Monday, December 23, 2019

Warren Backs Off Medicare for All

Elizabeth Warren on the campaign trail,
June 2019 | Cliff Owen/AP Photo
Elizabeth Warren, watched her polling position drop from first to fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and nationally from second/even tied with frontrunner Joe Biden in October and November, to third behind her policy partner and rival, Bernie Sanders. Warren’s frontrunner status attracted an onslaught of attacks, mostly aimed at her adoption of Sanders’s “Medicare for All.” She stubbornly defended her position for months, but finally began to move in the last few weeks. “Choice” is now part of her health care plan, along with “phase in.” Both concepts are to buy her some protection from the least popular aspects of the plan, its apparent abrupt change and its insistence that private health care insurers be banned.

Warren’s predicament is that any backing away from health care for all will be seen as wavering, an undesired moderation for her many supporters and especially Bernie Sanders’s fans. The two of them have held a truce throughout 2019, including in the debates, but if she breaks from Medicare for All, the trench warfare could start.

“‘She’s in a bit of a box here, and she’s got to get some moderation into this as some difference,’ said Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado-based pollster. ‘On the other hand, it likely will produce some resistance and potential backlash from Bernie’s people.’” (David Sherfinski, Washington Times, 12-18-19)

But, Warren has little choice. Although Medicare for All is popular among Democrats, the ban on private insurance is not. More importantly, Democrats’ top priority, including Iowa Democrats, is beating Donald Trump. Warren’s plan is seen as a burden for union and other voters with private health plans. In general, it contributes to her image as a Harvard, New England liberal too far left for the Midwest battleground states.

Bloomberg: Warren backs down on Medicare for All, Now Says It’s a ‘Choice’
Washington Times: Elizabeth Warren scales back 'Medicare of All' plan on 2020 campaign trail

Friday, December 20, 2019

“Trump Gave Us No Choice”

By votes of 229 and 228, the U.S. House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump. In both cases, 195 Republicans opposed.

The impeachment vote on December 18 culminated a process begun by Speaker Nancy Pelosi on September 24, 2019. It was a change of position for Pelosi. She resisted impeachment many times since the beginning of her speakership. She said “no” in 2007 to numerous members of her caucus who wanted to impeach President George W. Bush for the Iraq War and repeatedly overruled members’ efforts to impeach Trump for his earlier actions, but especially after the Mueller Report.

But, when she said “yes,” she believed it was serious, there was evidence, she was confident her leadership team could manage it and she knew her caucus was ready. It remains to be seen the effect on the 2020 election, but Pelosi and Democrats believed it had to be done and they delivered.

“Trump Gave Us No Choice”
December 18, 2019
Photo: ABC News
House Resolution 755
Impeachment of Donald John Trump,
President of the United States of America
for High Crimes and Misdemeanors
December 18, 2019

Read resolution here

A Preview of the Action
“All Roads Lead to Putin”
October 17, 2019

Photo: White House

Divided House Reflects Public

Public opinion on impeachment has not changed since the October start of the process (Pelosi says “yes,” Sept. 24, 2019), through the House vote on rules (Oct. 31, 2019), the end of the House Intelligence Committee hearings (Nov. 21, 2019), and now the party line impeachment vote (Dec. 18, 2019). Public support was at 46 percent on October 2 and 47 percent on December 18.

Four new polls confirm the lack of movement, with a Fox News poll (Dec. 11) claiming 50 percent support impeachment and removal, CNN 45 percent (Dec. 15), ABC/Washington Post 49 percent (Dec. 15) and a Wall Street Journal/NBC News 48 percent (Dec. 17).

The vote for the articles of impeachment was nearly perfectly aligned with House partisanship, with 100 percent of the Republicans opposing it (195 both articles) and 99 percent of the Democrats in support (Article I – 229, 2 opposed; Article II – 228, 3 opposed). Only three broke ranks. That vote closely mirrors the public’s position, which on December 18, was divided nearly as uniformly as House members, with 84 percent of Democrats in support, but only 9 percent of Republicans (nearly 90% opposed).

President Trump’s approval rating as of December 18 is 44 percent, slightly higher than the last few months, and he is campaigning by Twitter and rallies, especially in battleground states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida).

As of today, Trump has not suffered any loss of approval and impeachment opinion is locked in the partisan divisions that characterize every aspect of American politics.

President Trump Indicted for Abuse of Power, Obstruction

As The Buzz predicted on October 15, President Trump would be indicted. It was based on the steady growth of Democrats who supported impeachment after the Mueller Report (July 24, 2019) and the summer of obstruction. Support became near unanimous after the publication of the Ukrainian whistleblower documents of Trump’s call with President Zelensky (July 25, 2019).

The House vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry (House Resolution 660) was 232 to 196, with 231 Democrats voting “yes” and two voting “no.” All Republicans present voted “no.”

The vote to accept the articles of impeachment and conveying them to the Senate was similar to the October 31 vote. The management of Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and Nancy Pelosi of several weeks of testimony and design of the articles strengthened the Democrats’ resolve. Republicans are unified in opposition, but divided on their lines of defense. The vote is a good reflection of the American political divide as 2020 begins.

See The Buzz: The Impeachment of Donald John Trump, President, House Resolution 660

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Israel, Another Democracy in Stalemate, Heads to Third Election

Israel, after two elections in 2019 (April and September), is still stalemated with the two main voting blocs unable to assemble a majority of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset (need 61 members out of 120). In authorizing a new election, Israel joins Great Britain, which just finished its fifth major election in three years (2 Parliamentary, 1 Brexit referendum, 2 European Parliament).

The March 2 election will likely again face-off Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud Party), who will remain as Prime Minister and under indictment, against his recent opponent, former Israeli Defense Force Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz (Blue and White Party). After two election failures, Netanyahu will face an intra-party contest, but no popular alternative has emerged.

Unless something shakes up the political environment, the next 60-day campaign will sound like a replay of the last, with Netanyahu arguing only he can deliver more sovereignty and national security benefits, often with President Trump’s concurrence, and attack the Arab partners of the opposition. Gantz and the Blue and White will mostly focus on Netanyahu’s alleged crimes and his quest for immunity.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Johnson Wins Majority

Celebrity, populism and nationalism were all elements of Boris Johnson’s and Conservatives’ big win. Johnson’s personality, style and slogan, “get Brexit done,” dominated and connected with voters’ hostility toward the British elite, the frustration with the parliamentary gridlock and the anxiety of being left behind in the face of globalism. On the positive side, Johnson argued he was fulfilling the nation’s democratically-expressed choice and unshackling the British spirit.

Although the result doesn’t end the division in Britain over Brexit, it gives the Conservatives the power to promote their policy agenda and specifically to bring Brexit to an end sooner and probably “harder” than most of the alternatives. Also, it’s a major blow to the far-left in the Labour Party and ends the contentious career of Jeremy Corbyn.

The message for the U.S. is that nationalism is still running hard, especially when led by a wily populist leader. Globalism remains on the defensive as does immigration. Democrats need to be mindful of the narrow appeal of the socialist playbook of taxes and government expansions. In terms of domestic issues, health care was the most frequently mentioned.

Other big winners in the election were Donald Trump, Johnson’s nationalist friend; Vladimir Putin for a weaker EU and a more isolated Britain; and secession as the Scottish National Party picked up seats.

Brexit is a good feeling; it may be a bad idea.

As posted on Wednesday:

Brexit is expected to have a major impact on the British economy, especially its trading relationships, and could affect the long-term viability of the EU and the unity of Great Britain.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to supporters on
December 11, 2019 in London, UK | Leon Neal/Getty Images.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Trump Can Win. Presidential Race Focused on Handful of States, Few Thousand Votes.

Democrats should forget the national polls showing 8-, 9- or 10-point wins for leading candidates against President Trump.

Remembering Trump’s win in 2016 and examining the available polls in likely battleground states, what’s clear is that Trump could win again, even losing Pennsylvania this time, if he holds his other 2016 states.
  • Recall that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes (2,869,000).
  • On Election Day, he had 61 percent disapproval. Hillary Clinton had 52 percent disapproval. She was 9 points better, but still the two worst in presidential polling history (Gallup, March 2016).
  • Also, two of the most dependable variables associated with a successful presidential election are incumbency and a positive economy – Trump has both.
A comparison of two leading prognosticators assessing the race based on assessment from polls, historical performance and political conversations with local experts shows the limited number of states likely to be contested.

Larry Sabato published the map below on November 7, 2019. He has Republicans and Democrats even in electoral votes with 248 each and three toss-up states with 42 electoral votes – Arizona (11), Wisconsin (10) and Pennsylvania (20).

2020 Electoral College Ratings
Nov. 7, 2019

While Sabato has three states with 42 electoral votes in play as of November, Louis Jacobson identifies six toss-up states and 101 electoral votes. He adds demographics to his analyses (% rural, % college education, % White). He places 205 electoral votes in the Republican column and 232 on the Democratic side of the ledger. The following is a list of his toss-up states and his lean Democrat and lean Republican states that will be highly targeted by the respective parties.

Jacobson also offers an assessment if the Democrats nominate a “poorly positioned nominee.” Then, Republicans would have 231 safe likely or leaning electoral votes and Democrats 218 with 89 toss-up states: Florida (20), Michigan (16), New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (10) and Wisconsin (10). Democrats would then need to win 5 of the 6 states if they don’t carry Florida.

If there is a message for Democrats from both assessments, it is that their nominee and their campaign strategy will be critical to win the very focused race.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Articles of Impeachment are Ready

As outlined in The Buzz on October 23 (“Articles of Impeachment are in Drafting”), I referenced the three articles in the Nixon impeachment adopted by the Judiciary Committee in July 1974 and suggested they are likely to form the basis of the current articles to be adopted 45 years later. Indeed, the Democrats’ articles include “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress,” similar to contempt of Congress used in 1974.

Although they did not include an obstruction of justice article, which could have incorporated the incidents documented in the Mueller Report, clearly many Democrats believe that the Ukraine incident is only the latest in a long pattern of actions that began in the 2016 election, and according to Adam Schiff, House Intelligence Committee Chair: “continues to this day, unapologetically and right now.”

I thought the Judiciary Committee proceedings would take longer, but the intense partisanship made a deliberative process impossible. The Senate trial is likely to be the only forum for an extended discussion of the charges, but even that is uncertain as the circus-like atmosphere of the House may affect the Senate process, which is yet unannounced. However, with the House indictment done, the likely schedule is that the Senate trial will begin shortly after the new year.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, joined by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House committee chairs
(Maxine Waters, Eliot Engel, Carolyn Maloney, Richard Neal and Adam Schiff),
unveils abuse of power and obstruction of Congress articles of impeachment
against  President Trump in a press conference, Dec. 10, 2019 | FOX News.

British Election Will Decide Fate of Brexit (and EU, GB?)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
delivers a speech in Telford, Britain,
 Nov. 24, 2019 | Photo: Xinhua
The December 12 British Parliamentary election will likely decide the fate of Brexit and lead to the implementation of the withdrawal deal on January 31. Although a broad outline of a deal was approved by the 27 nations of the EU, there will be a year or more of intense negotiations on the details of the agreement. Although polling on the British Parliamentary election is notoriously difficult, late polls, which have been tightening, indicate that the Conservatives, led by Boris Johnson and his slogan, “get Brexit done,” will win more than 40 percent of the vote, translating to a majority of seats (about 339), projecting a range from a low of 311 to 367 (need 326 to form a majority government).

Although Brexit is the primary issue on the agenda, Johnson moved the Tories away from the austerity policies they were noted for and campaigned on more spending on national health care, child care and the environment. As a populist, Johnson mainly campaigned against the governing gridlock that has characterized the recent history of parliament.

Brexit is expected to have a major impact on the British economy, especially its trading relationships, and could affect the long-term viability of the EU and the unity of Great Britain.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Top Four Dominating the Race into Super Tuesday

The next major event planned by the DNC in the race for the White House is the LA debate, December 19. But, the debates have had little effect on the polling positions of the field. The candidates themselves have been making more news with their exits (Kamala Harris) and entrances (Michael Bloomberg).

The national polling numbers have stabilized after the boomlet for Pete Buttigieg moved him to fourth nationally. His ascendance appears a reflection of his success the last couple of months in Iowa and New Hampshire where he is now in first place. He has benefited from some slippage in Democratic voter support by Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

It now appears that the top four will be maneuvering for momentum and advantage for the next two months as the February 3 Iowa caucus approaches.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Super Tuesday Won’t Settle It

At a western polling conference (PAPOR), the latest California presidential primary polling makes clear that as candidates and Democratic voters approach March 3, Super Tuesday, they are as of today likely to get an inconclusive event, with four top candidates each with about a fifth of the vote and the last 20 percent scattered. And, nearly all the voters are still examining options and have second choices.

It is ironic that the biggest state, California, moved up its primary from June 2 to have an impact at the start of the race, but it might have had a more decisive role if it had stayed at the end.

California’s 416 delegates will swamp the February count of the four early states (155), but their timing and media coverage tends to provide an outsized influence.

The most recent California poll from Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (N1964 likely primary voters, Nov. 21-27, 2019) has Bernie Sanders at 24 percent, Elizabeth Warren 22 percent, Joe Biden 14 percent and Pete Buttigieg 12 percent.

Another traunch of primaries (and a few caucuses) will take place later in March. Among the larger states are: March 10 – Michigan (125), and then March 17 – Florida (209), Illinois (155), Ohio (136) and Arizona (67), three of which are expected presidential battlegrounds. Some final large state primaries are: April 28 with New York (224) and Pennsylvania (153) and finally on June 2 in New Jersey (128).

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Homelessness is Becoming a Political Crisis

The number of homeless people has been surging across the country, public concern is high and politics – both right and left – is beginning to respond.

Depending on how homelessness is defined and reflecting the difficulty of counting people with no home or stable address, there is now more than 500,000 homeless in the country, with a quarter of them, 130,000, in California, and 60,000 in Los Angeles alone. But, communities across the country – large and small, urban, suburban and exurban – are all struggling with the surge of homeless individuals and encampments.

Politicians have been applying available tools, such as food kitchens and banks, temporary shelters, affordable housing funds and as many health resources as can be afforded, but the numbers continue to surge and the sight of people camping on streets, sidewalks in front of businesses, underpasses and parks has raised public awareness and demands for action. As the solutions of urban leaders and homeless advocates don’t seem to be working, alternatives from the populist right are starting to be heard.

District of Columbia

A recent poll by the Washington Post shows a popular mayor, Muriel Bowser (67% approval), being judged doing a “not good” or “poor” job on “addressing homelessness (61%). The issue is ranked as the third biggest problem by voters after affordable housing and crime and violence.


Denver voters, who gave Hillary Clinton 74 percent of their vote in 2016, crushed an initiative labeled as the “Right to Survive” by homeless advocates. It would have made policing homeless encampments nearly impossible and legalized homeless camping on public spaces, including parks. The 2019 decisive defeat reflected not heartlessness toward the homeless, but a broad based viewpoint that a legalistic solution creating a right to camp on public space was the wrong approach. Many homeless service organizations and liberal advocates opposed it. In the election, growth, quality of life and public safety were important issues, and the surge of homelessness was considered a significant problem.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles’s homeless population is now the size of a small city (60,000), with highly visible encampments on public and private property appearing more or less permanent. A recent poll in the Los Angeles Times, cosponsored with the Los Angeles Business Council Institute, and involving the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs (conducted by Peter Hart, Hart Research Associates, Oct. 15-22, 2019, 901 LA voters), identifies homelessness as the number one issue rated as serious or very serious by 95 percent of the public ahead of congestion and housing affordability. The public understands it’s a complex problem and they express considerable sympathy, with nearly a third reflecting that they have been homeless or sometimes felt threatened by loss of shelter.

But, after approving a $1.2 billion housing bond in 2017, there is a growing sense the problem is getting worse and having a negative impact on safety, health, quality of life and property values. As frustration rises, the public looks increasingly toward law enforcement solutions in spite of court decrees, settlements of law suits and regular protests that limit police-like solutions. However, if a Denver-type initiative was placed on the ballot, it’s certainly possible 60 percent or more of the public would say no, there is no legal right to camp. And, 65 percent of LA voters believe the police should be more involved in cleaning up the streets to deal with health issues from unsanitary encampments (see polling questions below).

Local government has the first line responsibility for addressing the issue, and from small beach communities to major metropolitan areas, the problem is starting to move the political plates. If the liberal establishment can’t provide solutions, conservative populists will step in.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Giuliani Who?

Bill O'Reilly | Photo: NYT
You knew it was inevitable that Rudy Giuliani would become a liability to Donald Trump and have to be dispatched. It happened last Tuesday, Thanksgiving week, on a Bill O’Reilly podcast. Trump said he had no idea what the former New York mayor was doing in Ukraine, maybe he was working for other clients. Trump specifically denied he sent Giuliani to Ukraine.

O’Reilly, isolated to the outer fringe of commercial media after being released by Fox News, was in heaven with Trump’s interview (listen here). Unfortunately for Trump, his memorialized words on how Giuliani was his envoy in Ukraine for the Biden probe reinforced by days of sworn testimony shredded his effort.

It must feel ironic for Giuliani, who in his first run for mayor of New York in 1989, used his high-profile success as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York putting away the heads of the “Five Families” to be under investigation by the same Southern District for his behavior as a type of consigliere to the boss in the White House.

Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump | Photo: CNN

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Four Scenarios: Republicans’ Best Endgame and Democrats’ Possible Sweep

As of Thanksgiving, there is no projection that is credibly predicting Republicans will win back the House by gaining a net of 17 seats to deny Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats a majority. But, there are a host of analysts suggesting that Trump could win re-election with less than six states in play, a good economy and the argument presented in his World Series playoff advertisement: “He’s no Mr. Nice Guy.” And, of course, the Democrats may help him with errors in nominee selection or campaigning.

The presidential race appears close in the handful of states that will decide the race. Trump could even lose Pennsylvania (20) and still win the presidency if he holds Wisconsin and Michigan. But, Republicans also are targeting Minnesota, Nevada and New Hampshire.

In the four scenarios presented below, two offer Trump being re-elected and all four have Democrats holding the House. A major variable is the level of Republican dominance in 2021 or Democratic resistance, depending on who wins the Senate. Continued Republican control would offer Trump protection from future impeachment-like attacks, a veto over House efforts to reverse policies in Trump’s first four years and continued direction of court appointments.

If the Democrats win the Senate, it could be a part of a 2020 partisan sweep, or if Trump hangs on, it would likely lead to massive gridlock in that court confirmations would slow (or end) and presidential initiatives stop. Trump would be left with veto power, but exercising it frequently and the budget would be a potent limiting tool for the Democrats.

To take control of the Senate, Democrats need a net of three seats and the vice presidency or four new seats. Since most analysts hold that they will lose the Alabama seat held by Doug Jones, they, in fact, need four or five seats, depending on the presidency. Many of the competitive senate seats are in battleground (or near battleground) states, and because there is a close partisan alignment between presidential and senate votes, it’s assumed that winning the Senate will be highly dependent on winning the presidency. Hence, Democrats would probably require a strong performance in the presidential race to win seats in states such as Iowa (Ernst), Maine (Collins) and Georgia (2 seats up).

To rate the four scenarios presented – and recall none have Democrats losing the House, which means a Republican sweep is not proposed – the two most likely current scenarios (Status Quo or Gridlock) leave the Senate in Republican hands, but possibly with a smaller margin (from 53-47 to 51-49) and the House in Democratic hands with minor changes. The 17-vote Democratic majority could change, depending on presidential coattails and the survival of a small number of highly vulnerable seats won by Democrats in 2018 or Republican seats that survived the 2018 Democratic tide.

Of course, they have different parties winning the presidency.

Impeachment Hearings End, Public Opinion Unmoved

As the impeachment public hearings end, public opinion appears mostly unmoved. Americans are closely divided on both their support for the inquiry and President Trump’s removal from office. RealClearPolitics reports removal ahead by only 2 points and support for the inquiry 3 points (538 has removal tied with 46% and support for the inquiry up 7%).

Polls on Impeachment Inquiry and Removal From Office
November 25, 2019
However, contrary to Trump’s view, his popularity is not surging (44% approve in RCP and 41% in 538) and a majority of the public believe he’s committed an impeachable offense (57%) as the many witnesses testified to.
Even without a majority of Americans supporting removal, Trump’s behavior is especially a problem for the House Democrats. The total stonewalling on records and witnesses obstructs their ability to hold the president accountable. In addition, given the offenses go directly to the 2020 election and involve a foreign country, ignoring the issue would legitimize the behavior and likely encourage more, possibly affecting the election.
Democrats also have s significant constituency of educated voters that are highly concerned about the dangers to democracy posed by Trump, Republican tolerance of the behavior and the rise of authoritarianism worldwide more generally.
Impeachments can fail to convict and still have major consequences. Although the 1998 congressional election was won by Democrats, Bill Clinton’s White House behavior was a controversy for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. In 2016, Bill’s behavior was used by Trump against his wife, and today, after the “MeToo” movement, Bill Clinton’s reputation is devalued and his usefulness to Democrats over.
The bottom line is that impeachment could harm the Republicans in the 2020 election and have a long-term negative impact.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Conference of Western Pollsters Examines the Run-up to Super Tuesday Presidential Primaries

At the annual conference of the Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR), a panel of top public pollsters will present opinion data on the political factors that will affect the 2020 presidential primaries, especially the California and Colorado Super Tuesday events, March 3, 2020.

The panel, titled “Election Issues in Western States,” will also explore the status of impeachment, issue differences in western states and the future of the California GOP. I will moderate the panel and present on Colorado’s transition from a swing and even Republican-leaning state up to about 2004 to an apparently mostly Democratic state in 2020. What were the dominant factors in the shift and how resilient is it?

The panel of pollsters is among California’s most prominent in the media and commentary.
The panel will convene at 8:30 am on December 6 at the PAPOR conference held at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel in downtown San Francisco. For conference agenda and more information, see PAPOR conference here.

Friends of the Crossley Center

More than 160 Crossley Center friends participated with the Korbel School’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and Office of Global Engagement presentation, “Countdown to 2020 – One Year Out.” The event was led by the University of Denver’s Ambassador Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center. Dean Fritz Mayer provided the introductions and joined the discussion and question and answer session. New Chancellor Jeremy Haefner welcomed guests.

This was the third in a regular series that was started on Wednesday after the 2016 November election and on each annual anniversary since.

The entire session can be watched on the Global Engagement website here

See blog: November 7

Friday, November 15, 2019

Record Off-Year Turnout

The 2019 off-year turnout of 1.57 million voters beat the last high of 1.4 million in 2013. Voter participation in off-year elections is driven by contested ballot issues, high expenditures for advertising and GOTV efforts. In 2013, Amendment 66, the $1 billion income tax increase for education, spent $11 million, mostly by the proponents. It lost by 2-to-1. In 2015, there were non-controversial issues (marijuana tax) on the ballot and no statewide issues. This year, Proposition CC lost by 7 percent and total expenditure will be at the $7 to $8 million level.

A record number of unaffiliated voters turned out. The early voters joined Republicans in voting “no” on Proposition CC, but the late Election Day unaffiliated vote went with the Democrats and closed an Election Night reported gap of 10 percent down to 7 percent on Friday after the election.

When all the voters were counted, the reported partisanship was Democrat 32 percent of the vote, unaffiliated 32 percent and Republican on top with 38 percent. On the Friday before the election, 700,000 votes were recorded, and Republicans were 34 percent of the vote. Many Democratic and unaffiliated voters came in late. The unaffiliated tend to be younger and more liberal-leaning.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Democratic Governors Can’t Save Proposition CC

The Democratic Party establishment, joined by various education and transportation interest groups, was not able to deliver a victory to the TABOR override, Proposition CC. It was endorsed by four former Democratic governors, led by the current governor, Jared Polis (Dick Lamm looking especially gloomy). Proposition CC lost 46 percent to 54 percent.

Democrats, however, were responsible for Proposition DD, the sports gaming legislation and tax for water, passing by 51 percent.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Late Votes Move Results to Left

In the late night counting on Tuesday, November 5, Proposition CC was 10 points down, Proposition DD less than 1 point up, and Mike Coffman 5 points and about 2,000 votes ahead of Omar Montgomery and the rest of the field.

But, as of Friday at 5:00 pm, Coffman was just 281 votes ahead out of 74,000 cast. Proposition CC still lost, but by just 7 points and Proposition DD won by 3, with a total vote well over 1.5 million.

Two factors appear to be increasingly true in Colorado elections – much of the vote is cast in the last two days by people dropping off ballots and Democratic and liberal forces are mostly benefiting by their late turnout efforts, and the demographics of the late voters being younger, more unaffiliated and Democratic. Although for Proposition CC to lose by even 7 points, a majority of unaffiliated voters must have joined Republicans to vote “no,” but the late unaffiliated vote swayed liberal. They voted late in last spring’s Denver mayor’s election and shifted the final vote in favor of psilocybin in a narrow victory.

On Friday, two days after the election, with counting still being conducted, Denver added 25,000 and hit 162,000 voters, whereas Jefferson votes were in at 192,000 (only adding 1,000) and El Paso 179,000 (no change).

Monday, November 11, 2019

Proposition CC Fails – A Decade of Failed Tax and Revenue Attempts

The stunning defeat of Proposition CC should send a clear message to the proponents of ballot issues attempting to increase state revenue – What part of “no” don’t you understand?

In a column in the Sunday Denver Post (11-10-19), I describe the recent history of tax and revenue initiatives and the factors related to the latest loss. The following reviews some of the ideas expressed.

The 2019 Proposition CC, a TABOR override, would have added unspecified amounts to the state coffers, but some estimates said as much as $650 million the next two years. It was the fifth attempt by mostly the same group of advocates – the education establishment and its support groups, a group of donor philanthropists, and business associations that want new tax resources for roads. They have all failed, some of them dramatically, such as the 2013 $1 billion income tax increase that lost two-to-one after proponents spent $10 million in a mostly one-sided campaign.

Just last year, two initiatives were defeated to raise taxes for more education funding and for education and roads.

Coloradans are generous at the local level with their tax dollars, but after a decade of repeated failures with income, sales and now TABOR, a presumption of opposition now exists against state revenue increase measures, tax or TABOR overrides. Proponents of the next effort should face a higher level of skepticism from prospective donors and endorsees that the effort will be different than the last five. They have lost in high turnout (2018) and low turnout (2013) elections, years when partisan races are not on the ballot, and years when Democrats swept the partisan elections.

As I said in the Denver Post, before proponents mount up for another run, “They should consider an argument they may hear frequently next year: What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

Difference Between Local and State TABOR Elections

Proponents of Proposition CC and anti-TABOR advocates frequently point to the fact that most Colorado counties (51 out of 64) and cities (230 out of 274) had de-Bruced. But, their effort to de-Bruce the state lost by about 7 points, as did a de-Brucing effort for Jefferson County (lost by 9%). As I stated in my Denver Post column (11-10-19) and most city managers will point out:

The public has a very high level of distrust of state government – either that it needs more money, or that the money will be spent as described. Yes, local TABOR overrides have been abundant, but voters’ knowledge of the needs of their own school districts and cities is greater, and their proximity allows them to watch the spending more closely – factors missing from state requests.

November 7

Will a foreign policy crisis help or hurt Donald Trump? How about in Iran, North Korea, Venezuela? Will President Trump be indicted by the House? Impeached by the Senate? Who wins the Colorado primaries, presidential (March 3), U.S. Senate (June 30)? Where are the battleground presidential states? The most contested Senate seats? What happened to Proposition CC?

These were a few of the questions addressed at the November 7 Korbel School event with Dean Fritz Mayer, Ambassador Chris Hill and Director Floyd Ciruli, sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Office of Global Engagement. Joining for a welcoming was Chancellor Jeremy Haefner.

The session, titled “Countdown to 2020 – One Year Out,” drew an audience of 170, who triggered discussion of many of the topics. Politics in 2020 will be intense, and the Korbel School with the Crossley Center plan on more events to provide and exchange information and viewpoints.

This session was the third in a regular series featuring Ciruli and Hill that was started on Wednesday after the 2016 November election, one on each annual anniversary since. Expect another in November 2020.

Dean Fritz Mayer, Amb. Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

KOA – Final Predictions on Proposition CC and DD

Monday morning, pre-November 5 Election Day, April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz conducted an interview on voter turnout and the final prognostications on the high-profile Propositions CC and DD.

Proposition CC, the Permanent TABOR Override

It is assumed Proposition CC is close, with a slight advantage for the proponents if they can get out their vote.
  • They have a more than 2-to-1 advantage in expenditure ($5 million to $2 million).
  • It has a very favorable ballot language, which voters will see as they mark their mail-back ballots: “without raising taxes,” “with a balanced budget” and “for schools and roads.”
Opponents do have funds and have been campaigning for weeks.
  • They also have a mostly united Republican Party, with former Governor Bill Owens and former Senator Hank Brown leading it.
  • Most importantly, in off-year elections there is low turnout, which favors Republicans. As of last Friday, 700,000 had voted, probably about half the likely turnout, and Republicans were up over Democrats by 62,000 votes.
However, Democrats tend to vote late. Monday and Election Day has produced half the vote in some recent Denver elections.

Who will get out their vote – pro or anti CC?

Proposition DD, Sports Betting for Water

Proposition DD appears in a good position to win. It has received most of the endorsements from newspaper editorial pages, and agriculture and business, including much of the environmental community. They raised $2 million for advertising and the opponents filed no disclosure – so zero raised.

There is some opposition from people who oppose more gambling and some people argue the money won’t be spent on what they favor or what they approve: dams vs. conservation, East vs. West Slope.

But, mostly DD appears to have momentum to win.

Turnout in recent off-year elections has ranged from 1.1 to 1.4 million voters. There was record turnout, including unaffiliated voters, in 2018, but, of course, Trump is not on this ballot.

Colorado Sun Previews Prop. CC Battle

John Frank in the October 31, 2019 Colorado Sun previewed the Proposition CC battle as close and being fought online, on TV and especially door-to-door.

He reported on the October 8 panel at DU’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, which concluded the Proposition CC advocates liberals were late starting. The Proposition is also seen as a gift for the GOP, allowing it to rally behind a more typical Republican fiscal and not a polarizing social issue.

Kelly Maher
Kelly Maher, a Republican strategist, called Prop. CC “a gift” from Democrats, because it allows conservatives to unite behind a fiscal issue, rather than a social one that divides the GOP.

And more directly, the ballot question is a major test for Polis, the first-year governor. He promised in the 2018 campaign that he would build a coalition to overhaul TABOR and “win at the ballot box.”

The outcome of Prop. CC also affects two additional promises Polis made: to pass a measure to find more money for schools and find new revenue for transportation.

Steve Welchert
Even with such high stakes, the campaign to support Prop. CC began late and with little urgency. The “kickoff” came in October, days before ballots were mailed to voters. Steve Welchert, a Democratic strategist, called the campaign “a little bit of political malpractice.” 

Welchert suggested the supporters didn’t do the work needed in the summer months to build a strong campaign — a point echoed by Sheila MacDonald, a consultant with experience on ballot measures. Both spoke at a political forum at the University of Denver.

Sheila MacDonald
“It does matter to the Democrats in both chambers and the governor’s office,” MacDonald said. “And they need a win. They put this on the ballot, and they put their reputations on the line.”

See The Buzz: DU Panel on Colorado 2020 Primaries Attracted a Packed House

One Year to the 2020 Presidential Election, Nov. 7 Event

Amb. Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli
The Syrian withdrawal, Baghdadi is dead, North Korea tests more missiles, Brexit is stalled and Britain will have another vote. Just a few headlines that will be topics in the foreign affairs section of the presentation with Ambassador Chris Hill on Thursday evening, November 7. But, the domestic news is not to be missed. Pollster and professor, Floyd Ciruli, will talk about impeachment, the presidential primary and Colorado’s senate race, along with a recap of the upcoming November 5 ballot issues election in Colorado.

Join us. Food will be served. Reception at 5:00 pm and presentation at 5:30 pm at the Maglione Hall at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies in the Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex, University of Denver, 2201 S. Gaylord St., 5th Floor.


Proposition DD Looks Well-Positioned; CC is Struggling

Examining the campaign and recent off-year ballot history, Proposition DD, sports gaming for water, should win. They have a broad group of endorsements, from businesses, agriculture, water, many environmental interests, and most of the state’s newspaper editorial pages. The campaign also has $2.7 million (reported in late October) for advertising, to no funds declared for the opposition.

Proposition CC on the other hand is in a serious fight.

Three ex-governors and Jared Polis weighed in to support it, accompanied by a $4.5 million advertising campaign. They have two major advantages. The “happy talk” ballot wording that avoids unpleasant details or possible problems for an upbeat description that attempts to counter the proposition’s main vulnerability. The ballot title highlights: “Without raising taxes and to better fund public schools….within a balanced budget.”

The second advantage of Proposition CC is the $4.5 million campaign, using all the online and election media available with their message of funding for teachers, roads and colleges with no new taxes.

But, the opposition also has some advantages, the most important being low turnout in an off-year election. As of last Friday, Proposition CC would have likely lost. Republican turnout was 62,000 voters above Democrats, with counties, like El Paso (90,700), Douglas (41,000) and Jefferson (89,700), having high early turnout, whereas Denver (56,500) and Boulder (38,800) lagging,

Republicans represent only 28 percent of current voters, whereas 38 percent of Friday voters were Republican.

One Republican governor missing in the picture is Bill Owens, who is helping lead the opposition with most of the Republican establishment. They have a more modest $1.8 million campaign, and the message is more diffuse than more teachers and roads with no new taxes. The Republican Party has gotten out the early vote.

But the Democrats need to get out their core voters. And, indeed, Denver and Democrats in general have been voting the last weekend and the last day in recent elections. As of Friday, nearly 700,000 votes were in, about half of the expected (1.4 million).

Monday, November 4, 2019

Expecting Record Off-Year Turnout

There are only two statewide issues and numerous local decisions, but more than $10 million has been spent to encourage turnout and a favorable result. Turnout is above the last two elections and may exceed the record 2013 vote of 1.4 million. Advocates are encouraging turnout with digital and election advertising, door-to-door and robo calls. Republicans still are dominating turnout with 38 percent of the vote recorded, even though they’re only 28 percent of registered voters.

Jefferson County has the highest early metro turnout, with El Paso tops in the state. Denver and Boulder tend to vote the last two days. Baby Boomers (55-74) are dominating the vote, with the under 35 year-olds the lowest.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Mitt Romney vs. Nancy Pelosi

Both parties are struggling with their frontrunners. The following is a speculation on an alternative, if highly unlikely, to the current political cul-de-sac.

Mitt Romney and Nancy Pelosi
Although Donald Trump has a strong hold on his party, there is a growing realization that the 2020 election could look like Watergate post impeachment election, but with the President still on the ticket. Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, has just enough separation from Trump to be arguably outside the scandals, but still maintaining a relationship with the party establishment. As a vice president nominee, Nikki Haley would be a star. She served and resigned from the administration with her reputation intact and Trump-friendly.

Nancy Pelosi is in command of the Democratic Party and its most critical issue. The Party wants a winner, and recognizes its frontrunners are politically flawed. They may beat Trump in hypothetical polling questions, but each raises questions as to their ability to take him on, out-maneuver him in key states and actually lead the country without having a new political pile-up. The Democratic ticket needs balance, and Cory Booker, whose debate performances have had some moments, would add some.

Romney vs. Pelosi is unlikely, but it would be a contest on direction and policy and not an endless vulgar war of name-calling.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Impeachment of Donald John Trump, President, House Resolution 660

By a vote of 232 to 196, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to begin the impeachment process of President Donald Trump.

This day was not inevitable, but was at least teed up by the Mueller Report. It was the whistleblower complaint on Ukraine that launched it, moved Democrats and finally Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Now the Drama Begins
Photo: White House

The vote:

Read resolution here

Can a Single District Court Judge Make a Difference in an Impeachment?

Judge John Sirica
In March 1973, Watergate burglar, James McCord, wrote Judge John Sirica a letter stating his earlier trial testimony for burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping was perjured and the burglary was not a CIA operation. He was motivated by “Maximum John” Sirica’s 25-year sentence. His cooperation became the first of many Watergate defendants that Sirica fostered by his tough trial action and reputation.

Is Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for D.C., Beryl Howell, a new Sirica? Her 75-page opinion is being cited widely not only as a rejection of the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over redacted parts of the Mueller Report to the House Judiciary Committee, but offered a strong rebuttal to the White House’s and its counsel’s total stonewalling of the entire House impeachment process as “constitutionally invalid.”

Chief Judge Beryl Howell | Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM
Howell ruled that the Judiciary Committee’s request was part of a valid impeachment inquiry and that: “Blocking access to evidence collected by a grand jury relevant to an impeachment inquiry, as DOJ urges, undermines the House’s ability to carry out its constitutional responsibility with due diligence.”

She specifically rebuked the White House Counsel’s letter as an overreach that strengthened the Judiciary Committee’s case.

“The White House’s stated policy of non-cooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure. Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachable conduct by a President is heightened when the Executive Branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence.”

Howell also rejected the White House’s and the DOJ’s position that there had to be a House vote to start in inquiry.

Although this ruling will likely be appealed, it undermines the critical rationale of the White House/DOJ case. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had her own rejoinder: “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Baghdadi is Dead. Is ISIS?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (1971-Oct. 26, 2019) committed suicide October 26 after being cornered by Delta Force of the Joint Special Operations Command in western Syria close to the Turkish border.

Baghdadi had led ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) since 2010. In 2013, he announced the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and a year later, Baghdadi declared the formation of the worldwide caliphate with himself as caliph. At a high point in 2015, ISIL had control of areas in western Iraq to eastern Syria, including the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul, with more than 10 million people, an annual budget of more than $1 billion and more than 30,000 fighters. A U.S. led intervention coalition formed in late 2014 began the fight against ISIL. But, it took until 2017 to win back Mosul. By the end of 2017, ISIL was down to a handful of areas under their control in Syria.

Declaring ISIS defeated, President Trump first announced the U.S. withdrawal from Syria in December 2018 (Secretary of Defense Mattis resigned) and later repeated the order in October 2019.

America has been announcing the end of Middle East operations for decades. President George W. Bush thought the end of combat operations in May 2003 (Mission Accomplished on the USS Abraham Lincoln) was a conclusion to the Iraqi war. After Osama bin Laden’s death in April 2011 and progress in the transition to the Iraqi government, President Barack Obama withdrew the last of America’s combat troops out of Iraq in late 2011. Later, he failed to enforce a red line in Syria in August 2012. But, reluctantly, Obama had to restart air and ground operations in the fall of 2014 to deal with ISIS.

Unfortunately, the Middle East has a long history of drawing us back into combat operations.

In a posed photo, President Trump is joined by Vice President Mike Pence
(second left), National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien (Left), Secretary of
Defense Mark Esper, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army
General Mark A. Milley, and Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, Deputy Director for
Special Operations (right), in the Situation Room of the White House to
watch U.S. Special Operations forces close in on al-Baghdadi,
Oct. 26, 2019 | White House photo

DPS in Fight for Its Future

Since the DPS teachers’ strike settled mostly to the union’s benefit earlier this year, the union’s goal has been taking control of the school board. The election on November 5 will record their success or failure. Three seats out of seven are up, with none of the reform (non-union) group of incumbents, who have dominated the board for a decade, running. A two-seat victory by either side of the union vs. reform split will decide the district’s direction – pro or anti strike, pro or anti charter/independent schools, and pro closing low performing schools or anti closing any schools.

More than $1.3 million has been spent on the campaigns, balanced between the two sides, with mailers and social media inundating Denver voters. Six candidates on the two sides are facing off for the three positions.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Colorado May Be the Land of Millennials, But They’re Not Voting

Millennials make up about a quarter of Colorado’s population. It is the generational cohort aged today about 25 to 40 (there are several competing definitions), and they are Colorado’s largest, overtaking Baby Boomers, which has been the largest since they came of age in 1964 (the cohort began in 1946). But, they are not sending in their ballots for the November 5 election. Thus far, only 39,100, or 10 percent, of those who voted as of Monday, October 28, were Millennials, whereas more than half are Baby Boomers (55-74). Another 2 percent were Generation Z (18 to 25 years old).

Republicans Dominating Early Returned Votes

Republicans represent 28 percent of registration, but are currently 39 percent of the turnout in the October 28 report from the Secretary of State, 8 days before Election Day.

Currently, about 11 percent of registered voters have returned ballots. Off-year elections tend to have lower turnout than even numbered general elections. But the pace of return of ballots so far this year is ahead of off-year elections in 2015 and 2017. However, those two elections were without contested statewide ballot issues. The most recent high point in an off-year election turnout was 2013 when Amendment 66, a billion-dollar tax increase for education, generated over $10 million in campaign contributions from supporters. Turnout was 1.4 million and it lost to a modest opposition campaign by two-to-one (64%). Turnout in 2015, when a little contested marijuana tax was on the ballot, attracted 1.2 million voters and 1.1 million in 2017 when no statewide propositions were on the ballot.

Jefferson County has the highest early metro turnout, with El Paso tops in the state. Half the vote so far is from Baby Boomers (55-74). They are the largest voting group (52%) and Gen Y and Z (Millennials) (≤40) the lowest (12%).

It is too early to draw any conclusion about local and state propositions, but liberal positions on issues and where it’s a factor for municipal candidates will require Denver and likeminded unaffiliated voters to assist them to overcome the high Republican turnout (proportionally) in off-year elections.