Friday, September 13, 2019

Job Growth: First Six Months in Colorado

Although Boulder, the heartland of the new Colorado Democrats, has the top job growth the first six months of 2019 (a little surprising since they often eschew growth and jobs), it is shared with Republican Colorado with Grand Junction, Greeley and Colorado Springs joining it in the top four.

Will Hickenlooper Run for Senate? Rudin’s Weekly Podcast

Ken Rudin
Ken Rudin’s weekly podcast featured John Hickenlooper on the day he quit his unsuccessful presidential race and started speculation on a U.S. Senate run against Cory Gardner. Rudin, for years, was a regular on NPR’s All Things Considered with his feature show, “Political Junkie.”

After a long conversation on Hickenlooper’s failed presidential campaign and the 2020 political environment in Colorado, Rudin asked me three questions?
  1. Will Hickenlooper run for senate?
  2. If there is a primary, will he win it?
  3. Will he win the general election?
    • I answered the last question first. Odds are very high Hickenlooper would win senate race. But, as of today, the year looks so positive for Democrats, several of the top declared candidates could likely win.
    • The field can’t be cleared. There will be a primary. The national and Colorado Democratic political establishment has limited influence in Colorado. The top candidates have raised more money for their senate campaigns than Hickenlooper for his presidential campaign. Hickenlooper has never been in a Colorado primary contest, and the activists in the party have many objections to Hickenlooper’s Colorado record and presidential politics. 
    • The pressure on Hickenlooper to run is growing, even as he has said it may not be a good fit for him. He will not be able to wait for months to decide. The people in the field are building fundraising bases and grassroots organizers.
Listen to my speculations here
Ken Rudin's "Political Junkie" website

Rudin goes in-depth on issues. This week, besides Hickenlooper, he featured a Democratic pollster on whether after years of inactivity on gun control has the politics changed (Yes!)? Also, he examined why Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential ambitions have stalled. Is it at least partially due to Democratic activists and funders unhappy with her role in Al Franken’s resignation from the Senate (Yes!)?

Listen to the full interview here

News From the Campaign – Medicare for All in Trouble and Guns in Duck and Cover

Medicare for All

New polling shows voters with reservations about Medicare for All’s cost and impact on private insurance. Bernie Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s proposal is under assault by Joe Biden, John Hickenlooper, Michael Bennet and all the party’s moderates. They are warning that if the goal is to win the election and not just ideological fights, Medicare for All is a general election liability. Numerous polls agree.

And, although a majority of Democratic voters still like it, even larger majorities support the Affordable Care Act with improvements. Especially popular is the public option, which Biden and other moderates support.

Guns After El Paso and Dayton

After the El Paso and Dayton shootings, polls are detecting a shift in opinion on guns that may not be as temporary as after previous mass shootings. The desire for gun legislation appears broader and deeper than after the tragedies at Sandy Hook or Parkland. How long lasting is yet to be determined, but more than 90 percent of the public support gun background registration and more than two-thirds support Red Flag laws. President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled movement on the issues, at least partially to protect Republicans in swing states and districts.

In 2018, former Congressman Michael Coffman was on the defensive in his suburban Denver district due to his high level of NRA contributions. He got little help from Trump or Congress. Currently, Cory Gardner is 4th on the national contribution list.

Placement and Polls Structure the Debate

As expected, the July Democratic debates mostly reinforced the positions of the polling leaders. The placement of the top tier candidates between the two nights set the dynamics for the show. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren dominated the first debate and the topics became the promotion and defense of their left position, especially on health care. The most interesting dynamic was a group of moderates challenging the frontrunners speaking and grabbing some attention.

The “1” percent challengers – Steve Bullock, Amy Klobuchar and John Delaney – all got more than ten minutes. Although John Hickenlooper got a couple of good exchanges, he didn’t engage much.

Joe Biden was the dominant participant the second night, with race the main topic, especially for Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. The three of them got the most time, and Biden and Harris spent a major portion of it defending themselves and their records.

Michael Bennet was the only moderate besides Biden, and he challenged the left’s attack on race as focusing on ancient history and not the problems of today. He also criticized Harris and her health care proposal as a dishonest presentation of the cost.

A couple of rounds of national polls are now out, and there was little repositioning detectable due to debate performance.

The debate criteria will shortly limit the field, but the events are having modest impact.

Does Hickenlooper’s Presidential Campaign End August 28? Interview With April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz at KOA

August 28 is the last day for Democratic presidential candidates to qualify for the September 12 (and 13 if needed) Democratic debate. John Hickenlooper is not even close to qualifying with having made 2 percent, the threshold in only one national poll, and receiving no measurable support in several others conducted post the July debates. He’s now at the bottom of the list of 21 candidates reported by RealClearPolitics with a 0.0 average. In fact, in the latest list, he’s been dropped as Tom Steyer was added. There is also a donor threshold of 130,000, which he’s far from meeting.

Hickenlooper’s campaign for president is effectively over.

National media and pundits have written him off. Nearly all stories about him now include a reference to observers’ beliefs he might have a better chance to run for the Colorado senate seat held by Cory Gardner. A new poll says he starts with a huge advantage in name identification. Although, a new round of stories now includes commentary that the Colorado senate option may not be easy.

When does Hickenlooper get out of the race? He could wait around until later in September because the October debate will use the same criteria, but why? He’ll miss the September debate and is unlikely to be missed. He could ride the Winnebago around Iowa until the February 3 caucus, but it would be a waste of time and gas. It’s over. He gave it a good run, but it simply didn’t take. Even he seems to realize it with his statement reported in the Colorado Springs Gazette and The Hill: “He would be a ‘fool’ to continue his longshot bid if he doesn’t see change in polls.”

Listen to KOA interview here

John Hickenlooper and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand flip
pork chops at the 2019 Iowa State Fair | Photo: Gary He

Arapahoe County Gets Polling Data on New Jail

In a recently completed poll for Arapahoe County fixing the crowded jail was supported by 63 percent of likely November voters. The Ciruli Associates poll was conducted at the end of July, with 401 likely November Arapahoe County voters (±4.9 percentage points).

Proposals for a new jail, courthouse and DA’s office were being reviewed by a committee of county residents assembled by the county commissioners.

Voters were only modestly supportive of new taxes to build the $464 million jail with a new detention center. About one-half said they would vote for a property or sales tax increase. Only 28 percent were supportive of a property tax increase for a more extensive $1 billion complex of a new jail, courthouse and DA’s office.

Freda Miklin reported the story in the August 7 Villager. Read here

Floyd Ciruli and South Denver Economic Development Partnership
Senior VP Lynn Myers talked about the aging Arapahoe
County criminal justice facilities | Photo: Freda Miklin

Hickenlooper Gets a Meme, But is it Goodbye? – KOA

John Hickenlooper speaks during Democratic presidential 
primary debate in Detroit, July 30, 2019 | Paul Sancya/AP
John Hickenlooper got one of the lines of the night in an animated exchange with Bernie Sanders when he said Sanders’s “Medicine for All” was radical and would “FedEx the election to Trump.” Sanders threw his arms up in frustration over the word “radical” and Hickenlooper mocked him in an arm wave that made social media. Hickenlooper was one of five moderate Democrats that took on the left’s frontrunners: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

In a discussion with KOA’s April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz after the debate, I highlighted some comments on a debate full of controversy and possibly the last debate participation for several candidates.
  1. The debate highlighted the divide between the party’s left wing represented by Sanders and Warren (representing about 30% of the party) and a moderate wing that finally spoke up and had a message.
  2. Although, as usual, the frontrunners dominated the time. Five moderates, all struggling for a spot in the September debates, made their mark. Hickenlooper, with a meme, was joined by a little recognized John Delaney, new participant Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana Amy Klobuchar and Tim Ryan, all hunting for their breakout moment.
  3. The challengers to liberal orthodoxy had a number of good lines that will now be repeated as the debates extend to the fall.
    • Steve Bullock – Wish-list economics, here and now, not pie-in-the-sky
    • John Delaney – Democrats now have their own repeal and replace – your health care insurance will become illegal (no doubt Donald Trump will say “and making illegal immigrants legal).
    • Amy Klobuchar – It’s not winning the argument, but the election.
  4. The Sanders/Warren counter-strategy was well-thought-out because they have been dealing with the criticism for months, if not years.
    • Our opponents lack ambition and courage (Warren)
    • Why run if you don’t want to overturn the system (Warren)
    • Talking about what they won’t do, won’t fight for (Warren)
    • I win in the polls (Sanders)
    • We’re all extremist to Trump (Buttigieg)
    • None of the lines will stop the arguments, and the least persuasive, but most frequently used by the left is “stop using Republican talking points.” If the criticism is valid, fact based, who cares if it came from the RNC, DNC, ACLU or NAACP.
  5. Hickenlooper performed well, but his moment was crowded out by the two frontrunners – Sanders and Warren – getting most of the time and by four fellow “one” percenters fighting for their space.
Shortly before the debate, a group of leading Democratic senators were quoted as encouraging Hickenlooper to shift to the Colorado U.S. Senate race. It was both a prudent encouragement for their priority to win the senate, but also a realistic assessment of Hickenlooper’s very slim chance of getting into the first tier of candidates.

The next round of polls and fundraising will tell the story, but clearly Hickenlooper loves being on stage. His final line of the night was: “What a night, I love it.” It may be his final debate line period.

All Moderates Want to Replace Biden

If Joe Biden fades, all the moderates from the first night’s debate and Michael Bennet from the second night want to become the face of the moderate wing of the party. Unfortunately for them, Biden’s support in the Black community, mostly based on association with Barack Obama, is unlikely to transfer. They will quickly find that building a majority primary constituency is very difficult. Nonetheless, the second round of Democratic debates revived the party moderates to take on Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.

Michael Bennet, in the second debate, had the benefit of being the only moderate outside the night’s main target – Joe Biden. He took on Kamala Harris on the left’s main policy program and its major vulnerability – Medicare for All. He aggressively questioned its tax implications, more or less called her deceptive, and said it made private insurance illegal. She was not happy.

Bennet’s best moment was his high volume criticism of current education policy effectively pointing out it was ridiculous to argue 1970s busing when schools were still segregated and inadequate.

Bennet had a good night, but it’s unlikely to move the polls as long as Biden remains the frontrunner – he holds the moderate space. He appeared to emerge from the night of attacks intact. The challenge for the six-person moderate wing is just to survive into the September debate.

From left: Michael Bennet, Kirsten Gillibrand and Julian Castro
at the July 31, 2019 debate | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Will Hickenlooper Run for Senate?

John Hickenlooper doesn’t want to run for U.S. Senate, and it wouldn’t be as easy to win as the recent PPP poll, which claimed he’d start with more than 4 out of 10 of the state’s Democrats for him (44%).

What the poll mostly affirmed is that name identification is an advantage early in primaries, the race is wide open and substantial numbers of Democrats’ first goal is to find a winner. But, does that suggest Hickenlooper would find the race easy to enter?

  • As I have blogged, top Democratic senate candidates have collectively raised three times what Hickenlooper raised in his presidential race since January ($6 million to $2 million).
  • Consider the list, which of the top candidates will quit – probably none.
  • Hickenlooper’s constituency is older, white and moderate – an important group in the Democratic Party, but hardly dominant. (The Joe Biden constituency. In fact, Biden leads Colorado’s presidential primary with 22%; Hickenlooper was tied for 5th with 7%.)

Hickenlooper has stated he would not enter the primary. If he did, he would be the frontrunner and likely raise more money than in his presidential bid. But, it will be a fight. The poll did reinforce that Hickenlooper is not a serious presidential candidate as of now in Colorado and the Colorado Democratic Senate nomination is wide open.

Money Floods into Senate Race

Both small and large donations are flowing into Colorado Democrats’ winnable U.S. Senate race. Expect a lot more. Incumbent Senator Cory Gardner raised more than $2 million, but the Democratic field more than doubled that in total.

Gardner starts in a strong fundraising position with nearly $5 million in the bank, but Democrats are raising both large contributions, especially Mike Johnston and Dan Baer, and small contributions led by Andrew Romanoff. A recent poll (Keating) has Romanoff in the lead and Johnston third after rumored candidate and newly elected Secretary of State, Jena Griswold. An unreleased Public Policy Poll reported John Hickenlooper would get 44 percent, with Romanoff in a trailing second. The complete poll was not released and it is unclear who authorized the poll.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Cory Gardner and the 2020 Presidential Election

Sen. Cory Gardner speaks at the Western Conservative
 Summit, July 12, 2019 | Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Senator Cory Gardner has a major challenge managing the circumstance of his 2020 reelection. His close victory in 2014 was the product of a good Republican year (they took control of the Senate) and a well-executed campaign against what appeared a lethargic incumbent beset by interest groups determined to dominate his messaging. Gardner may get another break this year as a wide open Democratic primary may damage the eventual nominee, mirroring the national party nomination contest by the tendency of drifting too far to the left.

But, Gardner faces some challenges not present in 2014, namely Donald Trump. Trump lost Colorado to Hillary Clinton by 5 points, the Democrats swept the 2018 midterms in Colorado from top-of-the-ticket to local sheriffs mostly criticizing Trump, and the latest polls show Trump below his not very high national approval rating (43% nationally, 42% Colorado). Gardner spends a significant amount of political energy oscillating between supporting the Republican President, such as his endorsement of Trump’s re-election, and separating himself from Trump, most recently concerning tweets on “the squad.”

The difficult specific conditions of the 2020 election are:

  • Record turnout. The 2018 midterms produced a historic number of Democrat and Democratic-leaning unaffiliated voters. They will be back. Both parties will be highly motivated and fully mobilized. Expect record turnout (2.78 million in 2016, 2.52 million in 2018).
  • Party-line voting. Colorado was for years famous for ticket-splitters and swing voters. No more. Voters increasingly line up with their partisan affiliation (6th District: Mike Coffman – 43%, Trump 41%; Jason Crow 54%, Clinton 50%). Democrats have an advantage today in registration (49,000 more Democrats than Republicans, 307,000 more unaffiliated than Republicans). It’s unaffiliated voters that trended toward the Democrats by about 60 percent in 2018 according to polls.
  • Negative partisanship. It’s hard to appeal to moderates in either party as voters are more anti the other side than for their side. Negative partisanship – the new term for it – drives voting, not party loyalty. It’s being against what the other party stands for or its most prominent leader that is the primary motivator. Gardner’s, like Mike Coffman’s, effort to triangulate the Colorado electorate is a very difficult task today.

Hickenlooper and Bennet Make It, But it may be a Last Chance - KOA

In a drive-time KOA interview, Marty Lentz asked if John Hickenlooper, with only “one” percent in the polls and little money left in the bank, was running out of time.

Yes. Unless something changes dramatically, this is likely the end of Hickenlooper’s national run. And, his challenges are formidable. The 10-person debate nights will be packed with candidates struggling for their moment. As the June debate demonstrated, only a couple of stars emerged from the debates and they tended to be dominated by the early frontrunners: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

Hickenlooper’s first night has Bernie Sanders and Warren, who will no doubt command attention, and Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke will be looking for their own breakouts. Hickenlooper will be standing near Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a new entrant who will get noticed just by being new.
John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet

Michael Bennet, who had a better June debate than Hickenlooper and is well liked by the pundit and commentary class (See George Wells’ endorsement), is in the first night’s show that will feature some version of a rematch between Biden and Harris as Cory Booker and Julián Castro fight for a notice. Bennet is on the far left edge of the stage, opposite Mayor Bill de Blasio – it might be a good firing position.

April Zesbaugh asked if Colorado’s candidates being on separate nights was an advantage.

I think so. They are both moderates, but with very separate messages, and some independent space is no doubt welcome by both. Hickenlooper especially didn’t appreciate being described as coming in second to Bennet last time.

Possibly the biggest challenge for both candidates is that one powerful storyline framing this debate is who quits. Pundits and pols are looking for who leaves and how soon. Most believe there should be no more than ten for the September debate and, as of now, only the top six in the polls qualify. When will Tim Ryan, John Delaney and possibly Hickenlooper get out will be the question asked repeatedly.

Cory Garner and the BLM

In a major coup, Senator Cory Gardner got the federal government to move one of its agencies to the West. The City of Grand Junction will now become the home of the headquarters of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM manages huge acreage of federal land, mostly in the West, including Colorado. About a third of Colorado’s land is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM.

For Gardner, it demonstrates one of a strong argument for his re-election – an incumbent in the party of the president. Gardner also has the advantage of being in the majority party. Senator Bennet pitched in to support the BLM move, but, of course, was a voice in the political wilderness.

Sen. Cory Gardner | Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

Running on Fumes

John Hickenlooper speaks at the Democratic primary debate,
Miami, Florida, June 27, 2019 | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
John Hickenlooper is out of money. The latest FEC reports place Hickenlooper 20th out of 23 candidates listed. Michael Bennet, who has only been in the race three months, managed to rank 10th. Of course, his $3.5 million total was helped by $700,000 from his Senate account.

But, Hickenlooper, whose total raised is $3.2 million, only collected $1.2 million in the latest quarter, with barely $500,000 in the bank. He’s “one” percent in the polls with a debate in twelve days. Along with money, Hickenlooper is running out of time.

The Buzz: Dashboard Before July Debates
Politico: The Money

KOA Interview: Hickenlooper’s Final Debate?

In a Tuesday morning interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz, the July Democratic debate was described as Hickenlooper’s likely last chance to keep his presidential campaign alive.

Recognizing his dire circumstance, Hickenlooper shook up his staff after the last debate when he emerged with weak reviews and still at “one” percent or less in follow-up polls. The next round of debates, starting in September, have a “two” percent polling threshold, which Hickenlooper and most of his 12 fellow “one” percent candidates wouldn’t hit.

One, Eric Swalwell, a little known California congressman who tried to emerge at the last debate taking on Joe Biden as the “too old generation,” quit. Calls are growing for more “one” percent candidates to exit the stage. Hickenlooper is repeatedly being asked to shift to the Colorado Senate race against vulnerable Republican incumbent, Cory Gardner.

In recent interviews, Hickenlooper is beginning to recognize the difficulty of his position.

  • Not a staff issue. He corrected the impression his lack of momentum was staff related. In fact, the problem is that neither Hickenlooper’s quirky personality nor his moderate, progressive message has found a constituency in the Democratic electorate in Iowa or nationally. And, as opposed to Michael Bennet, he’s been campaigning for more than nine months, hard at it since March.
  • It’s not the lack of exposure. He’s had numerous interviews on cable and network news shows, including Morning Joe, the Sunday public affairs panels and a CNN town hall.
  • It’s not money. At least initially, his announcement was accompanied by a $2 million haul, but it has run dry as Hickenlooper has failed to spark much interest from his media exposure or appearances.
  • Next debate will be tough. Hickenlooper has said he’s not a great debater. It may not matter at the July event. There will be an air of desperation on the stage as at least half the candidates realize time is running out.

Hickenlooper is being promoted as a top senate candidate, but he’s made it very clear he’s not interested. Beyond that, the politics of the race is well underway, with a host of candidates already raising more than $3 million. A messy primary is not a political legacy Hickenlooper wants to leave.

Interestingly, as some of the first round of candidates leaves the field, there are more lining up to enter the race. Billionaire Tom Steyer, claiming he will spend $100 million, has just announced, and Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, continues to be encouraged to enter the race.

Polling: Presidential Race in the West – Evenly Divided

As President Trump begins his re-election campaign, the latest state-by-state Morning Consult poll of presidential approval shows 12 western states that broke fifty-fifty between Trump and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race are still evenly divided above and below his national approval rate of 43 percent.

Trump’s approval has been in a narrow range. It declined from a low 46 percent in the polling averages at his inauguration, with no honeymoon, to settling in at the upper 30s and low 40s his entire first two years in office. Gallup reported on June 30, 2019 that his approval was 41 percent, after starting the year at 37 percent, reflecting the December market crash and January shutdown, moving to a high of 47 percent in early May.

The six western states won by Trump were: Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Texas, Utah and Wyoming (in continental U.S. and Texas). Clinton won six: California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. The same six states each are divided today above and below the 43 percent national average.

Arizona and Nevada clearly appear to be battlegrounds due to latest polling and closeness of the 2016 race (3% and 2%, respectively). But, because of Trump’s high negative, Texas appears vulnerable and Utah, which in 2016 voted strongly for a conservative third-party candidate. Just examining approval ratings, makes Colorado a potential Republican target, but the 2018 election and his high disapproval (54%) makes the state look difficult for a Trump revival.

Trump Riding on Economy, But Lagging on Foreign Policy and Personality

Donald Trump hit an approval high in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll of 44 percent (47% among registered voters). Also, his RealClearPolitics average has tied his previous two-year high of 45 percent, set in early May 2019.

Gary Langer, ABC News’ and Washington Post’s well-known pollster, believes the economy is mainly responsible for Trump’s move up. More than half of Americans approve of his job performance with the economy (51%). However, it is in foreign policy that he lags, with only a 40 percent job approval. Unfortunately for Trump, it’s foreign policy where he enjoys the drama and entertainment value and frequently raises his profile, along with expectations from North Korea, China and Iran.

The poll also records Trump’s other liability holding back his approval rating and possibly damaging re-election is his personality. Two-thirds (65%) of Americans say that Trump “has acted in a way that’s unpresidential since taking office,” a viewpoint people have held about Trump during his entire presidency (70% in mid-2017 and early 2018).

Langer makes the point that, along with an approval rating in a very tight range (36% to 44% in the ABC News/Washington post surveys during his entire 900 days in office), it has been extraordinary low. His two and one-half year average is 39 percent, well below Gerald Ford (47% approval), Bill Clinton (51%) and Jimmy Carter (51%), two of whom lost re-election.

Hickenlooper and Bennet Get One More Debate

As I wrote on Friday, John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet got moments in the second night of the first Democratic debates, but both were overshadowed by the big four – Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg – especially the takedown of Biden by Harris.

Some commentary confirms that Colorado’s two candidates performed satisfactory, but not enough to move the polls or the narrative. They get one more debate chance at the end of July, but are unlikely to enter the room in much better position than their less than one percent position as of Thursday night. The good news for both Bennet and Hickenlooper is that the first round of debates showed the field can be shook up by a big performance. It reinforced that it’s early and frontrunners are vulnerable and second and third tiers can stand out.

Democratic primary debate, June 27, 2019 | Mike Segar/Reuters

Most of the early responses and the pundit class rate the two night winners:


  • Warren
  • Harris
  • Castro
  • Booker
  • Klobuchar
  • Gabbard
  • de Blasio

Twitter (Ranked in over their pre-debate favorability)

With the exception of Joe Biden, over-favorability went up, including for Hickenlooper and Bennet, but they are only in the 20 percent range (leaders were 40% and above). FiveThirtyEight also rated increase in Twitter followers, and the big winners were Harris and Julián Castro (more than 50,000), Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren more than 30,000. The two fringe candidates – Marianne Williamson (31,000) and Andrew Yang (39,000) – have their online fans.

Hickenlooper and Bennet were at the dead bottom of the list of twenty, with about 1,000 new followers each.

Word Count

Hickenlooper did his pragmatic, contrast with Sanders, but never got into much of an exchange with others or interrupted. He had one of the lowest speaking times (5 minutes) and word counts (951 words). Although length is not indicative of how one did. Bill de Blasio spoke less than Hickenlooper (881), but was judged on having made an impression, and Joe Biden spoke the most (2,475), but was mostly on the defense.

Bennet managed to interject often and had a word count (1,402 words, 8 minutes) nearly equal to Castro (1,588), who was considered a breakout star the first night. Bennet was not.

Time Out

Kirsten Gillibrand may replace de Blasio as the least liked New Yorker for Democrats. She should quit before her senate career is damaged.

Because of the DNC’s internet rules, it may be hard to get rid of Yang and Williamson. They appeared even more fringe after their performances. And Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell, John Delaney and Jay Inslee looked very marginal. Finally, it’s hard to imagine a recovery for Beto O’Rourke.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Sanders, Hickenlooper and Socialism

John Hickenlooper’s first question asked about the socialism criticism he’s become known for. Both he and Michael Bennet argued for pragmatism dealing with major policy proposals, such as health care; for example, public options versus single-payer, most strongly promoted by Bernie Sanders.

They and their colleagues are right to prioritize health care as an issue. There is a strong Democratic consensus on the top issues.

Republicans have more certainty in their ranks on the terms “capitalism” and “socialism.” But, Democrats are divided.

Republicans are about 6-to-1 hostile to the term “socialism,” whereas Democrats are 2-to-1 positive.

Mitch McConnell

Chuck Todd hit a hot button in the first debate by his Mitch McConnell question. Although no Democratic candidate offered much of an answer on how as president they would handle his obstructionism, Democrats in important senate swing states suggested attacking him and his image will move voters to vote Democratic in senate races. In a poll, they were motivated more by attacks on “Mitch McConnell” than on “Donald Trump” or the “Republican Party in Congress” (Global Group).

Presidential hopefuls take to the stage in the Democratic
primary debate, June 27, 2019 | Mike Segar/Reuters

Democratic Party Won the First Debate

Democrats were well served by the first debate. It was civil, no nicknames, no insults, mostly policy and little mention of Trump. It was a useful contrast for Democrats to the first Republican debate four years ago (Megyn Kelly Against free-for-all). He was almost never mentioned except in a well-received reference to him being the country’s main national security threat. There was also no Clinton. Four years ago, she dominated the nomination process. Wednesday night, she was never mentioned.

American democracy needs a reset, and the first debate gave it a start.

Socialism on Defense

Elizabeth Warren, from her center position and receiving the first question, set the agenda on the economy and dominated the progressive wing, but not without pushback. Amy Klobuchar, in particular, but not alone, took on Warren’s single-payer/government run health care.

The debate tone made clear the progressive agenda in its most extreme form will not go unchallenged. Warren and Bernie Sanders can expect a running battle from the middle of the party.

Time to Thin the Herd Approaches

For a few on the stage, they will make only one more debate. Although Congresspersons Tim Ryan and John Delaney got in a few appreciated comments about how the party has left the working class behind, it’s hard to see either of them finding sufficient support for improved polling and financing. Several one-percenters will not make the third debate when two-percent becomes the threshold.

Debates Can Make and Break

As the Julián Castro and Beto O’Rourke exchange demonstrated, a brief exchange can provide a launch for a candidate and it can cause major damage. Castro had been mostly ignored and needed something to highlight his assets in the Democratic base; that is, Hispanic heritage and immigration position. He got his chance taking on O’Rourke in a fiery exchange on immigration. For O’Rourke, it just reinforced the narrative that his campaign was stalled and that down was his mostly likely direction in the polls.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, Castro’s position, which amounts to open borders, was immediately identified by a Trump tweet as a highly controversial and a vulnerable position.

Presidential hopefuls take to the stage in the first Democratic
primary debate, June 26, 2019 | Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Image

Time is Short

In a debate format for 10 participants, time is short – generally 5 to 14 minutes, in about 10 to 14 exchanges. Although authenticity (i.e., storytelling) and passion are praised, sound bites are expected and endless interruptions distracting.

All in all, a good launch for the Democrats.

KOA Interview: Debate Prospects for Hickenlooper and Bennet

Thursday morning after the Democratic first debate, April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz discussed the strategies and prospects for Colorado’s John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet.

My analysis:

The good news for candidates on the edge of the stage, like Hickenlooper and Bennet, is that in the Wednesday night first debate, several showed well. Amy Klobuchar (1%) was strong as the Midwestern moderate; Julián Castro (1%) had a breakout moment with his taking on of Beto O’Rourke on immigration; and Mayor Bill de Blasio (1%), a new candidate in the field, effectively interrupted and made the point it may take a little “New York” swagger to take on Donald Trump.

Hickenlooper would like to talk about his Colorado success on health care, reproductive rights and gun control, but his only break-out moment so far was taking on socialism in front of California Democrats. He’s likely to have an opportunity with Bernie Sanders on the stage to declare his view that extreme positions will not pass and will be highly vulnerable to Republican attack.

Bennet has argued for months and his new book present the view Washington is dysfunctional and must be fixed. Describing effectively how he would pass the key parts of the Democratic agenda in spite of a Republican controlled senate would be welcomed by Democrats.

Does position count? The center of the stage helped Elizabeth Warren Wednesday. Will Hickenlooper, being between two of the least probable candidates – spiritual advisor Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang, venture capitalist – help or hurt him? Distract or enhance? It’s one of the myriad of unpredictable factors in a ten-person debate.

John Hickenlooper (L) and Michael Bennet at the Democratic Debate,
June 27, 2019 | Credit: Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS/Getty Images and VOA

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Eli Stokols and Chris Hill in the LA Times

As we appear to slip toward violence in Iran (see blog: Trump’s Going to Need a Bigger Boat), former Denver TV reporter Eli Stokols quotes DU’s Ambassador Christopher Hill in a front page Los Angeles Times story on Trump’s off and on strategy (order retaliation/cancel).

Trump’s “weapon of choice is this economic cudgel,” said Christopher R. Hill, a former U.S. ambassador to four countries. “That’s how he wants to look tough, and it’s been popular with his base. He’s not interested at all in war. He’s interested in economic warfare.”

After Denver, Stokols did a stint with Politico and the Wall Street Journal in D.C. You often see him and Hill on MSNBC. The LA Times has been building up its national and international political coverage.

TABOR Override in Trouble

Colorado’s controversial tax limitation initiative is on the defensive. The Democratic Party and elements of the business community and local government have been long opposed to the TABOR Amendment passed in 1992, during an era of Republican ascendance and strong anti-tax sentiment. Several restrictions included in it have been limited by courts, and now the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled the entire multi-topic amendment can be overturned by one counter amendment if its opponents want to take it on.

But, before there is a full-blown TABOR challenge, the newly installed Democratic legislature, with the forbearance of the new governor, propose a permanent time out of the tax revenue give back requirements, or what’s commonly called and often approved by voters at the local level as a TABOR override. Unfortunately for proponents, they have run into considerable opposition from a newly engaged Republican establishment, with former Governor Bill Owens, former Senator Hank Brown and many current officeholders, such as Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler, opposing the time out, especially its permanent aspects. As the 2018 election highlighted, Colorado voters tend to be sympathetic to many local tax proposals, including TABOR overrides from schools, counties, municipalities and others, but are very skeptical of state tax increases. A statewide permanent time out is likely to suffer from the same voter distrust of state government. In a confusing editorial, even the Denver Post, no friend of TABOR, did not endorse a frontal assault on TABOR or a permanent time out. It pointed out how hard it will be to organize for retaining tax dollars when the state is awash in tax revenue.

Recently conducted focus groups in Adams County heard voters’ lack of understanding of the TABOR issue:

When asked about a TABOR override, while there was a lack of understanding on what exactly this ballot question would do, no one in the group supported such an effort: “Coloradans are tired of change;” we are going too far too fast;” “[Colorado] is turning into California.”

Will Governor Polis support the proposition? He tends to be risk adverse related to statewide ballot issues, and this is shaping up to be a battle

Bruce Benson Leaves on Top

As CU President, Bruce regularly tells graduates at commencement to be prepared to take opportunities that come your way in spite of life plans or expectations. The CU presidency turned out to be a surprising, but perfect fit for his skill set and his indefatigable work ethic. His long passion for education (Metro Board, now MSU Denver, and Denver Public Schools Foundation) was melded into his passion for CU and his sense that it provided him an invaluable life foundation. He, with his life partner, became extraordinary advocates for the institution, enriching it in many ways, including adding billions to its buildings and programs.

Bruce’s and Marcy’s friends celebrated his CU run and retirement last week in Denver. I asked him what’s next, and Marcy interjected that some rest was in order. But, he pointed out there was still some transition work and that he has a few ideas for what’s next. It’s unlikely to be a quiet retirement, and Denver and Colorado are likely to benefit.

Great job Bruce and Marcy.

CU President Bruce and Marcy Benson receive the 2016 Outstanding
Philanthropist Award | Photo: Elizabeth Collins/University of Colorado

Warren on the Move; Harris in Trouble

The latest national and key in-state polls show Elizabeth Warren and her “plan a day” strategy is gathering strength in the still much divided Democratic presidential primary field. In the two latest national polls reported (Economist/YouGov and Monmouth University) in RealClearPolitics, Warren is now ahead of Bernie Sanders by a combined 5 points. Even more impressive, she’s beginning to close in on Sanders in Iowa and California. Bernie Sanders’ status as the frontrunner of the left wing of the Democratic Party appears over.

It is the California poll that should most concern Kamala Harris. Her campaign failed to take off after the impressive announcement and she has languished in fourth and fifth places, tied most recently with Pete Buttigieg. But, to have any shot at the nomination, she must dominate her home state of California. Unfortunately for her credibility in the race, the latest poll by the LA Times conducted by veteran pollster, Mark DiCamillo, at Berkeley, she is in fourth, behind Joe Biden, Warren and Sanders, with Buttigieg a close fifth.

Harris still has much potential. She needs to bring her talent in the congressional hearing setting to her performance in the debates. Also, a week before Super Tuesday, the South Carolina primary gives her a powerful constituency of African American women who could put her on the top of the field. And, even a fourth or fifth position should keep someone in the race through Super Tuesday. Nonetheless, not dominating California is a disappointment.

Trump Launches Campaign in Blizzard of Bad Polls

A series of recent polls reported Donald Trump in deep trouble as he launched his re-election campaign in Orlando, Florida. At the four-year anniversary of his famous Trump Tower escalator start in June 2015, polls showed him losing to most of the Democratic frontrunners in what has to be an anybody but Trump reaction to his pending re-election.

His campaign knows the polls have been bad news. It fired three of its Republican pollsters for alleged media leaks of in-house bad polling numbers. Trump hates bad news, and tends to deny it exists. But, it will frame the coverage surrounding his campaign start-up.

Polling roundups:

Four years ago, Trump had the element of surprise and used his shockingly incorrect announcement to capture the center spot in the first debate (Megyn Kelly debate), with the support of 25 percent of Republicans.

  • Escalator Announcement – June 15, 2015
  • Megyn Kelly First Debate – August 7, 2015

But now, Trump is commanding the Republican Party and has a worldwide audience of his announcement in front of 20,000 admiring fans and for most of his international activities and high drama domestic political actions. Hence, it is especially disconcerting to Trump to be behind in key states and tied in some must-wins.

For many of his campaign advisors and much of the Republican establishment, the weak polls are not surprising. Trump is committed to a scorched earth, base reinforcing campaign. Many in the Trump campaign would like to expand the base, and also believe the President’s strategy is responsible for the current polling malaise. It attracted 63 million votes in 2016, located in just the right states, but it will be short of what’s needed in the higher turnout 2020 election.

Trump’s Going to Need a Bigger Boat

President Trump and his Mideast team – Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Jared Kushner – should be careful starting a war with Iran. Not only is the country’s forces formidable (they are not Iraq in 2003), but American allies in this cause will be thin. In fact, except for Israel, which isn’t near the battlefield, the help is mostly unimpressive American dependencies. Europe, the UN, China, Russia, India, Turkey and others are more likely to oppose than support any action. And, of course, impact on the world economy will be immediate and significant.

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln | Eric Power/US Navy

The Iranian confrontation is especially dangerous due to a host of special conditions beyond our isolation on the issue:
  • The enmity is deep and long-term. The chant, “Death to America” (and the 1979 hostage crisis), are manifestations of deep hostility that is part of the core legitimacy of the regime. Opposing the U.S. throughout the Mideast is the top propaganda point for their external relations.
  • The Persian Gulf has massive armaments in very close proximity.
  • Iran has proxies and allies in the Middle East with agendas and resources that can cause incidents, like rockets in the Green Zone and commercial shipping attacks, that the two powers must then manage.
  • Regular communication helps avoid missteps and miscues, but we have none with their diplomats or military.
President Trump’s usual strategy of maximum pressure and over-the-top threats will have difficulty working with Iran. It does not constitute negotiation, and regime survival will require the U.S. to appear to back down and lower the demands and threats – actions not really available in the Trump playbook.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Two Pandas Summit: Autocrats Gather; Economies and Military Ties Strengthened

Vladimir Putin welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping and 1,000 Chinese officials and businesspeople for a state visit and to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Russia looks to skirt western sanctions, attract Chinese investments and strengthen its alliance with the U.S. and Western democracies other leading antagonist, China. And, of course, China is looking for allies in its trade dispute with the U.S. Xi brought two pandas for good will and called Putin, who was celebrating a birthday, his best friend.

President Putin spent considerable time criticizing the U.S.’s geopolitical and trade positions as un-unilateralism and hegemony. And, the joint discussions made clear that – concerning Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, the use of Huawei and the Arctic – the two countries are in agreement on viewpoints and promoting joint positions and ventures.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) and Russian President
Vladimir Putin, June 7, 2019 | Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

While the West’s alliance relationships, such as the EU and NATO, are on the defense, Russia and China are building theirs. Last September, President Putin and President Xi shared blintzes as their militaries maneuvered together.

Vladimir Putin invited Xi Jinping to a Russian pancake cooking class in Siberia while Chinese troops joined Russians in a large five-day military exercise that U.S. Defense officials described as: “…moving beyond symbolic displays of force to coordinate weapons systems and command structures. Washington says the two countries have developed capabilities that could test U.S. military dominance in times of crisis.” (The Buzz, Sept. 28, 2018)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping make
pancakes during a visit to the Far East Street exhibition on the sidelines of
the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, Sept. 11, 2018 | Reuters

The Polls

The American people have no illusion about their views concerning Putin or Xi. A CNN poll of 2017 asked a favorability question of world leaders, and President Putin had a 12 percent favorable rating and 71 percent unfavorable. President Xi had a 10 percent favorable, a 36 percent unfavorable, and 53 percent not having heard of him or with no opinion.

Do Democrats Want a Candidate Who Shares Their Values or Can Beat Trump? They are Split

In an analysis of the latest national poll from PBS NewsHour, NPR and Marist shows Democrats nearly evenly divided between wanting a presidential nominee they agree with on the issues (47%) and who was electable (46%).

I argued candidates have to blend them both.

Independent pollster Floyd Ciruli said the candidates are under pressure to identify with voters on the issues and come across as electable.

“You have to blend them both,” he said.

The article was published on PBS NewsHour site by digital producer, Gretchen Frazee.

The poll also pointed out that, although the President hasn’t improved his job performance approval for months (41%), his disapproval has declined from 55 percent in February to 49 percent in the June poll. Also, the number of people who said they would definitely vote against the President went down from 57 percent in January to 51 percent in this poll.

I argued that, given the number of controversies the President is involved in. it shows that he’s not being swamped by them. Democrats must be mindful that this is likely to be a tough race and issues, like the Mueller report, are not a silver bullet.

“That reinforces the fact that during this incredibly tumultuous period, there is no huge bump up in strong disapproval” of Trump, Ciruli said.

Denver Voters State Their Views: No Camping, No Olympics, But Yes on Mushrooms

In the latest Denver elections, less than half of Denver’s registered voters have made a series of important decisions for the city and its political leadership. In a nearly unanimous voice, they said any solution to the growing homeless problem will not include camping on city streets, in parks or public spaces. Eighty-one percent of voters defeated a homeless advocate initiative to legalize public camping.

On the same May 7 ballot, voters approved by a mere 2,000 votes, decriminalizing the use of psilocybin, commonly referenced as Magic Mushrooms – cementing Colorado’s and especially Denver’s image as a national drug capital.

Although the likelihood Denver will ever get a Winter Olympics is highly remote, opponents, including former Governor Dick Lamm, captain of the 1972 statewide voter rejection (by 60%) of the ‘76 Olympics, won another bar to a future Olympics by requiring a vote that would have to take place for even a preliminary study of the issue if it involved any government funds. Olympics, forget Denver.

In Public-Funding-for-Local News Debate, What About the SCFD Model?

In a newsletter by Corey Hutchins, Colorado Local News & Media, Hutchins wrote:

Following last week's news in this newsletter that Longmont voters won't be asked to consider new taxes for a library district with a potential local news component, political analyst and pollster Floyd Ciruli reached out with a similar idea to consider.

"One possible model to examine is the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), which provides money for major and smaller cultural organizations with no influence on their selection of programs, exhibits or their missions in general," he said. "But the Board still provides transparency and accountability over the tax dollars." The benefit over a library district," he said, is that the SCFD model can use a sales tax, "and the operational rules and board composition can be designed as appropriate."

Ciruli, who helped start SCFD decades ago when major institutions in Colorado were in financial trouble, says he believes looking at them as an idea for potentially helping fund local news sources should be examined. “It’s the kind of thing that ought to be polled,” he said.

Change is Coming to Denver

Although Michael Hancock’s substantial victory Tuesday night secures his final term as mayor, he will deal with a city council full of new community activists, much more skeptical of the growth than the incumbents they replaced. All three incumbents forced into the May 7 runoff lost and their replacements were strongly hostile to the developer culture that they believe controls City Hall.

Denver is a strong mayoral system of government, with control over appointments, the budget and a high threshold of votes needed for a veto. But, councilpersons with agendas and constituencies can have considerable influence. The Mayor’s lobbyist and the business and development community will play more defense then they have had to for the last several years.

No doubt, the Mayor and his allies will adapt, but change is coming. As I said in a Denver Post article to John Aguilar:

“From the swearing-in on, there’s going to be a new tone with these members,” political analyst Floyd Ciruli said.

Read The Buzz: Denver Council Incumbents Dealing With Growth in Runoff

Denver Runoff Election Has Lower Turnout

The final ballot total hasn’t been reported by the Denver Clerk yet, but the June 5 posting at 2:00 pm shows 165,337 votes, or approximately 19,000 less than the May 7 runoff.

The percentage of turnout among independent voters fell off a couple of points and Democrats went up. But in general, turnout was down across-the-board among partisan groups. Overall turnout was 41 percent of 407,140 registered voters. Runoffs often attract more voters, but not always. Turnout was down in Wellington Webb’s and John Hickenlooper’s first runoffs.

As usual, most ballots were turned in the last weekend and on Election Day, June 4. On the final day, 80,000 ballots were recorded, or 48 percent of the vote. Similarly, during the runoff, 80,000 ballots were received on Election Day, or 43 percent (out of 184,000 cast).

Trump’s Tariffs Take a Toll: Dow Ended May Below 25000

The Dow and other major investment indexes had their worst month since the collapse of major indexes last December. The Dow lost 355 points on Friday, the last day of May, after President Trump’s tariff announcement on Mexican goods.

Although the Dow remains up 6 percent for the year, the preceding six weeks of losses is the longest losing streak since 2011, near the start of the current recovery. Along with concern about the longevity of the nearly decade-long recovery (started in 2009) and bull market, investors are beginning to fear Trump’s application of emergency trade power for his wildly oscillating tariff policy. Earlier in the month, Trump lifted tariffs on steel and aluminum (while threatening new tariffs on autos), then raised tariffs on China as trade talks failed, and now is calling for escalating tariffs on Mexico (via Twitter and against advise of trade experts and legislative allies).

Trump and his immigration hardliners, such as Mick Mulvaney (Freedom Caucus leader and White House Chief of Staff) and immigration staffer, Steve Miller, have encouraged the crackdown on the Mexico/U.S. border, most recently with complete shutdown. Arguably, tariffs are somewhat less disruptive, but for many investors they reinforce the cross-purposes and volatility of the President’s foreign and economic policies. Tariffs are a tax on Americans and wildly disruptive of trade relationships. Economic observers not associated with the White House believe Trump’s policies will hurt earnings, inhibit business investments, raise consumer prices and slow growth.

The Dow closed on Friday, May 31 at 24815, down 1841 points since the 2019 high on April 23. The market’s volatility has increased since early 2018. It was in January 2018 when the Dow hit 26616, yet ended 2018 at 23327, or more than 3000 points lower.

Most observers expect the volatility to continue due to geopolitical factors, both in the U.S., but also abroad. The President’s use of sanctions and tariffs is a new factor for world markets to digest.

Jesse Paul, Colorado Sun: Mayor’s Race Very Negative, Very Personal

Jesse Paul, formerly with the Denver Post, has a long concluding story in the Colorado Sun on the Denver mayor’s race becoming a “fiery personality clash” (May 31, 2019).

He quoted The Buzz of May 30, “Denver Votes Trickling In; Hancock Vulnerable by Late Stumble”:

“If Jamie Giellis derailed the beginning of her campaign with the NAACP memory lapse, Michael Hancock is even more damaged by his late clumsy effort to reframe his sexual harassment controversy in a final debate one week out before Election Day,” he posted on his blog.

The election has a lot of money, a lot of social media, many new voters, and a lot at stake for the development community and city interest groups. You can expect it to get personal and negative, especially in the anti-establishment, change era that is challenging the status quo.

Jamie Giellis (L) and Mayor Michael Hancock | Jesse Paul/The Colorado Sun

Will Millennials Make a Difference in Denver City Elections? Mary Winter, Colorado Independent

A third of the vote in the May 7 Denver general election was provided by unaffiliated voters, many new registrants and Millennials. Will they vote on June 4 and will they vote for change?

As of late Monday, June 3, 95,000 votes had been counted, a little ahead of the May 7 general election returns. But, on Election Day, May 7, more than 80,000 Denver voters delivered ballots – mostly in person – to the Denver Clerk, leading to the long count Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Will Millennial and more independent voters surge again or will the runoff have a lower turnout than the 185,000 record on May 7?

Reporter Mary Winter analyzed registration and precinct data in a June 3 Colorado Independent story. She describes Millennials as a substantial bloc of Denver voters. I contributed to the story’s background on the city election.

Winter writes:

They helped boost turnout in Denver’s May 7 municipal election to 39.6%, a fairly high showing by historical standards, according to the Denver Elections Division. Veteran Denver political pollster Floyd Ciruli predicts millennials will show up in big numbers again for Tuesday’s runoff, which will also determine five city council seats and the city clerk and recorder, and whether voters should get to decide if public money should be spent to host future Olympics.

Ciruli won’t venture a guess as to which candidate millennials will favor. “We know they are not party loyal. And that’s what’s exciting, interesting. Millennials could be a deciding factor” in this race, he said.

. . .

Ciruli says there are a few universal concerns in this election. “Polls I have conducted in the past three to four years indicate growth is the No. 1 issue. There’s consistently a cluster around affordable housing, transportation, congestion, homelessness and gentrification and, in the most sensitive communities, the preservation of community,” he said.  

. . .

No matter what their age, Denver voters will be delivering a referendum on the city’s management over the past eight years, says pollster Ciruli.

“Hancock and the council recognized they had a development problem,” but they didn’t put the brakes on big development fast enough, Ciruli says.  “The public didn’t see enough ‘no’ – nothing dramatic enough. It’s development and growth – the issue is really framed by this election.”

“Millennials changed the environment 100%, and we’ve had a hard time catching up to the growth.”

Winter’s precinct analysis shows Mayor Hancock had considerable strength throughout Denver, winning close to his 39 percent average in most areas, and more in northeast Denver’s historic higher concentration of African American neighborhoods.

Read blogs:
Mayor’s Race: Final Week, KOA With Marty and Ed
Denver Votes Trickling In; Hancock Vulnerable by Late Stumble
Runoff Returns Slow as Usual

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

KOA: Final Denver Mayor’s Race Interview With April and Marty

Denver’s mayoral runoff campaign has gotten very negative and very personal. The race started about growth, development, homelessness and affordable housing, and now it’s about race and diversity and gender and harassment – very personal.

April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz questioned the impact of negative campaigning on turnout and who’s helped by low and high turnouts.

As of Sunday night, the Denver Clerk reported 85,000 votes turned in. If the 185,000 voter turnout of the May 7 election is to be reached, 100,000 votes need to be cast and counted today and Election Day. That’s about what happened last time, with the huge 80,000 final votes on Election Day.

Voters are in an angry mood today, and politicians are convinced that staying on the offensive and going negative will boost turnout among their supporters. The Mayor, for example, wants to maximize minority turnout, and Jamie Giellis wants women to turnout strongly to her.

Who the level of turnout – high or low – helps or hurts depends, of course, on who turns out – the Mayor’s home area on the eastside or voters angry about traffic and congestion favoring Giellis. Generally, low turnout helps the incumbent, the status quo. Giellis needs passion behind her campaign.

Mayor Michael Hancock (L) and Jamie Giellis during a Denver Post mayoral debate
at the Denver Press Club, May 28, 2019 | Photo: Daniel Petty/Denver Press Club

Mayor’s Race: Final Week, KOA With Marty and Ed

With less than one week left in the Denver mayor and council races, do Denver voters decide to shake up City Hall as they did in the May 7 election when they only gave the incumbent Mayor 39 percent and put three incumbent councilpersons into runoffs, or does the establishment come back offering experienced leaders of a nationally admired city?

Denver is already voting, and if turnout is similar to the first round, most people voted the last week, with more than 80,000 voting the last day. There will be final debates, with lots of attacks before the candidates go to their closing main themes.

If the race is purely decided on the basis of the desire to change and concern about aspects of too much growth, Jamie Giellis is likely to win. But, runoff elections tend to shift to comparisons between the two top candidates that bring forth other factors that often help incumbents, such as knowledge of the city, its operation and its diversity. Michael Hancock has emphasized the success of the city and his accomplishments. But, he also went negative first and early in an effort to try to define his opponent as “anti-immigrant” and later as not qualified. Hancock’s campaign, which is well-funded with years of experience in citywide elections, has also capitalized on Giellis’ errors.

  • She early on endorsed getting rid of the city ban on homeless camping, even after 80 percent of Denver voters supported the ban in the May election. She had to reverse herself and clarify her position the final week.
  • She was distracted by an interview where she failed to correctly identify the acronym, NAACP, and various random tweets that seemed insensitive.

She desperately needs momentum the final week. Giellis, who did get the support of her candidate colleague who came in second, has gone after Hancock for corruption in contracting with the airport and Convention Center, and fostering a City Hall culture of sexual harassment. It’s not clear the issues have gained the traction that the excess of development had in early May.

She was 25,000 votes short of the Mayor’s vote in the first round, and if turnout is 180,000 or more, she needs to double the 44,000 votes she received. A tall order.

Listen to KOA interview here 

Denver Votes Trickling In; Hancock Vulnerable by Late Stumble

If Jamie Giellis derailed the beginning of her campaign with the NAACP memory lapse, Michael Hancock is even more damaged by his late clumsy effort to reframe his sexual harassment controversy in a final debate one week out before Election Day.

Hancock is especially vulnerable in that only 45,000 votes were counted and recorded by the Denver Clerk and Recorder as of Wednesday, May 29. That’s only a quarter of the 185,000 voters that showed up in the May 7 election.

A lot of people are just now making up their minds in an election that most observers believe remains competitive.

Denver Post: Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Jamie Giellis swing elbows in debate
The Buzz: Record Denver turnout shows up on last day

Mayor Michael Hancock (L) and Jamie Giellis during a Denver Post mayoral debate
at the Denver Press Club, May 28, 2019 | Photo: Daniel Petty/Denver Press Club

Denver Council Incumbents Dealing With Growth in Runoff

The embattled incumbents in three Denver City Council races are mostly facing attacks related to growth, with arguments over which candidate will best represent the neighbors vs. developers and City Hall.

Mary Beth Susman may be the most endangered. She came in 5 points behind her opponent, Amanda Sawyer, who argues the central-eastside 6th Avenue, Hilltop and Crestmoor area is full and doesn’t need any more development. Susman argues a more nuanced development strategy, which may not appeal to the “change City Hall” voter, but she is hoping for more voters to turn out that like her record of service.

Albus Brooks is in a culture war with one of the most liberal activists in the city – Candi CdeBaca, who he only bested by 2 points on May 7. Brooks has a diverse neighborhood that has seen a lot of development and gentrification. It also has the I-70 freeway improvements, which are very controversial (CdeBaca opposed).

Wayne New represents what many people believe is ground zero in overdevelopment; i.e., Cherry Creek. In his first election, New was the slow growth candidate, but is now playing defense with a Capitol Hill activist who claims New is too conservative to represent the district on a host of issues, including development. New may be the strongest candidate for re-election, but all three races see the split between City Hall – the status quo, and new forces, generally more liberal and less growth-oriented.

Regardless of the result in the mayor’s race, expect a more visible and active Denver City Council.

Democrats Crowd Senate Race

Cory Gardner’s difficult race in Colorado doesn’t appear to improve as President Trump continues to break norms and work for his base, which is a thin layer in Colorado. The most obvious indicator of Gardner’s vulnerability is the mass of Democrats bidding for the job. It nearly looks like the presidential herd.

The top candidates with a comment follow, but notice missing is someone a Chuck Schumer would pick from the Democratic establishment, such as John Hickenlooper or Ed Perlmutter. The point is that the contain and order of the field could change quickly.

There are another half dozen candidates with more considering it.

Andrew Romanoff | Photo: Denver Post
Mike Johnston | Photo: Andy Cross/Denver Post