Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ground Zero for National Fracking Battle; Anti-Fracking Group Attracting Widespread Resistance

Fresh from their November municipal victories and fueled up with new money, Front Range anti-fracking activists shifted their attention to promoting statewide fracking bans. However, their initiatives have produced a powerful reaction that has already activated local governments from across the state and leadership of both parties in strong opposition.

The Democratic Party leaders, such as former governors Bill Ritter and Roy Romer, are aware not only the mischief the initiatives could do to state regulation of business and the economy, but in fact, they could tear the Democratic Party apart and hurt John Hickenlooper’s re-election.

Most of the initiatives are positioned as just “local control” or mere “distance from rig to residence” limits, but they could easily translate into broader bans, fulfilling the activists’ and their funders’ ultimate goal of limiting as much as possible the state’s gas and oil industry.

The gas and oil industry is already spending millions in media, public relations and consultants to oppose the initiatives. The campaign from a group titled, Coloradans for Responsible Energy, has been on television since November and is now using large inserts in state newspapers and magazines.

Also, the broader business community, recognizing the danger to the economy from the anti-fracking activists, have begun organizing through a group called, Vital for Colorado, and has been successful getting ahead of the initiative process. Their first full-page advertisement with a headline, “Energy Chaos in Colorado,” appeared March 16 in the Denver Post. More than 150 local government officials signed a letter in opposition to the “local control” initiative as an anti-jobs and anti-economic development proposal when tough fracking regulations are already on the books.

Fortunately for the business community, this appears to be a very good year to stop extreme environmental initiatives.

·       Energy independence, always a goal of Americans, is in even sharper relief today given the manipulation of European natural gas markets by Russia.
·       The Democratic Party leaders and voters are especially sensitive to maintaining a pro-jobs and strong economy approach for fear of losing the U.S. Senate and various local races.
·       The November electorate is likely to be skeptical of initiatives that offer ill-defined regulatory schemes and whose consequences could raise prices or cost jobs.
·       More than two-thirds of the public supports the Keystone Pipeline in spite of the extreme rhetoric and threats of environmental activists. Energy independence, jobs and the benefits of natural gas vs. other fuels has undermined the “anti’s” position.
Colorado is ground zero for the national fracking battle. The fight will be expensive. Contrary to last November’s anti-fracking sweep of local cities, the business community and energy industry have strong arguments and numerous allies.

“I think this will be the test case. The East and West Coast environmental groups and big money are putting everything in here,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “I think they would go to California, except it’s too expensive and the governor there is also opposing it strongly. So we’re now ground zero in the battle over fracking in this country.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Clinton Moves Right on Russia

Hillary Clinton’s intensive, but unannounced, quest for the Democratic Party nomination is moving slightly to
the right of the Obama administration on foreign policy, especially Russia.

Clinton, of course, must be cautious the effort does not appear critical of the administration, a needed ally in her nomination strategy, nor so far right as to alarm the Democrats’ substantial peace wing. But she sees much danger in being in alignment with President Obama’s increasingly embattled foreign policy.

In point of fact, she campaigned six years ago as the more experienced and realistic candidate on foreign policy issues. She was the person who should take the call on the “red” phone, voted for the Iraq War resolution and thought Obama naïve for opening Iranian conversations without conditions.

And, although her time as Secretary of State has its detractors describing it as one long plane ride to small bore identity events, she was the more aggressive voice on Libya and Syria. And, there will always be Benghazi as a sign of weakness she will want to counter.

Most importantly, in spite of the American peoples’ reluctance to engage in foreign military action, President Putin appears to be critically undermining the administration’s strategy of framing great power foreign policy as all about diplomacy around shared interests and having its signature accomplishment “undoing Bush’s wars.” Equally problematic is their dependence on Russia being a useful partner in the Syrian and Iranian initiatives, always a long-shot, if not naïve, position.

Hence, we all watch with some interest Ms. Clinton’s maneuvering over the next several months while Putin’s actions in Eastern Europe continue to roil the world stage.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Udall vs. Gardner – Déjà vu

The race for the Colorado U.S. Senate is within two points, with a slight advantage to the incumbent Senator, Mark Udall, over challenger Congressman Cory Gardner (PPP 2014). Four years ago, Senator Michael Bennet held on by two points during a terrible year for Democrats in a fierce, expensive campaign against Weld County DA, Ken Buck. The 2014 contest looks much the same – turbulent election environment and incumbent just barely ahead.

The senate race begins with a substantial part of the electorate not making a choice as of mid-March. More than a fifth of the electorate are undecided, represented by significant percentage of independents (32%), Hispanics (31%), young (24%) and women (21%).

Gardner, of course, has a name identification deficit being little known on much of the Front Range. For a start, he needs to at least reduce undecided Republicans (14%) by half. And, Udall will be targeting Hispanics, women and younger voters, early with persuasion messages and late with get-out-the-vote, both of which have become multi-million dollar campaign techniques. His first task will be to familiarize voters with his record and life.

Because control of the U.S. Senate is at stake, outside groups will dominate the advertising dollars and the ad buys are beginning early and are negative.

Colorado television is a platform to field test political and advertising concepts, some of which are already playing in other targeted states. The Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity have started a nearly one-million dollar television campaign trying to tie Udall to the failed ACA. They are running a typical “Call Senator Udall and tell him” ad.

The well-thought of 2012 campaign playbook of President Obama began heavy advertising in Colorado, attacking Romney in May as soon as he was the designated, if not nominated, candidate. Hence, Colorado can expect some early anti-Gardner attack ads, likely sponsored and funded by independent groups, following the Democratic script that Gardner is an extremist on various issues.

Can Cory Gardner handle the attacks? As Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reported, Friday, March 21, 2014:
Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli calls it the Ronald Reagan syndrome.
“A good smile and a positive outlook takes you a long way,” Ciruli said.
In both the Colorado legislature and in Congress, Gardner made himself accessible to the media. His one-liners and ability to dissect complex legislation make him a favorite.
Gardner’s conservative record, Ciruli said, doesn’t define him in the way that former Congressman Tom Tancredo is linked to immigration and former Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave is known for her position on gay marriage.
“Cory’s held meetings on bread-and-butter, meat-and-potato, (Chamber of Commerce) kind of issues, such as water and agriculture,” Ciruli said.
PPP: Colorado Senate close, Hickenlooper grows lead
The Buzz: Can incumbent senator lose re-election?
The Buzz: Udall vs. Gardner – One point
The Buzz: Do Republicans win Senate?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Democrat Unity Crumbles Over Fracking – Colorado Observer, Valerie Richardson, 3-13-14

A host of ballot initiatives that limit oil and gas extraction through hydraulic fracking are moving through
Rep. Jared Polis
Colorado’s title setting process. Some have the possibility of severely limiting gas and oil exploration and production in the state, and some of the initiative will do immense mischief to local government governance.

It is ironic that Jared Polis, now a congressman, is one of the backers of these initiatives, which may well divide the Democratic Party in a tough election year. Polis, due to his gay rights agenda and personal ambition, was one of the founders and financers of the original Democratic Party takeover of Colorado politics.

Quotations from the Observer:
“We spend all this time talking about the terrible divisions in the Republican Party between the Tea Party and the [establishment]—well, that’s exactly what you’re watching here with the Democrats,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli.
At one end is Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who famously drank fracking fluid to show his support for the fossil-fuel industry. At the opposite end is Democratic Rep. Jared Polis, who is reportedly the secret moneybags behind the anti-fracking measures aimed at the November ballot, according to Fox31’s Eli Stokols.
Support from the multi-millionaire Polis “would really make those initiatives very, very viable,” said Ciruli.
“If you’ve got Polis funding them, you’re in a whole different situation, because he is a very high-profile Democratic officeholder,” said Ciruli. “It definitely is a huge problem. It both fractures the base and could clearly damage certainly the governor’s race, because he [Hickenlooper] is not eager to alienate some environmentalists, and this puts in high relief that he’s not on their bandwagon, that he’s supporting gas and oil.”
See Colorado Observer: Democrat unity crumbles over fracking

Hickenlooper Leads Ticket

Governor John Hickenlooper is the best positioned candidate for re-election and leads the Democratic ticket in Colorado, with a 48 percent approval and 41 percent disapproval. Senator Mark Udall has nearly a fifth of the public unable to rate him and his approval (41%) and disapproval (40%) is basically tied.

President Obama in the latest PPP auto poll is 10 points in the negative, with a 43 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval. He still represents a liability for local Democrats. Also, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is disapproved by 51 percent of the public, a 12-point negative position. Disapproval of it is high among young voters (55%), Hispanics (57%) and independents (56%). Also, 58 percent of voters believe the ACA hasn’t been successfully implemented.

Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based independent pollster, said the disaffection of the two groups is an ominous sign for Democrats heading into the mid-term elections this fall.
“That’s very bad news for (Obama). Not only are those groups kind of the shock troops for the success of the law because they’re the ones who need to sign up, they’re losing their support for the president,” Ciruli said. “If we’re talking about young people and Hispanics not showing up this fall, it becomes sort of a valence issue across the board. People realize this is not working out,” Ciruli said.
Ciruli compared widespread disgust with the healthcare law to that of the Bush administration’s handling of the cleanup after Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War in 2005 and 2006. “The terrible implementation has turned it into like Iraq and also Katrina in a sense that it’s not working, and what good parts there are being overwhelmed by the terrible implementation. We’re in a pre-2006 period now. Definitely this is a disaster,” Ciruli said. (Colorado Observer, 3-19-14)
PPP: Colorado Senate close, Hickenlooper grows lead
The Buzz: Hickenlooper ahead of Republican challengers
Colorado Observer: State’s Hispanics, young adults turn on Obamacare

Thursday, March 20, 2014

AAPOR: 2014 Wave or No Wave

The nation’s leading pollsters will assemble this May in Anaheim, California, and preview the 2014 midterm election and analyze the variables that appear to be most influential in driving the political narrative at six months out.

Buck Frontrunner in Fourth Congressional District – T.M. Fasano, Greeley Tribune

Ken Buck has a head start and a substantial money advantage in the race for the Republican nomination in the Fourth Congressional District.

When Buck switched races with current Congressman Cory Gardner, it was initially assumed he could stroll to the nomination, and given the Republican leaning of the District, take up a long-term seat in Congress. But, a couple of local Republicans decided to run and now Buck has a nomination fight.

Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer may be the best positioned to mount a challenge. Weld is the largest voting bloc in the district, and she has a network of county officials around the district. She may be helped as a leader of the 51st state secession movement. Senator Scott Renfroe is also from Weld County and a conservative.

Each has some assets in terms of campaign experience, issues and name identity. But, Buck has gotten nearly all the area’s Republican votes before in his 2010 race against Michael Bennet.

Quotation from Greeley Tribune:
“I think that you would say that Buck is the front-runner,” Ciruli said. “The comments that were made on whether or not Buck would be the right fit for that district was that either a legislator or a county commissioner would have more of a feel for the local issues.”
He added, “The issues related to that district are in many ways just nitty-gritty, agriculture and water development and trying to get the infrastructure and the benefits for local business. But I think he is the frontrunner unless one of those candidates has a lot of money.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Congress Tries to Clean Up its Act – Colorado Springs Gazette, Megan Schrader, 3-14-14

There’s a new sentiment in Congress to lighten up their image, both individually and collectively. Several Colorado congresspersons have donated their salary increases to charity to little attention. But more visibility they are trying to get something done after half a decade of gridlock.

The new spurt of cooperation is partially a reflection that the lame duck administration is done with significant initiatives; hence, Congress, and especially Republicans, can stop taking purely partisan positions. But, it also reflects that members and leaders recognize the voter mood is so hostile, they all could be tossed out.

Quotation from the Gazette:
“It simply did not become a national story,” Ciruli said. “There is so much wrong with Washington in terms of most people's view that this is a rather small irritant.”
With elections coming in November for all but one member of congress - Sen. Michael Bennet - Ciruli said he’d be surprised if the pay issue is used for or against incumbents during campaign ads and literature.
“I suspect at this point it’s almost a matter of personal preference and affordability rather than really playing defense,” Ciruli said.
Since the shutdown, the approval rating for Congress has slowly been improving, but Ciruli said it's still abysmally low.
“What that raises is the question of whether or not all incumbents are going to be in danger this year,” Ciruli said. “Normally we could look for a partisan advantage, and this time we're beginning to wonder if there is an incumbent disadvantage.”
But Ciruli noted Congress has been working steadily since the shutdown to improve its image.
The first real budget in five years was passed in December, a bipartisan coalition pushed through the first Farm Bill - funding for food stamps and other critical programs - in almost as many years and there wasn't an ugly fight over the debt ceiling increase in January.
Ciruli said Washington, D.C. politicians might be trying to “shave off the worst of the rough edges” heading into elections.

Democratic Party Begins to Unravel

The Democratic Party is beginning to fracture around the key issues of Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Keystone Pipeline. In addition, its D.C. leadership is seen by many Democratic officeholders as rigid and out-of-date for the challenges of 2014.

As the Florida Special House election demonstrated, Democratic candidates are rejecting the President’s and congressional leaders’ position on the ACA. The survival response (i.e., “mend it, don’t end it”) of the embattled candidates is to acknowledge the law and its implementation is a mess and it must be revised. Democratic leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and the White House have consistently rejected that formula – no amendments, no hearings, no discussion of changes.

Another major division is now visible on energy policy, with the White House and the Democratic left holding firm in opposition to the Keystone Pipeline, using global warming and anti-hydrocarbon rhetoric versus a host of moderate Senators, progressive business leaders and 50 percent of rank and file Democrats wanting it built primarily for the economy and jobs. Colorado’s two senators are divided on the issue, with Michael Bennet in favor of building the pipeline and Mark Udall against it.

Not only has the ACA unity ended, but President Obama is now not welcome in many states with competitive races, accept in the most targeted (read low visibility) events and activities. Harry Reid has his own mini-revolt over this autocratic-style, with senior members of both parties going around his control of the Senate floor to develop bipartisan coalitions and pass legislation. Nancy Pelosi is also watching power ebb away as candidates ignore her position and her key allies, Congressmen Waxman and Miller, retire.

Local Colorado Democrats are fighting over fracking, with Governor Hickenlooper leading the Democratic ticket favoring regulated use of fracking and Democratic Party environmental activists and numerous Democratic officeholders, including Congressman Jared Polis, actively promoting ballot measures to limit and, if possible, ban it.

See Colorado Observer: Democrat unity crumbles over fracking

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Written by Korbel student Alex

If you use social media apps, like Twitter or Instagram, you’ve likely seen the popular “hash tag” used in the title of this blog. If not, then you’ve still likely heard about some of the problems running up to and during the Sochi Olympics in Russia: anti-gay laws, rounding up stray dogs, dirty water, incomplete hotels and unseasonably warm weather. The high visibility of these issues cannot bode well for Russian President Vladimir Putin as he was hoping the Olympics would give him a much-needed boost in favorability ratings.

Gallup tracked Americans’ opinions on Mr. Putin, and it’s not shocking to find that in a recent survey conducted February 6-9, his unfavorable ratings reached an all-time high amongst Americans (63%). While this could be problematic for his credibility amongst foreign policymakers in the West, it doesn’t seem that American opinion has deterred him from making bold moves on his own (i.e., his intervention with Syria).

Before #SochiProblems garnered worldwide attention, however, another Gallup poll conducted July 8-August 3, 2013 of 2,000 Russian adults showed that Putin’s approval rating sat at a relatively low 54% (after a high of 83% in 2008). The survey shows that Putin’s popularity at home has been consistently waning amidst his controversial transitions between president and prime minister.

As the Winter Olympics have brought the world media’s attention into Putin’s backyard, he will have to please not only the Russian public, but also the world. Hosting the Olympics provides an opportunity for leaders to prove they are gracious hosts, supporters of cultural diversity and worthy of future political and business partnerships. However, if the emergence of #SochiProblems takes hold, accompanied by his rising unfavorable ratings at home and in the United States, it appears that Mr. Putin has a tough road ahead.

See Twitter: SochiProblems
See Bloomberg: Russians Uniting Around Sochi Offer Putin Return on Games
See New York Times: A Triumph for Putin, if Not for the Rest of a Sagging Russia

Partisanship Key Factor for Keystone XL

Written by Korbel student Peter

Recent work by the Pew Research Center has illustrated the strikingly partisan nature of public opinion towards the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil derived from Canadian tar sands through the Midwest to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. In aggregate, the public favors building the pipeline by a margin of more than 2-to-1, and amongst self-identified Republicans, Independents and Democrats , a majority was in favor of the pipeline's construction. Nonetheless, support for the project varies dramatically across the political spectrum.

Pew Research 2013
Breaking the responses down further, by not just party affiliation, but also ideological position within that party, paints a picture of consistent, strong and predictable correlation between a person’s politics and his or her attitude toward the pipeline. In fact, when moving across the political spectrum--sequentially, conservative Republican, moderate or liberal Republican, Independent, conservative or moderate Democrat, and finally liberal Democrat--at each step, support wanes and opposition grows relative to the previous group. Among conservative Republicans, only nine percent oppose the pipeline; at the other end of the spectrum, more than half of liberal Democrats (54%) are against it. As described above, this does not imply comparable numbers of supporters and opponents; liberal Democrats are, in fact, the only cohort with a majority opposed. In all other breakdowns – by gender, age, education, income and region – every group is strongly in favor.

Low numbers of “don’t know” responses amongst all groups across all breakdowns, ranging from three to seven percent, denote the high visibility of the Keystone XL issue. This already-high level of public awareness, combined with the manifest partisan divide, suggests that even in today's highly charged and uncompromising political atmosphere, the pipeline represents an especially intractable problem for American policymakers--overall public support notwithstanding.

Sochi Problems: Olympics Fail to Deliver Favorable Opinion of Russia

Written by Korbel student Maryn

While the Olympics are widely considered an opportunity for the host country to put forward its best face to a large international audience, the 2014 Sochi Olympics have highlighted more negatives than positives for Russia. Twitter has become overrun with the hashtag “#SochiProblems” as the Russian federation dealt with problems long after journalists and athletes had begun arriving. These games have also been plagued by accusations of Russian human rights violations and homophobic laws.

Before the opening ceremonies, the decision to hold the Olympics in Sochi was not well-received. In a newly released Pew Research poll, 44 percent of respondents said it was a “bad idea” to hold the games in Sochi, citing security concerns in addition to political ones influencing their views. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing were also troubled by low public opinion at the onset. China, as with Russia, suffers from mixed opinions in the U.S.

However, opinions regarding Beijing grew more positive over the course of the games. It remains to be seen whether Russia will benefit from this same phenomenon. So far, any positive images of Russia have been accompanied by controversy, potentially negating the effects of the pattern as seen in Beijing.

Pew Research 2014

Pew Research 2008
Negative views of Russia extend beyond the Olympics. Despite the potential for positive images of Sochi to permeate global media, in a recent Gallup poll, 63% of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Putin. Furthermore, 60% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Russia. This is increasingly important given that Russia has leverage the U.S. does not have in dealing with challenging countries, such as in Syria and Iran.

In a 2013 Gallup poll, Russia helped broker a deal regarding Syrian chemical weapons, which averted U.S. military action. Despite this, 50% of Americans now consider Russia an unfriendly or enemy state. Negative public sentiment is likely to make it difficult for the Obama administration to engage with Russia in the future, despite any potentially positive results.

Korbel Student Blogs

Colorado has a significant asset in the Korbel School of International Studies. Always a first-rate institution, under new leadership from former Ambassador Chris Hill and strong support from DU’s administration, the Korbel School is beginning to gather national and international attention.

The campus has the distinction of being one of the nation’s top international studies schools, and is the dominant institution in its field of study in mid-America. The location has not hindered the attraction of the leading diplomatic and foreign policy experts in the world. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a graduate, and her predecessor, Madeline Albright, is daughter of the school’s founder. Both are frequent visitors to the school. Most recently, Javad Zarif, a graduate and now Foreign Minister of Iran, Skyped in for a Q&A with students.

In a new graduate-level course offered this year, American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, the students prepared blog posts on public opinion-related foreign policy topics involving timely issues involving Russia, Iran and the Keystone Pipeline (originating in Canada).

A sample of the students’ work appears on this blog. Congratulations Korbel students.

Can an Incumbent Senator Lose Re-election?

Sen. Mark Udall
One of the commenters to this blog pointed out the last time an incumbent U.S. Senator lost re-election in Colorado was in 1978. Indeed, Republican Bill Armstrong defeated one-term Senator Floyd Haskell, who switched parties in the early 1970s over the war in Vietnam. Republicans were especially angered by Haskell’s switch, and Armstrong represented the rising new Reagan Republicans.

But, there are times when the political environment becomes unstable and incumbents vulnerable. In fact, three incumbent Colorado senators lost their re-elections from 1972 to 1978. Gary Hart defeated incumbent Republican Senator Peter Dominick in 1974 at the height of the political crisis caused by Watergate and the Vietnam War. And Haskell, himself, defeated an incumbent senator, Gordon Allott, in 1972 mostly due to the Vietnam War and the anti-Olympics vote (61% support).

In other words, there are moments, such as the 1970s, when the political environment becomes volatile and voters become especially incensed, causing incumbents to lose. Is 2014 one of those years?

The table below shows the recent history of Senator Udall’s seat, which has two incumbents losing.

Putin’s Lectures

Russian President Vladimir Putin, center;
 Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, left;
 and the commander of the Western Military
 District Anatoly Sidorov, right
March 3, 2014. Photo: AP
America and the West have had two recent experiences of Vladimir Putin’s lecture style: His New York Times letter on Syria in September last year and his March 4th press conference on Ukraine. They serve as Rorschach tests of his strategy and personality. They mix arrogance, sarcasm, disingenuousness, blatant misstatements of facts, and general disdain for democracy and the West, with a keen opportunism and single-minded focus on his and his nation’s insecurities.

In the September 2013 letter to the American people, he scolded our leaders and us for our arrogance, military interventions and our on policy in Syria in particular. Although the letter makes some valid points concerning our mistakes, it is drenched in hypocrisy of his and Russia’s culpability in the chaos, violence and extremism in Syria.

What now stands out in the letter is his condemnation of foreign intervention, namely in Iraq.

But, his latest “hour-long unscripted news conference” explaining the Russian military intervention in the Crimea is described in the New York Times as an edgy autocrat in the full glare of world opinion.

A few observations:
  • In spite of Putin’s disdain for democracy and its leaders, he has enough regard for international norms to lie about having Russian troops in Crimea.
  • Putin has worldwide ambition, but Russia has only a 36 percent international favorability rating. Putin has local power, but few international friends.
  • If one of Putin’s goals was to become the enemy of the American people, he’s hit the mark – 72% of Americans now believe Russia is an adversary (WSJ/NBC, 3-9-14). That may not change the behavior of this administration, but the 2016 presidential election and the next administration, unless something dramatically changes, expect an aggressive and hostile foreign policy toward Russia to emerge.
  • Ukrainians have not had a working system of government since its founding, but among the models of governance available, a non-Soviet-style system has majority support. Most of the public is divided between a system that leans toward a command economy with more democracy and market (29%) and a western-style democratic republic (28%) (Gallup 2014). But there is an additional grouping that would prefer either the old Soviet system (19%) or a strong authoritarian system (8%). 
  • And, of course, there are significant differences of opinion among Ukrainians by geography. The West prefers the western-style democracy by 57%. A narrow majority of the East prefers the old Soviet system (23%) or the close approximation (34%).
Putin is ambitious, he has a mission and the country currently has money. American policymakers’ effort to leave Central Europe to Europeans and pivot to Asia needs to be reevaluated in recognition of his aggressive efforts to dominate, including use of military power, the countries in the old Soviet Union. This may not be the Cold War, but it will require a more proactive and strategic European foreign policy than we’ve seen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Support for Immigration Reform and Keystone Pipeline

The Denver Post published a guest commentary on March 5, 2014 describing Coloradans support for immigration reform and the Keystone Pipeline. Although they are domestic political topics, they relate to foreign policy issues due to the direct involvement of Canada and Mexico. And, of course, energy and immigration policy affects our strategies, interests and relationships throughout the world. The two issues are being studied as a part of the new DU Korbel School in public opinion research.

The Buzz blog posts on February 20, 2014 and November 31, 2013 show recent evidence on the topics:
On March 6, the Washington Post released its latest poll showing 65 percent of Americans believe the pipeline should be approved, with 22 percent opposed.

The pipeline construction had support from a majority of people (53%) who were conflicted on the environmental risks; i.e., climate change. They supported it due to jobs and the economy.

A recent Colorado poll shows 66 percent of voters support building the Keystone Pipeline.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Hickenlooper Ahead of Republican Challengers

Rasmussen Reports published his first gubernatorial poll of the 2014 political season. The results reinforce the view that Governor Hickenlooper recovered somewhat from his 2013 doldrums and still faces a Republican field that doesn’t seriously challenge him. However, the poll was conducted before former Congressman Bob Beauprez got in the race. Secretary of State Scott Gessler was the closest rival at 38 percent to 44 percent for Hickenlooper (6 points and beyond the margin of error).

  • Unless the Republican field sharpens up, Hickenlooper is likely to survive his decidedly mixed first-term performance.
  • Even non-federal Democratic candidates are being hurt by the drag of President Obama and the ACA. And, it’s unlikely to improve much through November.
  • The early reviews of Beauprez’s entrance into the race has been mixed, but his impact may be underestimated. He has a residue of goodwill from years of supporting the party and being a spokesperson; he has avoided controversy, a unique attribute among Republican gubernatorial candidates; and he promises to invest serious money into the race.
  • If the Republicans could find a strong candidate, this could be a two- or three-point race, and although the incumbent governor has a small advantage, this promises to be a very difficult year for incumbent Democrats.
Rasmussen Reports: Election 2014: Colorado Governor
The Colorado Observer: Democrat unity crumbles over fracking issue

National Public Radio, March 13, 2014 – Republican Candidate Heats Up Colorado U.S. Senate Race by Scott Horsley (5:00 am)

FLOYD CIRULI: It’s not clear that it’s a wave, but at least it is definitely a burden. The Affordable Care Act, the president’s own numbers, sort of the brand of the Democratic Party at the moment is hurting Udall.

FLOYD CIRULI: Udall’s going to throw everything in the kitchen sink at Gardner. They’ve got a playbook. He is going to be labeled as part of the war on women. He is very conservative on environmental issues. So we have a long way to go here. But I do believe that if Republicans can still win in this state, that’s the candidate that can do it.

Listen to NPR story here

Kiev, the New Berlin

The Cold War ended on December 25, 1991 with the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Berlin airlift

But, Cold War references appear back in vogue, and it can be traced back to the return to power of Vladimir Putin in May 2012. His election for a second non-consecutive term was accompanied by widespread protest, which initiated a systematic suppression and convinced Putin that the West was behind it. The increasingly autocratic Putin has been single-mindedly focused on reestablishing Russia’s influence with its neighbors, former states of the old Soviet Union and on the world stage.

The attack on Georgia in 2008 was the first indication that he would use the army to achieve his goals, and now Russian troops occupy the Crimea.

Eastern Europe was an early battleground in the Cold War. The first and one of the most serious flash points of the West’s confrontation with the Soviet Union was in Berlin.

In 1949, Berlin’s land supplies were blocked. Joseph Stalin was in charge, and he wanted to assert control over Berlin deep in the Soviet sector of occupied Germany. Again, it was Berlin in 1961 where Nikita Khrushchev agreed with East Germans to build the Berlin Wall to halt immigration to the West. President John Kennedy faced his first test with the Soviets.

Stalin lifted the blockade after the West’s airlift kept the city alive. It took 26 years, but the wall fell as the entire Eastern bloc of the Soviet empire began to unravel in 1989 and was completely dismantled in 1990.

American presidents led the effort to protest Berlin and rollback the Soviet empire.

Kennedy, 1963 – “Ich bin ein Berliner”
Reagan, 1987 – “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”

Is Kiev the new Berlin? Is it the first in a series of casualties in the imperial design of Russia? Will the West show the same unity and determination? Will America lead it?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Limits of War

President Obama came into office believing that most of the unsolved problems in the world had been
caused, or at least exasperated, by his predecessor’s unilateralism and swagger. He was not alone. It was the shared belief of the liberal foreign policy establishment.

A hand to Iran, a reset for Russia, a speech in Cairo would signal the end of American exceptionalism and begin the Obama era.

He won an early peace prize, affirming the wisdom of the new sensibility.

We are now debating the correctness of that analysis and the effectiveness of the President’s foreign policy as he nears the end of his term and is embroiled in unrelenting conflicts from aggressive single-minded adversaries.

But regardless of the controversies of his more modulated approach (leading from behind), it fits the facts on the ground. The American people are exhausted by the burden from the “War on Terror.” Notice that the unrelenting criticism of the President from the right does not offer a military solution, only military gestures and rhetoric.

One of the inextricable laws of American foreign policy is that the public likes its wars short and cheap. The eight-year war in Iraq, and now 13-year conflict in Afghanistan with more than 6,000 American casualties and billions in cost, has been too much. Both wars are now seen as not worth it.

Obama believed his mission was to end them. Unfortunately, like many of our foreign interventions, they do not appear to be ending well. Obama shares blame for that, but he didn’t start them, and there is no doubt they had to end.

Russia, Putin Lowest Favorability Rating in 20 Years

Written by Korbel student Brittany

Russia will not be winning any congeniality awards from the American public at this year’s Winter Olympic Games. American favorability ratings for the Olympic host-country (60% unfavorable) and its president, Vladimir Putin (63% unfavorable), are the lowest that they have been in twenty years, according to a Gallup survey from Feburary 2-9, 2014.

Not only is overall country favorability way down, but more Americans say it was a bad decision (44%) than a good decision (32%) to host the Olympic games in Russia, according to a Pew Research poll held on Jan. 30-Feb. 2, 2014. A clear majority cites security concerns, including worries about terrorist attacks, as reasons for why it was a bad decision as a host country.

It’s uncommon for countries to see such a reduction in favorability and approval leading up to the Olympic Games. For example, when China hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008, favorability ratings of the country remained relatively stagnant at 39%. Approval of China as an Olympic host surged during the first weekend as the games began, and more Americans viewed the decision to hold the games in China as good rather than bad (52% good, 31% bad). This was significantly higher than the polls four months prior to the games (41% good, 43% bad). 
So why are Americans so disapproving of Russia and its ability to keep the games safe? Perhaps some Americans may still have a lingering skepticism and mistrust of Russia from the Cold War era — there is a generational gap to the findings, with more than 55% of adults over aged 50 who believe hosting the games in Russia is a bad idea, compared to only 25% of those aged 18-29. 
Nevertheless, when it comes to overall favorability, Americans have reacted drastically because of current conflicted interests between Russia and the U.S. Most likely several recent clashes – Russia’s reaction to the US-Iraq war, the Snowden asylum case, Putin’s NY Times Op-ed article and Russian anti-gay policies – are ultimately the factors that have cultivated negative sentiments and security suspicions about Russia and President Putin.

Afghanistan’s Legacy Could Inform Opinion on Syrian Crisis

Written by Korbel student Elizabeth

The crisis in Syria continues to escalate as neighboring countries absorb millions of refugees, cities sustain major damage from fighting, and the country has become a breeding ground for extremism. As Washington’s decision-makers grapple with the Syrian crisis and America’s role in the civil war, they should be paying attention to the legacy of the war in Afghanistan among the American public.

A CNN poll in December 2013 revealed the Afghani war to be the least popular in American history. According to the report, only 17% of respondents said they supported the war, down from 52% of those surveyed in 2008. Eighty-two percent say that they oppose the war in Afghanistan. A Pew poll, released a month after the CNN poll, revealed that public perception of the success in both Iraq and Afghanistan has plummeted since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. Fifty-two percent of respondents believed that the U.S. failed to reach its goals in Afghanistan, and as the chart below shows, there has been increasingly dwindling support for use of military force in the country over the last eight years.

Source: Pew Research 2014
As America’s longest war draws to a close and Americans reflect on its costs, successes and failures, public opinion polls reflect a war-weary nation. President Obama, Secretary Kerry and other world leaders are growing frustrated as diplomatic negotiations are not as fruitful as hoped. Polls from last September showed that the American people were against military strikes and/or intervention in Syria. As the last troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014, and the public continues to evaluate the war’s implications, it is likely views of the war will continue to be negative. This negative perception of a war in the Middle East, as well as growing pessimism regarding its effects, is likely to make Americans even less supportive of military action in Syria. Policymakers and elected officials should take the public’s pessimism into consideration as they evaluate options moving forward in the Middle East.

Korbel Student Blogs

Colorado has a significant asset in the Korbel School of International Studies. Always a first-rate institution, under new leadership from former Ambassador Chris Hill and strong support from DU’s administration, the Korbel School is beginning to gather national and international attention.

The campus has the distinction of being one of the nation’s top international studies schools, and is the dominant institution in its field of study in mid-America. The location has not hindered the attraction of the leading diplomatic and foreign policy experts in the world. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a graduate, and her predecessor, Madeline Albright, is daughter of the school’s founder. Both are frequent visitors to the school. Most recently, Javad Zarif, a graduate and now Foreign Minister of Iran, Skyped in for a Q&A with students.

In a new graduate-level course offered this year, American Public Opinion and Foreign Policy, the students prepared blog posts on public opinion-related foreign policy topics involving timely issues involving Russia, Iran and the Keystone Pipeline (originating in Canada).

A sample of the students’ work appears on this blog. Congratulations Korbel students.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

American Disengagement

A few weeks ago, Secretary of State John Kerry spent more than 30 minutes lecturing the media at Davos
that America is not disengaging from the world. President Obama and his team have also been quick to try to counter the growing perception expressed by foreign allies and reflected in recent polls that show Americans dissatisfied with America’s position and reputation in the world.

But, after more than a decade of military engagement, there is much evidence that Americans want to lower their role in international conflicts. The latest CBS/New York Times poll (2-26-14) shows that 65 percent of Americans do not believe the U.S. should “take the leading role in solving international conflict.”

Historically, since the U.S.’s emergence as a player in the world stage, we have cycled through periods of intervention and isolation, extroversion and introversion, as reflected in the opinion of leaders and the attitudes of attentive and general publics. The Vietnam War ended the Cold War-inspired willingness to engage in expensive proxy battles with the USSR and international communism. The recent War on Terror with heavy commitments and casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan mark the latest shift to a new period of introversion.

Does the Ukrainian crisis move public opinion back from the obvious period of “standing down”? Will national security be an issue in the 2014 election? Which party will benefit, if either? It appears a serious debate over America’s role in the world will frame the 2016 presidential contest.

See The Buzz:
Obama’s foreign policy in trouble, 1-13-14
We are not disengaging, 1-30-14

Udall vs. Gardner – One Point

The first public poll of the Colorado Senate race, published by Scott Rasmussen, shows newly announced Senate candidate Cory Gardner one point behind incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Udall.

Recent Quinnipiac polls had Udall at the lower 40 percent range and barely ahead of his opponents, most of whom dropped out of the race and endorsed Gardner.

  • Early poll confirms very close race, with slight incumbent advantage
  • Colorado now on U.S. Senate target list
  • Race will be expensive and negative
  • Each party wants to motivate their base. Where independents go and what happens in D.C. will have major impact.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Gaming Expansion is Back

Has Colorado moved to the socially liberal position on more than just gay rights and marijuana? Does
Colorado’s passing pot legalization after a previous rejection mean they are ready for more gaming? Colorado has rejected expanding gaming to more cities and towns repeatedly since it was first authorized in three towns in 1990 (expansion of betting limits passed in 2008).

Voters said no overwhelmingly in 2003 to a proposed expansion of video games to race tracks, with the proceeds going to parks, open space and tourism promotion.

Ten million dollars was spent mostly for and against the initiative.

Now, a new proposal for video games and full casino table games is being proposed for current and potential horse tracks in Arapahoe, Pueblo and Mesa counties. It would allegedly produce $100 million in proceeds annually for K-12 schools.

Has there been a major change in public attitudes toward expanded gaming?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Do Republicans Win Senate?

The intramural debate among the D.C. commentators about the control of the Senate in 2015 appears to
have shifted to Republicans as the likely winners, with the possibility of adding seats in the House.

The rapid, but successful, entrance by Congressman Cory Gardner into the Colorado Senate race happened just as a consensus was developing that Republicans had the advantage due to the states in play and the drag of the President’s approval numbers and the ACA.

National Journal. Congressional Democrats Face Uphill Battle in Midterms, Charlie Cook, 3-3-14

“What’s changed is that Democrats’ chances of holding onto their majority in the Senate is looking increasingly tenuous. There are now at least 10, and potentially as many as 13, Democratic-held seats in jeopardy. By contrast, only two GOP seats are in any meaningful danger, and that number hasn’t changed in six months.”

“Udall became the latest addition to the list when GOP Rep. Cory Gardner announced his candidacy Saturday.”

National Journal. The Hotline’s Senate Race Rankings: Republicans in Command, Steven Shepard and Julie Sobel, 2-27-14

“Republicans are well positioned to win a Senate majority in 2014. A favorable map, combined with a positive national environment driven by disapproval of the health care law, have put Democrats on the defensive.”

“The 2014 Senate landscape continues to look challenging for Democrats. Republicans can take back the chamber after eight years of Democratic control with a net gain of six seats, and the seven seats most likely to flip are held by Democrats in states President Obama lost in 2012.”

“Seats 8 to 12 are also close to 50/50 races. Colorado debuts in this tier after the top recruit, Rep. Cory Gardner, decided to run. In seats 13 to 15, the Democratic incumbent is likely to retain control of the seat, although the races bear watching – and Republicans don’t’ need seats 13 to 15 to wrestle control of the majority.”

Huffington Post. Why 2014 Could be a Very Democratic Election, Curtis Gans, 2-25-14

Series of factors that could lead to Democrats winning House seats and retaining the Senate.

Real Clear Politics. How Likely are Democrats to Lose the Senate? Sean Trende, 2-20-14

Democrats will lose in Monte Carlo simulation. Obama’s approval and poll in states. Democrats lose 7 to 9 seats.

New York Post. Fresh Hope for GOP to Take Over Senate, John Podhoretz, 2-20-14

Seat-by-seat analysis.  “No one debated the GOP would come close or better than close to a Senate takeover in November. But every day, the map looks more favorable for the Republicans.”

The Cook Political Report. The Obama Factor, Charlie Cook, 2-9-14

Midterm elections tend to be a referendum on the incumbent president, but Republicans have had a difficult time beating Democrats and managed to lose many close races.

Reuters. Here’s the Republican Path to Taking Back the Senate, Brett Logiurato, 2-7-14

Automated polls from American Crossroads show Republicans ahead in their Democratic incumbent states: Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana. Republicans are ahead in Michigan and Montana, tied in North Carolina and behind by five points in New Hampshire.

Washington Post. Republicans Have a 44% Chance of Taking the Senate. But it May be Much Higher, John Sides, 1-27-14

Democrats 56% chance to hold the Senate. But the model gives the Republicans a 64% chance if more recent data set is used.

Model uses: Obama approval, GDP, type of election (general or midterm), partisanship, incumbency, previous race

New York Times. 2014 Election Likely to Keep Capital’s Split, Carl Hulse, 1-26-14

Democrats will lose Senate seats, but six is unlikely.

Real Clear Politics. Why the 2014 Senate Races Matter so Much, Sean Trende, 1-23-14

Republicans need to win at least 54 seats to have a very good chance to hold the Senate in 2016 due to a more difficult playing field.

Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Senate 2014: A Coin-Flip, Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, 1-23-14

Seat by Senate seat analysis indicates toss-up for Republicans to pick up six seats. Conditions far improved by this analysis.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chaos in Colorado Initiatives

Colorado’s initiative process regularly invites chaos for the state’s local governments and businesses.  This year is no exception.  Activists – some locally based, some ideologically extreme, and some inspired and funded by out-of-state interests – are again proposing a myriad of initiatives, any one of which will radically disrupt the civic process in Colorado.

As these initiatives proceed through the title setting process, the civic community would be well-advised to get organized.

Colorado for Republican National Convention

Eight cities have been identified as sites for the 2016 Republican National Convention. Cities had to get
through an initial bid process. Two initial criteria are being able to accommodate 50,000 guests over a week and raise $60 million. One special challenge is the RNC’s timing. They want to hold the convention in June, a busy convention month for most host cities.

Denver is both helped and hurt by having just hosted the Democrats in 2008.  Helped because it finally got the chance to prove it could handle the accommodations, logistics, food, security, etc. for 50,000 visitors. Also, the November Obama victory seemed to confirm the Democrats’ choice. Conventions can be a vehicle of local imagery and recruitment that helps in future elections.

Denver, however, is also hurt by the recent history of the Democrats. Parties often like to move around and highlight different cities, and the recent memory of Obama in 2008 creates the likelihood of frequent references in the commentary.

Ohio, with three winning bids, looks like the frontrunner. Cleveland hosted the Republicans in 1936 and nominated Alfred Landon. They will be hoping for a better result in 2016. But, the RNC also appears interested in midsized cities and some from the West.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Russia Starts Invasion With Public Opinion Deficit

Although the U.S. has few assets in or near the Crimea to counter the Russian military invasion, Russia lacks strength in international public opinion.

The most recent Pew Research poll of favorability of Russia, China and the U.S. shows Russia with 36 percent of the public having a favorable view of them, 50 percent was garnered by China and 63 percent by the U.S.

It is the Obama administration’s strategy to use opinion of global elites and the public at large to help secure diplomatic and economic sanctions against Russia and encourage a peaceful settlement.

Although hard to gauge, Vladimir Putin clearly views himself a proselytizer for the Russian model. Being an international pariah can’t please him, and may be one more reason for him to find a solution that is less disruptive of international relations and Russia’s role in the world community.

The Obama Rally?

President Obama should receive a rally of public approval in the face of the crisis with Russia.
A patriotic surge of approval for the president and commander-in-chief in a crisis is a common phenomenon in public opinion polling. Actual combat engagement in both Iraq wars was accompanied by major rallies for public approval for both Bushes.

G.W. Bush received a 90 percent Gallup recorded approval (up from 51% in August 2001) after the Twin Towers attack, much of which he held on to far into 2002.

But, Obama may not get the normal surge due to his current unpopularity, somewhat disconcerting for the country at the moment he is facing off with the most aggressive and dangerous Russian autocrat since Nikita Khrushchev.

Obama hasn’t seen a surge in support based on a foreign policy crisis or victory in his five years, except for a modest blip after the death of Osama bin Laden of about 6 points to 50 percent, which began fading immediately.

The Gallup chart shows his approval in January of each year of his term.

Obama’s strength has been less in governing and more in campaigning. He hit his highest recent approval rating of 57 percent in December 2012, immediately after his re-election.

Shortly after the inauguration, his numbers declined until the crash from Obamacare implementation when they hit a low of 40 percent.Today, he is at 43 percent approval.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

D.C. Pundits Shift – Republicans Now Leading in Race for Senate

During the last week of February, Washington D.C.’s political and pundit classes shifted their views from a close battle for the Senate in 2014 to Republicans in the driver’s seat.

The President’s and Democrats’ weaknesses going into the election was confirmed by a New York Times/CBS News poll published on February 26, 2014 producing headlines:

The poll, conducted by a team of CBS/New York Times pollsters, including Anthony Salvanto, shows:
  • 59% of Americans say they are disappointed in Obama’s presidency
  • 41% approve of his job performance, down from 46% in January
  • 42% will back Republicans in November and 39% back Democrats

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gardner’s Entering the Race Puts Colorado in Play

February 26 marked the day Colorado’s U.S. Senate race became targeted by national Republicans and Washington D.C. pundits.

In a series of interviews, I helped describe the significance of Congressman Cory Gardner’s entrance into the race.

KOA, April Zesbaugh and Steffan Tubbs, 2-26-14:
  • Assuming a successful transition into the race, his strengths within the Republican Party and two terms in the House, when he was seen as a rising star, makes him competitive to Mark Udall.
  • Udall’s vulnerability is due to President Obama’s weak approval in Colorado (37%) and the dislike of ACA (only 37% approve of it).
  • National Republicans and Washington D.C. pundits believe Republicans can win the senate, and Colorado is now on the list.
Channel 9, Brandon Rittiman, 2-26-14:
“They’ve got at least one or more polls that show Obamacare and the president are hurting Udall, and that Udall has not established a sufficient identity after 5 years of being in the U.S. Senate,” 9NEWS political analyst Floyd Ciruli said.
Reuters, Keith Coffman, 2-27-14:
“This completely changes the dynamic of the race,” said Floyd Ciruli, an independent Denver political pollster. “Gardner will be attacked by for being extreme, but he is an affable candidate who can come across as center-right.”
A Republican has not won a statewide election to be governor or a U.S. senator in Colorado in more than a decade. But Udall, 63, is perceived as vulnerable over his support for the Affordable Health Care Act, which is unpopular in Colorado, Ciruli said.
Now that Gardner is in the race, the money will start flowing, Ciruli predicted, noting that Udall has amassed $5 million so far in his re-election war chest. Buck, campaign contribution records showed, had raised just $379,000 by the end of last year.
“Republican donors have been looking for a serious candidate to take on Udall,” he said
Greeley Tribune, T.M. Fasano, 2-26-14:
Political analyst Floyd Ciruli of Denver said the moves by Buck and Gardner will make the Republican Party stronger. 
“It’s a much stronger ticket. Buck will be very strong at the Congressional level,” Ciruli said. “I think in terms of engineering this, I think the leadership of the party here recognizes that the one thing that has been missing after this long sort of drought where they have not been able to win a top-level seat is that Cory was probably the star out there and that his entrance into the race would change the entire dynamic.”