Friday, February 26, 2010

Western Democrats are on the Defensive

After extraordinary victory in the 2008 election, Western Democrats are in trouble. The election cycle is collapsing and the swings are becoming wider. Mike Riley reports in the Feb. 18 Denver Post.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Gallup’s Obama Approval in Colorado – 52%

Obama’s one-year national average approval was 57.6 percent. In Colorado, Obama received 52 percent, which was the lowest for a state that supported Obama in the election. The West, which had been generous to Democrats in the 2008 presidential race, is a problem for Obama today. Except for New Mexico, all are below Obama’s national average.

(See Gallup poll)

Colorado Races are Likely to be Competitive

Although Republicans have made dramatic improvements against Democrats the last six months, both nationally and in Colorado, the 2010 races are likely to be competitive and not a rout.

• National polls show that the decline of the Democratic brand has not been matched by an equal uptick in the Republicans. In previous sweeps by the out party, such as 1994 or 2006, the out party was much more favored than today. While the two parties are near equality, Democrats are still preferred on a number of issue positions. Also, President Obama is better thought of than Bill Clinton or George Bush at the comparable time.

• In Colorado, the entry of John Hickenlooper as the Democratic nominee for governor immediately changed the dynamics of the race. The poll shows he erased Governor Ritter’s polling deficit and the race is within the margin of error. Not only is Hickenlooper better known than Scott McInnis along the metro area and north Front Range – about 65 percent of the state’s population – but he has an easy familiarity with much of the state’s major media outlets and access to many of the same financial contributors McInnis draws from.

• Although Democratic Senate candidate Michael Bennet is in trouble with a strong trend against incumbents (even new appointees) and a possible primary, Jane Norton is not well known by the general electorate and has never performed in the center of the state’s political stage – for example, no major debates. And, both Democrats appear to be able in political give-and-take.

Hence, expect Colorado to line up to its reputation as a battleground.

(See Pew findings and Denver Post article)

The Latest From Politico

Politico, the nation’s leading political blog, describes the Democrats’ problems as 2010 begins. “Democrats were most optimistic about the political shift in the Mountain West, but Democrats’ gains are now under siege, and the region is a central battleground this year.”

The administration’s problem in Colorado is based on their message and agenda. It has been clear the last year that Obama’s policy strategy, summed up by Rahm Emanuel, as using the economic crisis to push the entire Democrat agenda has created problems in Colorado.

“The argument that Obama moves too fast, too much, too expensive has been very effective here,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based pollster.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Obama’s Colorado Visit to Help Bennet

President Barack Obama’s February 18 visit to help Senator Michael Bennet was not about money, but an effort to impart some enthusiasm and charisma to a campaign largely devoid of it. Bennet is engaged in an inter-party contest with Andrew Romanoff, who has the benefit of years of Democratic Party service.

The first test is the March 16 party caucus, which is the official beginning of the political year. Possibly 30,000 to 50,000 Democrats will meet to begin the process to select a senate nominee. If Romanoff can attract support from more than 30 percent of the attendees, he can make the August 10 primary ballot.

More significantly will be any percentage above 50 percent. At that point, it becomes clear Bennet lacks support from the activists of the Democratic Party.

And, while Bennet might still be able to win an August primary, he will be on the defensive much of the year. An incumbent senator, newly appointed without support of the core party, is in serious trouble in a tough November election.

(Also see articles in Aurora Sentinel and 9News)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Foreign Policy Obama’s Strength

America’s foreign policy image has improved and President Barack Obama has benefited from it.

Although President Obama now has an overall approval rating at or below 50 percent, somewhat surprising is that his handling of foreign affairs is his strength and is more positively rated than his handling of domestic policy. The latest Gallup poll on the issues shows Obama receives 51 percent for handling foreign affairs whereas he receives 37 percent for handling the deficit and 36 percent for the economy.

Within the usual partisan differences between Republicans and Democrats when rating Obama’s performance, Republicans rate Obama’s Afghanistan and Iraq policies highest whereas Democrats give Iraq and Afghanistan ratings 12 to 16 percent lower than their top ratings for Obama offered for education and foreign affairs in general.

World Opinion of U.S. Improved
Unfortunately for Obama, Americans do not rate foreign policy important as domestic policy. However, both Gallup and Pew polls show Americans believe the election of Obama has improved the country’s image abroad.

And, indeed, citizens throughout the world hold more positive views of the job performance of U.S. leadership. More than half (51%) of world citizens approve the leadership of the U.S., up from 34 percent in 2008. This is the first time approval was above 50 percent since measurements began in 2005. African citizens are the most positive about American leadership, with the most improvement since Obama’s election shown in Europe (28%).

There is, of course, considerable variation with the regions, for example, Muslim-majority countries provide substantially lower ratings and show more modest levels of improvement.

Data is drawn from the Gallup Global Leadership Project (see the full list of countries and sampling background information) and Gallup’s latest periodical approval report.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Hickenlooper Moves Ahead

The latest Rasmussen poll shows Mayor John Hickenlooper leading former Congressman Scott McInnis by 4 percentage points. This is a shift of 7 percentage points toward the Mayor since the January 6 reading when it was first announced he would be the likely candidate.

When Hickenlooper first announced an interest, it was pointed out his popularity in the Denver metro area (55% of Colorado voters), Front Range name identification, a generally favorable image and a lack of strong partisan identity helping him with independent voters made him a formidable candidate and much stronger than Gov. Bill Ritter.

McInnis trails Hickenlooper 13 percent to 35 percent in high favorability (52% McInnis to 56% Hickenlooper overall positive favorable rating). Hickenlooper has 11 percentage points in name identity advantage over McInnis (8% don’t know Hickenlooper to 19% McInnis). Also, Hickenlooper has a 5 point advantage among unaffiliated voters.

Since Rasmussen has received considerable criticism recently from Democrats over polls showing Democrats behind Republicans, he included a host of data touting his final polling in the 2008 and 2004 presidential races, the 2008 Colorado senate race and 2006 governor’s race. However, Democrats and their new media allies are less likely to criticize this poll.

(See Rasmussen topline and articles in The Daily Times, Washington Times and 9News)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Denver – Capital of Medical Marijuana

The Queen of the Plains and the capital of the Rocky Mountain Empire is about to become the headquarters of medical marijuana distribution. More than 500 dispensaries have sales tax licenses in Denver. All of Los Angeles has limited licenses to 70 sites. The entire state is dealing with the issue. Already, there are 23,000 Colorado applicants, up from 4,700 in 2008.

Colorado is one of a number of western states that have active pro-marijuana lobbies, permissible ballot procedures and sympathetic electorates that have adopted medical marijuana ballot issues.

One mid-western state, Michigan, allows use, along with several New England states (Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island – New Jersey and DC are pending).

Because of federal restrictions, most states had no real regime for sale and distribution. Once the Obama administration announced it would stop enforcement of federal law, a commercial rush to distribute marijuana for allegedly medicinal purposes began. The public is shocked by the abuse of the law by irresponsible physicians and the apparent inability of legislators to address the issue.

Politicians should not confuse the public’s desire to allow medicinal use, and even to not make marijuana criminal enforcement a high priority (in Denver) with the desire to see large-scale wholesale distribution with multiple sites, including in their neighborhood.

(See Denver Post article)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pick Your Poll: Bennet Wins, Loses Close, Crushed

Scott Rasmussen’s automated polls have come under increasing criticism from Democrats (see a recent defense in the Wall Street Journal). His Colorado polls published since September of last year have shown Republicans in the lead for governor and senate.

His latest Colorado Senate poll showed Republican frontrunner Jane Norton up 12 points over Democrat Michael Bennet. Norton leads Andrew Romanoff by the same amount.

Bennet rapidly countered by releasing his pollster’s latest data only showing him three points behind Norton. Also, a recent Daily Kos poll (liberal political website) shows Bennet ahead by one point.

The usual explanations for different polling results involve a long list of possible factors, including simple statistical variation. Most discussion at this point in campaigns focuses on sample and weighting techniques. Rasmussen’s trademark approach, preferred by conservative blogs and talk show hosts, uses sampling and weighting techniques producing a likely voter model designed for an off-year election, like 2010. The approach is especially restrictive, and includes more Republicans than more broadly drawn samples of registered voters. Arguably, the approach may offer a better preview of November 2010 than a less restrictive approach. However, it also is not a description of current voters’ views, but a subset of voters who more dependably turn out.

It may be more accurate to describe the current senate race as closely balanced between the Republican and Democratic frontrunners.

RTD and the Great Tax Increase

It is clear the RTD Board recognizes the challenge ahead is to make visible progress on the FasTracks proposal within the revenue stream it was provided in 2004.

Unfortunately, the FasTracks concept, created by the previous RTD general manager and adopted by much of the region’s political and business community was mostly a sham. Too many decisions were based on election politics and not on analysis of what was justified or could be afforded.

Getting back on track will take more than just more of the same election promotion, which unfortunately is the current proposed strategy by boosters and their consultants. To actually win public support, RTD should:

• Not discuss a tax increase until the economy gets to a sustained level of growth to both relieve the pressure on residents’ discretionary income and to have real-time verification that revenue increases from current tax levels will not be sufficient for a more fiscally realistic project.

• Have a serious evaluation of every line as justified by use and not just politics of 2004, which was an economic world ago. Would buses be a better answer in some corridors?

• Is it possible that a proactive governor and metro legislative leadership would insist that any new tax revenue (if needed) be shared between metro transit and roads to achieve some real relief of traffic congestion and not just a political trade-off?

(See Denver Post article: FasTracks backers seek cash and Denver Post editorial)