over.

National media and pundits have written him off. Nearly all stories about him now include a reference to observers’ beliefs he might have a better chance to run for the Colorado senate seat held by Cory Gardner. A new poll says he starts with a huge advantage in name identification. Although, a new round of stories now includes commentary that the Colorado senate option may not be easy.

When does Hickenlooper get out of the race? He could wait around until later in September because the October debate will use the same criteria, but why? He’ll miss the September debate and is unlikely to be missed. He could ride the Winnebago around Iowa until the February 3 caucus, but it would be a waste of time and gas. It’s over. He gave it a good run, but it simply didn’t take. Even he seems to realize it with his statement reported in the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Hill: “He would be a ‘fool’ to continue his longshot bid if he doesn’t see change in polls.”

Listen to KOA interview here

John Hickenlooper and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand flip
pork chops at the 2019 Iowa State Fair | Photo: Gary He

Friday, August 9, 2019

Visit Nixon Library

Richard Nixon would be unhappy. His home, Orange County, now has more registered Democrats (547,450) than Republicans (547,369), with “no preference” in a rapidly growing third place (440,711). As the consummate politician, it is interesting to speculate what he would recommend for Republicans. The county has been a Republican stronghold since its founding, with its recent high point in 1984 when Ronald Reagan won it with 84 percent.

It’s a relevant debate because the Nixon Presidential Library is now led by Hugh Hewitt, who spends considerable time in Washington defending President Trump’s policies. Is Nixon a Trump man?

The causes for the California Republican decline are many, but few observers believe 2020 and Trump’s re-election effort will help the party recover. Most see relief only after Trump moves on and the polarization declines.

Hugh Hewitt at the Presidential Library in Yorba Linda,
March 25, 2019 | Mindy Schauer/ Orange County Register/SCNG

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Arapahoe County Gets Polling Data on New Jail

In a recently completed poll for Arapahoe County fixing the crowded jail was supported by 63 percent of likely November voters. The Ciruli Associates poll was conducted at the end of July, with 401 likely November Arapahoe County voters (±4.9 percentage points).

Proposals for a new jail, courthouse and DA’s office were being reviewed by a committee of county residents assembled by the county commissioners.

Voters were only modestly supportive of new taxes to build the $464 million jail with a new detention center. About one-half said they would vote for a property or sales tax increase. Only 28 percent were supportive of a property tax increase for a more extensive $1 billion complex of a new jail, courthouse and DA’s office.

Freda Miklin reported the story in the August 7 Villager. Read here

Floyd Ciruli and South Denver Economic Development Partnership
Senior VP Lynn Myers talked about the aging Arapahoe County
criminal justice facilities | Photo: Freda Miklin

Hickenlooper Gets a Meme, But is it Goodbye? – KOA

John Hickenlooper speaks at first of two Democratic presidential
primary debates in Detroit, July 30, 2019 | Paul Sancya/AP
John Hickenlooper got one of the lines of the night in an animated exchange with Bernie Sanders when he said Sanders’s “Medicine for All” was radical and would “FedEx the election to Trump.” Sanders threw his arms up in frustration over the word “radical” and Hickenlooper mocked him in an arm wave that made social media. Hickenlooper was one of five moderate Democrats that took on the left’s frontrunners: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In a discussion with KOA’s April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz after the debate, I highlighted some comments on a debate full of controversy and possibly the last debate participation for several candidates.
  1. The debate highlighted the divide between the party’s left wing represented by Sanders and Warren (representing about 30% of the party) and a moderate wing that finally spoke up and had a message.
  2. Although, as usual, the frontrunners dominated the time. Five moderates, all struggling for a spot in the September debates, made their mark. Hickenlooper, with a meme, was joined by a little recognized John Delaney, new participant Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana Amy Klobuchar and Tim Ryan, all hunting for their breakout moment.
  3. The challengers to liberal orthodoxy had a number of good lines that will now be repeated as the debates extend to the fall.
    • Steve Bullock – Wish-list economics, here and now, not pie-in-the-sky
    • John Delaney – Democrats now have their own repeal and replace – your health care insurance will become illegal (no doubt Donald Trump will say “and making illegal immigrants legal).
    • Amy Klobuchar – It’s not winning the argument, but the election.
  4. The Sanders/Warren counter-strategy was well-thought-out because they have been dealing with the criticism for months, if not years.
    • Our opponents lack ambition and courage (Warren)
    • Why run if you don’t want to overturn the system (Warren)
    • Talking about what they won’t do, won’t fight for (Warren)
    • I win in the polls (Sanders)
    • We’re all extremist to Trump (Buttigieg)
    • None of the lines will stop the arguments, and the least persuasive, but most frequently used by the left is “stop using Republican talking points.” If the criticism is valid, fact based, who cares if it came from the RNC, DNC, ACLU or NAACP.
  5. Hickenlooper performed well, but his moment was crowded out by the two frontrunners – Sanders and Warren – getting most of the time and by four fellow “one” percenters fighting for their space.
Shortly before the debate, a group of leading Democratic senators were quoted as encouraging Hickenlooper to shift to the Colorado U.S. Senate race. It was both a prudent encouragement for their priority to win the senate, but also a realistic assessment of Hickenlooper’s very slim chance of getting into the first tier of candidates.

The next round of polls and fundraising will tell the story, but clearly Hickenlooper loves being on stage. His final line of the night was: “What a night, I love it.” It may be his final debate line period.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

All Moderates Want to Replace Biden

If Joe Biden fades, all the moderates from the first night’s debate and Michael Bennet from the second night want to become the face of the moderate wing of the party. Unfortunately for them, Biden’s support in the Black community, mostly based on association with Barack Obama, is unlikely to transfer. They will quickly find that building a majority primary constituency is very difficult. Nonetheless, the second round of Democratic debates revived the party moderates to take on Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

Michael Bennet, in the second debate, had the benefit of being the only moderate outside the night’s main target – Joe Biden. He took on Kamala Harris on the left’s main policy program and its major vulnerability – Medicare for All. He aggressively questioned its tax implications, more or less called her deceptive, and said it made private insurance illegal. She was not happy.

Bennet’s best moment was his high volume criticism of current education policy effectively pointing out it was ridiculous to argue 1970s busing when schools were still segregated and inadequate.

Bennet had a good night, but it’s unlikely to move the polls as long as Biden remains the frontrunner – he holds the moderate space. He appeared to emerge from the night of attacks intact. The challenge for the six-person moderate wing is just to survive into the September debate.

From left: Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gillibrand and Julian Castro
at the July 31, 2019 debate | Scott Olson/Getty Images

As Presidential Race Crashes, Hickenlooper Hints Senate Race

After a more than six-month presidential campaign fails to rise above “1” percent in the national or primary state polls, John Hickenlooper turns to consider the Colorado Senate race he had long disavowed as not the right job for him.

He would be joining a crowded Democratic senate field of more than ten candidates, the top five of whom have raised collectively twice as much as his failed presidential campaign. Although an unreleased poll claims Hickenlooper would be the name identification frontrunner, some observers believe he would face considerable resistance from a party that appears to have moved beyond the Hickenlooper era.

See strange story of Hickenlooper’s shift in The Hill here

John Hickenlooper | UPI photo

Friday, July 26, 2019

Will Hickenlooper Run for Senate?

John Hickenlooper doesn’t want to run for U.S. Senate, and it wouldn’t be as easy to win as the recent PPP poll, which claimed he’d start with more than 4 out of 10 of the state’s Democrats for him (44%).

What the poll mostly affirmed is that name identification is an advantage early in primaries, the race is wide open and substantial numbers of Democrats’ first goal is to find a winner. But, does that suggest Hickenlooper would find the race easy to enter?
  • As I have blogged, top Democratic senate candidates have collectively raised three times what Hickenlooper raised in his presidential race since January ($6 million to $2 million).
  • Consider the list, which of the top candidates will quit – probably none.
  • Hickenlooper’s constituency is older, white and moderate – an important group in the Democratic Party, but hardly dominant. (The Joe Biden constituency. In fact, Biden leads Colorado’s presidential primary with 22%; Hickenlooper was tied for 5th with 7%.)
Hickenlooper has stated he would not enter the primary. If he did, he would be the frontrunner and likely raise more money than in his presidential bid. But, it will be a fight. The poll did reinforce that Hickenlooper is not a serious presidential candidate as of now in Colorado and the Colorado Democratic Senate nomination is wide open.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Proposition CC – An Orphan

The Democrats’ effort to overturn the TABOR tax limitation restrictions has been an orphan. The legislative leadership, with Governor Polis’ support, placed on the ballot a permanent time out of TABOR requirements to return state revenue over a certain population and inflation limit – state ballot referendum Proposition CC. The Denver Post reports advocates, such as Speaker of the House KC Becker and the local government, business interests and liberal think tank and advocacy groups that testified in favor, have abandoned it as of the end of July.

Opponents, including most of the state’s establishment Republican Party, are opposing it. Proposition CC may be the first casualty as Democrats look to bail out of some ill-prepared ideas.

Money Floods into Senate Race

Both small and large donations are flowing into Colorado Democrats’ winnable U.S. Senate race. Expect a lot more. Incumbent Senator Cory Gardner raised more than $2 million, but the Democratic field more than doubled that in total.

Gardner starts in a strong fundraising position with nearly $5 million in the bank, but Democrats are raising both large contributions, especially Mike Johnston and Dan Baer, and small contributions led by Andrew Romanoff. A recent poll (Keating) has Romanoff in the lead and Johnston third after rumored candidate and newly elected Secretary of State, Jena Griswold. An unreleased Public Policy Poll reported John Hickenlooper would get 44 percent, with Romanoff in a trailing second. The complete poll was not released and it is unclear who authorized the poll.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Cory Gardner and the 2020 Presidential Election

Senator Cory Gardner has a major challenge managing the circumstance of his 2020 reelection. His close victory in 2014 was the product of a good Republican year (they took control of the Senate) and a well-executed campaign against what appeared a lethargic incumbent beset by interest groups determined to dominate his messaging. Gardner may get another break this year as a wide open Democratic primary may damage the eventual nominee, mirroring the national party nomination contest by the tendency of drifting too far to the left.

But, Gardner faces some challenges not present in 2014, namely Donald Trump. Trump lost Colorado to Hillary Clinton by 5 points, the Democrats swept the 2018 midterms in Colorado from top-of-the-ticket to local sheriffs mostly criticizing Trump, and the latest polls show Trump below his not very high national approval rating (43% nationally, 42% Colorado). Gardner spends a significant amount of political energy oscillating between supporting the Republican President, such as his endorsement of Trump’s re-election, and separating himself from Trump, most recently concerning tweets on “the squad.”

The difficult specific conditions of the 2020 election are:
  • Record turnout. The 2018 midterms produced a historic number of Democrat and Democratic-leaning unaffiliated voters. They will be back. Both parties will be highly motivated and fully mobilized. Expect record turnout (2.78 million in 2016, 2.52 million in 2018).
  • Party-line voting. Colorado was for years famous for ticket-splitters and swing voters. No more. Voters increasingly line up with their partisan affiliation (6th District: Mike Coffman – 43%, Trump 41%; Jason Crow 54%, Clinton 50%). Democrats have an advantage today in registration (49,000 more Democrats than Republicans, 307,000 more unaffiliated than Republicans). It’s unaffiliated voters that trended toward the Democrats by about 60 percent in 2018 according to polls.
  • Negative partisanship. It’s hard to appeal to moderates in either party as voters are more anti the other side than for their side. Negative partisanship – the new term for it – drives voting, not party loyalty. It’s being against what the other party stands for or its most prominent leader that is the primary motivator. Gardner’s, like Mike Coffman’s, effort to triangulate the Colorado electorate is a very difficult task today.
Sen. Cory Gardner speaks at the Western Conservative
 Summit, July 12, 2019 | Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Hickenlooper and Bennet Make It, But it may be a Last Chance - KOA

In a drive-time KOA interview, Marty Lentz asked if John Hickenlooper, with only “one” percent in the polls and little money left in the bank, was running out of time.

Yes. Unless something changes dramatically, this is likely the end of Hickenlooper’s national run. And, his challenges are formidable. The 10-person debate nights will be packed with candidates struggling for their moment. As the June debate demonstrated, only a couple of stars emerged from the debates and they tended to be dominated by the early frontrunners: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Hickenlooper’s first night has Bernie Sanders and Warren, who will no doubt command attention, and Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke will be looking for their own breakouts. Hickenlooper will be standing near Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a new entrant who will get noticed just by being new.
John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet

Michael Bennet, who had a better June debate than Hickenlooper and is well liked by the pundit and commentary class (See George Will’s endorsement), is in the first night’s show that will feature some version of a rematch between Biden and Harris as Cory Booker and Julián Castro fight for a notice. Bennet is on the far left edge of the stage, opposite Mayor Bill de Blasio – it might be a good firing position.

April Zesbaugh asked if Colorado’s candidates being on separate nights was an advantage.

I think so. They are both moderates, but with very separate messages, and some independent space is no doubt welcome by both. Hickenlooper especially didn’t appreciate being described as coming in second to Bennet last time.

Possibly the biggest challenge for both candidates is that one powerful storyline framing this debate is who quits. Pundits and pols are looking for who leaves and how soon. Most believe there should be no more than ten for the September debate and, as of now, only the top six in the polls qualify. When will Tim Ryan, John Delaney and possibly Hickenlooper get out will be the question asked repeatedly.

Monday, July 22, 2019

National Democratic Party Divisions Hit Colorado

On July 17, the U.S. House of Representatives took its first impeachment vote against President Donald Trump. The House Democratic leadership opposed the resolution and it was tabled 332 to 95 (194 Republicans with 137 Democrats), but Democrats split 137 against to 95 in favor, or 41 percent of Democrats defying their leadership.

Colorado’s Democratic delegation split in half, with suburban congresspersons Ed Perlmutter and Jason Crow voting against, and Denver and Boulder congresspersons Diana DeGette and Joe Neguse, respectively, supporting the impeachment resolution. All three Colorado Republicans voted to table the resolution; i.e., against it.

Perlmutter resisted Nancy Pelosi’s return to leadership, but backed her in this vote. DeGette, who is a part of leadership as a subcommittee chair, opposed her. But, DeGette has a primary opponent from the left – Crisanta Duran.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Cory Garner and the BLM

In a major coup, Senator Cory Gardner got the federal government to move one of its agencies to the West. The City of Grand Junction will now become the home of the headquarters of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM manages huge acreage of federal land, mostly in the West, including Colorado. About a third of Colorado’s land is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM.

For Gardner, it demonstrates one of a strong argument for his re-election – an incumbent in the party of the president. Gardner also has the advantage of being in the majority party. Senator Bennet pitched in to support the BLM move, but, of course, was a voice in the political wilderness.

Sen. Cory Gardner | Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Bullock In: Another Western Governor Makes the Debate

The July Democratic primary debate is back to 20 after Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who was left out in June, makes it to replace dropped out California Congressman Eric Swalwell.

At the moment (July 18, 2019), Bullock has a 0.8 percent in the RealClearPolitics average, John Hickenlooper has 0.6 as does Michael Bennet (0.6).

It can’t be good news for Hickenlooper that another well-thought-of western governor joins the stage. There will, no doubt, be a Bullock spike of curiosity and coverage from the media and audience as the new guy on the stage.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock | CNN
Read The Buzz:
Dashboard Before July Debates
Running on Fumes

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Running on Fumes

John Hickenlooper speaks at the Democratic primary debate,
Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019 | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
John Hickenlooper is out of money. The latest FEC reports place Hickenlooper 20th out of 23 candidates listed. Michael Bennet, who has only been in the race three months, managed to rank 10th. Of course, his $3.5 million total was helped by $700,000 from his Senate account.

But, Hickenlooper, whose total raised is $3.2 million, only collected $1.2 million in the latest quarter, with barely $500,000 in the bank. He’s “one” percent in the polls with a debate in twelve days. Along with money, Hickenlooper is running out of time.

Read:
The Buzz: Dashboard Before July Debates
Politico: The Money

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dashboard Before July Debates

Nineteen candidates out of twenty are left for the second round of Democratic debates. Many of the 12 that only have one percent or less in polls may be joining Eric Swalwell after August 1.

Top nominees to drop out are: Delaney, Gillibrand and Ryan.

Hickenlooper, who appears to be running on fumes, claims he’s moving to Iowa to see if he can reverse his failed national campaign. That strategy is likely to be a longshot effort since he’s already been there for months with little to show for it. And, all the major candidates who already have a presence there will be soon joining him.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

KOA Interview: Hickenlooper’s Final Debate?

In a Tuesday morning interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz, the July Democratic debate was described as Hickenlooper’s likely last chance to keep his presidential campaign alive.

Recognizing his dire circumstance, Hickenlooper shook up his staff after the last debate when he emerged with weak reviews and still at “one” percent or less in follow-up polls. The next round of debates, starting in September, have a “two” percent polling threshold, which Hickenlooper and most of his 12 fellow “one” percent candidates wouldn’t hit.

One, Eric Swalwell, a little known California congressman who tried to emerge at the last debate taking on Joe Biden as the “too old generation,” quit. Calls are growing for more “one” percent candidates to exit the stage. Hickenlooper is repeatedly being asked to shift to the Colorado Senate race against vulnerable Republican incumbent, Cory Gardner.

In recent interviews, Hickenlooper is beginning to recognize the difficulty of his position.
  • Not a staff issue. He corrected the impression his lack of momentum was staff related. In fact, the problem is that neither Hickenlooper’s quirky personality nor his moderate, progressive message has found a constituency in the Democratic electorate in Iowa or nationally. And, as opposed to Michael Bennet, he’s been campaigning for more than nine months, hard at it since March.
  • It’s not the lack of exposure. He’s had numerous interviews on cable and network news shows, including Morning Joe, the Sunday public affairs panels and a CNN town hall.
  • It’s not money. At least initially, his announcement was accompanied by a $2 million haul, but it has run dry as Hickenlooper has failed to spark much interest from his media exposure or appearances.
  • Next debate will be tough. Hickenlooper has said he’s not a great debater. It may not matter at the July event. There will be an air of desperation on the stage as at least half the candidates realize time is running out.
Hickenlooper is being promoted as a top senate candidate, but he’s made it very clear he’s not interested. Beyond that, the politics of the race is well underway, with a host of candidates already raising more than $3 million. A messy primary is not a political legacy Hickenlooper wants to leave.

Interestingly, as some of the first round of candidates leaves the field, there are more lining up to enter the race. Billionaire Tom Steyer, claiming he will spend $100 million, has just announced, and Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, continues to be encouraged to enter the race.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Trump Touts Environmental Record

President Trump’s Monday press conference on the environment was roundly criticized by the environmental community and Democrats as a gross distortion of his record. But, it was welcomed by Republican professionals and the RNC as the first sign he’s trying to get beyond his myopic focus on his base supporters.

Typical of a Trump week, he’s in a Twitter war with Great Britain and the U.S. Women’s soccer team. So, a distraction that hues to more normal presidential behavior will be helpful for Republicans, who would like to be more competitive in environmentally-sensitive western states, such as Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, Trump got some of the best approval numbers of his presidency (47% registered voters, 44% all Americans), including on the economy (51%), but continued to lag in the 30s on environmental issues (29% global warming). Obviously, Trump and his team want to reposition environmental issues from global warming, to clean air and water, which America already has a long history of effort and considerable success.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Polling: Presidential Race in the West – Evenly Divided

As President Trump begins his re-election campaign, the latest state-by-state Morning Consult poll of presidential approval shows 12 western states that broke fifty-fifty between Trump and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race are still evenly divided above and below his national approval rate of 43 percent.

Trump’s approval has been in a narrow range. It declined from a low 46 percent in the polling averages at his inauguration, with no honeymoon, to settling in at the upper 30s and low 40s his entire first two years in office. Gallup reported on June 30, 2019 that his approval was 41 percent, after starting the year at 37 percent, reflecting the December market crash and January shutdown, moving to a high of 47 percent in early May.

The six western states won by Trump were: Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming (in continental U.S. and Texas). Clinton won six: California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. The same six states each are divided today above and below the 43 percent national average.

Arizona and Nevada clearly appear to be battlegrounds due to latest polling and closeness of the 2016 race (3% and 2%, respectively). But, because of Trump’s high negative, Texas appears vulnerable and Utah, which in 2016 voted strongly for a conservative third-party candidate. Just examining approval ratings, makes Colorado a potential Republican target, but the 2018 election and his high disapproval (54%) makes the state look difficult for a Trump revival.

Trump Riding on Economy, But Lagging on Foreign Policy and Personality

Donald Trump hit an approval high in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll of 44 percent (47% among registered voters). Also, his RealClearPolitics average has tied his previous two-year high of 45 percent, set in early May 2019.

Gary Langer, ABC News’ and Washington Post’s well-known pollster, believes the economy is mainly responsible for Trump’s move up. More than half of Americans approve of his job performance with the economy (51%). However, it is in foreign policy that he lags, with only a 40 percent job approval. Unfortunately for Trump, it’s foreign policy where he enjoys the drama and entertainment value and frequently raises his profile, along with expectations from North Korea, China and Iran.

The poll also records Trump’s other liability holding back his approval rating and possibly damaging re-election is his personality. Two-thirds (65%) of Americans say that Trump “has acted in a way that’s unpresidential since taking office,” a viewpoint people have held about Trump during his entire presidency (70% in mid-2017 and early 2018).

Langer makes the point that, along with an approval rating in a very tight range (36% to 44% in the ABC News/Washington post surveys during his entire 900 days in office), it has been extraordinary low. His two and one-half year average is 39 percent, well below Gerald Ford (47% approval), Bill Clinton (51%) and Jimmy Carter (51%), two of whom lost re-election.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Debate Moves the Polls: Hickenlooper in Trouble

The next wave of polls will reflect the June debate and some trends that were underway. As of July 3, some observations:

There are eleven other one-percent candidates, many of whom had their moments, but will need a major break in the next debate to be around much longer. In fact, for Colorado’s two candidates, just maintaining credibility until July 30 will be a task. John Hickenlooper, in particular, after what was judged a weak performance at the debate and months of campaigning, is losing believability.

Not appearing in repeated polls, including the latest CNN and Quinnipiac polls (less than 6 mentions in polls of 600 respondents), has moved Hickenlooper and Bennet below one percent and now off the RCP average.

Hickenlooper and Bennet Get One More Debate

As I wrote on Friday, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet got moments in the second night of the first Democratic debates, but both were overshadowed by the big four – Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg – especially the takedown of Biden by Harris.

Some commentary confirms that Colorado’s two candidates performed satisfactory, but not enough to move the polls or the narrative. They get one more debate chance at the end of July, but are unlikely to enter the room in much better position than their less than one percent position as of Thursday night. The good news for both Bennet and Hickenlooper is that the first round of debates showed the field can be shook up by a big performance. It reinforced that it’s early and frontrunners are vulnerable and second and third tiers can stand out.

Favorability

Most of the early responses and the pundit class rate the two night winners:

Democratic primary debate,
June 27, 2019 | Mike Segar/Reuters
Over-Performers
FiveThirtyEight
  • Warren
  • Harris
  • Castro
  • Booker
  • Klobuchar
  • Gabbard
  • de Blasio

Twitter (Ranked in over their pre-debate favorability)

With the exception of Joe Biden, over-favorability went up, including for Hickenlooper and Bennet, but they are only in the 20 percent range (leaders were 40% and above). FiveThirtyEight also rated increase in Twitter followers, and the big winners were Harris and Julián Castro (more than 50,000), Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren more than 30,000. The two fringe candidates – Marianne Williamson (31,000) and Andrew Yang (39,000) – have their online fans.

Hickenlooper and Bennet were at the dead bottom of the list of twenty, with about 1,000 new followers each.

Word Count

Hickenlooper did his pragmatic, contrast with Sanders, but never got into much of an exchange with others or interrupted. He had one of the lowest speaking times (5 minutes) and word counts (951 words). Although length is not indicative of how one did. Bill de Blasio spoke less than Hickenlooper (881), but was judged on having made an impression, and Joe Biden spoke the most (2,475), but was mostly on the defense.

Bennet managed to interject often and had a word count (1,402 words, 8 minutes) nearly equal to Castro (1,588), who was considered a breakout star the first night. Bennet was not.

Time Out

Kirsten Gillibrand may replace de Blasio as the least liked New Yorker for Democrats. She should quit before her senate career is damaged.

Because of the DNC’s internet rules, it may be hard to get rid of Yang and Williamson. They appeared even more fringe after their performances. And Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell, John Delaney and Jay Inslee looked very marginal. Finally, it’s hard to imagine a recovery for Beto O’Rourke.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Dow Reverses Course and Adds 8 Points in June

At the end of the year’s first half, the Dow is up 14 percent. After a dismal May, the market recovered 8 percent and 1784 points in June on the news the Fed was considering lower rates and continued domestic economic strength. Also, hope remains a trade deal with China is imminent.

Of course, this is good news for President Trump, who continues to jawbone the Federal Reserve Chair, Jerome Powell, for a quick rate cut.

The Dow actually lagged technology, NASDAQ, which is up 21 percent year-to-date, and continues to drive the market, even with considerable volatility and concerns about trade wars and anti-trust actions. The broader market index: the SP 500 is up 17 percent. A nice return, given all the uncertainty related to volatile oil markets and commodity prices, trade wars and slowdowns in Europe and China.

Trump loves the show of foreign visits and knows the risk of foreign adventures. Vietnam wrecked the Johnson presidency and Iraq crushed Bush II. So, Trump mostly focuses on what he knows best – making money. It is also most likely to be essential to getting a second term.

Read The Buzz:
Dow ends down six points
Trump’s tariffs take a toll: Dow ended May below 25000
The Trump correction. Dow off 4000 points since October 3rd 

Sanders, Hickenlooper and Socialism

John Hickenlooper’s first question asked about the socialism criticism he’s become known for. Both he and Michael Bennet argued for pragmatism dealing with major policy proposals, such as health care; for example, public options versus single-payer, most strongly promoted by Bernie Sanders.

They and their colleagues are right to prioritize health care as an issue. There is a strong Democratic consensus on the top issues.

Republicans have more certainty in their ranks on the terms “capitalism” and “socialism.” But, Democrats are divided.

Republicans are about 6-to-1 hostile to the term “socialism,” whereas Democrats are 2-to-1 positive.

Mitch McConnell

Chuck Todd hit a hot button in the first debate by his Mitch McConnell question. Although no Democratic candidate offered much of an answer on how as president they would handle his obstructionism, Democrats in important senate swing states suggested attacking him and his image will move voters to vote Democratic in senate races. In a poll, they were motivated more by attacks on “Mitch McConnell” than on “Donald Trump” or the “Republican Party in Congress” (Global Group).

Presidential hopefuls take to the stage in the Democratic
 primary debate, June 27, 2019 | Mike Segar/Reuters

Monday, July 1, 2019

Next Debate All Hell Breaks Loose, July 30-31, CNN, Detroit

CNN should have a ratings winner at the next Democratic debate. As the NBC debate, with a record 18 million viewers, showed, second and third tiers can surge and frontrunners stumble. The candidates will be more desperate to hang on or determined to break out.

Also, the anxiety level will increase. To get into the September debates, the thirteen candidates with 1 percent must at least double that number.

CNN moderators should have fun controlling that show.
Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders & Kamala Harris participate in the first  2020
democratic presidential debate, June 27, 2019 | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Friday, June 28, 2019

Democratic Party Won the First Debate

Democrats were well served by the first debate. It was civil, no nicknames, no insults, mostly policy and little mention of Trump. It was a useful contrast for Democrats to the first Republican debate four years ago (Megyn Kelly Against free-for-all). He was almost never mentioned except in a well-received reference to him being the country’s main national security threat. There was also no Clinton. Four years ago, she dominated the nomination process. Wednesday night, she was never mentioned.

American democracy needs a reset, and the first debate gave it a start.

Socialism on Defense

Elizabeth Warren, from her center position and receiving the first question, set the agenda on the economy and dominated the progressive wing, but not without pushback. Amy Klobuchar, in particular, but not alone, took on Warren’s single-payer/government run health care.

The debate tone made clear the progressive agenda in its most extreme form will not go unchallenged. Warren and Bernie Sanders can expect a running battle from the middle of the party.

Time to Thin the Herd Approaches

For a few on the stage, they will make only one more debate. Although Congresspersons Tim Ryan and John Delaney got in a few appreciated comments about how the party has left the working class behind, it’s hard to see either of them finding sufficient support for improved polling and financing. Several one-percenters will not make the third debate when two-percent becomes the threshold.

Debates Can Make and Break

As the Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke exchange demonstrated, a brief exchange can provide a launch for a candidate and it can cause major damage. Castro had been mostly ignored and needed something to highlight his assets in the Democratic base; that is, Hispanic heritage and immigration position. He got his chance taking on O’Rourke in a fiery exchange on immigration. For O’Rourke, it just reinforced the narrative that his campaign was stalled and that down was his mostly likely direction in the polls.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Castro’s position, which amounts to open borders, was immediately identified by a Trump tweet as a highly controversial and a vulnerable position.

Presidential hopefuls take to the stage in the first Democratic primary
debate, June 26, 2019 | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Image

Time is Short

In a debate format for 10 participants, time is short – generally 5 to 14 minutes, in about 10 to 14 exchanges. Although authenticity (i.e., storytelling) and passion are praised, sound bites are expected and endless interruptions distracting.

All in all, a good launch for the Democrats.

Second Debate

Hickenlooper and Bennet got moments, but both were overshadowed by the big four – Biden, Sanders, Harris and Buttigieg – especially the takedown of Biden by Harris.

More on the impact of the two Colorado candidates to follow.

Presidential hopefuls take to the stage in the Democratic
primary debate, June 27, 2019 | Mike Segar/Reuters

KOA Interview: Debate Prospects for Hickenlooper and Bennet

Thursday morning after the Democratic first debate, April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz discussed the strategies and prospects for Colorado’s John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet.

My analysis:

The good news for candidates on the edge of the stage, like Hickenlooper and Bennet, is that in the Wednesday night first debate, several showed well. Amy Klobuchar (1%) was strong as the Midwestern moderate; Julián Castro (1%) had a breakout moment with his taking on of Beto O’Rourke on immigration; and Mayor Bill de Blasio (1%), a new candidate in the field, effectively interrupted and made the point it may take a little “New York” swagger to take on Donald Trump.

Hickenlooper would like to talk about his Colorado success on health care, reproductive rights and gun control, but his only break-out moment so far was taking on socialism in front of California Democrats. He’s likely to have an opportunity with Bernie Sanders on the stage to declare his view that extreme positions will not pass and will be highly vulnerable to Republican attack.

Bennet has argued for months and his new book present the view Washington is dysfunctional and must be fixed. Describing effectively how he would pass the key parts of the Democratic agenda in spite of a Republican controlled senate would be welcomed by Democrats.

Does position count? The center of the stage helped Elizabeth Warren Wednesday. Will Hickenlooper, being between two of the least probable candidates – spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang, dot.com venture capitalist – help or hurt him? Distract or enhance? It’s one of the myriad of unpredictable factors in a ten-person debate.

John Hickenlooper (L) and Michael Bennet at the Democratic debate,
June 27, 2019 | Credit: Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS, Getty Images and VOA

TABOR Override in Trouble

Colorado’s controversial tax limitation initiative is on the defensive. The Democratic Party and elements of the business community and local government have been long opposed to the TABOR Amendment passed in 1992, during an era of Republican ascendance and strong anti-tax sentiment. Several restrictions included in it have been limited by courts, and now the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled the entire multi-topic amendment can be overturned by one counter amendment if its opponents want to take it on.

But, before there is a full-blown TABOR challenge, the newly installed Democratic legislature, with the forbearance of the new governor, propose a permanent time out of the tax revenue give back requirements, or what’s commonly called and often approved by voters at the local level as a TABOR override. Unfortunately for proponents, they have run into considerable opposition from a newly engaged Republican establishment, with former Governor Bill Owens, former Senator Hank Brown and many current officeholders, such as Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler, opposing the time out, especially its permanent aspects. As the 2018 election highlighted, Colorado voters tend to be sympathetic to many local tax proposals, including TABOR overrides from schools, counties, municipalities and others, but are very skeptical of state tax increases. A statewide permanent time out is likely to suffer from the same voter distrust of state government. In a confusing editorial, even the Denver Post, no friend of TABOR, did not endorse a frontal assault on TABOR or a permanent time out. It pointed out how hard it will be to organize for retaining tax dollars when the state is awash in tax revenue.

Recently conducted focus groups in Adams County heard voters’ lack of understanding of the TABOR issue:

When asked about a TABOR override, while there was a lack of understanding on what exactly this ballot question would do, no one in the group supported such an effort: “Coloradans are tired of change;” we are going too far too fast;” “[Colorado] is turning into California.”

Will Governor Polis support the proposition? He tends to be risk adverse related to statewide ballot issues, and this is shaping up to be a battle.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Bruce Benson Leaves on Top

As CU President, Bruce regularly tells graduates at commencement to be prepared to take opportunities that come your way in spite of life plans or expectations. The CU presidency turned out to be a surprising, but perfect fit for his skill set and his indefatigable work ethic. His long passion for education (Metro Board, now MSU Denver, and Denver Public Schools Foundation) was melded into his passion for CU and his sense that it provided him an invaluable life foundation. He, with his life partner, became extraordinary advocates for the institution, enriching it in many ways, including adding billions to its buildings and programs.

Bruce’s and Marcy’s friends celebrated his CU run and retirement last week in Denver. I asked him what’s next, and Marcy interjected that some rest was in order. But, he pointed out there was still some transition work and that he has a few ideas for what’s next. It’s unlikely to be a quiet retirement, and Denver and Colorado are likely to benefit.

Great job Bruce and Marcy.

CU President Bruce and Marcy Benson receive the 2016 Outstanding
Philanthropist Award | Photo: Elizabeth Collins/University of Colorado

Dr. Richard Parker Retires

One of Denver’s best cardiovascular surgeons has just retired after more than 40 years serving patients. Richard Parker is an exceptional surgeon and many lives were extended due to his bypass work and other skills. For most of this career, he worked with Dr. Nampalli Vijay, another cardiologist of great skill, who is internationally recognized for his research, lecturing and training.

Denver is fortunate to have such dedicated physicians.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Eli Stokols and Chris Hill in the LA Times

As we appear to slip toward violence in Iran (The Buzz: Trump’s Going to Need a Bigger Boat), former Denver TV reporter Eli Stokols quotes DU’s Ambassador Christopher Hill in a front page Los Angeles Times story on Trump’s off and on strategy (order retaliation/cancel).

Trump’s “weapon of choice is this economic cudgel,” said Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to four countries. “That’s how he wants to look tough, and it’s been popular with his base. He’s not interested at all in war. He’s interested in economic warfare.”

After Denver, Stokols did a stint with Politico and the Wall Street Journal in D.C. You often see him and Hill on MSNBC. The LA Times has been building up its national and international political coverage.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Warren on the Move; Harris in Trouble

The latest national and key in-state polls show Elizabeth Warren and her “plan a day” strategy is gathering strength in the still much divided Democratic presidential primary field. In the two latest national polls reported (Economist/YouGov and Monmouth University) in RealClearPolitics, Warren is now ahead of Bernie Sanders by a combined 5 points. Even more impressive, she’s beginning to close in on Sanders in Iowa and California. Bernie Sanders’ status as the frontrunner of the left wing of the Democratic Party appears over.

It is the California poll that should most concern Kamala Harris. Her campaign failed to take off after the impressive announcement and she has languished in fourth and fifth places, tied most recently with Pete Buttigieg. But, to have any shot at the nomination, she must dominate her home state of California. Unfortunately for her credibility in the race, the latest poll by the LA Times conducted by veteran pollster, Mark DiCamillo, at Berkeley, she is in fourth, behind Joe Biden, Warren and Sanders, with Buttigieg a close fifth.

Harris still has much potential. She needs to bring her talent in the congressional hearing setting to her performance in the debates. Also, a week before Super Tuesday, the South Carolina primary gives her a powerful constituency of African American women who could put her on the top of the field. And, even a fourth or fifth position should keep someone in the race through Super Tuesday. Nonetheless, not dominating California is a disappointment.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Trump Launches Campaign in Blizzard of Bad Polls

A series of recent polls reported Donald Trump in deep trouble as he launched his re-election campaign in Orlando, Florida. At the four-year anniversary of his famous Trump Tower escalator start in June 2015, polls showed him losing to most of the Democratic frontrunners in what has to be an anybody but Trump reaction to his pending re-election.

His campaign knows the polls have been bad news. It fired three of its Republican pollsters for alleged media leaks of in-house bad polling numbers. Trump hates bad news, and tends to deny it exists. But, it will frame the coverage surrounding his campaign start-up.

Polling roundups:

Four years ago, Trump had the element of surprise and used his shockingly incorrect announcement to capture the center spot in the first debate (Megyn Kelly debate), with the support of 25 percent of Republicans.
  • Escalator Announcement – June 15, 2015
  • Megyn Kelly First Debate – August 7, 2015
But now, Trump is commanding the Republican Party and has a worldwide audience of his announcement in front of 20,000 admiring fans and for most of his international activities and high drama domestic political actions. Hence, it is especially disconcerting to Trump to be behind in key states and tied in some must-wins.

For many of his campaign advisors and much of the Republican establishment, the weak polls are not surprising. Trump is committed to a scorched earth, base reinforcing campaign. Many in the Trump campaign would like to expand the base, and also believe the President’s strategy is responsible for the current polling malaise. It attracted 63 million votes in 2016, located in just the right states, but it will be short of what’s needed in the higher turnout 2020 election.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Trump’s Going to Need a Bigger Boat

President Trump and his Mideast team – Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Jared Kushner – should be careful starting a war with Iran. Not only is the country’s forces formidable (they are not Iraq in 2003), but American allies in this cause will be thin. In fact, except for Israel, which isn’t near the battlefield, the help is mostly unimpressive American dependencies. Europe, the UN, China, Russia, India, Turkey and others are more likely to oppose than support any action. And, of course, impact on the world economy will be immediate and significant.

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln | Eric Power/US Navy

The Iranian confrontation is especially dangerous due to a host of special conditions beyond our isolation on the issue:
  • The enmity is deep and long-term. The chant, “Death to America” (and the 1979 hostage crisis), are manifestations of deep hostility that is part of the core legitimacy of the regime. Opposing the U.S. throughout the Mideast is the top propaganda point for their external relations.
  • The Persian Gulf has massive armaments in very close proximity.
  • Iran has proxies and allies in the Middle East with agendas and resources that can cause incidents, like rockets in the Green Zone and commercial shipping attacks, that the two powers must then manage.
  • Regular communication helps avoid missteps and miscues, but we have none with their diplomats or military.
President Trump’s usual strategy of maximum pressure and over-the-top threats will have difficulty working with Iran. It does not constitute negotiation, and regime survival will require the U.S. to appear to back down and lower the demands and threats – actions not really available in the Trump playbook.

Why Hickenlooper Isn’t Running for Senate

Recently, Washington Post columnist, Eugene Robinson, and MSNBC host, Rachel Maddow, have argued for John Hickenlooper to shift from his presidential race to run for the Colorado Senate seat held by Cory Gardner. They point out that it’s eminently winnable and Hickenlooper has won two statewide elections for governor. He has said “no” so far, and explains that he’s an executive and solving problems from a management position is his forte and passion.

Seth McLaughlin in the Washington Times also wrote on the topic as to why a host of popular state politicians choose a longshot presidential run over local senate races, citing the dimmed stature of the senate as a place where problems are solved, especially from a minority position, which Democrats would likely be in after 2020.

Unfortunately for Hickenlooper, there is already a field of Democratic candidates, several with considerable experience of organizing and running for statewide offices. It is unlikely Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer could clear the field the way the Republican Party did for Cory Gardner to take on Mark Udall in 2014. Hickenlooper would have to run in a primary, something he has no real experience in and would be in considerable risk of losing. – witness his difficulty finding a constituency in the race for president.

His only multi-candidate race was his first for mayor in 2003. He mostly snuck up on the field of better known Denver politicians, with money, a creative campaign and considerable good luck. He’s now a known quantity after 17 years in office, and the activists in the Democratic Party are not his natural base. He gets support from moderate Democrats and Republicans, but the very liberal 2020 Colorado Democratic Party will be a very tough sell. Don’t expect Hickenlooper in the field regardless of his presidential fate.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper shares his ideas and accomplishments
with Iowa voters in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 27, 2019 | Joe Amon/Denver Post