Friday, July 31, 2020

Gardner Needed That

It was a good week for Cory Gardner. First, a poll was reported that had him closing the gap with John Hickenlooper. And then, Donald Trump touched the third nail of American politics – cancelling an election – which Gardner was able to quickly condemn. The seriousness of Trump’s transgression was reflected in the speed it was rejected by even the cautious Mitch McConnell and usually supportive Wall Street Editorial Board.

Read The Buzz:
Can Trump Hold the Line?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) and Sen. Corey Gardner
walk to the Senate Chamber, July 27, 2017 | Cliff Owen/AP

Will the Presidential Race Tighten?

The President and his campaign are attempting to adjust to the reality of nearly two months of polls – both national and battleground – that show him losing well beyond Hillary Clinton’s polls at the same time in 2016 and upwards of twice the margin of error.

President Trump has been a few points behind Joe Biden since early in the year, but it was after Memorial Day that the spread expanded, settling at 8 points on June 17. It rose to 10 and is currently at 8. Trump remains highly unpopular, with a 43 percent approval and a negative 55 percent (12% deficit). His party is down 9 points in the generic ballot test and only 23 percent of the public believe the country is moving in the right direction.

But, will the polls tighten? Yes, for several reasons:
  • After Labor Day, all pollsters shift to likely voters because attention to politics ramps up and registered voters are more likely to know if they will vote. This should help Republicans since historically likely voters have tended to be older, higher social economic status.
  • Trump, in an effort to close the gap, is ramping up his social media and traditional campaign advertising with an emphasis on cultural issues, and is targeting his voters, including identified undecided and weakly committed. Also, he is aiming to persuade people who only occasionally or seldom vote.
Could Trump Win?

No, not with these numbers, but many things could happen in the last 95 days. Biden has kept a low-profile, but soon will decide a vice president, direct a virtual convention and debate. All of the activities have possibilities of mistakes.

Finally, there’s the completely unexpected: the Comey, WikiLeaks, Access Hollywood type of event that caused a major turbulence in 2016.

So hang on. The polls may be correct today, but they can and are likely to change, especially in a year where a pandemic and George Floyd-type of events dominate and so many historic political and presidential norms have been broken.

Can Trump Hold the Line?

The Buzz regularly reports the political numbers. The table below has been updated monthly starting in April.

President Trump is aware his biggest problem is that his massive national polling deficit has spread to battlegrounds states where the vote is closer, but still significantly in Joe Biden’s favor. Republicans are in serious danger of losing the Senate in states where Trump is behind Biden, such as Arizona, North Carolina and Maine. Even until recently, seats thought safe are in play, such as Montana and Iowa.

RealClearPolitics currently rates the Senate with leaning and secure states as: 46 Democrats, 47 GOP and 7 toss-ups. When they distribute the toss-up seats by the available polls, the result is 52 Democrats and 48 Republicans, a source of concern for Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority.

As President Trump’s national and especially battleground state polling position has declined, a critical question becomes: Can he hold Republicans in line? He knows that respect or friendship for him among Republican colleagues is thin, but even among the most loyal, political survival is foremost and senators, governors and representatives are going to start looking for some separation.

The President hopes his numbers improve to reassure nervous colleagues. He has attempted some adjustments in his behavior related to the pandemic, changed campaign managers and dramatically stepped up campaign advertising, but there’s no relief in sight yet.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Trump Losing the Economy

Up until the last month, Donald Trump maintained a slight advantage in public approval in handling the economy. But, it has slipped away, and RealClearPolitics now, in its aggregate poll, has Trump’s approval as 48 percent to 48 percent disapproval.

His problem is complicated by the negative rating in handling the virus, which RealClearPolitics places at 39 percent approval to 59 percent disapproval, or a negative 20 points. As recently expressed in the Wall Street Journal, there are “doubts about a growing economy and recovery due to the uneven public health response.” The Federal Reserve, for example, sees a deeper downturn and more difficult recovery unless there is more effective action.

What Trump has never understood, and it has cost him much public support, is the relationship between the economy and public health. His distrust of government and skepticism of science have been major handicaps in his ability to deal with a recession induced by a pandemic.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Landslide: For Trump or Against Trump?

Although it is hard to believe now, earlier in the year supporters of Donald Trump thought he would win easily and possibly by a blowout. Even after the pandemic started, many kept the faith, believing handling COVID-19 well was an opportunity.

There are presidents in traumatic times who won by 20 points in popular vote and 200 or more electoral votes. Since Roosevelt, the biggest winners trying for reelection were Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 after the Kennedy assassination, Richard Nixon in 1972 in the tensions between the anti-war movement and Silent majority, and Ronald Reagan in 1984 as America emerged from a recession into “Morning in America.”

Looking back, these presidents’ opponents mostly appear hapless and off-key and choice is often an important element of the voters’ decision, but the economic and political context of these elections was even more decisive. In the three landslide elections listed below, only one challenger was above 50 electoral votes and they averaged less than 40 percent of the popular vote (see table below).

However, what President Trump’s team might consider is that he could get the challenger’s popular vote and dramatically fewer electoral votes than Hillary Clinton received in 2016 (227 electoral votes).

Monday, July 27, 2020

Public Skeptical Schools Should Reopen

Two new polls show the public much more skeptical about reopening schools than President Trump.

Only 8 percent of Americans say schools should open as usual for in-person instruction, the position of the incredibly obtuse Orange County School Board. Far more (77%) believe they should either not reopen (31%) or only with major adjustments (46%). Opinion reflects the 80 percent of the public who are very concerned that reopening schools will cause a major surge in the virus. Even 63 percent of Republicans register the same level of concern (AP/NORC poll).

When given a choice in a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll between reopening schools now to get people back to work and children in classrooms or wait until the virus contagion is low as possible, safety over back to work carried the day 63 percent to 32 percent.

Trump’s position, which is framed on the needs of the economy with little or no emphasis on safety, is shared by only about a fifth of the public, although about half of Republicans. A third of the public doesn’t want to reopen and presently prefers remote learning, but the majority position supports reopening with safety conditions, like masks and social distancing, along with remote learning options where needed or preferred by parents.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Lousy Timing

Thursday was a new low point for Donald Trump’s campaign. The President had to bow to reality – a new strategy – and cancel his long-sought massive re-nomination rally, most recently relocated in what was more politically friendly Florida.

The admission of defeat was accompanied by a spate of new polls that showed key battleground states were slipping away from Trump, including his home state Florida. In Michigan, Trump is down 9, Minnesota down 13 and Pennsylvania down 11 points. In the Fox polls, Trump is running behind his 2016 numbers and his current job approval numbers.

The Florida poll from Quinnipiac is especially ominous given the President just had to bail out of his convention due to the surge in the COVID-19 virus and the state is a must-win for Trump’s reelection. He is behind Joe Biden 13 points. Most Floridians also believe Governor DeSantis opened the state too quickly (61%) and that the virus is now out of control (76%).

Quinnipiac just published a Texas poll that showed the presidential race within one point.

Cook, Sabato and Gonzales/Rothenberg Have Biden Near or Above 270 Electoral Votes

Kellyanne Conway | Photo: CNN
Last week, the country’s three main election predictors looked at state-level polling data and other intelligence and shifted their Electoral Vote projections to a range between 268 to 319 for Joe Biden (See: Biden Advantage in Electoral Vote; Handful of States Will Decide). Donald Trump and his campaign can attempt various denial strategies, but Republican officeholders, professional operatives and donors know it’s true. So does Trump, which is why Kellyanne Conway and her advice has reemerged and is dominating the messaging.

Cook just adjusted his ratings from earlier in the year reflecting the now six-week collapse in Trump’s polling. He remains the most cautious on his projection of Democratic Electoral Votes (268).

Masks and coronavirus briefings with Trump reading prepared remarks for the suburban women and wavering independents, troops to Democratic cities for the base from a crises presidency that knows few boundaries, expect the unprecedented between now and November.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Biden Advantage in Electoral Vote; Handful of States Will Decide

Referenced in every commentary, reinforced by 2016, is that the national popular vote is not the deciding factor in the presidential race, rather the election will be decided in a handful of battleground states. But as Joe Biden’s recent acceleration in the national polls shows, an 8- to 10-point advantage nationally tends to translate to winning percentages in most swing states. In fact, it tends to add states to the list.

And, indeed, leading prognosticator Professor Larry Sabato’s latest Crystal Ball map shows more states in the toss-up category and more states now leaning toward Joe Biden. Sabato’s November map, now updated, showed three toss-up states with 42 electoral votes. He now lists four with 66 toss-up votes. But the bigger difference is the states leaning toward the respective candidates. In November, the two parties were nearly tied in electoral votes, and today, Democrats are assigned 268 vs. Republicans 204 (270 to win) (see table below).

The campaigns mainly agree with the listing, with heavy advertising in the toss-up states and the Trump campaign expanding into newly vulnerable states he won in 2016, such as Iowa, Georgia and Ohio (see the two maps below).

2020 Electoral College Ratings
July 14, 2020

2020 Electoral College Ratings
Nov. 7, 2019

The shifts from earlier this year to the new July map reflect a month of polling that reports Joe Biden ahead by 8 to 10 points over Donald Trump, with most swing states having Biden leading by 3 to 6 points. The shifts include Pennsylvania and Michigan moving out of “toss-up” to “lean Democratic” and Florida, North Carolina and Nebraska’s 2nd District moving from “lean Republican” to “toss-up.”

Two of the other most frequently cited prognosticators have just updated their Electoral College projections and they give Biden even bigger leads. The Cook Political Report of July 14 describes 72 toss-up states and 279 electoral votes for Biden and only 187 for Trump. Their toss-up list is Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona and Maine’s 2nd congressional seat. They list possible additional Trump losses if the campaign doesn’t right itself in Iowa, Ohio and Texas. Cook cites Missouri, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Nebraska’s 2nd congressional seat as states that lean Biden, but could shift.

Nathan Gonzales and Stuart Rothenberg produced a July 17 report (Inside Elections) projecting Biden ahead of Trump 319 to 187, respectively. Well over the 270 needed for election. They have named four states – Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and Nebraska’s 2nd District – from “toss-up” to “tilt Democratic.” They moved Georgia and Maine’s 2nd District from “lean” and “tilt Republican,” respectively, to “toss-up.”

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

National Dashboard: The Trump Slump

New polls are not good news for President Trump. The latest polling headlines tell the story of a presidential campaign in a freefall:
And panic has started to set in after more than 30 days of lagging behind Joe Biden by twice the polling margin of error and nearly three times Hillary Clinton’s lead at this time four years ago. (See The Buzz: Trump Behind Nine Points for Entire Month)

Republican donors are shifting funds to the senate, recognizing that may be the only wins possible. Republican governors are breaking ranks from Trump and the White House on messaging and strategy concerning the seriousness of the virus, speed of opening up, use of masks and the value of testing. Last week, the President and White House shook up the campaign with a new campaign manager. And Sunday, a supposedly friendly Fox News interview saw a defensive and testy candidate arguing that there is no problem with the virus or polls.

Looking at the National Dashboard, it’s obvious that 100 days from the election, Trump is in serious trouble. His approval rating at 42 percent is in a territory of presidents who historically lost, he’s 9 points behind Joe Biden in the head-to-head. Only 24 percent of the country believes it’s going in the right direction (69% wrong track), and when offered a party choice for Congress, people support the Democrats by 9 points.

Trump was hoping to ride on a strong economy and a few selected victories, such as trade agreements, his border wall and new judges, into a tight win in spite of a low approval rating and high unfavorability. He was also looking forward to campaign rallies and a challenger unable to handle the barrage of attacks that were waiting for him.

Since early March, nothing has gone as planned and the challenges have not been managed well. His terrible poll ratings are related to the public’s view that he has not handled the pandemic or the crisis caused by the George Floyd killing and the growing perception that America’s race relations need a serious reset. And, of course, the economy is in a recession with depression levels of unemployment and no presidential sense of how to manage, or even awareness of, the obvious tensions between reopening and public health.

As of today, Trump will lose the election as decisively in popular, if not electoral, votes as President Jimmy Carter in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, 41.0 percent to 50.7 percent, respectively. Because of today’s polarization, the electoral vote would likely be closer, but not close enough to credibly claim he was cheated. There is, of course, 100 days to go and things change.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Four Scenarios: Democratic Sweep Moving Up

In November 2019, I prepared four scenarios for the November 2020 election with the “Status Quo,” that is, president reelected with the Senate remaining Republican and the House Democratic as most likely of the four (Four Scenarios: Republicans’ Best Endgame and Democrats’ Possible Sweep).  The economy was booming, only six states were in play and Democrats in an ugly nomination fight.

But eight months later, the political environment shifted 180 degrees and a “Democratic Sweep,” a longshot last November, is now the most likely scenario – Trump loses and takes the Republican Senate down with him. “Gridlock,” which was second most likely in late 2019, has receded because Joe Biden is running so strongly in swing states, many of which have senate races, which dramatically increases the possibility Democrats will pick up the senate with the presidency. In general, presidents who run especially strong can pull the senate in with them, and Biden is competitive or ahead in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Maine, Georgia and Iowa. Democrats need four states and will have to nearly run the states with wins in North Carolina and Maine.

The “Democratic Sweep” scenario has surged as a possibility due to polls showing Biden up 9 points 100 days before the election (see table below). Mostly importantly, he is ahead in most of the primary battleground states – Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump’s approval is a near record low at 42 percent and the generic ballot test has Democrats up 9 points (it was 7 points in the 2018 when the Democrats retook the House).

See blog:
Trump Behind Nine Points for Entire Month

Friday, July 17, 2020

2024 Presidential Race Starts – Baltimore?

In a Baltimore Sun article, Jeff Barker described Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s publication of a new book showing him as a tough-minded law and order politician, although better known around the country as a Republican moderate. The book titled, “Still Standing: Surviving Cancer, Riots, a Global Pandemic, and the Toxic Politics that Divide America,” is not likely to be a bestseller.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference
in Annapolis, MD, July 15, 2020 | Brian Witte/AP
Local observers believe the term-limited governor is positioning early for a national race focused on appealing to the Republican base. Hogan, basically a pragmatist, built a strong reputation as a moderate on racial issues and addressed the pandemic early with closing schools and businesses. He also criticized Trump at various points, including considering running in a primary against him in 2020.

I offered that although he is not known in Colorado and the western states, if Trump loses, the Republican Party will be immediately looking for new direction and leadership. A host of exploratory committees are going to be started by aspiring candidates. The challenge for Hogan-type candidates is to hold some elements of the base, while reinvigorating the more pragmatic wing of the party.

My quote was:

“He is not well-known. He is not known,” said Floyd Ciruli, a Colorado-based independent pollster.

But Ciruli said there could be an opening for a new generation of Republican contenders after this November’s election.

“The minute this is over with, pretty much everybody will start an exploratory committee,” Ciruli said. “There will be a lot of centrists and moderates who are appreciative of some of the [Trump] policies but recognize he is a very flawed personality.”

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Surge in Infections and Deaths Threatens Jobs: Twin Towers – Part Eight

In the last month, California has moved up in the queue of states from tenth place to fifth in terms of deaths from the virus and is likely to move to fourth in another week. In fact, while New York has stabilized its infection and death rates, Sun Belt states, like Florida, Texas and Arizona, are surging. Deaths in the U.S. increased 22,000 to 140,000 since the last time I reported (June 16). And although the death rate has slowed due to better treatments and younger, healthier patients, the impact on the reopening of retail has been dramatic with numerous states either slowing further openings or reducing current customer access to bars and indoor dining. Sports and schools are also pausing or seriously pondering their efforts to get back into the arenas and classrooms.

Unemployment claims continue to climb even though total unemployment and the rate are going down causing economists to believe the recovery started, but is endangered by new layoffs and bankruptcies caused by the continued pandemic, the exhaustion of federal relief funds and the worldwide recession. Since the pandemic started in March, 48 million Americans have filed for unemployment, 6 million a week at first. Although it’s now down, it stubbornly remains above one million new claims (July 3 – 1.4 million, July 10 – 1.2 million more). Unemployment claims pre-pandemic were 200,000 a week. Continuing claims has declined slightly to more than 18 million. The unemployment rate in June dropped to 11.1 percent, down from 13 percent in May (16% in April), In June, 4.8 million workers returned to their jobs, bringing the total unemployed down to 17.8 million from 22.6 million.

The recovery is now seen as not a letter “V” or a “swoosh,” but more of a chainsaw of up and down motions with days and weeks of recovery, followed by periods of layoffs and slowdowns. The ongoing problem is the failure to contain the eruptions of the virus or manage the outbreaks well once they happen. Medical facilities in many places are still in distress. But, that is only part of the problem. The consumer that drives so much of the economy is still extremely cautious about going back to full previous activity. In addition, there are patterns of purchases and lifestyles that may be changed for the foreseeable future, especially related to leisure activities.

See The Buzz:
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part One
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Two
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Three
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Four
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Five
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Six
Recession Starts, COVID-19 Continues: Twin Towers – Part Seven

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Denver Post on Governors and Mayors

In a couple of well done Denver Post reports on the new status of governors with a focus on Jared Polis by Alex Burness and Denver’s embattled mayoral system by Conrad Swanson, the interactions and tensions of managing the pandemic, recession and race relations in Colorado are described.

A few points of discussion:
  • Polis had been able to strike a mostly successful balance so far between containing the virus and opening up the economy. But, as several state and cities show, it’s not over and there’s more challenges ahead. Most governors around the country benefit today due to the health of residents being a state responsibility; i.e., like fires and floods, a need for unified expertise and leadership, and a profound vacuum in Washington. Polls confirm that governors are more trusted than President Trump. Sixty-six percent approve governors handling the virus, but only 43 percent approve of Trump (Quinnipiac, May 2020).
  • Colorado and Polis have benefited from an abbreviated legislative session, which demonstrated that the exercise of pragmatism and restraint; i.e., a shortened timeline due to the virus, a limited purpose (pass the budget, handle a few emergency issues and avoid most big ticket items), can get an amazing amount done. Colorado set the national standard for speed and bipartisan support for a package of criminal justice changes, and it took $3 billion, or ten percent, out of the state budget without a bloodbath. An amazing success in a very difficult year.
  • Denver is dealing with an extraordinary transition from just having a very heated mayoral and city council races mostly around growth and development, which kept the pro-business liberal mayor, but brought a group of anti-establishment, anti-development and social justice advocates into the city council and influence in general.
  • Denver’s effort to reduce the authority of the mayor is against the trend in municipal governance in many places that have shifted to a stronger executive and often look to Denver’s model. Aurora, Colorado Springs and Pueblo have all strengthened their executives. Colorado Springs and Pueblo just voted to create mayoral systems.
  • Denver has been a well-run city and national exemplar for decades. It would be a mistake to lose the city’s balanced system to gridlock, council factionalism and undue interest group influence. Should Denver turn over power to a group that can’t maintain order in their own chambers?

Trump Behind Nine Points for Entire Month

President Trump has settled into a 9-point election deficit as summer approaches its mid-point less than 110 days before the election (see chart below). Trump is also still behind in battleground states, mostly beyond the margin of error. Since I last posted on the election one month ago, North Carolina switched from Trump to Biden by 3 points. The generic ballot shifted 2 points Democrat to a new recent high of 11. Trump fell behind not due to campaign errors since it has barely started, but rather due to the crises conditions with the pandemic, recession and race relations intersecting with the missteps and misstatements by Trump and his governing team.

Only a third of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus response, down 8 percentage points since mid-June, corresponding to the collapse of his election position (ABC, June 2020). He just donned a mask for cameras, while 86 percent of Americans say they wore one in the last week. Even 66 percent of Republicans wore a mask in spite of his resistance and politicization of the issue.

Trump’s law and order and “save the monuments” focus without reference to social justice or police reform has been measured and reported as inadequate by the public in a host of national polls. But, his biggest political problem is that the relentless and near obsessive focus on the economy instead of national health has denied him his only asset as November approaches – a strong recovery, which he would claim credit for. Instead, we may have a weak and sputtering economy, which he is being blamed for.

Trump’s and the campaign’s first reaction to the month-long deficit to Biden was to criticize the polls, including those from allies and even campaign vendors. Polling critics frequently reference the 2016 polls and various perceived flaws, such as missing Trump’s passionate army of supporters. Many analysts have pointed out that the 2016 national polls, which were measuring the popular vote, got it right (on average only 1 point off; i.e., Clinton by 4 points, she won by 2.1 points and 3 million votes). And, although the state polls missed the winner in three states, most state polls and the 2018 polls were accurate. But, even allowing all the criticism, the pure volume of state polls today (different than 2016) are confirming and re-confirming the point spread mostly for Biden. Republicans’ claim of skepticism of the polls is belied by their advertisement dollar investment in formerly safe states that now look in play: Iowa, Georgia and Ohio.

But, Biden is remaining cautious in spite of the good news. He continues to focus his campaign resources, especially advertising dollars, into very critical swing states – Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida – and not further afield, for example, Texas, Georgia or Iowa, which some supporters encourage.

See The Buzz:
President Drops Five Points in a Month; Average Now Ten Points Out
Summer Campaign Season: Trump Still Behind in Battleground States
Trump Has Terrible Week
Democrats Unifying as Close Race Begins

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Early Polls Will Shape the Colorado Senate Race

A new poll from the Democratic firm PPP places Republican incumbent Cory Gardner 11 points behind newly designated Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper. The double-digit spread is better than a mid-April poll by Keating Research that showed Gardner 18 points behind Hickenlooper, but it aligns with previous polls during the last 16 months (since Hickenlooper entered the race), showing a 10 point deficit.

John Frank and Sandra Fish in a Sun analysis (July 2) examine polling data from the beginning of Gardner’s career and make several points.
  • Gardner had a positive approval rating shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, but they both suffered significant declines so that by 2019, they were in negative territory. Trump made Gardner’s life especially difficult with the late 2018 government shutdown over immigration and the wall. In mid-March 2019, the Denver Post highlighted their unhappiness by withdrawing their 2014 endorsement of Gardner.
  • Both senate candidates are suffering from negative advertising and the impact on their favorability ratings is evident. Gardner promises it will get much worse for Hickenlooper – no doubt (The Sun shows Hickenlooper went from 50% approval in 2014 to 44% in May).
  • Gardner expects a close race and his victory will hinge on massive support from the Republican base with just enough independents to eke out a 2-point win, like his original win in 2014.
I would suggest it will require some improvement in Trump’s campaign position vis-à-vis Biden, otherwise an 8- to 10-point loss at the top of the ticket will be a near unsurmountable burden in the effort to turn this into a two-person race with Hickenlooper.

Denver Sales Tax Decline Continues, But Some Improvement in May

In the seven-county Denver region, sales tax collection fell 11.4 percent in April, but was down 7.07 percent in May, an uptick in revenue, reflecting some reopening in May. June revenue, which will be reported in August, should show the post-Memorial Day more robust reopening.

Cities and other agencies of local governments that depend on sales tax must be surprised and relieved that the initial plunge is retail business did not have the massive revenue impact expected. Some local estimates expected 20 to 30 percent declines.

The seven-county Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) lost $384,064 in May from its 2019 May revenue, but still received $5,046,885 (7.07% less, see table below).

The year-to-date revenue as of May was down 5.36 percent. SCFD revenue was about $24 million, down from more than $25 million in 2019, a substantial but not catastrophic loss (down $1,360,589). Will the retail, especially leisure and recreational, reopening stall in July due to outbreaks in the virus?

See The Buzz:
Cultural Funding Declines 11 Percent as Recession Begins

World Fatalities Pass 560,000: Brazil Now in Second, Mexico Jumps to Fourth and the U.S. Surges Again

During the month since my June 10 report on world fatalities, more than 160,000 new fatalities have been recorded worldwide (a 40% increase), even after much of Europe had slowed the infection rate in June. Brazil has become the leading breakout country, moving into second-place for fatalities, ahead of the UK, with a 67 percent increase during the month. Mexico, which had just made it to the top seven countries on June 9, has leapt ahead to fourth place, more than doubling of its fatalities (see figure below).

Both countries are led by controversial leaders refusing to follow the advice of their medical scientists. Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s newly elected populist, right-wing nationalist president, believes the economy is the top priority, does not support masks and has run through two national medical advisors. Mexico’s populist leftist president also shuns medical scientist advice, initially suggested a scapular would help, tends toward long political press conferences, in which he encourages moral behavior, but doesn’t advocate or accomplish much in terms of health policy or capacity.

Finally, in the U.S., even as the death rate has declined, more than 20,000 died, putting the total at 138,000. The recent upsurge has been attributed to early openings of the economy without sufficient social distancing and masks. America’s high decentralized approach with President Trump primarily encouraging people to get back to work has led to significant outbreaks in Florida, Texas and California, along with some other hotspots. Although the President, Vice President Pence and the White House tend to refer to the current surges as embers, the economy is beginning to feel the result as several governors are having to back off their opening decisions.

The U.S.’s reputation for managing this crisis has now become so poor that Europe is not welcoming American tourists. Possibly the biggest embarrassment for Trump is that Mexico is closing the border.

See The Buzz:
World Fatalities Pass 400,000; Brazil Moves to 3rd
Open for Business and Living With the Risk

Democracy is Dead in Hong Kong – Yes 61%

It is said that the canary in the coalmine of democracy is the pollsters. When they disappear, the air of freedom is gone. Robert Chung, the famous independent pollster in Hong Kong, has been arrested. Chung’s institute, the POP, or now Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI), had just published a poll in which one question was: “Is Hong Kong still a free city?” – 61% no, which no doubt interested China’s security services.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy group were trying to hold a primary to select their candidates for the upcoming legislative elections, maybe the last in Hong Kong’s brief 22-year independent history, the so-called “one country, two systems.”

The new China security law allows Chinese security forces and courts to arrest and punish Hong Kong residents (and non-permanent residents) for acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Acts that can be easily applied to advocating democracy or independence, criticizing Beijing or Beijing local leadership, and demonstrating or communicating any of these ideas or actions.

Chung taught and directed polling at the University of Hong Kong from 1991 until May 2019 when he formed an independent polling institute. He is an active member and leader of the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR). They have in the past had to activate their worldwide membership to defend him from interference from the local government. This is a much more serious breach of China’s basic rights and far more ominous to free expression in Hong Kong.

Robert Chung, center, president and chief executive of the
Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, at a news conference
in Hong Kong a year ago | Joyce Zhou/Reuters

Monday, July 13, 2020

Boomers Dominated the Primary. Help Give One of Their Own the Prize

The Baby Boomers, now spanning 56 to 75 years old, are only 28 percent of the national electorate, but were 43 percent of the Colorado primary voters, and with their older cohort, the Silent Generation (75 and older), were more than half the electorate (56%). Polls showed John Hickenlooper (68 years old) benefitted from the nostalgia vote, winning his biggest percentage from Boomers and older.

The often discussed Millennials and the new Generation Z together only represented 22 percent of the primary voters. (They were well under their potential according to Pew Research; i.e., 37%). But, they were a bigger share of the Democratic vote, representing 27 percent. Not surprising, the Republican electorate was older – two-thirds were the Boomer and Silent cohorts (67%, Democrats were 51%) and only 14 percent Millennial or younger.

As typical of electorates around the country, women were better represented than men by 54 percent to 46 percent. Again, no surprise, they were an even larger percentage of the Democrats (57%), or 125,000 more voters than men. Republicans were evenly divided between the genders, with only 2,000 more women than men voting.

López Obrador Comes to D.C. to Celebrate NATFA II - Alone

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) traveled to D.C. last week to meet with President Trump to celebrate the implementation of the NAFTA II agreement, first approved in the Clinton administration, and recently revised, now called USMCA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (ratified in March 2020).

AMLO has lost popularity in recent months (he’s 19 months into his 6-year term) due to the economy, COVID-19 and crime, but is in the upper 50 percent range and more popular than Trump, who hovers in the low 40s. AMLO is taking considerable criticism coming to see Trump. However, he is fond of political theater that confounds his critics and fits his image of an iconoclast.

Also, AMLO will be in D.C. without his northern colleague, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Canadian, a more traditional politician than AMLO, has a variety of scheduling excuses, but observers believe, like most longtime American allies, is simply avoiding the discomfort of dealing with Trump’s personality, the embarrassment of his likely off-the-cuff comments and the inevitable political criticism at home.

Meeting with Trump will not play well with the citizens of Mexico or Canada, who according to the latest Gallup Analytics Weekly (6-30-20), has extraordinary little credibility in either country.

President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez
Obrador hold up joint declarations after being signed during a ceremony in
the Rose Garden of the White House, July 8, 2020 | Al Drago/Bloomberg

Friday, July 10, 2020

Western Wire: Colorado Oil and Gas has Two Friends Running for Senate

Photo: KUNC file
In a long online analysis, Michael Sandoval, the managing editor of Western Wire, concluded that both U.S. Senate candidates are friends of the local oil and gas industry, but that current Colorado politics and national Democratic Party activists are for more regulation and, in some cases, prohibitions of the industry’s activities and products.

His article reviewed the recent Democratic primary, especially from the view of the oil and gas industry. David Flaherty, CEO of Magellan Strategies, and I were interviewed.

Some of my comments:

Ciruli told Western Wire that Hickenlooper’s substantial record and more centrist positioning on oil and gas didn’t seem to matter in the primary, with Romanoff’s attempt to push Green New Deal and climate change positions, including a ban on fracking on federal lands, not appearing to sway the party’s primary constituents, which included unaffiliated voters.

 “Hickenlooper’s substantial win was mostly a reflection of Colorado Democrats and their unaffiliated allies wanting to win, as opposed to just issue positions,” said Ciruli. “Romanoff certainly argued strongly that Hickenlooper was not sufficiently environmentally-oriented particularly on gas and oil.”

“Hickenlooper hit a number of environmental notes but he didn’t really apologize or change his position at all,” he added. Colorado’s voter landscape and oil and gas industry prominence provided Hickenlooper some room for error. “It’s probably a safer position in Colorado and the Democrats here didn’t mind it.”

“The polls indicated that most Democrats and unaffiliateds felt his sort of center position was fine, not too far left or too far right. He will be a formidable candidate against Cory Gardner,” said Ciruli.

Ciruli thinks the former governor could hold a minority position in the Democratic Party come November.

“Hickenlooper on gas and oil in general—the fact that he happens to be a moderate on it is quite clearly a minority position. It’s a minority position in the state, now in terms of the activists and the legislature and the governor, which is much more inclined toward regulation. It was a minority position on the debate stage when he was running for president,” said Ciruli. “By and large, and perhaps in their party platform they will be anti-fracking. He’ll be a voice, but he will be voice at a moment when his party is dominated by anti-hydrocarbon sentiments.”

The future of Colorado’s Senatorial delegation, currently a split between Gardner, the Republican, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, and votes for more stringent regulations and climate focus could hinge on the relative campaign and personal attributes of Gardner and Hickenlooper, instead of any strict policy differences, according to Flaherty and Ciruli.
Gardner’s personal advantages on the campaign trail, from a personal charisma and strong debating style he used to upset the incumbent Democrat, former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, should still be formidable. However, 2020 provides the Gardner with a strong uphill battle—a mix of external forces and a change in voter behavior that could weigh down the Republican in November, according to Ciruli.

“In a straight-up race I think Gardner could win. He’s been a good senator, he’s brought home a lot of benefits, he deals with things in a bipartisan fashion,” Ciruli said. “He’s a very good campaigner and a much better debater than Hickenlooper, but this is not a straight up race. He’s got the detriment of running with Trump who will probably lose by five points which he did last time, if not more.”

Voters may want to send a statement, rather than just assess the candidates on where they stand on critical issues, Ciruli explained.

“Trends indicate this is going to be a message vote, not just a vote on the quality of the candidates, which as I said, Cory would probably be very competitive. That’s the challenge,” said Ciruli.

“Cory will have dollar-for-dollar what Hickenlooper has. If that national race tightens—[Democratic presidential candidate Joe] Biden makes mistakes or Trump finds a message that works or there’s another international incident or national incident that improves his position—the entire Republican ticket will improve. The most recent polls in this state have shown that Gardner and Trump are running at the same point behind by 18 points. Unless that tightens, Cory has an uphill battle, even if we know Hickenlooper is not going to surprise anybody by not being good in a debate. He’s terrible,” Ciruli said.

Reuters: Primary Woke Up Hickenlooper’s Campaign

John Whitesides, writing for Reuters before the primary, captured John Hickenlooper’s likely win in spite of a month-long series of controversies, at least one of which – the ethics violations and fine – will dog him through November. My view was that the campaign appeared slow and unfocused, but that all the controversies woke it up. They were, no doubt, aware of the good polls, which can be like a narcotic for candidates and campaigns.

My quote was:

“Hickenlooper was sleepwalking through this campaign so maybe this woke him up, said Floyd Ciruli, a veteran independent pollster in Colorado.

Although Hickenlooper will start the general election with at least a ten point advantage, like Joe Biden, I would believe it.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Tipton is Gone. Can the Republicans Hold the Seat?

There was a short period in the last 17 years when Colorado Republicans boasted having 5 of the 7 congressional seats. Republican Scott Tipton regained the 3rd Congressional District (CD) from John Salazar in 2010, but Republicans had lost the Western and Northern Denver suburban district to Ed Perlmutter in 2006. In 2018, they lost the Arapahoe and Douglas counties seat to Jason Crow. Today, they are in danger of losing the Southern and Western Slope 3rd CD due to the loss of its five-term incumbent Scott Tipton’s surprise defeat. If that happens, Republicans will have only two seats left.

Historically, the 3rd CD has been a Colorado swing district. It sprawls from Pueblo in Southern Colorado through most of the Western Slope. It had a Republican representative from the 1940s to 1964 and the Goldwater debacle. Then, Democrats Frank Evans and Ray Kogovsek held it until 1984. It then shifted between Republican and Democrat until Scott Tipton won it in the 2010 Tea Party year.

The race was not considered competitive with Tipton as the candidate, even considering Donald Trump’s pending loss in Colorado. Trump won the district by 12 points in 2016 while losing the state by 5, and Tipton beat the newly designated nominee, Diane Mitsch Bush, by 8 points (52% to 44%) in 2018, a very poor year statewide for Republicans. But without the incumbent, the district’s history of oscillating between the parties became more plausible. The district tends to follow its own light. The last Democrat to win, John Salazar, captured the 3rd CD in 2004 as George W. Bush won the state by 5 points. But, he lost it in 2010 in the Tea Party backlash, even while Democrats John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet won their races for governor and senate, respectfully.

Tipton was beaten by Lauren Boebert, a gun-packing Trump advocate and bar owner from Rifle. Most observers attribute it to her public relations ability (challenging Beto O’Rourke, refusing to shutdown), hard work and an alignment with the district’s most conservative values. Tipton’s sparse campaign did not take her seriously enough.

The Denver Democratic establishment thought the district needed a change and endorsed businessman James Iacino. But local Democrats preferred a rerun with Mitsch Bush.

This time around, can Mitsch Bush run closer in Mesa, stronger in La Plata, win the Latino Rio Grande Valley and bring Pueblo back into the Democratic column? If so, the race could be competitive. Boebert is colorful and will be a favorite of the conservative media, broadcast and digital, but is she too extreme for regular Republicans and moderate unaffiliated voters? Expect a high-profile, expensive, competitive race.

Colorado Senate Race 2020: Expensive and Negative

The November and Senate election ballot is set. Former Governor John Hickenlooper will take on Senator Cory Gardner in what will be a Colorado record spending campaign that has already started negative and will continue nonstop.

Interesting, both candidate were on the ballot in 2014 with Hickenlooper’s reelection and Gardner’s upset win for Senate. Both races were close.

The following are some early observations on the next three months:
  • Expect record turnout. Colorado’s convenient ballot system, the presidential race and a flood of newly eligible unaffiliated voters will increase participation.
  • Very expensive. $10 million was spent in a not especially contested primary, mostly from national sources. With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, expect tens of millions to flood in on both sides. The expenditures will have lulls, but will not cease until Election Day.
  • Driving up your opponent’s negatives before Labor Day is a well-established campaign rule, and it was visible in 2014 and has already started in Colorado, much of it by outside groups. The primary provided the Republicans much material, but President Trump tends to make life difficult for incumbents that need to appeal to an electorate broader than just his base. 
  • Advertising will dominate as neither candidate will be very accessible. Hickenlooper is a gaff machine, both candidates will attract protesters, and Gardner wants to avoid commenting on Trump’s tweets and random behavior. Gardner needs the debates, assuming he starts behind in the polls; Hickenlooper will want to limit them. Both candidates will blame the pandemic.
  • It is assumed Gardner is behind and “the most vulnerable senate incumbent” up for reelection. He will need Trump to close the race nationally and he will want his race to be a Colorado choice and not a referendum on Trump. Gardner believes his record of delivering for the state, bipartisan efforts and campaign ability will give him an edge in a head-to-head race with Hickenlooper. Hickenlooper hopes the shift in Colorado politics and Trump on the ballot will form a blue wall. But, he will stay on the attack on core 2020 issues of the economy, pandemic, race relations, plus the usual Democratic agenda that tends to match with Gardner’s views, such as on guns.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Record Turnout in Smooth Running Election

The 2020 primary with Colorado’s convenient mail-back ballot system and encouraging participation from the state’s largest bloc of unaffiliated voters exceeded the turnout in the competitive two-party race for governor in 2018 by more than 300,000 votes (1,171,000 in 2018). This year, only Democrats had a competitive race for senate, but still 565,000 Republicans voted for a total 1,577,347 votes (Secretary of State claims 1.6 voted, but a few have not been posted as of 3:00 pm, Wednesday, July 1). The state’s mail-back system can handle presidential-level turnout as it did in 2016 (2.6 million).

As of 3:00 pm Wednesday, 509,422 unaffiliated voters participated, with more than 300,000 voting in the Democratic primary. It made up much of the difference in the Republican and Democratic totals and points to the challenge Republicans will have in November if they can’t shift unaffiliated voters to a more even split.

Presidential years attract greater registration and voter participation. More than 1.8 million voted on Super Tuesday. But, a lot of credit goes to John Hickenlooper’s early stumbles. More than $10 million was spent in broadcast and digital ads, most of it for Hickenlooper. Big money tends to track with bigger turnout. It helped him hold the lead people assumed he had, but appeared to be losing by the ethics controversy and gaffs.

This report will be updated as the Secretary of State releases more data.