Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Photo Op Diplomacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, September 16, 2019

Denver Metro Area Continues to Prosper

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

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

Friday, September 13, 2019

Castro Crosses a Line, Helps Biden

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

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

Hickenlooper’s Position Strengthening

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

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

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Hickenlooper in Trouble?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Crow Gets a Challenger

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

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

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

Monday, September 9, 2019

Dick Kirk

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 6, 2019

Sports Betting Coming to Colorado?

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

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

Proposition DD: Authorize and tax sports betting
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED BY TWENTY-NINE MILLION DOLLARS ANNUALLY TO FUND STATE WATER PROJECTS AND COMMITMENTS AND TO PAY FOR THE REGULATION OF SPORTS BETTING THROUGH LICENSED CASINOS BY AUTHORIZING A TAX ON SPORTS BETTING OF TEN PERCENT OF NET SPORTS BETTING PROCEEDS, AND TO IMPOSE THE TAX ON PERSONS LICENSED TO CONDUCT SPORTS BETTING OPERATIONS?

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

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

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

Thursday, September 5, 2019

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

John Ensslin’s Last Beat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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