Friday, December 21, 2018

Shutdown and the Wall. Year Not Ending Well for Trump.

At the December 11 famous televised meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, President Trump, in one of his exuberant moments, said that the “wall” was worth a government shutdown and he will be “proud to shut down the government…I will take the mantle.” Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell worked around Trump’s shutdown impulse on December 19 with a Senate voice vote. But, Trump under pressure from his base, demanded the House pass a new resolution with $5 billion for the wall. On December 20, they did, partially to prove they could after several failed efforts. Pelosi had claimed they didn’t have the votes. She even inspires Republicans to extra efforts.

House rebels (Freedom Caucus, such as Jim Jordon and Mark Meadows) and his far-right wing supporters – Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Breitbart and Drudge – began criticizing Trump and Republicans and advocating a veto and holiday shutdown. They completely captured Trump and the White House and there may well be a shutdown into the new year.

The reality of the politics is that the wall is good for a segment of Trump’s base, but not much else and has considerable downsides. Most Republican leadership believe the wall is a presidential promise devoid of much real benefit for U.S.-Mexico border security and doesn’t have the support of the public. And, under no condition is an extra $3.4 billion for a construction project worth shutting down the U.S. government over the holidays. But, of course, arguing for the hardliners is that next year the House, under Democratic control, will be even less hospital to President Trump’s wall. The latest polls show:

The Trump Correction. Dow Off 4000 Points Since October 3rd

The Dow, largely in tandem with other indexes, is deep in correction territory (off 16%, with 10% a correction). In fact, the technology-heavy NASDAQ is more than 20 percent off its recent high (22%), or a bear market. The Dow has given up more than half of the 7000 points of gain since Donald Trump was elected in November 2016. As the holiday break begins, the Dow has fallen 4383 points since its all-time high of 26828 hit on October 3 of this year. That’s a steep decline, much like the unbelievable ascent from 19000.

As the chart below shows, the Dow is now back to October 2017.

President Trump has relished taking credit for the market, especially as the politics of Washington during his first two years have been so chaotic and his character so confrontational. As 2018 ends and the presidential race begins in 2019, it appears Trump will not have a market as a talking point or a distraction for other problems.

Although the American economy continues to appear robust, and few economists see a recession, a host of warning signs are producing volatility and a more risk adverse investor.
  • The Fed and other central banks are raising rates and reducing monitory stimulus
  • Economies around the world are slowing, markets around the world are off and commodity prices declining (oil at $46 a barrel)
  • Trade tensions with China and other U.S. partners are increasing
In terms of U.S. politics, nothing as 2019 begins appears calming for markets, Trump’s White House is ever more chaotic as Democrats prepare to take over the House, the Mueller investigation grinds along to an expected 2019 conclusion and Congress appears unable to reach a deal to keep the U.S. government open.

Read The Buzz:
Market Tops 26616 in January; Dow Drops 2600 Points – Correction Territory
The Color of Green
Trump Rally is Over

Mattis Resigns With Blast at Trump’s Leadership

In my blog on November 3, “We Are Going to Miss Mattis,” I highlighted Mattis’ advocacy of the rule of law in the Khashoggi murder and the importance of alliances based on trust and honesty. But, the post also cited his likely imminent departure. His influence was diminished and the Commander in Chief had disparaged him in an interview (Win or Lose, Trump is Changing the Team, Nov. 1, 2018).

He is not alone in his departure. A host of top officials are out as 2019 begins. Attorney General Jeff Sessions pushed out, John Kelly eased out and Nikki Haley resigns on good terms. It’s assumed Kirstjen Nielsen will be eased out soon.

Mattis “retired” according to President Trump. In fact, his resignation letter made clear he quit over major policy disagreements with the President and his national security team. The letter never praised nor thanked Trump, but highlighted specific criticism for Trump’s alliance policy, especially with NATO, and his approach toward “malign actors and strategic competitors.”

The key paragraph:
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.

Mattis, as opposed to most senior officials departing the Trump administration, was ahead of the President’s tweet and framed the issue to his specification. Some language follows:

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. 

…we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances. NATO's 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

China and Russia:
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model - gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and security decisions - to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

Respect for Allies, Clear-eyed About Adversaries:
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Read full resignation letter here

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Senate Says “No” to Trump on Khashoggi and Yemen War

President Trump and his top representatives, Secretary of State Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mattis, were told as clearly as possible that their Middle East policy related to Saudi Arabia cannot be guided by Trump’s view of foreign policy stripped of America’s historic commitment to human rights and rule of law.

The Senate also, reflecting the midterm vote and repeated polls, began to assert a more aggressive oversite of the administration’s foreign policy. They passed a resolution condemning Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi (unanimous support) and a second resolution ending U.S. military support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen (passed 56 to 41). (See The Buzz: John Brennan and CIA Director Gina Haspel, 12-7-18)

Although the sense of the foreign policy establishment is that the administration is correct about the importance of the Saudi-U.S. relationship, there is a considerable disagreement whether it should be the centerpiece of a Middle East strategy and if MBS is likely to be a reliable partner. But, there is near universal disapproval of Trump’s articulation of a crass “America First” imperative and his distortion of the intelligence community’s judgement of the facts of the murder and MBS’s involvement.

The latest polls indicate that the Khashoggi affair may reflect as big a defeat for Trump’s foreign policy credibility as the Helsinki Summit with President Putin last summer.

Polling results on the Khashoggi murder:

  • 52% - disapprove the way Trump is handling the U.S. Saudi relationship (CNN poll, N1015, Dec. 6-9, 2018)
  • 60% - don’t believe the Saudi government’s story about Khashoggi’s death (YouGov, Oct. 24, 2018)
  • 66% - U.S. response hasn’t been tough enough on Saudi Arabia’s role (CNN poll, N1015, Dec. 6-9, 2018)
  • 77% - believe there should be a consequence for Saudi Arabia’s actions (Quinnipiac, N1148, Dec. 12-17, 2018)

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Is 2019 a Year for Democracy?

Will 2019 be the year that the American system reasserts its Democratic foundation? The midterm election was the first sign that the failure of Congress to say no to President Trump beyond a few dissident Republican voices (e.g., McCain, Flake, Corker) was coming to an end. The national congressional vote provided Democrats with 40 seats and control of appropriations, authorization and investigative committees and functions. The pass in the House is over.

But, there are other signs democracy is back. Forty-four former U.S. senators published a well reported letter in the Washington Post in early December, including four from Colorado – Gary Hart, Tim Wirth, Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Mark Udall (where were Wayne Allard and Hank Brown?), urging current members of the Senate to be “steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy.”

Excerpts to Senate colleagues
44 Senators
December 10, 2018

As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security.
. . .
We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld.
. . .
At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.
Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest.

Along with ten Republicans, including D’Amato (NY), Danforth (MO), Simpson (WY) and Warner (VA), the 32 Democrats included many moderates, such as Bayh (Ind.), DeConcini (AZ) and Nunn (GA).

Read letter here

Perlmutter Wins, DeGette Loses

The Democratic House election of their leaders for the 2019-20 session has provided the platform that picked winners and losers in Colorado’s delegation and likely will affect party politics of 2020.

Nancy Pelosi will be the Speaker, and although that has been assumed for weeks in spite of a handful of dissidents, Ed Perlmutter, one of the hold-outs, managed to craft the compromise that the party has been looking for. According to the Perlmutter formula, Pelosi will serve no more than two additional terms. She initially resisted a term-limit, arguing it would hurt her clout to represent the House and ability to control the caucus. But, two terms pushes the date after the next election and secures her position of authority.

Perlmutter, who had a mercurial 2017 with his ill-fated announcement and withdrawal for governor, is now back in position as the leader of the delegation.

Unfortunately for Diana DeGette, Colorado’s longest serving member, her ambition to become the Democratic Caucus Whip was stymied quickly by the previous Whip, Jim Clyburn (currently Assistant Democratic Leader), and his allies in the Black Caucus. Clyburn, who will return to the Whip job when Democrats take over, just removed DeGette from the Deputy Whip position she’s held for 14 years. After 11 terms, the undercurrent among Denver Democrats suggesting it’s time for her retirement is likely to get louder.

Hence, Perlmutter is now a frontrunner to take on Senator Gardner, if he’s interested, and DeGette may be nearing the end.

Ed Perlmutter and Diana DeGette

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Democratic Frontrunners: The Three B’s – Biden, Bernie and Beto

The first Des Moines Register poll is out (with CNN), and of the 30 or so Democrats running for president, twenty were tested and Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke are at the top of Iowan Democrats’ preference. It is more than a year ahead of the first in the nation’s Iowa caucus, but the polls are starting as are the campaigns (Hickenlooper had 1%).

Biden’s early advantage is that he simply has the top name identification, but he also represents the pragmatic, we need experience concern that Democrats have given President Trump is the non-stop attack campaigner.

Sanders hasn’t stopped campaigning after losing to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has a base of more independent and younger voters who like his outside status and generous plans for reshaping America. Although his views appear somewhat antiquated, like a dog-eared copy of “Das Kapital,” they received a shot in the arm from the out of left field win of socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the 2018 New York primary.

Beto O’Rourke is the Obama of the 2019 field. He ran a spectacular, although losing race in the state Democrats would most like to win - Texas. He has looks and a manner that draws crowds, and possibly most important, he collected millions of dollars of donations online and from national donors.

Needless to say, it’s early with a massive field of candidates. If 2016 was a surprise, both for the path to nomination and the election results, this one will likely be just as unpredictable.

CNN: Iowa Poll: First poll of likely caucusgoers finds Biden, Sanders, O’Rourke atop the field tweet

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

W. Delivers a Great Speech

Many saw President George W. Bush deliver his eulogy for his dad at the National Cathedral, but it also reads well. I’ve linked to it. Bush sends out a weekly newsletter from his presidential library. The peroration was strong and emotional. And, it had a message for 2020.

Last Friday, when I was told he had minutes to live, I called him. The guy who answered the phone said, “I think he can hear you, but hasn’t said anything most of the day. I said, “Dad, I love you, and you’ve been a wonderful father.” And the last words he would ever say on earth were, “I love you, too.”

To us, he was close to perfect. But, not totally perfect. His short game was lousy. (Laughter.) He wasn’t exactly Fred Astaire on the dance floor. (Laughter.) The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. (Laughter.) And by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us. (Laughter.)

Finally, every day of his 73 years of marriage, Dad taught us all what it means to be a great husband. He married his sweetheart. He adored her. He laughed and cried with her. He was dedicated to her totally. 

In his old age, dad enjoyed watching police show reruns, volume on high (laughter), all the while holding mom’s hand. After mom died, Dad was strong, but all he really wanted to do was to hold mom’s hand, again.

George H.W. and Barbara Bush | Photo:
Of course, Dad taught me another special lesson. He showed me what it means to be a President who serves with integrity, leads with courage, and acts with love in his heart for the citizens of our country. When the history books are written, they will say that George H.W. Bush was a great President of the United States – a diplomat of unmatched skill, a Commander in Chief of formidable accomplishment, and a gentleman who executed the duties of his office with dignity and honor.

In his Inaugural Address, the 41st President of the United States said this: “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it. What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us? Or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment there to trade a word of friendship?”

Well, Dad – we’re going remember you for exactly that and so much more.

And we’re going to miss you. Your decency, sincerity, and kind soul will stay with us forever. So, through our tears, let us see the blessings of knowing and loving you – a great and noble man, and the best father a son or daughter could have.

And in our grief, let us smile knowing that Dad is hugging Robin and holding mom’s hand again.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Colorado Politics: Dems Circle Overhead, Eyeing Colorado’s Cory Gardner as Their Prey

The D.C. Democratic political establishment believes Cory Gardner’s senate seat is winnable and the race is on. Election 2020 is expected, at least in Colorado, to look a lot like 2018 – high turnout, many young, women and independents voting with Donald Trump on the ballot, no more popular than in 2018 to a substantial majority of Colorado voters. Democrats will also have the benefit of a newly installed majority controlling the governor’s mansion, both houses of the legislature and the constitutional offices, all pulling for the ticket.
Senator Cory Gardner | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In a Colorado Politics article, I review the challenges facing Gardner with the caveat that he is the best statewide candidate Republicans have fielded since Bill Owens.

The outline of Senator Cory Gardner’s re-election contest has already taken shape. The key elements are near-constant speculation that he is the most endangered Republican up in 2020 in the U.S. Senate. A host of wannabe candidates promoting their own brands or causes have announced their intention to challenge Gardner, and top candidates are engaged in behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

Gardner shares most vulnerable honors with Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama, depending on the analyst. A review of Colorado’s history of federal elections this century reinforces Republicans’ sense of anxiety and Democrats’ anticipation.

Friday, December 7, 2018

John Brennan and CIA Director Gina Haspel

CIA Director Gina Haspel was on her way to brief the U.S. Senate on the Khashoggi murder when she and former CIA Director John Brennan walked past George H.W. Bush’s casket and were pictured together. Hopefully, the President either missed the picture or doesn’t assume Brennan was part of any briefing. Trump is not a Brennan person.

John Brennan and Gina Haspel

Haspel may be in trouble, even without the Brennan walk-by. She was complimented by senators from both parties on her candid assessment of the Khashoggi murder and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s responsibility. President Trump simply wants the story to go away. He’s decided. The alliance is transactional and Iran arms sales, jobs and oil supersede intelligence service assessments or the value of U.S. moral leadership. Trump summed up the intelligence on MBS as “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t” know about the event.

The senators that heard Haspel’s assessment mostly disagreed. Lindsey Graham, always pungent, said there was “zero chance” the Crown Prince wasn’t’ involved in Khashoggi’s death. “There’s not a smoking gun. There’s a smoking saw,” a reference to the discredited earlier presentation by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Mattis said there was “no smoking gun.” They both mostly simply repeated the President’s position that the relationship with Saudi Arabia was too important to disrupt over the Khashoggi affair.

The administration’s problem is that a large bipartisan group of senators don’t agree and are insisting on something happening to express the U.S. government’s outrage.

Bob Corker R
Lindsey Graham R
Rand Paul R
Richard Shelby R
Richard Durbin D
Robert Menendez D
Christopher Murphy D
Chuck Schumer D

The main target of recompense is American support for the Yemen War. While the Senate may only have resolutions, which are mostly gestures, the House Armed Services Committee in January, after the Democrats take over, is likely to be very unhospitable to funding the war.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

DU Hosts the Secretaries of State

Kerry and Albright Concerned About the State of Democracy, But Optimistic About Next Generation

The University of Denver hosted Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and John Kerry at their annual Korbel School dinner on November 29.
(L to R) DU Chancellor Chopp, Floyd Ciruli,
Madeleine Albright and John Kerry

In a conversation I moderated, Albright, who just published a book on the history of fascism
(“Fascism: A Warning”), bemoaned the rise of authoritarian leaders in Eastern Europe and most recently in Brazil, at the very moment America was abandoning its historic leadership of democracy. Kerry said “Our democracy is troubled and that the norms and values that we as a people were raised with are being violated.” He offered three needed remedies for American democracy related to limiting money in politics, ending gerrymandering and securing voter access.

In the nearly hour-long discussion, they both emphasized the need for women and young people to participate in politics and policymaking. They were optimistic the recent midterm elections reflected a revival of the activism of previous youth movements for the environment and against the Vietnam War. I pointed out that the Colorado midterm elections saw a record level of turnout and participation by women and Millennial voters and a result that mirrored the 1974 Watergate election.

The dinner attracted 500 and included former Senators Gary Hart and Hank Brown. Senator Michael Bennet gave John Kerry the Korbel School’s International Bridge Builder Award.

(L to R) Floyd Ciruli, John Kerry and Madeleine Albright

Denver Post: John Kerry, Madeleine Albright slam Donald Trump’s foreign policy at Denver event
DU: John Kerry and Madeleine Albright share messages of optimism at 20th Korbel Dinner

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Did Coloradans Shift to the Right on Ballot Issues? Not Necessarily – Colorado Politics

The midterm election has provided a treasure trove of data on the transformation of Colorado politics due to generational change, new issues and Donald Trump. A comparison of local ballot returns and the defeated state tax results highlights that Colorado voters in the 2018 election were not anti-tax, but selective on taxes favoring local initiatives over statewide efforts.

Colorado Politics published my latest column on the 2018 ballot issues here

CIRULI | Did Coloradans shift to the right on ballot issues? Not necessarily

Although most Colorado voters opposed new statewide taxes for schools and roads in the recent election, they were much more supportive of local tax proposals for schools, special districts and some county and municipal projects. Amendment 73, the $1.6 billion school funding proposal based on an income tax increase for upper-income taxpayers, lost statewide by 46 to 54 percent. Proposition 110, the highway bond proposal based on a sales tax increase, lost 41 to 59 percent.

But, Colorado voters are not reflexively anti-tax. They are selective in their choices, and in many cases, generous with local school districts, special districts, municipalities, counties and some special programs. That includes Republican and Democratic-leaning counties that voted against the statewide ballot issue. The following chart displays five counties, their nearly unanimous opposition to Amendment 73 and Proposition 110, but “yes” support for a host of local tax increases, some of them substantial. Schools were especially successful in their mill levy override and bond proposals, but municipal TABOR override and bond approvals and special district tax increases, such as urban drainage and flood control districts, also won voter support.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Warning: Donald Trump is 43 Percent in Colorado

The 2020 warning light is flashing for Colorado Republicans. Donald Trump, who will be running non-stop the next two years for re-election, has a ceiling in Colorado of 43 percent. He received 43 percent against Hillary Clinton, a candidate he regularly disparages as a totally inadequate campaigner. Walker Stapleton ended up with 43 percent in his statewide gubernatorial race. He lost by a remarkable 10 points, which may have ballooned at the end due to President Trump’s “embrace” in a Monday before Election Day tweet.
Trump embrace: “…His opponent, Jared Polis, is weak on crime and weak on borders – could never do the job. Get out and VOTE – Walker has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”
Trump was a disaster for Colorado Republicans, not only giving Democrats control of all the state’s constitutional offices, but also both houses of the legislature, the first time it’s been accomplished in Colorado since Franklin D. Roosevelt crushed Alf Landon in the 1936 landslide. The 2018 losses even exceeded the Watergate backlash that brought Dick Lamm, Gary Hart, Tim Wirth and Democrats in the Colorado House into power. But, as opposed to this year, the Republican Secretary of State and Republican controlled State Senate survived.

The Trump down draft also swept out numerous local county Republican elected officials (commissioners, sheriffs, clerks, assessors) in counties, such as Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson and Larimer.

The most vulnerable Republication now is Senator Cory Gardner, who won by 2 points in 2014, a good Republican year. Expect a fierce contest setting records beyond the massive amounts spent this year. The Republican challenge is how to hold the senate seat and conduct local elections with Donald Trump anxious to embrace.

SCFD Has a Birthday Party – 30 Years Old

The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) is throwing a party Wednesday night at 6:00 pm at McNichols Civic Center Building. It was 30 years ago this month that voters in the Denver metro counties voted by 75 percent to create the district and start funding the region’s small and large arts organizations.

John Wenzel and the Denver Post highlight the accomplishment in his Sunday article, “Three Decades of Collaboration.” Rob Johnson, SCFD board chair, pointed out access and collaboration have been hallmarks for the district:

“‘What has made SCFD special and unique nationally is the collaboration and access.’ Johnson  noted a project between the Butterfly Pavilion and the Colorado Ballet called ‘Metamorphosis Moves’ in which students from first to sixth grade ‘dance and move to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly.’ ‘With our focus on access, many across our region can afford to visit attractions and experiences they might not otherwise be able to afford.’”

The Buzz
Wenzel referenced the website, The Buzz, for a couple recent posts celebrating the SCFD’s history and accomplishments.

“The latest study released in early November showed a substantial increase in economic impact in just the last two years, now reaching $1.9 billion, up 8 percent with 11,820 cultural jobs,” wrote pollster and founding SCFD consultant Floyd Ciruli on his website, citing the CBCA’s recently released study, which has been conducted every two years since 1992. “The SCFD-supported organizations attract 15 million people and 4.3 million school children, who mostly attend events free due to the cultural subsidy.”

Gov. Roy Romer signed the legislation creating the district on July 1, 1987, Ciruli said. The supporters who were gathered around his desk could hardly have imagined that SCFD would this year be on track to distribute $60 million in taxpayer funds exclusively for arts, culture and science.

Many of the original founders will join the event, along with hundreds of the Denver volunteers, staffs and civic leaders who have kept the district a success for 30 years.

SCFD Community Celebration and Awards
Wednesday, November 28
6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
McNichols Civic Center Building

Popsicle the SCFD mascot | Stephanie Wolf/CPR News

Monday, November 26, 2018

Kellyanne Predicts “Blue Wave” was Exaggeration from Discredited Pollsters

Kellyanne Conway is President Trump’s champion of snark, especially for elections where Trump is in trouble.

In Politico on October 10, to explain away polls that showed Democrats winning the midterm House election by 7 points and predicting they would pick up at least 23 seats to win a majority, she went back to her and Trump’s tired trope of the 2016 election polls: “Let’s not forget the same geniuses that predicted a huge romp by ‘that woman’ who lost in 2016 are the same people predicting a huge win by the Democrats this time.”

Kellyanne Conway | Alex Wong/Getty
Kellyanne, a pollster herself, probably knew better, but in any event, was dead wrong. Democrats won at last count 39 seats and are debating who should be their Speaker. They beat the Republicans by 8.6 million votes, capturing 53.1 million, or a win of 8 points, the same as the generic ballot test, which varied between 7 and 8 points the last month. NBC News reports it was the largest House margin for Democrats since the Republican Watergate debacle in 1974.

National pollsters and pundits also predicted the Republicans would hold the Senate.

Polls in Colorado were on the mark and polls caught the right side of senate races in Nevada, Montana, Tennessee and Texas. But, they missed Republican senate wins in Missouri, Indiana and late counting Florida. Polls underreported Democratic House strength in California. But mostly, misses were within the margin of error and, all in all, a very good night for the profession and not very good for Kellyanne.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Colorado Republicans Lose Local Leaders

The November 6, 2018 midterm election wasn’t just devastating for Colorado Republicans in statewide and legislative races, the Trump rejection and straight ticket Democratic voting went deep into county races.

Not only were the Republican sheriffs of Adams and Arapahoe counties defeated, but so were a host of county clerks, assessors and commissioners in the Front Range counties. The losses tended to be in counties with a history of Republican local control, but that had Democratic wins in recent statewide elections, such as for president, senators and the governor. The 2018 sweep was just too powerful and deep, and many local Republican county officeholders succumbed.

Each of the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson and Larimer gave Jared Polis and the rest of the Democratic ticket victories at least equal to candidates’ statewide averages, had a high turnout and pushed Republican incumbents out, sometimes in close votes.

DU Post-Election Event Draws Crowd to Discussion of Midterm Election and What it Means

The Korbel School hosted a post-midterm presentation with Ambassador Christopher Hill and Professor Floyd Ciruli to update their analyses after the 2016 election. The presentation described the mixed national results, the end of one-party government in Washington and the extraordinary sweep of Colorado offices by the Democrats.

The event, which attracted 150 students, alumni and metro residents, was co-sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Office of Global Engagement. The impact on the administration’s ability to conduct foreign policy due to a Democratic House of Representatives was a focus of discussion. Hill described the Congressional hearing process for a foreign services officer. I suggested that House Democrats now have a mandate to restrain the President and will have to implement it in a fashion that is seen as reasonable by the public.

With the conclusion of the midterms, we both expected the presidential election will now accelerate and controversies surrounding American foreign policy will be one of the issues candidates will have viewpoints on and electorates will expect to hear.

Read The Buzz: Korbel School Post-Election Event Attracts More than 250 Alumni, Professors and Students

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

NBC News: Colorado No Longer a Swing State – It’s Democratic

Chuck Todd | Photo: NBC News
Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and network researchers announced the obvious, but with clarifying summary charts. Ohio appears a much more Republican state having elected a Republican governor to replaced John Kasich and holding a couple of Republican congressional seats.

Colorado, on the other hand, gave Hillary Clinton a 5-point win in 2016, and this year, defeated a Republican incumbent congressperson by 11 points and elected a Democratic governor by 10 points.

NBC also pointed out that Colorado has a surfeit of metrics that suggest Democrats will be in power for at least as long as President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. For example, 39 percent of Coloradans have a four-year college degree, reflecting it being the second highest educated state in the country. College educated voters prefer Democrats by 20 percentage points.

Missing may be the most important factor in Colorado’s recent high turnout election – Millennials. Ballot returns reported they were 32 percent of the electorate and polls showed they voted for Democrats by 20 points (pre-election and national exit polls). Colorado also has a surfeit of independents. They were 34 percent of the electorate and polls showed they favored Democrats nationally by 12 points and in Colorado by more than 20 points.

Arizona appears now to be a swing state for the 2020 election. The point was one we’ve made in numerous articles and op eds that there wasn’t so much of a wave, but a realignment of our deep divisions.

Five Hundred Cultural Supporters Celebrate the Economic Impact of SCFD funding

SCFD Economic Impact Nears Two billion

Every two years since 1992, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts (CBCA), in partnership with the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), conducts a study on the economic impact of the arts and cultural organizations funded by the SCFD in the seven-county metro area.

The latest study released in early November showed a substantial increase in economic impact in just the last two years, now reaching $1.9 billion, up 8 percent with 11,820 cultural jobs. The SCFD supported organizations attract 15 million people and 4.3 million school children, who mostly attend events free due to the cultural subsidy. (The study uses 2017 and 2015 data for its comparisons.)

The Denver metro area is now one of the outstanding cultural regions in the country, drawing thousands of new residents, especially Millennials, to the community’s diverse cultural offerings. The SCFD has helped fund a rich and deep cultural experience in the region with lively, quality exhibits and performances.

Ciruli Associates produced the first economic impact study in 1992 in partnership with the CBCA and accounting firm, Deloitte & Touche. The growth in metro residents participating in cultural programs and the accompanying economic benefits have been extraordinary. Attendance of adults has doubled in the 25 years and children increased four times. Economic impact, with its employment component, is the major boost for the region’s hospitality and tourism industry.

While the population of the Denver metro area increased by 53 percent in the 25 years, the main features in the cultural district’s impact more than doubled. The increased impact on the economy and children greatly exceeds the region’s investment from the SCFD sales tax.

Colorado Public Radio produced a feature on the 30-year anniversary of the SCFD with host Ryan Warner and reporter Stephanie Wolf. Listen here

Popsicle the SCFD mascot | Stephanie Wolf/CPR News

Friday, November 16, 2018

DU and the Korbel School Host Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright at Annual Dinner

Chancellor Rebeca Chopp announced the 20th annual Korbel Dinner will feature Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright. The annual event is a fundraiser for the school’s graduate programs.

Secretary Kerry will receive the International Bridge Builder Award. I will moderate a discussion between Kerry and Secretary Albright of their unique perspectives and current international politics.

The Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the nation’s most respected schools of international relations and one of DU’s largest graduate and undergraduate programs.

The event will be a dinner and program on November 29, 2018 at the Denver Hyatt Regency. For more information, click here 

U.S. Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright,
Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2013 | State Department photo

Record Turnout: Unaffiliated Voters Beat Partisans

I appreciate those occasions a prediction hits the mark. We projected record turnout of 2.5 million in an October 22 blog post, and the most recent count from the Secretary of State reports 2,581,426 midterm votes cast. Nationally, with 61.9 percent turnout compared to eligible voters, Colorado was the second highest state in voter turnout just behind Minnesota. That represents a 76 percent turnout of 3,379,992 active registered voters and 64 percent of total active and inactive registrations.

Historically, slightly more than 2 million voters turned out for the 2014 midterm election (71 percent), which had a U.S. Senate race accompanying the usual governor and state constitutional office races. It was a very successful year for Republicans. Republican Cory Gardner won the senate race against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republicans won the three constitutional offices of Attorney General, Treasurer and Secretary of State. They also won one seat in the State Senate and gained control. They lost the governorship with the re-election of John Hickenlooper.

But in this year’s high turnout, Democrats dominated Republicans. Thirty-six thousand more Democrats voted than Republicans, but the surprise was the 878,360 unaffiliated voters, which exceeded Democrats by 29,000 voters. High turnout among Democrats, and exceptional unaffiliated turnout, contributed to the Democratic sweep. Colorado’s massive turnout reflected the strong desire among many voters to send a message to President Trump and Washington; the Democratic Party’s well-funded push for voters, especially the unaffiliated and new voters; and a surfeit of competitive, high-profile statewide and legislative races.

Read The Buzz: Midterm voting starts, record turnout expected

Thursday, November 15, 2018

New House Leadership Will Make a Difference

In an opening interview, Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services, makes clear he holds dramatically different views from the current chair, Mac Thornberry of Texas, and in opposition to much of the President’s and the Pentagon’s actions and plans.
Rep. Adam Smith | Twitter photo

More Information

“On issue after issue, they have made conspicuous decisions to roll back transparency and public accountability precisely when we need it most. Remedying this imbalance by bringing back oversight and accountability should be one of Congress’s major defense priorities.”

Leaner Budgets

“…Democrats will cut defense spending if they took power.” “In April, he warned Defense Secretary James Mattis that the Pentagon needed to plan for a lean future.”

Out of Yemen

End U.S. participation in the war in Yemen.

No New Nukes

“The biggest thing for me is I do not agree with diving into a nuclear arms race with Russia and China. The amount of money that we’re proposing to spend on nukes, I think, is both excessive and the wrong policy, without question.”

No Space Force

“What is the most cost-effective way to give space the emphasis it deserves? I know it is not a Space Force.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

“Too Bad, Mike”

President Donald Trump made clear he felt no sympathy for fellow Republicans who lost after failing to “embrace him,” in spite of them having voted for much of his agenda and who lost re-elections primarily due to his low popularity and divisive campaign. “I feel fine about it,” referring to candidates who didn’t want to “embrace.” Trump believes his support in the races would have secured their victory, similar to the few favored senate candidates who won.

“Too bad, Mike,” Trump said referring to Colorado’s Mike Coffman. He is wrong. Trump had a negative 20-point approval rating in the Sixth District and got only 41 percent against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Coffman won 43 percent this year. Trump was simply too much baggage for candidates in suburban swing districts. His embrace was political doom for a host of incumbent Republicans in 2018.

President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference
at White House, Nov. 7, 2018 | Evan Vucci/AP
Republican Rep. Mike Coffman addresses Colorado GOP watch
party  at the Denver Marriott South at Park Meadows after
conceding the race for the Colorado 6th District to Democratic
challenger Jason Crow | Andy Colwell/Gazette

Colorado Republicans Swept by Blue Tide

The Denver Post featured my guest commentary as their lead in its Sunday Perspective section. It serves as a bookend to my column of September 16, titled: “Hold on: Political rumblings afoot. Colorado political could be shaken to its core this November.” The cover graphic for Sunday’s column is an elephant exiting out a door with the caption:

Exit right, please: The political divide in Colorado deepened in this election as voters showed a score of Republicans the door 

Jeff Neumann, The Denver Post; photo by Thinkstock by Getty Images

The 2018 midterm election brought not just a wave but a widening gulf as Americans parted and divided into distinct camps. In Colorado voters rode that swell and moved the state deeper into the blue. While nationally the Democratic wave was not as big as some predicted, it was more than enough to capture control of the U.S. House and deliver the message President Donald Trump and his administration need restraint.

Read The Buzz blog: Colorado politics could be shaken to its core this November

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Pelosi: Stay or Go?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news
conference on Capitol Hill, Nov. 7, 2018 | J. Scott Applewhite/AP
After advocating that Nancy Pelosi should retire at the beginning of each new Congress since her loss of the Speakership in 2010, I’ve just been quoted suggesting that now is a moment her experience and gravitas is needed by the party.

Democrats have new power and a mandate from the public to rein in the administration, but how that is done will require great skill. A gaggle of House Committees, all launching investigations with no accompanying legislative strategy, will simply hand President Trump a new image to label Democrats a mob damaging the country and economy. The large freshman class has many liberals anxious to take on the administration and fulfill some of their more controversial constituencies’ desires. The House will be in need of discipline.

As I said to Jeff Barker in the Baltimore Sun after the election:

Among House Democrats, Pelosi “has the arguments of raising money and knowing the system,” Ciruli said. While a faction of the party is calling for new leadership, Pelosi might be appreciated for her ability “to rein in an incredibly tough president without making him look sympathetic,” he said.

Managing a House of 435 members and a caucus of 230 Democrats is very serious work. Pelosi backed up President Obama for six years as Minority leader and took on Trump for two. For all her image baggage, she’s ready.

However, Gallup reports Democrats are ready for a change. By 56 percent to 39 percent, Democrats say it’s time to replace Pelosi. A number of newly elected Democratic congresspersons pledged in their campaigns to not support her for Speaker. A few senior Democrats, like Colorado’s Ed Perlmutter, are trying to organize a challenge. And, of course, Pelosi is a foil for nearly every Republican campaign.

Most likely, Democrats will bring some new faces into leadership. It’s also possible, like John Boehner, she may step down before the next election cycle in 2020, but for now, Democrats should be cautious in this selection.

9NEWS Called Brauchler at 11:00 pm Tuesday

There were few surprises in an election that was mostly called by 8:30 pm Election Night. When Secretary of State Wayne Williams began the night behind, it was the first indicator that the surge of new midterm voters was sending a message, not sorting through the qualifications of candidates.

The only race that remained close, although still with the Democrat ahead, was for Attorney General. At 11:00 pm, as the 9NEWS election team reviewed the night’s show, a voter refresh from the Secretary of State website showed the race separating by another 10,000 votes (George Brauchler was more than 40,000 behind), and  knowing that Denver and Boulder were still counting ballots and that Brauchler lost his home county, I called the race. Indeed, final votes trended Democratic, and he lost by 148,000.

Phil Weiser immediately announced his victory. Brauchler held out hope, but conceded Wednesday morning. Weiser had a narrow win in his primary, which I called for 9NEWS. He picked a good year and is a lucky politician.

Colorado attorney general Democrat candidate Phil Weiser and his wife, Dr. Heidi
Wald, take the stage after his win during the Democratic watch party in downtown Denver, Nov. 6, 2018 | AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post
Colorado attorney general Republican candidate George Brauchler at the
Colorado GOP watch party, Nov. 6, 2018 | Jesse Paul/The Colorado Sun

The Buzz: How Phil Weiser and the AG race was called
Colorado Politics: Election 2018: Democrats win all statewide offices
9News: Democrat Phil Weiser has defeated George Brauchler to become Colorado’s next attorney general

Monday, November 12, 2018

Cory Gardner is Up and it Will Be Ugly

Cory Gardner is celebrating the Republican Senate victory, which, he, Mitch McConnell and President Trump deserve considerable credit for. But, as soon as one election is over, the next starts. And, in two years, it’s assumed Senator Gardner will have a very difficult re-election.

While Trump’s red meat for red states strategy was a success in selected states, it was a disaster in Colorado. Trump was Congressman Mike Coffman’s main handicap and his face was used by Democrats to sweep in their statewide candidates, win a host of new legislative seats and even devastate a number of Republican county officeholders.

In 2014, Gardner won with a near perfect campaign in a good Republican year against an incumbent Democrat. But his victory was only by two points, and Colorado is moving left, as demonstrated by the 2018 midterm results. He is already identified as one of the most vulnerable senate incumbents due to Hillary Clinton winning the state in 2016. The campaign will attract record expenditures and national attention. And, of course, Democrats will recruit their strongest challenger.

No doubt, Trump will help to see that Gardner doesn’t have a primary, but he will be a liability in the general election. Voter turnout will be higher than in the midterm and even more Millennials will be voting. Gardner will need Democrats to overreach and make other mistakes to even out the new Colorado playing field.

Senator Cory Gardner after a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol
in Washington D.C., Jan. 19, 2018 | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

City Club of Denver and “The New Politics of Colorado”

One week after one of the most anticipated political election events in recent American history, I will present to the City Club of Denver “The New Politics of Colorado.”

In this election, not only were the predictions offered with a significant degree of uncertainty, reflecting the closeness of final polls and the surprise 2016 results, but the passion and the rhetoric of our polarized politics framed the election as an existential decision as to the survival of American democracy.

And, of course, Colorado’s politics and government was at an inflection point with a major change in government officials at a moment when a flood of new voters, including a new generation, entered our electorate.

Join the November 13 City Club event. Register here

Monday, November 5, 2018

Germany is Losing its Center; the EU is Losing its Leader

Angela Merkel’s 13 years of leadership of the Federal Republic is coming to a rapid close. Her center party coalition of conservatives and socialists have lost votes to farther right and left extremists in two state elections in the last month. Merkel was forced to announce she wouldn’t stand for election to lead the Christian Democratic Union in December, a party she has led since 2000. She is hoping to hold onto the chancellorship to have time to groom a replacement. The only question now is who can replace her and lead the center-right coalition?

Her demise began quickly at the very moment global media declared her “Woman of the Year,” reflecting her long reign and leadership on EU issues, such as the Greek debt and Syrian refugees. It was Merkel’s border policy in 2015 that most contributed to the unraveling of her coalition.

It is the EU that may suffer the most due to her loss of power. At the moment, the EU is challenged by nationalist governments from Italy to Hungary and the withdrawal of Britain. Merkel’s prestige and Germany’s economic power are most needed. The Brexit process has drained Prime Minister Theresa May’s influence in Britain and Brussels, and France’s Emmanuel Macron barely registers a 30 percent approval due to a continued sluggish French economy and his domestic political missteps. Macron doesn’t lack ambition to lead, but his stark endorsement of the EU’s liberal model of “open borders, open markets and open societies” is unlikely to gain traction in Europe of 2019.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

We are Going to Miss Mattis

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appears slated to be replaced by President Trump. It has been predicted for several months as his influence appeared to wane with the arrival of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Trump signaled it during his October “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl. He bristled when it was stated Mattis explained the value of NATO. Trump aggressively asserted that he knew “more about it [NATO} than he does.” Trump applied one of his denigrating labels on to Mattis, calling him “sort of a Democrat,” an apparent reference to Mattis’ moderate approach and disagreement with Trump on a number of issues.

Mattis has been the alliance guy, which Trump definitely isn’t. As a lifelong military officer, he understands the value of friends in a fight. His most recent statements in the Persian Gulf (Manama, Bahrain) remind us why he will be missed.

In reference to the Khashoggi case, he reaffirmed the rule of law:

“Failure of any nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most.”

He defended the Saudi and other alliances, but based them on trust and honesty:

“We must maintain our strong people-to-people partnership, knowing that with our respect must come transparency and trust…These two principles are vital for ensuring the continued collaboration we know is necessary for a safe, secure and prosperous Middle East.”

Mattis highlighted the importance of opposing Iran’s malevolent influence in the region and the fact Russia is not a substitute for America’s commitment. He argued for stability and unity over chaos and disruption. Not a preference always appreciated by the White House:

“We stand with our partners who favor stability over chaos, and we support unity of effort among our nations’ militaries in response to shared threats and challenges, for in such unity is the real power to set and to maintain peace.”

President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in the Cabinet
 Room of the White House, March 8, 2018 | Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Win or Lose, Trump is Changing the Team

Rumors are rife in D.C. that at least a half dozen cabinet positions will change after the midterm. Most prominently on the departure list is Jeff Sessions, the endlessly disparaged Attorney General.

Changes are also coming to the national security and foreign policy team. Nikki Haley has already announced her departure, and Joseph Dunford, Chair of the Joint Chiefs, is about to leave the position due to the normal rotation.

President Trump appeared to confirm rumors that he had tired of Jim Mattis’ restraints on his many instincts. Trump’s favorite general, who he called “Mad Dog,” a name Mattis doesn’t approve, is now called behind-his-back, “moderate dog.” In Trump’s October "60 Minutes" interview, he labeled Mattis “probably a Democrat,” not a term of endearment in the White House. Mattis claims he’s not leaving, but…

Chief of Staff John Kelly’s deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, who became Secretary of Homeland Security, has a thankless job, and indeed, Trump doesn’t thank her. She’s on the rumor list. Kelly, of course, always looks somewhat uncomfortable in his job.

Since 2016, Leaders of Western Democracy Have Been Turned Out

In a December 2016 blog, I wrote:

The crises for the EU and the Western Alliance appear life-threatening and the struggle of survival is not going well for the advocates of the liberal Democratic ideal.

David Cameron is gone; Matteo Renzi just defeated; Francois Hollande dropped out; and Barack Obama’s term is up and legacy, including globalism, is slipping away. Only Angela Merkel is left to defend the alliance, and her hold has been weakened.

After a year of political turmoil and two recent weak state election results, Angela Merkel is now politically gone and only barely hanging onto the German chancellorship. Prime Minister Theresa May, who replaced David Cameron, is unlikely to lead her party into another election, and Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has an approval rating below 30 percent.

The EU and Western alliance are even more threatened today than in 2016 in the face of President Trump and a gaggle of nationalists assuming power in Europe and around the world.