Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Judges Count

Denver District Court Judge Sheila Rappaport completely upended school finance in Colorado by ruling the current K-12 financing system is unconstitutional.  Both her analysis and the outcome reflect a robust judicial activism.

It appears that U.S. District Judge William Martinez is, at a minimum, sympathetic to providing a forum for arguments that may overturn the 1992 ballot initiative TABOR on tax limitations.  In essence, deciding that, although voters may pass tax limitation initiatives, ultimately legislators hold the tax power as a part of a Republican form of government.

These two Colorado judges have more power over the state’s finances than all other elected officials and the voters themselves.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Economy Helping Obama

The improved economic conditions and President Obama’s relentless rhetorical focus on jobs appears to be working.  His job approval on handling the economy is up 12 points from a low last summer and up 8 points since November.  Somewhat surprising, his handling of the budget deficit also improved by 6 points since November in spite of little focus on it in the new budget proposal.

Although Republican presidential candidates criticize Obama for a variety of foreign policy positions and actions, foreign affairs has been and continues to be Obama’s high job performance area – 48 percent approval.

Obama’s current overall job approval is 47 percent, up from 43 percent in November and December.  Although he is still on the edge of the approval level associated with winning and losing, Obama’s numbers have moved in the right direction since December.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Social Issues are Back

Although social issues have been below the surface in the 2012 presidential race, they have periodically made it into the debate.  Immigration provided controversy in several early debates, but until the February 2012 contraception/religious freedom controversy, the economy was dominant. 

Social issues became a major topic when President Obama reversed the administration’s position on requiring religious organizations to provide contraception at no cost in their insurance plans after sustaining a full assault from religious and conservative leaders and media outlets.

Contraception is not a controversial topic for most Americans, but forcing religious health and insurance organizations to provide them against their values is controversial.

Pew’s poll, which does not test the issue in terms of religious freedom, found Americans in favor of the exemption 48 percent to 44 percent, with Catholics 55 percent in favor.

Like most issues in 2012, partisanship is framing this topic with more than a 40 percentage point difference between Republicans and Democrats on the issue.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Americans See China as a Super Power; Friendly, But Not an Ally

Americans have decidedly mixed views about the rising power of China.  Although more than 70 percent see it as friendly or an ally, about one-quarter of Americans see China as an enemy or unfriendly (23%).

Importantly, a plurality of Americans believes China will pass the U.S. as the leading world power (42%).  However, people are closely divided as to their impression of China as favorable (42%) and unfavorable (44%).  As of today, Americans support having a strong relationship with China (71%) and cooperating with them (more than 60%).

Vice President Xi Jinping’s visit highlight was “tea time” in Iowa.  The trip has been generally judged a success in presenting a friendly face of the Chinese leadership.  The Iowa event reflected not only Xi Jinping’s public relations skill, but also his emphasis on rural development, farmers and food supply.  While China may appear to be about huge new cities, like Shanghai and Guangzhou, the country is still mostly about the billion citizens of rural areas.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Japan’s Favorability With American People is in Top Tier

Japan joins English-speaking countries of Canada, Australia and Great Britain as among the most highly favored by Americans.  Germany is also in the top five.

Americans have greater passion for their English cousins than any other country.  Israel (29% “very favorable”; 71% total favorable) joins Germany and Japan with more than one-quarter of the public rating them “very favorable.”  Japan’s favorability increased from 2011 to 2012, possibly due to sympathy and admiration for the people in the earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Western Senate and Governor Contests Heat Up

Two senate races will dominate western elections in 2012.  In Montana, incumbent Democrat Senator Jon Tester is in a difficult re-election and behind by a few points in several polls to Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg.

Nevada will have another major battle after the epic fight in 2010 won by Majority Leader Harry Reid.  Newly appointed Senator Dean Heller is close in fundraising to Democrat Representative Shelley Berkley.  The race appears very competitive.

Montana has a spirited governor’s race to replace term-limited Democrat Brian Schweitzer.  Democrat Attorney General Steve Bullock out-fundraised Republican Congressman Rick Hill, the frontrunner in an eight-person Republican primary. 

Washington, which has a recent history of close governor’s elections, may be heading toward another with Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna and Democrat Congressman Jay Inslee in a race judged very competitive by local analysts.  Christine Gregoire, the Democratic term-limited governor, just made national press by signing the country’s eighth gay marriage law.

See Politico:

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Colorado in Middle Position in Western Political Mood

The country moved to the right the last two years and the West has some of the most conservative and Republican states in the country.

Americans are still more likely to identify as conservative (40%) than liberal (21%).  About one-third are self-declared moderates (36%) (Gallup, Feb. 3, 2012).  Also, Gallup (Feb. 2, 2012) reports that the Democratic Party lost their advantage in 18 states since 2008 and Republicans gained the advantage in six.

The table shows the twelve continental mountain and pacific states arrayed from the most conservative and Republican represented by Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Alaska to the most liberal and Democratic; i.e., California, Washington and Oregon.

Arizona, Colorado and Nevada are the most competitive from both a partisan and ideological perspective.  Although Montana and New Mexico are in the middle of the competitive range, Montana leans Republican and New Mexico leans Democratic.

Conservative states tend to be in the South (Mississippi the most conservative) and the West.  None are on the coast.  All the most liberal states are on the coasts, with Oregon, Washington and California in the West.

See Gallup:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Colorado Started the Long March

The Rick Santorum sweep of three states on February 7 changed the direction of the presidential race.  The Colorado win was “a major upset.”

“This time, ‘losing one of these races is not game-changing,’ said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based independent political consultant.  ‘But it would be a lifeline for one of the other candidates.’”  Miami Herald, 2-6-12

But losing three and “definitely, there is a new story now.”  Denver Post, 2-7-12

The following examines the Colorado caucuses results and provides analysis showing that the Colorado Republican Party has a new nominating majority that can defeat the party establishment.

1.      Santorum carried most of rural Colorado, especially the High Plains.  He won the large counties that delivered for the Tea Party Movement candidates in 2010:  Adams (41%), El Paso (47%), Larimer (44%), Mesa (47%), Pueblo (44%) and Weld (48%).

“This harkens back to 2010, when the Tea Party essentially upset the established Republican candidates for the Colorado governor and Senate races, and it clearly demonstrates that the grass roots of the party remains very conservative and is unwilling to unite behind the presumptive frontrunner,” Ciruli said.  Denver Post, 2-7-12

2.      Santorum came to Colorado repeatedly while Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich were battling in Florida and Nevada.

“Santorum played it smart, Ciruli said.  While Romney and challenger Newt Gingrich exchanged expensive blows before the Florida primary, Santorum went to Colorado and the Midwest to appeal to the conservative arm in the Republican Party.  He targeted the three states that would likely have low turnouts and had large numbers of enthusiastic and conservative voters, Ciruli said.”  Denver Post, 2-7-12

“Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based political analyst, said while the other candidates were focused on Nevada's caucus last weekend (where Romney easily won and Santorum came in a distant last), Santorum was attending a Lincoln Day Dinner in tea party-friendly Weld County, Colo., and drawing a record crowd.  Also, Ciruli said, Romney seemed to take Colorado for granted.”  Morning Call Washington Bureau, 2-8-12

3.      Turnout, while slightly below 2008, was dominated by Santorum’s conservatives.

            70,000 caucus attendees in 2008 – Romney 60%
            66,000 caucus attendees in 2012 – Santorum 40%

4.      Conservatives want to win the general election, but were not willing to endorse the candidate labeled as the “establishment moderate” and not convinced a lack of sharp contrast makes a winner.

“And Ciruli sees a deeper problem for Romney: GOP voters are rejecting him as the ‘establishment moderate.’

‘This is a party that desperately wants to win — that sees Obama as terribly dangerous,’ Ciruli said, ‘but they still are not willing to give their vote at this point to someone not filling their aspirations.  They’re just not willing to do that.’”  Morning Call Washington Bureau, 2-8-12

5.      Romney won Colorado by 60 percent in 2008 against John McCain.  But, he was positioned as the more conservative candidate.  The last poll before this primary had Romney with 40 percent to Santorum’s 26 percent, but robo polls have difficulty identifying caucus attendees.

“9NEWS political analysts have said our state could weed out a bottom contender, and perhaps set the pace for the rest of the western United States.

Even though Mitt Romney won Colorado in 2008 with 60 percent of the vote, this time 9NEWS Political analyst Floyd Ciruli says it’s not in the bag for Romney.

‘He’s going to have some concern about the fact that he is now seen as the more moderate person - four years ago was the conservative against John McCain so he’s seen as the more moderate person against this array of conservatives,’ Ciruli said.”  9News, 2-5-12

6.      The Santorum victory reflects vulnerability for the party.  He will have a significant challenge attracting moderates and independents that control winning Colorado’s statewide votes.

“‘It shows Colorado remains the model out there for the Republicans for the challenges that they face.  They are trying to find a candidate who can appeal to both the conservatives in the party and the independent voters,’ Ciruli said.”  Denver Post, 2-7-12

The Colorado caucus results were a major upset and changed the game.  The Republican nominee may still be Romney, but it will require a long slog.

See articles:

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Santorum Now in First

Rick Santorum has now taken over first place in the national standings after his triple wins in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri.

National polls now confirm what was clear in Colorado’s caucus events on February 7, it was primarily a competition among supporters of Santorum and Romney.

He has moved ahead of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich in the national polling average and in second place behind Romney in delegate count.

The next events are winner-takes-all primary in Arizona and a Michigan primary with proportional and winner-takes-all elements – both events are on August 28.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Gay Rights and Gill in the News

California’s gay marriage ban has been overturned by a three-judge federal court panel.  It was a four-year battle to reverse a state initiative prohibiting same-sex marriages, which California voters passed by 52 percent in 2008.  Of course, gay rights advocates assume the case will be appealed to the Supreme Court. 

The Ninth Circuit Court struck down California’s Proposition 8, using language similar to that used by the U.S. Supreme Court when it struck down Colorado’s 1992 anti-gay rights Proposition 2; i.e., “serves no purpose and has no effect other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians…re-classed for their relationship and families as inferior to those of opposite sex couples” (Justice Kennedy, the likely swing vote, wrote the majority opinion in 1996).

A court challenge is being pursued because current polling indicates that an insufficient percentage of Californians support gay marriage to safely place a gay marriage law on the ballot (Field Poll 51% to 42% for gay marriage, but only 44% favor gay marriage when offered civil union and no legal recognition alternatives).

Gay marriage appears more popular among the U.S. population as a whole.  Nationally, Pew Research Center reports 46 percent favor and 44 percent oppose gay marriage, a significant shift in opinion from 1996 when the public was opposed 65 percent to 28 percent against.

Tim Gill, Colorado’s multi-millionaire gay rights advocate, is reported by the Wall Street Journal to have contributed more than $5 million to defeat anti-gay rights ballot referendums around the country.  The recent article claims he was deeply involved in New York’s successful passage of a gay rights legislation and has spent money lobbying in New Jersey’s recent failed legislative effort.

Gill may be the single most important funder in Colorado’s Democratic Renaissance beginning in 2004.  He’s very political, very strategic and very wealthy.

See Wall Street Journal articles:

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Race to 1,144 Delegates is On

Although Mitt Romney has the bulk of the Republican establishment, most of the money and a plurality of delegates, the momentum has shifted to Rick Santorum after his three-state sweep. But, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are not likely to drop out, waiting for the next debate (Feb. 22) and Super Tuesday, March 6 (about 450 delegates in 10 states), making it still a three-way competition for the non-Romney vote.

The race now is for delegates – 1,144 – to secure the nomination, which, given the calendar and rules, is likely to not happen until May (only 1,621 delegates selected through April).

Santorum is the favored conservative at the moment, but there have been many. Although he has a message, it’s not clear he can put the money and organization together to compete in the super states’ primaries, such as New York, New Jersey, Ohio, California and Texas.

Gingrich stalled after Florida, but still has potential with a Super Pac and a host of southern states starting March 6 where he can try to apply his regional ties. But, the nationalization of the contest raises questions as to the breadth and depth of southern strategy beyond Georgia.

Paul will continue his movement campaign with selective wins, but he doesn’t appear to be affecting the race.

Romney, as of today, remains the frontrunner, but the image of frontrunner and establishment candidate, in fact, is a burden. He ran best in Florida, to some extent, because he was seen as the come-from-behind underdog.

Party leaders still believe that to beat President Obama will require a more centrist candidate, but they are clearly worried Romney may not be able to unite the party for the fall.

See Denver Post articles:
Dark-horse candidates Paul, Santorum arrive early in Colorado
Rick Santorum wins Colorado Republican caucuses

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The War on Terror is Over

With the withdrawal from Iraq and the short timeline for troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, America’s decade-long wars are drawing to a conclusion.  When combined with the military force reductions, it is clear that domestic concerns now trump foreign policy among Washington policymakers.

The public agrees with this shift in attention.  A new Pew poll shows Americans have long lost interest in and support for the two wars (a majority favor Afghanistan withdrawal – 56%).  President Obama’s performance rating of handling foreign policy (46%) and terrorism (65%) is much higher than job approval rating of handling the deficit (34%) or the economy (38%).

One area that the public expresses considerable concern is Iran.  Iran is now slightly ahead of China as representing the “greatest danger” to America.  Obama’s job approval on handling Iran is 48 percent.  Expect to hear a lot more about it in a presidential election year.

See Pew Research Center:

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Romney Regains the Lead

After his big Nevada caucus wins, Mitt Romney has regained the national lead among Republicans – maybe permanently.

Republicans have been volatile during the nomination season. Newt Gingrich reached 37 percent support in early December before Iowa and the Super Pac attack ads. Romney took over the lead (37%) at the beginning of the South Carolina primary, but lost it in the Gingrich sweep.

Gingrich’s lead tightened to one after Florida, and now Romney has a 6-point lead – 34 percent to 28 percent for Gingrich. A Colorado caucus victory could seal the deal as Romney goes into March 6 Super Tuesday.

Pueblo Chieftain: Ciruli: Voter turnout in November will be huge
9News:  Busy day for candidates before Tuesday’s Colorado caucus
Gallup: Romney Now Leads Gingrich, 31% to 26%

Monday, February 6, 2012

Obama in Difficult Colorado Re-election

Gallup’s survey of its 2011 polling in the 50 states shows President Obama with a 44 percent national approval rating (Gallup’s February tracking poll has Obama’s approval at 43%).

The survey shows Obama has 40 percent approval in Colorado.  (A Ciruli Associates poll in November 2011 of likely voters had Obama’s approval at 39%.)

Obama’s approval is highest in Washington D.C. (81%), and above 50 percent in the big states of California (50%), New York (55%), New Jersey (51%), Illinois (50%) and Romney’s Massachusetts (55%).  He is lowest in the Mountain West:  Utah (29%), Idaho (29%), Wyoming (31%), Montana (34%) and Alaska (36%).

Colorado, with its 40 percent job approval (5% below the 2010 annual average), joins a list of swing states that Obama’s re-election will depend upon.

Ciruli blog:  Obama approval 39%
Hot Air blog:  States of Disapproval

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Should Obama Replace Biden With Clinton?

It would be without modern precedence for a president to change vice president midway as he begins re-election.  But, President Obama is in a very precarious position and Vice President Joe Biden brings little to the ticket.  In contrast, as a new Pew poll shows, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is highly popular.

Should Obama dump Biden?

See Pew Research Center:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Third Congressional Looks Competitive

A new robo poll from Democrats shows that ten months out the 3rd congressional district election appears close.

Incumbent Scott Tipton is below 50 percent in support and only 7 points ahead of Democrat Sal Pace – 46 percent to 39 percent.

A recent Washington Post/ABC poll shows only 13 percent of Americans approve the job congress is doing, and Republicans are rated lower (22%) than Democrats (33%).  In the PPP poll, Tipton had a 36 percent approval of the job he is doing.

The poll was commissioned by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  The results are a reflection of Tipton’s status as a first term incumbent, the partisan registration closeness of the district and the public’s general unhappiness with anyone in Washington D.C.

See articles:
National Journal:  Lower than low