Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bennet - Running Behind Norton

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has failed to make much of an impression with Colorado voters – hence, is subject to the vicissitudes of the national Democratic Party, which is fairing poorly today. In a new statewide poll, he loses to little know former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton.

Rasmussen polls are known for tight voter-intention screens and weighing that make them more conservative. But, in 2010, that approach is prudent. Voter turnout will be down. Democratic enthusiasm is at a low level while Republicans are more unified and enthusiastic than in recent years.

Bennet is only slightly ahead of Andrew Romanoff, who also loses to Norton.

As mentioned, Bennet has a weak favorability impression with a high negative.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bad Timing

On the same day Stephanie Villafuerte dropped her bid to become Colorado U.S. Attorney, Rasmussen Reports published a poll showing Governor Bill Ritter’s approval rating still below 50 percent and losing to Republican rival Scott McInnis 48 percent to 40 percent. Ritter’s approval has been below 50 percent for a year, and that is the second poll showing him losing re-election.

The Villafuerte controversy was largely created by the decision to nominate her for U.S. Attorney – another in a long list of political missteps by Bill Ritter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Conservatives are Largest Ideological Bloc – Independents Become More Conservative

Conservatives have overtaken self-identified moderates to become the largest ideological group in American politics. Two-fifths (40%) of the adult public identify themselves as conservative. Moderates are at 36 percent and liberals at 20 percent.

The number of independents describing themselves as conservative has increased the past year, from 29 percent in 2008 to 35 percent in October 2009 (see figure below).

Also, independent voters’ image of Democrats has declined slightly since November 2008. Forty-seven percent of independents rated the Democratic Party favorably, and now 40 percent are positive about Democrats.

When the ideology of the two parties and independents is analyzed, Republicans remain the most conservative party (72%). Democrats are more closely divided between liberals (37%) and moderates (39%) with 22 percent conservative.

(See Gallup poll)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Obama’s Favorable Rating Drops

Voters’ favorable impression of President Barack Obama has dropped sharply since a high of 78 percent favorable after the inaugural to 66 percent in July to 53 percent in October. The drop, especially among independent voters, was very sharp since July as health care legislation came to the forefront. Republicans also began to rally against the President at that point.

One of Obama’s problems is that his policies are now seen by a majority of the public as “mostly liberal” (54%). A third consider his policies “mostly moderate” (34%) and, not surprising, only 7 percent consider them “mostly conservative.” In January, voters were evenly divided between labeling the policies he was likely to pursue “liberal” (43%) and “moderate” (45%).

(See Gallup poll)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Generic Ballot Test Shows Democrats in Trouble for 2010

A series of Gallup polls released around the Nov. 4 election provides context for the election results, which show Republicans regaining the initiative.

Generic Ballot
One of the best predictors of national partisan preferences without the influence of personalities is the generic ballot test for the House of Representatives. After its poor showing in the November election, Democrats now trail Republicans in the test.

Because Republican turnout tends to be better in lower turnout mid-term elections, the Democratic spread on the generic ballot test needs to be wider if Democrats are to maintain their position or add seats.

History indicates that Republicans should pick up seats in 2010 as the party out of power, although, there were exceptions in 1998 and 2002 when Bill Clinton and George W. Bush defied history and gained seats in the House for their respective parties.

1994 and 2004 Blow-out Elections
The two great examples of anti-presidential party blow outs were 1994 when Republicans took control of the House after a four decade drought and 2006 when the Democrats came back.

The generic ballot shows Democrats well ahead during most of 2006, including the last poll in October. Democrats won 31 seats in November. In 1994, Republicans and Democrats were even in the October poll, and Republicans gained 53 seats.

The Democratic majority status is endangered. The Democrats picked up 31 seats in 2006 (they had a 7 point final generic ballot spread after the undecided voters were distributed). With a four point deficit as of early October 2009, Democrats could lose 39 seats in 2010 (218 seats are a majority; Democrats have 257 today), but current predictions indicate about 30 seats are at risk.

(See Gallup polls: Generic Ballot and Republicans Edge)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Independent Voters Shift to Republicans in November Election

The Democratic advantage among independent voters has melted away since the high point of November 2008 (7 point advantage). Currently, Republicans have a 22 point lead over Democrats among independents using the general congressional ballot test.

This Democratic weakness was confirmed in the 2009 elections. According to exit polls, independents overwhelmingly supported Republican gubernatorial candidates Bob McDonnell in Virginia (50% to 31%) and Chris Christie in New Jersey (65% to 34%).

Although Democrats, and specifically President Obama, had trouble motivating their base – the young and black voters – the real problem was losing suburban independent votes that they had won in 2008.

Also ominous for Democrats was the loss of the economically concerned voters. Obama carried them by 59 percent to 40 percent in Virginia in 2008, but McDonnell won them by 75 percent this year. Democrats won them by even more in New Jersey in 2008, but Republicans carried them by 60 percent in 2009.

(See the following articles: Washington Post, Commentary Magazine, ABC News, Gallup, Spectator and Gallup)

National Polls Show Close Race in 2010

Although the Democratic Party probably won’t lose its Congressional House majority in 2010, a variety of polls appear to show a difficult House election for Democrats.

President Job Approval
Barack Obama’s job approval rating is the mid- to low 50-percent rating. Sub-50 percent ratings at mid-term presage major loss for the President’s party.

Congressional Job Approval
Congressional job approval is another indicator that the Congressional party (now Democrat) could be in trouble.

Current Congressional job approval is 21 points. It is below the Republican’s disastrous rating of 26 percent in late 2006, or the 23 percent Democrats had before they lost their majority in 1994.

(See Gallup poll)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

RTD Tax Increase in Trouble

The defeat of Aurora’s library tax increase highlighted the metro voters’ cautious mood.

The loss has major impact for a possible 2010 or 2011 regional sales tax increase for RTD. Ed Tauer, mayor of Aurora, engineered the library election as a finance strategy to help balance the city’s books. Tauer is the leading advocate for a RTD tax increase. Earlier this year, he advocated putting it on this November’s ballot.

The RTD tax was in trouble before this new dour election environment. The 2004 sales tax campaign over-promised and under-delivered by a factor of 100 percent. RTD now wants to double the 2004 tax increase.

RTD’s raison d’ĂȘtre has been significantly undermined by unusually aggressive columns in the Denver Post, questioning both the reason for mass transit expansion and RTD’s honesty and competence.

As I said in the Denver Post Nov. 5 election article by Jessica Fender, “The drama of the losses in terms of taxes is going to put tremendous chill on the forces who want to put something on the ballot – Even 2011 is in question.”

The Denver Post then editorialized on November 6 the loss “could mean significant trouble for large taxing districts and governments like RTD.” The new election environment compounds RTD’s already substantial problems.

(See other Denver Post and New York Times articles)

Is this a Moment of Pragmatism?

The Republican victories on Nov. 4 were at least partially due to the candidates focusing on the economy and avoiding divisive social issues. Although a Republican candidate is stronger with an authentic relationship with Party’s core social constituencies, he is the most likely winner if he can focus primarily on the key issues, which today are economy and growth of government.

In Colorado, the Sept. 17 Tarrance Group poll showed Colorado voters are primarily concerned about the economy and jobs.

Are Republicans sufficiently hungry for victory after losing three straight elections that they will downplay candidates’ social history and concentrate on their fundraising process and fiscal conservatism?

If they can finesse the tension between social and economic issues, they can likely start winning again in Colorado.

(See Denver Post article)

NPR Lists Colorado as a Battleground State

In an NPR series previewing the 2010 elections, Colorado was highlighted as a likely battleground state.

Unaffiliated voters are the key. The state’s partisans are closely balanced. Unaffiliated voters can tip the state left or right. They represent a quarter of the electorate and a third of all registered voters. Because they are only weakly linked to the parties and more subject to the ebb and flow of media covered issues, if the national mood shifts, Colorado shifts.

I said that Obama and the national Democratic agenda was struggling with independent voters in Colorado compared to November 2008. A series of Colorado polls since July have shown Obama’s job performance approval below 50 percent.

Republicans appear to have reframed their message on the economy and government spending. It is a message more in alignment with unaffiliated voters’ concerns than the social issues that were salient earlier in the decade. Abortion, gay rights and illegal immigration are more polarizing and less on the public’s mind.

(Read or listen to story on NPR)

As Expected, 2009 was a Bad Year for New Taxes

There were very few tax and bond initiatives on the 2009 November Colorado election because local governments and their consultants recognized that the economy would be a major detriment to passage and that few politicians and other civic leaders wanted to advocate tax increases.

And, of the few revenue measures that were on the ballot, there were high-profile losses, most importantly two of Colorado’s largest city lost tax increase efforts for what was described by the campaigners as critical to maintain libraries (Aurora) and police and fire personnel in Colorado Springs.

The national political mood didn’t help local tax advocates. Conservatives have been energized by the “too much, too fast, too expensive” talk show dialogue, and they were the dominant voting bloc in most of the low turnout elections.

There are some local government advocates and liberals who are in denial about the national mood. They believe the election was mostly positive. They cite the upstate New York congressional race and a few successful local bond and tax increases. But, the gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia and reams of polling data show 2008 is over and 2010 will be much tougher for raising taxes and Democrats.

(See Denver Post and 9News articles)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ritter Suffers From Economic Downturn

The economy is the top issue for Colorado voters and Governor Bill Ritter is losing the vote of confidence on “improving the state’s economy and creating jobs.” In the new Tarrance Group poll of mid-September, only 41 percent of voters approved his performance on the economy, but 53 percent disapproved.

Unfortunately for Ritter, more voters say the state is on the wrong track (48%) than say it’s headed in the right direction (41%). His overall job approval was similar to previous polls. Less than half the state’s voters approve (48%) and nearly as many disapprove (46%).

Although early polls are only snapshots of fast moving rivers, Ritter’s biggest concern must be that 56 percent of the voters in this sample wanted a “new person” elected governor.

One slight good piece of news is that a plurality of voters judge Ritter a moderate and 40 percent call him a liberal. Only 5 percent see him as conservative. It is better to be seen as a moderate in a Colorado general election. This poll had 54 percent of its sample self-identifying as conservative – a high percentage, but those are likely voters. They are older and lean more Republican.

(See Associated Press article)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Obama Endorsement Can Help With Democrats, But Not Statewide

Another poll, this one by well-known Republican pollster Lance Tarrance, shows less than half of Colorado voters approve (48%) President Barack Obama’s job performance, with his disapproval just as high (47%).

Obama’s lowest job approval is on Colorado’s Eastern High Plains (35%) and is especially ominous for newly elected Democratic Congressman Betsy Markey.

But, in Democratic strongholds of Denver and the north suburbs of Boulder and Adams counties, he scores above 67 percent. Hence, assuming Colorado Democrats don’t resent Washington politicians and the Democratic establishment trying to tell them who to vote for, Obama’s endorsement of Senator Michael Bennet should be a help among Democrats, not a hindrance.

(See Denver Post article)

Establishment Candidates Winning Early Primary Test

In a new poll from the Tarrance Group, establishment-endorsed primary candidates Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Jane Norton win their respective primaries in an early test.

Bennet is only ahead of his Democratic opponent, Andrew Romanoff, by 14 percentage points. Early primary polls are notoriously volatile and largely a reflection of early name identification.

Norton is 30 points up on Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. Rumors among Republicans indicate Buck may drop out. If true, Norton is the likely nominee and spared a serious primary. Romanoff will easily make the primary ballot’s 30 percent threshold and be able to run a campaign into the August primary.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ron Brownstein Sees Western Democrats Losing Their Footing

Ron Brownstein, one of the country’s most astute political reporters, writes in the September 19 National Journal the recent Democratic surge in several western states may be receding.

Colorado is extensively discussed. “‘After the huge surge and taking almost every conceivable seat [in this region], Democrats are now playing defense in an environment that is much less supportive for them than two or four years ago,’ says Floyd Ciruli, an independent Denver-based pollster.”

“Ciruli, the independent Denver pollster concurs, saying, ‘Those unaffiliated voters are now in a very ambivalent position and are trending at least somewhat against the president.’”

Early Poll Shows Norton and Romanoff Change Senate Race

Former Lt. Governor Jane Norton, who entered the Republican primary the third week of September, became the Republican Party’s frontrunner, and in head-to-head comparisons with Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, she leads Bennet by 9 points. Former Democratic Speaker of the Colorado State House, Andrew Romanoff, who entered the race in mid-September, loses to Norton by 8 points.

Norton’s lead is primarily based on a 30-point advantage among unaffiliated voters, which can only be based on a preference for a Republican and some advantage of the well-known name of Norton in Colorado politics (including former Colorado Attorney General and Secretary of the Interior Gail Norton and former gubernatorial candidate and Transportation Department Director Tom Norton. There are several other Nortons known in Colorado political circles).
Norton and Romanoff’s entry in the race launches the 2010 election, and makes Colorado a battleground.

The Hill.com says, “Independent Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli said Bennet is in a different race than he was seven days ago. ‘Prior to this, Bennet was seen as the favored frontrunner largely based on his money potential, a good-to-neutral political environment and a weak Republican field,’ Ciruli said. ‘In all three of those cases, this has become a much more dead-even race.’”

(Also see Denver Post article)

White Working Class Goes to College

Floyd Ciruli, my father, dropped out of the 4th grade of Pleasant View Grade School in Pueblo County. He was always very proud he could read the Pueblo Chieftain and do basic numbers for his business, Ciruli Oil.

I graduated from law school, representing a total of 19 years of formal education, plus numerous graduate classes for various purposes.

The Cirulis weren’t unique. Although my father was in the 4th grade in 1910, even by 1940, 75 percent of adults were high school drop outs (or never made it) and only 5 percent graduated with a 4-year college degree.

In 2007, only 14 percent of the population lacked a high school diploma and 29 percent have a 4-year college degree or higher (54 percent, or half the population, have a degree or some college education).

Although we endlessly want to lower our drop out rate and improve our college graduation rate, we need to recognize how far we have come in mass high school and college education in a couple of generations and half a century.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bennet Will be in a Major Party Battle

After eight months and in the midst of the Democratic Party’s crack-up over health care, newly appointed Senator Michael Bennet has some assets, but a rapidly growing array of liabilities.

On the asset side, Bennet has shown himself to be smart, hard working and with an organized campaign team whose biggest success has been fundraising (more than $3 million in two quarters).

On the liability side, Bennet is poorly known and now suffering from the blues associated with congress and Washington. The latest circulated Colorado poll shows Bennet with a 9 point deficit in voter approval over disapproval and only 31 percent of voters approving his performance.

Bennet was, of course, hoping to use that surfeit of money to create an image of moderate leadership against a still unimpressive Republican field. Unfortunately, one of the state’s most visible underemployed Democrats, Andrew Romanoff, will challenge him. Now, Bennet will have to spend some of that money defending himself this winter and spring.

The race is hard to handicap today, but if Romanoff is ready for a real fight, he has some advantages as the non-establishment candidate, dissed by unpopular Governor Bill Ritter and with a decent claim to party support for years of legislative and ballot issue leadership.

See The Hill article

Colorado Democratic Politicians in Summer Slump

Like the hot, slow days of summer, Colorado’s top politicians are suffering from the heat. They are failing to break the 50 percent barrier in approval.

President Barack Obama is the state’s most popular Democrat, a reverse from former President G.W. Bush’s low level of approval compared to statewide Republicans in 2006 to 2008. But, even Obama has been below 50 percent for four months. His national polling numbers, which were in the 60 percent range most of the spring, have caught up to Colorado’s and are now at the low 50 percent level.

In the latest published auto-dial poll, Governor Bill Ritter and his choice for U.S. Senate, Michael Bennet, are at or below 40 percent in voter approval, and both are vulnerable in the 2010 election if the state’s Republicans can find strong candidates.

Voters tend to know less about their senators and associate them with partisan problems in Washington. Even Senator Mark Udall had low numbers in the August survey. However, Bennet is especially endangered with 7 percent more disapproval than approval and 31 percent of voters with no awareness of him. And, along with having to deal with hyper partisan issues like health care reform and cap and trade, Bennet can no longer depend on Obama’s popularity to pull the electorate in the Democratic direction.

There is at least some doubt as to usefulness of Obama’s grassroots organization. Because, although it shows up on command to pressure Democrats to stay liberal on issues like health care, it may not represent a lot of 2010 election day enthusiasm.

Fortunately for Bennet, he is the seated senator and can use the office to make his case; he has more than $2 million in campaign cash; and he has no high-profile, well-funded Republicans on the horizon. Unfortunately, as of September, he has a primary opponent, former Democratic Speaker of the House, Andrew Romanoff.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Obama’s Health Care Plan Not Popular in Colorado

As the health care debate finally heated up, Colorado voters were not on board. By 51 percents to 38 percent, they said they opposed the President’s plan in mid-August.

National and Colorado voting data indicates the plan has lost the middle of the electorate (unaffiliated voters: 36% favor/48% oppose) while partisans, especially Republicans, are intensely positioned (Republicans 88% oppose/Democrats 73% favor).

Compounding Obama’s and Democrats’ problem is the intensity liberals feel about the proposal (86% support) and key elements, such as the public option and even the sweeping single payer approach.

In Colorado, both Senators Udall and Bennet have been accosted at public forums by intense Democrats and hostile Republicans.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Colorado Remains a Battleground

Expect to see President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden repeatedly over the next year and half. Obama has been here twice – first for his high-profile signing of the stimulus bill in mid-August to defend his embattled health care proposal. Colorado has retained its battleground status, and likely will be gridlocked with top Democrats and Republicans trying to win the surprisingly competitive gubernatorial and senate races. Toss in a tough race for the new Democratic incumbent in the Republican-leaning 4th Congressional seat, and Colorado has one of each of the top political offices in play.

The level of competition is a bit of a surprise. The state has been trending blue for half a decade, with nearly every top job held by a Democrat. Obama broke a 44-year political record by not only winning the state, but by winning it by more than his national margin (Johnson beat Goldwater in 1964 by more than his national margin).

Governor Bill Ritter is probably the most vulnerable of the three officeholders. A year ago, he was described as vulnerable, now he is taking fire from an aggressive opposition. Many of his initiatives, such as an increase in the severance tax, were derailed by an obstinate electorate, others were drained of momentum by long task force processes reflecting a lack of consensus, and some recent legislative victories have been defunded by the collapse of tax revenue they need.

After a 17-percentage point win in 2006 and a long honeymoon with approval ratings above 60 percent, the date that marks Ritter’s decline is Friday, November 2, 2007, when he encouraged the unionization of state employees with late Friday afternoon executive order – it wasn’t missed by the state’s business and political community.

The irony is that Ritter’s most recent vetoes of pro-labor legislation has gained him little business support – his re-election fundraising is weak – and the active enmity of major elements of organized labor. It remains to be seen if the Republicans can nominate a strong candidate and mount a sophisticated campaign. But, if they do, Ritter is in trouble.

In a July 23, 2008 “Speakout” in the former Rocky Mountain News, Ritter was described as in trouble due to not meeting high expectations. His inaugural theme was about the “Colorado Promise.” Although he is a hard-working governor and mostly stays on message, he seems a bit like an accidental governor with no large base or natural feel for the politics of the job.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ambassadors Miss Half the Story

Denver recently welcomed the ambassador of Argentina, Chile and Mexico as part of the warm up to the new Denver Biannual Celebration of Latin and North American art and culture. All three of them backed the Obama administration’s position of condemning the Honduras military expelling President Manuel Zelaya.

Although there is widespread support for this position, partially because it has the benefit of limiting the propaganda advantage that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez wanted to gain, it distracts from the salient fact Zelaya was following the Chavez playbook that is endangering democracy throughout northern Latin and Central America.

Any American policy must address Chavez’s sophisticated strategy of destabilizing the constitutionally governed regimes in the region. Using advice and tactical help from Cuba and oil revenue, he has constructed an alliance that includes Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua. Allies extend to Argentina, Paraguay, El Salvador and the OAS. He has also pulled in a host of Caribbean Islands: Antigua, Barbuda, Saint Vincent, Grenadines and Dominica.

Center-left and center-right politicians, like the Ambassadors, are either aligning and accommodating the strategy for domestics left and anti-American purposes, or trying to stay out of the way. But, their regimes are also endangered by Chavez’s 21st century socialism and “relentless ideological delegitimization of republican values and private property, and the establishment of a method for bringing about dictatorship through apparently democratic means.”

Unless the U.S. and its allies develop an equally sophisticated strategy, this new challenge will allow budding dictators to take the normal problems that exist in second world countries and turn them into crises that can destroy the constitutional order.

(See RealClearPolitics and WSJ articles)

Rahm Emanuel is the Dick Cheney of the Obama Administration

Rahm Emanuel has control of the fulsome domestic policy agenda of the Obama administration as Dick Cheney had of the aggressive foreign policy agenda of the early G. W. Bush administration. In both cases, the presidents had gaps in experience and relationships that were filled by the hard-charging White House operatives.

Emanuel articulated the main Obama domestic slogan when he said “let no crisis go unused.” Cheney’s foreign policy slogan could be paraphrased as “even if there is only a one percent chance.” From these philosophical starting points, the powerful chief of staff and vice president dominated their respective fields of action.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Week the Health Care Plan Turned South on the Democratic Leadership

In a host of polls published near and at the end of July, just as the Democrats were rushing to pass various health care bills through congressional committees, support for health care reform was dramatically declining as was President Obama’s approval rating.

Contrary to Democratic partisan strategists, health care support among Americans did not decline due to misinformation. The collapse happened just as the debate about health care increased and Democrats began a major push to rush bills through committee and to floor votes. At that point, Democrats controlled the discussion, not radio talk show hosts. The biggest blow in mid-June was the CBO report that the Democratic House proposal would add billions to the deficit and do little to hold down health care costs – hardly misinformation. After that report, the likelihood of a bill before the August recess became zero.

Democrats looked fearful of the August recess. And, wisely so, the August town hall meetings have tossed Democrats on the defensive and required Obama to jump in and use his considerable talent to tamp down the revolt.

The reasons for the collapse are much more related to the cumulative impact of the Obama agenda, especially the spending, and the continuing languishing of the economy.

Wall St. Journal article
New York Times article
Gallup July 29 article
Washington Post article
Gallup July 21 article

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Democrats Linked to Obama and His Agenda

As public support for the major elements of President Obama’s agenda have declined, the likelihood the 2010 mid-term election will be competitive, has gone up. July 2009 will be recorded as the end of the Obama honeymoon and the beginning of the battle for 2010.

The Gallup poll’s latest generic ballot test to measure the support levels of the two parties in the congressional election shows a 6-point Democratic lead.

Democrats had an 11-point lead in the 2006 mid-term the year they won their majority by 8 points. Democrats need a larger lead in the polls due to a typically lower turnout than Republicans on Election Day. A 6-point lead means the 2010 election could be very close.

With both party’s supporters remaining mostly loyal to their respective candidates, the key will be turnout of base and swing voters, who, at the moment, are breaking evenly between the parties, a shift from a pro-Democratic bias over the last two years.

Health Care Reform Can be Won or Lost During August Recess

Gallup’s latest poll shows Americans divided into three near equal camps on health care reform. A third (35%) would encourage their congressional representative to vote for it, another third (36%) would encourage them to vote against it and nearly a third (29%) had no opinion.

Partisanship and public’s low opinion of Congress are important factors in the lack of support for the reform bill at the beginning of the August recess and public hearing process. Partisanship is a major factor with 66 percent of Republicans in opposition and 59 percent of Democrats in favor.

The 29 percent of Americans that have no opinion will help decide the issue. Both sides of the debate are trying mightily to influence public opinion. Changes of fascist tactics and viewpoints now emanate from both camps as Democrats try to position opponents as raging extremists and Republicans are shouting suppression of rights and forced euthanasia for the sick and elderly.

Intermountain West Still a Challenge for Obama

The Gallup poll just published President Obama’s cumulative approval rating for each of the 50 states. The tracking poll average includes more than 80,000 interviews and ran from the inauguration (Jan. 21) through June 30. His average approval rating was 63 percent over the six months.

The Democratic Party’s goal of turning the interior West into a solid blue region is still a work in progress. Only New Mexico (63%) has support equal to the safe Democratic “left coasts.” Among western states Democrats want to bring into the fold, only Nevada (59%) and Arizona (58%) had averages that were close to Obama’s national average.

Colorado (55%) and Montana (52%) were above 50 percent, but well below Obama’s national average. Colorado had the lowest approval among states in the nation that Obama had carried. And, Colorado is a key battleground, with Democrats defending a governor, U.S. Senator and newly elected Congresswoman.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Care Hard to Reform When Many Voters Fear Change

Many of the protesters at Congressional town hall meetings are angry about a host of non-health issues, including the stimulus spending, budget deficit, auto bail-outs, and cap and trade. But, Democrats are missing the danger sign if they dismiss them as mere shills for lobbyists or extremists. The Democratic strategy of using the economic crisis to jamb the last 20 years of Democratic agenda into law has run into a serious “too much, too fast, too expensive” backlash.

Health care delivery is hard to change. Most people have insurance, and while they would like it to be cheaper, they are mostly not dissatisfied with either their quality or choice of health care. Although most people would like to extend coverage to the uninsured, they are concerned the cost of care will go up, producing either a tax increase, rationing to control cost or both. And, voters are very skeptical of Congress and Washington in general and not anxious to turn health care over to politicians. Meanwhile, the recovery appears delayed and federal spending is at record levels.

President Obama, realizing the above, wanted to avoid the August recess and the possible on-camera voter reaction, but the loss of some moderate Democratic support in the House and a desire to have Republican support in the Senate, delayed action.

While it is still likely something will pass this year – health care reform is simply too important to the Democrats and their super majority – it may be considerably less comprehensive than the various House versions. (See 9News article)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

More Limits on Term Limits

Term limits, which swept the country as a popular political movement in the early 1990s (Colorado was the second state approving it in 1990), has been under assault ever since with efforts to abolish, or more commonly extend the limits (typically two terms) or exempt certain political jobs.

The concept has had considerable political resilience, given the hostility from the political class and much of the more liberal media.

The latest Colorado effort by district attorneys to expand their terms from two to three years is likely to be successful. District attorneys are generally seen as more professional and less partisan. Also, the DAs making the requests in Mesa, Jefferson and Boulder counties are popular and without major controversies. Another factor is local political ideology and the circumstances surrounding other county political officeholders (such as controversial county commissioners) that could have an influence. Boulder is most liberal and Mesa most conservative. But, all three extensions could pass. (See State Bill Colorado)

Is Democratic Tide Running Out?

Just as the Democrats are celebrating their victories, extolling their model of success and declaring the western political landscape blue, the party may be over.

After five years of incredible political success, Colorado Democrats appear in trouble. Governor Bill Ritter has attracted strong Republican opponents for 2010. He is mired in approval ratings below 50 percent and unhappy core constituencies. His fundraising languishes.

Newly appointed Michael Bennet is in top fundraising form, but he has established little identity, except to avoid more issues than he confronts. Although vulnerable, he still has no powerful opponents.

Newly elected Congresswoman Betsy Markey holds a Republican-leaning district and has attracted a multitude of opponents, including a popular local state representative.

With President Obama’s popularity declining, health care mired in noisy dissent and the economy stalled, Colorado Democrats are nervous. (See Denver Post article)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

McInnis is Frontrunner for Governor

Former Congressman Scott McInnis is the frontrunner among registered Republicans in the race to take on embattled Governor Bill Ritter.

In the latest poll of 1,649 Colorado Republican likely primary voters (conducted by autodial in July) by Republican polling firm Magellan Strategies, McInnis has a 23-point lead on State Senator Josh Penry.

McInnis is ahead by 18 points on the Western Slope where both candidates hail from. His largest lead (26 points) is in Colorado Springs, Pueblo area.

However, it is very early in the race. McInnis has 80-point name identification, but only 34 percent of Republican voters select him now. Nearly half (49%) claim to be undecided.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bennet's Fast Start

In the year before the election, with no reliable polls to illuminate the landscape, fundraising becomes a proxy for political support. Senator Michael Bennet’s $1.4 million dollar 1st quarter 2009 take is impressive.

Governor Ritter, the embattled incumbent who appointed Bennet, will be lucky to raise a million dollars throughout all of 2009.

Not surprising, Bennet drew from well-off families, friends and business acquaintances. But, he also attracted big money from early investors in political fast starters, much of it out-of-state.

Colorado is Tops in Obama’s Travel Plans

President Obama and Vice President Biden are regular visitors to Colorado. Democratic presidential nominees rarely win Colorado. But in 2008, the state gave Obama and Biden a bigger margin than his national win – unprecedented.

Colorado was the central pivot for the Democratic western strategy and will be a battleground in 2010.

Tight voter registration and three top Democrats in tough election and re-election races ensures regular visits through the next 18 months.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

American Shift to Pro-Life Position

The latest national Gallup poll shows a shift of opinion from 50 percent of Americans who were pro-choice in 2008 to only 42 percent today. Pro-life position surged from 44 percent in 2008 to 51 percent today.

In a 2008 Ciruli Associates poll, Colorado voters said they were pro-choice 52 percent to 38 percent pro-life. Three-quarters of Republicans said they were pro-life and about two-thirds of Democrats were pro-choice (64%). Colorado voters may have also shifted to the right. The key is the state’s large bloc of unaffiliated voters who were 33 percent pro-life and 56 percent pro-choice. The latest national poll has 61 percent of Democrats pro-choice and 70 percent of Republicans pro-life.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gay Marriage is on the Move

After a disastrous series of elections, culminating in the passage of a host of gay marriage bans in 2004 (helping motivate the Republican base), gay rights is back on the move. The court in Iowa and legislatures in Vermont and Maine have recently legalized gay marriage.

When California voters passed Proposition 8, reversing the state’s Supreme Court legalization of gay marriage in 2008, it was assumed the movement was on the defensive. But today, advocates are hoping for a national breakthrough. Although Democrats in Congress are still shy on the issue and no Supreme Court case is in sight, state courts are writing eloquent briefs in favor and finally gay marriage is winning legislative votes.

Public opinion also appears to be shifting. A recent Washington Post survey reported a near majority now favoring legalizing gay marriage, up from only 36 percent in favor just three years ago.

Young voters continue to be the main base of support – 66 percent support legalizing gay marriage. But, two groups that had been strongly opposed are now more accepting: White Catholics (60% illegal, now down to 47% illegal) and independents (support climbs to 52 % from 43%).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bennet Advantage in Washington

A new Colorado poll shows U.S. Senate replacement Michael Bennet is still not well-known in Colorado, but a recent article in the Washington Post highlights his advantage in the Washington media environment.

A recent Public Policy Polling poll indicated one-quarter of Colorado voters couldn’t grade his performance. Nearly one-half (45%) couldn’t rate his favorability in January, shortly after his appointment. Although his name identification has greatly increased, the poll showed only 34 percent approved his performance and 41 percent said they disapproved.

But, Bennet has received favorable Washington media coverage and raised a huge $1.4 million in contributions since his appointment. No doubt, helped by good Washington connections. Bennet’s brother, James, is the editor of the Atlantic, and he helped his boss organize a series of private dinners with the new administration. “A floating group of 12 to 16 journalists with specialists added depending on the subject matter – and the rarified level of access.” Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and British PM Gordon Brown have been guests.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Obama 62% Approval Nationally, Less in Colorado

The Real Politics national polling average has President Obama with a 62 percent approval average after 100 days. Given his inexperience, the crisis he began with and the aggressiveness of his agenda, it’s been an amazing performance.

A recent poll in Colorado by Public Policy Polling (PPP), a robo-calling Democratic outfit from North Carolina, has Obama at only 49 percent approval in Colorado. The major difference compared to national polls is the weak showing with unaffiliated voters (48%), who make up a quarter of the Colorado electorate, with Republicans and Democrats in a close balance of about a third of the voters each.

Colorado Democratic officeholders worry about Obama’s spending and government-growing agenda. Bennet, for example, joined Mark Udall to take the lead in opposing parts of the stimulus bill. On a variety of issues, Bennet, who is in a vulnerable position in his first election after being appointed by Gov. Ritter to Ken Salazar’s seat, is trying to position himself as middle-of-the-road. In general, Colorado federal candidates are tied to Obama’s fortunes, especially the economy.

Note the most recent national PPP poll was several points below the approval mean for Obama. PPP asks a somewhat different approval question, uses lists of registered voters, and, of course, is an automated dialing pollster. But even if PPP numbers are too conservative, adding five points to Obama’s approval rating would still leave his Colorado numbers low.

Torture and Democratic Left

The torture debate is now the most polarizing issue in national politics. President Obama outlawed use of extreme interrogation methods as one of this first acts, but the Democratic left wants to prosecute anyone associated with it over the last nine years, from lawyers who offered legal opinions on the subject to middle management in the intelligence business and their political superiors down to the field operatives.

Listening to the House and Senate committee chairs who are calling for investigation and reading the liberal blogs make clear the issue is much like abortion – extreme liberals believe it is an absolute protected right with no restrictions and for conservatives abortion is murder.

For extreme conservatives, torture is a necessary technique needed to protect lives and the country, no ban is justified. For liberals, it’s immoral – period. There are no exceptions.

The public takes a more nuanced view, with about 15 percent believing torture is an acceptable interrogation technique (can be “justified often”) and 25 percent believing it can “never” be used. More than one-half of the public believe it is acceptable sometimes, including 22 percent who believe it can be used rarely.

The issue divides the country nearly in half, with 49 percent believing torture can be used “often” or “sometimes” and 47 percent “rarely” or “never.” Although more than four-fifths of the public believe torture is wrong, at least 71 percent believe it can be used in some cases.

Obama is right. If he lets Congress proceed with the investigations, there will be a major battle – the left will likely win, but it will be bloody, distracting from his domestic agenda. In addition, a new 9/11-type event would rapidly shift opinion to the right because much of the public is pragmatic on the issue.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ritter Vulnerable

Governor Bill Ritter’s approval rating has dropped again, and is now nearing only two out of five voters (41%). This is the third reported decline since the Public Policy Polling firm began publishing Ritter’s approval rating in December 2008.

Although the firm’s methodology is unique, and before a definitive observation can made, additional polling firms will need to weigh in the trend is clearly down.

Ritter has struggled through a difficult legislative session, appearing to be behind the economic crisis and seldom in front. His administration’s initial estimate of the downturn was ridiculously low and his budget cut suggestions inadequate or mostly ignored. He weighed in on the Pinnacol controversy late, looking like a follower and not a leader.

His selection of Michael Bennet to replace Senator, now Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, still rankles the base of the party. And, his support for unionization of state employees and then tightening down on gas and oil industry operating procedures remain sore points among state business leaders, souring their potential support of his economic development efforts and new transportation expenditures.

However, in spite of poor approval numbers, governors tend to be re-elected in Colorado, and there is no doubt Ritter is working very hard to appeal the Democratic Party’s and state’s various interest groups. In addition, President Obama and the Democratic agenda in Washington remain popular and with considerable momentum, creating a positive environment for local Democratic officials.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cal Pushed Out

Cal Marsella, architect of the FasTracks financing program, was pushed out of RTD by the forces that want to engineer the second largest tax increase in the state’s modern history – another 0.04 percentage point increase in the RTD sales tax for 55 percent of the state’s voters (metro area).

Marsella had become the target for critics of the transit agency’s shaky financing scheme that had made massive promises in an effort to attract regional political and voter support, but was only able to increase the sales tax to fund about half the program. The 0.04 percentage point increase in 2004 was the largest sales tax election up to that time ($160 million collected annually).

Getting rid of Marsella, who most people believed did a capable job managing the agency, may deflect some short-term criticism, but size of the tax increase and the unrealistic promises and projections are likely to be a drag on the agency and tax increase proponents regardless of who takes over.

Legislature Session Cuts, Freezes and Suspends

The state legislature was forced to make the most dramatic spending cuts in modern history. State employees are taking significant cuts next year after their salaries were frozen this year. Capital construction is basically at a standstill. Federal stimulus dollars are helping somewhat with Medicaid, higher education and to fund the ever demanding Amendment 23 local school requirements.

2008 Budget reductions
• Froze all state salaries/eliminated performance pay
• Froze all capital construction projects/eliminated all maintenance
• Put in place a statewide hiring freeze/ten percent reduction for all state departments
• Eliminated expansion of full-day kindergarten and preschool expansions
• Closed the women’s prison/eliminated expansion of another prison
• Reduced the state reserves from 4 percent to 2 percent
• Suspended the state contribution of Fire and Police Pension Fund
• Next fiscal year, which starts in July, will be pinched to find more cuts in major programs

2009 State Fiscal Cuts
• Suspended the Seniors Homestead Exemption for one year
• Cut Medicaid provider rates of reimbursement/cut funding of community health clinics
• Delayed a prison opening
• Cut funding to K-12 education ($150 million)/cut charter schools capital funding
• Cut funding to higher education campuses ($140 million)
• Placed a 1.8 percent salary reduction to every department’s employees

Given Colorado’s inability to borrow money, it’s time to seriously think about a rainy day fund.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sales Tax and Metro Mayors

The Denver metro area sales tax revenue for two months in a row shows an 18 percent decline over last year. That includes revenue from construction sales, department stores and big box sales, including Cherry Creek, Park Meadows and auto dealers.

It is strange, indeed, that metro area mayors appear determined to raise sales taxes another $160 million per year for RTD’s latest, and likely inaccurate, projection of the cost for more of the light rail system promised and already receiving a $160 million sales tax hike in 2004.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

In-state Tuition

The in-state tuition bill lost big in the Colorado State Senate. When five Democrats vote against a Democratic-sponsored bill, someone can’t count. The economy and a sense Democrats could lose three or more seats, sunk the bill (see Denver Post article).

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hickenlooper Runs as Independent

If you believe the rumor making the rounds then Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will run as an independent candidate in Colorado’s next gubernatorial election. While it’s highly unlikely, and mostly a product of both a lack of enthusiasm for Bill Ritter and Republican hopes for a divided Democratic Party, there are good reasons why Colorado could be ready for an independent candidate such as Hickenlooper.

• Colorado’s electorate is mostly in the middle. Voter registration and polling show that a plurality of Colorado voters identify as independents and hold centrist opinions on most fiscal and social issues.

• Hickenlooper presents himself as a post-partisan politician. Again, a plurality of the public prefers politicians who offer themselves as non-partisan pragmatics.

• Hickenlooper and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are examples of politicians who have won elections and reelections, but would have difficulty winning their respective party nominations. Although Hickenlooper is a social liberal, he is insufficiently supportive of organized labor’s agenda, somewhat fiscally conservative and not highly identified with minority patronage and politics.

• An independent governor might be a policy and political success. The Democratic Party’s domination of Colorado state government may push the state into the failed California model of higher taxes, higher spending, special interest dominance and regulatory overload, creating an opportunity for a center-left, but non-partisan politician. With some Democratic ties, he could provide a brake on the Democratic agenda while finding some center-right Republicans willing to negotiate. What Colorado voters like is a solution-oriented, centrist approach to government.

• It is not clear Hickenlooper could find the votes to win. He would mostly take votes from Ritter in the metro area and North Front Range. If the Republicans nominate a credible politician who conducts an effective campaign, a big if, he or she could assemble a strong non-metro vote and win.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Global Warming Still Lacks Major Constituency

General public concern about environmental issues has fallen since recent high points in 2000. Currently, top environmental issues for the public are water pollution and water shortages.

Surprisingly, although global warming now dominates Washington media and liberal interest groups’ environmental agenda, it has thus far failed to attract a major constituency among the public.

In addition, there has been an up-tick in people who believe “global warming is exaggerated” by the media. A record high of 41 percent believe it’s “exaggerated,” up from 31 percent in 2000. Only 28 percent believe the issue is underestimated. About one-half of the public (57%) believes the issue is either reported correctly (29%) or underestimated (28%). The recent highest year for the public belief global warming was not exaggerated was 2005. Since then, increasing percentages of people have become skeptical of political and media claims about the issue’s seriousness. Both Republicans and Independents are now much more likely to believe the issue is being exaggerated than in 2005.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Metro Mayors Promote Record High Sales Taxes

Kevin Flynn, on the new website In Denver Times, reports that 12 of 34 municipalities in the metro area will hit 9% sales tax if voters approve RTD’s new four-tenths of a percent sales tax increase (approximately $160 million more per year for light rail; voters gave RTD $160 million annually in 2004 for the complete system build-out) (see In Denver Times).

A few of the highest rates would be in normally tax-conservative areas, such as Aurora, Brighton, Federal Heights, Northglenn and Thornton (only parts of some municipalities would reach 9% due to tax variations between counties and cities).

Historically, cities and towns were resistant to sales tax increases not specifically for local projects and operations due to their significant dependence on sales taxes, but in recent years, they have been swept up in a general enthusiasm for regional sales tax increases, often reducing local tax capacity.

Organized Labor has Friendly Environment, But Card Check Could be in Trouble

National polls in general show Americans sympathetic to labor unions. A 2008 Gallup Poll showed 59 percent approve of unions. In Colorado, organized labor has with liberal and Democratic allies and weak or divided business opposition passed a generous minimum wage initiative in 2006 and defeated a “right to work” initiative in 2008.

However, a recent national poll shows only 53 percent of public approve of the unions’ new “card check” legislation, which will allow union organizations to simply collect signed authorization forms from workers instead of requiring elections based on secret ballots (see Gallup Poll).

The biggest concern for labor leaders and their allies is that support for card check is primarily among those who are not following the issue. The more attentive public is either strongly opposed or closely divided on the issue.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Polling Data and the New Obama Administration

A couple of weeks into the new Obama administration, there is a wave of polling data concerning foreign affairs.

• For example, a new poll shows Canada, site of President Obama’s first foreign trip, happens to be Americans favorite nation (see Gallup Poll). Two nations that dropped dramatically in favorability since 2005 are Mexico and Russia – not surprising.

• Afghanistan, which may be Obama’s most controversial initiative, has bipartisan support. Seventy-five percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats approve sending 17,000 more troops. Further, Gallup reports that while a majority of the public believe things are going badly, a majority support keeping troops there “until the situation improves” (48%) or “more than two years” (12%).

• Finally, Obama started his tenure with a high approval, which continues. His 68 percent after inaugural day was among the highest approvals for a presidential start in recent history. The current 59 percent is more typical of presidents after a month, but still high. Republican approval is now at 27 percent, down from 41 percent (see Gallup poll).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Obama Moves Out of D.C.

Obama came to Denver to escape the politics of Washington, which was smothering his message in partisanship and 24/7 political commentary.

His first three weeks accomplished his policy mission – push the largest spending/tax bill in history in record time – but lost the public opinion competition due to distractions from failed cabinet appointments and Republicans’ well-coordinated talking points about pork in the stimulus bill.

Obama used his personal popularity to reframe the discussion in Florida, Indiana and Colorado where the economy and jobs are the not just an issue, but a personal crises (see Pew and Gallup polls). The stimulus was pork in Washington, but bacon to be brought home in Colorado.

In an impressive cameo appearance at the Colorado School Board Association annual legislative meeting, newly sworn Senator Michael Bennet said things will get worse before they improve. The tone of most Democrats on the economy is very negative. No doubt making some contribution to an 800 point drop in DOW since Obama’s inauguration. It’s clear that the 2010 campaign will be framed by the success of the stimulus plan (See PowerPoint slides from my presentation)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bennet Begins Term as Blank Slate

The latest Public Policy Polling (Democratic associated) poll shows the Democratic senate candidate on a generic question with a narrow three-point advantage going into the 2010 election (see PPP poll).

Not surprising, half the state’s voters (45%) are not familiar with newly appointed Michael Bennet. Recognizing his lack of name identification and having a desire to be identified as a Democratic moderate, Bennet instantly joined the Senate members who negotiated a compromise on the stimulus bill.

The poll shows Bennet ahead of several Republican candidates expressing some interest in running (McInnis, Tancredo) and one who has dropped out (Suthers). Former Governor Bill Owens beats Bennet by three points. But, Owens has not shown an interest in entering the race.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

RTD Tax Fate held by Legislature

Before RTD can go to the public with another tax increase, the Colorado State Legislature must grant it permission (see Rocky Mountain News Speakout). The legislature can limit the tax below the four-tenths of a cent RTD appears to be advancing (doubling the increase of 2004). They can delay the tax election until RTD proves it can accomplish a part of the building program on time and within budget. They can also insist the agency improve its management structure.

Denver: The Country’s Number One City

It was a bit of a surprise to see Denver as the number one city to which Americans would like to move (see Pew poll).

A Pew poll conducted last October showed nearly half the people in the country would prefer a different city from the one where they currently live, and Denver was their top pick for a prospective move. Denver’s strengths are climate, recreational activities, friendly people and a good family environment.

Denver beat out San Diego, Phoenix, Seattle and Tampa.

Although Denver has long been a popular destination for transplants, this recent surge is no doubt due to last summer’s Democratic National Convention, raising the city’s visibility worldwide.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ritter in Trouble in New Democratic Poll

A recent automated poll released by Democrat-oriented Public Policy Polling of North Carolina shows Colorado Governor Bill Ritter below 50 percent public approval as he begins a difficult legislative session dominated by deep budget cuts.

In the Democratic-leaning Denver metro area (about 55% of state voters), Ritter has an anemic 52 percent support, and his approval trails disapproval by 9 points in the rest of the state (see poll).

Both Bob Beauprez and Tom Tancredo, possible Republican candidates, lost in match-ups. Republicans must develop a stronger position on the economy. They dominate voters concerned about immigration, morals and family values, and taxes. Ritter commands large majorities with voters who cite health care or education as their top issue. But on the economy, which more than one-half of voters believe is the top issue, he beats the Republicans by 20 to 30 points.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stateline.org Puts Ritter on Watch List

Veteran political observer and columnist Lou Jacobson identifies Gov. Bill Ritter as one of eight Democratic governors that could be in for a difficult re-election (see Jacobson’s column).

Jacobson, who authors the “Out There” column on Stateline.org, places Gov. Ritter in Colorado and Gov. Bill Richardson in New Mexico as two western Democrats who could be in trouble if Republicans can find effective candidates. Richardson is embroiled in a federal probe of lobby irregularities that cost him his appointment as Commerce Secretary.

The open Wyoming governor election is Jacobson’s most vulnerable seat Democrats currently hold.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Economy Recalibrates to Lower Level

The recession is now 14 months old. No financial analysts believe it will end before mid-2009 and most believe it will extend to mid-2010. So, it will be the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of 1929 to 1933 (43 months long). Americans believe it will last two years or longer (see CNN poll). President Obama has some time to make an impact, but 2010 will likely be an election on the effect of his economic proposals.

The real challenge is the sense among voters that America is in a long-term decline. Obama tried to address it in the inaugural when he said we remain inventive and productive and “Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

Steve Ballmer, when announcing Microsoft’s layoffs, described America’s new economic landscape best when he said this is not just a downturn, but a re-calibration of America’s economy at a lower level due to the removal of leverage. It will be long-term.

Ritter in Trouble

Although Bill Ritter works hard and cares about Colorado, he fails to inspire confidence among the most attentive publics. Of course, Colorado governors tend to be re-elected, and the Republicans are still on the defense after a half a decade of election losses, but Ritter faces a difficult re-election.

• As former Republican State Treasurer Mark Hillman pointed out, Ritter was a day late and a dollar short on the state’s financial crises. His budget office predicted only a $70 million shortfall. His Democratic counterparts in the legislature said $600 million. Ritter has been playing catch up ever since.
• Due to the downturn, Ritter must strip out most of the funds he promoted as fulfilling his “Colorado Promise” slogan in the campaign.
• Higher education funding will be cut dramatically due to the downturn. Unfortunately, higher education lost a chance for stable funding in last fall’s poorly positioned severance tax ballot initiative.
• The severance tax increase and the new rules governing gas and oil drilling have outraged one of the state’s largest industry and substantial members of Western Slope voters.
• The action that most alienated the business class, which gave Ritter considerable support in his 2006 election, was unionizing state employees in a late Friday night executive order in November 2007.

Ritter and his party know he is vulnerable. Expect a strong effort to survive.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Colorado: A Senate Battleground

Michael Bennet is now Colorado’s junior senator. He has about nine months to establish his credibility as a serious candidate for election. Bennet’s advantage is that he will receive substantial media attention, which will raise his name identity, and if he handles it correctly, should improve his favorability rating. His votes and media relations can help build support both within his party and among Colorado voters at-large. But, if (and a big if), the Republicans can find a strong challenger, Bennet does not have nearly as positive environment as Mark Udall had last year in his Senate race.

• 2010 will not have G.W. Bush on the ballot. Nor will Obama be on the ballot to draw Blacks or young voters to the polls. Turnout will be lower in 2010 than the 2008 presidential, and much of that drop off will be Democratic voters.

• Bennet must cement the loyalty of his base (many of which are taking a wait-and-see attitude) while not alienating critical moderate voters.

• Bennet’s experience has been in administration. The senate is little management and much self-promotion.

• Bennet’s most significant challenge will be to shift from his 11-year experience in Denver to a statewide familiarity and credibility.

In general, Bennet has significant talent, but a big challenge ahead of him.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gitmo and the End of the War on Terror

The Gitmo closure, combined with a stand down on foreign detention centers and end to coercive interrogation, is dominating the first week of media coverage of the Obama administration. It has clearly pleased domestic civil libertarians, human rights advocates and international elites. But, as this story deepens and lengthens, Obama faces several vulnerabilities:

• While there is no Gitmo defense choir in the country, only 28 percent of Americans believe it a “very important issue.” It is at the bottom of the list dominated by economic issues (see Gallup Poll).
• There is at least one achievement the Bush administration was credited with: no terrorist attack for 7 years. Any attack will rapidly shift public opinion, which is currently supportive, or at least acquiescent to the new direction.
• And possibly the biggest danger for Obama is the congressional wing of his party that wants to use the criminal justice system to begin their version of the Clinton Impeachment trials and tribulations. If Obama let’s Speaker Pelosi or Chairman Conyers go down that road, the partisan war will begin (see Pew poll).

As the President said in his inaugural, he is dedicated to end “the petty grievances” and “recriminations.” That won’t be easy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Breaking News

Friday, January 2, was supposed to be a nice quiet day before the last holiday weekend. But Gov. Ritter’s pending U.S. Senate appointment started the day at 7:05 am with a KOA interview that focused on John Hickenlooper and Ed Perlmutter as candidates. Later that morning, as I walked into Cherry Creek’s Peet’s Coffee House, KOA’s Jerry Bell called back and said the surprise announcement of Michael Bennet, Denver Superintendent of Schools, was now posted on the Rocky Mountain News website. I taped my first interview on Bennet – “surprising, interesting and risky.” Steve Paulson of the Associated Press immediately called and then posted his story. Then, Tim Hoover of the Denver Post, working on a Ritter Sunday mid-term analysis, called since the announcement put a new storyline into play. The political website Politico put it on their national website. I called Channel 9 to update them and did a live shot on the noon news and tapes for 5:00 pm and 10:00 pm. While at Channel 9, NPR and Colorado Public Radio taped interviews, along with national AP radio.

At 3:20 pm I discussed the selection on the Caplin and Silverman talk show. Bob Beauprez was sitting in. Later in the afternoon, the Wall Street Journal and Washington Times did interviews. Finally, the day closed discussing the selection with M.E. Springelmeyer of the Rocky Mountain News, who first broke the story.