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 

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Trump Heading for November Loss Without Major Repositioning

Donald Trump has always been a survivor in his darkest days of business failures, romantic relationship flare-ups and assorted public relations flops. And in 2016, his primary and general election wins defied the odds and the pundits, but today, he’s pushing his luck.

The Gallup poll, which has been tracking U.S. presidents since 1936, records that Trump’s June approval rating of 39 percent is the lowest of elected presidents since Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992) and the unelected Gerald Ford (1976).

As political scientists and Gallup and the political website, 538, point out, approval ratings tend to track November presidential votes and significant change is not common between June and November. Trump’s approval average reported at RealClearPolitics, which is slightly better at 42 percent, has rarely left the mid to lower 40s.

Recent presidents’ approval ratings in the table below shows their January 1, June and Election Day approval ratings. Notice the clear correspondence of the June approval with the final approval and Election Day result. At 39 percent by Gallup, or even Trump’s 42 percent average, he’s in serious trouble without changing the direction of his campaign.

Recession Starts, COVID-19 Continues: Twin Towers – Part Seven

It is a difficult to describe the direction of the American economy examining the front pages of the most recent Wall Street Journals. Is the economy in for a long struggle or is it as the President says, better than a V-shaped economy, “this is a rocket ship”?

Wall Street Journal headlines:

Few believe the President’s bluster, but the May jobs report, while dire, was better than expected. The unemployment report showed a three percent decline, even if unemployment is still at a record high (16.3%), or 20,900,000 out of work. Also, May’s consumer spending from reopening appears stronger than expected.

The mixed economic signals are further confounded by the good and bad news coming from COVID-19 reports. While the daily death toll is now well below 1,000 a day (118,000 total), the continuing fatalities are more widely distributed in the South and West, as the toll in the Northeast has tapered off. The periodic spikes in infections and hospitalizations, both here and around the world – China, Brazil and Mexico, continue to dampen optimism that the recovery will be smooth or quick.

Washington Post Covers Hickenlooper’s Ethics Problems

Jennifer Oldham, Washington Post reporter, covered John Hickenlooper’s ethics controversy and speculated on the impact it could have on the senate primary. My contribution was that Andrew Romanoff would need to get the ethics issue into the campaign narrative with advertising and social media. I suggested the issue damaged Hickenlooper’s reputation and others in the article suggested it could help Cory Gardner if Hickenlooper is the nominee.

“The question is whether Romanoff can get it sufficiently in the political atmosphere,” said Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver.

“It clearly hurt the governor’s reputation as being honest — he’s always tried to maintain a reputation of being clean,” he added. “As a matter of fact, he took a shower once with his clothes on to argue he wasn’t going to go negative in campaigns.”

Democratic Senate candidate John Hickenlooper testifies remotely during
a state ethics commission hearing, June 5, 2020 | Screenshot courtesy
of Colorado  Independent Ethics Commission/Webexormer 

Senate Race Will be Hot Topic for DU Panel

The Colorado Democratic Senate primary has become the main topic among political activists and observers. In a review session for the June 17 Crossley Center/Korbel School panel, the experts will discuss if the Democratic debates could be changing the contours of the race. Join with the panel to review the full range of current political topics.

3:00 PM MDT
JUNE 17, 2020

Panel moderated by Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School and Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center.

KOA Reviews the Democratic Debate

April Zesbaugh, Floyd Ciruli & Marty Lenz
In an interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz on June 10, the Tuesday night 9KUSA Democratic debate was reviewed.

I thought the debate, although limited by its virtual format, worked with the candidates side-by-side and Kyle Clark offering questions and time for rebuttal to each. My observations in general:
  1. It was the head-to-head exchange Andrew Romanoff wanted, and he made the most of it with well-prepared comments with sharp criticism of John Hickenlooper’s record.
  2. The sharpest exchange was Romanoff calling for Hickenlooper to withdraw due to ethics violations and contempt citation. His well-framed position is that Hickenlooper was now damaged goods and a loser to Cory Gardner. It is a direct attack on Hickenlooper’s only real argument for election – beating Gardner. Hickenlooper’s retort was to call Romanoff an election loser after two failed elections and being out of office for two decades.
  3. Hickenlooper’s moderate position may be a burden with the liberal Colorado Democratic electorate, combined with unaffiliated voters who gave Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren more than 50 percent of their vote in the March 3 Super Tuesday primary.
  4. Romanoff’s main challenge will be to translate the impact of the ethics charges and his strong debate performance into votes. Grassroots door-to-door activity is still limited due to the pandemic, and at this point, he has limited funds. Do national liberal groups begin to take notice and send money to save one of their own?
  5. Cory Gardner and his team must be pleased. Either Hickenlooper emerges as a wounded candidate or the most liberal Democrat in recent history becomes the nominee. Romanoff declared his support for defunding the police, reparations, single-payer health care and the Green New Deal.

Hickenlooper Embattled

After two debates, it’s clear John Hickenlooper wasn’t kidding when he said during his misbegotten presidential campaign that he’s a terrible debater. But, bad performance is not the major problem, rather he’s mispositioned for this Democratic electorate at this moment. His centrist views leave him defensive to a very aggressive Andrew Romanoff, who has adopted the full panoply of liberal Democratic views. This is an electorate that preferred Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren compared to Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg last March 3 in the Super Tuesday vote. And, with the pandemic, recession and George Floyd killing, Democrats are even more primed for a so-called “bold” leadership that Romanoff calls for.

Just to make his position even more untenable, the ethics violation and contempt citation, which he made as bad as possible with poor judgement and timing, are dominating most stories about the debates and the narrative into the election.

The Denver Post editorial on Hickenlooper’s ethics imbroglio is generous in that it labels the violations an infraction, but it correctly points out the dragging out of the process and refusing to testify was his decision. Meanwhile, the Aurora Sentinel endorsed Andrew Romanoff as having a clear vision to address the country’s major problems in health care and climate change. The implication is that if Cory Gardner’s failed performance and loyalty to Trump have already defeated him, why not go with the best (most liberal) candidate in their view?

Hickenlooper has had a lucky run since 2003. Last year was a bust; this year may be worse.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates John Hickenlooper, left, and Andrew
Romanoff participate in a televised debate, June 11, 2020 | Via CBS4 Denver

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

PBS: Biden Wins Nomination; Gains on Trump

Former VP Joe Biden wears protective face mask during
visit to meet with black community leaders at the Bethel AME
Church, Delaware, June 1, 2020 | Jim Bourg/Reuters
As Joe Biden passed the 1,991 delegates needed to become the Democratic nominee after the wave of June 2 primaries, he took advantage of a couple days of positive media attention. But, the news of George Floyd’s death (May 25) and the ensuing demonstrations have dominated the media and national conversation. 

A PBS segment on Biden’s pending win was authored on June 1 by Dan Bush, PBS’s senior political reporter. My quote was:

“After June 2, or whenever he crosses that threshold, it’s going to give Biden an opportunity” to bring attention to the 2020 presidential election at a time when most voters have been focused on the public health crisis and ensuing economic fallout, said Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan pollster based in Colorado.

Fortunately for Biden, the last two weeks have provided a major boost for his campaign as the President’s support has sagged under his underperformance in the COVID-19 crisis, the economic insecurity, and now, the missteps relating to the justice movement.

The spread between Donald Trump and Biden in the head-to-head test is now 8 points, up from 6 in the last month.

Democracy and Elections in the Summer of 2020

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Korbel School present a Zoom conversation on June 17 at 3:00 pm with Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School; Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center; and a panel of top political, policy and media experts on the presidential and senate races in Colorado, the status of the state budget, legislation, ballot issues and the general state of our democracy in the midst of a pandemic, the looming recession, and national demonstrations on race relations.

3:00 PM MDT
JUNE 17, 2020

World Fatalities Pass 400,000; Brazil Moves to 3rd

The rate of increase of COVID-19 fatalities in much of Europe, Asia and the U.S. has slowed, but infections in many countries continue to spread and cause deaths to increase as the worldwide total reaches 405,000. Brazil has moved up from 6th place on May 6 to 3rd in one month. Mexico with 14,000 is now in 7th place, reporting a rapid recent surge. The U.S. approaches 115,000 in the 2nd week of June.

Read blogs:

Democracy and Elections in the Summer of 2020

Panel of Colorado’s top political, policy and media experts on the state of democracy and elections in the summer of 2020. The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Korbel School present a Zoom conversation on June 17 at 3:00 pm with Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School; Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center; and four of Colorado’s top political analysts to discuss the condition of the presidential and senate races in Colorado, the condition of the state budget and the general state of our democracy in the midst of a pandemic, the looming recession, and national demonstrations on race relations.

More details on panelists and topics to follow.

3:00 PM MST
JUNE 17, 2020

Hundreds of demonstrators march toward Lafayette Park and
the White House to protest against police brutality and the death
of George Floyd, June 2, 2020, Washington, DC | Getty Images

The Trump Re-election Challenge

In one of the strangest election years in American history, the post Memorial Day summer campaign season started with a bolt. Typically, an incumbent president plans his coronation and the opposition keeps working to unify his or her party and raising money. Instead, in an unprecedented historical moment, the White House is surrounded by the regular army, and all four former living presidents of both parties have criticized their predecessor.

Rose Garden to Road Show
At the start of the pandemic, President Trump first used a Rose Garden strategy with the Coronavirus Task Force and then switched to a mostly road trip strategy to battleground states, all the while maintaining an active Twitter feed. Trump “being Trump” wants 20,000 delegates at his convention, which has led to a fight with the governor of North Carolina, who isn’t certain August will be the time to assemble a screaming crowd. Trump’s latest shift to law and order rhetoric in the face of a national convulsion on race relations, has him locked in the White House with limited travel and facing a torrent of criticism.

Front Porch to Basement
Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is using a pandemic-modified front porch strategy. He’s in his basement and talks to visitors on Zoom and conference calls. He still needs to win his nomination and pick his vice president. In spite of the fast breaking news cycle that has been a challenge for him to keep up with, Biden has taken the polling lead.

Numbers Don’t Add Up
Trump knew a popular vote win was a stretch given his four-year record of seldom breaking 45 percent in approval, but due to the strong 2019 economy, soaring stock market and record-low unemployment, he had a chance. The pandemic ended that, and unless Biden suffers an historic collapse, Trump’s strategy is now to repeat the 2016 strategy of winning in the Electoral College; that is, to eke out wins in the battleground states he won four years ago and possibly pick up a couple more.

Unfortunately for Trump, as of June 5, the numbers don’t add up to his popular vote in 2016 when he got 46.1 percent of the vote, but was still beat by nearly 3 million votes by Hillary Clinton, who received 48.2 percent. He currently only has 43 percent in approval (54% disapproval), which is one point ahead of the head-to-head face-off with Biden (42% Trump to 50% Biden). Trump is now 8 points down, a recent record. The Republican Party has only 41 percent in the generic ballot test.

Base is Not Enough
Trump’s friends and campaign advisors have repeatedly tried to contain his personal peaks of anger and focus him on taking advantage of opportunities to be presidential; that is, reach beyond the “base.” The polls reflect the strategy and have never awarded him above a 50 percent approval. But, Trump feels acting presidential is a detriment to his independent, anti-establishment image. He articulated his strategy in a speech in New Hampshire in 2019 when he said regardless of what you think about me, “love me or hate me,” you “have no choice” as the market will collapse, “your 401k’s go down the tubes.” With 110,000 deaths and 13 percent unemployment, Trump must argue that “only I can revive it,” but not until 2021.

El Paso Republican Party Not Growing With Population

Since Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, the El Paso County electorate grew by 23,000, but Republicans – the historically dominant party – lost 9,000 voters. The big gains were in unaffiliated registrants of 31,000, with the still minor party Democrats growing less than 1,000.

The surge of unaffiliated voters, which parallel state increases, reflect changes in the law, which now allows unaffiliated voters to participate in partisan primaries of their choice and automatic unaffiliated registration for new driver license recipients.. But, the shift is also being caused by the swarm of new young Colorado voters not enamored with either party, but especially the Republicans.

Another factor is alienation from the party among some longtime, more moderate and establishment-type Republicans. The El Paso Republican Party has absorbed many social and political movements during recent decades that have shifted its attention from Evangelical voters and cultural and moral interests, to the Tea Party and its anti-tax absolutism, and now Donald Trump’s personality and his issues. Some Republicans, offended by one or more of the movements, its leaders or intensity, have drifted to unaffiliated.

I told Pam Zubeck of the Colorado Springs Independent that:

“The Republican party is in a transition in which their most visible officeholder is Trump,” Floyd Ciruli, political analyst and pollster in the Denver area, tells the Indy. “He’s essentially repositioning the party, both based on his personality and the issues he emphasizes, and the fundamental base of the party is less the party we’ve known for many, many years as kind of a Main Street, small business party that I think was so dominant in Colorado Springs.”

While the open primary has caused more people to ditch the parties, Ciruli notes, “The fact that it is having a bigger impact on Republicans is a sign that the party is in transition. I think just being able to say, ‘I’m an independent’ is more important today to more moderate Republicans than it was in the past.”

Moreover, Ciruli says, polling data shows that more unaffiliated voters ask for Democratic than Republican ballots at primary elections. In the 2018 gubernatorial election, when Democrat Jared Polis won his primary and Walker Stapleton prevailed on the GOP side, unaffiliated voters sought Democrat ballots over Republican at a rate of two to one, he says.

And since the unaffiliated numbers have grown from about a third of Colorado voters to 40 percent, it’s possible Democrats can expect a growing number to vote their way, he says. Data shows unaffiliated ranks in El Paso County ballooned by a whopping 24 percent since November 2016 and by 21.3 percent statewide. There’s another factor at play as well, Ciruli says.

“A lot of young, educated individuals who are more liberal tend to register unaffiliated.”

Read article here

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

China Gets Confrontational

Foreign policy, specifically China (PRC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC), is now a presidential campaign issue. Except for wars, foreign policy usually is a secondary set of issues in presidential elections, but President Trump, and in response, Democrats are clearly including the issue in their campaigns and, of course, as the daily headlines report, the PRC is taking actions making them a front page topic. China from Hong Kong, to Taiwan, to South China Sea, to East China Sea Islands, is confronting opponents in what they frame are sovereignty issues.

The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research has been addressing the issue since President Xi Jinping became the dominant leader in China (2011). Most recently, a Zoom conversation was held with Korbel School Professor Suisheng (Sam) Zhao titled “China, the U.S. and Global Leadership in the Pandemic.’

The Crossley Center has posted a series of analyses on China and the evaluation of what is being increasingly labeled a “Cold War.”

Four Years of “Make America Great Again” and Trump Running Out of Democratic Allies

After four years of criticizing U.S. allies and dramatically ignoring their views, Donald Trump is having trouble calling a quorum of the G7 now set for the White House and Camp David. Angela Merkel has said no to attending the meeting and Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau won’t commit. This you may recall is the famous conference that was first slated to be held at Trump’s Doral, Florida resort and has wandered to various locations.

Since half the G7 appear disinterested in meeting Trump, especially given that he may be out of office shortly, Trump is looking for someone else to meet with, of course, not without denigrating our main allies: “It’s a very outdated group of countries.” Again, not surprising, he wants Vladimir Putin and Narendra Modi to attend.

The G7 foreign minister made it clear at the March meeting when they refused to accept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s and Trump’s effort to cajole them to accept the “Wuhan virus” as an official label that his and the U.S. influence with them was diminished. Trump’s alienation from the many G7 participants has been developing for years following his rejection of the Climate Accord, the Iran Agreement, and most recently, defunding the World Health Organization.

Leaders at the G7 summit, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and
President Trump, in Canada on June 9, 2018 | Jesco Denzel/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Xi Fails to Win World Opinion

President Vladimir Putin’s favorite overseas trip in recent years has been to the annual Munich Security Conferences where he regularly complains that Western Europe and the U.S. have had policies that encroach on Russian national interests and harm its economy. President Xi Jinping favors the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he proclaims his commitment to international rules and organizations. President Donald Trump doesn’t relish travelling abroad, and when he does, he trumpets “America First” and complains of ill-treatment by allies, international organizations and others.

Putin doesn’t particularly court either elite or world opinion. Xi appears to want to woo both with his aspirational statements and massive propaganda machine. Trump goes out of his way to outrage both with statements, policies and personal behavior.

None of the three leaders are popular in world opinion. But Xi wants to be. Yet, his nearly decade-long rule has not raised confidence in his leadership around the world. Pew Research reported a 2019 33-nation survey that showed only 28 percent of the national public (median) had confidence in him. His highest ratings were in Russia, Philippines, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa (above 50%).

In an April survey Pew Research conducted in the U.S., the public’s confidence in President Xi dramatically collapsed from 2018 and 2019, dropping from 39 percent to 22 percent in “confidence” with “no confidence” jumping from 50 percent (still high) to 71 percent. While Republicans tend to be more negative toward President Xi, both parties have lost confidence in him.

Hence, Xi, with a huge decade-long public relations effort, has attracted very few to see him favorable at a moment when his party and country are facing considerable criticism for a large number of controversial policies, most of which he has directed.

Brownstein Speculates on New Democratic South

In his latest column (May 26, 2020) on the presidential campaign, Ron Brownstein’s commentary for CNN offers the view that demographic changes in the Southwest could lead to a realignment in which Democrats dominate all eight senate seats – Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada – and Joe Biden wins all the electoral votes. This hasn’t happened for more than 70 years.

The key shift is the growing population of young, educated Anglo voters with an increase in non-White, mostly Latino, voters. The populations are concentrated in the metro areas, such as Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix. In Colorado, those new voters are especially concentrated in the Denver metro region and the North Front Range, and they are giving Democrats huge increases in their vote, up more than 10 points since 2000.

In this column, Brownstein quotes Dick Wadhams explaining his hope that focusing on the economic recovery can help President Trump:

In Colorado, Richard Wadhams, the former state GOP chair, acknowledges that Trump has alienated many of the young professionals swarming into Denver for well-paying information-age jobs. But he holds out hope that Republicans can regain at least some of those voters by focusing their attention on the prosperity that they enjoyed before the outbreak.

“They don't like Trump,” he says. “But when they really have to choose in November, who is really going to get this economy going again, they know what it was like for three years when Trump was President before all this broke. Those young professionals who moved here might be a little skeptical of a Biden presidency with a Democratic-controlled Congress.” (CNN, May 26, 2020)

In his earlier article, Brownstein focused on the relationship between presidential vote and down ballot decisions by voters creating a huge challenge for Senator Gardner. He titled it: “Why Trump’s Shadow Over the Race for Senate Control is So Long.”

Republican incumbents Collins in Maine and Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado face the challenge of holding seats in states where Trump lost last time and now stands as an underdog again. Gardner's odds appear especially bleak given Trump's decline in the state. "Gardner is one of the best politicians the Republicans have produced in that state since" the 1990s, says Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver. "But I just don't think being the best Senate candidate the Republicans have produced and lots of money can deal with ... just what looks like [a] wave against Trump in terms of Colorado." (CNN, May 5, 2020)

John Hickenlooper and Joe Biden

Cory Gardner and Donald Trump

Monday, June 15, 2020

China vs. U.S.: New Cold War?

Chinese Foreign Minister Leader Wang Yi, who leads the new aggressive propaganda-oriented “Wolf Warriors,” warned that America is pushing the two countries to a Cold War. He referenced President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and American domestic hawks as making hostile attacks against China and proposing sanctions and punishment related to the COVID-19 epidemic. He brought up the ubiquitous “century of humiliation” and China’s defense of its sovereignty and dignity. He specifically cited Taiwan as a red line issue.

President Xi, the Foreign Minister and party apparatchiks argue that the correlation of historic forces are driving China’s inevitable destiny to rise and the U.S. to weaken and any effort to resist China’s move toward their global role is doomed to fail.

But the advent of the emerging Cold War is less a product of the old communist doctrine of inevitable forces and more a product of China’s decade-long aggressive reach for global power using both hard (i.e., military build-up, South China Sea expansion, Hong Kong  intervention) and soft means (i.e., Belt and Road, gifts of masks, two billion dollars to WHO).

The strategy is a product of President Xi and his politburo team that started early in the last decade with reform, rebuilding and politicization of the military and has evolved into a major effort to change the geopolitical landscape in the Far East and diminish the U.S.’s and Western democracies’ influence worldwide. The leadership at Party Congress in 2018 affirmed Xi’s ascent and made clear they believe the West is dispirited, divided, distracted and withdrawing.

Regardless of what it gets called, it’s a Cold War.

Pandemic and Colorado Politics

The pandemic has altered Colorado and U.S. politics in ways still being played out: the presidential and senate nominations; political campaigns, conventions and mail-back voting; ballot initiatives and petition circulation; delayed legislative session and budget deficits; and most importantly, the impact of fatalities and recession.

The 2020 election will be one of the most important in the post WWII era and its narrative is being framed by the pandemic. The Buzz and Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research are chronicling the changes and challenges.

Hong Kong Becomes a Chinese Security Issue

China’s People’s Congress announced a policy position that affirmed what many believed: Hong Kong’s democratic features inherited from the British handover in 1997 are tenuous and potentially short-lived. The one country, two systems, was to last until 2047. But, a very viable sign of China’s limited tolerance of Hong Kong’s special status was President Xi Jinping’s 2017 visit for the swearing-in of Beijing-favored Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam. He made clear that Hong Kong’s activism on voting issues and democratic governance was considered a threat to the central government’s control, to the party’s legitimacy and to national sovereignty. His most high-profile activity during the visit was to assemble and review the garrison, making unsubtle statements that China’s military is available for deployment.

Although the new laws are still in drafting, “State security agencies” will now be used in Hong Kong as needed to fight separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference (i.e., U.S.). The Chinese legislature will be able to draft laws related to so-called national security, which state security could enforce without Hong Kong’s approval. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she will cooperate with the effort.

Although the ultimate legislation may still leave considerable authority in the Basic Laws of Hong Kong with its independent legal system and democratic features, its promulgation will likely produce more reaction from local activists and more opposition from the U.S. and many western countries.

Most importantly, the shift in China’s approach to Hong Kong ends the long abandoned view in the West that China was evolving to tolerate some level of democracy with its dissent and independent legal system as reflected in its claimed territories, such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. It also reinforces that President Xi is the major driver of the shift to intolerance of autonomy.

Senate Race Will be Hot Topic for DU Panel

The Colorado Democratic Senate primary has become the main topic among political activists and observers. In a review session for the June 17 Crossley Center/Korbel School panel, the experts will discuss if the Democratic debates could be changing the contours of the race. Join with the panel to review the full range of current political topics.

3:00 PM MDT
JUNE 17, 2020

Panel moderated by Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School and Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Democracy and Elections in the Summer of 2020

Panel of Colorado’s top political, policy and media experts on the state of democracy and elections in the summer of 2020. The Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Korbel School present a Zoom conversation on June 17 at 3:00 pm with Dean Fritz Mayer of the Korbel School; Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center; and four of Colorado’s top political analysts to discuss the condition of the presidential and senate races in Colorado, the condition of the state budget and the general state of our democracy in the midst of a pandemic, the looming recession, and national demonstrations on race relations.

More details on panelists and topics to follow.

3:00 PM MST
JUNE 17, 2020

Hundreds of demonstrators march toward Lafayette Park and the White House
to protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd,
June 2, 2020, Washington, DC | Getty Images

Friday, May 29, 2020

Summer Campaign Season: Trump Still Behind in Battleground States

As the post Memorial Day campaign season begins, presidential campaign metrics haven’t moved much the last 30 days and President Donald Trump remains in trouble. The most recent national polls as aggregated by RealClearPolitics has Joe Biden ahead of Trump by 5 points, one point below the spread on April 28, the last time I reported the data.

During the 30 days, Trump ended his participation and the media coverage of the widely panned Coronavirus Task Force press conferences and began road trips to battleground states – Arizona, Pennsylvania and Michigan. His nonstop emphasis is on starting the economy, which has indeed begun opening, if at different rates and still with considerable public caution.

Former VP Joe Biden and Pres. Donald Trump
Other key metrics framing the race – deaths from COVID-19 and unemployment – continue to go up. Deaths are now over 100,000 and unemployment claims hit 38 million, a post WWII record.

The President, his campaign and his political allies, especially in the Senate, are also facing difficult numbers in battleground states. Trump is currently behind in Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona. He’s ahead in North Carolina by only one point. He has lost ground during the last month in both Michigan (was down 4, now down 5) and Pennsylvania (was down 3, now down 6).

Mitch McConnell and his leadership team are increasingly concerned about their senate majority. Colorado incumbent Cory Gardner is down more than 10 points in repeated polls, including a recent online survey where he was down 18 points. Arizona incumbent Martha McSally is behind 9 points to challenger Mark Kelly. Susan Collins is behind in Maine by 3 points and Thom Tillis in North Carolina by one.

Generic Vote
The final metric that causes concern to the Majority Leader and his colleague in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, is the generic ballot tests that continue to show the Republicans 8 points behind in both RealClearPolitics and 538 (48% to 40%). Republicans were behind by 7 points in late October 2018 just before they lost 41 seats and control of the House.

Of course, it’s early. Conventions need to be held. Colorado still has a primary, but when so little has moved the last month, the numbers appear to show strong tendencies and the Republican Party is beginning to worry.

The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Six

Out of a total of 850,000 worldwide COVID-19 deaths, the U.S. just crossed the 100,000 mark, or 29 percent. Although the rate of deaths is slowing (down from 2,000 a day in April to about 1,200 today), there are sufficient infections, some in areas with weaker health care networks, that the number of deaths will continue to grow. Also, as the country opens up, spikes are a concern. May through Memorial Day produced 40,000 deaths. June is likely to have a significant increase, even as the curve in the U.S. levels off.

The last week produced 2.4 million new unemployment claims, increasing the total since the beginning of March to 38.6 million. With the country opening back up, increases in claims should decline as people drop off the roles and return to work. But as the worldwide recession takes hold, even with the end of the lockdown, a slow recovery is now anticipated nearly universally among economists, financial officials and business and another wave of unemployment is likely as businesses adjust to the diminished demand.

The unemployment rate and economic data for May published in June will be record-breaking bad, with a likely unemployment rate near the Depression level of 25 percent – one out of four Americans.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

China’s Delayed Congress Meets May 22 – Sign All is Well?

After a two-month delay, the National People’s Congress’s annual meeting of political and business elites will start on Friday, May 22. It represents a risk to assemble several thousand of the country’s top leaders in Beijing, but it signals China wants the narrative to be that it managed the virus and is back to normal.

President Xi’s and the leadership’s handling of the coronavirus will be the lead topic as it is a part of the global public relations effort to counter criticism and assert China’s growing global strategy.

But, the economic rhetoric and plans will be critical. President Xi Jinping has recently placed more emphasis on restoring jobs and less on growth projections. That’s partially a reflection that the economy has contracted more in the first quarter than since Mao died in the mid-1970s. The credibility of his leadership and the legitimacy of the party are at some risk.

Also, the reports and conversations on Hong Kong will be watched closely. Hong Kong has mostly exhausted the central government’s patience due to riots, parliamentary disruption and the damaged economy. China argues sovereignty is threatened and national security. It alleges interference from the U.S. Also, a surge of nationalist fervor is affecting China’s rhetoric and possibly the substance of the relationship. Expect tighter control.

Chinese leaders have been wearing masks. How many actually show up versus teleconference will be a sign of the risk assessment. Upwards of 5,000 participants and associated interests could show up for the Congress and the parallel meeting of the party’s political advisors at the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

Cory Gardner Runs on “Bringing Home the Bacon”

Although President Trump is one of Senator Cory Gardner’s major burdens in his re-election, he is also helping Gardner make his case that he is the best person to serve Colorado and should be re-elected. Gardner has scored a host of impressive wins for Colorado in his first term, mostly with the help of Trump and backed by his Republican Senate colleagues.
  • Move Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Grand Junction
  • Place start-up of new Space Force in Colorado Springs
  • Fund Arkansas Valley Conduit ($28 million)
  • Fully fund Land and Water Conservation Fund 
  • Acquire masks from Asian contacts due to Senate Committee work
President Trump brings Sen. Cory Gardner to the stage as
he speaks to supporters at the Broadmoor World Arena,
February 20, 2020 | AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post
Senators who focus on bringing in projects and funding to their states as a primary congressional activity and campaign message has falling out of favor, especially during tough re-elections, with the rise of nationalized campaigns, polarization and intense partisanship. But historically, it has been a frequent approach by Colorado senators, with Republicans Ben Campbell and Wayne Allard, both re-elected, adept at it in recent years. It fits with Gardner’s primary advantage of being in the majority senate party and having a friend in the White House. The election in 2018 made clear it’s impossible for Republican candidates to avoid Trump. They may as well use him as best as possible.

Gardner also emphasizes that the projects often had bipartisan support. Bipartisanship always tests well in Colorado polls and is a characteristic voters say they like.

Pandemic and Public Opinion: Colorado

Colorado is beginning to open up its businesses. The media is covering the uneven lifting of restrictions due to different state and city rules, along with a few outlier businesses opening on their own timelines and rules. Protests of the regulation have received coverage. But, public opinion polls – both nationally and in Colorado – tell a different story, one of a broad consensus on safety first and only then relaxing the rules.

Open and Close
The majority of the public still support restrictions with just a modest shift in the last few weeks toward fewer restrictions.
  • Nationally, 68 percent say their greater concern is that restrictions on public activity will be lifted too quickly, while 31 percent are more concerned that states will not lift restrictions quickly enough, essentially unchanged since early April (Pew, 4/29-5/5).
  • Three-quarters say the country should keep trying to slow the spread of the virus, even if it means keeping many businesses closed. A quarter instead say the country should reopen the economy, even if it results in more infections (Post/Ipsos, 4/27-5/4).
  • Colorado also records 64 percent prefer restrictions over quickly easing up – Colorado: keep rules – 64%, ease up – 29% (see chart below). (Magellan Strategies, 4/15-4/21)

Although like nearly everything in America, there are partisan differences. Republicans are closely divided in Colorado, with 44 percent preferring keeping rules and 49 percent wanting to ease up. Democrats (80%) and independents (68%) are in favor of keeping rules. The Colorado poll reported in the Denver Post was done in April online.

Another Colorado poll also done online in May reports 78 percent of Coloradans support masks in stores and workplaces. It had bipartisan support, with 68% Republicans and 87% Democrats in favor (Keating Research, 5/1-5/3).
  • Nationally, use of masks continues to increase: 77 percent now say they’re sometimes (28%) or always (50%) wearing a mask when they leave the house (Axios/Ipsos, 5/8-5/11).

Confidence in Information
Magellan also reported that only 29 percent of Coloradans trust information on the virus from President Trump versus 50 percent who say they trust Governor Polis.
  • Nationally, only 36 percent view the president as a trusted source of information about the outbreak (CNN, 5/7-5/10). Along with social media, more than half (54%) identify the Trump administration as one of the two most common sources of misinformation about the virus (Gallup, 4/14-4/20).
  • Eight in 10 Democrats say they trust Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC as sources of information about the outbreak. Fewer Republicans, albeit still majorities, say the same – 61 percent and 72 percent, respectively (CNN, 5/7-5/10).
Keating’s poll states Polis’ approval rating went up from 50 percent last fall to 66 percent today.

Lifting Restrictions
David Brooks, in his New York Times commentary reprinted in the Sunday Denver Post Prospective section, agreed that America is less divided than we seem online or between our partisan cable news shows. Indeed, the Keating poll indicated that 68 percent of Coloradans supported Polis’ “safer-at-home” phase easing of restrictions. Interestingly, more Republicans supported it (75%) than Democrats (63%). Republicans probably liked the relief and opening up of businesses and the Democrats the continued emphasis of health rules.

Of course, polling is a snapshot of opinion, and in a fast moving political environment, it will shift. But for now, neither Coloradans nor Americans are ready to ignore science-based recommendations concerning their health.

The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Five

COVID-19 Deaths
The world count of COVID-19 victims just crossed 300,000 as America records 90,258 victims on Sunday, May 18, a 20,000 plus increase in approximately the last two weeks (a 32% increase).

The Tension
A major fight has broken out over the best; i.e., safest and fastest, strategy to lift the stay-at-home and essential business orders. President Trump, seeing it as a way to revive his flagging campaign and focus on the economy as the narrative he runs on, has been encouraging states to rapidly reopen, supporting protests, and criticizing governors and health officials (Dr. Fauci), who he believes are too cautious.

Although there is a constituency for his agitation, it’s modest, and his offhand references to safety are drowned out by his blunderbuss economic cheerleading. Although the states are opening at a variety of rates, most are taking a slow, phased approach watching infection rates and hospital utilization.

The growth of victims in New York City has slowed and represents 31 percent of the national total. The next 9 states represent 37 percent, and many haven’t slowed yet (68% total). The remaining 40 states represent 32 percent of total deaths. Changes in these proportions will be an indicator of the application of caution and best practices in the states as they open for business.

Unemployment claims continue to climb as 2.9 million filed the last week, increasing the total filings since March to 33.5 million. The latest Wall Street Journal survey of economists from May 8-12 reported an expected unemployment rate in June of 17 percent, up from the April 14.7 percent reported last week. The economy, as it enters a second quarter of downturn, is approaching nearly twice the slowdown of 2008-10. Many economists believe the unemployment rate is more accurately 20 percent.

The economists agree with our blog observations of a slow “Swoosh” shaped recovery. Federal Reserve chair, Jerome Powell, who earned an “A” from 72 percent of the economists for his early monetary actions (interest rates to near zero, purchase trillions of government debt and loans to American businesses) said on Wednesday, May 13:

“There is a growing sense the recovery may come more slowly than we would like…and that may mean that it’s necessary for us to do more.”

He implied another major spending bill was needed. The House of Representatives just passed $3 trillion package for states and local government and other programs with a slim 9-vote margin. The bill is opposed by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump. But, expect the May unemployment report released in June to be very painful. Trump and the Republicans are going to start looking for political cover.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Blame Game: China and U.S.

The intense media attack on China for its early behavior related to COVID-19 by the Trump administration and the equally fierce counterattack from China was a major topic at the May 14 Zoom conversation, “China, the U.S. and Global Leadership in the Pandemic,” with professors Suisheng Zhao and Floyd Ciruli of the Korbel School, which attracted more than 100 participants.

Since the session, the blame game has become even more heated between the major powers and has received considerable coverage in the media. WHO was the latest forum for the fight during the last two weeks. President Trump delivered a four-page ultimatum to cut off funding due to the organization’s lack of “independence” from Beijing. China, for its part, has been aggressively counterattacking through its diplomatic corps and in social media claiming the U.S.’s incompetent handling of the virus is an indictment of both Trump and the failed U.S. system.

It is an important issue domestically in both countries. China, as it convened a delayed annual meeting of its National Congress, is highlighting the narrative that the party and leadership managed the virus effectively and it’s under control. In the U.S., China bashing has become part of the presidential campaigns, with Republicans spending millions on advertising the message that China was responsible for the virus, covered it up and that Joe Biden is weak on China. People who oppose Trump, such as the Lincoln Project, have a devastating ad titled “Mourning in America” that ties Trump to the virus mismanagement and the tragic result. Biden and the Democrats argue, of course, Trump is the problem and that he has been President Xi Jinping’s biggest booster.

To view the May 14 session, click here

Sam just published an article on the topic: “China–US blame game hampers COVID-19 response.” And I’ve posted: “China’s delayed Congress meets May 22 – Sign all is well?

Friday, May 15, 2020

China, the U.S. and Global Leadership in the Pandemic

Is America a dysfunctional state? Can it recover a global role? Could the COVID-19 argument lead to conflict?

Two American foreign policy’s most urgent concerns today are the deteriorating U.S. relationship with China and the lack of global leadership. This Thursday, I will join Professor Suisheng (Sam) Zhao as we explore both of those topics, specifically the origin, causes and likely outcome of the growing confrontation with China and what should be the U.S.’s role in global leadership. Please join us at 3:00 pm (MT) on Zoom for the conversation.

Thursday, May 14, 2020
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm MST

Zoom Meeting Details
Meeting ID: 926-3541-6507