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.