Monday, September 20, 2021

New Map Incumbent Protection. Is This a 5-3 Map?

The latest congressional redistricting map may garner the 8 votes it needs to be approved, but it mostly secures incumbents compared to earlier staff iterations. The Commission has settled for the status quo. Although surprises are possible, at least the latest draft doesn’t provide much potential for them.

The previous map, which made competition the key value, has been traded for comfort. Incumbents are now more secure with improved partisan margins. Comparing the partisan lean of the map reported on September 3 to the districts of September 15, incumbents are more secure and competition reduced. The two most competitive districts, including the newest 8th, both lean Democratic by amounts larger than the last map.

The map will no doubt see some changes before September 28 when it must be submitted, but the major change in creating the commission process was much effort for little effect.

See: Boebert and Buck Will Go Home to Old Districts. Is This a 4-4 Map?

Denver November Ballot Turmoil

Denver local government is in disarray. The unity between the Mayor’s Office and City Council has been disrupted and the leadership and authority of the government waned. It’s now every interest group and political personality for themselves and their own agendas. The results is a chaotic ballot, with 13 proposals ranging from major city bond initiatives, to City Council trying to take power from the mayor, to citizens fighting city initiatives and each other. Private land use disputes are also on the ballot. Even the lowly Denver Republicans see an opening and have a couple of the traditional limit government proposals.

The main city initiative is a $450 million five-part bond package. But even the normal city unity for bond proposals collapsed when several interests and councilpersons objected to the National Western $190 million arena.

See: Will the Stock Show Bond Pass?

Thursday, September 16, 2021

If I Lose, It Was Stolen

In a replay of Donald Trump’s greatest hit, “The Big Lie,” California Republican recall candidate Larry Elder, radio talk show host and conservative firebrand, and his Fox News and online advocates began claiming election fraud before the election was over. It becomes an embarrassment given the landslide result.

Trump and now Elder are attacking the legitimacy of elections – a core element of democracy. Trump, of course, is looking for allies for his “Big Lie” message and the next round of elections, especially a possible 2024 rerun. Elder is mainly thinking about the media benefits from being California’s and now the country’s leading radio host-cum-politician. Beneficial for both of them, damaging to the election confidence.

More than half of Americans believe democracy is under attack (56%) in a new CNN poll. Nearly the same percentage believe election officials in the U.S. will overturn the results of a future election because their party did not win (51%).

The latest AP/NORC survey shows one of the few issues both Democrats and Republicans are worried about, albeit for difference reasons, is the right to vote. The percentage of people say the “U.S. government is doing a good job protecting the right to vote” declined from 84 percent in 2011 to 43 percent today. And both parties agree.

Republicans increasingly believe the fraud charges from their party leaders and news sources. Democrats see Republican state-level efforts to change voting administration as restrictions and possible nullification.

In general, it’s clear that the next few election cycles will be a real test for election access and integrity.

The House is Lost for Democrats?

The consensus political view in early 2021 was that the Democrats would have a very difficult time beating the historical pattern of the party holding the presidency losing House seats, and if the Democrats lose 5, they’re out of power.

Democrats were hoping President Biden’s popularity (averaging 54% the first 100 days), managing COVID-19 and an economic rebound would create a different scenario. Needless to say, not only did those accomplishments recede in August, but Biden is now at a negative 5 points with 45 percent positive. In addition, the Afghanistan withdrawal took a toll on his and his party’s strengths. There are now few suggesting Democrats can hold the House.

The latest bad news from the polling front comes from Republican pollster Bill McInturff at Public Opinion Strategies. He reports the generic ballot test in his national survey is tied between the Democrats and Republicans at 42 percent. The last time it was tied was in his polls was October 2015 (Democrats lost the House). In April, a year ago, it was 6 points Democratic. His numbers nearly equal the polling average reported by RealClearPolitics today at 1 point Democratic, 43 percent to 42 percent.

News cycles move quickly and Democrats haven’t given up hope that they can beat the odds. It builds pressure to motivate their slim congressional majority to stay in line to accomplish some key legislation, especially spending for infrastructure, hard and soft, and voting rights. It also behooves the administration to speed up appointments of more judges and long-delayed ambassadors.

Trump Candidate Cannot Win Statewide in Colorado

Eli Bremer | Photo: Colorado Times Recorder
The Colorado Republican Party is trying to field candidates to challenge Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. A number of national indicators appear positive for Republicans, but in Colorado, their first challenge is winning the nomination without getting too close to former President Donald Trump. Trump is not popular among Colorado unaffiliated voters and is especially useful for Democrats to gin up and turnout their base. But, Trump remains popular with most Republicans and failing to embrace him and the “Big Lie” can cause primary problems.

Eli Bremer is trying to navigate that conundrum as he seeks the nomination.

Since announcing his candidacy last month, Bremer has not yet held a public campaign event in Colorado nor taken a definitive stance on Trump. But this refusal to say outright what he thinks of Trump might be Bremer’s best hope for winning a statewide election in a state where Trump is extremely unpopular, according to Colorado political analyst Floyd Ciruli.

“Whoever wins the GOP nomination, whether it’s Bremer or otherwise, is going to face the same problem,” Ciruli said. “They’re going to have to signal their dedication to the party’s base, to issues like election integrity, to Trump. But also, they’re going to have to distance themselves from Trump if they have any hope of winning the general election.”

Ciruli emphasized that any Republican candidate trying to win a statewide election will have to play coy when it comes to Trump.

“This is a universal challenge in a state like Colorado,” Ciruli said. “In some states, it’s an asset to have Trump connections. There it can turn into a contest between candidates competing to say how strong they are for Trump. But that’s not the case here.”

Read The Colorado Times Recorder: GOP Senate Candidate Eli Bremer’s Connection to Trump Hurts His Changes to Beat Bennet, Experts Say by Sean Price

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Congratulations UCLA

UCLA was just named the No. 1 public university in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. It was the fifth win for the school.

I graduated in 1973, and just enjoyed a lunch with some classmates who are very involved in the alumni association and the public policy school. Like all campuses, it is working very hard to get back to in-person classes from the humanities to the hard sciences, and it’s making progress in what will be a great year for students, faculty and staff.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Bush – Homegrown Terrorism is Threat Today

Former President George W. Bush captured the American people’s concern today that domestic political terrorism is as great a threat as foreign. In his new high-profile 9/11 remarks at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, site of the Flight 93 crash, he compared the recent violent acts (Jan. 6) with violent extremists abroad.

Bush said: 

“And we have seen growing evidence that the dangers to our country can come not only across borders, but from violence that gathers within. There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit. And it is our continuing duty to confront them.”

In a new CBS News Poll, 51 percent to 45 percent of respondents said “terrorism from other Americans” was a greater danger today than “terrorism from overseas.”

Read Bush’s entire remarks here

Former President George W. Bush spoke at the Flight 93 National Memorial
in Shanksville, Pennsylvania  recalling the day of the Sept. 11, 2001
Photo: Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Orange County Moving to the Center

In a new poll conducted for an Orange County Republican State House member, Phillip Chen, county voters, in spite of partisanship, show themselves to be much more middle-of-the-road on issues of public health. The county is nearly evenly divided between the two parties. In the 2020 election, Republicans retook two congressional seats they lost in the 2018 Democratic sweep. Yet today, majorities of voters support a vaccine passport for verification of vaccine status, having students vaccinated to attend school and a school mask mandate. Also, 82 percent said they were vaccinated, only 12 percent don’t plan to.

  • 56% support passport
  • 54 % support student vaccine requirements
  • 51% mask mandate at school

If one listened to many very vocal county and city leaders or the behavior at numerous raucous government meetings, one would assume that most people disapprove all restrictions. Orange County residents are far more in alignment with voters statewide than local leaders admit or recognize. A recent statewide poll of the nonpartisan PPIC showed 62 percent supported a “vaccine passport.”

DiCamillo Still Leads California Election Polls

Mark DiCamillo, after being the top source for public election polls for more than three decades from his perch as head of the prestigious Field Poll, still is the state’s top election pollster from his new position as director of the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS).

The Field Poll was sold and dissolved in 2016 after nearly 70 years of operation. DiCamillo shifted to Berkeley IGS and has been conducting its statewide pre-elections, most recently in a partnership with the Los Angeles Times.

DiCamillo’s final California recall poll has set the narrative for the race, referencing the increase in Democratic voters’ interest and the final surge against the recall and in favor of Governor Newsom (IGS 38% to 60% anti-recall, final average RCP 42% to 56% anti-recall). In an earlier poll, he had pointed out that the race was very close, largely because Democrats were not engaged in the election. Needless to say, the July poll sent panic in the Democratic establishment and they put their campaign in overdrive.

There is a lot of interesting data in his final September poll. For example, Orange County voters claim to be evenly divided between the pro-recall (48%) and anti-recall (51%) vs. San Diego County, which breaks anti-recall by 56 to 43 percent.

Also, Newsom is winning a majority among California’s ethnic and racial groups. Combining the polling data with election turnout data from Saturday, September 11, one can see the across-the-board failure of the pro-recall forces to attract a majority.

The pre-recall had to have a majority of White voters, and have only 43 percent according to the poll. They were hopeful for inroads among Latino and failed (31%). However, only 23 percent turned out only by last Saturday when the statewide average was 35 percent. The important and growing Asian community is 70 percent against the recall with a 35 percent turnout.

The Berkeley IGS poll and Mark did an important job informing the public and especially opinion leaders of the status and dynamics of the election.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Afghanistan War Needs a Commission

Well before the final withdrawal, it was clear the Afghanistan War was off the rails.

The original purpose for the military action was long ago accomplished – the Taliban were removed and al-Qaida went into the mountains. The engagement after the 2003 Iraq invasion lost attention and support in the U.S. government, and by the end, 17 years later, it violated most of the stated principles of the Weinberger and Powell doctrines on committing American troops. For example, for at least a decade, there was no clear purpose, while the Taliban were making progress in the countryside in spite of two surges under two presidents in 2009 and 2017. Also, the American people withdrew support and believed the war had not accomplished its goals and was not worth it.

Neither strategy of training and arming the Afghan forces nor the amount of American resources were sufficient or misspent. The engagement was less costly than Vietnam in American lives, but took a high toll on Afghan lives, American resources and international respect, which was mostly wasted, is much needed in today’s dangerous world.

Like Vietnam, there should be a major examination of the conduct of the war, including the strategic and tactical assumptions, the implementation, and the value of high-level recommendations to political leaders. Intelligence, which appeared especially faulty, needs a major review.

Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Center as flames
& debris explode from second tower, Sept. 11, 2001 | Chao Soi Cheong/AP

U.S. Marines assist with security at an evacuation control checkpoint during
 an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan,
August 20, 2021 | Staff Sgt. Victor Mancilla/US Marine Corps via AP

Boebert and Buck Will Go Home to Old Districts. Is This a 4-4 Map?

The new congressional map causes major consternation among incumbents Lauren Boebert and Ken Buck being placed outside their current districts. The map is likely to change given the extensive complaints from various counties and regional leaders. In this configuration, both candidates are likely to shift and run in their old districts. Boebert has no chance in the new 2nd, but will likely win in the reconfigured southern Colorado 3rd district. The average partisan performance is Republican by 5.5 percent. Pueblo and the San Louis Valley gave both her and Trump nearly half their votes in 2020. As blue collar, popular gun areas, she is likely to win again. Buck’s district favors Republicans by 15.6 percent – an easy win for him.

One question will be Ed Perlmutter in the 7th CD. Although the reconfigured district is better than the last version in that it gives him all of his home county, Jefferson, and pulls him out of hostile Douglas, its spread will require work. It still only has a 5.5 percent Democratic lean. Also, could a 12-year congressperson. who could well be in the House minority, be interested in fundraising and campaigning in Freemont, Park, Chaffee and other rural, small town counties in the district?

The new eighth district appears highly competitive with no real lean to speak of. In general, this map offers considerable competition and at least a chance for Republicans to add a seat, but now it has to get a majority vote of the Commission.

Colorado Voters Asked to Decide on More Tax and Spending Measures

Colorado marijuana dispensary | Photo: Scott Lenz
Although Colorado regularly has tax initiatives, the new element in 2021 is the Republican-oriented interest group, Colorado Rising Action, which has declared it’s in the ballot initiative business. Republicans and conservative old Tea Party-allied interests have been out-of-state power in Colorado since 2018. Recalls failed, but Colorado’s relatively lax initiative process offers a myriad of possibilities. Amendment 78 is especially dear to their interests, given the billions that have flowed into Colorado in the last three years.

Amendment 78 – Legislative Control Over Legal Settlements and Federal Government Expenditures

Legal settlements and federal government funds would be subject to regular legislative appropriation. It will require a vote of at least 55%.

Proposition 119 – Increase Sales Tax on Recreational Marijuana for Out-of-Schools Programs

Proposition 119 would add a new sales tax on recreational marijuana at 3% on January 1, 2022 and increase it to 5% in 2024. It would be added to the state’s current 15% tax. The estimated $138 million annual new revenue would go to out-of-school learning.

Proposition 120 – Lower Property Tax Assessments

The initiative would lower the property tax assessment rate for residential homes from 6.8% to 6.5% and for commercial properties from 29% to 26.4%. The Democratic legislature last year passed a conflicting statute, and if Proposition 120 passes, it will likely produce a legal battle.

California Recall – Trending Toward the Governor

As I reported on September 1, polls and ballot returns showed Governor Newsom defeating the recall and the margins are building. Turnout is above 7 million, running two-to-one Democratic over Republican, and late polls now show a 13-point gap for Newsom.

The Latest Polls

On September 1, Newsom moved from a 2-point narrow lead to 4 points. According to the latest polls posted on the political website 538, Newsom now is up 13 points (see table below). 

Ballot Returns

Turnout continues to grow slowly, and most Republicans will likely vote late or on Election Day, but Democrat turnout has produced a 28-point advantage – 53 percent to 25 percent. As debate on turnout continues, early estimates were 30 percent, which has now been surpassed. A high vote is assumed and polls confirm help Newsom. Could it hit 40 percent, 50 percent?

Democrats make up 47 percent of the California electorate (more than 10 million out of 22.2 million), but have returned, as of September 9, 3.8 million ballots, or a 37 percent return. The Republican rate is 34 percent of their 24 percent of the electorate (see table below).

The Governor and Democratic Party campaign has emphasized the danger of downgrading health protections during the rise of the Delta variant and the extreme views of the Republican frontrunner and right-wing talk show host, Larry Elder.

Unless there is a Republican late vote, this could be a win by 10 points or more. But, there is still five days of ballot collection (California allows late mail to be counted). Polls give the advantage to Newsom and against the recall, but late votes and disaffected Democrats and unaffiliated voters could tighten the gap.

Will the Stock Show Bond Pass?

Denver voters face a record of 13 ballot issues in November, and 5 of them are from the Mayor and Council to issue $450 million in bonds for new projects. The only one to attract serious criticism is the $190 million dedicated to a new arena at the National Western Stock Show. It represents 40 percent of the bond package.

The criticism includes:

  • The immediate neighborhood objects to the development in general and wants more funds for their needs.
  • National Western has already received substantial tax dollars for their expansion and upgrades.
  • Many other projects have interest groups requesting more funds.
  • In general, the city is awash with federal relief dollars.

National Western Complex | Photo: Hans Watson

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Congratulations Georgetown Law – Surge in Applicants and Scores

Georgetown University Law Center
During the unsettling times, it is hopeful to see some of our institutions on the forefront of higher education and public service achieving milestones. Georgetown Law and its long-serving admissions director, Andy Cornblatt, report a 41 percent increase in applications to 14,052 that allows the school to reach its class goal of 561 first-year students. It also allowed for a diverse class of 54 percent women and 40 percent students of color. And, it pulled up the median GPA from 3.78 to 3.85 and the LSAT 168 to 171.

No doubt, the effort was helped by the changes in DC that revalued public service, democracy and got Neil Katal on TV even more than usual.

Read note from Andy Cornblatt here

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Two Republican Congresspersons Live Outside Current Districts Unless Map Changes

The latest staff proposed congressional map leaves two of Colorado’s congresspersons outside their current districts. Lauren Boebert of Garfield County is now on the newly drawn 2nd congressional district with Joe Neguse. It has a 22 percent Democratic lean according to staff analyses.

Ken Buck lives outside the newly drawn Eastern Slope 4th district. It appears he’s in the new 8th district that drops down to Adams and Denver counties. Congressional residency rules only require living in the state, not the district. 

The changes from the first map issued reflect the final data and an extensive round of public sessions, which frequently are of divided communities of interest. The new map attempts to address that, especially in southern Colorado and Jefferson County. The next version may change the political landscape dramatically.

Read The Colorado Sun: The latest draft of Colorado’s congressional map would create a whole new dynamic in the state

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Tina Peters and QAnon Support Belief Election Stolen

Mesa County Clerk and Recorder Tina Peters speaks during
Mike Lindell’s “Cyber Symposium,” Aug. 2021
Screenshot of livestream
Tina Peters, the Republican Mesa County Clerk, says the Colorado election was stolen due to voting machines not counting the votes correctly. She made the claim publicly at a cyber symposium sponsored by My Pillow founder, Mike Lindell. Allegedly, she allowed a QAnon advocate access to the security information used to run elections data. She’s been removed from control over the election and is being investigated by the FBI and local county prosecutor.

Tripp Baltz of Bloomberg just published an article on how the Arizona faux “audit” is now spreading nationally. Along with Mesa County’s Tina Peters, he cites Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

I told him if it can happen in Colorado by a rogue election official, it can happen anywhere.

It’s “not surprising these audits are spreading,” said Floyd Ciruli of the Denver polling and consulting firm Ciruli & Associates. “There are national forces that are encouraging this. Colorado is considered to be a model of efficiency and convenience. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere.”

Mesa County was won by Donald Trump by 28 points while he lost the state by 14. He knew he was doomed and did not campaign in Colorado. Conservative Republican congressperson and strong Trump supporter, Lauren Boebert, also won the county by 28 percent while winning her district by 6 points. Republicans were greatly assisted by the Mesa County Republican voters, but Trump was beyond help and Boebert was probably elected by the Mesa County result. There is no evidence for Peters’ claims of an undercount or switch vote. Nor is there any basis in her statements that Republicans were harmed.

As I stated in the article, the state’s mail-back voting system is considered a national model. It was approved by voters in 2012 and was the model many states looked at during the pandemic election last year. More than 3.2 million voted by mail in the November election – a record turnout.

In a Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research poll conducted during the 2020 November election, 82 percent of Coloradans were supportive of the mail-back system with 57 percent “strongly approve” and only 8 percent “strongly disapprove.”

As the Denver Post editorialized, the good news is that Peters “won’t be overseeing the next election,” but as Tripp Baltz pointed out, the bad news is that the conspiracy theory has spread to a host of others states besides Arizona.

Colorado Voters Say Control of Senate and Donald Trump Key Issues in 2022 Senate Decision

John Hickenlooper’s 10 point win over incumbent Cory Gardner was largely a product of it being a strong Democratic year in Colorado, with Republican President Trump losing by 14 points and Democratic dominance of the congressional and State House delegate not changing. In a recent Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research poll, three of the major possible influences of the 2020 election were queried as to their importance, and the debates rated last, the control of the U.S. Senate first and the influence of Donald Trump second (see the questions below).

Colorado Voter Survey

The methodology and questions in the Colorado voter survey:

An online survey was conducted by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research from mid-October to mid-November 2020 during the presidential campaign. The survey was fielded by YouGov with 960 online participants. The margin of error is ±3 percentage points. The following are the questions included about the U.S. Senate election.

Colorado Voter Survey Questions

Question: The debates in Colorado between Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper, how important were the debates in your vote? 

Question: Thinking about your vote for U.S. Senate between Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat John Hickenlooper, how important a consideration was control of the U.S. Senate? If Cory Gardner wins reelection to this senate seat, Republicans could keep the majority control of the Senate with Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader, or if Gardner loses, it puts the Democrats in control of the Senate and McConnell out. Was control of the Senate very important, somewhat important, not very important or not at all important?

Question: Again, thinking about your vote for the U.S. Senate between Republican Cory Gardner and Democrat John Hickenlooper, how important was your approval or disapproval of President Donald Trump in your decision? 

California Recall – Dems Still Worried

Some early numbers in the California recall of Governor Gavin Newsom have given Democrats a spark of optimism after a long summer of concern. A couple of late polls have been more positive and early ballot returns show a good Democratic start.

The Latest Polls

The political website, 538, tracks the latest polls and reports that Newsom now is up 4 points from just 2 points a couple of days ago. A YouGov poll of August 12 gave Newsom a 4 point advantage and a Change Research poll of August 25 claims he’s up 12 (after adjustment).

Ballot Returns

A debate among California election experts has been the projected ballot return with the assumption a lower return hurts Newsom. An off-year September special election with mostly low-key candidates, except for Newsom, could have a turnout as low as 30 percent. Twelve days into ballot returns with about 2 weeks left has attracted 16 percent, raising Democrats’ hope that their turnout efforts will work.

Democrats make up 45 percent of the California electorate (22.2 million), but have returned, as of August 28, 54 percent of the ballots (a 19% return).

Of course, Republican voters may mail their ballots later or vote in-person. Beyond their inclination to not trust or like mail-back voting, their motivation may be to see which, if any, of the Republican candidates emerge. Also, the later they vote, the more it may leave the Democrats overconfident.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Asian Vote and the California Recall

More than ten percent of the 22.2 million ballots mailed in the California recall went to Asian voters. As of August 31, or two weeks out from the September 14 election, nearly 500,000 have been returned, or 12 percent of the 4 million total that have been cast (see table below).

In the last presidential vote, the Asian vote was just over 4 percent of the total, up from 2016, but still modest. The Asian vote in California is three times as large and could equal about a million votes if more than 35 percent of voters turn out. Currently, 3.5 million Californians have voted, or 16 percent.

Except for Asian votes, other minorities are well behind in ballot returns. Anglos dominate with 70 percent of the returns received.

Read: Majority of Asian Americans Voting for Biden

Monday, August 30, 2021

Colorado Voters Support Mail-in Balloting, But Prefer Dropping It Off

The Colorado mail-back ballot system is considered one of the models in the country. More than 3.2 million used it in the 2020 election – a record voter turnout in the highly contested election with the difficulties of the pandemic year, and Colorado voters support mail-back ballots, but like a drop off return.

Most Colorado voters strongly approve a mail-back voting system. In an online poll conducted during the election by the University of Denver’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and fielded by YouGov, 82 percent of Colorado voters said they “strongly” or “somewhat” approve the mail-back voting system (57% said “strongly approve”) and only 18 percent “strongly” or “somewhat” disapproved.

Coloradans like their mail-back system, but prefer a hands-on return. Most voters dropped off their ballots (69%) and few use the mail (16%) or voted in-person (15%).

Colorado Voter Survey

The methodology and questions in the Colorado voter survey:

An online survey was conducted by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research from mid-October to mid-November 2020 during the presidential campaign. The survey was fielded by YouGov with 960 online participants. The margin of error is ±3 percentage points. The following are the questions included about mail-in voting in the general election.

Colorado Voter Survey Questions

Question: Colorado approved mail-back voting in 2013, and the first statewide election using it for federal, state and local elections was in 2014. Would you say you strongly approve of mail-back voting in Colorado, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove or strongly disapprove of mail-back voting?

Question: Will you mail in your ballot, drop off in a ballot box or Court House, or vote in person?

Thursday, August 26, 2021

California Gains a Few People, But Loses Power

Headlines when the 2020 census data was released in California featured the state continued to grow. Yes, but less than the country (7.4%). The population grew only 6.1 percent over the last ten years while, for example, Colorado grew 14.8 percent. California will lose a congressional seat and Colorado will gain one.

Southern California – historically one of California’s growth engines – languished those ten years. With the exception of Riverside and San Diego counties, the rest, especially giant Los Angeles, grew less than the state and will suffer loses of legislative and congressional clout.

Read: Southern California counties grow while much of the nation shrinks

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Biden Collapses with Kabul. Can He Recover?

President Biden’s approval rating was stable over his first six months in office at about 53 percent. Not great, but given today’s polarization and the challenges of governing in the pandemic, not bad. It began to decline with the July resurge of COVID (approval of managing COVID down 12 points) and has now fallen in tandem with the fall of Kabul. Today at 47 percent, Biden’s approval is at its lowest point in his presidency according to the RealClearPolitics average. Most observers expect him to lose another point or two in the next round of national polls.

The speed of the descent is as fast as the Taliban’s advance. Nine days (Aug. 6) after the Taliban captured their first capital in the far southwest of the country, to when they marched unopposed into the presidential palace on August 15, to today as the chaotic evacuations dominate news, Biden has been losing support.

Can he recover? Possibly.

  1. In today’s polarized political environment, the Democratic base is unlikely to abandon him, so like former President Trump, he has a floor of support, probably in the mid- to low forty percent level.
  2. Foreign policy problems or victories are seldom as salient or long lasting as domestic. Kabul will pass and the economy, COVID and the culture wars will continue to dominate the news and political agendas.
  3. Afghanistan, after the early removal of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in 2002 and 2003, was never very popular. It was quickly replaced by the war in Iraq. Most recent polls show the large military commitment was not judged worth it and the withdrawal was supported by a majority of Americans.
  4. The military’s frequent recommendations for more troops and equipment dogged Presidents Obama and Trump, but never caused much political reaction. Of course, this retreat is “above the fold,” but historically, Afghanistan hasn’t been on election issue.
  5. It is largely unknown if Afghanistan produces more bad press for the administration, or just relief it’s over. There will be many news cycles before November 2022.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Biden in Deep Trouble. Is 2022 Lost?

President Joe Biden’s approval rating has sunk to a 48 percent average on Monday, August 23, eight days after Taliban fighters strolled into the presidential palace.

The startling and unpredicted speed of collapse of the Afghan army and government has taken Biden’s political support down to its core and possibly doomed the 2022 election for House and Senate. And, the damage may not be over as both the chaotic withdrawal and the Taliban consolidation of power are likely to produce more bad news.

A positive presidential approval, managing COVID and some congressional accomplishments were considered the assets Democrats had to go into the midterm elections. At the moment, all three are in danger. The Delta variant surge was already damaging Biden’s support levels as people lost their optimism that the pandemic was mostly over and mask and vaccine wars were behind use. And, the Afghanistan debacle took place as just the moment Democrats were gaining momentum to pass infrastructure after their Senate victories.

Predictions for Democrats holding their slim (4 votes) House majority were already weak. It now depends on the recovery from COVID getting on track and Democrats realizing now more than ever that they need to compromise and pass infrastructure – possible, but as of today, not a betting proposition.

Taliban fighters take control of the Afghan presidential palace after
President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, Kabul, Afghanistan,
Aug. 15, 2021 | Zabi Karimi/AP

Friday, August 20, 2021

Adams and Arapahoe Set to Dominate Metro Area

Colorado’s population increased its urbanization in the last decade with five of the ten fastest growing counties in the seven-county Denver metro area and eight on the Front Range (El Paso, Larimer and Weld). But not all growth was equal in the metro area. Boulder (331,000, 12.3%), due to high costs and anti-growth policies, continues to lag behind the state’s average, with Weld County about to pass it in population (Weld 329,000, 30.1%).

Adams and Arapahoe now appear as two of the most likely metro counties for additional population growth. They have considerable areas that can be developed or made more dense. Arapahoe is now the second largest, just behind Denver. If Adams growth pace continues, it will surpass Jefferson County to become the third largest in the metro area. Both counties have significant Hispanic populations. But Arapahoe is more diverse in that along with the Hispanic population (20.7%), there is a substantial black community (10.4%) and Asian (6.4%).

Denver continues to maintain its dominant position, with a massive 19.2 percent increase during the decade, or 115,000 new residents. Interesting, the Hispanic population percentage did not increase over the decade as much as expected because a considerable portion of Denver’s influx was White (up 2%) and many Latinos moved elsewhere (down 4%). But, will the growth continue? Pushback on infill, increases in crime, homelessness and taxes give it major challenges in the next decade.

August: A Tough Month for Obama and Biden

In August 2014, while trying to finish his summer vacation in the Vineyard, President Barack Obama was criticized for golfing while ISIS was executing people, including American journalists in Iraq and Syria. By then, Obama and the U.S. were leading a coalition back into the area to try to contain the sudden rise of ISIS, but the visual hurt.

Former President Barack Obama sits in golf cart on the island
of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Aug. 20, 2014 | Steven Senne/AP

This week, President Joe Biden was attempting to manage a hasty retreat from Kabul as the Taliban surged into control of the country. His lonely looking style at Camp David did not inspire confidence.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris
(on screen) hold a video conference with the national security
team to discuss ongoing efforts to draw down our civilian
footprint in Afghanistan, Camp David, Maryland, Aug. 16, 2021
| The White House via Getty Images

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Front Range Grows and Positions Change

Colorado gained 774,000 new residents according to the latest Census data (8-13-21). It was up 14.8 percent, twice the nation’s increase of 7.4 percent. 

Although the bulk of the state’s massive growth settled in the Front Range, there was considerable variation among the largest counties. Weld has surged in the last decade to be one of the state’s fastest growing, with land to build on, water and a healthy agriculture and oil and gas industry.

El Paso, frequently in close contest with Denver, retook the crown as the largest county by about 15,000 residents, with a strong military presence and an effective economic development strategy. Jefferson County’s growth has been slow and will likely lag behind Adams and drop to the fourth largest metro county.

Larimer has joined Douglas County as fast growing. New residents have already changed Larimer’s politics from moderate Republican to Democratic. Douglas continues to produce Republican majorities, but the level of local conflict is on the rise.

Americans Backed the Withdraw, But Support Collapses and Intelligence Fails Again

As I reported in May (Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Has Support, May 27), polls showed Americans lost interest and support for the war in Afghanistan several years ago. Nor was there support for democracy-building. A new Chicago Council Survey (July 7-26) in late July reported that 70 percent of Americans continued to support the withdrawal, including 54 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Democrats. But, those numbers collapsed by 20 points in the latest Morning Consult poll (August 13-16) to 49 percent, with 69 percent of Democrats and 31 percent of Republicans.

President Biden will no doubt be held to blame for the chaotic, sudden final retreat from Kabul and the many domestic and foreign advocates for a permanent military presence in Afghanistan will be critical. But, the administration’s biggest failure was in intelligence of the on-the-ground conditions. Biden should not be surprised by the U.S. intelligence failure. President Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry were mostly blindsided by the speed and stealth of the Russian move into the Crimea in early 2014 and Obama was calling ISIS a “JV” team in early 2014, and by September, he was adding marines and airstrikes to stop the ISIS advance. This is another president ill-served by his intelligence and national security establishment.

Taliban fighters take control of Afghan presidential palace in Kabul after
 Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Aug. 15, 2021 | AP

Pueblo Continues to Lag State

Pueblo, Colorado
Colorado was the sixth fastest growing state in the union, gaining 774,000 new residents according to the latest Census data (8-13-21). But Pueblo, my home, continues to languish with slow growth, especially compared to the rest of the Front Range.

Pueblo gained a mere 9,000 in the last ten years for 5.7 percent growth while Colorado was up 14.8 percent, twice the nation’s increase of 7.4 percent. El Paso County, Pueblo’s rival to the north, added twelve times more residents (108,000) for 17.4 percent growth.

Pueblo, which in 1960 was the second largest county in the state, is now barely in the top 10, which requires about 300,000 to be a player.

Monday, August 9, 2021

New Voters and Trump Create Democratic State

Colorado is no longer a swing state. As of August 2021, a year out from the 2022 election, there is no sense the Republicans can mount competitive campaigns for governor or senate. They are still debating their Trump loyalty and currently considering exchanging the primary for caucus to reduce the possible “distortion” of unaffiliated voters affecting their nominations and nominees. 

The condition of the party is a major shift from a decade ago and places Colorado outside of what appears could be a very good Republican year. Upwards of six states are rated as having competitive gubernatorial and senate races at this point for 2022. Colorado is not one of them.

A part of the Republican problem is the collapse of voter identification with the party in the last decade. Registration is down 6 points, twice the decline for Democrats. Most of the shift has been to Colorado unaffiliated voters. It is ironic that some in the party consider unaffiliated voters – 43 percent of the electorate – as a mostly hostile bloc.

The significant drop-off in registration began in 2016 as the new voters moving to Colorado and young voters becoming eligible were motivated by national politics to participate. They later shifted their interest to Colorado politics in 2018, all to the benefit of Democrats. Donald Trump was a significant part of the Republican collapse. He lost Colorado by 5 points in 2016, nearly twice his national loss, and 13 points in 2020, more than three times his national loss.

If Colorado Democrats are not successfully challenged in one or more key statewide offices, the Democrats will gain the advantage through the 2024 election cycle.

Republicans Face Long Odds Against Colorado’s Michael Bennet

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet at the Capitol, June 2021
Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
“If there were 10 competitive Senate races, this would be 10, at the bottom of the list. And nothing would change that as of today.” My quote with E&E News (Environment and Energy News by Politico) on July 27 with reporter Timothy Cama.

The article reviews Bennet’s environmental record and my political observations, which include:

“Bennet has raised significant money. There is no particular boiling scandal. And we’re picking up a congressional seat, so that’s carrying a lot of the attention in the state,” he continued, referring to the new House seat Colorado is getting in the next election thanks to the latest U.S. Census count.

Ciruli said Bennet has had issues with an enthusiasm gap in the past, noting that his failed 2020 presidential campaign generated little excitement. “I don’t think Bennet is a jump-up-and-down-with-enthusiasm candidate,” Ciruli said. “On the other hand, he’s a solid senator in a state that, as far as I can tell, still leans highly Democratic.”


“They’ll have a nominee, and it’ll be a contest. But that nominee is going to be burdened in a state where Donald Trump is a pariah,” said Ciruli of the former president, who remains the GOP’s kingmaker.


“We got this new congressional district because we have 700,000 new people,” Ciruli said. “A very significant portion of them are young and well-educated. They came out here for the environment and recreation and the great mountains…”

The shift has been reflected in recent elections. While Bennet struggled with close margins by his 2010 and 2016 races and Gardner unseated Udall in 2014, Gov. Jared Polis (D) won by a comfortable margin in 2018 and President Biden beat President Trump by more than 13 points.

“We’ve had waves of new people in the past that were conservative, but that’s not this group,” Ciruli said. “This group is solidly liberal.”

Friday, August 6, 2021

Orange County Economist Declare Regulations and Taxes Most Responsible for Exodus

Using a sophisticated regression analysis, two Chapman University economists make the case that it’s not climate change or job growth that is most responsible for the exodus of many Californians, especially to Florida. They identify state regulation and state and local taxes as the variables with the highest correlation to population loss highlighted by California losing a congressional seat for the first time in its history as a state (incorporated in 1850). Somewhat surprising, housing cost was not a variable that was identified as having a major impact. Democrats, who generally dominate state politics, normally point to housing and offer various solutions that have not had much impact.

James Doti, former Chapman president and now an economics professor, with fellow professor Raymond Sfeir, director of the Gary Anderson Center for Economics, conducted the study. They present a more conservative slant compared to the public policy and economic analyses from UCLA and other institutions.

The analysis will no doubt be critiqued, but it offers one more data point that California is no longer the land of opportunity and suggests its status as a one-party liberal state may be a significant factor in its loss of attractive power. Source: the Orange County Registrar, August 1, 2021.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

PAPOR Speaker Series: Profiles in Research

The Pacific Chapter of American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR) is proud to invite you to attend PAPOR Speaker Series: Profiles in Research.

This intimate online panel discussion features speakers from the Public Opinion Research community sharing their story. This is a great opportunity for current students or recent graduates interested in networking and learning about career paths in public opinion research. Seasoned researchers will love learning more about their peers.



Tuesday, August 17, 2021 Noon – 1:30 PM Pacific Daylight


The PAPOR Speaker Series is free to students and PAPOR members. Not yet a member? Join PAPOR during registration for $20 to enjoy great content for all of 2021!


Zoom attendance. Attend from the comfort of your own computer.