Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Health Care Still Losing in Court of Public Opinion

Although the U.S. Supreme Court may rule the new health care act is constitutional, it is losing in the court of public opinion.  The 2010 health care act, named by congressional Democrats as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, after a year of promotion, has still not managed to win a majority of the public’s support.  Gallup reports only 42 percent of Americans would keep the act and 47 percent would repeal it.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll confirms Gallup.  In it, 48 percent of Americans said the Supreme Court should overturn the new health care law and only 40 percent said uphold it.

The act is opposed in spite of the fact that 57 percent of Americans believe the health care system has major problems, only 33 percent believe health care coverage is “excellent” or “good,” and 50 percent believe the government has responsibility for providing health care (Gallup, Nov. 16, 2011).

See Gallup polls:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sixth CD Now in Play

Congressman Mike Coffman now has the most competitive congressional district in the state due to Judge Hyatt adopting the Democratic redistricting map.

Two-term Representative Joe Miklosi, who looked like a place filler and long shot in the original congressional district based mostly in very Republican Douglas County, is now a contender.  The new district will still lean more Republican than Democrat due to its independent voters being more conservative than liberal (33% Democrat, 34% Republican, 32% unaffiliated).  And, Coffman is a very effective campaigner.  But, if Miklosi can ward off a primary from a stronger Democrat (more experience, more name identification, more supporters, more money, etc.), he will pass his first test.

“‘His (Miklosi) most vulnerable moment is right now as the party is really thinking they can win this seat and questioning if this is their strongest candidate,’ said Floyd Ciruli, a local political analyst.  ‘Coffman is a strong candidate and has won a number of statewide elections in the past.’”
See Denver Post article:  Democrat Miklosi could benefit from new congressional map as he looks to unseat Coffman

Monday, November 28, 2011

Republicans Take on Congressional Redistricting

Not only did Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt provide an incentive for Colorado Republicans to fight his redistricting plan in court by adopting a plan that makes two seats more friendly to Democrats – the 3rd and 6th CDs – but by endorsing the Democrat’s plan and their rationale of competition with no changes, he provided Republicans an argument for their grassroots and the court of public opinion.

“‘They [Republicans] think that at least two congressional seats, the suburban seat that Congressman Coffman’s in, and the West Slope seat which they [Republicans] just won – the 3rd congressional – have now been moved to some extent toward the democratic side of things, so they don’t see much to be lost, and a lot potentially to be gained [by challenging the ruling],’ Floyd Ciruli, 9News, Political Analyst, says.”
See my blog: Democrats Big Winners in Congressional Redistricting

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Obama Will Have to Choose Ohio or Colorado for Final Target

It is well-established that Colorado, with its 9 electoral votes, is a likely final target for President Obama to assemble his 270 votes.  The western strategy includes Nevada (6) and New Mexico (5).  A recent argument has been made that a more productive strategy would be to target the large states in the mid-west and Atlantic Coast (Florida – 29, Ohio – 18, North Carolina – 15 and Virginia – 13).

William Galston, a researcher with Brookings, argues that Ohio voters are more like the country in general; hence, messages that move presidential approval and re-elect numbers nationally will move Ohio.  By implication, Galston believes that a western strategy depends too much on young voters, minorities and the higher educated.

Although Colorado is demographically different than the country, it tends to be where the swing voters are and, hence, if a campaign and candidate can move the Colorado vote, it can affect the least committed and most fought over voters in every jurisdiction.

Obama and his team won’t adopt a final strategy for many months, so Colorado will be seeing a lot of him in the meantime.

See The New Yorker:  The Eight-State Election

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Berlusconi Out of Power

After 17 years of dominance of Italian politics, Silvio Berlusconi resigned the prime ministry Nov. 12, 2011 to the relief of his colleagues and the cheers of the Roman crowd.  Although the immediate cause was the crisis affecting the entire Euro zone and its impact on bonds of countries with high public or private debt, in fact, Berlusconi’s hold on Italian politics collapsed months earlier. 

·         Framing Berlusconi’s final year and the biggest blow against him, his wife filed for divorce in 2009, a story which lingered in the news throughout 2010.  The divorce removed any cover for his scandalous behavior.
·         After years of support, the ongoing sex scandals and divorce finally moved the Catholic Church to condemn his boorish behavior in January 2011.  It was followed by a declaration that ended Church support from him in September.
·         In May, his coalition lost local elections, including his home city and center of his coalition power – Milan.  Also, lost was Naples.
·         In June, he proceeded with a poorly timed referendum, which was crushed in a national vote.  At the very moment the public was breaking away from nuclear power, he promoted a referendum endorsing it.  And, in a direct threat to his power, voters rejected his effort to pass an immunity law protecting him from the efforts of local prosecutors to find criminal wrongdoing in his personal life and mix of politics and business.
·         The long running sex scandal trial continued after the election defeats, reminding the public of Berlusconi’s undisciplined lifestyle and his government’s distraction from the pending economic crises.
·         Capturing this year of embarrassments and defeats, his job disapproval rating rose from 47 percent in 2010 to 61 percent before his resignation.

Berlusconi’s hold on power mixed a promise of modernization and prosperity with conservative policies to oppose communism (Italian version) and leftist in general.  But, a negative GDP, one of the highest debt to GDP ratios in Europe, a record high (near 7%) borrowing rate, and a razor slim majority dramatized his failure to create a new Italy.  When the final crisis came at the Cannes EU Summit, he both misread its seriousness and his weakened position.

The real tragedy is that a generation of young Italians has come of age during his era and faces the same poorly functioning economy and lack of opportunity that their parents had to deal with.

See articles:
The Economists:  Put asunder

Friday, November 18, 2011

Romney Leads, But is Not a Lock

More than one-half of the Republican Party active voters are consistently resisting their frontrunner, Mitt Romney.  As of mid-November, Newt Gingrich seems to be mounting a strong challenge.  But, at various points in the last two months, Herman Cain and Rick Perry have taken the lead.

The first nomination event is now less than two months on January 3 in Iowa.  Romney leads, and has the money and the campaign discipline to stay the course.  But, the electorate is volatile, and if he loses key primaries after New Hampshire, which he appears to have sewed up, his momentum could collapse.

Three months of polls confirm Mitt Romney has only about one-quarter of the party with him; the rest of active Republican voters prefer a perceived more conservative candidate or are undecided.  (Note a consistent 8% to 10% support libertarian Ron Paul).  Romney’s hold is on the moderate and more pragmatic wing of the party, leaving the much larger conservative wing ready to attach itself to more conservative candidates.

·         There is no consistent frontrunner at this point.
·         A second or third-tier candidate could still surge before voting begins in January.
·         The early events may not decide it, but likely two contestants will emerge.  At the moment, Romney appears in it, but second-place is unclear.
·         Frontrunners in October don’t necessarily win the nomination.  It has been especially true in the Democratic contests, but the Republicans look more like Democrats this year.
-         2007:  McCain (16%) was behind Giuliani (32%)
-         2007:  Obama (26%) was behind Clinton (47%)
·         Perry’s October Gallup slide was steep and appears difficult to reverse.  Voters didn’t just leave him because of his poor debate performance, but also because they really didn’t like his instate tuition position.
·         Cain’s poll numbers are falling under the media onslaught related to the harassment scandals.  Also, he lacks money and organization for the state-by-state delegate battles.
·         After a disastrous start, Gingrich lingered at below 5 percent through September, but as Perry and Cain have fallen back, his debate performance has grabbed the attention of conservatives and he’s on the move.  Gingrich is a difficult and undisciplined personality, so this may be a short-term boomlet.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Anti-Tax Voters Dominate Colorado’s 2011 Election

“This election is overwhelmingly being framed by this economy,” said Political Analyst Floyd Ciruli, “Killing field for new taxes,” Denver Post 11-2-11

·        The economy became a more significant and negative issue over the summer as warnings of a double-dip recession rang more and more loudly.  Polls across the country showed drops in voter optimism and consumer confidence.
-         Country moving in right direction: May 2011 – 36% vs. October 2011 – 17% (NBC News/WSJ)
-         Personal economic situation: better – 16% vs. worse – 36% (NBC News/WSJ Oct 2011)

·        The reputation of government, especially in Washington D.C., declined after the debt ceiling crisis.
-        Approve of the job of Congress: May – 22% vs. August – 13% (NBC News/WSJ)
-        Approve of the job of Obama: May – 52% vs. October – 44% (NBC News/WSJ)
-        Ratings on how federal government works: dissatisfied – 49%, angry – 30% (79% total)

·        The odd-year mail-back voters were older and more conservative.  Turnout for Proposition 103, the statewide tax-hike for education, was about 40% of a presidential election turnout.

·        The statewide ballot initiative (103) was poorly designed, poorly promoted and bereft of any significant support.  The opponents made effective use of stating that tax increases will hurt the economy.  Its two-to-one loss defined the election as an opportunity to say “no” to a tax increase.

·        Proposition 103’s poor performance wasn’t a surprise.  The political establishment expected it, but the size of the loss was significant, especially for the impact it had on the rest of the ballot.

“Other than the usual liberal groups and teachers unions, who came to this rather reluctantly, [Mr. Heath] doesn’t have much support,” Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said.  “The challenge he faces is that not only is the public really anxious about their own income limits and discretionary spending, but this is also an era of anti-government feeling.  It’s just not a good time.”  Washington Times, 9-7-11
·        Proposition 103 helped earn the 2011 election the label as one of Colorado’s worst in recent memory for local tax initiatives.

More than three-quarters of all local school bonds and mil levy proposals were defeated, including in Brighton (Adams), Loveland (Thompson), Douglas County (2 proposals), Eagle County, Mesa (51) and Pueblo County (2).

The Colorado Municipal League reports that nearly half of municipal tax measures have passed since the TABOR Amendment in 1992.  This year, eight cities or towns attempted tax increases, but only one passed.  Transit lost in Avon, library improvements lost in CaƱon City and medical care equipment lost in Oak Creek.  Only a street repair proposal in Fort Lupton passed.

Five cities attempted to approve a debt question.  Normally, nearly 70 percent of debt measures pass.  This year only two out of the five (40%) were approved.

As the Denver Post states, Colorado’s Election Day results were a “killing field for tax measures.”

·        Both the State of Colorado and the City and County of Denver have structural deficits, and both will likely have to make additional budget cuts in 2012.  They are among many government jurisdictions that may propose ballot initiatives related to taxes and debt.

The Regional Transportation District wants additional sales tax revenue for its transit build-out and many school districts desire additional revenue for operations and capital.  They have delayed going to the electorate due to the weak economy.  All will undergo much evaluation of possible 2012 ballot initiatives over the next few months.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Democrats Big Winners in Congressional Redistricting

Competitiveness has become a new criterion for state court judges in congressional redistricting, and Democrats won big arguing for it before Judge Robert Hyatt.  The seven new districts now give Democrats a chance of picking up two additional seats during the expected 2012 competitive presidential race in Colorado.

Sal Pace, the very liberal, labor-oriented Pueblo Democrat, picked up just enough new liberal Democrats to tilt the competitive 3rd CD away from freshman incumbent Scott Tipton.

Mike Coffman, the Republican incumbent in the Denver suburb’s 6th CD, now has a much more competitive district centered in Aurora.

Other big winners in redistricting were the City of Aurora, which will now dominate the new 6th CD, and Latino voters who pick up influence in the 3rd CD and the newly redesigned 6th CD by adding north Aurora.

A loser is Democratic Senate President Brandon Shaffer who wanted to challenge freshman Cory Gardner in the 4th CD.  Shaffer was a longer shot than Pace due to Gardner’s political skills, but in the new 4th CD with Douglas County, he has no chance.

Denver Democratic Attorney Mark Grueskin has become one of the nation’s premiere election lawyers.  He wrote the Democratic brief that Judge Hyatt added a few pages of introduction and then adopted.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Aurora is on a Roll

Ed Tauer’s retirement as mayor of Aurora after 8 years has focused attention on the City of Aurora’s last decade of development. It has been spectacular, with significant population increase (up 17%, or 47,000, since the 2000 census), development of Fitzsimons as the new site of the University of Colorado Hospital, and the most recent talk of moving the National Western Stock Show to join the super hotel complex of Gaylord Entertainment.

As Tauer points out, the biggest change is less visible. It reflects a shift from a bedroom community to one with significant high-end jobs, for example, at the new medical complex, and more expensive housing stock.

The city also has its financial troubles with falling revenue, large influx of poor residents and trouble with the school system’s performance.

But, it’s no denying Aurora has become a serious city, and will now dominate its own congressional district – possibly a future job for Mayor Tauer.

Friday, November 11, 2011

OWS – Asset or Threat to Democrats in 2012?

President Obama has said Occupy Wall Street (OWS) “expresses the frustrations that the American people feel.” Republicans hope that constitutes an endorsement. It’s not clear it does because, like most Democrats outside the far left, he is being cautious with the phenomenon. It is unclear the long-term affect of the group activities around the country will be a hit or a drag on politicians associated with it, and specifically, whether it will be a benefit to the Democratic Party.

Polling data shows that opinion concerning OWS is still forming and is likely to be volatile, reflecting its ongoing activities and relationship with local municipal authorities.

• Early support for the OWS is similar in some ways to early support for the Tea Party Movement. Many people identify with the group’s professed ideals and concerns, but are mostly undecided if they support it.

 66% of the public believes the distribution of money and wealth in the country “should be more evenly distributed”; 43% agree with views of OWS (New York Times, Oct. 24, 2011)

 On Oct. 13, a Wall Street Journal poll showed 37% support, 18% opposition and 45% no opinion or not sure. New York Times of Oct. 24: favorable – 25%, not favorable – 20% and undecided, have heard enough about – 53%

 39% say they support OWS; 35% oppose (32% support Tea Party) (Pew, Oct. 24, 2011)

• One challenge for the OWS is that by two-to-one most Americans believe that the federal government in Washington (64%) is more to blame for our economic problems than financial institutions on Wall Street (30%) (Gallup, Oct. 2011).

 Even Democrats tend to blame the federal government (49%) more than Wall Street (46%)

• The economy (38%) and jobs (19%) are the top problems facing the country. Income disparity is not on the public radar, and will require a major reframing of the problem (CBS News/New York Times, Sept. 2011).

• Some of the solutions offered by OWS involve more government. Adding to employment in Washington D.C. will not reduce income inequality. An analysis of the top 5 percent of U.S. earners shows that their median income nationally is $300,000, and in Manhattan $757,000. But Washington D.C. is 52 percent higher than the national average at $473,000 – federal government jobs and the industries, consultants and lobbying that service it pay well.

• In an effort to determine what OWS would like to achieve, an analysis of pollster Doug Schoen’s data shows that a majority (53%) were liberal wanting to influence the Democratic Party, mobilize progressives, have a single-payer system and get out of Afghanistan now.

 8% were radical (redistribute wealth/end capitalism) (AAPOR online discussion).

 27% want to change the process and end two-party system, implement direct democracy.

 5% – a few offered conservative nostrums, such as ending the progressive income tax.

Democrats benefit from the OWS if the enthusiasm and message of economic justice can motivate the base without turning off moderates the way some of the extreme elements of the Tea Party Movement hurt Republicans in the mid-term senate races in 2010.

While Republicans are working hard to describe the OWS crowd as extremists with Democratic ties, they must be cautious about their image as defenders of the rich and appearing indifferent to the plight of the poor.

See articles:
Pew – Public divided over Occupy Wall Street movement
Gallup – Americans blame gov’t more than Wall Street for economy

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Obama Wins on Foreign Policy

President Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of the year is popular with the public.  In fact, Obama receives his best approval ratings on foreign policy issues.  Of course, his problem is that foreign policy is not considered an important issue in this election.

·         Three-quarters (75%) of Americans support Obama’s withdrawal announcement.  Only a fair majority of Republicans oppose of the withdrawal (50%).

·         Obama’s overall approval rating is in the mid-40 percent range.  The public’s approval of his handling of the economy is only 37 percent in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (August 2011), but his handling of foreign policy garnered a 50 percent rating (NBC/WSJ) and a 62 percent approval of his handling a threat of terrorism (Washington Post/ABC News, Sept. 2011).

·         Foreign policy is considered an important problem facing the country by less than 1 percent of the public (CBS News/New York Times, Sept. 2011).

Although withdrawal is clearly a popular short-term policy, “who lost Iraq” may become a longer term foreign policy debate.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Colorado and FOX NEWS

What happens in Colorado affects the national political conversation. Fox News regularly covers Colorado politics. Bret Baier uses our anti-tax election to launch a panel discussion of the impact on President Obama’s election prospects.

“FLOYD CIRULI, COLORADO POLLSTER: Well, I think this is a problem for the president. As you know, Colorado is a battleground state. He really needs these nine electoral votes if he’s gonna get to 270. Almost all of the campaign experts and the pundits say that Colorado is in that mix. And this election was all about how terrible this economy is. That’s what drove these anti-tax votes.
BAIER: There is an election on Tuesday in Colorado, a ballot issue called Proposition 103. It was about increasing taxes for education in the state of Colorado, and it failed. Voting no, 63.5 percent as you can see here, 36 percent said yes.
And then you go to the Wall Street Journal and they were wrapping this up today, saying ‘Colorado’s anti-tax move was equally clear at the local level.’ The Denver Post reports that ‘Aurora voters rejected a $114 million tax increase for recreation centers. Douglas County voters said “no” to school tax increases, and Canyon City voters rejected a tax for library improvements.’ The paper called the overall results ‘a killing field of tax measures.’
You look at the swing states, you heard that analyst say Colorado is important, and it is for both side, and there are seven key swing states most analysts are looking at, right there Colorado with nine electoral votes. We’re back with the panel. Steve, what about this?”
See Fox News: Is CO vote a national indicator on taxes?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Opinion Changes on Social Issues

Liberal advocates of social changes often despair that much of public opinion is locked into traditional modes of thought.  But, as recent polls on gay rights have shown compared to the early 1990s, there has been a sea change in opinion in favor of most elements of the gay rights agenda.  There has even been movement toward the liberal view of gay marriage, with a few polls showing majority support.

However, conservatives should not despair about the across-the-board liberal drift in American culture and its impact on social issues.  A new Gallup poll on gun control shows nearly a complete collapse of public support for gun control from a high of 60 percent in 1959 to 26 percent today.  Opposition to gun control went from 36 percent in 1959 to 73 percent.

Although the public wants strict enforcement of current laws, they do not support more laws banning guns.

On abortion legalization, what had seemed to be a liberal trend now appears to be a deadlock, with only a slight plurality of Americans calling themselves pro choice (49%) compared to those who adopt a pro life position (45%).

During the G.W. Bush presidency, the pro choice position climbed to the majority view in several polls (albeit just barely), but appeared to recede in the early Barack Obama presidency.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Obama Offers McIssues Strategy

President Obama is in full campaign mode with travel, talking points and policy all aimed at his tough re-election.

His recent trips to Nevada and Colorado were staged to appeal to key constituencies in swing states.

Colorado’s first visit was to a Hispanic high school to talk about the jobs bill.  His second trip went to a Denver college campus to announce his student loan initiative.  Hispanics and students are key constituents – jobs and debt are important to them.

The only difference in the two visits is that the jobs bill is now effectively old news, politically dead due to a Senate, including several Democrats, being unwilling to pass it.

So, the new strategy is the old Bill Clinton approach of McIssues.  Everyone recalls school uniforms as an education initiative.  When you can’t pass legislation, find ideas, typically with more symbolism than substance, that can be done with presidential action alone.  The mortgage and student loan changes proposed have limited impact, but high campaign value when combined with well-targeted presidential visits, good visuals and hot rhetoric about Republicans intransigence.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Western Battleground States

The West continues to receive significant attention by President Obama’s campaign. His recent trips to Nevada and Colorado (twice) were aimed at key constituencies (Hispanics, young voters, mortgage holders in swing states).

Democrats also hope to keep New Mexico in the President’s column and will at least make a run at Arizona.

But, there is also considerable action in the West at the local level. In fact, both parties are hoping to pick up senate and governor seats in the West. A quick review shows:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ides of March Very Conservative Film

A Hollywood political movie that portrays presidential politics and candidates as cynical and corrupt is standard fair. But typically, the liberal idealists fair better than the conservative realists. The Ides of March boldly heads in a different direction. And, it stars, was written and directed by one of Hollywood’s great liberals.

The movie’s top politician and the George Clooney character is a liberal who uses the idealist rhetoric of Barack Obama and has the testosterone of Bill Clinton.

In the course of the movie, the candidate impregnates an intern (leading her to suicide), fires his campaign manager to cover up the story and sells out his ideas to accept a second-rate Ohio senator on the ticket who is a black politician.

Most of the liberals I talked to said the movie was depressing and portrays politics too cynically.

What was your take on it?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Very Bad Quarter

The Dow Jones Industrial average was down 12 percent in the third quarter – the worst quarter since President Obama was sworn in.

The economic confidence of America has declined and it is taking Obama’s support down with it.

·       52% of Americans believe it is very or fairly likely there will be a new financial crisis (Washington Post/Bloomberg News poll, October 2011).

·       Only 42% of Democrats believe it would make much difference to their financial positions if Obama wins.  Only 48% believe their personal finances would improve (64% of Republicans believe their finances will improve if Republican wins).  (Washington Post/Bloomberg News poll, October 2011)

·       Investing confidence is at -45, down from +42 in February, back to late 2008/early 2009 levels.  65% feel little or no control over their ability to build retirement savings (Gallup/Wells Fargo poll, October 2011).

The market volatility reflects a contest between some good business news, such as earnings and low valuations, versus concern with the European sovereign debt crisis, slowdown in the world economy, and continued political instability and gridlock in Washington.

Yet, in spite of all the bad national news, the Denver area retail economy continues to improve.  The sales and use tax collection in metro Denver is up 5.75 percent this year over 2010 and up 7.1 percent in August over August a year ago.

If Main Street dominates Wall Street, there may not be double-dip recession, but continued slow growth.