Friday, January 31, 2014

Are Incumbents in Trouble?

Recent polls register all-time lows in the percentage of Americans saying their own congressperson deserves re-election. With 90 percent and above re-election rates, even when dissatisfaction has been record-high, most congresspersons felt invulnerable to the public’s general unhappiness with Washington. Only great partisan tides coming out of Washington have swept out incumbents, and they tended to be in more competitive districts.

But the current dissatisfaction (see The Buzz: Anger with government top problem) appears enough to endanger even congresspersons in less competitive districts? Gallup reports that only 17 percent – a record-low – believe “most members deserve re-election” and only 46 percent believe their own congressperson “deserves re-election.” Other recent lows in re-election sentiment were in 2010, 2006 and 1994; in each case the control of the House of Representatives shifted.

But, since the unhappiness with Congress is bipartisan, it’s not clear which party might be advantaged at this point. ABC/Washington Post’s latest poll shows the Republican congressional brand with only a one-point edge. However, Democrats are losing every age group except the youngest, the least likely to turnout in a midterm election.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

We Are Not Disengaging

Responding to criticism from allies, former allies and even the Washington Post editorial page, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a 37 minute speech in Davos denying the U.S. is withdrawing from world affairs.

“I’m perplexed by claims I occasionally hear that somehow America is disengaging from the world – this myth that America is pulling back, or giving up, or standing down. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth,” Kerry told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also made a similar case.

Critics, such as Senator John McCain, said President Obama’s Syrian decision was the catalyst for the viewpoint. France and Saudi Arabia representatives also voiced criticism.

As the President delivered his State of the Union speech, the latest ABC/Washington Post poll did not deliver good news as to his handling his job and foreign affairs.

The Washington Post editorial, which referred to Kerry’s Syrian diplomacy as “feckless” and the President’s unwillingness to consider any military option “defeatist” may be the most worrisome for a president trying to regain traction after a hellacious bad year.
Reuters: Secretary of State Kerry rejects notion U.S. is disengaging from world

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Obama’s Approval Inverse of a Year Ago

It was the heady days of one year ago that President Obama, fresh from his 4-point national re-election victory and with a 12-point approval spread, issued an idealist and liberal inaugural speech and aggressive agenda in his State of the Union.
But in four months, Obama was in political trouble well before the failed rollout of the ACA in October. By the end of May, his disapproval exceeded approval, which got much worse by late November, reaching a 16-point negative spread at its worst (56% disapprove vs. 40% approve). Recognizing the new reality, the State of the Union is being right sized for the times.
This is the latest manifestation of second-term hubris. President Obama, much like President G.W. Bush fresh off his re-election, interpreted he had a mandate to get some long-term agenda items done: immigration reform, gun control, climate change, minimum wage increase and stepped-up spending for infrastructure and education. But by May, all these objectives were lost in a failed charm offensive with Congress while the budget sequester ended any chance for more spending. Since the depths of failed ACA rollout in November, there has been a modest recovery, but Obama is still in negative territory. In fact, along with Presidents Truman and Bush, Obama begins his sixth year in negative territory (Truman 36% approve, Bush 39%, Obama 43% – ABC/WSJ).
Strangely, at the very moment Obama will hail going it alone, Congress has a huge incentive to actually lower the temperature and accomplish something. Repeated polls now show voters are so disgusted, they may remove incumbents. That is getting their attention.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Generational Change and Moral Sentiment

As the Millennial Generation surges into the electorate, change is becoming a political fact. A new CNN poll asked Americans their moral sentiment on a number of cultural questions. Voters under 50 years old are more comfortable with gay behavior (21%), living with someone unmarried (20%), pornography (19%) and smoking marijuana (14%) than older voters. Interestingly, abortion is seen as immoral similarly by Generation Y (18-34 years old) and the Baby Boomers.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Six Generations Since 1900

There have been six generations observed since 1900. Each one had dramatically different experiences in their formative years and brought different political and social value into society as they matured.

Today, the Baby Boomers’ influence is receding as its oldest members near 70 and Generation X (32 to 49 years old) is assuming power. However, much of the recent change seen in American values is ascribed to the newest generation flooding into politics, the Millennials (Generation Y) born after 1982.

Formation of political orientation was a complex process, but experiences in early adult years has significant impact on a generation’s general orientation toward politics. A Gallup poll points out that Baby Boomers, now entering their senior years and replacing the Greatest and Silent Generations, were more Democratic in outlook if their formative years were in the early 1960s was the Vietnam War, and more conservative if major influences was the rise of Richard Nixon, and conservative backlash reflected in the Silent majority.

See Gallup: Baby Boomers to push U.S. politics in the years ahead

Friday, January 24, 2014

Anger With Government Top Problem

Politicians have finally received the message. People are disgusted with the performance of government, especially Washington D.C. Dissatisfaction with government now tops the economy and jobs as the “most important problems facing the country today.” (Gallup, Jan. 8, 2014)

Gallup also reports that when asked if they are satisfied or dissatisfied with government and how it works that dissatisfaction has been accelerating since 2002, when only one in four Americans expressed dissatisfaction. Today, two-thirds (65%) are unhappy with its performance. Wars, the Great Recession, and now gridlock have pushed the public’s tolerance to the edge. It’s not clear where the public finds relief, but the politics of 2014 will likely be intense.

Old-fashioned crime and law and order does not appear among the top ten items, but corruption, abuse of power, moral and ethical decline, and dishonesty are on the list. In a Denver Post interview with Kurtis Lee, I pointed out crime was not a top issue on people’s mind in an open-ended question, but when people are asked directly about crime, they express concern.

In Colorado, the mass shootings, high-profile murderers (like Nathan Dunlap) and the state parole system were leading topics throughout 2013.
“Sure, some issues are more important to voters, like the jobs and the economy, but law and order is on the list,” said Floyd Ciruli, a local political analyst and pollster.
See Gallup polls:
Americans cite gov’t, economy, healthcare as top problems
Government itself still cited as top U.S. problem
The U.S., 65% dissatisfied with how gov’t system works

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pot Tourism, Next Pot Conference and Festivals

Colorado’s new industry – the growing and selling of recreational marijuana – is expanding on an accelerated trajectory similar to Colorado’s craft brew industry.

An entire support infrastructure to inform people about the product, its price and availability was highlighted by a feature story in the Wall Street Journal on pot tourism with vans bringing tourists from the airport to the best retail shops. Grand Tours across Europe, golf’s Pro Tour, gaming junkets in Las Vegas, Tour de France and now pot tourism in Denver.

Recent polls show national support for legalizing pot, but it’s not clear if a plateau has been reached or public acceptance is still climbing. Clearly, there has been huge movement in recent years, reflecting both changed opinion and the entrance of the millennial generation into the voter base.

  • CNN poll is up 12 points from 2012 and 20 points from 2008 (when most of the Baby Boomers graduated from college in the 1970s, 80% of the public said no to legalization).
  • Washington Post/ABC News Poll showed little change in support for legalization from a year ago and the lowest level of support among recent polls.
  • The polls report from a third to half of the public claim to have tried marijuana (38% Gallup, 52% CNN). The wide range claiming use may be a reflection of sample differences, especially the number of persons under 35 years old and the growing social acceptance making inhibition of admitting use less forceful.
  • The polls show that support for legalization is much higher with the young, Democrats, independents and liberals.
Nearly half the states (21 and D.C.) allow the use of medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington are out on the edge with regulations being implemented for use of pot for recreation.

Pro marijuana forces are charging ahead, hoping that the shift in public opinion and publicity from Colorado will steer more states to initiatives or legislation. Alaska, Oregon and California may be nearing a vote in 2014. Legislatures in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have indicated that legalization may be considered in upcoming sessions.

Partially, the rush reflects a momentum strategy on the part of savvy advocates and partially they fear a backlash if Colorado and other state experiments turn sour.

CNN Poll: Support for legal marijuana soaring
Los Angeles Times: As marijuana attitudes shift, this may be a year of legalization
Gallup: For first time, Americans favor legalizing marijuana
Washington Post: WaPo-ABC poll: Little rise in support for marijuana legalization
Washington Post: Poll: Majority wants marijuana legalized
Denver Post: Others eye Colorado’s pot law for their legalization

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Denver Post – Sixth Congressional – Heavily Fought, Highly Negative

Denver Post’s Joey Bunch and Carlos Illescas put the Sixth Congressional District on the Sunday front page.
“Nancy Pelosi is not going to add 17 seats (for Democrats to retake the House) without getting this one,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “It’ll be one of the most heavily fought races in the country. It’ll be highly negative. I have no doubt about that.”
The district, created after 2010 census, is one of the most closely balanced in voter registration and Election Day performance. Voter registration today gives a small advantage to the Republicans, but President Obama won the district by five points in 2012 (18,000 votes).

Because the race will be so heavily promoted by the national parties, it is likely to be balanced in campaign cash, and Mike Coffman and Andrew Romanoff are equally strong campaigners.

Both campaigns must reach out to less committed voters and the substantial unaffiliated bloc of voters. Coffman may have a slight advantage as the Republican Party’s most successful statewide candidate.
Ciruli said the reality is that both candidates will have to reach voters outside their traditional bases of support to win the divided district.
“Coffman has a good track record of that, he’s won the district before, and he’s won statewide offices,” Ciruli said. “Romanoff has done less of that. The races he’s won have been in heavily Democratic districts. He hasn’t really been tested.”
Hence, unless a mistake is made by one of the candidates or campaigns, this race is likely to be decided by the voters’ sense of which party is most disliked on Election Day. At the moment, it’s a tie in the Real Clear Politics generic question as which party is preferred. Congress’ lack of performance and especially the shutdown hurt Coffman, and the ACA and President Obama’s weak performance numbers hurt Romanoff.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Voters Moving to Independent Status – Colorado in Lead

One result of political polarization and Washington gridlock appears to be the growth of voters telling pollsters they are independents or, in fact, registering in non-partisan status (non-partisan voters have a variety of labels; e.g., unaffiliated, undeclared, decline to state).

Gary Langer in a December ABC/Washington Post poll shows 37 percent of his national sample as independent and only 32 percent and 23 percent Democrat and Republican, respectively. Similarly, Gallup in a January survey has independents at 42 percent of the electorate – a historical high. Democrats represented 31 percent and Republicans 25 percent of the poll.

The think tank Third Way reported in a December release that since President Obama’s election in 2008, independent voter registration has increased by “11 percent, while registration with parties has fallen slightly.” The largest increase in independent registration was in the Mountain West, with Colorado leading the entire country with a 47 percent surge.

Twenty-seven states have partisan registration. Colorado’s pre-November election registration had unaffiliated voters as the largest bloc of voters at over one million (34%) of the electorate (Democrats were 31% and Republicans 32%).

The increase in independent voters will make elections in Colorado more competitive and volatile.

There is a debate among political scientists if self-declared independents are really independent or if most of them are, in fact, just weak partisans. Our surveys show that most independents indeed have a partisan and a left-right ideological preference. But, their growth since 2008 and recent spike is a reflection of disenchantment with D.C. and the two-party system. And importantly, weak partisans are more subject to cross-pressures from issue and campaign information contrary to their leaning, making them more prone to shifts in their preferences and their passion to vote.

The Buzz: Unaffiliated voter registration surges
The Buzz: Are nominal independents truly independent?
The Buzz: Republicans are in a weak third place in Denver metro area
Third Way: Voters drift from both parties in off-year registration
ABC News: A drop in opposition to Obamacare helps stabilize a struggling presidency
Gallup: Record-high 42% of Americans identify as independents

Monday, January 20, 2014

9-KUSA - Will GOP Come to Colorado?

Governor Hickenlooper has joined with former GOP Senator Hank Brown to welcome a local effort to attract the 2016 Republican National Convention.

The Democrats’ successful 2008 convention, which nominated Barack Obama, was a huge success for the city and the Democrats. Colorado proved it had the hotel rooms and overall capacity to welcome 50,000 guests for four days. And, local and national Democrats were showcased to the party’s advantage. They swept Colorado in 2008, and that was after the Republicans won most of the previous presidential elections in Colorado since WWII.

The competition for the event will be intense. And, the Republicans’ greatest challenge is not having high-profile statewide officeholders who can lead the charge and direct the massive fundraising effort that must be mounted. But, Colorado being a swing state makes it attractive to Republican strategists, and Senator Bennet will be on the ballot, a nice extra benefit with the state’s nine electoral votes.

Brandon Rittiman interviewed 9News political analyst Floyd Ciruli:
“It is like having a multimillion-dollar 4-day media buy,” Ciruli said. “There’s a bit of a presumption right now that Colorado shifted after the last election, that it is indeed sort of a light blue.”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gender Driving Political Difference

Gender is one of the main characteristics defining the winners and losers in 2013 Colorado politics. Colorado polls conducted during the year show the gender gap, which has been a closely watched feature of national politics since the Reagan presidency, is a major dividing line between both candidates and issues among voters statewide.

Governor Hickenlooper benefitted from a 25-point gender gap by a net 5 points. He loses men by 10 points and wins women by 15. Also, women are nearly twice as likely to say they haven’t decided.

In the face-off with the Republicans’ frontrunner, Tom Tancredo, the gender gap provides a 10-point gap benefitting Hickenlooper, who only beat Tancredo by 5 points among all voters.

By 7 points, Coloradans don’t believe Hickenlooper should be re-elected, but men say no to re-election by 20 points, 36 percent “yes” and 56 percent “no,” whereas women support his re-election by 7 points (49% yes to 42% no).

Women also are on the liberal side of major issues:
  • By 3%, women support “stricter gun control”; men, 32% oppose it
  • Gender difference of 46 points on statewide ban on “high-capacity ammunition,” with women 60% in favor of a ban and men 60% opposed
  • Women support Obamacare by 5 points, men disapprove of it by 22 points
Public Policy Polling: CO split on Hickenlooper/Udall, GOP inclined to run 2010 candidates
Quinnipiac: Colorado Gov has early lead in re-elect bid, Quinnipiac University poll finds; voters back fracking, mixed signals on gun control

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Extreme Anti-Fracking Initiative Hits a Wall

The mostly out-of-state sponsored and funded promoters who promised an across-the-board anti-fracking, anti-infrastructure ballot initiative have been told by the Democratic Party’s two most powerful Boulder legislators to forget it. Democratic House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and Rollie Heath, Majority Leader of the Senate, have both said they wouldn’t support a statewide ban.

They are wise. Not only do polls show a fracking ban lacks statewide support, but by adding roads, dams and other infrastructure projects they ensure a powerful statewide coalition in opposition.

Importantly, Democratic support would highlight their aggressive partisan image just as they are trying to tamp it down. An anti-fracking ban would also divide the Democratic Party with the progressive business community and the Governor in opposition.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cavuto and the Jobs Report

The Friday jobs report was a disappointment to the Obama administration. The general expectation at the end of 2013 was that this would be the year the economy took off for sustained growth. Adding only 74,000 jobs in December and the political fallout was the subject of my most recent interview with Neil Cavuto on his show.

Cavuto and Your World is becoming one of Fox News’ most watchable shows with interesting interviews on hot topics. He tends to avoid the conventional and looks for a special slant, and he likes to challenge his guests’ views.

A couple of points I made in the interview:
  1. The President and Democrats are anxious to have a robust economy to distract voters from the continuing negative outlook on the operation of the ACA. President Obama’s low approval rating and the significant decline in support for ObamaCare is currently dragging down the entire Democratic ticket. These weak job numbers undermine their talking points. (Blog: Obama –“Was 2013 Your Worst Year?”, Dec. 23, 2013). 
  2. Since the passage of the budget compromise in early December, Republicans have overtaken Obama in public’s perception of who’s better able to manage the economy. A major problem for Democrats. (Blog: Washington and Republicans Benefit From Budget Deal, Jan. 10, 2014). 
  3. The administration strongly pushed back on the perception the jobs report presages continued sluggish growth arguing the numbers are highly variable, subject to revision and reflect December’s exceptionally bad weather.
Not only are they worried that the soft job numbers undermine the start of the 2014 election cycle, but the White House is now laser-like, focused on maintaining a positive narrative leading to the State of the Union address (January 28), with the intervening weeks filled with pre-announcements of new initiatives, successes in current programs and the required follow-up media tour.

The theme of “we’re back” just took hit.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Obama’s Foreign Policy in Trouble

After proclaiming a new foreign policy strategy aimed at restoring America’s influence and prestige abroad, Barack Obama must contend with a public that believes America is less respected and less important.

In a December Pew Research poll conducted with the Council of Foreign Relations, more than half (53%) of Americans believe the U.S. is “less important and powerful… today…than 10 years ago.” The public sense of a decline is a record and exceeds the level in 2009 (41% America’s less powerful and important) as President Bush left office and Obama began his term.

Also, seven out of ten Americans believe the U.S. is less respected than in the past, which matches the public’s worst view of America’s image during Bush’s second term (71% May 2008).

When asked if they approve the President’s foreign affairs job performance, he still gets positive ratings on fighting terrorism (51% approve to 44%), but on dealing with Syria (30%), Afghanistan (34%) and Iran (37%) his job approval is in negative territory.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The 2014 Session Opens – Less Drama

It is clear the Governor has told the Democratic legislative leadership to tone down the politics, and both parties want to appear reasonable, at least at the start of the session. But this is the Stock Show season, and we can expect thrills and falls in the arena.

Nonetheless, a subdued leadership talked more about floods and fires than guns and gays this year. Bipartisanship extended to a frequent mentioning of Republican legislators in Democrats’ opening speeches.

It likely won’t last as there are real differences on the issues, powerful constituencies that want their just deserts and an election for control in November. Even as the Democrats try to hold down the drama, guns, renewable energy mandates, fracking and election rules will be back by Republicans, with new efforts on workman’s compensation and other special interest legislation from Democrats.

The Governor, of course, would just like to get to May 7 with some modest accomplishment that has a patina of bipartisanship and no damage. His emphasis on good management and consensus-type issues, such as disaster relief, is good politics as he tries to reset his image as a cautious moderate. But, the expectations are much higher this year. He must set an agenda and manage conflict, not easy after the Democratic Party’s cowboy-style session in 2013.

It’s off to the Stock Show.

Washington and Republicans Benefit From Budget Deal

After a year of political strife, Washington was hugely benefited from the final budget deal. The size of the agreement or its contribution to addressing the overall fiscal problems were not the factors affecting its impact with the public. It was the positive image of compromise and producing a solution to a problem that most people felt could hurt the economy if not addressed.

Although Republicans in the poll were divided in their approval, moderate Republicans and independents offered support, exactly the groups that have been so angry with the issue of the political system failing due to partisan strife and unproductive gridlock.

Accomplishing something that helps the economy (and is now cited as one of the factors contributing to the end of year acceleration of the economic recovery) has improved the Republicans’ positioning related to dealing with the economy (the public’s top issue). Republicans now lead Obama on the issue by four points. Last December, they were behind Obama by 18 points.

Part of the shift came from women and younger Americans, a sign that Democrats have vulnerabilities if Republicans can produce a strategy and agenda that attracts them. Although no data has been published yet confirming the positive buzz heard from Speaker John Boehner’s criticism of Washington interest groups contributing to gridlock, party moderates and independents seemed to appreciate it and Democrats looked nervous.

See Washington Post: Obama suffers most from year of turmoil, poll finds

Thursday, January 9, 2014

State of the State, Part 4

This year begins a titanic struggle in Colorado between Democrats and Republicans for control of the state’s politics and political agenda. After the Democrats’ sweeping victory in 2012 and their aggressive legislative session, they have been on the defensive. Since the end of the session, they lost three state senators, watched a host of counties declare independence, had their signature tax funding package for education rejected two-to-one and observed their polling numbers drop precipitously.

But, the Democrats’ opposition has been led by an eclectic collection of angry gun rights advocates, farmers and rural county commissioners made up of a mix of Republicans, independents and conservative Democrats. The Republican Party, itself, remains divided without a clear message or leader. Will 2014 provide the opportunity for them to regroup and offer a coherent opposition? Colorado’s voters are waiting for the contest to begin.

Issue 9

Will a GOP divided in 2013 find fortune in ‘14?

Colorado Democrats, after eight years of success capped by President Obama’s 5-point win in 2012, are now on the defensive. But can Republicans take advantage with few new candidates for top positions? Tom Tancredo, the independent 2010 gubernatorial candidate and nominal Republican, and Ken Buck, 2010 Senate candidate, lost in messy races, but are the current frontrunners for the GOP nomination in their respective races. The Colorado Republican Party remains divided between ideologues and pragmatists.

Issue 10

Unions out of favor with Colorado voters

Unions, especially the teachers union, had a very bad year with Colorado voters. Three of their preferred legislators were removed by recall or the threat of one, and despite their $4 million investment in Amendment 66, it was crushed by voters. In addition, school reform candidates in local school districts won handily in the face of union opposition. The winners either actively opposed unions or at least supported school choice and teacher merit policies, both of which provoke the unions.

Issue 11

Colorado independence: We're still a purple state

Unaffiliated voters are now the largest bloc of voters in Colorado. At more than 1 million, they will decide many close 2014 elections as they tend to be less partisan and less committed to either party or a particular candidate or issue position. Recent Colorado polls show them leaning against incumbent Democrats, but unhappy with both parties.

See Denver Post: In 2013, the issues that mattered most in Colorado politics

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Governor’s State of the State Message, Part 3

Both sides of the aisle are maneuvering for advantage as the legislative session starts. Each side wants to sound reasonable, but expect a battle. Governor Hickenlooper’s challenge is to set an agenda and say “no,” loudly, more than “yes.”

Issue 6

Democratic agenda in the statehouse

Democrats won big legislative majorities in the 2012 election and passed most of their agenda, starting with high-profile gun control, and following with civil unions, college aid for undocumented students and renewable energy standards for rural areas. Criticized as overreach, the session contributed to the recalls, a secession movement and weak poll numbers for the governor. Can Democrats hold their majorities in 2014?

Issue 7

With hit to his popularity, has Hick’s luck run out?

Hickenlooper began the year with high approval ratings and ended it with ratings much lower. Along with being tainted by the perceived runaway Democratic legislature, he reprieved mass murderer Nathan Dunlap in a widely covered and disjointed news conference and lost 10 points of approval. Throughout his political life, Hickenlooper has had luck on his side. Will it hold in 2014?

Issue 8

Catastrophe challenges: Forest fires and floods

The Front Range flooding and Black Forest fire were tragic and expensive. Extreme weather continued to create havoc for Coloradans and challenges for politicians. State and local government responded, with Hickenlooper leading the effort, and all won kudos. Handling weather emergencies has become a key element of any political executive's job.

See Denver Post: In 2013, the issues that mattered most in Colorado politics

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Cavuto and Christie

Neil Cavuto on his December 10 show started his speculation concerning Governor Chris Christie’s potential to be the Republican nominee. Neil had interviewed Dick Cheney, who believed Christie’s hug of President Obama was excessive and a Republican businessman who saw Christie as exactly what Republicans need – someone who will shake up Washington, but pragmatic enough to still get things done.

On the show we considered some Christie facts:
  • His November re-election was well-timed, with little competing political news to make him the early Republican frontrunner.
  • A New Jersey win gives him creditability to help Republicans win suburban women and moderate independent voters. Christie did it by being himself. Mitt Romney’s win in Massachusetts always felt like he did it by being someone else – hence, his vulnerability to the charge of flip-flopping. 
  • Christie is 8 points ahead of Hillary Clinton in Colorado, a presidential swing state, because of his November re-election surge and because Obama and the ACA is damaging Democrats across the board.
  • The Republican Party is divided with the more conservative wing supporting Paul, Cruz, Rubio and Perry, and more moderate wing supporting Christie and Bush, with Ryan and Walker somewhere in the middle.
  • Republicans have two years to sort it out before the Iowa Caucus in January 2016, but Christie must be conscious of the Giuliani effect. A highly popular, moderate Northeastern politician is polling frontrunner, but has little grass roots support. Misses early caucuses and primaries, waits for Florida, but race is over.
See Sabato’s Crystal Ball: Chris Christie’s midterm marker

Colorado’s Top Political Stories in 2013 Will Continue to Shape the Political News in 2014, Part 2

Fracking, school finance and the parole system are top agenda items for the Governor and the legislature. Democrats will push their version of fracking regulations as moderate; Republicans will take the lead on school reform with existing money. Hickenlooper needs to shape up the state’s criminal justice system.

Issue 3

A boom in drilling, but fractured over fracking

Natural gas and oil production in the state continues to boom due to hydraulic fracturing, but four Front Range communities passed moratoriums and bans in the November election. The public, in general, is closely divided, with Gov. John Hickenlooper and most of the business community supporting the industry’s practice. The issue promises to be front and center in the 2014 election.

Issue 4

Back to drawing board for funding of schools

Voters overwhelmingly said “no” (65 percent) to a billion-dollar income tax hike for K-12 public education. Public education advocates, progressives and unions poured $11 million into the campaign. The dream of a broad-stroke financial fix for education funding is over. How to pursue reform with less money is the 2014 challenge.

Issue 5

A fatal failure of state parole system

After years of expansion and a woefully inadequate system, the state parole system turned fatal in 2013. On March 19, the executive director of the Department of Corrections, Tom Clements, was gunned down at his front door. Later investigations showed the system has major flaws and gaps. It is the most egregious failure of a state department in years.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Governor’s State of the State Message

Coming off their 2013 thrill ride year, the Democrats are “recalibrating” their strategy and message for 2014, a year that will either renew their lease on Colorado government or end it.

Listen to the leadership speeches this week and then, of course, watch their behavior.

The Denver Post Perspective section, “The Year in Review,” printed my list of 2013 political events that highlighted the state’s tilt left and then the reaction. Between today and the Governor’s State of the State speech, we will feature them to help the frame the issues.

Issue 1:

The backfire on guns: recalls and resignations

The Colorado legislature made national news by passing high-profile gun control legislation shortly after the tragic shooting in Newtown, Conn. The reaction from pro-gun forces was rapid and powerful. The recall of two Democratic state legislators — primarily over their support for gun-control legislation — was unprecedented and widely covered by national media. The December resignation of a third Democratic legislator who was threatened by a similar recall and the Arapahoe High School shooting presage another year of gun debate.

Issue 2:

Preparing for rollout of recreational marijuana

Colorado officials spent a year preparing laws and regulations to control legalization of recreational
marijuana, which begins Wednesday. Voters legalized pot in 2012 with 55 percent of the vote, and voted to tax it in 2013 with 65 percent. Problems with public drug use, distribution and sales will receive ongoing news as the rollout gets underway in 2014.

See Denver Post: In 2013, the issues that mattered most in Colorado politics

Colorado Top Growth State – Could Gain New Congressperson

Colorado added 79,000 people last year, ranking fifth in new residents behind Texas (387,000), California (333,000), Florida (232,000) and North Carolina (100,000).

Projecting the population gains over the three years from the 2010 census to the 2013 estimate, Colorado should gain a seat in the U.S. House, going from seven to eight after the 2020 reapportionment.

Other winners are California (+1), Florida (+1), North Carolina (+1) and Texas (+3). Of course, growth rates change and several states’ population increases are close, but Colorado’s appears reasonably secure.

Even with slower population growth due to aging Baby Boomers, slow migration and immigration, and fewer children being born due to the economy, the latest census estimates confirm the general trend over several decades – the South, West and Atlantic Coast is gaining clout and the Northeast and upper Midwest losing population and House seats.