Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Four Scenarios: Republicans’ Best Endgame and Democrats’ Possible Sweep

As of Thanksgiving, there is no projection that is credibly predicting Republicans will win back the House by gaining a net of 17 seats to deny Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats a majority. But, there are a host of analysts suggesting that Trump could win re-election with less than six states in play, a good economy and the argument presented in his World Series playoff advertisement: “He’s no Mr. Nice Guy.” And, of course, the Democrats may help him with errors in nominee selection or campaigning.

The presidential race appears close in the handful of states that will decide the race. Trump could even lose Pennsylvania (20) and still win the presidency if he holds Wisconsin and Michigan. But, Republicans also are targeting Minnesota, Nevada and New Hampshire.

In the four scenarios presented below, two offer Trump being re-elected and all four have Democrats holding the House. A major variable is the level of Republican dominance in 2021 or Democratic resistance, depending on who wins the Senate. Continued Republican control would offer Trump protection from future impeachment-like attacks, a veto over House efforts to reverse policies in Trump’s first four years and continued direction of court appointments.


If the Democrats win the Senate, it could be a part of a 2020 partisan sweep, or if Trump hangs on, it would likely lead to massive gridlock in that court confirmations would slow (or end) and presidential initiatives stop. Trump would be left with veto power, but exercising it frequently and the budget would be a potent limiting tool for the Democrats.

To take control of the Senate, Democrats need a net of three seats and the vice presidency or four new seats. Since most analysts hold that they will lose the Alabama seat held by Doug Jones, they, in fact, need four or five seats, depending on the presidency. Many of the competitive senate seats are in battleground (or near battleground) states, and because there is a close partisan alignment between presidential and senate votes, it’s assumed that winning the Senate will be highly dependent on winning the presidency. Hence, Democrats would probably require a strong performance in the presidential race to win seats in states such as Iowa (Ernst), Maine (Collins) and Georgia (2 seats up).

To rate the four scenarios presented – and recall none have Democrats losing the House, which means a Republican sweep is not proposed – the two most likely current scenarios (Status Quo or Gridlock) leave the Senate in Republican hands, but possibly with a smaller margin (from 53-47 to 51-49) and the House in Democratic hands with minor changes. The 17-vote Democratic majority could change, depending on presidential coattails and the survival of a small number of highly vulnerable seats won by Democrats in 2018 or Republican seats that survived the 2018 Democratic tide.

Of course, they have different parties winning the presidency.

Impeachment Hearings End, Public Opinion Unmoved

As the impeachment public hearings end, public opinion appears mostly unmoved. Americans are closely divided on both their support for the inquiry and President Trump’s removal from office. RealClearPolitics reports removal ahead by only 2 points and support for the inquiry 3 points (538 has removal tied with 46% and support for the inquiry up 7%).

Polls on Impeachment Inquiry and Removal From Office
November 25, 2019

However, contrary to Trump’s view, his popularity is not surging (44% approve in RCP and 41% in 538) and a majority of the public believe he’s committed an impeachable offense (57%) as the many witnesses testified to.

Even without a majority of Americans supporting removal, Trump’s behavior is especially a problem for the House Democrats. The total stonewalling on records and witnesses obstructs their ability to hold the president accountable. In addition, given the offenses go directly to the 2020 election and involve a foreign country, ignoring the issue would legitimize the behavior and likely encourage more, possibly affecting the election.

Democrats also have s significant constituency of educated voters that are highly concerned about the dangers to democracy posed by Trump, Republican tolerance of the behavior and the rise of authoritarianism worldwide more generally.

Impeachments can fail to convict and still have major consequences. Although the 1998 congressional election was won by Democrats, Bill Clinton’s White House behavior was a controversy for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. In 2016, Bill’s behavior was used by Trump against his wife, and today, after the “MeToo” movement, Bill Clinton’s reputation is devalued and his usefulness to Democrats over.

The bottom line is that impeachment could harm the Republicans in the 2020 election and have a long-term negative impact.

Proposition CC Fails – A Decade of Failed Tax and Revenue Attempts

The stunning defeat of Proposition CC should send a clear message to the proponents of ballot issues attempting to increase state revenue – What part of “no” don’t you understand?

In a column in the Sunday Denver Post (11-10-19), I describe the recent history of tax and revenue initiatives and the factors related to the latest loss. The following reviews some of the ideas expressed.

The 2019 Proposition CC, a TABOR override, would have added unspecified amounts to the state coffers, but some estimates said as much as $650 million the next two years. It was the fifth attempt by mostly the same group of advocates – the education establishment and its support groups, a group of donor philanthropists, and business associations that want new tax resources for roads. They have all failed, some of them dramatically, such as the 2013 $1 billion income tax increase that lost two-to-one after proponents spent $10 million in a mostly one-sided campaign.

Just last year, two initiatives were defeated to raise taxes for more education funding and for education and roads.


Coloradans are generous at the local level with their tax dollars, but after a decade of repeated failures with income, sales and now TABOR, a presumption of opposition now exists against state revenue increase measures, tax or TABOR overrides. Proponents of the next effort should face a higher level of skepticism from prospective donors and endorsees that the effort will be different than the last five. They have lost in high turnout (2018) and low turnout (2013) elections, years when partisan races are not on the ballot, and years when Democrats swept the partisan elections.

As I said in the Denver Post, before proponents mount up for another run, “They should consider an argument they may hear frequently next year: What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Conference of Western Pollsters Examines the Run-up to Super Tuesday Presidential Primaries

At the annual conference of the Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR), a panel of top public pollsters will present opinion data on the political factors that will affect the 2020 presidential primaries, especially the California and Colorado Super Tuesday events, March 3, 2020.

The panel, titled “Election Issues in Western States,” will also explore the status of impeachment, issue differences in western states and the future of the California GOP. I will moderate the panel and present on Colorado’s transition from a swing and even Republican-leaning state up to about 2004 to an apparently mostly Democratic state in 2020. What were the dominant factors in the shift and how resilient is it?

The panel of pollsters is among California’s most prominent in the media and commentary.
The panel will convene at 8:30 am on December 6 at the PAPOR conference held at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel in downtown San Francisco. For conference agenda and more information, see PAPOR conference here.

Friends of the Crossley Center

More than 160 Crossley Center friends participated with the Korbel School’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and Office of Global Engagement presentation, “Countdown to 2020 – One Year Out.” The event was led by the University of Denver’s Ambassador Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center. Dean Fritz Mayer provided the introductions and joined the discussion and question and answer session. New Chancellor Jeremy Haefner welcomed guests.

This was the third in a regular series that was started on Wednesday after the 2016 November election and on each annual anniversary since.

The entire session can be watched on the Global Engagement website here

See blog: November 7

Monday, November 18, 2019

Colorado Sun Previews Prop. CC Battle

John Frank in the October 31, 2019 Colorado Sun previewed the Proposition CC battle as close and being fought online, on TV and especially door-to-door.

He reported on the October 8 panel at DU’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, which concluded the Proposition CC advocates liberals were late starting. The Proposition is also seen as a gift for the GOP, allowing it to rally behind a more typical Republican fiscal and not a polarizing social issue.

Kelly Maher
Kelly Maher, a Republican strategist, called Prop. CC “a gift” from Democrats, because it allows conservatives to unite behind a fiscal issue, rather than a social one that divides the GOP.

And more directly, the ballot question is a major test for Polis, the first-year governor. He promised in the 2018 campaign that he would build a coalition to overhaul TABOR and “win at the ballot box.”

The outcome of Prop. CC also affects two additional promises Polis made: to pass a measure to find more money for schools and find new revenue for transportation.

Steve Welchert
Even with such high stakes, the campaign to support Prop. CC began late and with little urgency. The “kickoff” came in October, days before ballots were mailed to voters. Steve Welchert, a Democratic strategist, called the campaign “a little bit of political malpractice.” 

Welchert suggested the supporters didn’t do the work needed in the summer months to build a strong campaign — a point echoed by Sheila MacDonald, a consultant with experience on ballot measures. Both spoke at a political forum at the University of Denver.

Sheila MacDonald
“It does matter to the Democrats in both chambers and the governor’s office,” MacDonald said. “And they need a win. They put this on the ballot, and they put their reputations on the line.”

See Crossley blog: DU Panel on Colorado 2020 Primaries Attracted a Packed House

Proposition DD Looks Well-Positioned; CC is Struggling

Examining the campaign and recent off-year ballot history, Proposition DD, sports gaming for water, should win. They have a broad group of endorsements, from businesses, agriculture, water, many environmental interests, and most of the state’s newspaper editorial pages. The campaign also has $2.7 million (reported in late October) for advertising, to no funds declared for the opposition.

Proposition CC on the other hand is in a serious fight.


Three ex-governors and Jared Polis weighed in to support it, accompanied by a $4.5 million advertising campaign. They have two major advantages. The “happy talk” ballot wording that avoids unpleasant details or possible problems for an upbeat description that attempts to counter the proposition’s main vulnerability. The ballot title highlights: “Without raising taxes and to better fund public schools….within a balanced budget.”

The second advantage of Proposition CC is the $4.5 million campaign, using all the online and election media available with their message of funding for teachers, roads and colleges with no new taxes.

But, the opposition also has some advantages, the most important being low turnout in an off-year election. As of last Friday, Proposition CC would have likely lost. Republican turnout was 62,000 voters above Democrats, with counties, like El Paso (90,700), Douglas (41,000) and Jefferson (89,700), having high early turnout, whereas Denver (56,500) and Boulder (38,800) lagging,

Republicans represent only 28 percent of current voters, whereas 38 percent of Friday voters were Republican.

One Republican governor missing in the picture is Bill Owens, who is helping lead the opposition with most of the Republican establishment. They have a more modest $1.8 million campaign, and the message is more diffuse than more teachers and roads with no new taxes. The Republican Party has gotten out the early vote.

But the Democrats need to get out their core voters. And, indeed, Denver and Democrats in general have been voting the last weekend and the last day in recent elections. As of Friday, nearly 700,000 votes were in, about half of the expected (1.4 million).