Friday, June 26, 2020

Hickenlooper Gets Up and Starts Running

John Hickenlooper appears to have acquired his footing and may have actually started to run for the Senate. After a disastrous three weeks of stumbles with an ethics violation charge and weak debate performances, the Democratic establishment and his campaign have started an offensive.

A Cascade of Missteps
Hickenlooper received a high-profile endorsement from Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Party’s leading progressive and on the shortlist for vice president, which points out that the Washington establishment believes the critical issue is not insider progressive politics, but winning a majority of the U.S. Senate. A major blow to Andrew Romanoff, who is campaigning on the need for a progressive like him to be the nominee even if it increases the risk for the November election.

A significant amount of advertising has started in support of Hickenlooper from the PAC associated with his Washington, D.C. and other supporters. An independent expenditure media campaign attacking Romanoff has also begun.

And, the state’s Democratic establishment, including Governor Polis, who has been neutral to this point, but also Attorney General Phil Weiser and other Democratic officeholders, weighed in on the negative ad produced and placed by the Romanoff campaign attacking Hickenlooper on the ethics issue. The line repeated most often was from well-respected Democratic Party leader, Alan Salazar. As a recent AP story reported:

“Hickenlooper’s supporters say the goodwill he built up during two terms as Denver mayor and two more as governor will get him through. ‘He is many things, but personally corrupt and racially insensitive are definitely not among his flaws,’ said Alan Salazar, a former aide. ‘I am pretty sure the most Colorado voters know that.’”

This recovery effort is late. And many of the voters are new Democrats and mostly unaffiliated who did not vote in Hickenlooper’s 2014 election. They liked Bernie Sanders in the March presidential primary and they are up for grabs today.

AP and Nick Riccardi Makes Hickenlooper National Headline

John Hickenlooper | Alex Brandon/AP, File
The LA Times headlined, “‘A hot mess’: Former Governor Hickenlooper stumbles into Colorado primary looms,” a lengthy Page 7 story on John Hickenlooper’s ethical censure and verbal missteps. Written by Colorado-based, longtime AP writer Nick Riccardi, it includes numerous local sources. My contribution was that Colorado has changed in its ideological composition since Hickenlooper, the moderate establishment candidate, last ran in 2014. The changes have shifted Colorado’s swing state reputation to the left, endangering both Cory Gardner’s re-election, but also John Hickenlooper’s primary win.

But if Hickenlooper emerges from the primary victorious but battered, his stumbles could give a lifeline to the man he’d face in November: Cory Gardner, widely considered the nation’s most vulnerable Republican senator. Hickenlooper’s troubles this year reflect how the state has moved to the left since his last election in 2014.

“It’s an indication of how much Denver and the whole state has changed,” Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan analyst, said of Hickenlooper’s woes. “We’re no longer a swing state. We’ve become a more liberal state and the Democrats a more liberal party.”

The story, circulated on June 18, helped panic the Democratic establishment. They have finally begun to revive Hickenlooper’s lifeless campaign.

The Sun and John Frank Report on Crisis in Hickenlooper’s Senate Campaign

“Hickenlooper has put this [race] in play but it shouldn’t be in play.”

That was my quote The Sun’s John Frank picked up at a DU panel discussion on the election, Wednesday, June 17. He also quoted panelist Sheila MacDonald.

“Hickenlooper has put this (race) in play but it shouldn’t be in play,” Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver, said during an online political forum Wednesday.

“I would agree, Hickenlooper turned this into a race with self-inflicted wounds,” added Democratic consultant Sheila MacDonald, who also spoke at the event.

The June 18 article described a “cascade of blunders” by Hickenlooper in the Democratic primary. Andrew Romanoff had just released an internal poll of him showing the race within 12 points – 51 percent for Hickenlooper to 39 percent for Romanoff. Although closer than polls from 2019, not as bad is some expected after two weeks of front page missteps and debate underperformances.

Hickenlooper’s allies finally sensed the crisis and have since stepped up with endorsements, including Elizabeth Warren, and massive traditional and digital advertising.

Romanoff has lost his previous races in by 8 (2010 Democratic primary) and 9 (2014 congressional race) points, which if Hickenlooper stabilizes his campaign, this race likely ends up. The unknown factor is the large unaffiliated vote of younger, new Colorado voters.

President Drops Five Points in a Month; Average Now Ten Points Out

President Trump, when he activated his re-election campaign after Memorial Day, was down five points to Joe Biden (May 27, 2020). Today, one month of campaigning later, he’s down ten points and behind by 4 to 8 points in key battleground states (see table below). Notice Trump lost 2 points nationally and more in the key states in the last five days.

His shift from the health concerns of the pandemic to the economy has been highly publicized and highly criticized due to increases in infections and hospital admissions in several states. But even more damaging has been his reaction to the George Floyd killing and the ensuing national protests. Trump’s opening declaration on June 1 at the White House was: “I am your President of law and order…” and then berated governors for not using the National Guard to “dominate the streets”. He then announced he was: “…dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property” in Washington, D.C.

With his top team (Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, senior advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, other advisors Hope Hicks, Mark Meadows, and Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany), Trump had Lafayette Park cleared using the assembled forces to march over to the St. John’s Episcopal Church for what was widely labeled as a photo op with a bible. His law and order approach and now infamous walk were the most well covered events during the month and they hurt.

The latest Fox News poll shows that, not surprising, the three biggest issues that the public sees as a threat to the U.S. today are the economy, the pandemic and racism. It also shows Trump’s behavior narrowly winning approval concerning the economy, but judged poorly in health care and race. Finally, in a new Quinnipiac survey, 60 percent don’t approve of his handling of the White House protestors and he loses to Biden on doing a better job on coronavirus and race relations.

Romanoff Versus Gardner. Who Wins?

If Andrew Romanoff wins the June 30 Colorado Democratic Senate primary, the assumptions concerning the race will change.

Very likely the national political analysts who rate election outcomes would reexamine the “likely Democrat” label given the race in the last few months and shift the state to toss-up or competitive (Cook Report currently has seat as “toss-up”). Their assessments had been based on John Hickenlooper being the nominee. They normally cite his money, edge in the polls, having won statewide twice before, moderate reputation, and Donald Trump as head of the Republican ticket.

Andrew Romanoff | CBS photo
All three prognosticators believe Democrats could capture control of the Senate, making winning Colorado a critical priority.

Some Democrats argue that nearly anyone could beat Cory Gardner this year with Colorado’s new electorate and Trump’s collapsing campaign. The pros don’t agree. They will cite Romanoff’s lack of money, poor election track record and “very liberal” positions adopted in the primary, some of them not endorsed by Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in their nomination fight. Romanoff would no doubt raise liberal money and get endorsements, but he will have trouble attracting money from much of the moderate Democratic establishment (who have heavily contributed to Hickenlooper), both because they don’t like many of his positions and they believe he will be an easy target.

He will be the candidate the Republicans hope for. They have been campaigning against “socialism” and “extremism” for more than a year.

Race and Policing: The Incredible Speed and Spread of Black Lives Matter Movement

The speed of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement with accompanying demonstrations and policing proscriptions has been unprecedented. In a few weeks, it has shifted American opinion toward agreement with a host of what have been very controversial opinions about racism in America, concern about police behavior and support for protesters. (See opinions in chart below.) In Colorado, police reform legislation passed in days instead of the usual weeks, months or if at all.

Along with the speed has been the spread of the movement across the country, from urban centers, to suburbs, to resorts, to small rural towns. An assessment of the pictures of demonstrators shows a diverse group, with more whites than blacks, and mostly young. Also, the remedies being considered, and in some cases adopted, are dramatic, from defunding the police, to ending chokeholds, to much greater sanctions for problem police officers.

In recent years, some very stable-appearing public opinions have shifted with unexpected speed. For example, gay rights and marijuana use had minimal support through the 1990s, but in this century, rapidly became majority opinions.

Support for gay marriage reached half the American population in 2011 and is now in the mid- to upper 60 percent range. Prior to that, it tended to be in the 20 to 30 percent range. Many factors played into the shift as it approached 50 percent, but it was in 2012 that President Obama first breached support for the concept and provided major boost. The public views on legalization of marijuana use were equally confined to a narrow range of support – not more than a third until 2009. Today, only about 10 percent of the public believe it should be illegal under all circumstances.

One similarity for both gay marriage and legalization of marijuana is the acceptance by Millennials and Generation Z well above the average. They are also the vanguard of the current civil rights protests and backbone of the new public opinion.

Polls show they are the most concerned segment of the population about racism and discrimination, police behavior and support for the protests. As they have become the largest cohort of U.S. population, superseding Baby Boomers, their opinions increasingly come to dominate. The Black Lives Matter movement had modest support, mostly among Democrats and Blacks, in recent years, and now has 53 percent support in an online poll reported by the New York Times, with 67 percent from people under 35 years old.

KOA Interview With Marty Lenz: Hickenlooper Has Turned This Into a Race

John Hickenlooper has turned this into a race with his ethics violations, contempt citation and unsteady debate performances. During April and May, the pandemic had frozen Hickenlooper’s lead in first place. But in June, as the state opened up, his campaign came apart. He still has the advantage in name identification from two terms as governor and $4 million in the bank, but establishment Democrats are getting concerned.
  1. His performance Tuesday night in the first side-by-side studio debate at Channel 7 was better than the two previous virtual encounters. But, he still spent considerable time on the defense explaining his comments on Black Lives Matter and now a reference to slave ships. And, of course, forced to explain that he doesn’t believe he’s above the law related to his contempt citation and fines for the ethics gift violations. 
  2. Hickenlooper’s primary argument is that he’s won two statewide races in down years for Democrats and Andrew Romanoff has lost. In fact, in Romanoff’s 2014 loss for Congress, he was defeated in Arapahoe County, which Hickenlooper carried in his gubernatorial race. The challenge for Romanoff is can he get his message out beyond the online activist constituency?
  3. A new and possibly influential factor in the race is Republicans are starting to spend hundreds of thousands on ads attacking Hickenlooper on his ethics violations and disparagement of running for senate. Hickenlooper points out that the Republican national senate committee and the Cory Gardner campaign videos are proof Republicans fear him and want Romanoff to win. Will Democrats discount the ads because of the source or listen to the message, hence helping Romanoff?
  4. We don’t know turnout, but two years ago in the gubernatorial primary, 635,000 voted, with 200,000 unaffiliated participating. Nearly one million voted last March on Super Tuesday, mostly for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. In recent Colorado elections, the ballots tend to be returned the last two days, so expect furious campaigning over the next two weeks, if not in-person rallies, then on Zoom and in the media. This feels like a much closer race than a month ago.
Last night, Hickenlooper said he was passionate for the job. He is finally trying to get into this race, but he’s late. Too late?

Listen to KOA interview here

Former Governor John Hickenlooper (L) and former State House Speaker
Andrew  Romanoff get ready for a debate in the Denver 7 studios,
June 16, 2020 | Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post