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.