Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Democratic National Convention

November 4 will mark not only the end of the 2014 midterm, but the beginning of serious 2016 speculation. The political parties are setting their primary and convention plans in place. Republicans have picked Cleveland, Ohio, and scheduled the event in late June or mid-July.

Democrats are preparing a primary calendar that starts February 1 with the Iowa caucus and a February 9 primary in New Hampshire (Nevada Feb. 20 and South Carolina Feb. 27).

Democrats are still in their convention site selection process, with five cities in contention – Birmingham, Columbus, New York, Philadelphia and Phoenix. I predicted Republicans would go for Ohio (Cleveland) or Texas (Dallas); Ohio won. Based on politics, I think Philadelphia may have the Democrats’ favor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Clinton Breaking With Obama’s Foreign Policy

What is motivating Hillary Clinton’s high risk break with President Obama’s foreign policy? High risk
because the very aggressive and high-profile nature of her interview in The Atlantic with Jeff Greenberg makes her vulnerable to attacks from the foreign policy left in the Democratic Party that still remembers her vote for the Iraq War. Also, it could cause alienation from Obama’s still substantial body of support within the Democratic Party.

Assuming Clinton is positioning for a presidential run in 2016 and that her foreign policy statements since her retirement from the State Department in February 2013, especially those in 2014, are mostly a product of that strategy, the following are some thoughts on the political motivation.
  • Foreign policy used to be an Obama advantage. Now, he is in trouble. His approval rating on foreign policy is 10 points below his low 40s overall approval rating. Clinton needs some distance.
  • Democrats for years were seen as weaker and less skilled in foreign policy. With the collapse of Soviet communism, Bill Clinton did not have many challenges in the 1990s. Those he faced, he was aggressive, for example, in the Bosnia and Kosovo wars. Obama inherited the Iraq War that had lost public support. His drone campaign, surge into Afghanistan and killing Osama Bin Laden gave him considerable cover from his right as he rapidly withdrew from Iraq and mostly restrained new initiatives. But world events have conspired to make his approach look ineffectual and weak. Clinton wants to be positioned as more engaged and assertive, if just as thoughtful. Also, things may get worse.
  • As the former Secretary of State, she shares responsibility for the problems just as she takes advantage of the experiences and successes. She is highlighting the differences she had with him over what is now perceived as problems.
  • Finally, while being the first woman to be seriously considered for president has many advantages in the era of identity politics and gender gaps, it still has its burdens. And, one is that a woman must show toughness to both break through the stereotype, but also in American politics to not be seen as a hardcore liberal – an old image she had in her early White House days. Foreign policy is, in Clinton’s view, the safest and most productive place to take that turn right.
Clinton’s strategy is bold and dangerous. Her opponents, Republicans and others will use it to encourage division in the party. Liberal Democrats who like Hillary, but would prefer a purer candidate, now have another excuse to shop around.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Gender Divide: Men Favor Gardner as Much as Women Favor Udall

A gender gap has been a steady advantage for the Democrats in the Obama era. Recent analyses of gender differences among partisans show a difference of 12 points and a gap benefitting the Democrats of 6 points (Center for American Women and Politics, June 2014).

The gender differences has been around and measured since the early 1980s (Reagan era) and has grown in recent years. Two of the most recent Colorado senate polls reflect that gender divide. Both taken in mid-July and both show the senate race close, and Senator Mark Udall has a significant advantage among women. But, the reason the race is so close in these polls is that Congressman Cory Gardner has just as big an advantage with men.

There is a gender difference of 29 points in the PPP poll. Udall has a 14-point advantage with women and Gardner wins men by 15 points, which means the gender gap is 1 point and it favors Gardner. Similarly with the Quinnipiac poll, the gender difference was smaller, only 21 points, but again Gardner won the gap by 3 points. He had a 12-point advantage with men compared to Udall’s 9-point advantage with women.

In these two polls, there is indeed a gender difference and women favor the Democrats. But, Mark Udall is losing men by even more. Although the gender gap is favoring Gardner, Udall may still win more votes than Gardner because more women will vote than men.

Pew Research: The gender gap: Three decades old, as wide as ever Wall Street Journal: Male-female split on economic issues promises to shape midterm elections

Friday, August 22, 2014

Udall vs. Gardner – Getting Out the Vote

Incumbent Senator Mark Udall is assumed to be slightly ahead of Republican challenger Cory Gardner. But, Udall’s success depends on overcoming a midterm turnout weakness in critical supporters. Recent polls show Udall winning Hispanics, Millennial voters and, of course, Democrats by substantial numbers. Two polls – PPP and NBC/Marist – provide some metrics on the core groups’ percentages in the electorate.

Udall’s goal is to increase his winning margin among his base groups, but also maintain or increase turnout of these groups. He needs non-Anglo voters to be approximately a quarter of the population, Democrats to be a third and Millennials to be above 15 percent.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fox News – Hickenlooper and Beauprez in Close Race

Kelly Burke, Fox cable’s local producer, assembled a piece on the Hickenlooper vs. Beauprez race that played Thursday, August 14 on Bret Baier Special Report.
The story referenced the political classes’ surprise at the closeness of the race, but pointed out that Republicans have been winning intermountain governorships since 2008. The Colorado Republican Party wars were tamer this year, helping their nominees in a state that has trended left in the last decade.
Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado pollster and political analyst, noted that Colorado governors typically get re-elected, and “John Hickenlooper really looked strong about a year and a half ago.”
“The Republicans for the first time in almost a decade managed to get through a primary with a strong candidate,” Ciruli said. “And they have united behind that candidate very quickly.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Polis Gives Up

“The ballot initiatives were heading down an unknown path and we were far from guaranteed to succeed.” Jared Polis, Denver Post, 8-9-14
Calling off Colorado’s fracking wars made national press, both due to the state being ground zero in a
growing national energy fight and because the issue had become a threat to the Democrats’ November election prospects.

The drama was primarily created by Congressman Jared Polis bankrolling a host of ballot initiatives to limit fracking. Polis has a history of using his money to promote his career and ballot issues often against the preferences of the state political establishment, including fellow Democrats.

Polis, who fancies himself as an independent, libertarian-type of politician, has also been one of the financers of the Democrats’ takeover of Colorado. Unfortunately, in early August 2014, he found that money was not going to save him from what was a series of bad political decisions. A new experience for him, but one that may pay dividends in his next career move.

Factors that caused Polis to bail out:
  • The assumption had become universal that the ballot fight would hurt Colorado Democrats in the fall. The pressure to withdraw the initiatives became overwhelming. The loss of a senate seat was especially ominous and generated considerable unflattering press for Polis in national media.
Washington Post, Reid Wilson, 8-5-14
But the big winners may be the candidates who stay on the ballot, particularly the Democrats. Hickenlooper, Sen. Mark Udall (D) and other Democrats would have been put in the difficult position of choosing between environmentalists, who are becoming an increasingly important source of campaign funds for Democratic candidates, and oil and gas industries that could spend big bucks against them.
“The Democrats have really dominated the state for close to a decade, and one reason is they weren’t divided on anything,” said Floyd Ciruli, an independent pollster based in Denver. “It would have been a very high profile argument in which the Democrats were going to be on the defensive.
“They’re very pleased that it’s become a committee of 18 that will take this off the front page,” Ciruli added.
  • The initiatives’ opponents made it clear that Polis was going to be a high-profile target of their attacks. In a preview, a full-page advertisement was placed that showed in 64-point type:
“Congressman Jared Polis is Putting Colorado Families and Communities at Risk” (Colorado Statesman, 8-1-14)
Polis initially believed he would be seen as a hero to the environmental community and the leading advocate of the environmental issue in the state, which could benefit the Democratic Party in turnout. But, he was never able to secure the trust of environmental purists and the business community, gas and oil industry, and especially the Democratic Party establishment were full in opposition, including contributing millions to defeat the initiatives.
  • Besides becoming a pariah to Colorado’s establishment, Polis was in danger of disrupting his next career move. He has been testing the waters to become part of the House Democratic leadership as the old guard represented by Nancy Pelosi transition out of the scene.
The Hill, Laura Barron-Lopez and Cameron Joseph, 8-4-14
Polis has been praised as rising Democratic star, with talk that he's in the running to be the next chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“You allegedly have this ambitious individual who wants to be a part of Democratic leadership,” Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Colorado pollster said of Polis in an interview last month.
Ciruli added that the ballot initiatives weren’t helping Polis in that regard, instead putting him at odds with the party. His decision to bury the hatchet with Hickenlooper might help show he's willing to be a team player.
  • Although environmental activities and the state’s business and political class was engaged on the issues, it is far less clear the public was. One local anti-fracking initiative simply couldn’t find the volunteers to conduct a signature campaign (Amendment 75). Polis, even paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for signature gatherers, barely got a 100,000 per initiative on August 4, a low amount for capturing 86,000 valid signatures.
And, although Polis had polls that claimed the initiatives would pass, early tests in polls often capture the public’s aspirational sentiments, which change in the onslaught of a campaign, especially one in which the state’s business, media and political/civic establishments oppose the proposals.
Complete Colorado, Valerie Richardson, 8-5-14
This was at least partially a ‘Save Polis’ activity since, number one, he may not have had the signatures, and number two, he was going to lose even if he won,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. “His career was going to come to an end right here.”
Also see:
Washington Examiner: Here’s the winner of Colorado’s dead fracking ballot initiatives
Alaska Dispatch News: Is Dems’ endangered U.S. Senate seat in Colorado safer now?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nixon: The Public Said Out

The architecture of Richard Nixon’s downfall and resignation had many protagonists: judges, lawyers, legislators, the media, his opponents and a final shove from his party. But, it was public opinion that shifted in 24 months from his landslide 1972 re-election victory over George McGovern to his party’s massive defeat in the 1974 midterm election that drove him from office and provided the definitive judgment on his performance.

Public opinion moved swiftly as the story unfolded. Gallup’s April 9, 1973 poll produced the last 50 percent approval Nixon saw, by June 23, it was the end of the 40s, at the start of December 1973, post the Agnew resignation and Saturday Night Massacre, Nixon was in the 20s, never to rise again. He left office in August 1974 at 24 percent.

As a second-year Georgetown Law student, I knew firsthand the serious legal trouble the White House was in. Sam Dash was our highest-profile professor working as chief counsel for the Senate Ervin Committee, but there were numerous others working with prosecutors and for both the Ervin and Rodino committees.

As the President’s approval was collapsing, Gallup began to ask Americans if they believed the President should be removed from office. The public came to collective decision for removal slowly. The October 1973 Saturday Night Massacre moved the impeachment number above 30 percent, but it didn’t reach the near 50-point range until Nixon was forced to release the heavily redacted tape transcripts in July 1974. The coup de grĂ¢ce was the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling for full release of the tapes and the stampede of the political establishment, including Republicans. At that point, 57 percent of the public said they supported impeachment.

Public opinion and polling was a part of the drama of a constitutional, if unprecedented, change of government.

ABC News: Public opinion and Nixon’s downfall
Pew Research: How the Watergate crisis eroded public support for Richard Nixon

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Immigration Reform Being Swamped by Children on the Border

Public opinion on immigration reform has gone south with the rush of illegal immigrant children on the Mexican border. A comparison of February and August CNN/ORC International polls show a 19-point shift from voters’ focus from a path to citizenship to stronger border security.

Republicans are using the issue in U.S. Senate campaigns in Arkansas and New Hampshire. The issue can be heard on Colorado talk radio and town hall meetings, but don’t expect to see it on the air waves. The 14 percent Hispanic voting population is a deterrent to high-profile use of anti-immigration campaign advertisements.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Is Romney the One?

Democrats are avoiding President Obama, but Republicans are welcoming Mitt Romney. Two years feels like two decades in American politics today. Romney’s presence at campaign events has been a premium this summer. His endorsement is sought and he’s still a top fundraiser.

Romney has made clear repeatedly he’s not running in 2016. But speculation has started, fueled by a few early nomination polls.

Obama has fallen so dramatically since the ACA roll-out in voter approval, Romney, who has mostly been in seclusion, beat him in a 2012 redo 53 percent to 44 percent – or 9 points of buyer’s remorse. The ACA failure and rise of Russia as a rogue state has reminded voters that Romney warned of both and was dismissed by Obama and the Democratic establishment.

Because there is hardly a frontrunner in the Republican nomination race, Romney has also led in a recent New Hampshire poll against the Republican field getting 24 percent with Governor Christie in second at 9 percent. Typically, Republicans like to go with someone who has been on the ticket before or been tested in a previous run for the nomination.
Romney, of course, would be subject to weathering attacks in an effort to reconstruct the somewhat hapless candidate of 2012. And, indeed, the same polls showing him beating Obama show him losing to Hilary Clinton by 13 points (53% to 42%). But Romney still has his assets, especially if other establishment-type candidates, such a Christie and former Governor Jeb Bush, don’t run or get sidetracked.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

75 Days: Status of Races

In less than three months, voters in Colorado will decide if the Democratic decade continues or if a national Republican wave, compounded by local Democratic overreach, causes it to be reined in. The decision will immediately have implications for the 2016 presidential election.

As of August 10, the averages of polls have the Democratic incumbents, Senator Mark Udall and Governor John Hickenlooper, in tight races, but ahead by a point. But below the top of the ticket, Democratic candidates appear in trouble. If Colorado Republicans can translate the voters’ disenchantment with Democrats’ control of government into an across-the-board protest, they could win control of the state.

As we enter the dog days of summer, major factors affecting this election are:

The Wave

There is considerable debate as to the existence of a national wave of opposition to President Obama and its effect on the election. The current consensus is that there is an effect, but it is “2010 light.” Various measures, such as the generic ballot test, voter enthusiasm and partisan preference, show a Republican advantage, but smaller compared to 2010.

One indication that a Republican advantage exists in Colorado is polls showing Republicans below the “top of the ticket” with a 5- to 10-point across-the-board advantage.


Democrats are hoping that Colorado forms a firewall against the Republican wave as it did in 2010. Senator Udall is targeting women with the Democrats’ perennial “war on women” campaign to drive up opponent Rep. Cory Gardner’s negatives and they are mounting a massive and expensive GOTV effort. But Gardner has the benefit of President Obama barely holding onto a 40 percent approval and continued opposition to Obamacare. This election will test if the voters’ decisions can be localized to overcome whatever anti-Washington and anti-Democratic trend exists.


Governor Hickenlooper appeared popular and headed to re-election after the 2012 Democratic sweep of the state, but ran into a host of problems in 2013 with Democratic legislative overreach and a death penalty decision that has left him vulnerable. Delaying the fracking fight helped his re-election and he has a reservoir of business friends, including some Republicans, and a strong economy. But, Bob Beauprez got through a Republican primary intact and has an opportunity to benefit from whatever wave develops. Still, Beauprez will likely have to shake up the race to change its trajectory.

Frack or No Frack

Colorado Democrats headed off becoming the first national test in the environmental movement’s attempt to ban fracking and align the Democratic Party with its anti-hydrocarbon wing. The impact of the fracking wars on this year’s Democratic races was assumed to be deleterious. The issue will be around for the 2016 election.

Colorado Purple, Blue or Red?

There is a general sense that if the Republicans can’t win at least one of the top races and take control of one House of the legislature, they will be relegated to long-term minority party status. Colorado is a microcosm of the party’s national problems. It remains on the defensive on a number of social issues and unattractive to some emerging voter groups. A win here will signal that Colorado’s mix of candidates, messaging and GOTV points to a solution. If Democrats survive this year, it reinforces their 2010 model of winning at the local level regardless of the how bad the public believes the party performed at the national level.

Presidential Race and Colorado

The 2016 presidential race has started. Hillary Clinton has already made clear by repeated visits she values Colorado for her 2016 presidential nomination and election. Clearly, a win in 2014 with a Democratic senator and governor will advance her agenda (Bill lost Colorado in 1996 to Bob Dole and she lost the Democratic caucus to Barack Obama in 2008). Conversely, top of the ticket Republican wins will put Colorado in play for 2016.

Monday, August 11, 2014

California a Winner – Pelosi Retires, McCarthy Majority Leader

The most powerful leaders of California’s congressional delegation just skipped a generation. As Kevin McCarthy became majority leader on August 1 at 49 years old, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (74) likely fought one of her last pre-August recess battles over immigration. In a near desperate, heated exchange with Republican Tom Marino of Pennsylvania, Pelosi broke decorum and charged across the floor of the House to confront Marino.

Contributing to her frustration is often repeated predictions that Democrats will lose seats on November 4, ending her 4-year quest to return to power. She is convinced that immigration reform is an important issue for the Democratic base in November and was searching for a way to make news.

McCarthy, in a lightening-like career, now leads the House Republicans and a small delegation of California Republicans, but on issues that are important to California beyond partisanship, he and Senator Dianne Feinstein are the most influential members.

This is the third time I’ve predicted Pelosi’s retirement. She keeps on running and she may see a 2016 Hillary Clinton’s presidential run as yet another chance to win back the speakership (Democrats winning the House is a longer shot than Clinton winning the presidency). But, assuming continued Republican control of the House, her influence will never be the same with a new Californian in the leadership.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Nixon Resigns – 40th Anniversary

Richard Nixon
On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency and returned to his home in La Casa Pacifica in
San Clemente, California, about a mile from an area I spend considerable time.

While Nixon was weak on constitutional and criminal law, he knew real estate. La Casa Pacifica has been maintained as it was when he left it in 1979. It is a magnificent home, used some as a location in the movie Frost/Nixon.

La Casa Pacifica
After a pardon from President Ford, weathering a near fatal bout of phlebitis and causing the public punishment of Republicans with a 43-member loss in November, Nixon was at the depths of his despair. It was during that dark winter and at his former Western White House that Nixon planned and staged his dogged return to prominence and some measure of respect, at least in foreign policy.

Nixon famously said: “A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits.” Nixon never quit, but he also never really made it back.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Obama is Testing New Lows

President Obama, AP photo
The Real Clear Politics average of President Obama’s approval rating is testing new lows.

His all-time average low was on December 2, 2013 when his approval was 39.8 percent and disapproval 55.9 percent, or a 16.1 percent negative gap. This, of course, was the result of the administration’s roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.

Obama recovered in early 2014 to the mid-40s (44.7% on April 21), but has since retreated to the low 40s. His average approval today is 46.6 percent and is accompanied by a 54.9 percent disapproval, producing a 13.3 percent negative gap.

Key elements in the recent slide are ACA disapproval is up, his foreign policy approval down and immigration disapproval up.

One theory is that Obama can’t go below a floor of 40 percent unless he starts to lose Democrats because of polarization and core support levels; i.e., liberals, minorities and hardcore Democrats. But, some recent polls have him in at or below 40 percent approval.

The consistently lowest result (below 40%) is produced by Reuters/Ipsos. Ironically, given its 2012 reputation as the Republican-leaning polling house, Rasmussen consistently claims Obama’s approval is at 45 percent or higher.

It is unlikely much will change before Election Day. So the observation that Obama is no help for vulnerable senate candidates remains. If his numbers stay the same, the forecasters predict a Republican pick-up between 4 and 6 seats and the chance of a 6-seat win for control of the Senate at only slightly better than 50-50.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

California is Old, But Change is in the Air

Many have noted that the California delegation is dominated by many very old leaders now either taking their leave or in likely last terms.
  • Governor Brown, ‘76 (last term, both the state’s youngest and oldest governor)
  • Dianne Feinstein, ‘81 (term up in 2018, elected in 1992, “year of women”)
  • Barbara Boxer, ‘76 (term up in 2016, elected in 1992)
  • Nancy Pelosi, ‘74 (will not win a majority in 2014, time to announce retirement?)
  • Henry Waxman, ‘74 (retiring, was Chair of Energy and Commerce, elected 1974, Watergate class)
  • George Miller, ‘69 (retiring, was Chair of Education and the Workforce, elected 1974)
Ciruli Associates 2014
Gov. Jerry Brown (L), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (M) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (R)