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.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Denver Post Recommends a “Yes” on Proposition DD, Sports Gaming for Water

The Denver Post endorsed Proposition DD, the sports gaming for water funding for projects on the November 5 ballot.
The editorial page cited the success of the Great Outdoors Colorado program that uses lottery revenue to fund land conservation, public parks and recreation projects as an example of a successful program depending on gaming revenue.
The Post earlier recommended a “no” vote on Proposition CC, the TABOR override, as poorly drafted and a permanent change in the operation of the amendment.

Friday, October 25, 2019

All Roads Lead to Putin

The House of Representatives voted 354 to 60, including 129 Republicans, against President Trump’s abrupt Syrian withdrawal (10-16-19). Trump’s foreign policy behavior, besides Ukraine, is becoming connected to his potential impeachment. The White House confrontation between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump on the same day of the Syrian rebuke weaved together Ukraine, Putin, NATO, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The Speaker Confronts the President
on “All roads lead to Putin”
“The Russians were the beneficiaries of any withholding of assistance or encouragement to the Ukraine. Again, Putin benefits. The Russians benefited, Putin did, when the president placed some doubt about our commitment to NATO, right from the start of his administration. All roads lead to Putin. Then, the president said, ‘Well, the reason I’m taking the troops out of Syria is because I promised in the campaign to bring the troops home.’ My question to him is, is Saudi Arabia home? Is Saudi Arabia home? […] He said ‘Well, the Saudi Arabians are paying for it.’ Really, we’re putting our troops in harm’s way for Saudi Arabia because they’re paying for it? […] What it did do was cause a meltdown on the part of the president because he was unhappy with those questions.” (Brookings, Oct. 18, 2019)

Photo: White House

A majority of the public back the impeachment inquiry and 48 percent support actual removal from office. While the Democrats want to move more quickly, each week’s testimony and events bring more bad news.

Although Trump is unlikely to be convicted in the Senate – he only needs 35 Republicans – he is increasingly likely to see more than half the Senate – 50 votes – in favor of his conviction.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

McConnell Takes on Trump, Isolationism, Defends America’s Global Leadership

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Without mentioning Donald Trump’s name, Mitch McConnell, in a high-profile guest editorial in the Washington Post, took on President Trump’s foreign policy, labeling it isolationist and specifically claiming his Syrian withdrawal is a “grave strategic mistake.” It will, in his view, make the “American people…less safe…embolden our enemies and weaken important alliances.”

He cites three policy lessons distilled from decades of U.S. experience dealing with national threats:
  • The danger “is real and cannot be wished away”
  • American leadership is essential
  • We can’t do this alone
McConnell reaches back to the pre-1950s isolationist period to warn that it was America’s global leadership since WWII that created a better world and a safer, more prosperous environment for the U.S. He articulates the Mattis Doctrine: We need others, especially local forces to help us.

It is a searing indictment of Trump’s world view and current tactics. And, while the urge for isolationism is always around, the American people repeatedly say that the U.S. needs to be a global leader and maintain alliances.

Polls on Foreign Policy Internationalism

Chicago Council of Global Affairs, October 2, 2018
Do you think it will be best for the future of the country to take on an active part in world affairs or if we should stay out of world affairs?
Active part – 70%
Stay out – 29%

They support forward basing and not abandonment of allies. Do you support for maintaining long-term military bases in:
South Korea – 74%
Japan – 65%
Germany – 60%

Gallup, March 4, 2019
Do you think the NATO alliance should be maintained or is the alliance not necessary anymore?
Maintain – 77%
Not necessary – 19%

Pew Research Center, November 24, 2018
Percent who say the following should be a top foreign policy priority. Taking measures to protect U.S. from terrorists?
Total – 72%
Democrats – 61%
Republicans – 84%

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Articles of Impeachment are in Drafting

The substance of the articles of impeachment is being developed everyday by the behavior and statements of President Trump, the administration and the reported testimony of witnesses before the Intelligence Committee. It is useful to recall the spring and summer of 1974 when the Nixon articles of impeachment were approved by 70 percent of the members of the Radino Committee (Judiciary) on July 27. The investigation of the previous months and the daily news stories documented the specifics for the articles. (I was at Georgetown Law School at the time.)

Nixon Articles of Impeachment, July 1974

Obstruction of justice (cover-up, smoking gun)
Abuse of power (use of IRS, FBI, others)
Contempt of Congress (ignoring subpoenas)

Trump Articles of Impeachment, October 2019

As of today, those same three articles are being discussed with the current factual base, starting with the Mueller Report, and now driven by the Ukraine whistleblower disclosure. Democrats will likely add a violation of the emoluments clause.

There is a lot of material. Democrats must decide how far a field do they want to go and how quickly do they want to move. A public process with the Judiciary Committee is next after the investigation, so before the holiday seems unlikely, but before February 3, the Iowa Caucus, might be their preference. Timing and subjects, many decisions, interesting moment.

The Nixon resignation timeline ran for two years, starting with the break-in in June 1972 and ending in August 1974.

The 1974 midterm election was a disaster for Republicans losing five Senate seats and 49 House members. In Colorado, Democrats elected new Congressman Tim Wirth and U.S. Senator Gary Hart, along with new governor, Dick Lamm. It was a near sweep of statewide offices and a one-vote majority in the State House.

KOA Interview: Colorado’s Senators in Tough Fights

In an interview with KOA’s morning anchors, Marty Lenz and Ed Greene, the prospects for Senator Cory Gardner’s re-election and Senator Michael Bennet’s presidential bid were discussed. Neither looks good as of now.

Cory Gardner
Gardner’s major challenge is being tied to President Trump, who is not popular in Colorado and has had a very bad month. Starting on September 24 with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry, to the President’s tweet on the Syrian withdrawal, to the announcement of the pullback of the G7 Summit at the Doral, Trump has forced vulnerable senators, such as Cory Gardner, to answer very controversial media questions guaranteed to cost votes from the many Colorado voters who don’t approve of Trump.

On October 11, Gardner attempted to duck – not very successfully – a pointed question on asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival. But on October 16, he declared support for the House resolution rebuking the President’s Syrian withdrawal.

A new poll confirms earlier data that Trump is highly unpopular in Colorado (60% all voters rate him unfavorably), especially among unaffiliated voters (67%). Similar to national polls, 54 percent of the public want an impeachment inquiry to start. Nearly all Democrats (91%) and almost no Republicans (6%) support it, but 61 percent of Colorado unaffiliated voters do. A group, that if against you in Colorado, spells doom. Trump is politically toxic statewide in Colorado.

Also, the poll shows, as many previous polls have indicated, the Democratic frontrunner, John Hickenlooper, has an 11-point advantage over Gardner, 54 percent to 43 percent, again with unaffiliated voters at 61 percent to 34 percent advantage Democrats.

Michael Bennet
In an interview on October 15, as Michael Bennet watched the Democratic debate, he did a running dialogue on his views of the candidates, his anger at not being on the stage and an acknowledgment of his longshot status.
  • Bennet noted that out of the five U.S. Senators running, he’s the only one not on the stage. He believes the rules are arbitrary and keeping some choices from the public. Beto O’Rourke and Tulsi Gabbard are both rhetorical bomb throwers and are damaging the Democrats’ prospects in November.
  • Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are offering unrealistic and unrealizable proposals and giving the Party the image of being far left. It will not play in key battleground states. Warren, in particular, is disingenuous with her hiding the cost of Medicare for All.
  • He likes Biden, but doesn’t believe he’s shown he’s up to the task of beating Warren or Trump yet.
  • He points out that DPS has a much bigger budget than South Bend.
At the end, Bennet admitted he’s a long, longshot, but believes his message and approach is what the U.S. and Washington needs to heal and move forward after 2020. He will shortly be dragged back to an impeachment trial in the Senate, which may be a relief from endless meet and greets in Iowa.

October 15, 2019 Democratic presidential primary debate | Tony Dejak/AP

Friday, October 18, 2019

Pelosi and Trump are Near Tie in Favorable Public Opinion

The Speaker Confronts the President
Photo: White House
After more than a decade being pummeled by Republicans in congressional campaigns, Nancy Pelosi is now nearly even with Donald Trump in public favorability. She is the leader of the national Democratic Party and well ahead of her congressional colleagues on public approval.

Mitch McConnell is rapidly becoming the favorite target of Democrats anxious to take control of the Senate in 2020.

Arapahoe County Jail. Not Needed. Just Let the Inmates Go.

In 2019, whenever you hear the word “justice” in an organization’s name, expect extreme positions with undisclosed motivations and consequences. The Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition with a “bevy of liberal groups, including the ACLU of Colorado, the Colorado People’s Alliance and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition” as labeled by the Aurora Sentinel, condemned the Arapahoe County jail improvement proposal and pushed for their “alternative justice system reform,” which could be better described as “immediate release prisoners proposal.”

In the name of reforming the system, they ignore the crowded, dangerous living conditions of current inmates. They want to change laws to charge fewer people, release most without bail and provide a near perfect diversion system. Of course, many of these reforms are untested, could have major consequences for crime levels and public safety, and are years from being realized.

In the near term, more than 1,000 prisoners are in inhumane conditions and not receiving the mental health or rehabilitation services they need. Inmates are left as hostages to their reform agenda. In addition, public safety personnel are endangered. The Arapahoe County proposal they are fighting offers all the improvements the “justice” groups claim to desire, but condemn it in their ill-conceived disinformation campaign.

Arapahoe County Justice Center and jail | Photo: CPR

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The West’s Top Pollsters Gather in San Francisco to Preview the 2020 Election

The annual Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR) will meet December 5 and 6 in San Francisco to present new research on public opinion trends and

One of the most anticipated panels brings together top western states pollsters in a panel titled, “Election Issues in Western States,” to discuss the factors that will shape the 2020 elections, especially in the West. Among topics are the presidential primaries, a host of which are looming on or before Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020. There are at least two competitive senate races – in Arizona and Colorado. And, of course, the presidential race and its impact on lower ballot races, for example, congressional races in Orange County.

The panel has assembled some of California’s best public pollsters:
  • Mark Baldassare – President of Public Policy Institute of California, frequently conducts statewide polls on political, social and economic topics
  • Mark DiCamillo – Director of the Berkeley IGS Poll. With the Los Angeles Times, polling California presidential primary and other public policy topics
  • Jill Darling – Survey Director of USC Dornsife College’s Center for Economic and Social Research, conducting national and California polls, often with the Lost Angeles Times
I will moderate the panel. My topic will be the shift in several states and sub-state jurisdictions from competitive and Republican-leaning areas to blue status today. What are the primary factors causing it and can the Republicans recover during or even post the “Trump era”?

For further information on the conference, go to the PAPOR website here

Colorado Water Congress Joins Host of Agriculture, Business and Recreation Organizations for Proposition DD

The Colorado Water Congress (CWC), the association of the state’s water community, including municipal and special district water organizations, has endorsed Proposition DD, the sports gaming for water funding proposal. They joined dozens of businesses and agricultural associations that realize the critical place water has in Colorado’s prosperity and quality of life.

Among the water agencies endorsing the proposal are: Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and Water Roundtables in the Rio Grande Basin and North Platte Basin.

Endorsements are still being collected.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

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

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research would like to invite you to attend an event it is cohosting with the Office of Global Engagement, One Year to the 2020 Presidential Election, that will be held on Thursday, November 7, 2019, at 5 p.m. in Maglione Hall at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.

Can America Be Great Again?

Former Ambassador Christopher Hill and Director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, Floyd Ciruli, will assess the changes in American democracy and the impact on American foreign policy with one year remaining to the 2020 59th presidential election. What does “America First” mean and can America be great again? This event follows the November 8, 2016, “Election Ramifications;” May 1, 2016, “First 100 Days;” and November 1, 2017, “One Year After the Trump Election” events in a series evaluating the Trump presidency with Hill and Ciruli.

5:00 PM – Doors Open / Reception 
5:30 PM – Presentation 
6:15 PM – Q&A
7:00 PM – Event Concludes

Maglione Hall
Josef Korbel School of International Studies
Anna and John J. Sie International Relations Complex

University of Denver
2201 S. Gaylord St., 5th Floor
Denver, CO 80208


Aurora Sentinel Endorses Prop 1A Arapahoe County Jail

In a strongly worded editorial, the Aurora Sentinel encouraged voter support for Arapahoe County Proposition 1A, which will construct a new jail with vital mental health, addiction and rehabilitation programs.

The editorial strongly scolded the opponents, for example, the ACLU of Colorado for their callous disregard of current prisoners who “must dangerously suffer inside the current jail” and the safety of sheriff personnel while they demand the end of bail and release of most inmates.

EDITORIAL: We can’t wait for sentencing reform, Prop 1A will end Arapahoe County jail peril and cruelty now – Yes on 1A

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The House Will Indict President Trump

At the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s turgid testimony (July 2019), there were 100 House members ready to proceed to an impeachment inquiry. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “no.” There was no Republican support, and most importantly for her most vulnerable members, only a third of the public was in favor.

Slowly, actions by President Trump (obstruction to congressional inquiries), the pro-impeachment politics in member districts and pressure to move forward within the beltway got that number to 150 by early September. So, when the much clearer and more dramatic Ukrainian whistleblower story broke, it didn’t take long to assemble the current 225 members in favor on an inquiry, move Pelosi to say “yes” (Sept. 25, 2019), and after waiting five months, proceed with speed.

Prediction: Trump will be indicted by the House. Pelosi, Adam Schiff and House leadership must only handle Trump’s defense and keep a majority of the public satisfied that the process is fair and well-managed. (More than 50% now favor an inquiry and very near a majority (49%) favor impeachment.)

Observation: Trump is so convinced that Joe Biden will beat him in key swing states, he has repeatedly engaged in Ukraine-type acts and empowered his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to do likewise. “Biden fear” has launched Trump’s impeachment – like Dick Nixon’s fear of Democrats in 1972.

Mueller Report: The Mueller Report and Robert Mueller’s testimony remain a powerful constant in the impeachment story. One hundred members said they were for an inquiry after the testimony. For them, the Ukrainian imbroglio is just more evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

See The Buzz:
DU Panel on Colorado 2020 Primaries Attracted a Packed House
Fast Moving Impeachment Story Driving Public Opinion

DU Panel on Colorado 2020 Primaries Attracted a Packed House

Does impeachment spell doom for Cory Gardner? Can Hickenlooper survive the Democrats’ climate change agenda? Will Bernie Sanders be a viable candidate in the Colorado March 3rd primary? Will the unaffiliated vote in the primaries favor Biden, Warren, Buttigieg, others? Can Proposition CC overcome the voter skepticism of state tax initiatives?

The panel of political experts opined on these and a host of other topics shaping Colorado’s 2020 political environment and likely to influence the March 3rd presidential and June 30th senate primaries. The panel was bipartisan with longtime participants in the political process who are often called on to make public observations.

Steve Welchert, Democratic consultant, Channel 7
Sheila MacDonald, Democratic consultant, Denver City election
Kelly Maher, Republican consultant, Channel 9
Dick Wadhams, Republican consultant, former state chair

Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies, moderated. The event was organized by the Crossley Center. The panel had some sharp disagreements, but they made a point of describing their friendships and observed that politics can be civil in spite of differences of opinion.

More than 60 community members, professors and students participated and offered commentary and questions.

The Crossley Center will sponsor another forum in the spring as the political year gets underway.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Who Votes in Colorado’s Presidential Primary?

Will 200,000, 600,000 or a million voters participate in the March 3 presidential primary? In Colorado’s first presidential primary in 1992, Governor Jerry Brown just edged out the comeback kid, Bill Clinton, and Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas in a contest that attracted 235,000 voters. That vote total was the decade-long high for turnout in Colorado’s presidential primaries.

In 2000, the last year a primary was conducted, 178,000 voted in the Republican primary between George Bush and John McCain, and 84,000 Democrats showed up to support Al Gore over Bill Bradley.

Governor Bill Owens, with legislative help, shifted back to the caucus system, which parties operate and pay for. They usually don’t attract much more than 100,000 to 150,000 voters in competitive years.

But, Colorado’s recent June 2018 gubernatorial primary attracted more than a million participants, including over 200,000 unaffiliated voters who can now participate in party primaries. The Democratic side of the primary saw 640,000. Combined with the ease of mail-back voting, will 600,000 Democrats show up on March 3 presidential primary? Will opposition to President Trump attract any Republican partisans?

Brian Werner Takes a Break After 37 Years as Northern’s Public Affairs Guru

Brian Werner
A generation of water leaders, many starting their careers in the 1980s, are retiring. Brian Werner, after 37 years heading up Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s public communications activity, is going fishing – he will be retiring at the end of 2019. Brian has a Masters in history and was also the unofficial historian of water development and management in northern Colorado.

His job became more and more important in recent decades as Northern Water, with local community partners, took up major projects to preserve and extend supplies. Windy Gap and Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) will be two projects Werner will receive major recognition for his public affairs accomplishments.

I have had the good fortune to work with Brian for more than a decade. His projects are in construction or near final approvals. They are among his many legacies. Northern Colorado residents will benefit from his efforts for decades.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Surprise, Denver Post Opposes TABOR Override – Proposition CC

With a huge financial advantage, drafted by the dominant Democratic Party and supported by many within the business, local government and nonprofit establishments, Proposition CC was assumed to be the recipient of endorsements from organizations hostile to TABOR and favoring bigger government.

Not the Denver Post. In a Sunday editorial, the paper criticizes the proposition’s revenue allocation as “fatally flawed” and the override’s permanent aspect making it impossible to correct.

The Post, of course, does not like TABOR and believes more money is needed for education and transportation, but Proposition CC will:
  • Exasperate K-12 educator inequalities
  • Create a lobbyist windfall for higher education funding
  • And leave transportation allocation undefined
Drafters knew the permanent aspect was an overreach. We shall see if they can sell it. The Denver Post said “no.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

KOA: Age is Becoming an Issue in the Democratic Primary

Bernie Sanders’ cancelled events and hospitalization was the topic in an October 3 interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz. Shortly before Sanders’ health crisis, former President Jimmy Carter had suggested an age cap might be appropriate for serving as president.

Bernie Sanders leaves Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in
Las Vegas after suffering heart attack, Oct. 5, 2019 | Photo: CNN
Sanders, who is 78, had political problems before his heart attack (later confirmed). He was never able to get even with Joe Biden in the polls, and most recently, he’s slipped behind Elizabeth Warren nationally, but more importantly, in early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire and Super Tuesday mega state, California.

Sanders is not alone at the top of the Democratic primary field dealing with the age question. Joe Biden is 76 and was challenged in the last debate by Juli├ín Castro, and Elizabeth Warren is 70 and demonstrates her vigor by often jogging up to the podium at events. And, for course, President Trump is 73, and frequently feels compelled to say he is a “stable genius.”

If one of the septuagenarians wins the nomination, age may become a vice presidential selection criterion. Fortunately, most of the second- and third-tier candidates – Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet and others – are younger and would most likely accept second-place.

Former President Jimmy Carter | Photo:
It’s interesting that Jimmy Carter, who is a 96-year-old brain cancer survivor, should suggest an age limit. With chronic illnesses better managed and life expectancy now at 79, limits are unlikely. Voters are likely to continue to use mental and physical performances on the campaign as the best indicator of health and ability to handle the job.

Listen to interview here

Fast Moving Impeachment Story Driving Public Opinion

A majority of the American people (51%) now support the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s Ukraine behavior and 46 percent support impeachment and removal, a 10-point increase of support since July (36% to 46% today).

Although President Trump has been losing the early media exchanges due to the events of the last two weeks and their saturation media coverage, it is still difficult to see how support for removal rises much above the approval of his performance (43%). Also, with nearly 90 percent of Republican-identified voters opposing impeachment, anticipating a break by Republican congresspersons and senators from Trump seems unrealistic (favor impeachment: Democrats 79%, independents 44%, Republicans 2%, Source: 538).

The key group to watch will be self-described independents. They have been 5 to 10 points less in favor of impeachment than the average. If they start to shift in favor, the numbers for impeachment will surge and numerous Senate and House Republicans in competitive states and districts could lose interest in defending the President.

Read The Buzz: Support for impeachment inquiry increases, country now closely divided

Friday, October 4, 2019

Campaigns Underway for Two Statewide Propositions

After a late start, the TABOR override, Proposition CC, campaign finally launched with a $1.8 million war chest and a month to convince voters to shift state tax refunds to education and transportation. Opponents, with much less funding, have been in the field with online media and grassroots activity since the summer.

The major difference in campaign financing between the two groups is that many pro-spending initiatives can call on a host of wealthy individuals and interest groups, such as the educational unions and professional associates. Pro TABOR groups don’t have the same friends and allies. The Koch brothers’ funds are one of the few sources often available.

It is likely at the next finance report on October 25, there will be a considerable increase in money raised.

Not surprising, the sports gaming proposition has nearly all its campaign financing – over $900,000 from the gaming industry. The opposition, self-described Coloradans for Climate Justice, had not reported on September 25 and likely will have little funding.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

U.S. Senate Nomination – Colorado

The Democrats will have a spirited contest for their U.S. Senate nomination against incumbent Cory Gardner. It is assumed the winner has a better than ever chance to defeat Gardner in a state that has been trending Democratic in a year Donald Trump’s re-election will dominate politics. President Trump lost the state by 5 points in 2016, and every recent poll and the 2018 midterm reinforce that he could lose by more in November 2020.

Colorado uses a bifurcated system of nominations, with a caucus-convention process and petitioning. In recent years, both systems have been used with party activists dominating caucus and convention, but often more popular, ambitious nominees use petitions. Current frontrunner, John Hickenlooper, will first have to campaign among the 100,000 to 150,000 party activists that have historically participated in the caucus and convention system. If that appears a problem, he could use the petition process.

In 2018, both gubernatorial frontrunners and eventual nominees used the petition system. Walker Stapleton didn't file his petition due to legal questions and won topline at the Republican State Convention. Jared Polis also participated in the caucus/convention and got 33 percent (above the 30 percent requirement for nomination).

The primary is June 30 next year, which will designate each party’s nominee. Turnout in the 2018 gubernatorial primaries was at record levels due to the participation of large numbers of unaffiliated voters. On June 26, 637,000 Democrats and 503,000 Republicans participated.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Gaming Helps the Environment

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) announced that its latest awards included a $7.5 million grant, which provided half the funds to create the state’s newest park, Fisher’s Peak, with its iconic rock feature near Trinidad.
Fisher’s Peak Ranch in southeast Colorado | The Nature Conservancy

GOCO is one of Colorado’s most successful independent grant-making agencies. It was created by a voter approved initiative, and has invested $1.2 billion of lottery gaming proceeds into the preservation of 1.2 million acres of land, restoration of 900 miles of trails and funded more than 5,000 projects in its 27-year existence.

Ciruli Associates helped design the initiative in 1991 and directed the petition and election campaign and its public opinion research through a 58 percent statewide victory in 1992.

The initiative created the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, which redirected lottery gaming proceeds from prison construction into the preservation of open space and a host of preservation, restoration and recreation projects for the state and local communities.

On the 2019 ballot, Proposition DD proposes using gaming revenue from sports betting for water conservation and management programs. Will the public see the benefit of using a gaming tax for an environmental purpose? They did in 1992.

Colorado Senate Race With Three Million Voters, But Within Two Points, or 60,000 Votes?

Colorado voter registration is racing toward four million (3.9 million active and inactive today) and turnout is exceeding 75 percent. In the 2004 presidential election, registration was 3.1 million, with Republican registrants ahead of unaffiliated voters and 178,000 in front of Democrats. Republican officeholders had dominated the state with President Bush winning the electoral vote, and Republicans having the governorship, both senators and four of the congressional seats.

After a decade of rapid population growth, starting after the Great Recession (2008), Democrats went ahead of Republicans, but unaffiliated voters exceeded them both. They are now at 39 percent of the active electorate, and exceeding second-place Democrats by more than 300,000 voters. Republicans have dropped into third-place.

Turnout is also rapidly increasing. The most recent non-presidential year, the 2018 midterm, had a peak turnout when 2.5 million voters showed up and gave the Democrats an across-the-board win. Interest in the upcoming election and the polarized political environment suggest a robust turnout exceeding 3 million voters.

Although turnout has grown, the results in the U.S. Senate races are frequently tight between the parties, except for Michael Bennet’s 2016 blowout of Darryl Glenn by 155,000 votes. It was a good Democratic year – Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 5 points and Darryl Glenn was not a strong candidate and took a long time to develop a campaign.

The 2010 and 2014 elections were within 2 points and less than 40,000-voter difference. Colorado was considered a swing state and statewide elections were often closely contested. Is the growing Democratic advantage seen in the Bennet senate and Jared Polis gubernatorial races (10-point wins) becoming the longer-term trend or is it just a reflection of the polarization of the Trump era?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Numbers Start to Move – Iowa Caucus First; Warren Surges, Bernie Falters and Biden Drifts Lower

In the September 18 Iowa poll of caucus goers, who will start the run into the 2020 caucuses and primaries on February 3, Elizabeth Warren was ahead of Joe Biden, 22 points to 20. The biggest loss of support was registered by Bernie Sanders, down 5 points since the June CNN/Des Moines Register/ poll. The poll was conducted by Selzer and Co, Sept. 14-18, with 602 caucus goers by phone.

New polls in New Hampshire and California show the same shift with Warren now in the lead in both states.

Iowa is not typical of the Democratic Party’s makeup, but often has massive impact on the frontend of the race. Barack Obama won it in 2008, and in 2016, Hillary Clinton (49.8%) and Bernie Sanders (49.6%) tied. It is a mostly white, middle- and upper-class Democratic electorate that is highly liberal in its policy preferences, although in 2020, tempered by a near desperate desire to defeat Donald Trump.

Reflecting the latest polls, including a couple of national polls showing Warren ahead of or closing in, Biden (27%) remains only 4 points ahead nationally, with the new second-place candidate, Warren (23%), and Sanders now in a double-digit third-place (18%) (RealClearPolitics, Sept. 30, 2019).

Colorado’s primary is one month later than Iowa’s on March 3, Super Tuesday, with 15 other states. The state’s only candidate left in the race, Michael Bennet, did not receive enough first-place votes out of the 602 interviewed in Iowa to round to one percent. Should Mr. Bennet give it up? Does Biden’s downward trajectory create a new opportunity for Bennet? How does, if at all, impeachment change the calculus?

Impeachment Opinion is Moving, But Not Trump’s Approval

Action tends to be better in politics than reaction, and Democrats now have charged into what will likely be the dominant political story for the near future. Congressional hearings through the holidays, a new lead topic at the presidential debates, possible changes in the line-up, and a potentially competing story for next year’s primaries.

Public opinion will be a key factor to watch as the parties and personalities struggle to control the narrative. The ratio that has dominated the Trump presidency is 40/55. The President’s approval and disapproval have ranged within 3 to 5 points, plus or minus of those numbers. As the impeachment process continues and time for the primaries closes, presidential approval, support for impeachment and the President’s head-to-head numbers will be key indicators as to the impact of impeachment on the election. Very importantly will be the movement of Republicans, both voters and elected officials. The following are some early numbers.

“Whether you love me or hate me…” – Donald Trump, Aug. 16, 2019

The most recent Sabato Crystal Ball rates the national election a deadlock, with 248 electoral voters each for Trump’s re-election and a generic Democrat. The 42 electoral vote toss-up states are: Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10) (Nebraska 2nd CD). And, other likely battleground states due to their closeness in 2016 and won by Democrats are , Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nevada. Of course, Trump just claimed New Mexico was a target, which most observers believe is a longshot.

On August 16, Trump brought the road show to New Hampshire, a state that Sabato puts on the “lean Democrat” category due to the President’s repeated low poll approvals. But, the campaign believes he can win it. It was here that Trump announced “Whether you love me or hate me, you have to vote for me” because your financial future will go “down the tubes” without his re-election.

Trump was beginning to recognize that he is ten points behind the Democratic frontrunner and the latest University of New Hampshire poll shows the usual 42 percent approval, 7 points below a 49 percent approval for handling the economy.

Trump is mostly right about the importance of the economy for his re-election. History indicates how important it is to re-election, but in Trump’s case, it also makes up for the fact that his personality is a drag on his approval and re-elect numbers. Trump has the good fortune that in the last 100 years the S&P 500 has been up about twice as often than down, but up 20 percent to 30 percent less frequently. The bigger lift is probably needed by Trump to make up for his grinding personal behavior.