Friday, September 14, 2018

Is Colorado’s Governor’s Race Competitive?

Republicans are at risk to lose some governorships in the 2018 midterm elections, which could affect the presidential reelection and have a negative impact on redistricting after the 2020 census. Republicans have 26 seats to defend with only 19 held by Democrats in the election.

States

Republicans are on the defensive in a number of states, including Florida, Ohio and Illinois. One open seat they would like to win is Colorado. Outside observers, like Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia on CNBC and Louis Jacobson of Governing Magazine, continue to rate Colorado as competitive.

They recognize the state has shifted slightly Democratic to the benefit of Jared Polis (see “Polis Begins Campaign in Strong Position”), but they are assuming that a nominee with as liberal a reputation as he has is going to be vulnerable to a reasonably competitive opponent and campaign.

Neither the Polis or Republican Walker Stapleton campaigns have really started, but each side’s supporters have launched initial attacks, with Republicans (the National Republican Governor’s Association) warning of “Californicating” Colorado and Democrats arguing Walker Stapleton is a pawn of Donald Trump and friend of Tom Tancredo.

Polis is an advocate of a single-payer health care system, an opponent of gas and oil fracking, and a high-profile advocate of gay rights and the legalization of recreational use of marijuana – a comfortable agenda for a Boulder congressman and likely a majority of Colorado Democrats. But historically, or even in recent history, putting it all together in one candidate would be a tough sell for the state.

However, at the end of August in the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats appear to have the advantage.

Read:
The Buzz: If it’s Stapleton vs. Polis, who wins?
CNBC: With 36 governorships up for grabs in midterm elections, Republicans have most to lose

National Dashboard: Consensus Builds, Democrats Have Momentum for a Majority

After a dilatory spring when polls and signs were weak (see “Blue Wave or Just a Ripple”), Democrats have regained the momentum for retaking the House of Representatives. In fact, even Mike Coffman’s seat is now rated a toss-up with a Democratic lean by Nate Silver’s 538.

Some of the data:
  • Presidential approval remains in the low 40s and mired in negative territory. Strong disapproval is 10 to 15 points larger than strong approval in polls that ask the intensity feelings (Gallup, May 2018). Historically, low presidential approval tends, although not always, to accompany major losses for the presidential party.


  • Congressional ballot question is at 7 points in the RealClearPolitics average and substantially higher in some recent polls. CNN/SSRS poll of August 12 has an 11-point spread in favor of the Democrats. Reuters/Ipsos and Quinnipiac have it at 9 points. Nate Silver’s analysis states that at least 8 points will be needed to overcome anomalies in voter distribution in House seats for the Democrats to win.

  • Midterms, especially the first for a new president, tend to be restraining. Opponents are enthusiastic and supporters less impassioned than two years earlier. Ronald Reagan in 1992, Bill Clinton in 1994 and Barack Obama in 2010 lost an average of 47 seats among the three of them. George W. Bush was an exception due to 9/11 making the election a referendum on fighting terrorism and national unity.

         This also is an especially tough year on incumbents. The President is better at primaries
         than general elections and at dividing his party than defending it, so an establishment
         incumbent suffers from both being associated with a controversial president and possibly
         not having his full support.

  • Special elections have given Democrats only one victory. But, out of nine elections, they have benefited from a 10-point shift toward them even while losing. If that trend holds up in the midterms, they could win more than 60 competitive and near competitive seats.

  • A strong economy is a Republican advantage, but as the economy has improved, voters have shifted attention to other issues, such as health care, that benefit Democrats and immigration that stirs up the base of both parties. Unfortunately for Republicans, Trump often steps on good news with controversial tweets.

  • District by district analyses by Silver, Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato agree that the odds are favoring Democrats to gain at least 23 seats and possibly more. Silver puts the chance at 3 out of 4.

Many Republican supporters of the President (although few in the Republican establishment and officeholders) have taken to accept the analyses and argue losing the House will be good for the President’s re-election. He will win voter sympathy, like Bill Clinton in 1998, as the Democrats ramp up multiple investigations and impeachment.

But, the President doesn’t agree. He has committed to 40 campaign appearances this fall. He believes he can personally hold the Republican House. That’s a good call because, in fact, loss of the House will be a very negative judgement on his first two years, mostly end any legislative accomplishments, drain his political power and embolden the Republican establishment to start putting distance between him and their careers.

Health Care Top Issue, Especially for Women

Health care registers as the second most important issue in numerous surveys just after jobs and the economy, which the public is increasingly satisfied with. It is the top issue for women, and women are a challenge for Republicans in the 2018 midterms.


According to a recent CBS News poll (8-13-18), health care ranked first by both younger (18-35) and older women (over 35) when asked what issue will be very important in their vote for Congress. Also, 68 percent of women said the candidate must agree with them on the issue to get their vote. It should be noted that the economy becomes a less useful issue for Republicans as it improves. Health care then becomes a greater interest for voters, especially women.

Health care will be especially important in the Colorado gubernatorial race, with Jared Polis having supported the single-payer “Medicare for All” proposal of Bernie Sanders and Walker Stapleton a strong opponent.

Regardless of pro or con views on single-payer, what the candidates plan to do related to access and affordability of health care may be a deciding issue, especially for women.

Colorado to Get a New Congressional Seat. Where Will it Land?

Mark Harden in Colorado Politics reports that Colorado is one of the six states expected to pick up a House seat after the decennial census in 2020. It won’t affect the 2020 presidential electoral distribution, but the next Trump-like candidate will have fewer electoral votes in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia to depend upon, but more in Texas, Florida and North Carolina.


Colorado’s Front Range has been in a rapid growth mode this decade and will likely get the most benefit of the new seat, but the configuration of all seven existing seats will change.

The fastest growing metro counties of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas should see an increase in representation, but Denver, Larimer and El Paso have also been rapidly growing and can expect to be in the competition for a piece of the eighth seat.


In November, Colorado voters will decide upon a new, less partisan procedure to reapportion the state. But regardless of the system, the interests of incumbents, new aspirants, counties, cities and communities of interest will be in fierce competition.

Assuming Colorado’s growth continues at the current rate, another 140,000 residents can be expected between now and the 2020 census, raising the total population to 5.8 million. That would create eight House districts of about 730,000 persons in each. In 2020, the seven existing House districts would average 829,000 residents in each. According to 2016 census estimates, the 1st CD (DeGette) and the 6th CD (Coffman) had the largest populations and the 3rd CD (Tipton) the least, but all seven districts will need to shed upwards of 100,000 residents to create the new district.

Americans Believe Race Relations Have Worsened in Trump Era, But Divided Over Who’s Most Threatened

By 57 percent to 15 percent, Americans believe race relations are worse 18 months into the Trump administration than during the Obama presidency. Respondents rated relations under Barack Obama’s term 38 percent better to 37 percent worse.


The poll conducted in early August and reported by Larry Sabato for the University of Virginia Center for Politics also highlighted many of the divisions and anxieties about race and race relations that affect Americans. For example, super majorities adhere to American ideals that all races are equal (82% agree), all races should be treated equally (91% agree), and all races should be free to live where they choose (86%).

But, significant portions of the population support some of the “alt-right’s” often expressed positions. For example, America must protect its White European heritage (35% agree) and White people are currently under attack in their county (43% agree). Still, a strong majority support protecting multicultural heritages (82% agree). Also, a larger percentage of Americans believe racial minorities are under attack (57%) than believe Whites are under threat (43%).

Although extremists who trade in these race-based appeals don’t marshal much support (Neo-Nazis – 5% support, White Nationalists – 8%, Alt-right – 7%) – witness the recent Charlottesville anniversary activities in D.C. and Charlottesville – there is a group of Americans who are anxious about the status of Whites and can be politically mobilized.

Monday, September 10, 2018

WSJ of Two Minds – Tuesday’s Special Election

President Trump speaks at a rally, August 4, 2018, in Lewis
Center, Ohio | John Minchillo/Associated Press
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page of August 9 was of two minds in its analyses of the Tuesday Ohio special election.

Karl Rove, a regular columnist, offered the Republican establishment’s take and declared good news. Troy Balderson won after rumors of a likely defeat circulated and Republicans poured resources and pressed President Trump into the fight. Rove isn’t Pollyannish. He doesn’t see a “great red wave,” but he thinks in spite of the likely losses, Republicans “have a fighting chance to keep their majority.”

The WSJ’s house editorial, “The ‘Red Wave’ Illusion,” takes a harder line on Republican prospects based on the Ohio and overall Tuesday results. It believes President Trump is more the problem than the solution. “Voters dislike Mr. Trump’s abrasive style and polarizing governance.”

They cite Republican pollster, Ed Goeas, analyses: Trump has solidly behind him about 75 percent of voters who approve of him (about 31% to 34%) and another 10-11 percent willing to tolerate him. But, that sums to 44-45 percent approval and it can’t win a general election. Another 10 percent like some of what he does, but object to the chaos and rancor (see The Buzz: “In 2018, America’s Two Parties Have a lot of Stress” and “Trump Loses a Fifth of Republicans in Handling Helsinki”). Tuesday provided more evidence of Trump as much of a liability in a general election as an asset.

Both columns cite the metrics of Charles Cook and Larry Sabato that place more than 50 Republican House seats in harm’s way. These are Republican districts that have lower Republican partisan leanings than Mr. Balderson’s Ohio seat.

  • Ohio 12th Democrats ran 6.1 points better than the districts’ partisan lean (Cook’s calculation)
  • In special House election since November 2018, Democrats have bested the partisan lean by 5.1 points (Rove)
  • Cook and Sabato rate approximately 50 at-risk House members in seats with equal or less Republican lean (Rove)
  • WSJ states 68 Republican held seats are less Republican than Ohio’s 12th, with lots of suburbs, which Democrats won two-to-one in Ohio,

Overturning Roe v. Wade is Non-starter for Public

Judge Brett Kavanaugh | Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Abortion is a key issue in the looming Supreme Court replacement vote, and Americans oppose overturning Roe v. Wade by 71 percent in the latest NBC News/WSJ poll. Although it may not keep Judge Kavanaugh from 51 Republican votes and confirmation, it sends a warning to Republican congressional and senate candidates who will be campaigning in swing districts and states. Abortion is a very polarizing issue.

Kavanaugh’s own pre-confirmation favorability is weak. About a third (32%) of voters support Kavanaugh’s nomination and 26 percent oppose it, a net positive of 6 points. Similar, but lower than Neil Gorsuch’s net 12 points in 2017. Abortion is one of the issues that will help shape opinion about the new judge.

It could also produce a crisis of public opinion for the reputation of the Supreme Court, which has managed to hang onto some modicum of credibility in these polarized days. Currently, the assumption is that fidelity to “precedent” or “stare decisis” will be sufficient to buffer a judge who believes Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. And, the informed public tends to believe even a pro-life majority will continue to decide abortion cases around the margins of more allowances for restrictions or less tolerance for state support. But, a powerful hostile reaction lurks if a direct assault is made and abortion loses its constitutional protection.


Support includes: 88 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of independents and 52 percent of Republicans.