Tuesday, June 30, 2020

KOA Pre-Election Interview: Colorado Gets National Attention

April Zesbaugh, Floyd Ciruli and Marty Lenz
In a pre-election interview, KOA’s April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz (June 29) reviewed the status of the Democratic senate primary.

Although the race became intense the last month and millions of dollars in advertising expended, the sense remains that John Hickenlooper has the final advantage.

High-Profile Race
This primary became surprisingly competitive and high-profile. It was in the New York Times this weekend, and recently the Washington Post, Politico, the AP and The Hill. John Hickenlooper, as the two-term, well liked former governor, was slated to win. But, missteps with ethics violations and misstatements on race issues put him on the defense. His debate performances the last three weeks were weak and the sense was that the momentum had shifted to his underdog challenger, Andrew Romanoff.

Hickenlooper Starts Campaigning
Hickenlooper finally started campaigning after being attacked by a negative and broadly criticized campaign commercial from Romanoff and two million dollars in negative ads from the national Republicans and incumbent Senator Cory Gardner. Hickenlooper, a prodigious fundraiser, spent more than three million dollars in defense with funds from the national Democratic Senate PAC and negative ads from an independent non-disclosed group. He emphasized endorsements from progressive national figures Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and local officials trying to shore up perceived weakness.

Poll Shows Hickenlooper Easy Winner
A recent non-probability poll showed Hickenlooper ahead by 30 points. The race is most likely much closer, but the poll did contain some other good news for Hickenlooper:
  • Most Democrats believe he is the strongest candidate against Gardner – a top goal of Democrats
  • They didn’t think he was unethical, but an ethical politician who had made mistakes (like most politicians)
  • They didn’t believe he was too far right or left, but well-positioned
  • Few Democrats knew much about Romanoff
Lots of Votes Still to be Cast
As of this weekend, more than 1 million ballots had been returned. In recent history, the last two days will produce huge returns, depending on the level of final voter interest and ballot chasing efforts of the campaigns toward the late voters, many unaffiliated, younger and new to the state.

Wins and Losses from Primary
If Hickenlooper survives the primary, it will have been a wake-up call that, although it may be a Democratic year in Colorado, the election will not be a walk in the park. Hickenlooper will also have been validated by Colorado Democrats, which was needed to stop being just a Chuck Schumer candidate. He will also be seen as the moderate having distinguished himself from the most liberal wing of the party. But he was damaged, handing the Republicans a new issue and highlighting his weak debating ability.

Of course, the Republicans preferred Romanoff. They wanted the most liberal candidate they could get having already campaigned against the socialists.

The primary still has many voters casting their ballots and it has reminded observers that there is a long time until November and many surprises awaiting us.

Ambassador Chris Hill and the Diplomatic Café

Chris Hill ended his June 24 Zoom broadcast with the news it was his final Diplomatic Café as he was beginning a new assignment not on the DU campus in 2021. He started the Diplomatic Café this quarter as a forum to discuss foreign policy issues, often with his diplomatic colleagues from around the world.

On April 29, Chris and I presented a session, “Politics and Foreign Policy in the Pandemic,” in which we discussed the impact COVID-19 was having on American politics and foreign policy, for example with China. It was the last in a long series of presentations Chris and I had with friends of the Korbel School and the Crossley Center. Our most memorable forum was on November 9, 2016, the day after the presidential election in front of a stunned audience in Maglione Hall. It was titled, “Election 2016 Fallout: National and International Ramifications,” and I had to quickly rearrange my presentation in light of the surprise win by President Trump. Chris and I then began presenting regular updates on how U.S. politics and foreign policy were changing, our first after one hundred days of the Trump administration and then annually each November. There was much material to cover and ready audiences.

Floyd Ciruli and Chris Hill present a post-election event,
Nov. 2016 | University of Denver photo
In 2017, Chris completed his nearly decade-long service as the Dean of the Korbel School. Among many accomplishments, including high-profile speakers such as former bosses President George W. Bush and Vice President Joe Biden, his most lasting will be building the new five-story Sie Center, made possible by a gift from Anna and John Sie. The groundbreaking in September 2014 was attended by former ambassador and graduate Condi Rice. The new 46,000 square-foot building, which opened in 2016, became the center of the Korbel School’s undergraduate, graduate and extensive community engagement programs.

Anna and John Sie speak at the groundbreaking of the new
building for the Korbel School, Sept. 2014 | Wayne Armstrong

Former President George W. Bush speaks at the Korbel
Gala as Dean Chris Hill listens, Sept. 10, 2013
 | Photo: University of Denver via YouTube

Since 2017, Chris became the director of the Center of Global Engagement, professor of practice, and regular commentator and writer on foreign policy for NBC, MSNBC, CNN, The Hill and mostly recently, Foreign Affairs. Chris has many friends in and around Denver who will miss his presence, but can still appreciate his media commentary.

Good luck Chris and Julie on the next adventure.

Monday, June 29, 2020

New York Times Covers Hickenlooper’s Stumbles

Carl Hulse, veteran New York Times reporter, now living in Kemmling, Colorado, describes in detail John Hickenlooper’s trials and tribulations over the last month, but concludes he’ll probably win the primary due to his name identification and the party’s primary interest in beating incumbent Republican Cory Gardner. But, the race could be closer than expected and Hickenlooper has been damaged as the general election candidate.

However, when asked about November, I thought President Trump is an anchor that makes it very difficult for “Cory to beat that tide.”

They say that Mr. Gardner, who early on endorsed the president for re-election, has not done enough to separate himself from Mr. Trump, who was an anchor on the senator’s campaign even before the president’s most recent decline in popularity.

 “There is too much drag on him from the president and it is getting even worse,” said Floyd Ciruli, a longtime pollster and Colorado political analyst. “I just have a hard time seeing Cory being able to beat that tide.”

Friday, June 26, 2020

Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie Podcast Features Colorado Senate Race

Ken Rudin, longtime NPR political editor, still produces his famous “It’s All Political” segment, now a podcast, called “Ken Rudin’s Political Junkie,” broadcast on radio stations around the country. He just posted his weekly podcast with Hickenlooper versus Romanoff.

Episode #334: House Primaries Claim Yet Another N.Y. Democrat
June 25, 2020

We may not have final results of Tuesday’s primaries, but we have seen some definite trends develop during these months of contests. Nathan Gonzales of Inside Elections wonders if what happened with the GOP and tea party activists several years ago may be repeated, only this time with Democrats and their more restless, progressive base.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has been seen for the longest time as having a very good shot at ousting a Republican senator this year, a result that needs to happen if the Democrats are going to capture the Senate in November. But, as Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli says, several self-inflicted mishaps by Hickenlooper now put his nomination in next week’s primary in question.

And we repeat an interview we had five years ago with Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, and 2004 presidential candidate, who candidly explains what went wrong in his bid for the Democratic nomination. Hint: It wasn’t because of the scream.

Listen here

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Millennials and Generation Z Will Equal Baby Boomers and Older in 2020 Election

Photo: Raul Roa/LA Times
Millennials and Generation Z are the passion, energy and street troops behind the Black Lives Matter protests. They are the most diverse generations, best educated, most liberal and potentially most influential in the 2020 election.

Voters 40 years old and younger will be the largest group of eligible voters nationally, just edging out Baby Boomers and older. The pattern is likely to be similar in Colorado given the recent growth in young and educated residents in the Front Range metro area. But, will they vote?

The Pew Research organization’s latest report on generational voting offers the following observations:
  • Millennials and Generation Z will be more diverse than previous generations
  • Generation Z and Millennials are much better education (Gen Z – 57% enrolled in college, Millennials – 52%, Gen X – 43%)
  • Much more liberal on key issues
    • Like activist government
    • Believe climate change due to human activity
    • Blacks treated unfairly
    • Same-sex marriage good for society
  • Much more competent with new communication technology
    • YouTube
    • Instagram
    • Snapchat
    • Facebook
    • Twitter

Primary Vote 30 Percent Unaffiliated, Breaks Democratic. Establishment Worried?

One week out from the June 30 Democratic primary, 755,866 ballots have been returned and 30 percent were from unaffiliated voters (225,716). They are voting 70 percent to 30 percent in the Democratic primary.

This appears to be a substantially higher Democratic vote than in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary. High interest and a large percentage of unaffiliated voters will provide a hard to predict result. With progressive and justice Democratic wins Tuesday night, the establishment should be worried.
John Hickenlooper (L) and Andrew Romanoff participate
in a televised debate, June 11, 2020 | Via CBS4 Denver

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Hickenlooper Gets Up and Starts Running

John Hickenlooper appears to have acquired his footing and may have actually started to run for the Senate. After a disastrous three weeks of stumbles with an ethics violation charge and weak debate performances, the Democratic establishment and his campaign have started an offensive.

A Cascade of Missteps
Hickenlooper received a high-profile endorsement from Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Party’s leading progressive and on the shortlist for vice president, which points out that the Washington establishment believes the critical issue is not insider progressive politics, but winning a majority of the U.S. Senate. A major blow to Andrew Romanoff, who is campaigning on the need for a progressive like him to be the nominee even if it increases the risk for the November election.

A significant amount of advertising has started in support of Hickenlooper from the PAC associated with his Washington, D.C. and other supporters. An independent expenditure media campaign attacking Romanoff has also begun.

And, the state’s Democratic establishment, including Governor Polis, who has been neutral to this point, but also Attorney General Phil Weiser and other Democratic officeholders, weighed in on the negative ad produced and placed by the Romanoff campaign attacking Hickenlooper on the ethics issue. The line repeated most often was from well-respected Democratic Party leader, Alan Salazar. As a recent AP story reported:

“Hickenlooper’s supporters say the goodwill he built up during two terms as Denver mayor and two more as governor will get him through. ‘He is many things, but personally corrupt and racially insensitive are definitely not among his flaws,’ said Alan Salazar, a former aide. ‘I am pretty sure the most Colorado voters know that.’”

This recovery effort is late. And many of the voters are new Democrats and mostly unaffiliated who did not vote in Hickenlooper’s 2014 election. They liked Bernie Sanders in the March presidential primary and they are up for grabs today.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

AP and Nick Riccardi Makes Hickenlooper National Headline

The LA Times headlined, “‘A hot mess’: Former Governor Hickenlooper stumbles into Colorado primary looms,” a lengthy Page 7 story on John Hickenlooper’s ethical censure and verbal missteps. Written by Colorado-based, longtime AP writer Nick Riccardi, it includes numerous local sources. My contribution was that Colorado has changed in its ideological composition since Hickenlooper, the moderate establishment candidate, last ran in 2014. The changes have shifted Colorado’s swing state reputation to the left, endangering both Cory Gardner’s re-election, but also John Hickenlooper’s primary win.
John Hickenlooper | Alex Brandon/AP, File

But if Hickenlooper emerges from the primary victorious but battered, his stumbles could give a lifeline to the man he’d face in November: Cory Gardner, widely considered the nation’s most vulnerable Republican senator. Hickenlooper’s troubles this year reflect how the state has moved to the left since his last election in 2014.

“It’s an indication of how much Denver and the whole state has changed,” Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan analyst, said of Hickenlooper’s woes. “We’re no longer a swing state. We’ve become a more liberal state and the Democrats a more liberal party.”

The story, circulated on June 18, helped panic the Democratic establishment. They have finally begun to revive Hickenlooper’s lifeless campaign.

The Sun and John Frank Report on Crisis in Hickenlooper’s Senate Campaign

“Hickenlooper has put this [race] in play but it shouldn’t be in play.”

That was my quote The Sun’s John Frank picked up at a DU panel discussion on the election, Wednesday, June 17. He also quoted panelist Sheila MacDonald.

“Hickenlooper has put this (race) in play but it shouldn’t be in play,” Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver, said during an online political forum Wednesday.

“I would agree, Hickenlooper turned this into a race with self-inflicted wounds,” added Democratic consultant Sheila MacDonald, who also spoke at the event.

The June 18 article described a “cascade of blunders” by Hickenlooper in the Democratic primary. Andrew Romanoff had just released an internal poll of him showing the race within 12 points – 51 percent for Hickenlooper to 39 percent for Romanoff. Although closer than polls from 2019, not as bad is some expected after two weeks of front page missteps and debate underperformances.

Hickenlooper’s allies finally sensed the crisis and have since stepped up with endorsements, including Elizabeth Warren, and massive traditional and digital advertising.

Romanoff has lost his previous races in by 8 (2010 Democratic primary) and 9 (2014 congressional race) points, which if Hickenlooper stabilizes his campaign, this race likely ends up. The unknown factor is the large unaffiliated vote of younger, new Colorado voters.

President Drops Five Points in a Month; Average Now Ten Points Out

President Trump, when he activated his re-election campaign after Memorial Day, was down five points to Joe Biden (May 27, 2020). Today, one month of campaigning later, he’s down ten points and behind by 4 to 8 points in key battleground states (see table below). Notice Trump lost 2 points nationally and more in the key states in the last five days.

His shift from the health concerns of the pandemic to the economy has been highly publicized and highly criticized due to increases in infections and hospital admissions in several states. But even more damaging has been his reaction to the George Floyd killing and the ensuing national protests. Trump’s opening declaration on June 1 at the White House was: “I am your President of law and order…” and then berated governors for not using the National Guard to “dominate the streets”. He then announced he was: “…dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property” in Washington, D.C.

With his top team (Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, senior advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, other advisors Hope Hicks, Mark Meadows, and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany), Trump had Lafayette Park cleared using the assembled forces to march over to the St. John’s Episcopal Church for what was widely labeled as a photo op with a bible. His law and order approach and now infamous walk were the most well covered events during the month and they hurt.

The latest Fox News poll shows that, not surprising, the three biggest issues that the public sees as a threat to the U.S. today are the economy, the pandemic and racism. It also shows Trump’s behavior narrowly winning approval concerning the economy, but judged poorly in health care and race. Finally, in a new Quinnipiac survey, 60 percent don’t approve of his handling of the White House protestors and he loses to Biden on doing a better job on coronavirus and race relations.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Romanoff Versus Gardner. Who Wins?

If Andrew Romanoff wins the June 30 Colorado Democratic Senate primary, the assumptions concerning the race will change.

Very likely the national political analysts who rate election outcomes would reexamine the “likely Democrat” label given the race in the last few months and shift the state to toss-up or competitive (Cook Report currently has seat as “toss-up”). Their assessments had been based on John Hickenlooper being the nominee. They normally cite his money, edge in the polls, having won statewide twice before, moderate reputation, and Donald Trump as head of the Republican ticket.
Andrew Romanoff | CBS photo
All three prognosticators believe Democrats could capture control of the Senate, making winning Colorado a critical priority.

Some Democrats argue that nearly anyone could beat Cory Gardner this year with Colorado’s new electorate and Trump’s collapsing campaign. The pros don’t agree. They will cite Romanoff’s lack of money, poor election track record and “very liberal” positions adopted in the primary, some of them not endorsed by Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in their nomination fight. Romanoff would no doubt raise liberal money and get endorsements, but he will have trouble attracting money from much of the moderate Democratic establishment (who have heavily contributed to Hickenlooper), both because they don’t like many of his positions and they believe he will be an easy target.

He will be the candidate the Republicans hope for. They have been campaigning against “socialism” and “extremism” for more than a year.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Race and Policing: The Incredible Speed and Spread of Black Lives Matter Movement

The speed of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement with accompanying demonstrations and policing proscriptions has been unprecedented. In a few weeks, it has shifted American opinion toward agreement with a host of what have been very controversial opinions about racism in America, concern about police behavior and support for protesters. (See opinions in chart below.) In Colorado, police reform legislation passed in days instead of the usual weeks, months or if at all.

Along with the speed has been the spread of the movement across the country, from urban centers, to suburbs, to resorts, to small rural towns. An assessment of the pictures of demonstrators shows a diverse group, with more whites than blacks, and mostly young. Also, the remedies being considered, and in some cases adopted, are dramatic, from defunding the police, to ending chokeholds, to much greater sanctions for problem police officers.

In recent years, some very stable-appearing public opinions have shifted with unexpected speed. For example, gay rights and marijuana use had minimal support through the 1990s, but in this century, rapidly became majority opinions.

Support for gay marriage reached half the American population in 2011 and is now in the mid- to upper 60 percent range. Prior to that, it tended to be in the 20 to 30 percent range. Many factors played into the shift as it approached 50 percent, but it was in 2012 that President Obama first breached support for the concept and provided major boost. The public views on legalization of marijuana use were equally confined to a narrow range of support – not more than a third until 2009. Today, only about 10 percent of the public believe it should be illegal under all circumstances.

One similarity for both gay marriage and legalization of marijuana is the acceptance by Millennials and Generation Z well above the average. They are also the vanguard of the current civil rights protests and backbone of the new public opinion.

Polls show they are the most concerned segment of the population about racism and discrimination, police behavior and support for the protests. As they have become the largest cohort of U.S. population, superseding Baby Boomers, their opinions increasingly come to dominate. The Black Lives Matter movement had modest support, mostly among Democrats and Blacks, in recent years, and now has 53 percent support in an online poll reported by the New York Times, with 67 percent from people under 35 years old.

KOA Interview With Marty Lenz: Hickenlooper Has Turned This Into a Race

John Hickenlooper has turned this into a race with his ethics violations, contempt citation and unsteady debate performances. During April and May, the pandemic had frozen Hickenlooper’s lead in first place. But in June, as the state opened up, his campaign came apart. He still has the advantage in name identification from two terms as governor and $4 million in the bank, but establishment Democrats are getting concerned.
  1. His performance Tuesday night in the first side-by-side studio debate at Channel 7 was better than the two previous virtual encounters. But, he still spent considerable time on the defense explaining his comments on Black Lives Matter and now a reference to slave ships. And, of course, forced to explain that he doesn’t believe he’s above the law related to his contempt citation and fines for the ethics gift violations. 
  2. Hickenlooper’s primary argument is that he’s won two statewide races in down years for Democrats and Andrew Romanoff has lost. In fact, in Romanoff’s 2014 loss for Congress, he was defeated in Arapahoe County, which Hickenlooper carried in his gubernatorial race. The challenge for Romanoff is can he get his message out beyond the online activist constituency?
  3. A new and possibly influential factor in the race is Republicans are starting to spend hundreds of thousands on ads attacking Hickenlooper on his ethics violations and disparagement of running for senate. Hickenlooper points out that the Republican national senate committee and the Cory Gardner campaign videos are proof Republicans fear him and want Romanoff to win. Will Democrats discount the ads because of the source or listen to the message, hence helping Romanoff?
  4. We don’t know turnout, but two years ago in the gubernatorial primary, 635,000 voted, with 200,000 unaffiliated participating. Nearly one million voted last March on Super Tuesday, mostly for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. In recent Colorado elections, the ballots tend to be returned the last two days, so expect furious campaigning over the next two weeks, if not in-person rallies, then on Zoom and in the media. This feels like a much closer race than a month ago.
Last night, Hickenlooper said he was passionate for the job. He is finally trying to get into this race, but he’s late. Too late?

Listen to KOA interview here

Former Governor John Hickenlooper (L) and former State House
Speaker Andrew Romanoff get ready for a debate in the Denver 7 studios,
June 16, 2020 | Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post 

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Democracy and Elections in the Summer of 2020

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Korbel School present a Zoom conversation on June 17 at 3:00 pm with Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School; Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center; and a panel of top political, policy and media experts on the presidential and senate races in Colorado, the status of the state budget, legislation, ballot issues and the general state of our democracy in the midst of a pandemic, the looming recession, and national demonstrations on race relations.

3:00 PM MDT
JUNE 17, 2020

Trump Heading for November Loss Without Major Repositioning

Donald Trump has always been a survivor in his darkest days of business failures, romantic relationship flare-ups and assorted public relations flops. And in 2016, his primary and general election wins defied the odds and the pundits, but today, he’s pushing his luck.

The Gallup poll, which has been tracking U.S. presidents since 1936, records that Trump’s June approval rating of 39 percent is the lowest of elected presidents since Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992) and the unelected Gerald Ford (1976).

As political scientists and Gallup and the political website, 538, point out, approval ratings tend to track November presidential votes and significant change is not common between June and November. Trump’s approval average reported at RealClearPolitics, which is slightly better at 42 percent, has rarely left the mid to lower 40s.

Recent presidents’ approval ratings in the table below shows their January 1, June and Election Day approval ratings. Notice the clear correspondence of the June approval with the final approval and Election Day result. At 39 percent by Gallup, or even Trump’s 42 percent average, he’s in serious trouble without changing the direction of his campaign.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Recession Starts, COVID-19 Continues: Twin Towers – Part Seven

It is a difficult to describe the direction of the American economy examining the front pages of the most recent Wall Street Journals. Is the economy in for a long struggle or is it as the President says, better than a V-shaped economy, “this is a rocket ship”?

Wall Street Journal headlines:
Few believe the President’s bluster, but the May jobs report, while dire, was better than expected. The unemployment report showed a three percent decline, even if unemployment is still at a record high (16.3%), or 20,900,000 out of work. Also, May’s consumer spending from reopening appears stronger than expected.

The mixed economic signals are further confounded by the good and bad news coming from COVID-19 reports. While the daily death toll is now well below 1,000 a day (118,000 total), the continuing fatalities are more widely distributed in the South and West, as the toll in the Northeast has tapered off. The periodic spikes in infections and hospitalizations, both here and around the world – China, Brazil and Mexico, continue to dampen optimism that the recovery will be smooth or quick.

Washington Post Covers Hickenlooper’s Ethics Problems

Jennifer Oldham, Washington Post reporter, covered John Hickenlooper’s ethics controversy and speculated on the impact it could have on the senate primary. My contribution was that Andrew Romanoff would need to get the ethics issue into the campaign narrative with advertising and social media. I suggested the issue damaged Hickenlooper’s reputation and others in the article suggested it could help Cory Gardner if Hickenlooper is the nominee.

“The question is whether Romanoff can get it sufficiently in the political atmosphere,” said Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver.

“It clearly hurt the governor’s reputation as being honest — he’s always tried to maintain a reputation of being clean,” he added. “As a matter of fact, he took a shower once with his clothes on to argue he wasn’t going to go negative in campaigns.”

Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper testifies remotely during a
state ethics commission hearing, June 5, 2020 | Screenshot courtesy
of Colorado Independent Ethics Commission/Webexormer 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Gardner Invokes McConnell for Fundraising: Colorado Times Recorder

Senator Cory Gardner
Gabrielle Bye in a Colorado Times Recorder article analyzed the purpose and risks incurred in a Senator Cory Gardner fundraising email that appeals for donations by using quotations from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claiming that Colorado is being targeted by Democrats. I was quoted as saying:

Floyd Ciruli, a pollster and political analyst in Colorado, told the Colorado Times Recorder that Gardner’s campaign is focusing on the Senate majority because of how important it is to Republicans.

“When you rate what is most important for Republicans, it is holding national power,” said Ciruli. “…In fact, that’s true of the Democrats.”

“When you’re asking for money, you’re trying to really get people’s attention and reflect some of their concerns, and the top concern among Republicans, particularly those who are gonna give money, is the Democrats could take over [the Senate],” Ciruli continued.

Ciruli agreed that Coloradans don’t favor McConnell, but he thinks that when it comes to Gardner’s potential donors, a strong association with McConnell might work in his favor.

“Among the general public, in particular the Democrats who are going to take him on, they are clearly going to attack him for his close relationship with Mitch McConnell, and for his close relationship with Donald Trump,” Ciruli said. “Those are two people who have just terrible favorability in the state of Colorado–and Trump, in particular, is going to be running with him; they’re both going to be on the same ticket. So where I’m going here is that he really can’t avoid it. And for the audience that he is talking to, specifically with his fundraising appeal, Mitch McConnell is very important. And very popular.”

Senate Race Will be Hot Topic for DU Panel

The Colorado Democratic Senate primary has become the main topic among political activists and observers. In a review session for the June 17 Crossley Center/Korbel School panel, the experts will discuss if the Democratic debates could be changing the contours of the race. Join with the panel to review the full range of current political topics.

3:00 PM MDT
JUNE 17, 2020

Panel moderated by Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School and Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center.

Friday, June 12, 2020

KOA Reviews the Democratic Debate

April Zesbaugh, Floyd Ciruli and Marty Lenz
In an interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz on June 10, the Tuesday night 9KUSA Democratic debate was reviewed.

I thought the debate, although limited by its virtual format, worked with the candidates side-by-side and Kyle Clark offering questions and time for rebuttal to each. My observations in general:
  1. It was the head-to-head exchange Andrew Romanoff wanted, and he made the most of it with well-prepared comments with sharp criticism of John Hickenlooper’s record.
  2. The sharpest exchange was Romanoff calling for Hickenlooper to withdraw due to ethics violations and contempt citation. His well-framed position is that Hickenlooper was now damaged goods and a loser to Cory Gardner. It is a direct attack on Hickenlooper’s only real argument for election – beating Gardner. Hickenlooper’s retort was to call Romanoff an election loser after two failed elections and being out of office for two decades.
  3. Hickenlooper’s moderate position may be a burden with the liberal Colorado Democratic electorate, combined with unaffiliated voters who gave Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren more than 50 percent of their vote in the March 3 Super Tuesday primary.
  4. Romanoff’s main challenge will be to translate the impact of the ethics charges and his strong debate performance into votes. Grassroots door-to-door activity is still limited due to the pandemic, and at this point, he has limited funds. Do national liberal groups begin to take notice and send money to save one of their own?
  5. Cory Gardner and his team must be pleased. Either Hickenlooper emerges as a wounded candidate or the most liberal Democrat in recent history becomes the nominee. Romanoff declared his support for defunding the police, reparations, single-payer health care and the Green New Deal.

Hickenlooper Embattled

After two debates, it’s clear John Hickenlooper wasn’t kidding when he said during his misbegotten presidential campaign that he’s a terrible debater. But, bad performance is not the major problem, rather he’s mispositioned for this Democratic electorate at this moment. His centrist views leave him defensive to a very aggressive Andrew Romanoff, who has adopted the full panoply of liberal Democratic views. This is an electorate that preferred Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren compared to Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg last March 3 in the Super Tuesday vote. And, with the pandemic, recession and George Floyd killing, Democrats are even more primed for a so-called “bold” leadership that Romanoff calls for.

Just to make his position even more untenable, the ethics violation and contempt citation, which he made as bad as possible with poor judgement and timing, are dominating most stories about the debates and the narrative into the election.

The Denver Post editorial on Hickenlooper’s ethics imbroglio is generous in that it labels the violations an infraction, but it correctly points out the dragging out of the process and refusing to testify was his decision. Meanwhile, the Aurora Sentinel endorsed Andrew Romanoff as having a clear vision to address the country’s major problems in health care and climate change. The implication is that if Cory Gardner’s failed performance and loyalty to Trump have already defeated him, why not go with the best (most liberal) candidate in their view?

Hickenlooper has had a lucky run since 2003. Last year was a bust; this year may be worse.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates John Hickenlooper, left, and Andrew
Romanoff participate in a televised debate, June 11, 2020 | Via CBS4 Denver

Thursday, June 11, 2020

PBS: Biden Wins Nomination; Gains on Trump

Former VP Joe Biden wears protective face mask during visit to meet
with black community leaders at the Bethel AME Church in
 Wilmington,  Delaware, June 1, 2020 | Jim Bourg/Reuters
As Joe Biden passed the 1,991 delegates needed to become the Democratic nominee after the wave of June 2 primaries, he took advantage of a couple days of positive media attention. But, the news of George Floyd’s death (May 25) and the ensuing demonstrations have dominated the media and national conversation.

A PBS segment on Biden’s pending win was authored on June 1 by Dan Bush, PBS’s senior political reporter. My quote was:

“After June 2, or whenever he crosses that threshold, it’s going to give Biden an opportunity” to bring attention to the 2020 presidential election at a time when most voters have been focused on the public health crisis and ensuing economic fallout, said Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan pollster based in Colorado.

Fortunately for Biden, the last two weeks have provided a major boost for his campaign as the President’s support has sagged under his underperformance in the COVID-19 crisis, the economic insecurity, and now, the missteps relating to the justice movement.

The spread between Donald Trump and Biden in the head-to-head test is now 8 points, up from 6 in the last month.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Cultural Funding Declines 11 Percent as Recession Begins

The Denver cultural community has been especially hard hit by COVID-19 with their organizations’ dependent on visitors and audiences, many in close quarters for extended stays. Although some have adapted with virtual programs and performances, income streams have collapsed across-the-board in many cases with most venues closed since mid-March.

Fortunately for the six-county Denver region, a modest sales tax has been collected and distributed to cultural facilities and programs for over 30 years. In 2019, more than $60 million was distributed. But, of course, like all sales taxes, collections are now falling. The organization in charge of distribution of the funds and management of the district – the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) – reports that year-to-date collections in March were down 2.5 percent compared to 2019. The April year-to-date collections fell 4.9 percent.

The monthly drop is a more dramatic comparison because the January to mid-March revenue was collected before the shutdown. But an April-to-April comparison shows an 11 percent revenue decline below 2019 collections. The recession during 2008 to 2009 took months to develop whereas this collapse took weeks. The drop in sales tax revenue in the region during the Great Recession equated 13 percent. Most economists believe this decline will be at least as substantial and a slow recovery in the offing well into 2021.

The Denver Zoo reopens to public June 12 with social distancing
and other safety rules in effect | Hart Van Denburg/CPR News   

Democracy and Elections in the Summer of 2020

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Korbel School present a Zoom conversation on June 17 at 3:00 pm with Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School; Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center; and a panel of top political, policy and media experts on the presidential and senate races in Colorado, the status of the state budget, legislation, ballot issues and the general state of our democracy in the midst of a pandemic, the looming recession, and national demonstrations on race relations.

3:00 PM MDT
JUNE 17, 2020

World Fatalities Pass 400,000; Brazil Moves to 3rd

The rate of increase of COVID-19 fatalities in much of Europe, Asia and the U.S. has slowed, but infections in many countries continue to spread and cause deaths to increase as the worldwide total reaches 405,000. Brazil has moved up from 6th place on May 6 to 3rd in one month. Mexico with 14,000 is now in 7th place, reporting a rapid recent surge. The U.S. approaches 115,000 in the 2nd week of June.

Read The Buzz:
The Terrible Loss
Open for Business and Living With the Risk

Monday, June 8, 2020

Democracy and Elections in the Summer of 2020

Panel of Colorado’s top political, policy and media experts on the state of democracy and elections in the summer of 2020. The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Korbel School present a Zoom conversation on June 17 at 3:00 pm with Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School; Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center; and four of Colorado’s top political analysts to discuss the condition of the presidential and senate races in Colorado, the condition of the state budget and the general state of our democracy in the midst of a pandemic, the looming recession, and national demonstrations on race relations.

More details on panelists and topics to follow.

3:00 PM MST
JUNE 17, 2020

Hundreds of demonstrators march toward Lafayette Park and the White House
to protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd,
June 2, 2020, Washington, DC | Getty Images

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Trump Re-election Challenge

In one of the strangest election years in American history, the post Memorial Day summer campaign season started with a bolt. Typically, an incumbent president plans his coronation and the opposition keeps working to unify his or her party and raising money. Instead, in an unprecedented historical moment, the White House is surrounded by the regular army, and all four former living presidents of both parties have criticized their predecessor.

Rose Garden to Road Show
At the start of the pandemic, President Trump first used a Rose Garden strategy with the Coronavirus Task Force and then switched to a mostly road trip strategy to battleground states, all the while maintaining an active Twitter feed. Trump “being Trump” wants 20,000 delegates at his convention, which has led to a fight with the governor of North Carolina, who isn’t certain August will be the time to assemble a screaming crowd. Trump’s latest shift to law and order rhetoric in the face of a national convulsion on race relations, has him locked in the White House with limited travel and facing a torrent of criticism.

Front Porch to Basement
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is using a pandemic-modified front porch strategy. He’s in his basement and talks to visitors on Zoom and conference calls. He still needs to win his nomination and pick his vice president. In spite of the fast breaking news cycle that has been a challenge for him to keep up with, Biden has taken the polling lead.

Numbers Don’t Add Up
Trump knew a popular vote win was a stretch given his four-year record of seldom breaking 45 percent in approval, but due to the strong 2019 economy, soaring stock market and record-low unemployment, he had a chance. The pandemic ended that, and unless Biden suffers an historic collapse, Trump’s strategy is now to repeat the 2016 strategy of winning in the Electoral College; that is, to eke out wins in the battleground states he won four years ago and possibly pick up a couple more.

Unfortunately for Trump, as of June 5, the numbers don’t add up to his popular vote in 2016 when he got 46.1 percent of the vote, but was still beat by nearly 3 million votes by Hillary Clinton, who received 48.2 percent. He currently only has 43 percent in approval (54% disapproval), which is one point ahead of the head-to-head face-off with Biden (42% Trump to 50% Biden). Trump is now 8 points down, a recent record. The Republican Party has only 41 percent in the generic ballot test.

Base is Not Enough
Trump’s friends and campaign advisors have repeatedly tried to contain his personal peaks of anger and focus him on taking advantage of opportunities to be presidential; that is, reach beyond the “base.” The polls reflect the strategy and have never awarded him above a 50 percent approval. But, Trump feels acting presidential is a detriment to his independent, anti-establishment image. He articulated his strategy in a speech in New Hampshire in 2019 when he said regardless of what you think about me, “love me or hate me,” you “have no choice” as the market will collapse, “your 401k’s go down the tubes.” With 110,000 deaths and 13 percent unemployment, Trump must argue that “only I can revive it,” but not until 2021.

El Paso Republican Party Not Growing With Population

Since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, the El Paso County electorate grew by 23,000, but Republicans – the historically dominant party – lost 9,000 voters. The big gains were in unaffiliated registrants of 31,000, with the still minor party Democrats growing less than 1,000.

The surge of unaffiliated voters, which parallel state increases, reflect changes in the law, which now allows unaffiliated voters to participate in partisan primaries of their choice and automatic unaffiliated registration for new driver license recipients.. But, the shift is also being caused by the swarm of new young Colorado voters not enamored with either party, but especially the Republicans.

Another factor is alienation from the party among some longtime, more moderate and establishment-type Republicans. The El Paso Republican Party has absorbed many social and political movements during recent decades that have shifted its attention from Evangelical voters and cultural and moral interests, to the Tea Party and its anti-tax absolutism, and now Donald Trump’s personality and his issues. Some Republicans, offended by one or more of the movements, its leaders or intensity, have drifted to unaffiliated.

I told Pam Zubeck of the Colorado Springs Independent that:

“The Republican party is in a transition in which their most visible officeholder is Trump,” Floyd Ciruli, political analyst and pollster in the Denver area, tells the Indy. “He’s essentially repositioning the party, both based on his personality and the issues he emphasizes, and the fundamental base of the party is less the party we’ve known for many, many years as kind of a Main Street, small business party that I think was so dominant in Colorado Springs.”

While the open primary has caused more people to ditch the parties, Ciruli notes, “The fact that it is having a bigger impact on Republicans is a sign that the party is in transition. I think just being able to say, ‘I’m an independent’ is more important today to more moderate Republicans than it was in the past.”

Moreover, Ciruli says, polling data shows that more unaffiliated voters ask for Democratic than Republican ballots at primary elections. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, when Democrat Jared Polis won his primary and Walker Stapleton prevailed on the GOP side, unaffiliated voters sought Democrat ballots over Republican at a rate of two to one, he says.

And since the unaffiliated numbers have grown from about a third of Colorado voters to 40 percent, it’s possible Democrats can expect a growing number to vote their way, he says. Data shows unaffiliated ranks in El Paso County ballooned by a whopping 24 percent since November 2016 and by 21.3 percent statewide. There’s another factor at play as well, Ciruli says.

“A lot of young, educated individuals who are more liberal tend to register unaffiliated.”

Read article here

China Gets Confrontational

Foreign policy, specifically China (PRC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC), is now a presidential campaign issue. Except for wars, foreign policy usually is a secondary set of issues in presidential elections, but President Trump, and in response, Democrats are clearly including the issue in their campaigns and, of course, as the daily headlines report, the PRC is taking actions making them a front page topic. China from Hong Kong, to Taiwan, to South China Sea, to East China Sea Islands, is confronting opponents in what they frame are sovereignty issues.

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research has been addressing the issue since President Xi Jinping became the dominant leader in China (2011). Most recently, a Zoom conversation was held with Korbel School Professor Suisheng (Sam) Zhao titled “China, the U.S. and Global Leadership in the Pandemic.’

The Crossley Center has posted a series of analyses on China and the evaluation of what is being increasingly labeled a “Cold War.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Four Years of “Make America Great Again” and Trump Running Out of Democratic Allies

After four years of criticizing U.S. allies and dramatically ignoring their views, Donald Trump is having trouble calling a quorum of the G7 now set for the White House and Camp David. Angela Merkel has said no to attending the meeting and Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau won’t commit. This you may recall is the famous conference that was first slated to be held at Trump’s Doral, Florida resort and has wandered to various locations.

Since half the G7 appear disinterested in meeting Trump, especially given that he may be out of office shortly, Trump is looking for someone else to meet with, of course, not without denigrating our main allies: “It’s a very outdated group of countries.” Again, not surprising, he wants Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi to attend.

The G7 foreign minister made it clear at the March meeting when they refused to accept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s and Trump’s effort to cajole them to accept the “Wuhan virus” as an official label that his and the U.S. influence with them was diminished. Trump’s alienation from the many G7 participants has been developing for years following his rejection of the Climate Accord, the Iran Agreement, and most recently, defunding the World Health Organization.

Leaders at the G7 summit, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and
President Trump, in Canada, June 9, 2018 | Jesco Denzel/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Xi Fails to Win World Opinion

President Vladimir Putin’s favorite overseas trip in recent years has been to the annual Munich Security Conferences where he regularly complains that Western Europe and the U.S. have had policies that encroach on Russian national interests and harm its economy. President Xi Jinping favors the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he proclaims his commitment to international rules and organizations. President Donald Trump doesn’t relish travelling abroad, and when he does, he trumpets “America First” and complains of ill-treatment by allies, international organizations and others.

Putin doesn’t particularly court either elite or world opinion. Xi appears to want to woo both with his aspirational statements and massive propaganda machine. Trump goes out of his way to outrage both with statements, policies and personal behavior.

None of the three leaders are popular in world opinion. But Xi wants to be. Yet, his nearly decade-long rule has not raised confidence in his leadership around the world. Pew Research reported a 2019 33-nation survey that showed only 28 percent of the national public (median) had confidence in him. His highest ratings were in Russia, Philippines, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa (above 50%).

In an April survey Pew Research conducted in the U.S., the public’s confidence in President Xi dramatically collapsed from 2018 and 2019, dropping from 39 percent to 22 percent in “confidence” with “no confidence” jumping from 50 percent (still high) to 71 percent. While Republicans tend to be more negative toward President Xi, both parties have lost confidence in him.

Hence, Xi, with a huge decade-long public relations effort, has attracted very few to see him favorable at a moment when his party and country are facing considerable criticism for a large number of controversial policies, most of which he has directed.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Brownstein Speculates on New Democratic South

In his latest column (May 26, 2020) on the presidential campaign, Ron Brownstein’s commentary for CNN offers the view that demographic changes in the Southwest could lead to a realignment in which Democrats dominate all eight senate seats – Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada – and Joe Biden wins all the electoral votes. This hasn’t happened for more than 70 years.

The key shift is the growing population of young, educated Anglo voters with an increase in non-White, mostly Latino, voters. The populations are concentrated in the metro areas, such as Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix. In Colorado, those new voters are especially concentrated in the Denver metro region and the North Front Range, and they are giving Democrats huge increases in their vote, up more than 10 points since 2000.

In this column, Brownstein quotes Dick Wadhams explaining his hope that focusing on the economic recovery can help President Trump:

In Colorado, Richard Wadhams, the former state GOP chair, acknowledges that Trump has alienated many of the young professionals swarming into Denver for well-paying information-age jobs. But he holds out hope that Republicans can regain at least some of those voters by focusing their attention on the prosperity that they enjoyed before the outbreak.

“They don't like Trump,” he says. “But when they really have to choose in November, who is really going to get this economy going again, they know what it was like for three years when Trump was President before all this broke. Those young professionals who moved here might be a little skeptical of a Biden presidency with a Democratic-controlled Congress.” (CNN, May 26, 2020)

In his earlier article, Brownstein focused on the relationship between presidential vote and down ballot decisions by voters creating a huge challenge for Senator Gardner. He titled it: “Why Trump’s Shadow Over the Race for Senate Control is So Long.”

Republican incumbents Collins in Maine and Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado face the challenge of holding seats in states where Trump lost last time and now stands as an underdog again. Gardner's odds appear especially bleak given Trump's decline in the state. "Gardner is one of the best politicians the Republicans have produced in that state since" the 1990s, says Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver. "But I just don't think being the best Senate candidate the Republicans have produced and lots of money can deal with ... just what looks like [a] wave against Trump in terms of Colorado." (CNN, May 5, 2020)

John Hickenlooper and Joe Biden

Cory Gardner and Donald Trump

Monday, June 1, 2020

China vs. U.S.: New Cold War?

Chinese Foreign Minister Leader Wang Yi, who leads the new aggressive propaganda-oriented “Wolf Warriors,” warned that America is pushing the two countries to a Cold War. He referenced President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and American domestic hawks as making hostile attacks against China and proposing sanctions and punishment related to the COVID-19 epidemic. He brought up the ubiquitous “century of humiliation” and China’s defense of its sovereignty and dignity. He specifically cited Taiwan as a red line issue.

President Xi, the Foreign Minister and party apparatchiks argue that the correlation of historic forces are driving China’s inevitable destiny to rise and the U.S. to weaken and any effort to resist China’s move toward their global role is doomed to fail.

But the advent of the emerging Cold War is less a product of the old communist doctrine of inevitable forces and more a product of China’s decade-long aggressive reach for global power using both hard (i.e., military build-up, South China Sea expansion, Hong Kong  intervention) and soft means (i.e., Belt and Road, gifts of masks, two billion dollars to WHO).

The strategy is a product of President Xi and his politburo team that started early in the last decade with reform, rebuilding and politicization of the military and has evolved into a major effort to change the geopolitical landscape in the Far East and diminish the U.S.’s and Western democracies’ influence worldwide. The leadership at Party Congress in 2018 affirmed Xi’s ascent and made clear they believe the West is dispirited, divided, distracted and withdrawing.

Regardless of what it gets called, it’s a Cold War.