Friday, October 30, 2015

Rocky Mountain Debate Revives Republican Race

The Republicans have a new enemy. Actually, it’s an old enemy revisited – the mainstream media. CNBC’s poor debate performance became the main story from the Colorado debate. And, the Republican presidential field relished bashing it. They gained points with Republicans and even regular viewers around the country.

Jeb Bush (L) and Marco Rubio at Republican debate in Boulder
Photo: AP/Mark J. Terrill
In spite the CNBC moderators being a distraction, the candidates appeared relaxed, competent with the subject matter, and willing to mix it up with each other and the moderators.

After two weeks of stories contrasting the Republican disarray with Hillary Clinton’s inexorable march to the nomination after a good debate performance, Biden not running and the unharmed Benghazi testimony, this debate shifted the narrative to the Republican race that still has surprises and many talented players. As Valerie Richardson reported in the Washington Times (CNBC Debate Fires Up Republican Base Over Media Bias, 10-30-15):
[Republicans] have been down because the narrative over the last two weeks has been, ‘The Democrats have their nominee, she did well before the Benghazi committee, she did well in her debate, and the Republicans are in chaos,’” said Denver-based political analyst Floyd Ciruli.
“That was essentially the narrative, and last night changed that,” he said. “You saw a little revival here.”
It’s not clear the field will be much affected. We’ll have to wait for polls, but there were winners and losers.

There is slightly over three months until voting in Iowa. Still time for lots of surprise, but the Rocky Mountain debate has given the party some new energy and new soundbites to mull.

9KUSA: Balance of Power – Jefferson County Recall Election

Photo: 9News
The million-dollar election battle in the Jefferson County School District has the attention of local and national Democrats, their labor allies, Republicans and conservative super PACs. Brandon Rittiman hosted a Balance of Power session with 9 News education specialist Nelson Garcia.

Some observations on the election:
  • Jefferson County is a battleground for suburban education reform in the county. Clearly, opponents of the type of change promoted by the new conservative board were so concerned about losing control of the school district, they mounted an unprecedented recall election. They have constructed a slate of five candidates to take total control of the district.
  • Douglas County School District coming under the control of conservatives and reformers with charter schools, not recognizing the teachers union contract and vouchers (now in court ordered abeyance), helped motivate the Jefferson County strategy. After a major 2013 effort to retake control in Douglas County failed, the Jeffco parent and union activists decided to not wait for re-election but use a recall.
  • Money is pouring into the race from labor and local liberal allies and national conservative groups, including the PAC run by the Koch Brothers.
  • This is the third school district where massive amounts of money is weighting in for essentially non-paid school board positions. Denver started the battle when local reform business groups and liberals dissatisfied with the pace of improvements took over the board to institute performance pay (although 90% of teachers get the raises), charter schools (unions really dislike alternatives to their control) and higher standards. Douglas became Colorado’s first wealthy suburban Republican county to see a reform drive from the right. Now Jefferson County, one of Colorado’s swing political counties (leaning slightly Democratic in statewide elections) is the center of the fight.
  • Schools are very big business in the suburbs. Upwards of 10 percent of voters say they or their families work in the public school system, Schools are the largest employer, paying top government salaries with lots of benefits and job protection. Jefferson County School District is the second largest in the state, just behind Denver.
  • The pro recall forces are assumed to have the election advantage.
9News: JeffCo recall gets underway
CPR: JeffCo recall election spending could be over $1 million
Denver Post: Jeffco recall supporters turn in more than 30,000 signatures
Chalkbeat Colorado: Why the tug-of-war for Jefferson County’s school board isn’t just about local classrooms
Chalkbeat Colorado: These three Jefferson County residents want to be your next school board majority
Chalkbeat Colorado: Organizers say they have double the signatures necessary for a Jeffco school board recall
Complete Colorado: 9News segment: Recall is about union control, power

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Migration Starts Moving European Politics

After an initial period of acquiesce and even welcoming, the massive and seemingly unstoppable wave of refugees from the Middle East, Afghanistan and North Africa is producing political backlash in Europe.

Angela Merkel, the popular German chancellor, has lost 10 points from her stellar 65 percent approval rating in the last month. Her initial open door policy is being overwhelmed by 10,000 migrants a day entering Germany and her Christian Democrat Union Party, at least at the grassroots, is in revolt.

Merkel is not alone in feeling the backlash as other European governments are seeing a rise in anti-migrant politics.

A recently published global survey conducted by Gallup shows that about a third of the public opinion in the nations of the world are in favor of decreasing immigration in their country. More than half of the public in European nations are in favor. In fact, Europe is more resistant to immigrants than North America.

Excerpt from executive summary of global survey on immigration:
European residents appear to be, on average, the most negative globally towards immigration, with the majority believing immigration levels should be decreased. However, there is a sharp divergence in opinions among residents in Northern and Southern Europe. The majority of adults in Northern European countries – except for those in the United Kingdom – would like immigration levels to either stay the same or increase, while most residents in Southern European countries would prefer to have lower levels of immigration to their countries. More broadly, residents in less than half of the 40 countries in the larger European region are more likely to favour decreased immigration levels than the same or higher levels.
Business Insider; This report proves that Britain is overwhelmingly anti-immigration and it could prompt Brexit
Telegraph: German MPs ‘drawing up plans’ to close borders in challenge to Merkel’s refugee policy
Xinhuanet: Anti-immigrant Pegida supports, opponents rally in Dresden
New York Times: Pressure grows on Merkel as strain from refugees increases
Washington Post: Behind Sweden’s warm welcome for refugees, a backlash is brewing
Washington Post: Think the United States is anti-immigration? It has nothing on Europe.
Breitbart: Financial Times: The end of the Merkel era is within sight
The Guardian: The observer view Europe’s lurch to the right

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Is Crime Up?

Gallup reports (Oct. 22, 2015) that Americans’ perception of the level of crime is up. Seventy percent of Americans say crime is up, a seven point increase in twelve months.

Gallup points out that public perception often doesn’t track crime statistics and is affected by gender (women tend to perceive crime rates higher) and partisanship (i.e., which party controls the White House). But, a Gallup analyst (Justin McCarthy) speculates it’s related to high-profile news reports of police shootings.

A different slant in this view was FBI director James Comey’s statement that highly publicized incidents of alleged police misconduct have led some officers to be less aggressive and a subsequent increase in the level of criminal activity. Other factors he cited were early releases of criminals from prison and cheaper street drug prices. President Obama and the White House were quick to downplay the “Ferguson effect” as unproven.

But the political implications for Democrats running for office, from local DAs to Hillary Clinton, have not been missed by the observations.

Local Denver DA candidates are dealing with media reports and activists’ claims concerning police misconduct. How far toward the activists’ position do they go in an effort to capture liberal voters before they and their party become seen as anti-police, generating potential backlash? And more importantly, how far to the left does Hillary Clinton go in her anti-gun, early release and Black Lives Matter rhetoric and policies before she undoes her husband Bill’s efforts in the mid-nineties to shake off the Democratic Party’s “weak on crime” image bequeathed on Democrats from Nixon and Reagan eras.

New York Times: F.B.I. chief links scrutiny of police with rise in violent crime
CNN: FBI chief tries to deal with the ‘Ferguson effect’
New York Post: Obama fuels the flames of the anti-cop movement
Gallup: Despite criticism, NRA still enjoys majority support in U.S.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

NRA and Planned Parenthood – Two Polarizing Organizations, But Both have Public Support

After being neglected in several presidential elections, Hillary Clinton has revived Democrats’ hostility toward guns and launched a full-scale war on the NRA. Equally passionate, the Freedom Caucus is prepared to shut down the federal government to defund Planned Parenthood. In spite of these power enemies, both organizations have public support, which is why the respective anti-gun and anti-abortion strategies are fraught with political peril.

Gallup reports that 58 percent of the American people have a favorable view of the NRA, including a record 26 percent with a “very favorable” rating. The public values the Second Amendment and see much of the gun safety and sport shooting aspects of the NRA as positive.

Of course, liberals (30% favorable) and conservatives (77% favorable) have different views as do gun owners (78% favorable) and non-gun owners (20% favorable). And, the public is closely divided on wanting new gun regulations, with 46 percent in favor and 47 percent opposed (ABC News/Washington Post 2015).

Planned Parenthood
In spite of controversy around Planned Parenthood’s abortion service and aggressive political action activity, Americans still perceive the organization favorably. Its women’s health programs, cancer screening and reproductive services for the disadvantaged are valued and the organization has a 59 percent favorable rating.

There is little support for a government shutdown over the issue (19% favor shutdown, 29% for spending cutoff – Suffolk University/USA Today 2015).  The country is slightly more pro-choice (49%) than pro-life (44%), but the difference has been close for many years (Gallup 2015).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Canada Elects Hope and Change

In a turn to the left, Canadian voters handed a landslide to a legacy candidate, Justin Trudeau. Late polls showed a Liberal Party win, but the final result was well outside the expected margin (17% possible to 34% result). His party received an absolute majority of 184 seats in a parliament that needs 170 to control.

Pierre Trudeau, Justin’s father, served as prime minister for 15 years from 1968 (the Nixon election) to 1984 (the Reagan re-election), with one short break. Justin delivered his father’s eulogy in 2000 and started the talk of his possible career in politics.

Justin Trudeau
Photo: Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press
On election night, Trudeau announced Liberals had beaten fear with hope, and 70 percent of Canadians had told pollsters they wanted change.

Justin’s Liberal Agenda
  • Legalize marijuana (use Colorado’s model)
  • Raise taxes on the 1%, lower on middle class
  • Climate change policy in 90 days after Paris summit
  • Funds and rights for indigenous people
Canadian campaigns are brief, but intense – a little over two months (78 days) with five debates. Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, saw the difficult re-election slip away at the end as the forces of change and liberalism consolidated behind the Liberal Party and Trudeau.

ABC News/Washington Post Poll Claims Obama’s Approval Rating Up

In a gravity defying movement, just as the president appears to be losing to the autocratic of the decade, the Napoleon of the Urals, Gary Langer, the pollster for ABC News and the Washington Post, claims President Obamahas just gained six percentage points of approval since July and has hit 51 percent.  The last time the President was in positive approval territory in an ABC News/Washington Post poll was in May 2013, three months after his re-election inaugural.
His RealClearPolitics average is still at 45 percent, reflecting the average of the most recent polls. Although, it is an improvement from an August 23 low of 44 percent approval and 52 percent disapproval.

Langer attributes the improvement to the economy, although he uses the phrase “likely boosted by the economy,” which means good guess, but no real evidence in this poll.

A 51 percent approval is good news for Democrats running for the senate and other offices next year and especially welcome by Clinton supporters.  Forty-five percent was on the cusp of being a drag on the ticket, but over 50 percent presidential approval helps.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Not All Millennials Will be Demonstrating at the Republican Debate

As Joey Bunch pointed out in a long Denver Post report, the youngest cohort is about to become a larger bloc of voters than the huge Baby Boomer generation (1946-1964, 74 million) and they are substantially more liberal on a number of values and issues. They like some purpose in their jobs, are idealistic in their approach to foreign policy and very progressive on America’s main social issues, for example, gay rights and immigration.

Bunch used a Pew Research survey of September 2014, which highlighted the challenges for the Republican Party.

But Millennials (born after 1980) are also very independent in their partisanship, interested in solutions to the challenges they face, especially concerning the economy. They are looking for leaders that offer a chance of accomplishing something. They were taken by President Obama’s hope and change message of 2008, but like most voters, are disappointed, and not yet sold on Hillary Clinton.

My quote in the article referenced that an interesting and accomplished personality could attract the Millennial voter:
While young people tend not to vote, they turned out strong for both Obama elections. But there isn't that kind of candidate in this election, said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli. Even Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton is old-school party establishment, he said.
With disappointment in Obama's economy, Republicans have an inroad, but they need to prove they can get something done, Ciruli said.
"My sense is that if Republicans can find a candidate with the right personality who speaks directly to (millennials) and seems like they can actually get something done with the other party, younger people would vote for that candidate," he said.
As the data shows, a third of the generation is conservative. But Millennials attending major universities are among the most liberal of the entire generation. Expect some noise at the CU debate on October 28.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Polls Show Variation in Crowded Republican Field

The multitude of Republican candidates and the small percentages that separate them shows up in the rapid movement in rank order.

A couple of recent polls have had Dr. Ben Carson ahead or tied with Donald Trump, although Trump leads by six percent in the RealClearPolitics average. Marco Rubio, who has moved up in recent polls, is now in a race for third place with Carly Fiorina.

The message is that the placement of candidates has considerable variation, although there is a discernable top tier with Trump, Carson, Fiorina and Rubio challenging; and a second tier with Bush and Cruz. A third tier barely registering in national polls has Kasich, Huckabee, Christie and Paul hanging on.

At the state level, there has been considerable repositioning. Trump is down four points on average in the first three states, although he still leads. Carson moved up to third place in New Hampshire, replacing Jeb Bush. Ted Cruz is now in third place in South Carolina where Bush has dropped to fifth. Following her national climb, Fiorina is now third in Iowa, tied with Cruz, and second in New Hampshire, replacing Kasich, who fell to fifth. Scott Walker dropped out on September 21, 2015.

Pre-Democratic Debate Polls: Clinton Leads Field, But Looks Vulnerable in General

Hillary Clinton is below her 60 percent super leads in July, but with about two-fifths of the vote in RealClearPolitics polling average, she is still the solid frontrunner.

She has a modest lead in Iowa (6 points) and continues to lag behind Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire (9 points). But beyond the first two states, there is no sense her support among rank and file or minority Democrats has collapsed. Sanders draws his biggest crowds on the coasts and the campuses.

But, Clinton has problems and they are highlighted by the Joe Biden boomlet. His moving around on the sidelines is a sign senior Democrats believe Clinton could be so wounded by the email scandal that she can’t credibly lead the party next November. That crisis, if it comes, may not happen until 2016, making a Biden entrance now very contentious since neither Clinton nor Sanders are likely to move aside.

The numbers that scare Democrats the most are from a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll that shows her losing or tied with everyone except Donald Trump. That is the second recent poll that has undermined one of her main arguments for her frontrunner status – that she can win the presidency and help Democrats win back the Senate.

Whether or not Michael Bennet goes back to the senate rests to a large extent on the President’s approval rating next year and the quality of the party’s presidential nominee and campaign.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Obama’s Syrian Policy Collapses

UN building
The September 2015 United Nations meeting in New York will be seen as the nadir of President Obama’s foreign policy. America’s and the West’s biggest adversaries – Russia and Iran – have joined with the Middle East’s least favored failed state, Syria, and perennially unstable Iraq to form a new relationship that will enhance autocracy and greatly accelerate the violence. Very little of this appears to have been known or anticipated by U.S. policymakers or intelligence services.

In Syria, Obama’s preference for diplomacy appears naive and irrelevant. His minimum military engagement appears feckless and an invitation to despots. Presidents Putin and Rouhani are now in charge of the outcome with America’s alleged ally and protectorate in tow. The collapse of President Assad’s government is halted and his survival for the foreseeable future assured.

Just to highlight the crisis of Obama’s foreign policy, the Taliban, mostly thought of as a southern regional force, just took an Afghan provincial capital, Kunduz, in the far north of the country. It reflects another failure of intelligence and calls to question the withdrawal policy that dominates the White House.

Value Proposition: Is College Worth it?

Colleges and universities around the country are concerned about the changing demographics of students, the cost and financing of school, and the disruption of technology, especially online education. But the most serious challenge may be the declining value students put on college education.

A new Gallup poll conducted with Purdue University surveyed 30,000 college graduates and found that barely half (50%) “strongly agree” their higher education was worth the cost. Among recent graduates (alums from 2015 to 2006), only 38 percent “strongly agree” their education was worth it.

Fifty-two percent of all graduates in public schools “strongly agreed” the education was worth the expense, 47 percent of private school graduates and just 26 percent of for-profit college graduates.

Nearly 10 percent of recent graduates were unemployed and nearly half were underemployed. About two-thirds of student graduates with an average of $30,000 worth of debt and only 33 percent of alumni with that level of student debt thought their education was worth it.  Delaying buying a house, getting married, having children or starting a business are related to high student debt.

The Washington Post: Is college worth the cost? Many recent graduates don’t think so.
Fortune: Is college worth it? This is what recent grads are saying.

School Politics in 2015

K-12 school politics in Colorado is largely a fight between the teachers union and right and left reform interests, each of whom have a different set of allies, but some similarity in goals. The conservatives that control the Douglas and Jefferson school boards pursue charter schools as do the liberals who control the Denver schools. And both suburban and urban reformers are opposed by the unions. But, there are stark differences.

Denver’s reformers don’t directly confront the union’s right to bargain, don’t meddle with social science or humanities curriculum and don’t advocate for vouchers. But in Douglas County, conservatives have decertified the union and institute voucher program, although it’s currently in a court challenge. Conservatives in Jefferson County have opened up union negotiations to the public, added teacher evaluations to pay, and tried to advise on history curriculum. The union and progressive activists have not been able to defeat the Douglas County Board except in court, but they have successfully mounted a recall against the three-person Jefferson County conservative majority that will be voted on in November.

In general, Colorado teachers union has been on the political defense from the right and the left for more than a decade. They are still formable, but in the Denver metro area, they have lost significant ground.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Government Shutdown is a Loser: Wise to End It

Both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner knew a government shutdown over Obamacare was a political loser in 2013, but House Republicans and a handful of senate advocates managed to force a partial shutdown of the government starting October 1.

Senator Ted Cruz, who had mounted a 21-hour filibuster in late September, was adamant and frenzied at the start. But the media coverage featured daily laments of seniors and veterans turned away from the Washington monuments and national parks being closed. The collapse of the Republican hardliners came on October 10 when a Wall Street Journal poll showed what most observers and certainly the entire Washington establishment believed – the public was rejecting the strategy in droves. They did not like the shutdown, they did not approve it as a strategy to defund Obamacare and they blamed the Republicans for it, not the President or Democrats.

And the signs were not good for Mr. Cruz and his House allies this time either. A new Pew Research poll shows, in spite of the controversy surrounding the Planned Parenthood videos, the organization maintains considerable popularity. Sixty percent of Americans want funding continued, and if the government shuts down, blame will accrue to Republicans by nearly two-to-one (40% Republicans vs. 26% Democrats) (new poll Sept. 27, 1,505 adults).

The dilemma for Hill Republicans is that their partisan constituents are strongly against Planned Parenthood funding (66% against funding), but they lose the public in general because even more Democrats favor funding (83% favor funding) and Planned Parenthood funding is winning independents by nearly two-thirds (64% of independents).

Also, this poll shows Republicans are internally divided with conservative Republicans – 78 percent against funding – but among moderate to liberal Republicans, only 39 percent are in favor of eliminating funding.

As the two polls made clear, this shutdown scenario looks much like October 2013. Pew Research, joined by a new CBS News/New York Times poll, show nearly the same percentage of Americans who were more likely to blame Republicans in 2013 will be blaming Republicans today. Leadership and rank and file were smart to end shutdown strategy.