Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gay Rights: Not Question of If, But When

Although gay rights were given a mighty push by the Supreme Court, it is not clear Colorado is ready to overturn its constitutional ban. In 2016 possibly, but 2014 may be too soon. Opinion on the issues is still closely divided, and 2014 could be a lower turnout, anti-establishment-type election.
“A poll released two months ago indicated that Colorado residents now support gay marriage 51 percent to 43 percent. Among voters younger than 30, it passes by a 74 percent to 17 percent spread, according to left-leaning Public Policy Polling.
Public opinion, however, doesn't always translate to votes on Election Day, Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said.
Catholics, including those who are older and some who identify as Democrats, would be less likely to support it. Latino and African-American voters also have traditionally opposed gay marriage.
Those demographics, however, are changing. African-American voters have shifted since President Obama said last year his opinion on the issue had "evolved," Ciruli said. Latinos younger than 30, for example, support gay marriage by more than 65 percent, which tracks with the rest of young voters on the issue in Colorado”. (Denver Post, 6-27-13)
Denver Post: Colorado reacts to Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pueblo Incumbent Forced Into Recall

State Senator Angela Giron is in a fight to keep her seat and she could lose. A local group of voters passionate about gun rights collected about than 13,000 signatures, and more than 12,000 were verified.  That was more than enough to make the ballot and the 90 percent verification rate showed organizational skill.

Even though Giron’s district is 50 percent Democrat, the special election will likely attract few voters and the Pueblo Freedom and Rights group have demonstrated their ability to attract voters and get them to take action. In addition, Pueblo Democrats often fight in primaries and sometimes punish incumbent officeholders. They just tossed out an incumbent DA.

Giron is now the second senate seat in southern Colorado in a recall.

Expect a lot of out-of-state money defending the Democrats and a lot of out-of-district visitors, both political celebrities and door-to-door walkers, trying to save the incumbents.
‘“The signatures verified clearly shows a lot of passion in her district,” said political analyst Floyd Ciruli. “And in a recall election, there’s going to be low turnout, which raises questions if she can get her supporters out there.”
Ciruli notes that Giron is married to Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki.
“This will be a major fight,” Ciruli said. “In Pueblo she’s tied into the political circles and can get out her message and quite possibly the vote.”’ (Denver Post, 6-24-13)
Denver Post: Angela Giron recall effort moves forward with signatures certified
The Buzz: Democrats on defensive

What’s Behind Colorado’s Hard Left Turn?

Patrick Malone, reporter for the Fort Collins Coloradoan, just completed an analysis of the recent shifts in Colorado politics.

He made use of The Buzz to analyze the “Hard Left Turn” in the state during the last decade, from George W. Bush winning by 5 points in 2004 to Barack Obama’s 5-point win in 2012.
‘“The Democratic ideology and the liberal ideals have the advantage in Colorado right now,” said Floyd Ciruli, who has closely watched Colorado politics for more than three decades.’ (Coloradoan, 6-22-13)
See: The Buzz: Obama gained more than 200,000 voters as Colorado shifted Democratic

Russia is Not Europe and Not Much of an Ally

Mr. Putin appears to have a bad attitude toward the U.S. and Europe on both social and foreign policy issues. His most notorious statement expresses his general view on authoritarianism: “First and foremost it is worth acknowledging that the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

Most recently, he has criticized Europe’s and the West’s excessive focus on homosexual rights, while the Duma and his government “outlaw gay propaganda” and same-sex adoptions. His criticism, no doubt, is a reflection of recent demonstrations against his increasingly authoritarian regime in Moscow.

And, of course, in his recent confrontation with President Obama, Putin argued for the superior moral position of Russia backing the Assad regime and not the rebels. Most of his policy is reactionary, but his public relations is smooth, if disingenuous.

Although Putin is clearly bothersome for the West, he is reflecting Russian public opinion. The level of Russian acceptance of homosexuality is closer to Pakistan than Britain, France, Germany or most countries in Europe. Russians’ impression of Iran is far more favorable than any nation in Western Europe or even Egypt.

See Pew:
The global divide on homosexuality
Global views of Iran overwhelmingly negative

Syria – Messy

The key question for the President and country’s foreign policy establishment is how to get into and out of Syria, make a contribution, avoid making a mess and hold down the cost. Unfortunately, the administration’s dithering to find this sweet spot created a vacuum that Iran, Russia and the neighboring Shia are happy to fill.

And, American opinion is encouraging the drift. After years of being told by the administration that success is defined as withdrawal, Americans have no appetite for a surge into Syria. Two new opinion polls show a public opposed to a Syrian commitment.

In a series of follow-up questions, Pew probed the public’s sense of obligation in opposing authoritarian regimes and stopping violence. Concern for those positions was slight. Not asked was the basic national security question of “is stopping Syria from becoming a satellite for Iranian and Russian aggression in the Middle East an important goal.”
Pew obviously felt the main motivating factors for American involvement are humanitarian or democratic goals. But, the challenge in Syria is becoming more purely national interest.
Of course, at this point in the life of the Obama presidency, partisanship effects all public perception, making finding a majority for a foreign policy action nearly impossible.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mellman is Wrong; Obama Losing Clout

Mark Mellman, probably the Democratic Party’s best pollster and a ranking member of the Washington pundancy, recently wrote that polls showing President Obama in trouble are outliers and receiving too much coverage and commentary.  He was especially critical of the coverage of a CNN poll showing Obama with a 45 percent approval, especially, needless to say, on CNN.

Mellman pointed out that the bulk of current polls show Obama about 50 percent or above in approval and there has been little or no real movement for months.  He’s not alone making the observation.  Chris Cillizza, regular pundit for the Washington Post, produced charts showing opinion stability most of the year, and currently the ABC/Washington Post poll has Obama’s approval at 51 percent and Pew at 49 percent.

Mellman attributes the stability to partisan polarization.  A polarized electorate simply ignores factors, such as gridlock and scandals, and remains loyal to their party preference.

But, if Colorado is still a battleground and a swing state, Obama is in trouble.  The latest Quinnipiac poll has Obama at 43 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval.

Mellman’s argument doesn’t hold water in Colorado because the key to winning a majority in polls and elections are independent voters. Obama is losing their approval of his performance 40 percent to 58 percent, which is worse than his weak statewide average.

Also, latest round of national polls appears to show a downward trend for Obama, with his Real Clear Politics average approval hitting 46 percent, a low not seen since early August 2012. Colorado continues to set the mark.

See The Buzz: Obama in trouble

Monday, June 24, 2013

Immigration Reform – Good for Congress

Immigration reform appears to be in trouble due to growing Republican resistance. It will be a mistake for the party to lose a chance to put the issue behind them and, more importantly, improve their reputation for being able to accomplish something.

Numerous polls show the public supports immigration reform at very high levels as long as it is framed as requiring undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. pay a penalty, learn English, pass a criminal background check, pay taxes, wait a minimum of 10 years before they are eligible for citizenship and have a job. The latest PPP poll claims 69 percent of Coloradans favor that position (PPP used 13 years and didn’t include a job).

What is also clear is Congress will only recover its reputation by accomplishing something. Immigration reform may be one of the few items that has a reasonable chance of passing this year.

Congress is now on the bottom of a list of American institutions, most of which are below 50 percent of the public saying that they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in.

The top reason people disapprove of Congress is its lack of accomplishment.

The Buzz: Immigration reform will benefit Republican Party
The Buzz: Make immigrants pay taxes
The Buzz: RNC – Comprehensive immigration reform
Denver Post: Poll: More than 70 percent of Coloradans support immigration reform
Gallup: Gridlock is top reason Americans are critical of Congress
Gallup: Americans’ confidence in Congress fails to lowest on record

Friday, June 21, 2013

Udall in Trouble?

Although Mark Udall as an incumbent senator seeking re-election can expect a moody electorate, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows his biggest challenge is the quarter of the electorate who can’t rate his performance. Compared to Governor John Hickenlooper or President Barack Obama, Udall is not in terrible position.
Udall only has 31 percent disapproval verses the Governor with 43 percent and Obama with 54 percent. Udall, in fact, is receiving 27 percent of Republican approval and winning independents’ approval 45 percent to 32 percent. Hickenlooper only has 19 percent of Republican support and is losing independents 44 percent to 47 percent.
It appears, however, Udall has lost ground. A PPP April survey had Udall with a 17 percent approval to disapproval spread, registering 50 percent approval to 33 percent disapproval. Hence, the latest poll reflects about a five point decline, some of which may be margin of error.

Udall Faces Challenges

The latest Quinnipiac poll headline claimed Senator Mark Udall “gets lukewarm” support. In fact, there are few U.S. senators up for re-election that are not facing an unhappy electorate. The latest Gallup poll puts confidence in Congress at 10 percent below big business and organized labor, mostly due to a lack of accomplishment.

But, Udall will face a special challenge in 2014. Turnout will be substantially below that when he ran in the 2008 presidential election and won by 53 percent to Bob Schaffer’s 42 percent (Obama won by 7 points). It will be more like the lower turnout 2010 election. More than 2 million voters turned out in 2008 versus the neck-and-neck Michael Bennet vs. Ken Buck race when less than 1.7 million people showed up. The 434,000 voters who stayed home made a bigger difference for Democrats than Republicans.

Beyond general alienation with the Washington establishment and low turnout, 2014 could be a bad Democratic year. The normal second term midterm election blues, exasperated by a series of scandals, sluggish economy and warring in the Middle East, is making for a very difficult final election for the President as the head of his party.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Hickenlooper’s Approval Drops 15 Points Since Last Fall

A year and a half out from his re-election, Governor Hickenlooper faces the first significant crises of his political career. A controversial death penalty decision and left-leaning legislative session has cost Hickenlooper’s approval to drop 15 points since last September.

A Quinnipiac poll of September 19, 2012 registered a stunning 62 percent approval for the governor verses the latest June 13, 2013 poll showing Hickenlooper with a mere 47 percent approval. Voters are evenly divided on if he deserves re-election: 45 percent say he does and 44 percent say no.  Independents are 6 points on the “no” side.

He has had extraordinary good fortune in his ten-year career as Denver mayor and now governor, usually recording approval or favorability ratings of 60 to 70 percent in the metro area. Although his first mayoral election was competitive in 2003, he won by a substantial margin and his election as governor was mostly a walk since the State Republican Party imploded with an incompetent nominee and far right independent candidate. Hickenlooper won in 2010 by 16 points against his nearest opponent in what was otherwise a good Republican year.
But, the good times are over.
Hickenlooper’s Republican approval has collapsed to a mere 19 percent, and he is now losing independent voters 44 percent approval to 47 percent disapproval. His problems were exasperated by the liberal Denver-Boulder legislative agenda alienating rural Colorado. Hickenlooper is now losing the Western Slope 45 percent to 47 percent in approval and the non-metro Front Range and High Plains by 40 percent approval to 47 percent disapproval. His metro area approval is slightly above 50 percent.
Hickenlooper is in danger of surrendering his well-cultivated image of independent everyman.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Obama Gained More Than 200,000 Voters as Colorado Shifted Democratic

In the eight years from President G.W. Bush’s five-point Colorado re-election win in 2004 to President Obama’s five-point win in 2012, Colorado has been transformed from a lean Republican state to lean Democratic.

A combination of new voters and changed opinion caused the shift. Although it is by no means permanent, it constitutes a new fact on the ground for the two parties.

Out of the 422,000 more voters participating in 2012 compared to 2004, 245,000, or 62 percent, were in the Denver metro area. Democrats won 86 percent of the additional votes, or 211,000 out of the 245,000 increase, offering the clearest explanation for their domination of Colorado politics in the first six months of 2013.

Obama won every metro county but Douglas, unexpectedly taking Arapahoe by a higher percentage than Jefferson. Democrats received 63 percent of their statewide vote from the metro area, which is 57 percent of the total vote.

Denver, not surprisingly, is the Democrats’ best metro county, and had the biggest voter increase for them during the eight years.

See The Buzz:
New voters move Colorado to the left
Jefferson biggest vote total, but Denver added most voters since 2004

Denver Metropolitan Residents Value a College Education

Eighty-two percent of Denver metropolitan residents (seven-county registered voters) say a college education is “almost essential” or “very important” to “getting a good paying career.”

Belief a college education is “essential” was especially held by persons with college, the Millennial and X generations (18 to 50 years old), and persons of higher income.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Renewables – The Last Straw

Senate Bill 252 will be referred to as the last straw legislation. Republicans are now in full revolt against Governor Hickenlooper and the Democratic legislative leadership.
Less than half (47%) of voters now approve Hickenlooper, with 68 percent of Republicans offering disapproval. Two Democratic members of the legislature are embattled in recall election efforts, including the Senate Democratic leader, and voters disapprove of the legislature’s performance by 49 percent to 36 percent approval in a new Quinnipiac survey.

The renewable bill, which Hickenlooper signed, is cited as the final act against rural Colorado and business, especially agriculture and small towns, which launched the secession movement in northeast Colorado. The following is the Colorado Statesman’s legislative coverage.
Hickenlooper’s decision to finesse the controversy by setting up the advisory committee is “modus operandi,” according to pollster Floyd Ciruli. 
Ciruli told The Statesman Wednesday that it is similar to the governor’s efforts on other issues this session, such as the death penalty decision on Nathan Dunlap or bills opposed by business that were also signed into law. 
“Part of his strategy is that he calls himself socially liberal [on issues like gun control and civil unions] but I’m a businessman too,” Ciruli said.
That strategy was made more difficult in 2013 because of the Democratic control of the General Assembly, he added. It was hard for the governor to finesse and find compromise this session because the sides “are so strongly entrenched that they either want a bill signed or a veto. Nothing in between will help.”
The potential for political fallout for Hickenlooper exists, going into an election in 2014, but much depends on who the Republicans can put up against him. Ciruli cited a recent poll that showed there was a slight decline in Hickenlooper’s overall favorability numbers. Liberal numbers went up, reflecting the governor’s decisions on gun control and civil unions, but his conservative numbers sharply declined, Ciruli said. 
Prior to the 2013 session, Hickenlooper could have run in a Republican primary and won, Ciruli said, with the caveat the Democrats felt he wasn’t liberal enough. But with the decisions made this year, rank-and-file Republicans are ready for an alternative.
“They don’t have confidence that [the governor] will be able to head off a very liberal legislature.”
As to SB 252, Ciruli said that it’s a polarizing and controversial issue, and while Hickenlooper tried to find a middle ground, “I don’t think it will help him.”
Ciruli said it’s one of those ideological issues that applies to those in rural communities and the small power community, all groups that would be great for a Republican candidate. Business elites in Denver will probably stick by Hickenlooper, Ciruli predicted, but rank-and-file Republicans are ready for a good candidate, and if they find one, they will have a race. (Colorado Statesman, 6-8-13)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bush’s Popularity Nears Obama’s

Former President G.W. Bush left office with record-low favorability, but has recovered enough to catch President Obama suffering through a low point in his second term.

As of June 10, more people had a favorable view of Bush (49%) than unfavorable (46%). A 14-point improvement from his Gallup record low in March 2009.

Bush caught Obama on his way down. Obama enjoyed 60 percent plus ratings throughout 2008 and 2009 and held his favorability in the mid to the high 50 percent range in early 2010. But by the end of 2010, the midterm shellacking and during the presidential campaign, his numbers dropped further. He recovered in the November election win, but congressional gridlock and scandals have taken a toll. 
Bush still has had a long way to go for an ex-president. His dad, Bill Clinton and even Jimmy Carter had favorability ratings in the upper 60 percent range five years after leaving office.

Nathan Dunlap and Governor Hickenlooper

Nathan Dunlap has another victim – John Hickenlooper. The latest Quinnipiac poll shows strong support for the death penalty in principle, high approval it should be applied to Dunlap and strong disapproval of the Governor’s indefinite reprieve.

Bad news for Hickenlooper, who is just beginning his re-election campaign, while Republicans are searching for a winning issue and nominee. As stated in The Buzz in May:
“No one who knows John Hickenlooper is surprised he would not execute Nathan Dunlap. But, he will pay a political price.” (The Buzz, May 29, 2013)
The poll’s report of support for the death penalty and disapproval of the Governor’s decision, whose overall approval is now below 50 percent, is no doubt a reflection of the circumstances of this case.
  • The Governor’s presentation of his position and his apparent effort to finesse the issue with an indefinite reprieve was unpersuasive. He looked stressed and sounded indecisive. The victims’ families shouting in the background provided extraordinary bad optics.
  • Dunlap is not a sympathetic person and the crime was heinous.
  • Although it was committed 20 years ago, a mass murder took place in the same city last year.
Although many influential people in Colorado oppose the death penalty, including the Denver Post, and the state seldom executes, support has remained consistently above 60 percent. And, it’s clear Hickenlooper not only failed to convince people, but has damaged his re-election.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Democrats on Defensive

There is a revolt brewing in Colorado, and the Democrats are the target. The aggressive, liberal session has already produced two active recall elections and the leading politicians in upwards of eight northeastern Colorado counties talking about a war on rural Colorado and secession.

Confirming Democrats are on the defensive, voters disapprove of the legislature’s performance by 49 percent to only 36 percent approving in a new Quinnipiac poll (1065 registered voters, 6-5/10-13). Republicans and independents both strongly disapprove of their performance.

The metro area’s approval and disapproval was closely divided, but the Western Slope disapproved 51 percent to 35 percent and the non-metro Front Range and High Plains disapproved 57 percent to 26 percent.
Floyd Ciruli, a pollster and political analyst from Denver, said the reality is that the new state of North Colorado will never happen.  “I would say, politically, it’s impossible,” said Ciruli in a phone interview from his Denver office. "From my point of view when I first heard it, it sounded like a protest over the result of the last legislative session, which was probably the most liberal legislative session in the state's history. Obviously, there are some people who are happy, but there are a lot of people in the state who are angry and a whole bunch of them happen to live up in northeast Colorado."
Ciruli said he realizes how important Weld County is to Colorado, but residents who live elsewhere don’t. “I don’t think a lot of people recognize how significant Weld has become in a lot of the state's politics,” Ciruli said. “I just don’t think people realize that between growth, gas and oil and ag, how significant Weld County has become. It's still sort of a little, rural farm area in a lot of people's minds. I don't think they get it.” (GOPUSA, 6-12-13)

Fracking has its Enemies

Many of the opponents of fracking claim it’s mostly about the impacts on their cities, neighborhoods or groundwater supplies.  But, the most serious advocates of fracking bans are really opponents of continued use of hydrocarbons, even less carbon-producing natural gas.

They don’t support a bridge fuel to use for the expected 20 to 30 years needed to reach greater access to reliable and affordable renewable energy. Rather, they believe only by limiting access to hydrocarbon alternatives will their goal of wind and solar dominance be achieved.

Hence, they will use government; that is, cities, counties and the state to limit oil and gas production. And, fracking is the latest target.

Colorado is already in frequent local battles over bans and/or moratoriums in cities and counties. The state legislature has proposed regulations that would heavily regulate fracking, which only a gubernatorial veto has restrained. And, a statewide ballot initiative is a possibility.

A recent Los Angeles Times poll shows a statewide ban on fracking has support. More than half (58%) of Californians favor a moratorium on fracking. More than 70 percent want a ban or heavy regulation.

Oil and gas production in California is a multi-billion dollar business and voters in the affected areas are supporters. Even statewide voters support production when told it could lead to lower gas prices. But, clearly voters are concerned and total ban advocates have options.

See LA Times: Californians uneasy about fracking’s safety, lack of oversight

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Clinton Hurt by Benghazi

Hillary Clinton’s leaving the administration was well timed. The President’s last term may have hit its high point at his inaugural address.

Latest polls show the President’s approval bobbing narrowly above and below 50 percent and his agenda adrift in a Washington roiling with scandal.

Even Clinton’s sky-high favorability has dropped as the Benghazi hearings have been relaunched by House Republicans.
Clinton is still near her career high in favorability, even at 58 percent. Her low points were in the 1995-97 period when Democrats lost the House of Representatives and during much of her senate career (2006-2010). But, since dropping out of partisan politics as the Secretary of the State, she has been well above 60 percent in favorability.
Although she handled the Benghazi hearings well as she was leaving office, the continued focus on it is harder for her to deflect. She is now more tied to President Obama, who is having a tough summer.
If she runs for president, expect her numbers to collapse toward the partisan divide of 50/50 that seems to frame all of our politics.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Ryan, Paul Lead Republican Pack

Among Republicans, congressman and former vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, leads in favorability, which is a combination of Republicans who know enough about him to offer a judgment and his fellow partisans who like him. Being a former nominee is usually an advantage, especially in the party of tradition.

Next in line are two new conservative senators, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. Each brings an advantage. Paul’s father, former long-time congressman from Texas, has run for president as a Republican and Libertarian. Paul led a libertarian-oriented senate filibuster that gathered national attention and put the administration on the defense over its drone policy.

Marco Rubio, the Cuban senator from Florida, a critical swing state, appears made for a slot on the national ticket. He’s currently demonstrating his talent trying to cajole the Republican Party into resolving its differences over immigration reform.
The name “Bush” still commands an audience, and Jeb Bush has always been considered the most talented of the family. The successful Florida governor may be too moderate for the likely Tea Party dominated 2016 round. But his grandmother, Barbara, may have summed up the overall feeling best at her son George’s presidential library dedication: “We’ve had enough Bushes.”
The strongest national candidate today is Governor Chris Christie, the hero of Hurricane Sandy. He has the highest national name identification of the list and highest overall favorability. But, in the Republican Party, he only captures fifth place.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

One Billion for Schools: Reform or Bailout?

Supporters of the public school system in Colorado were disappointed that the Colorado Supreme Court did not rule there is a constitutional right to a “uniform and adequate” school system as defined by the plaintiffs and requiring a massive increase in public funding of the current system that serves 863,561 (includes 30,375 preschoolers) (2012) children in 178 school districts (179 with the Charter School Institute).

But, putting more money into the K-12 public system is always on multiple tracks: some local, some statewide, some legal, some legislative and some by ballot initiative. Reflecting that, Colorado voters will be asked to support a legislative-approved one billion dollar tax increase ballot issue in November.

Its chance of passage is mixed:
  • Although Colorado has moved to the left on a host of issues in recent years – gays, guns, drugs, etc. and last November local schools were very successful with tax referendums – a statewide income tax increase will be unprecedented.
  • Local schools and statewide funding tend to be framed differently for voters. People know more about their local districts, but have less knowledge and no positive feelings about providing the state more money.
  • There are reform elements in the package, but they tend to be at the margin. Incentives for improvements and funding for charter schools still reflect modest levels. Most money goes to equalize the current system.
  • Lurking in the background is the pension overhang story, which is often highlighted by news accounts of California’s irresponsible public pension commitments. Some believe the Colorado PERA system is as ill-managed as California’s and that a significant amount of the annual funds in this initiative will be diverted by local districts to prop up prior pension promises.
  • The 2013 electorate will look more like the tax unfriendly 2011 voters than the generous 2012 turnout. Off-year turnout tends to attract only committed, older and more passionate voters. In 2011, they buried a much more modest school funding package.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Lead From Rear – Lose Control

The U.S. Constitution, precedent and the nature of the problems give presidents their greatest power in foreign affairs. They set the agenda and shape public opinion.

President Obama has seen his primary task to substitute soft power, friendly persuasion, and collaboration for boots on the ground and unilateral action.

He has mostly succeeded and the public has generally followed. They are pleased to be out of Iraq, ready to leave Afghanistan, and the latest polls show disinterest in active participation in Syria beyond diplomacy, which they believe will fail.

The polls reflect Democrats who like the idealist rhetoric and non-military solutions, Republicans who do not like or trust the administration to do anything in foreign affairs and the public in general still focused on domestic concerns.

Unfortunately, presidential preferences sometimes are sabotaged by reality:
  • The reset relationship with Russia is worse, not better, than under Bush.
  • The friendly hand extended to Iran has been slapped away.
  • The rapid near total withdrawal from Iraq created a vacuum that has been filled with sectarian violence.
  • Afghanistan does not look to have much of a future after NATO and U.S. participation ends.
And, most importantly, the low-key, non-action in Syria against the all-out commitment of Iranians and Russians has reinvigorated the Assad regime. The conflict now is a platform for a much wider war, which the U.S. side is losing.

It’s not clear the American public will shift views on the Obama record, but a steady decline in U.S. foreign clout and a wider, hotter Middle East conflict will be topics in the next presidential race.

See Gallup:  Americans oppose U.S. military involvement in Syria

Friday, June 7, 2013

The IRS is a Dangerous Problem for the President

President Obama has prided himself on a first term with few unforced errors.  The leaks were limited and the scandals seldom above the fold. Fast and furious, the guns and border security controversy never grabbed the attention of the general public.

But, the latest round of scandals is wearing down the White House and making Bill Clinton’s “I need to go back to work for the American people” defense less effective. It’s also directly damaging the President’s credibility. And, the IRS targeting scandal has the potential to do the most damage.

The IRS is the most pervasive agency of the government, and many of citizens’ encounters are irritating or downright hostile (56% hate or dislike doing their taxes, Pew 2013). A host of new polls show the believability that the President knew nothing about the IRS targeting is receding and the sense the administration is competent to run the government has declined.

Beyond the facts of the scandal is America’s deep-seated concern about government and especially federal power.
  • Gallup just reported 54% of the public believes the “federal government today has too much power.” Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to believe that (76% to 32%). (May 27, 2013)
  • Pew reported earlier in the year that trust in the federal government was low (26% government in Washington do the right thing “always” or “most of the time” and 73% only trust government “some of the time” or “never trust government”) (volunteered) and a majority of the public believe their personal rights and freedoms were threatened (53%). (January 31, 2013
The new disclosures concerning the domestic surveillance reinforce the issue’s likely volume and duration.

Obama in Trouble

The approval rating of President Barack Obama has finally dropped into negative territory after nine months of being positive with periodic double-digit spreads.

The collapse has many causes and some dramatic effects. And, it is a complete reversal of White House expectations, which were to dominate Washington in 2013 with an aggressive liberal agenda and to defy the more common result of final midterm elections and pick up seats in the House next year.

Obama had slightly negative approval ratings most of the summer of 2012 leading up to the fall campaign, but at the end of the Democratic Convention (September), he entered into a positive approval trend that topped out at 12 points of approval over disapproval during the Christmas season. It was a 9-point spread at his inaugural, but began a steady decline, hitting lows of one point in early April and finally turning negative May 29 under the weight of harsh criticism for a myriad of scandals.

The President’s 2013 decline has continued even though the economy has improved, if unevenly. Among the factors pulling him down are the continued partisan gridlock and its ability to frustrate his agenda, and now the distraction of scandals that are overwhelming the White House, especially after the high expectations from the “no drama” Obama operation of the first four years.
The main affect will be to place in jeopardy the Obama strategy of a permanent campaign using money and talent from the November re-election to lobby for his agenda and to ignite the base for the midterm. Next sign of more problems for Obama will be if Democrats running for election and up for re-election start to criticize as much as praise and begin to look for some distance. Watch for it.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Labor Big Loser in L.A. Mayor’s Race

Organized labor bet on City Controller, Wendy Greuel, with millions of direct and independent PAC contributions to become the next mayor of Los Angeles. Their involvement became the main issue, and in a low turnout election, voters rejected early frontrunner Greuel and elected City Council member, Eric Garcetti, by 8 points (54% to 46%).

Early on, Greuel managed to unite both key elements in the business establishment with the most powerful local union, the Department of Water and Power. But, Garcetti, seeing an opening, went after the union connection at the moment underfunded pensions and government salary negotiations were major concerns for more fiscally conscious residents. Utility rates, which had been increasing steadily, were the catalyst that convinced a majority of homeowners Greuel might not negotiate with the tax and ratepayers’ interests in mind. A specific attack advertisement by Garcetti on organized labor’s Super PAC spending was the coup de gras.

The L.A. election serves an important message for Colorado municipal and state officials thinking of actions and legislation that tilt negotiations for government salaries and pensions toward organized self-interested groups.

Interestingly, Garcetti represents a new post-Latino leader. There was an initial discussion about if a person from an Italian grandfather and Mexican grandmother who lived in Mexico and a father and Jewish-American mother is sufficiently Hispanic to command the passion of voters from L.A.’s powerful Hispanic community.

The election results show Garcetti was the perfect candidate for the new diverse urban population. He won Eastside Latino and Westside Jewish votes, along with a significant bloc of fiscal conservatives and homeowners in L.A.’s huge Valley electorate.

See Los Angeles Times:
L.A. mayor’s race: It’s Eric Garcetti by wide margin
Steve Lopez: Labor unions the big loser in mayor’s race
USC Price/L.A. Times poll: Garcetti’s lead over Greuel at 7 percentage points in mayoral race
USC Price/L.A. Times poll calls Los Angeles mayoral race

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Could 2014 be a Wave Election?

Colorado moved to the left in the 2012 presidential election, but 2014 could look like 2010 – a Republican wave election.

Turnout in non-presidential years is lower and key Democratic constituencies that have been activated by President Obama may stay home.  Young voters, which gave Obama 60 percent of their vote in 2012, made up 19 percent of all voters, but they were only 12 percent in 2010.

Early polling indicators are mixed. Obama’s approval ratings have gone south. His negative is now higher than his positive. But, the generic ballot test, one of the best tests of how a federal election will go, is still in Democrats’ territory.

Is there a decent Republican who wants to be a U.S. Senator? They should run in 2014 – things could start to break Republican.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

2014 – Criminal Justice Works for Republicans

Could criminal justice be a comeback issue for Republicans in 2014? There are already three candidates talking about running for the Colorado Attorney General seat.  Of course, the seat is open and, hence, no incumbent, such as Governor Hickenlooper or Senator Udall, has to be confronted.  But, there is also a sense that crime and the state’s criminal justice system is becoming an issue and that a law and order approach might fit.

The clearly broken parole system is literally killing people. And, Hickenlooper’s sudden and poorly explained derailing of the death penalty provides two above-the-fold issues for Republican candidates.

In fact, if the Republicans find a credible candidate for governor, crime is likely to be a top issue in that race. It moves prosecutors (like Buck or Suthers) up the list.