Monday, January 31, 2011

Americans See China as Threat, Fear Decline

The China summit appeared to conclude with little change; hence, advantage China.  They are on the rise, and recent polls confirm Americans’ anxiety about it.

Although Americans have a slightly unfavorable opinion of China (42% favorable vs. 49% unfavorable), they believe overall relations are more friendly (47%) than unfriendly (33%). But, Americans believe China is more of a threat to jobs (61%) than an opportunity for new markets (29%), and this view would not have been altered by the latest summit.

Avoiding a new Cold War will require a strong and sophisticated effort by America’s and China’s leadership. President Obama’s challenge during the summit was to be as firm as possible with China while defending engagement and trade. But American politics is increasingly anxious about our putative decline and its impact on the American economy. And, it is being reflected in congressional and some business interest calls for punitive trade policies and stepped-up military and alliance activities.

Similarly, China’s leadership must also contend with leadership factions that believe American policy is aimed at suppressing China’s rise. Ironically, China may become a motivation for “Sputnik movement” – that is, America’s effort to address a host of issues that could improve the country’s competitive position.

See articles:
Real Clear Politics: Decline haunting Obama, America

Friday, January 28, 2011

Republican Presidential Race Wide Open

As President Obama launches his re-election with his State of the Union speech, a reorganized White House staff and new Chicago campaign headquarters, Republicans are just beginning their nomination process with no clear frontrunner – a first in recent history. As the wide-open Republican race begins, it’s not clear what will be the best type of candidate to oppose a revived Obama – someone from the populist or more establishment wing of the party.

Two recent polls show that the four candidates with best name identification are Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Fox News is well represented with regular commentators: Palin, Huckabee and Gingrich. Mike Huckabee has high name recognition and the highest favorability whereas Sarah Palin is the best-known, but with a more negative image. But none of them, including Mitt Romney, get more than a fifth of the Republican vote.

In the same January poll, Obama is beating the top candidates by more than 10 points, so the national battle will be for the center, and the Republican challenge is to find a candidate after a national primary battle that will still be seen favorably by an independent voter.

A half a dozen other candidates have a point or two in early support, such as governors Perry, Daniels, Barbour and Pawlenty (former), Congressman Paul and Senator Thune.

A surprise name making the top rank is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who records 8 percent in the Washington Post/ABC poll. Christie has received a lot of early attention (especially on the Internet and non-traditional media) taking on the teachers union and being aggressive on cutting the New Jersey state budget. Republican voters may be looking for some fiery populism, but packaged in governing credentials.

The key to the race will be bringing together the party’s establishment wing and its very strong populist wing while avoiding a candidate with the inexperience or vulnerabilities of some of the November Tea Party candidates.

See Gallup poll:  Within GOP, Huckabee Liked, Palin Best-Known

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of Union and Obama Approval

After taking a shellacking in the midterm elections, President Obama’s approval rating has risen from the mid-40 percent range in November, to 50 percent in early January, and now to a high of 54 percent in the Washington Post/ABC News poll and 51 percent in the Gallup poll on the eve of the State of the Union.

This improvement is the result of the December compromise on the extension of Bush’s tax cuts (signed Dec. 17) and Obama’s handling of the Tucson shooting tragedy (speech Jan. 12).

Because of the success of the themes of compromise and civility, you can expect to hear this repeatedly in the speech tonight. Obama and his allies recognize that the aggressive liberal legislative agenda was the major contributor to their loss of the House and his low ratings.

Now, he will move back with a vengeance to the message of the 2008 campaign, which was labeled post-partisanship then and has been translated to civility today.

It generally works to the advantage of all incumbents, but Democrats are especially prone to use it as a club against their irritating foes on talk radio, Fox News and the Internet.

See latest polls:
Gallup Daily: Obama Job Approval
Wall Street Journal: President’s Ratings Climb and NBC News/WSJ poll (Jan. 13-17, 2011)
Washington Post/ABC News poll (Jan. 13-16, 2011)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Colorado: The Democrats’ Model for 2012 Campaign

Colorado portends to become the most closely contested state in the 2012 presidential election. And, our state also serves as the model for how races in other swing states, such as Nevada, Ohio and North Carolina, will be fought.

Ron Brownstein, in a much cited National Journal piece on white flight from the Democratic Party, quotes David Axelrod’s view that Colorado Senator Michael Bennet’s race is a model for the entire 2012 strategy of putting together a revived Democratic base, especially the missing young voters, along with higher educated, higher income, suburban and new urban women voters, including Republican women.

Brownstein’s article highlights the Democrats’ 2012 election challenge. As the chart shows, Democrats lost substantial numbers of white voters in 2010 in many states that will be in play in 2012. Democrats’ share of white votes declined 30 percent in Florida, 17 percent in Ohio and 6 percent in Colorado.

For Axelrod, Colorado is the solution to the Democrats receiving less than 60 percent of white voters in 2010. The white working class in mid-western states turned away from Obama and Democrats to Republican governors, senators and congresspersons in 2010. Brownstein’s list of swing states includes Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, Florida and Arizona. And in each of them, Democrats need to make up for a loss in working class voters by orchestrating a surge in the Democratic base and with a disproportionate share of white women.

Axelrod believes Obama can win a close re-election, much like Bennet’s two-point win in Colorado, but the race must be shifted from a referendum to a contest. Unfortunately for the Democrats, a vote for Obama is a referendum on his performance, but they are hoping for a Republican candidate made vulnerable by a contentious primary. As happened in the 2010 midterm in Colorado (and Nevada, Delaware, etc.), Axelrod hopes Republicans nominate a super social conservative who is not attractive to moderate women.

Also, like the midterm, the Democratic Party intends to have hundreds of millions to spend, along with independent committees, and hope to focus intensely on targeted voters with traditional and new media, much of it negative. But, Axelrod admits Obama must be “reset” (a favorite Obama team geek term). Obama is looking to recapture the unifying themes of the 2008 campaign (i.e., getting past partisanship, now translated as “civility”) and move sufficiently to the center – largely by reframing Democrats’ big government image to government having an “important, but limited role.” In this effort, of course, they benefit by having Nancy Pelosi and the California Democratic delegation out of control of the House.

Writes Brownstein:
“Axelrod…also made it clear that he sees as a ‘particularly instructive’ model for 2012 the case of Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet in Colorado, who won his contest last fall by mobilizing enough minorities, young people, and socially liberal, well-educated white women to overcome a sharp turn toward the GOP among most of the other white voters in his state.”
“More specifically – and perhaps more revealingly – Axelrod also has his eye on the Colorado example, where the exit poll found that Bennet lost blue-collar white women by double digits and blue-collar white men by more than 2-to-1. Yet he prevailed by amassing strong support from young people, Hispanics, and other minorities; holding his deficit among college-educated white men to single digits; and routing Buck among college-educated white women. A similar formula, Axelrod suggests, could be available to Obama in 2012, especially if the Republican presidential primary process, as he expects, tugs the eventual GOP nominee toward the right. ‘The Bennet thing was particularly instructive,’ Axelrod said. ‘They made a big effort there not only among Hispanics but women. The contrast he drew with Buck was very meaningful. That’s why I say the gravitational pull of those Republican primaries is going to be very significant.’”
Dick Wadhams, the Colorado GOP chairman, gets considerable coverage in Brownstein’s piece representing the other side of the Colorado story. Needless to say, he’s skeptical of Obama’s ability to change his policies or image. Wadhams says, “I think a large majority of those voters are gone for good; I don’t know what he can do to change their impression of his view of government.”

But, Wadhams admits his party is vulnerable, and a state like Colorado could be lost if the Republican nominee is seen as extreme on social issues.

Brownstein writes:
“But Wadhams quickly adds that Obama might be able to persuade some of those voters to support him anyway in 2012 if Republicans select a nominee they find unacceptable, particularly on social issues. Wadhams has painful recent experience with that phenomenon: Despite widespread dissatisfaction with Washington, Bennet won reelection to the Senate last fall partly because so many white-collar Colorado suburbanites (especially women) found Ken Buck, his tea party-infused Republican opponent, too conservative on abortion and other issues. ‘If our presidential nominee in 2012…appears too extreme on abortion or gay marriage or some other social issue, there’s a slice of the electorate that clearly could go back to Obama,’ Wadhams worries.”
“Axelrod is thinking in similar terms…‘The hardest thing in politics is to be measured against yourself,’ he said. But in 2012, ‘these voters, and all voters, will be faced with a choice. And I view that as an opportunity.’”
Colorado will not only be a presidential frontline state, but provides a blueprint for the Democratic campaign to come. And, this strategy will begin to unfold at Tuesday’s State of the Union.

Udall Scores Points

After a mostly backbench existence for two years (elected in Nov. 2008), Colorado Senator Mark Udall finally reaches national exposure with a symbolic, but well-timed, gesture of the new bi-partisanship and civility that is characterizing the start of this 2011 Congress.

His proposal to have senators sit together without partisan distinction has captured the imaginations of politicians, commentators and people. It also will be a great visual metaphor at the top political spectral of the new Congress. Crowd panning TV coverage is made for discussion of the seating choices of members by news anchors and pundits. We will know Tuesday night the state of civility among the political class and woe to those who chose to maintain their old partisan ways. Their base may like it, and there may be some notoriety, but the theme de jure is “why can’t we just get along.”

The president tends to dominate the night, and Obama plans to launch his 2012 re-election on the themes of compromise (i.e., don’t mess with my agenda and first two years of legislation), civility (i.e., quiet down Rush, Shawn and Sarah) and jobs.

The night should produce good television and political theater.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Clinton Boosts Careers in Diplomacy and Development

Good news for DU’s Korbel School of International Studies.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s article in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs makes a comprehensive case for strengthening our nation’s civilian power to better balance and amplify U.S. objectives that are now mostly supported by U.S. military power.

She has added 1,100 Foreign Service and Civil Service officers. Also, USAID has added 1,200 new officers with skills in development. The University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies should be a major beneficiary of this new direction. The School’s strong background in diplomacy and development aligns well with careers in the government’s foreign policy institutions.

The State Department now describes its mission as twofold – diplomacy and development. Embassies are now multidimensional organizations that coordinate, facilitate and leverage a myriad of public and private groups and programs alongside their traditional diplomatic consultations.

Clinton advocates the use of metrics and has applied the Quadrennial Defense Review approach used by the military to create a like-purposed Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review for State and USAID departments to design and align their resources and strategies.

Her emphasis on evidence-based management and mission design, close partnership between diplomacy and development, and coordination across government agencies and with the military should create additional opportunities for careers in foreign affairs. Such opportunities are good news for DU’s Korbel School and with its programs, such as the Futures Institute and the emphasis on diplomacy and development.

Clinton is very cognizant of the importance of public opinion vs. leadership opinion, and she mentioned the application of new technology, such as cell phones and social media to communicate with the general public in foreign countries. Popular movements in Iran, Tunisia and Ukraine owe much to cell phones, the Internet and social media than to any traditional form of communication.

All in all, Clinton’s strategies portend a very robust future for careers in diplomacy and development and for schools like Korbel.

See Foreign Affairs, Volume 89, No. 6, November/December 2010
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Leading Through Civilian Power: Redefining American Diplomacy and Development

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pueblo Will Lose Clout

The City of Pueblo grew very little the last 10 years. The city now has 108,909 residents, up 1,870 since 2000. Only Pueblo West showed any population growth the last 10 years, adding 10,418 residents to 27,596. The St. Charles Mesa, the home of the Ciruli family, has 9,056 residents. It added 159 residents since 2000.

In 1970, after I graduated from high school, Pueblo was slipping from its historic position as the second largest city in the state. City population was about 97,000 in 1970, and is now at 108,000. So while Pueblo was growing by 11 percent during the last 40 years, the state grew from 2.2 million to 5 million, or 127 percent (the county grew 50% since 1970).

Pueblo will continue to lose political clout in congressional and state legislative redistricting.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

RTD Makes Another Revenue Run

RTD and its client groups, especially the region’s municipal leaders and their consultants, are back with another tax increase. Just three years ago, RTD wanted to essentially double the tax haul of 4-tenths of a cent that it had cajoled out of a more trusting and prosperous electorate in 2004.

Fortunately, regional political stakeholders staged a mini-revolt. Some members of RTD’s leadership responsible for the deceptive proposal, both in terms of cost and revenue, were pushed out. But, local advocates have not changed the plan at all, but have just become more modest in how much revenue they will go after.

Three major criticisms of the tax-doubling effort still remain unresolved:

• Can RTD actually build the project within reasonable budget constraints? It now argues that construction prices are cheaper. They are indeed, but may not be in 5 years when much of this construction ramps up.

• Are RTD’s latest revenue projections believable or, like in 2004, are they just based on the politics of what management thinks voters will tolerate? The current constrained revenue climate (i.e., the new normal) may be around for a long time. Given RTD’s track record, will anyone be surprised if it returns to demand another tax increase before the end of this new decade?

• And finally, the actual plan, which was designed by the same people who could not manage the project costs or estimate accurately the revenue stream, continues mostly unexamined. It is now driven by pure regional politics. Advocates argue that since voters throughout the region are already paying the RTD sales tax – regardless if the particular line makes transit sense – it must be built in its entirety as fast as possible. More buses may be a much more economical and effective means of moving commuters, but it does not have the cachet of rail or the support of developers.

Removing another $35 million or $70 million (either one-tenth or two-tenths of a cent of sales tax) from hard-pressed consumers at this moment in the weak recovery is counter-productive.

All in all, RTD still has to make its case that the region will be better off if it imposes its new tax before the recovery is more certain.

See Denver Post article:  RTD board hears three options to complete FasTracks

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Colorado on the Front Lines of 2012 Presidential Race

In Colorado, the only statewide race taking place in 2012 will be the presidential election. Colorado Democrats can expect to get a lot of White House attention over the next 24 months since observers and presidential strategists list Colorado as a top swing state. Republicans, too, should see an endless stream of those testing the presidential water and the declared candidates.

Unfortunately, the public’s disenchantment with partisan and polarizing rhetoric will be severely tested as the campaigns begin to seek advantage in earnest. We can expect to see 2010 midterm expenditure levels and negative advertising on steroids.

Colorado may be the most closely balanced electorate in the union. Democrats feel they have the infrastructure to win it in spite of what appears to be a weak economic recovery and presidential popularity below 50 percent (albeit improving).

Republicans have a longer track record of taking Colorado in presidential races, even with weak candidates, like Bob Dole. And, they swept all the lower offices in the 2010 midterm.

But, the Michael Bennet death-defying 28,000-vote Senate win (the closest Senate race in the country) in spite of the Republican sweep shows Democrats are in the game. And, of course, they had the good fortune to win the governorship for use as a platform to run a statewide campaign (shortly, Governor Hickenlooper, with Colorado’s senior elected Democrats, will help select the state chair to help run the campaign).

Louis Jacobson rates Colorado as a 2012 toss-up state in his latest list, citing the Obama 9-point win in 2008 and the split midterm results. Along with Colorado (9 electoral votes), he also places in the toss-up category: Florida (29), Iowa (6), Maine (1 of 4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), Ohio (18) and Wisconsin (10).

This will likely become the standard list, but a few differences may arise among pundits; for example, Pennsylvania (20), which leans Democrat, and North Carolina (15) and Virginia (13), which lean Republican, are on the cusp.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

National Conventions Being Set

The Republican National Convention will be held in Tampa, Florida. The Democrats are near a final choice between St. Louis, Cleveland and the likely frontrunner, Charlotte, North Carolina.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch just interviewed Colorado participants in winning and hosting the 2008 Democratic Convention in Denver.

In spite of various challenges, such as fundraising and protests (recreate 68), the convention was an overwhelming success, such for the city, the state and the Democratic Party. It helped put John Hickenlooper in the Governor’s mansion.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Congratulations Shafroth

Coloradan Will Shafroth will serve as an interim assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks with Tom Strickland leaving for the private sector.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Chief of Staff Tom Strickland and Will Shafroth were actively involved in the creation of Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), one of the nation’s premier independent government agencies with dedicated funding for parks, open space and recreation investments.

In 1991 and 1992, we were involved in assisting them and many others, including Governor Roy Romer, in shifting lottery dollars that were going to prison construction to the new GOCO agency.

Most recently, the three have been attempting to create a national agency, “America’s Great Outdoors,” based on the GOCO concept.

Shafroth was GOCO’s first director, and maybe the next assistant secretary of Fish and Wildlife and Parks.

See Denver Post article: Tom Strickland to step down as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s chief of staff

Compromise is in the Air

The midterm election has changed the political climate. The passage of the federal tax extension and the tax cut package reflects the desire of the public to see compromise of some key issues. A majority of the public (57%) favored the compromise. Democrats (63%) especially thought their Democratic congresspersons should compromise as did unaffiliated voters (65%). And, although Republican voters were more closely divided on the question if their Republican congresspersons should compromise (47% yes to 47% no), independent voters favored Republicans compromising (64%).

The new legislative and gubernatorial team in Colorado is sending signals they want to look for some opportunities for compromise.

• Republicans won’t push for changes in the gas and oil rules they campaigned against. They are being realistic and will push for improved enforcement.
• There may be room for compromise on higher education funding and setting up health care exchanges.
• Democrats and Republicans have started a bi-partisan committee of House and Senate members to try to strike a compromise on congressional redistricting.

See articles:
9 News – GOP won’t push for big changes to Colo. Gas rules
WSJ – Poll supports shift to center

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ritter Signs Secure Communities

In one of his final acts, Gov. Ritter signed Colorado’s participation in the Secure Communities. It was a controversial decision, which took more than a year to negotiate, but Ritter was on solid political ground. The public wants criminal illegal aliens identified and deported. Fellow political leaders, like John Hickenlooper, appreciate him taking the lead.

See 9 News article: The political fall out of the fingerprint program

Power Transfers in Colorado

John Hickenlooper begins his governorship with considerable good will.  In a Denver Business Journal commentary, I outline some recent history and implications of the initial decisions Hickenlooper has made.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hickenlooper for President

It’s always nice to have the New York Times mention your name in the same sentence that describes the presidential race of 2016.  Hickenlooper has sufficient, but not an excess of, East Coast and liberal credentials to make a mention.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Redistricting Compromise Difficult to Achieve

So many interests with a stake in the outcome in the 2011 congressional redistricting have conflicting positions that it is hard to see a compromise possible to avoid political deadlock and subsequent court challenges and a judicial decision.

Although the redistricting process is decided by the Colorado Legislature and Governor, in fact, the process is dominated by the state’s congressional delegation and their staffs with their respective state parties as major stakeholders.

In general, incumbents tend to be very parochial and protective of their registration advantages. The average district with little variation must be 720,000. The 1st CD needs the largest population increase and the 6th CD has the most. There are some other rules about community of interest and ethnic representation, but generally redistricting panels have considerable flexibility.

Republicans have a surplus of votes in the south metro area and El Paso County. Their goal will be to pack more Democrats into Denver (1st CD of DeGette) and the 2nd (Adams, Boulder, Summit, Eagle and portion of Jeffco, etc. of Polis). They would like to add a few Republicans to the newly won 3rd CD (Pueblo and Western Slope of Tipton) and Gardner’s retaken 4th CD (Larimer, Weld and High Plains). One district they could have a chance of winning is Perlmutter’s 7th CD in Jeffco, Adams and Aurora. They would most likely have to wait for Perlmutter to retire, but 20,000 more Republicans or conservative unaffiliateds would put the district in play with a good candidate and/or good year.

Democrats, of course, have the opposite set of opportunities and challenges. One particular Democrat Party problem is that letting Denver’s 1st CD become less Democratic, although making sense for the Party’s overall strategy, would anger liberal and minority interest groups who want to ensure that the next party nominee after DeGette can win a general election, which could be endangered if the district becomes more competitive.

As a reciprocal to the Republican strategy, Democrats would like, as a top priority, to add partisans to the very winnable 3rd CD. Also, the 4th CD, which is becoming more competitive due to the growth of independent voters in Larimer and Weld counties, will be a Democratic target for more voters. The Democratic problem is finding neighboring Democratic partisans they can shift to the 3rd and 4th districts.

Again, conversely to the Republican strategy, Democrats would like to pack even more Republicans into the 5th (El Paso) and 6th (south metro) districts. Unfortunately for Democrats, those two districts have population surpluses and must shed votes. A Democratic strategy might be to shift Boulder voters (in the 2nd CD) to the 4th CD and some surplus Democratic-leaning voters from the 2nd to the 3rd.

Most of these changes will involve multiple shifts and, as a zero sum game, it’s hard to imagine a compromise unless protagonists believe a court decision is more risky.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Colorado Misses a Seat

Colorado now has 5 million residents, an increase of 728,000 since 2000, but not enough for a new congressional seat.  Arizona – Colorado’s main rival for political power in the Rocky Mountain region – will gain a seat after growing by more than one million the last decade.  Colorado didn’t gain a seat after the 1990 census due to the slow growth in the latter part of the decade.

Economics at the state and regional level, framed by the media’s treatment of it, tend to be the largest influence of population movement. Weather from sunshine to hurricanes also affects people’s locational preferences.

These shifts reflect both attraction to new places and a decision to leave the old. Quality of life as judged by social offerings, aesthetics, diversity, education opportunities, recreation and governance (i.e., the efficiency and burden of government) become a part of the mix.

The states that lost seats, in fact, have been losing seats for decades. Even Louisiana, which lost hundreds of thousands from Katrina and not surprising lost a seat, lost its first seat after the 1990 census.

All the states east of the Mississippi and north of 38ยบ latitude have been losing population since the Great Depression and as the Far West opened up. Florida, after the 1950s, and Texas, after the 1970s, became special attractions that absorbed population from the Northeast, Midwest and now, in the case of Texas, the Far West.

The great economic crisis of 2008 slowed down migration in general and specifically caused many fast growth states, such as Nevada, Arizona and Florida, to stall. Colorado’s failure to gain another congressional seat is largely a product of two slow economic periods. The first early in the decade when technology, telecommunication and tourism had recessions, and the second with the rest of the country in 2008.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The West Gains a Third of the New Congressional Seats

A total of twelve congressional seats shifted in the 2010 census reapportionment. The West gets four new seats – one each in Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Washington. Although there is much discussion of the political meaning of this shift, in fact, it’s a small number out of the 435 total seats and it is not clear either party has a certain advantage in creating new seats.

Of course, polling and election history shows Democratic-leaning states are losing electoral votes and several Republican-leaning states, namely Texas, Utah and Arizona and the southern states of Georgia and South Carolina, are gaining electoral votes. This should make President Obama’s re-election a little more difficult in 2012. But, creating a surfeit of new partisan-leaning congressional districts is more difficult than just examining statewide election data.

The 1970s saw the beginning of high growth in the smaller western states outside of California. Arizona now has nine seats, up five since 1970. Washington has ten, an increase of three in the last forty years. Nevada went from a single seat in 1970 to four today. Utah just missed a seat in 2000 and now has four.

The Republican surge this year, which added 8 congressional seats in the West, picked them up in a number of swing seats. If the 2012 or subsequent wave, especially among independent voters, is away from Republicans, they could lose many of the 8 seats quickly.

Only the new seat in Utah has high likelihood to be Republican. In fact, in most western states Republicans will be looking to boost their support in newly won seats as much as trying to gain seats. In Arizona, the fastest growing population is Hispanic, and concentration or dispersion of that population may provide the most conflict among the four states’ redistricting efforts.

The two biggest winners this census are Florida and Texas; both have gained twelve seats each since 1970. Florida is up to 27 seats, and Texas with 36 is the second largest delegation after California, which has 53.

New York has lost twelve seats since 1970. In 1980, with 41 seats, New York had a larger delegation than California with its 38. This is the first time since statehood California hasn’t gained a congressional seat after a census.

Although the old industrial states tend to be Democratic, Republicans will be scrambling to head off losing seats as some Republican districts may be likely merger candidates. And, like in the West, Republicans will spend more time trying to pool newly won swing seats than add new seats.

See Gallup poll: All 10 states losing congressional seats tilt Democratic

Monday, January 3, 2011

Waak and Wadhams Could Both Win Re-election

Colorado’s strange bifurcated election left both Pat Waak and Dick Wadhams unhappy with the results and vulnerable to criticism. However, both were dealing with macro political forces that dominated local organizational and financial resources. Democrats held the governorship and U.S. Senate with luck and smart campaigning. But, Republicans won most other races that were competitive.

Both Waak and Wadhams could likely win re-election, but Waak decided to retire after six years during which the Colorado Democratic Party had its most successful run in more than 50 years. Her stepping down at a Party high point, but as it enters a new era, is no doubt smart and classy.

Wadhams had a tougher year because the expectations were for a sweep, and loss of the top two offices was a major disappointment. But, he is also well-respected with deep roots in the Colorado Republican Party and its power structure. Although frankly, it’s not clear why he would want to do another term.

See Denver Post article:  Dem chair stepping aside

Hickenlooper Tries to Avoid Ritter’s Mistakes

John Hickenlooper’s early moves are trying to avoid comparisons with Bill Ritter’s weak start.

• Hickenlooper’s first few appointments drew from the legislature, which addresses his own lack of legislative experience and what became a steady criticism of Ritter’s weak legislative relations.

• In announcing his economic development strategy, which involves an economic plan being developed in all 64 counties and then consolidated into 9 regions before becoming a state plan, he made sure to say it shouldn’t take a year, harking back to Ritter’s penchant for year long or longer task forces. Hickenlooper gave them 4 months. At a minimum, this should be a jobs program for economic development officials.

• In picking Joe Garcia, Al White and Christine Scanlan, Hickenlooper leans heavily on non-Denver and out-of-state appointments. Between Ritter’s in-house team and several high-profile Denver appointments (Don Mares and Ari Zavaras), his administration took on an early Denver cast.

• Although it’s early, Hickenlooper is likely to promote a November ballot initiative in 2011. He likes working with well-placed interest groups, and higher education may be the most needy and most ready to move. Ritter passed in his first year and then lost the severance tax initiative in his second year. Governors who can effectively use the ballot are much more powerful and effective than those who can’t.

A good part of the Ritter legacy will be Hickenlooper trying to avoid his mistakes.