Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Colorado Politics: Is Michael Bennet Safe or is 2022 an Upset Year?

Senators Mark Udall (R) and Michael Bennet (C) stand with
then Gov. John Hickenlooper during event at State Capitol,
Denver, March 14, 2014 | Brennan Linsley/AP
Is Colorado a safe state for Democrats or will 2022 be like Barack Obama’s and Donald Trump’s first midterms – a backlash? It was in 2010 when the Democrats lost the House of Representatives and 2018 when it swung back to them. 

Michal Bennet is up for his second reelection in 2022, which could be a difficult year for Democrats since the Senate has historically resisted national party-wide trends, but it has become much more susceptible in recent times. The general view is that Colorado has shifted “blue” in the last half decade; it will be safe for Bennet, even without the highly unpopular Donald Trump on the ballot. And, early polling will help set the stage, but just examining the recent history of federal races in Colorado highlights the Democratic advantage, except for Cory Gardner’s close 2014 race. Since 2004, they have won them all.

Bennet, as of yet, has not been a big vote-getter, winning initially in 2010 by 2 points and by only 4 in a Democratic presidential year in 2016 against what many saw as a weak Republican candidate. But what constitutes the Republican bench in 2020? Will the Republicans follow the Democrats’ model and try to find and nominate candidates for the general election ? Or, will their primary produce a narrow factional leader unacceptable to the wider electorate?

Read The Buzz: Colorado Politics: Dems Circle Overhead, Eyeing Colorado’s Cory Gardner as Their Prey

Colorado: A Model Voting System – One of the Nation’s Highest Turnouts

Colorado’s mail-back voting system, established in 2013, has now successfully managed four federal elections starting in 2014, including two presidential elections in 2016 and 2020, with record turnout.

Colorado is historically among a handful of states with the highest level of voter turnout. Often the same states are at or near the top – Minnesota at 80 percent of its eligible population voting, Maine was 79 percent and Colorado 76 percent. Many of the worst turnout states are regularly at the bottom, such as West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas (source: U.S. Elections Project).

Colorado’s 3.3 million votes was a half a million vote increase since the last presidential election. Democratic registrants exceeded Republicans by 81,000, but unaffiliated voters dominated both parties by more than 200,000.

The 86 percent of registered voters participating in the 2020 Colorado election, joined a national record turnout of 159 million counted on November 20. That represents a 20 million vote increase since the 139 million voted in 2016.

The Trump campaign added nearly 11 million more voters than he received in 2016, but Biden exceeded that with 14 million from a nearly 3 million vote higher base, leading to his 6 million popular vote advantage (more than 5 million votes went to third parties in 2016).

Monday, November 23, 2020

Trump and Boebert Win the Third CD

Lauren Boebert attended the White House nomination speech of President Trump and his recent D.C. rally to fight what Trump fans believe is the great election steal.

Lauren Boebert speaks at "Million MAGA March" in 
Washington D.C., Nov. 14, 2020 | YouTube screenshot

BOEBERT: That’s why we are here today. To sand for the constitution! To stand for freedom! To stand for President Donald J. Trump and the American Dream! God bless you all, thank you all so much for being out here today, for standing with President Trump as he has helped so many people like me in their races. How he has helped so many people like you and keeping the American Dream alive. This is about our children, and our children’s children and generations to come!

Her loyalty to Trump is reflected in the loyalty of Trump voters to her. Their totals in the Third Congressional District nearly match – if you voted for Trump, you voted for Boebert.

Record Turnout: Unaffiliated Dominant Voter Bloc

Unaffiliated voters, who already is the largest group among registered voters, have upped their turnout rate and were the largest bloc of voters on Election Day. They casted 261,000 more votes than Democrats and had 342,000 more identifiers than Republicans.

Colorado Republicans face a significant challenge with unaffiliated voters to win statewide. They will need more than half to support them, and as the November 3rd results reflect, they are falling far short of that goal. Republicans lost both statewide federal races with President Trump receiving 42 percent vs. Joe Biden’s 55 percent and Senator Cory Gardner received 44 percent to John Hickenlooper’s 53.5 percent.

If approximately 95 percent of party identifiers remain loyal, Republicans must win more than half of the unaffiliated votes, or about 53 percent, or more than 683,000 unaffiliated voters. In fact, the final result between Gardner and John Hickenlooper showed Gardner received only 41 percent of the unaffiliated and Trump about 36 percent. Republicans cannot win statewide in Colorado without addressing the new political reality.

Sen. Cory Gardner speaks during a campaign rally for
President Trump, Feb. 20, 2020 | Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Democrats Hoped for a Sweep, But Republicans Held and Expanded Seats Below Trump

Polls had raised Democrats expectations that, along with a “Biden win,” they could achieve a “blue wave,” producing a Senate majority by winning three seats, adding House members and taking control of several state legislatures that will conduct redistricting in 2021. Except for Joe Biden making President-elect, the wave was barely a ripple.

In the Senate, two seats were added in Arizona and Colorado, but an Alabama incumbent was defeated. And, a number of seats where Democrats had strong early polling and huge war chests were lost, including in Iowa, Maine and North Carolina. Due to runoffs, two seats in Georgia will be decided on January 5, 2021, but it is very difficult to win one, much less the two needed for Senate control.

Nancy Pelosi suffered a House defeat that snuck up on its optimistic political operatives and pollsters. The nationwide generic polls were plus 7 on Election Day, the same as November 2018 when Democrats swept suburban districts and won the House.

The final national polls had the race with Biden at 51 percent, which is what he received, and Trump at 44 percent. He closed to 47 percent with his late campaign rallies attracting a surge of voters, many of whom had been undecided earlier. They weren’t enough to save Trump in the six states he lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016 (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin), but analysts and pollsters believe they helped in the five battleground states he carried at the senate, congressional and state level. Also, Republican and 2016 Trump voters who switched to Biden returned to the party for lower level races.

Democrats almost lost control of the House and maintaining discipline will be much more difficult with a narrow margin (see chart above). The defeat immediately led to finger-pointing and public friction among party moderates and liberal activists. Democrats know the danger of the first midterm election in a new presidency. Pelosi lost her majority in 2010 to the first-term Obama backlash from the Tea Party and over health care reform.

The success of Republicans extended to the state legislators Democrats had targeted for pick-ups to get more competitive in 2021 state-level redistricting after the census data is delivered. Democrats raised $100 million to ride the blue wave to win a host of legislative chambers (Republicans had $70 million). As of the final counting, they haven’t won a single chamber after targeting chambers in a host of states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Hickenlooper: Lucky or Colorado’s Most Formidable Politician or Both?

A debate on John Hickenlooper’s extraordinary career was launched when I observed he had some great luck in his long run that has propelled him from a restaurant owner to the U.S. Senate, especially when the next step wasn’t clear. As he neared the end of his term as Denver mayor, Governor Bill Ritter dropped out of running for a second term, handing it to Hickenlooper without a primary, who then faced a self-destructing Republican Party with Tom Tancredo, an independent, and Dan Maes, an unknown Republican nominee. After a failed and mostly ignored run for president, Hickenlooper was handed the frontrunner position in the Senate nomination and election in a very good Democratic year.

Hickenlooper has demonstrated his resilience and the strength of his Colorado reputation in the face of a multi-million dollar onslaught of attack advertising. And, he showed persistence on staying with his strategy of low engagement with Cory Gardner and focusing on health care with attacks on Gardner’s and Trump’s relationship. But 2020 will be seen as the year of the anti-Trump moderate in Colorado, and Hickenlooper was out of work at the right time in the right place.

His friend, Alan Salazar, says: “I think you make your luck.” Hickenlooper’s exceptional run since 2003 has both luck and talent. And regardless if mostly luck or talent, John Hickenlooper is likely to be representing Colorado for a very long time.

Read: John Hickenlooper’s Lucky Streak Continues

Newly elected to Colorado Senate, John Hickenlooper |
Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons

National Interest, Out-of-State Money and a Mixed Message

Of the eleven ballot issues, Colorado voters passed nearly all, and the result will be seen as more on the liberal than conservative side. But, the result was mixed. In two votes, more conservative fiscal forces won (lower the income tax and putting state fees under TABOR). But, the election also raised taxes on nicotine and homeowners with the repeal of the Gallagher Amendment. Also, paid leave will be a major expense for both workers and employers.

Some of the major trends were:

  • COVID-19 did not appear a deterrent to getting many initiatives on the ballot. Historically, eleven proposals make up a full ballot.
  • There were several significant out-of-state interest groups involved in Colorado ballot campaigns (e.g., Popular Vote, Abortion Limits, Paid Leave)
  • Significant out-of-state money flowed to several proposals
  • 2020 was a good year for the more liberal side of issues, but some close votes on both sides (Popular Vote 52%, Gray Wolves 51, Fees 52%)
  • Colorado likes sin taxes (Nicotine 67%) and gaming (Gaming Limits 60%) (if limited to 3 cities)
  • 2020 was a good year for “paid leave” (58%). It could argue it was relevant to both health care and economic help for workers.
  • The Governor’s support was mostly positive. He took 5 positions and won 4.
  • Gallagher repeal was a success for local government support (fire fighters) combined with both liberal- and business-desired tax reforms. It represents a small step in untying Colorado’s fiscal knot.
  • As TABOR in 1992 demonstrated, direct democracy can have major impact on state’s operations and finances

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Biden Wins Major Victory

President Trump has had a tumultuous presidency. He won in 2016 with only 46 percent of the popular vote; never had a honeymoon, in fact, his approval seldom reached 45 percent during the first term; and was impeached but not convicted. And finally, he joined only four presidents who lost second term runs in the last 100 years – Hubert Hoover (1932), Gerald Ford (1976), Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992).

His team knew the re-election would be difficult, primarily because he never expanded his support. Consequently, early on they decided to ignore the popular vote and rather target a handful of states that could deliver a 2016-type Electoral College majority. Early in the year, he had a booming economy with a powerful online presence and a rich war chest.

Joe Biden’s victory was a significant defeat of an incumbent who was willing to use every instrument of the government to support his reelection and to campaign nonstop the last few weeks with his well-rehearsed message of “us against them.”

Biden doubled Hillary Clinton’s popular vote win from 2.9 million to 5.8 million and still counting. His electoral vote will equal Trump’s in 2016 (306), and most importantly, he defeated Trump in 6 of the 11 battleground states, whereas Clinton carried only one – Nevada. Biden carried Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Former President Obama called Biden’s electoral vote victory “decisive.” Trump called it a “massive landslide” in 2016. It was larger than George W. Bush’s in 2000 and 2004, Jimmy Carter’s (1976), Richard Nixon’s (1968) and John F. Kennedy’s (1960).

Due to strengthened partisanship and polarization, landslides are more rare, but Biden’s nearly 6 million popular vote will exceed every candidate since 1996 (Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole), except for Obama in his first win who generated more than 9.5 million votes. Even winning a majority of the popular vote is an achievement. Bill Clinton didn’t, nor George W. Bush in his first election, nor, of course, Donald Trump in his.

Biden prevailed in spite of a significant Republican advantage with the Electoral College. And although the President added 10 million votes since 2016, his percentage only went up slightly because Biden added nearly 13 million and overall turnout went up nearly 15 million votes. By 51 to 47 percent, a record 160 million voters opted for a change of government after 4 years of Donald J. Trump and brought along a 74 vote Electoral College advantage.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

President-elect Biden Warns China in First Talk with New Japanese Prime Minister

In his first diplomatic conversation with the new Japanese Prime Minister, President-elect Joe Biden committed the U.S. to Japan’s defense of its disputed islands with China. It was a clear and early warning to China that a new team is in charge. As a part of the transition, Biden spoke to his counterparts in Japan, South Korea and Australia, establishing relationships and setting priorities.

The Japanese government recently underwent its own significant transition as record-serving (8 years) Prime Minister Shinz┼Ź Abe resigned on October 10 and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party selected Cabinet Secretary, Yoshihide Suga.

The Associated Press (11-13-20) reported Biden and Suga hit the key diplomatic points, considerably different than reported phone calls with foreign leaders from President Trump early in his term. It was clear Biden had been well briefed on the issues.

  • Importance of U.S.-Japan alliance and how to strengthen it
  • Focus on climate change, promote democracy, and work for a prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific region with like-minded countries that share concerns about China
  • Shared view that China’s influence and North Korea’s nuclear trust are prime challenges. Most importantly, he offered a strong U.S. commitment to support Japan’s territorial rights to islands disputed with China.

Suga doesn’t have much foreign policy experience, but has been assisting Abe and his agenda for many years. Biden is not known for his relationship with Asia and Japan beyond his broad foreign policy experiences in the Senate and White House. So, the initial conversation was closely examined. Japan’s foreign policy senior officials were pleased with the alignment of values. Also, they believe Biden wanted to send a message of reassurance to other allies and a warning to potential adversaries that existing treaties are lines not to be crossed.

U.S. Adds 50,000 COVID-19 Fatalities in 30 Days; Now Above 250,000

More than 1.3 million people have succumbed to the COVID-19 virus worldwide in 2020 as America adds 50,000 fatalities since mid-September to exceed 250,000.

Meanwhile, much of the U.S. governments’ responses are paralyzed due to President Trump’s refusal to begin a transition and his political opposition to behavior solutions, such as masks and social distancing.

The surge that is engulfing most U.S. states is being met with a variety of educational efforts and limited restrictions. Most governors, recognizing the hardship of lockdowns with no stimulus funding on the horizon, are doing everything possible to avoid economic damage beyond what is already being caused.

Most of Europe is moving back into more restrictions. Italy reports record hospitalizations, higher than its April peak. Even Mexico, prone to minimum restrictions, has now locked down Mexico City.

Harry Lewis – The Breakfast Meeting Man

Harry Lewis attended thousands of breakfast meetings in his adult life. Even after he mostly retired from brokerage, it’s where he conducted his meetings to cajole, plan, manage, help finance and just generally encourage a myriad of civic projects. Harry was always going to board meetings from the Nature History Museum (precursor of the Museum of Nature and Science), to the Denver Chamber, to the Boettcher Foundation. He worked on the new airport, the Convention Center, and was a prime mover on the creation and planning of the reuse of Stapleton Airport. What a legacy.

I had a long series of always friendly and productive breakfasts with Harry throughout his years of support for the Scientific and Culture Facilities District (SCFD), one of the region’s most valuable civic investments. Harry, with his talent for conducting a meeting, helped guide the political action committee, Citizens for Arts to Zoo (CATZ), that supports the SCFD, especially its periodic elections from 1992 until he retired in 2012 – a twenty-year tour of leadership that involved two renewal elections, which secured the district as a respected and voter-favored institution in Denver.

Harry just passed away, but his legacy, from a host of projects along with warm remembrances of hundreds of friends and appreciative colleagues, is enduring.

Harry Lewis

Monday, November 16, 2020

Japanese TV Political Analyst Compares 2016 and 2020 Election Nights

“It’s not the chaos, but the dark and hostile tone.”

Toshihiro Nakayama, one of Japan’s most famous TV political commentators, has covered America’s two Donald Trump elections. In 2016, in surprise, he stopped commentary for more than a minute when the race was called for Trump – a major pause for national television.

Wolf Blitzer on Election Night 2016 | CNN screenshot

His discussion of election night 2020 at a recent Korbel School Zoom forum was illuminating. A guest of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at DU, Toshi Zoomed in from Japan.

  • The Japanese election night audience and commentators expected Trump to lose after mishandling the coronavirus and the normal election intelligence; i.e., polls, forecasts, etc., but the closeness, especially early in the evening, was a surprise.
  • But the bigger difference with 2016 was not the chaos of the election because American democracy is chaotic, but the dark and hostile tone – the uncivil language; the conspiratorial and aggressive social media, tweets and retweets; the bullying first debate; and the hostile rhetoric at rallies.
  • If you had a child watching in 2008, it was a celebration of democracy and America’s social progress. You wanted them to miss 2020.

John King on Election Night 2020 | CNN screenshot

Friday, November 13, 2020

Hong Kong’s Pollster, Robert Chung, President-elect of WAPOR

Robert Chung
The World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR) has just elected Robert Chung, the independent pollster of Hong Kong, for its Vice President/President-elect.

Robert was detained, but released last summer by Hong Kong authorities on one of their latest crackdowns. Hopefully, the solidarity of the world polling profession will offer some support for him and his colleagues. Independent, credible polling is critical to democratic pluralism and rule of law.


2020 WAPOR Election Results

Democracy is Dead in Hong Kong – Yes 61%

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Election Central – Foreign Policy Impact: U.S. and Japan – Nov. 11

On November 11, join the conversation of the U.S. election results, the recent change in government in Japan, and their foreign policy impacts on the U.S.-Japanese alliance and policy in the Indo-Pacific region.

Returning is frequent Korbel School speaker, Ambassador Christopher Hill, now at Columbia University, joined by Japanese political and election television commentator, Professor Toshihiro Nakayama of Keio University in Tokyo. Crossley Center Pollster and Professor Floyd Ciruli will review the latest election results and moderate the discussion.

The program is supported by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver.


2:00 PM MT

November 11, 2020


Post-Election Day Video Now Available

The Nov. 4th post-Election Day video on “What Happened? Why? What’s Next?” is now ready for viewing. On Nov. 4th, Korbel School Dean Fritz Mayer and Pollster and Professor Floyd Ciruli reviewed the results, the final polling and the political implications.  

The program was sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies and the Scrivner Institute of Public Policy.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Colorado is Not a Swing State and Pueblo is Not a Democratic Stronghold

The 2020 election results are putting some old verities to rest, but opening up new insights.

Colorado may be at its peak Democratic moment in history. It’s not because of its strength of voter registration, which is dominated by unaffiliated registrants, but voter performances. Not since the FDR sweep of 1936 has Colorado controlled more top positions – from the governor, to the senate, through Colorado’s statewide constitutional offices, to the two houses of the legislature.

In a recap of the many main observations of the 2020 election, one of the state’s best Democratic consultants, Steve Welchert, in a newsflash, straight to the point-style summed the state of play between the two parties:

  • Pueblo is no longer a Democratic stronghold. It gave few votes to Biden or Mitsch Bush. Mesa County really dominates the 3rd district.
  • Arapahoe and now Larimer counties haven’t been reliably Republican in statewide elections for more than a decade, but now local elections are delivering Democrats surprising victories, down to beating two incumbent county commissioners in Arapahoe (after defeating a sheriff, clerk and assessor in 2018). Larimer just switched from three Republican county commissioners to three Democrats in two years, and the two latest additions are the first women to win the office.

Read The Colorado Sun’s analysis of Welchert’s data here

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Early Turnout 87% of 2016 Total Vote

In Election Day interviews with Tom Green of 9KUSA and Jerry Bell of KOA, the extraordinary early turnout and expected record final votes were discussed.

Unaffiliated voters lead the early turnout (37%, see table below). The Monday before Election Day report shows nearly 2.8 million Coloradans have already voted by mail (a few in-person – 100,000), equaling the total 2016 vote of 2.8 million. Nationally, 100 million have voted by Monday in what experts predict heading for a record of more than 150 to 155 million total votes (135 million voted in 2016).

At this point four years ago, Republican returns were nearly tied with Democrats, and now they trail in third, 5 points behind Democrats. They may be following President Trump’s advice to vote on Election Day, which in Colorado means Republicans will drop off ballots on Election Day and with some (very few) standing in line.

Read: Colorado headed for Record Turnout – More Than 3 Million

A New Poll in Colorado Shows Democrats Poised for Big Wins in the 2020 Election. Can You Trust the Numbers? – Colorado Sun

A new poll out of the field November 1 confirms what a dozen surveys over the last two months have shown. Donald Trump is down at least 10 points. Twelve in this survey to Joe Biden. And, Cory Gardner is heading for a devastating defeat of 11 points to John Hickenlooper, much like previous polls. Gardner was hoping he would be closer.

Reporter John Frank asked about the level of confidence in polls. I said in a DU forum that my level of confidence was high.

The question of whether voters can trust polls is one that Floyd Ciruli gets often. The director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver said in a recent forum that “what you see is about what you get” in terms of the national and local polls.

“I’m pretty comfortable about Colorado as to the surveys we’ve seen here,” he said.

Some observations:

  • The volume of Colorado polls by reputable firms has been abundant since Labor Day
  • The consistency of the results between the topline candidates
  • The size of the spread is well beyond the margin of error

These items lend credibility to the polls’ results.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper (L) and Sen. Cory Gardner in the 9News/
Colorado  Politics U.S. Senate debate, CO, Oct. 13, 2020 | 9News via YouTube

Monday, November 2, 2020

Ambassador Christopher Hill on Short List for Biden’s UN

Former Korbel School dean, Christopher Hill, was listed in a Los Angeles Times article as one on a short list of experienced former State Department hands mentioned in Joe Biden’s transition team’s conversations for consideration for a diplomatic job – UN Ambassador. Just early speculation, but congratulations for the mention.

Christopher Hill