Friday, August 30, 2013

Independents Will Decide

The 2014 election will be decided by independent voters if the early polls are accurate.  Two recent Quinnipiac surveys have Governor John Hickenlooper and former Congressman Tom Tancredo in a tie, largely due to a close decision among independent-identifying voters. Both Hickenlooper and Tancredo have support from more than 80 percent their respective partisans. But, independents are tied at 43 percent to 43 percent.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Governor Hickenlooper’s Campaign Stalls

John Hickenlooper’s campaign has stalled. Two months of campaigning and three months after the end of the controversial 2013 legislative session, John Hickenlooper’s approval remains below fifty percent.

Comparing a June statewide poll to a new August poll, his approval (48%, up from 47%) and disapproval (44%, up from 43%) both moved up one point, but he fails to attract half of Colorado voters. They are still very critical of some of his leadership.

Hickenlooper’s problem is that he has not been able to get away from the controversies he and his fellow Democrats generated during the legislative session. The news for the next two weeks is all about the possible recall of two senior Democratic state senators for their gun control and other liberal positions.

Hickenlooper is asked at every campaign stop his position on ten counties voting on succession based on the legislative session’s action on renewable energy costs, gun control and other issues aggravating more rural Colorado.

And, of course, his own decision in the Nathan Dunlap murder case controversy hurt him. He claims to want a dialogue with voters, but the more he talks about it, the more he reminds the state’s voters about his most controversial and least favored action.
  • 52% don’t like his policy on gun restrictions
  • 48% don’t like his handling of death penalty
Finally, between now and Nov. 5, his main message is about raising taxes – one billion dollars for schools, reinforcing the image of a liberal governor, leading a very liberal legislature.

Hickenlooper is trying to pivot (a frequent Obama strategy) to the economy – a topic he does better on – but the noise is holding him back.

The Buzz: Democratic governors on the left
The Buzz: Governor’s race begins
The Buzz: Hickenlooper’s approval drops 15 points since last fall
The Buzz: Nathan Dunlap and Governor Hickenlooper
The Buzz: Do the Republicans have a challenge to Hickenlooper?
The Buzz: Hickenlooper in trouble?
The Buzz: Udall and Hickenlooper re-election

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Market Pause

What a nice run.  On August 16, the Dow up 15 percent year-to-date, the NASDAQ 19 and S&P 500 16. However, the market crested in early August after a surge that began the third week of June. The Dow has lost some 500 points, or about 3 percent of value. From record territory of 15658 on August 2 to nearly below 15000 in less than two weeks of pullback.

The pre-recession DJIA record was set on October 9, 2007 at 14164. It was only surpassed this March, after more than five years. The low was hit on March 6, 2009 (Obama had just been inaugurated) at 6626. We have been in a four-year market recovery.

May and early June of this year produced an earlier sell-off, reflecting uncertainty as to Fed moves after it signaled the $85 billion-a-month buying program that helps maintain record low interest rates and significant liquidity was to be tapered off.

Is this just a pause before the market continues to move toward a 20 percent annual increase or have conditions changed significantly that a period of instability produces random-like surges and declines for the next couple of months?
Economic data is mixed, with some lower than expected earnings reports, less than robust growth in developing markets, but U.S. jobless claims are down and there is some sign of life in Europe’s recession weary economy.
The markets have been stable and climbing in spite of a year of near total Washington gridlock and a host of Mideast crises that appear impervious to the administration’s influence. For much of the year, the market has appeared detached from both political and economic strife, but the Fed’s action may be a catalyst for a very bumpy couple of months.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wave – No Wave

The latest predictions from the Cook Report of national trends in House and Senate races still sees no election waves helping either party, but some opportunity for Republicans to hold or even pick up U.S. House seats.

Although the Coffman vs. Romanoff race in the 6th congressional district is predicted to be one of the closest in the country and both national parties are engaged, Romanoff will mostly need to win it with his charm and campaign.

He is on pace to be competitive in fundraising, a weakness in his senate primary in 2010, but he must deal with a lackluster expected voter turnout and a national party more excited about 2016 than the mid-term election cycle or this administration.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Western 2014 Races Start Slow

With the exception of a couple of women challengers, the western governor and senate races are slow starting.

Incumbents appear ahead for re-election. In the case of Governor Jerry Brown, it could be by 30 points or more. The major senate fight is likely to be in Montana where the retirement of Max Baucus gives Republicans a possible pick-up of one of the six seats they need to take control of the senate (a big number).

Liz Cheney has added some excitement to what was an easy and boring re-election for Mike Enzi in Wyoming. It’s not clear Wyoming Republicans are interested in seeing their local race nationalized by the Cheney family.

Sarah Palin, suffering from an attention deficit, talks as if she might challenge Mark Begich in Alaska. She is very 2008 and doesn’t appear nearly the phenomenon today.

Colorado’s drift to the left is confirmed by the apparent lack of top Republican talent against the re-elections of Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Mark Udall. They both have their vulnerabilities. Hickenlooper made a controversial death penalty decision and had a runaway state legislature, and Udall has a great image, but a thin story for five years in the senate, an institution nearly everyone believes is a failure. However, as of today, they both are headed for re-election.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Buck Dominates Thin Field

Ken Buck is now the frontrunner for the nomination to take on Senator Mark Udall. But, his challenge is to generate some sense that he and the campaign will be different than the mistake-prone 2010 race, which collapsed at the close, losing by 30,000 to Michael Bennet.

In Buck’s favor is a track record of winning a tough primary and being the least controversial and most competent in the strange 2010 field of Republican senate candidates.

Unless someone else gets into the race, neither State Senators Owen Hill nor Randy Baumgardner have the resources or network, at least at this stage, to be competitive.

But, the Colorado senate race is not on the national list of states where Republicans appear poised to be competitive. Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia are the states seen in play.

Mark Udall, while not high-profile, is respected in Washington and has avoided mistakes. His issue of protecting individual rights from excessive government surveillance is topical and he regularly makes the talk show circuit.

His colleague Bennet tends to generate more buzz, but neither have had high impact in system dominated by seniority and a town in gridlock.

From Kurtis Lee’s Denver Post article of August 10:
“He has far better name recognition than the other candidates, but he was a huge disappointment,” political analyst Floyd Ciruli said of Buck.
Ciruli points to Buck’s appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” weeks before the 2010 election in which the candidate — who had strong backing from social conservatives and Tea Party Republicans — compared homosexuality to alcoholism. And months earlier, in a primary against former Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, Buck said voters should elect him because he doesn’t wear high heels. 
“The terrain in Colorado is now much different as it leans Democratic,” Ciruli said. “It’s not going to be 2010; room for error is much smaller.” 
Dick Wadhams was not optimistic for Buck, arguing that, like Tom Strickland, “reruns of candidates don’t do very well.” But, at least he doesn’t have a mustache.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Are Nominal Independents Truly Independent?

Tony Massaro, who has been working in Colorado politics at least since the first Pena for mayor election in 1983, opines on my recent blog that so-called independent voters are in fact partisans who just eschew the label and are not particularly persuadable.

I agree, but only to a point. The point of the blog is that voters are increasingly calling themselves independents when talking to pollsters or registering to vote, which I interpret as a symptom of more people taking on anti-partisan views in an age of ideological rigidity and gridlock.

Larimer County is a good example of a county that has a history of split tickets and partisan swings between elections. It voted for Bush twice, Obama twice, Udall and Buck. Unaffiliated voters are the largest bloc of registered voters (36%, see table).

When voters registered unaffiliated were asked in a recent Ciruli Associates poll, their party preference, the largest group, 70 percent, said independent. Nine percent said Republican and 14 percent Democrat.

Asked their political philosophy, 49 percent said middle, 40 percent liberal and 21 percent conservative. Their near 50 percent declaration of a middle philosophy was larger than registered Democrats, 27 percent of whom said they were in the middle, and the 22 percent of Republicans who described themselves in the middle position.
Notice 22 percent of Republicans identified as independent and only 8 percent of Democrats. Twenty-nine percent of Democrats said they were in the middle and 20 percent of Republicans. Fewer Democrat rank and file claim to be liberal than Republican rank and file identify as conservatives.
Lots of polling data and voting analyses show that unaffiliated voters are the most capable of changing their position on candidates and issues and are more easily influenced by media and events, especially if dramatic and late in a campaign.
The reason Colorado has become a battleground state is the high percentage of less partisan, more persuadable voters. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Recall Chaos

Everything about the effort to recall two Democratic State Senators has been chaotic. Because it’s never been done before, all the rules governing it are being contested and many legal questions are of first impressions.
“There is nothing in this election going correctly.” (Floyd Ciruli, 9News, Brandon Rittiman)
The only fact we are certain of is that two Democratic incumbent senators will stand for a recall election on Tuesday, September 10. Beyond that, the facts are evolving:
  • Will it be a mail-back or in-person election? The court ruling giving additional interested voters up to August 26 to turn in 1,000 valid signatures seems to require in-person voting.
  • Who will be on the replacement candidate list? Republicans have one candidate on each list, but the extra time for signature collection may produce additional candidates.
The court decision was probably a Republican win. Turnout is the key to the election. Democrats want a convenient election procedure, namely mail-back ballots, to help target and motivate their less-engaged voters. Republicans want a lower turnout and less convenient process, which should allow their more motivated voters – a large portion of the people who signed the petition – to dominate. Clerks want the election to be simple and as cheap as possible. Mail-back ballots would have done that.

With in-person vote costs, estimated at about $150,000 per election, are likely to double.  The candidates, especially the incumbents, will raise at least $300,000 and possibly much more for advertising. They have already started tv ads. We are headed toward a million dollar election.

9News: Court appeal promises more legal wrangling over recall elections
KOA morning show

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Polarized Parties and Independent Voters

As Colorado’s political parties move to their respective corners, offering left and right positions on controversial issues and candidate with no compromise personal philosophies, the public is moving away from identifying with them and registering independent.

In the last decade, Republicans have struggled the most with the new reality, highly out of alignment with the middle of public opinion and issues, and inclined to nominate candidates who are either unwilling or unable to avoid extreme statements or signal a sense of moderation.

Voters who are unaffiliated dominate the Denver metro suburbs, which have been the problem counties for the Republican Party’s statewide candidates since 2004.

In the rest of the Front Range, unaffiliated voters are the largest bloc in Larimer, almost equal Republicans in Weld, and are growing in El Paso. Only Pueblo still has a dominant party, Democrats.

See The Colorado Observer: GOP maintains advantage over Dems in August voter registration numbers

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Unaffiliated Voter Registration Surges

New Colorado voters are casting their first choice as none of the above. Unaffiliated voter registration is now more than a million and larger than Democratic and Republican registration.

Given the gridlock in Washington, which hurts both parties and the government’s reputation in general and the President’s declining popularity, it’s not surprising that voters are registering independent.

Expect the unaffiliated bloc to grow as more young voters sign up. Also, Colorado elections will become more volatile and expensive as both parties battle to sway these less partisan voters.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tancredo Wins Republican Primary?

Some people are complaining Tom Tancredo already thinks he’s the Republican nominee challenging Governor Hickenlooper to a debate on his billion dollar school tax increase.

But, if there are five or more Republican candidates for governor, Tancredo is very likely to be the nominee (the current count is 7 considering the race). That is how he became congressman in 1998. He eked out a 3-point victory in a field of five Republican candidates.

In the last poll to measure Republicans interested in the governor’s race, Tancredo won a favorability contest mostly due to name identification and his core conservative support.

See The Buzz: Do the Republican have a challenger to Hickenlooper?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Billion Dollar School Finance Turn in Signatures

No real surprise. The super-funded school finance initiative turned in 160,000 signatures. It needs only 86,160. The initiative has already attracted major contributions from an interesting coalition, including: unions that recognize they get most of the money; school reformers who believe unless you give the special interest groups massive incentives they will never reform; and public education activists who have been dreaming of universal preschool and kindergarten for a couple of decades. This will be one of the most closely watched initiatives in the country, and be a major boost or bust the governor.

The title as designated and fixed by the Board is as follow:


Denver Post: Colo. school tax supporters turn in petitions
Denver Post: Colorado school finance reformers deliver double required signature
The Buzz: Billion dollar school tax increase is significant

Monday, August 5, 2013

Denver Post Paper Gets Smaller, Website Bigger

The Denver Post announced it will continue to consolidate sections (reduce content) and make the paper even smaller (one inch). But, they also announced the website is being upgrade with a host of navigation and social media tools. And, it will have video clips of news and events with more content.

When does the paper go to three days a week? Has become the primary platform for investment and content?

Check out new format here