Friday, May 24, 2019

Nationalism on the Rise

As the global order of the post-World War II era continues to recede, the self-interest of aggressive nationalism is becoming the dominant replacement. The EU elections this week will likely witness a surge of Eurosceptics into the EU’s parliament.

While many of the candidates don’t advocate withdrawal from the EU or breaking it up, they uniformly aim to change it to benefit the perceived interest of their own country. The result is likely to be reduced power in Brussels due to less consensus on overall goals and more decentralization of authority over specific areas. The changes are also likely to be less supportive of democratic structures and norms in member states. It will also provide opportunities for Russia and China to achieve geopolitical and economic goals.
From left, Geert Wilders, leader of Dutch Party for Freedom, Matteo Salvini,
Jörg Meuthen, leader of Alternative For Germany Party, Marine Le Pen, Leader
of the French National Front, Vaselin Marehki leader of Bulgarian 'Volya' party,
Jaak Madison of Estonian Conservative People’s Party, and Tomio Okamura
Leader of Czech far-right Freedom and Direct Democracy, attend a rally
organized by League leader Matteo Salvini, with leaders of other European
nationalist parties, ahead of the May 23-26 European Parliamentary elections,
May 18, 2019 | Photo: Luca Bruno/AP

Is “America First” Headed to Conflict?

The Trump administration’s “America First” policy is now engaged in at least four dangerous regions, any one of which could produce a conflict. President Trump’s personalized foreign policy sets aggressive goals (denuclearization, regime change) and proclaims extreme threats (fire and fury, totally destroy North Korea, official end of Iran), but no conflict, yet.

However, for now, there is very little accomplished. To some extent, his targets are discounting the threats. If his mostly go-it-alone strategy ends in failure, will it lead to a shift to military solutions?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Colorado Ballot Issues Could Pass in Off-Year Election

Historically, the effort to increase taxes for Colorado state government responsibilities, such as K-12 and higher education and roads, has floundered. And, proposals haven’t fared any better in odd-year elections.

But, the Colorado State Legislature just put two proposals on the ballot: Proposition CC, a permanent TABOR override, and Proposition DD, allowing and taxing sports betting, that could pass.

Proposition CC: Retain revenue for education and transportation

Proposition DD: Authorize and tax sports betting

Why the better chance for more revenue in November 2019?
  • A five-year TABOR override barely passed in 2005, but since then, local governments’ TABOR overrides have become commonplace. A recent survey in Arapahoe County showed a TABOR override for the county, one of the few counties in the state without an override, would be approved by 60 percent.
  • Sin taxes remain popular. Marijuana and gaming produce revenue much of the public is willing to allow and anxious to tax. A gaming activity increase (higher table betting limits) was approved handily in 2008 and the tax dollars put into community colleges and gaming towns.
  • Although there will be a defense of TABOR from longtime supporters, they will be countered by a well-oiled advocacy group for TABOR reform, especially override of its “caps.”
  • Without a rival gaming group willing to oppose the sports gaming legalization the public is likely to see as a painless source of tax revenue for a good cause – the well identified need for state water programs and projects.
  • Colorado’s changed political climate appears to offer some additional support for proposals that have a progressive consensus, especially if supported by the legislative leadership and Governor Polis.
Of course, a lower turnout electorate and a long history of mistrust of state government will still have to be overcome, but 2019 may change the direction on giving state government some, if not much, additional tax revenue.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Threat to Overturn Roe v. Wade is Major Blunder of Republicans for 2020 Elections

Republicans have benefitted from extreme rhetoric concerning outlawing abortion. It has activated their evangelical voters without producing a backlash from suburban women and others who might have moral qualms about abortion, but are a part of the two-thirds of Americans who do not approve of reversing Roe v. Wade.

But, near total abortion bans have now passed in a host of southern states and may force the issue into the Supreme Court for a review challenging the fundamental 1973 decision. It will put the issue front and center into the long run-up to the 2020 election.

Democrats will attack the lack of exceptions and the denial of protections afforded for 46 years by Roe v. Wade. Republicans will be divided and forced to play defense. In fact, divisions are already apparent as various Republican leaders claim they support exceptions related to rape and incest. These reservations won’t help if the fundamental law is challenged.

Giellis Stumbles, Loses First Week

Jamie Giellis at the Denver Post's mayoral
debate, April 1, 2019 | Getty Images
In spite of a strong start with important endorsements from colleagues who she beat for second place, Jamie Giellis’ verbal stumble in a podcast of low or no audience became by week’s end, a major distraction and put her on the defensive.

The inability to correctly identify the acronym, NAACP, is a very small deal, but it nicely reinforces a major theme of her opponent – Giellis lacks important government- and political-related knowledge and specifically does not know the city or its diversity. The Mayor and his allies are arguing to go with the experienced hometown candidate, and this reinforces it. Michael Hancock’s base in the minority community demonstrated its usual low interest in the May 7 first round election with low turnout. This strengthens his case to the minority community that something important is at stake in this race.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Democrats Bail on Senate: It has Lost Stature

A host of top ranking Democrats have said no to running for winnable senate seats and yes to long-shot White House bids. John Hickenlooper is one of the most obvious, but newly announced Governor Steve Bullock was a highly recruited Montana senate candidate. In Texas, both Beto O’Rourke and Julián Castro were considered top recruits against Senator John Cornyn in a state that Democrats covet for a presidential transition.

Why are top candidates balking on senate races, preferring to join two dozen Democrats in a scrum of hard to distinguish presidential candidates? Seth McLaughlin of the Washington Times runs the list.

My view is that the Senate “has lost stature.”

“The Senate has lost — particularly for Democrats — some of its attraction,” said Floyd Ciruli, a veteran Colorado-based pollster. “There was a time when you were a senator, there was a sort of the majesty of the Senate. It had its rules, it had its prestige, you had recognition and authority even in the minority, but it has a lot less stature now.”
  • In alignment with a diminished Senate, Hickenlooper and others argue that they are executive personalities who want to get things done and not be locked into the slow pace of the Senate and a second-class minority position.
  • Enhancing the attraction of a presidential run is its heightened status in the Trump authoritarian era. Neither opinion leaders nor the public look to Congress, especially the Senate, to solve critical problems. From health care, to immigration, to infrastructure, Congress seems irrelevant at the least and a barrier at worst.
The bottom line result is that Democrats’ chance to take back the Senate declines with each decision.

Do Endorsements Matter? Not in Hancock’s First Election.

Politicians and campaigns spend a lot of time acquiring endorsements, especially from rivals, but it’s not clear it makes much of a difference.

When Mayor Michael Hancock was first elected in 2011, third-place close finisher, James Mejia, endorsed topliner Chris Romer. Yet, in the runoff, Hancock beat Romer by 16 percentage points, or nearly 20,000 votes, a major reversal of the first election position. There was also an increase of 8,000 additional votes in the total.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Colorado Has Two Radically Different Political Parties

On May 13, the leadership of Colorado’s legislature met in a question and answer session with interviews by Shaun Boyd of CBS Channel 4 and the Colorado Sun’s John Frank (an online paper with several Denver Post top reporters). In the University of Denver event, co-sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Center on American Politics and the Colorado Sun, more than 500 alumni, faculty, educators and students packed the Davis Auditorium in Sturm Hall.

From legislative recalls, to solutions to school shootings, to the death penalty, there were starkly different viewpoints, with Democratic House Speaker KC Becker offering the most articulate liberal viewpoint on a host of issues and promising more of the same next year. Supported by her Senate colleague, Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, both from Boulder, they made clear that some bills that failed this year will be back, including paid leave and abolition of the death penalty.

The group couldn’t even agree on more school resource officers as the Republican Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert and Patrick Neville in the House were unwilling to go beyond encouragement for the state’s more than 170 separate school districts to take their own action, or in Neville’s view, arming teachers, versus KC Becker fearing the militarization of the classroom.

The two parties strongly disagreed on the use of recalls against legislators, with Neville an active behind-the-scenes encourager and Becker calling it unjustified intimidation and do-overs.

Thanks to the legislators for their time and candor. There is no doubt Colorado voters will have a clear choice in the next round of elections, and in the meantime, Democrats will aggressively pursue their agenda and Republicans continue to play the weak hand dealt them in the 2018 election.

Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder (R)  and Senate Minority
Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker on stage at the Davis Auditorium in Sturm
Hall at DU, May 13, 2019 | Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun

Read The Colorado Sun: Six big takeaways from The Colorado Sun’s forum with Gov. Jared Polis and top state lawmakers

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Denver Runoff Could be Close, But Hancock Starts Ahead: April and Marty, KOA Interview

A week ago, a record number of Denver voters shook up the system. More than 180,000 turned out, 80,000 on Election Day, May 7. They forced three incumbent councilpersons into runoffs, plus the mayor.

Hancock starts with advantages. He only has to find 11 points from 39 to 50 percent, whereas Jamie Giellis must double her votes. He spent $2 million in the first election and will likely find one or two more for the runoff. And, he will argue that the city is more than just community development and zoning and that he’s experienced in running it – public safety, public works and social services. Politically, he knows how to run a campaign in Denver and has a team in place.

But, Giellis has the benefit of a new enlarged electorate and a desire for change. Sixty percent of the electorate voted for someone besides Hancock. All three city council incumbents pushed into runoffs had major development and gentrification issues in their districts, and Giellis is advocating limits. Finally, an unknown factor is that many people believe it would be nice to have a woman mayor. It relates to some of the City Hall controversies.

Incumbents are hard to beat. In two recent runoffs, Federico Pena and Wellington Webb, who came in second in the first round, went on to win in their runoff. But as the Pena’s and Hickenlooper’s first elections demonstrated, sometimes Denver voters support newcomers with little government executive experience.

Expect an interesting three weeks.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Aldo Svaldi Reports Denver’s Attraction for New Residents

The Denver metro area’s rapid growth reflects thousands of people, mostly younger, moving from other metropolitan areas. Aldo Svaldi, the Denver Post’s business writer on trends, describes the flows from studies by LinkedIn and Redfin.

Lifestyle, job opportunities and cost of living are major factors moving the population. The decade of super growth in Colorado has changed the politics of the state and is now the top issue challenging the establishment in the Denver mayoral and council elections.

Conversation With Governor Polis

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research is co-sponsoring a conversation with Governor Jared Polis on May 13 with DU’s Center on American Politics and the Colorado Sun. The presentation will be followed by a panel of state lawmakers offering their observations of the accomplishments and failures of the legislative session. A reception will follow the 6:00 pm event.

RSVP here

Gov. Jared Polis reads to children in Colorado Springs | Dougal Brownlie/CS Gazette

Friday, May 10, 2019

Denver Voters Force Run-offs, Including Three Incumbents

Three Denver city council incumbents are facing run-offs in a record turnout of voters, shaking up the establishment. The extraordinary final 80,000 Election Day voters tended to lean against incumbents, taking a point or two. It also gave Initiative 301 – decriminalizing mushrooms – its final margin of passage. Incumbents in run-offs are: Mary Beth Susman in Eastside/Hilltop District 5, who came in second; Albus Brooks, who barely top-lined, in District 9, Denver’s oldest areas around City Park, Five Points and Globeville to downtown; and Wayne New in Cherry Creek, Belcaro and Congress Park areas.

The races:

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Denver Highlights its National Image as a Drug Capital – Yes to Psilocybin

The drug legalization movement won its effort to decriminalize “magic mushrooms,” or Psilocybin, as the final votes in a record turnout were counted late Wednesday. The May 7 electorate approved the effort by one point, or about 2,000 votes out of 177,000 cast. This was the big story in the national press.

Record Denver Turnout Shows Up on Last Day

After an initially slow ballot return with only 101,000 counted late Monday, by early Wednesday morning, another 80,000 ballots showed up on Tuesday. It led to a slow count after the first 95,000 reported at 7:00 pm Election Night.

The massive turnout is more than 70,000 above the last competitive mayor’s election in 2011 when Michael Hancock first won an election spot on the run-off ballot. It reflects that 68,000 more voters have been added to Denver’s polls since 2015 in the last city election.

Read The Buzz:
Low Turnout: KOA Interview With April and Marty - Only 101,000 Voted by Late Monday
High or Low Turnout – Denver Mayor’s Election 2019
Denver Municipal Election. Some Things to Watch for Election Night.

Final Unofficial Denver Vote Shows 184,000 Turned in Ballots; More Than 80,000 on Election Day

The final unofficial vote counts from the Denver Clerk’s Office shows 178,000 voted for mayor, forcing a run-off for Michael Hancock with Jamie Giellis. Another 1,000 votes were mailed in and dropped off to vote for/against lifting the camping ban.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Right to Survive Crushed by the Quality of Life

In an election that was primarily framed by the public’s concerns about the costs and excess of growth, it’s hardly surprising that an initiative that would have made policing homeless encampments nearly impossible was crushed. The quality of life in numerous western cities, such as Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, have been well reported as damaged by masses of homeless with minimum regulation due to legalistic approaches that hamstring law enforcement.

Initially, the Right to Survive had the aspirational high ground with Denver’s large liberal community sympathetic to the homeless dilemma of lack of shelters and places to stay. But, the campaign in opposition gathered many homeless advocacy organizations who believed the problem had to be addressed, but a right to camp on public space was the wrong solution. Liberal support collapsed as voters, who were more concerned about public safety and quality of life, overwhelmingly voted no.

Hancock Forced into Run-off with Giellis

As expected, Mayor Michael Hancock was unable to reach 50 percent plus vote to win re-election outright. Jamie Giellis, the second biggest fundraiser, came in second with about a quarter of the vote (27%).

Hancock will start with an advantage if he can replenish his campaign treasury, but Giellis has the 60 percent of the electorate that is unhappy.

See The Buzz: Denver Municipal Election. Some Things to Watch for Election Night.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Low Turnout: KOA Interview With April and Marty - Only 101,000 Voted by Late Monday

On Monday before Election Day, only 101,000 Denver voters had turned in ballots. The highest recent municipal election was in 2011 with 113,000 votes in the first election and 120,000 in run-off.

Read The Buzz:
High or Low Turnout – Denver Mayor’s Election 2019
Denver Municipal Election. Some Things to Watch for Election Night.

Listen to KOA interview with April and Marty here

Colorado Politics and John Ensslin on Watching the Denver Mayor Returns

John Ensslin as part of his Colorado Politics coverage of the Denver municipal election conducted interviews with old election hands – Charlie Brown, Lynn Bartels and me. We opined on the likelihood of a runoff (yes), major challengers (Giellis), turnout (low), and areas to watch have competitive city council races, such as Westside (open seat) and Hilltop.

Finally, it was felt Initiative 300 and rights of the homeless would drive out property owners, especially south of 6th Avenue.

Charlie Brown and Lynn Bartels opine on the Denver
city election | John C. Ensslin/Colorado Politics

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Biden, Master of Retail Politics, But Can He Do Online Wholesale?

Joe Biden, the 20th candidate to enter the Democratic primary field, is said to be a first-rate retail candidate, which has advantages in meet and greet type campaigns, such as in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. But as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump demonstrated in 2016, whoever is high-profile online and on cable and broadcast media has the advantage.

Biden’s team recognizes the issue and launched the campaign with an inspiring, well-produced and well-received video. But, Biden’s challenge has been to separate his in-the-moment personal campaign skill from the more important mass communication skills that require message discipline and media phrasing; i.e., brief, to the point and making a point.

Biden starts as the Democratic frontrunner, ahead of second place Bernie Sanders and a field of about ten in a third place position in a single-digit tier. A couple of early polls show Biden jumping 20 points or more after his announcement. With Biden’s entry, the field is likely full, although Senator Michael Bennet will make it twenty-one! The candidates have already started nonstop events, town halls, and on June 26, they will participate in the first debate. There will be considerable movement within the third place tier before the Iowa caucus.

Denver Municipal Election. Some Things to Watch for Election Night.

Modern Denver political history leaves analyses of the May 7 municipal race with a dearth of data. The only recent third-term election was Wellington Webb in 1999, and he was mostly unopposed. Mayors Federico Peña and Webb had competitive second-term races, which they both won after very hard-fought first elections. Peña’s runoff was also close.

Mayor Michael Hancock will have to be very lucky to avoid a runoff, given the number of strong opponents, the aggravation about overdevelopment and the general anti-establishment sentiment of voters. The incumbent also faces an electorate that has grown by more than 50,000 since the last time he faced a competitive contest (2011). They tend to be younger and Anglo and turned out in droves in the November 2018 midterm.

As The Buzz pointed out (April 24 – High or Low Turnout – Denver Mayor’s Election 2019), Denver city election turnout tends to be modest, even in the highly contested elections. Voter turnout will be one of many items to watch in the election. Other factors are:
  1. Denver mayoral election turnout tends to be low. That’s the way municipal leaders desire it by scheduling the election in early May, away from higher turnout November elections. Low turnout often helps the status quo, but in 2019, there are some issues rallying the electorate.
  2. The top issue – development – could produce a wave of anti-establishment voting. If so, the mayor will have a run-off and Denver politics will have a turbulent May.
  3. Proposition 300 is producing passion. It is likely to drive some turnout. It is also likely to lose by a big margin. Nor does Magic Mushrooms appear to have support.
  4. Jamie Giellis is the frontrunner among the challengers based on money, yard signs and friends of the Mayor targeting her in attack ads. There appears to be a lot of campaigning north of 6th Avenue, but how will south of 6th Avenue vote?

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Hickenlooper Makes First Debate

In the latest 538 analysis of the Democratic presidential candidates’ positions (Nate Silver), John Hickenlooper is awarded a debate spot based on receiving at least one percent in three credible national polls. His polling position remains near the bottom.

In a New York Times Sunday feature, local correspondent Julie Turkewitz follows Hickenlooper on the campaign trail and points out as yet, he hasn’t caught the viral moment. Hickenlooper, himself, worries that there may not be enough money to exploit that moment if and when it happens.

Read The Buzz: Dates selected for first Democratic debate. Will Hickenlooper make it?

Confirmed: Democrats Hold Primary on Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020

As predicted in The Buzz on April 25, Democrats will indeed hold their Democratic delegate selection primary on March 3, Super Tuesday next year. The Colorado primary will join twelve other states as of May 1, 2019: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Virginia.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Chancellor Chopp was Just What DU Needed

Chancellor Rebecca Chopp
Photo: Kansas Wesleyan University
When Rebecca Chopp was selected as the University of Denver’s chancellor, the school was ready for a new strategic direction. The foundation, both structurally and academically, of the University was sound, but higher education was changing rapidly. Chopp, with energy and a facility for bringing people together (a lot of meetings), got the plan finished and approved. She’s now implementing it with a new campus land use plan, new buildings and new initiatives. Chopp just announced her resignation to deal with medical issues. Fortunately, she will be available to help on the transition with Provost Jeremy Haefner as intern chancellor. Two of her top goals were to heighten the University’s well-established international reputation and strengthen DU’s connection to Denver and Colorado, both of which Haefner shares.

Rebecca, good luck on your return to full health. Thank you for five years of vision, boundless energy and good spirits.

See: DU Chancellor Chop announces decision to step down

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Presidential Primary

Colorado ended its presidential primary after the 2000 presidential election because of the cost when compared to the modest and variable partisan turnout over the three presidential elections.

In 1992, Democrats managed to turn out more than 234,000 in a contested primary California Governor Jerry Brown won. But with Bill Clinton, the unopposed incumbent in 1996, there was no contest, and only 84,000 Democrats voted in 2000 as Vice President Al Gore was seen as the likely nominee. Republicans’ biggest primary turnout was in 1996 when Senator Bob Dole received 44 percent of more than 246,000 voters. But, first President Bush as an incumbent won 68 percent, with 190,000 voters participating in 1992, and his son, George W. Bush, won 65 percent in 2000 as he was seen as the very strong frontrunner and only 177,000 Republicans turned out.

Hence, with the economic downturn of the early 2000s, Governor Bill Owens suggested going back to the party administrated caucus and dropping the primary.

The newly authorized Colorado primary likely to be held on the first Super Tuesday, March 1, 2020, will have little or no Republican participation, but a record turnout can be expected among Democrats and newly enfranchised unaffiliated voters.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

High or Low Turnout – Denver Mayor’s Election 2019

The last two contested mayoral elections in Denver have produced modest voter turnout compared to partisan elections, which regularly see more than 200,000 voters participating. The 2018 midterm election counted 312,000 ballots cast in Denver and 194,000 in the 2010 general election. Whereas Denver municipal elections in 2003 and 2011 turned out 113,000 in both general elections (1st race) and only slightly more in the 2011 runoff.

There are, of course, many more residents in Denver in 2019 than 2011, but the race remains low-key as of April 24.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Mueller Report: What’s Next? KOA Interview With April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz

The day after the Mueller Report was released, I discussed with KOA’s April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz the politics of the report.

Some observations post the commentary:

1.   The release of the Report is national and international news, but there is no evidence it will change many views of President Trump or his White House. Neither public opinion nor Republican opinion has moved since the March 24 delivery of Attorney General Barr’s four-page memo on the Report. Trump still has 44 percent overall support and 85 percent among Republicans.

The immediate reporting of the Report’s contents has been mostly negative, focused on obstruction and many reports of White House dishonesty, paranoia and chaos. But, the release was shaped by Barr’s preceding press conference and his earlier letter. With no underlying crime and obstruction not charged, the Republicans, including those who must run with him in 2020, are relieved.

2. History suggests that the circumstances of the political era shapes the political impact of special prosecutors’ reports. The release of the Starr Report in 1999 simply sent the parties to their respective corners. Bill Clinton remained popular and Democrats argued there was no underlying crime unrelated to bad judgement (sex) in the Oval Office.

Whereas the release of the Watergate tapes in 1994 destroyed the Nixon presidency. But by then, Richard Nixon’s popularity was about 38 percent nationally and barely 50 percent among Republicans. Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and Nixon was a lame duck. Today’s polarized political environment links to 1999 more than 1974.

3. What type of Democratic candidate might benefit from the Report’s revelations? An outsider-type was speculated as helped. True, but in the 1976 and 2000 elections post Nixon and Clinton, respectively, the candidates seen as most opposite the damaged incumbent were selected. Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both promised to bring moral rectitude and decorum to the White House. Both were outspokenly religious in sentiment.

Is Pete Buttigieg the smart mayor; Kamala Harris the tough prosecutor; or John Hickenlooper and his positive campaign the alternative most desired?

4. After the Report, the ball is now in the Democrats’ court. The legislative leadership has made clear they don’t want to move to impeachment less than a year from primaries and less than two years from the election, but pressure from the activist base will be intense. The media will continue to highlight the Report’s evidence of gross, if not criminal, misbehavior.

The Democrats are looking for a strategy that keeps the issues alive, but avoids the appearance of overreach, which the President and his legislative and media supporters will claim nonstop.
  • Demand the full report
  • Have Mueller, Barr and especially McGahn testify
  • Proceed to question his taxes, probe agencies and other aspects of the administration
The final conclusion as of Easter weekend: the game is not over. There is no complete or total exoneration, but the Trump presidency continues and most likely the election will provide the judgement on Trump and his administration. In which case, the Democrats still need to worry about the quality of their candidates and their programs.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Aurora Getting Presidential Candidate’s Attention

Elizabeth Warren speaks to supporters at the Hangar at the
Stanley Marketplace, Aurora, CO, April 16, 2019
Photo: Philip B. Poston/Aurora Sentinel
Senator Elizabeth Warren just visited Aurora. The city is likely to see a host of candidates before next March’s presidential primary. Aurora and Arapahoe County have become the Democrats’ new favorite stop due to the huge margins they are providing. Jason Crow crushed incumbent Mike Coffman by 41,000 votes, while Governor Polis won by 49,000 and Democrats swept county offices.

In an Aurora Sentinel interview with Kara Mason, I pointed out that liberal Democrats have historically won the Colorado caucuses more often than mainstream Democratic candidates.

Colorado political consultant Floyd Ciruli said the changing political landscape in Aurora and Arapahoe County is attractive campaigning territory to Democrats, especially for candidates with more progressive values.

“Caucuses tend to go toward the left flank of the party, and she accurately sees that Colorado could be very important to her,” he said. 

Colorado Democrats favored Bernie Sanders over Hilary Clinton in 2016 and former President Barack Obama over Hilary Clinton in 2012 — a clue that candidates like Sanders and Warren may fair better in metro Denver this cycle, too. The 2018 election also serves as a recent reminder that Arapahoe County is more blue than it once was, with the election of Congressman Jason Crow and the defeat of the Republican clerk and sheriff.

Even with Aurora in “blue wave” territory, Ciruli still sees Colorado as a shade of purple – so the state is to be an important one as the race for 2020 continues to heat up.

“Colorado has been a favorite for these candidates probably more than a decade because it’s been a swing state since 2000,” he said.

Warren held the event at the Stanley Marketplace. Millennials like it and she wants to attract the younger members of the party (and independents).

“She is competing for the people who hang out there, it’s a millennial, cutting-edge thing,” he said of the now-renovated aviation manufacturing facility that’s home to hip eateries.

“Her message is looking for millennials and young people and urban people who are thinking about new things in life and new trends,” Ciruli added. “She’s hoping those are the voters she’ll reach.”

“This is the End” or “Game Over”?

Almost two years from the start (May 17), the Mueller Report landed like a bombshell on the White House and Washington politics. The President immediately tweeted “Game Over,” reinforcing his “complete and total exoneration” comment of March 24 after Attorney General Barr’s four-page summary of the Report.

But, the Report quotes the President believing “This is the end” of his presidency when he first heard Robert Mueller was hired to investigate allegations Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and his campaign’s involvement with it. (A lot like the initial reaction to the “Access Hollywood” tape.)

Mueller Report
May 17, 2017 – Mueller appointed
March 22, 2019 – Mueller submits report to DOJ
March 24, 2019 – AG Barr publishes 4-page summary
April 18, 2019 – Barr press conference, Report released

Contrary to Trump’s doomed view, his presidency survived the investigation, but also contrary to his exclamation, the game is clearly not over. In fact, the politics of the Report are just beginning. How Congress, especially the Democrats, reacts will be the first fallout from the Report. Do they now have to consider impeachment or just continue with their various investigations? It will likely quickly evolve to the courts considering subpoenas, presidential claims of privilege and the Justice Department’s policy of redaction.

No doubt, his base of Republicans will stay with him. Those Republicans who doubt his fitness are unlikely to be moved by bad campaign behavior given he was not criminally conspiring with Russia. Democrats need no additional evidence that Trump shouldn’t be in the Oval Office. And independent voters, who have been learning against many of his most controversial policies, such as shutting down the government and calling an immigration emergency, may not rate the Report as that important and it may not weigh much on their choice between Trump and the Democratic nominee. Hence, there’s extensive damage, but Trump’s presidency is likely to continue into the November 2020 election. One senses that was Bob Mueller’s intention – let the voters decide.

See The Buzz: "Complete and Total Exoneration"

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Dates Selected for First Democratic Debate. Will Hickenlooper Make it?

John Hickenlooper (L) with Michael Davis speaks to survivors of
victims of mass shootings on April 16, 2019. Michael Davis lost
his daughter, Claire,  in a mass  shooting at Arapahoe High
School in December 2013 | David Zalubowski 
In about 10 weeks, the Democrats host their first debate (June 26-27, 2019). There are 18 announced candidates, and a dozen are raising money and have some awareness, if slight, among the Democratic electorate. Those are the two criteria to get onto the debate stage.

Debate entrance criteria:
  • 1% in three credible national polls
  • 65,000 online donors (minimum of 200 donors in 20 states)
John Hickenlooper has hit one percent in the national polls (not consistently), but his fundraising is lagging behind the top candidates. He raised $2 million in the first quarter, with only modest amounts of it from online contributors. He might argue that it at least puts him in the top eight, even if at the bottom.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Kenney and Ensslin Do the Mayor’s Race

Does Mayor Hancock get to 50 percent and avoid a runoff or are 60 percent of the voters looking for change, at least in the first round? If it’s change, which of the three leading challengers will be ahead on May 7?

Andrew Kenney of the Denver Post and John Ensslin of Colorado Politics are profiling the candidates and the race’s trajectory in their respective publications. Some observations after doing interviews:

Penfield Tate knows Denver, has a good reputation and seems ready for the job. Tate believes Denver’s quality of life is slipping away. If voters want experience and a long political track record, Tate wins.

Lisa Calderón represents the most dramatic amount of change. A true outsider who will take on the system. If voters believe a major shake-up is needed, Calderón is the candidate.

Jamie Giellis has less government experience or local knowledge, but has new ideas and a track record of solving development-type problems. Is she the new ideas candidate that appeals to Millennials?

Even if Hancock doesn’t get to 50 percent, the race is not over. Both Federico Peña and Wellington Webb recovered in run-offs. In fact, challengers beat them (Don Bain and Mary DeGroot, respectively) in the first round, but they still managed to win.

Denver Post: Penfield Tate: Former lawmaker warns that Denver is “disappearing” amid development and scandals
Colorado Politics: Meet Denver's next mayor: The candidates charge into a pivotal election

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Is Hancock in for a Runoff?

Although no polls have been published, it is clearly a disruptive moment to be running for a third term as Denver mayor. Michael Hancock has been successful by many definitions. The city attracts new residents, the economy is strong and he has passed ballot issues overriding TABOR and approving infrastructure bonds, usually a sign of public support. In the campaign, the most reported metric is fundraising, and Hancock holds a million dollar advantage over his opponents.

In general, incumbents are not defeated. But, there are a few exceptions. The modern era of Denver politics began in 1983 when Federico Peña defeated Bill McNichols, who was going for a fifth term. And, both Peña and his successor, Wellington Webb, had very tough second term re-elections where they lost the first rounds.

And, there is a sense 2019 will be a difficult year for incumbents. Chicago just tossed out the machine for a political novice advocating change and fighting corruption. Although none of Hancock’s opponents have surged yet, all three are actively campaigning, have constituencies and together only need to hold Hancock to below 50 percent.

Hancock’s biggest issue challenge is growth, which the booming economy has encouraged. He is the establishment and business candidate as the fundraising makes clear. He gets credit for much of what is exciting about Denver, but now he gets the blame for the traffic, gentrification, homelessness and other less welcoming side effects of growth.

Also, like 1983 when Baby Boomers helped elect Peña, the surge of new Millennial voters don’t know Hancock’s life story or his record of service. He’s had to introduce himself with advertising to this new electorate, who ironically represent the growth the public is concerned about.

Japan Begins to Project Power

Floyd Ciruli & Hiroyuki Akita
Japan is an economic power – third largest national GDP after the U.S. and China – but it has not projected strategic influence. Prime Minister Abe, his party the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) and the nation’s foreign policy leadership are changing that. They recognize new circumstances in the last decade have created challenges in the Western Pacific that, if not addressed quickly, will become strategic threats that could harm the nation’s and region’s security and prosperity.

Recent visits with leading Japanese foreign policy experts confirm the new direction. Tauneo Watanabe, senior research fellow of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, and Hiroyuki Akita, foreign affairs and security columnist for the Nikkei: Shimbun recognize the challenges that the Abe government is addressing.

Tauneo Watanabe & Floyd Ciruli
The long period of relative calm in the Pacific has been disordered by the rise of an expansionist China. With vast economic resources and leadership of Xi Jinping, it is revising the region’s power relationships and rules. North Korea, long a repressive rogue state, now has nuclear weapons and a delivery system that could reach Japan and beyond. The new leader, Kim Jong-un, appears determined to change his country’s economic and strategic weakness. But, probably the most unexpected and rapid change has been in the U.S.’s foreign policy under President Donald Trump’s “America First” doctrine. Alliances, including with Japan, South Korea and other Asian nations, have been discounted as they are primarily considered financial arrangements subject to unilateral revocation and accompanied by frequent, if casual, threats of withdrawal.

Japan’s pacifist constitution (war making is prohibited), which has broad public support, will likely remain the dominant foreign policy boundary, but Japanese realists are increasingly redefining it to address the new conditions in the Pacific. Abe’s strategy is to use soft power to build multilateral alliances dedicated to economic benefits with selective, if limited, military applications. So, for example, Abe has picked up the TPP trade agreement discarded by the Trump administration and reconfigured it. He recognizes the U.S. must be a part of the trade and defense strategies and has encouraged the U.S. to rejoin the revised TPP and Japan is taking part with the U.S. and South Asian nations in military exercises. He and his foreign policy team are also looking farther afield for allies, including in Europe, for example Germany, and in the Mideast.

Fortunately for Abe’s timing, Japanese soft power in the Pacific Rim is high. A couple of recent polls show Japan’s reputation exceeds China’s and the U.S.’s in a number of Asian and South Asian Rim countries. It reflects many years of work on soft power with economic development, cultural exchanges and tourism promotion.

A Pew Research survey of last November shows confidence in Abe and positive reviews of Japan in the Philippines, Australia, U.S. and Indonesia. Only South Koreans are negative.

A survey commissioned by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in ASEAN member states in February 2018 (3,000 interviews in 10 countries).

Japan’s leadership sees defense of a rule-based international system and the self-confidence of democratic counties as an important national objective and a responsibility it shares with the U.S. and other allies.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

“Complete and Total Exoneration”

President Donald Trump | AFP/Getty Images
There is good reason to believe Donald Trump is wrong that the Mueller report provides “complete and total exoneration,” which he proclaimed returning from Mar-a-Lago the Sunday after Attorney General Barr’s four-page letter to the Congress (March 24, 2019). It is also clear that he is aware of the problems the report presents as he has backed away from his original position of releasing the report.

President Trump is right to be concerned as a careful reading of Barr’s summary of the 400-page report highlights that there may be ample evidence of both collusion-type activities (but no tacit or express agreement) and obstruction (“It also does not exonerate him”).

The American people appear in early polls to agree there’s more to the story and they want to see the report to get it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Nielsen Out, Another Acting In

President Trump: “Our country is full. Turn around.”

Kirstjen Nielsen joins her former boss, John Kelly, as pushed out (fired) by Donald Trump for not being tough enough. With asylum seekers increasing and illegal border crossings continuing, Nielsen’s job became impossible. Trump is also looking for a new “tougher” ICE administrator. President Trump, who used anti-immigration policies and rhetoric in both the 2016 and 2018 elections, is seriously concerned the border issue could be a failed promise and not a rallying point for his base.

Conditions in Central America, such as drought, poverty and criminality, and America’s booming tight employment economy and well-organized migrant smugglers, have produced record surges to the border in spite of Trump’s use of the army and various immigrant deterrence tactics.

Kelly was replaced by the Freedom Caucus’s founder, Mick Mulvaney. Stephen Miller was rumored to be behind the changes. No doubt, the next heads of Homeland Security and ICE will be seen as least as “tough” on immigration enforcement as those two.

President Donald Trump, next to Kirstjen Nielsen, speaks with members of the U.S.
Customs and Border Patrol, Calexico, CA, April 5, 2019 | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Monday, April 8, 2019

Some Elections Better for Democracy, Some Not so Good

Many of the populist/nationalist candidates who have changed the politics of Western Europe and America are now the dominant participants in a series of elections around the world. Most of the leaders are authoritarian in orientation and some are actively undermining rule of law, independent judiciaries and free press. Many of the countries have high levels of corruption, especially by wealthy business patrons of the governments. April will be a busy month with elections in India and Israel. In May, the EU will have parliamentary elections in all 28 member states. Right-wing populist movements will be active.

Friday, April 5, 2019

John Low, A Lifetime of Service

Civic leader John Low just passed away. A respected attorney at Sherman & Howard, he used his time, talent and resources to support some of Denver’s most important institutions. DU was probably his first love, with 32 years of board of trustee leadership. But in the late 1980s, John’s strong advocacy of the Denver (now Colorado) Symphony and Central City Opera helped them secure a position in the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). And, of course, he was an early and strong advocate of the SCFD.

John and Merry Low are a Colorado treasure.

Read John’s obituary here

Merry and John Low | DU photo

Mick Mulvaney and the Freedom Party are in the Oval Office and Taking Charge

Mick Mulvaney is of the same mindset as Stephen Miller, but his portfolio as White House Chief of Staff (acting like many administration positions) is broader. And, like Miller, he perfectly plays to the President’s preoccupation with the preferences of and promises to the base. Mulvaney was first elected to Congress as part of the Tea Party in 2010 and is a founding member of the Freedom Caucus.

President Donald Trump and Mick Mulvaney | WSJ
So last week, when a decision on the 2019 legal and legislative health care strategy was under discussion, Mulvaney argued for shifting the administration’s legal position on the Appeals Court case, to arguing for the full unconstitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The President agreed. It was promised to the base and Congress can come up with a replacement as he argued during 2017 until the still denigrated John McCain voted down the effort.

Most Republican congressional leaders and political consultants believe that it’s a risky strategy, likely to only help Democrats. But, the Freedom Caucus, which has done so much to undermine Republican leadership, is highly supportive of killing Obamacare completely. After the firestorm of criticism and some behind-the-scene talks with Majority Leader McConnell, the President changed course. Another lesson on being cautious when listening to Mulvaney.

Mulvaney, when he first took over the Chief of Staff position in January, strongly supported the shutdown and the emergency declaration. He now is an advocate and spokesperson for shutting down the ports of entry between the U.S. and Mexico.

Mulvaney, like Trump, is focused on the base when much of the Republican Party is examining how to win back the House, hold the Senate, and expand Trump out of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania to other potential swing states, including Colorado. Can the Republican Party be a national party if it is run by the Freedom Caucus?

Chicago Voted for Change. Is Denver Next?

In a campaign framed as change vs. experience, Rahm Emanuel wisely did not run for re-election. Lori Lightfoot won a sweeping victory in all parts of Chicago with 74 percent of the vote. She was the anti-machine, anti-Emanuel candidate. With a slogan, “bring in the Light,” she campaigned for change and against corruption. She represents the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Her opponent, party stalwart Toni Preckwinkle, head of Cook County Board and the Cook County Democratic Party, was crushed by the desire for change. Progressives, many claiming a socialist label, also won several citywide and alderman seats (city council) against incumbents.

Is change in the air in the Denver’s May 7 municipal election?

Lori Lightfoot giving her victory speech | Getty Images

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Hickenlooper Gives Biden No Slack

On Sunday, Joe Biden was given very little support by the current Democratic presidential candidate field. Chuck Todd’s gotcha question on Meet the Press was: Should the Biden accusation, if true, disqualify him? Hickenlooper gave a typical long answer, but said finally it was “disconcerting.”

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro and others were more direct and said Biden would have to deal with the very serious accusation, which most of them believed. They implied voters should consider it. Biden is the undeclared frontrunner in polls and takes up much of the establishment and moderate space that Hickenlooper and the field compete for.

Chuck Todd and John Hickenlooper, March 31, 2019
Photo: NBC News /Meet the Press via YouTube screen grab

If Cancer Free, Bennet Says He’s in the Race

Sen. Michael Bennet | Photo: C-SPAN screen grab
On the day I blogged Senator Michael Bennet was inclined to run for president and we were just waiting for the announcement, he announced after the next congressional recess (April 11), he’ll have prostate cancer surgery. If he’s then cancer free, he said he will run.

Good luck on the surgery. It was a very dramatic way to announce. It should get a lot of men over 65 paying attention.

KOA Interview With Marty Lenz: Hickenlooper on Meet the Press

John Hickenlooper held forth on a long Meet the Press interview with Chuck Todd last Sunday (March 31). Todd previewed Hickenlooper with the intro:
“Can a self-described extreme moderate win the nomination in an increasingly progressive Democratic Party? I’ll talk to former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper.”
KOA’s ongoing coverage of Hickenlooper and his presidential campaign was moderated by Marty Lenz. We reviewed the NBC interview and where he stands today in the race.
  • It was a long interview. Hickenlooper got about 15 percent of the show and four questions.
  • Although his responses were better than several recent interviews, he still struggles with just answering the questions.
    • What would you do today about the border? Need immigration and comprehensive reform.
    • Are you an extreme moderate? Doesn’t like labels.
    • Any limits on abortion? Talk about Colorado’s anti-pregnancy plan for teenagers.
Hickenlooper’s responses lead into his campaign theme, which is that there are Colorado solutions and his experience at getting diverse people to agree to address problems is a winning formula. The answers tend to be indirect and wordy, but the key question is: Does it play in Iowa, New Hampshire and generally on the road? It certainly doesn’t produce applause lines yet.

Meet the Press – March 31, 2019

Part of Hickenlooper’s challenge as a Democratic moderate is that he’s trying to avoid offending any part of the Democratic coalition. For example, the label “extreme moderate” could turn off the establishment as to what does “extreme” mean, and for progressives, it sounds too moderate. Hence, Hickenlooper tries to avoid labels like the measles. Witness his “passionate capitalism” escapism on Morning Joe.

Hickenlooper hasn’t moved up in the queue. In fact, his move up is probably more difficult today due to the entering of Beto O’Rourke (huge crowds and funding), Pete Buttigieg ($7 million in contributions) and increased campaigning by Amy Klobuchar, who compete for moderate Democrats.

Hickenlooper remains a serious, but still very longshot candidate.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Bennet Leans Toward Run for President

Apparently, Senator Michael Bennet is leaning toward announcing a run for president. He would join John Hickenlooper, who’s been in the field for months, but still doesn’t have many on-the-ground indicators he’s making progress; i.e., big crowds, media coverage, polling position or money flowing in.

Sen. Michael Bennet | Photo: CNN
Bennet has been testing the waters in early states and appears to like his reception. He’s a centrist like Hickenlooper, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke and former Vice President Joe Biden (if he gets into the race). He believes that if he can get to the debate platform in June, his message, senate reputation and presentation skills will make him stand out and emerge as a top finalist.

There are a number of centrists he must beat. Will Biden stumble (he has a history of it)? Will Hickenlooper fade (Bennet likely thinks so)? Can he simply outmaneuver Klobuchar and others and become the go-to establishment candidate? We shall see.

Politico: Colorado Sen. Bennet says he’s ‘very inclined’ to run for president
CNN: With viral speech as his introduction, Sen. Michael Bennet tests the waters in Iowa

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Executive Orders as Theater

Donald Trump rapidly recognized the Oval Office is a stage and the Executive Order a script. In his first week in office, he began using them to appear to fill promises, do favors for core constituents and build the case as the greatest, most active president in history (read: “Staging the First 100 Days from the White House").

The Buzz blog, May 5, 2017

Of course, it was obvious that many of the orders, proclamations and general activity around the Resolute Desk were for show. As the Los Angeles Times just documented, only a few of the orders actually moved policy, and those that did, were often challenged in the courts. The prime example was the Muslim ban signed the second week in office. But, most are essentially appeals to his own administration to do something, which could have been accomplished with a White House call without handing out pens at a signing ceremony.

The LA Times reports:
  • 18 created task forces, councils or committees (one related to voter fraud, another an infrastructure committee)
  • 12 admit Congress is needed and only “encourage” or implement to the “extent permitted by law”
  • 15 reversed Obama orders, mostly on the environment
  • 43 required reports or reviews considered by the agencies as simply encouragement
Trump tends to refer to all of them as “historic” or “groundbreaking.”

Trump Starts 2020 Campaign – Again

Numerous commentators have said President Trump started the 2020 campaign with his recent rally in Michigan. A vengeance reboot post the Mueller report completion. No doubt, the main themes of the campaign were expressed in the rally. But, in fact, his campaign began in February 2017 four weeks after his inauguration in Melbourne, Florida, before a similar 9,000 fans with Air Force One as a backdrop. He has been campaigning non-stop for all two years in office.


Politico: Trump tests post-Mueller vengeance campaign
The Buzz: Trump starts 2020 campaign

Friday, March 29, 2019

Economist – Polis, a Libertarian Democrat?

In an interview in the latest Economist, Governor Jared Polis is profiled as a Libertarian Democrat whose success will depend on striking a balance between a progressive legislature and campaign agenda versus a state with a moderate and conservative fiscal disposition.

My citations were:

Last autumn’s election was the most significant for Colorado’s political realignment in more than 40 years, says Floyd Ciruli of Ciruli Associates, a political consulting firm.

The legislature, which is now in full session, will not share the sense of moderation and is likely to pull Mr. Polis further left than he wants, according to Mr. Ciruli.

The author, Alexandra Suich Bass, ends with placing the political burden on Polis

The state’s political transformation is still relatively new. Whether it lasts will depend in part on the success of Mr. Polis’s reign.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

John Ensslin is Back

It’s good to read a John Ensslin byline. Back on the Denver news scene, he covered the mayoral debate for Colorado Politics (March 26). The primary questions in the Denver mayor’s race have not changed in months: Can Mayor Hancock’s challengers force a runoff and is growth and its attendant affects the issue that frames people’s choices?

There are some similarities to the 2011 election when Hancock was first elected:

Continuity vs. Change. Hancock, a longtime city council member and president, represented continuity. Chris Romer was for change.

Insider vs. Outsider. Although Romer was an established businessman, he wasn’t considered a city insider. Hancock was.

Liberal vs. More Liberal. Hancock was the liberal candidate. Today, he would be considered center-left.

Growth vs. Less and Different Growth. The election in 2011 was still focused on recovery from the great recession. Eight years later, the costs and excess of Denver’s spectacular growth are the issue.

Read The Buzz: Denver Post: Construction Cranes Everywhere. Mayor’s Race as Referendum on Growth.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Congratulations Colorado. A Very Sharp Looking Logo.

Governor Polis just gave Colorado a new logo. Mountains, evergreen and the state flag’s “C.” Very modern Colorado.

DeGette Having an AOC Moment?

Incumbent congresspersons are usually not in serious primaries. Diana DeGette, in her twelfth term, is in a real fight. Federico Pena and Ken Salazar have endorsed challenger, Crisanta Duran. Expect more as the year proceeds. Like AOC in New York, big city Democratic incumbents (Anglo) are being challenged. Is DeGette ready for a fight or retirement?

Rep. Diana DeGette and Crisanta Duran

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

California’s Growth Stalls While Florida and Texas Boom

After decades of steady and often spectacular growth, mostly from migration from other states (augmented by other countries), California’s growth has been cut in half the last eight years from its recent trend. Out migration now exceeds new arrivals. Florida and Texas continue on their recovery from the Great Recession starting in 2008. Both are drawing many U.S. residents to their economies and lifestyles.

California’s attitude, especially in its high-lifestyle coastal region, is anti-growth, characterized by municipal and county restrictions on businesses and new housing. The cost of available housing has skyrocketed, pushing many Millennials to look for more affordable regions, mostly out-of-state. The Democratic single-party state government is also highly burdensome for new businesses and new housing development. Taxes are high and homelessness is now the top complaint in most communities.

The California dream has collapsed for many and other choices are being made.

No Collusion, No Impeachment – KOA and 9KUSA

The Mueller report finding of no collusion is very good news for the President. Trump’s mantra of no collusion is validated. In 9KUSA and KOA interviews, the politics of the Mueller report was dissected. The finding of no collusion means no impeachment. Speaker Nancy Pelosi already understood the politics and stated that for impeachment to be credible and not work to the Democrats’ detriment, it had to have the Mueller report outlining “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”

But, the Russians did interfere with the election by social media efforts to divide the U.S. electorate and help Trump and by hacking Democratic emails for distribution to damage Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump. Did it make a difference? Not determinable, but the 77,000 three-state victory of Trump will forever be less legitimate. And, there is a host of contacts between his campaign associates and principals and the Russians to forever raise doubt that there was an, at least, unethical intent and action.

But, Mueller was less definite on obstruction of justice. Attorney General Barr’s letter states:

Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”

Hence, there will be a demand for the evidence “on both sides of the question” and for Congress and the public to make their own judgement. According to Barr, the lack of finding collusion was fatal to the charge of obstruction as it undermined the “evil intent” requirement.

Trump will, of course, argue he’s exonerated and any further inquiries are partisan harassment. Democrats will demand the evidence and continue at least some investigations. And, of course, the President’s re-election effort is benefited by the lifting of the cloud and endless stories of subpoenas, raids, testimonies and pleas. Although Trump was harmed by the investigation, and would have been possibly fatally damaged by a finding of collusion or obstruction, the success of his re-election is based on other political factors.

The midterm result and recent polls, including from his preferred FOX News, show that he starts from behind in voter approval and head-to-head face-offs because of his unpresidential demeanor and many unpopular policies on health care, immigration and taxes. Historically, incumbent presidents get re-elected. Both Trump and the Democrats are now back to the real task of convincing voters they should lead the country after 2020.