Friday, November 30, 2018

DU Post-Election Event Draws Crowd to Discussion of Midterm Election and What it Means

The Korbel School hosted a post-midterm presentation with Ambassador Christopher Hill and Professor Floyd Ciruli to update their analyses after the 2016 election. The presentation described the mixed national results, the end of one-party government in Washington and the extraordinary sweep of Colorado offices by the Democrats.

The event, which attracted 150 students, alumni and metro residents, was co-sponsored by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and the Office of Global Engagement. The impact on the administration’s ability to conduct foreign policy due to a Democratic House of Representatives was a focus of discussion. Hill described the Congressional hearing process for a foreign services officer. I suggested that House Democrats now have a mandate to restrain the President and will have to implement it in a fashion that is seen as reasonable by the public.

With the conclusion of the midterms, we both expected the presidential election will now accelerate and controversies surrounding American foreign policy will be one of the issues candidates will have viewpoints on and electorates will expect to hear.

Read The Buzz: Korbel School Post-Election Event Attracts More than 250 Alumni, Professors and Students

NBC News: Colorado No Longer a Swing State – It’s Democratic

Chuck Todd } NBC News photo
Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” and network researchers announced the obvious, but with clarifying summary charts. Ohio appears a much more Republican state having elected a Republican governor to replaced John Kasich and holding a couple of Republican congressional seats.

Colorado, on the other hand, gave Hillary Clinton a 5-point win in 2016, and this year, defeated a Republican incumbent congressperson by 11 points and elected a Democratic governor by 10 points.

NBC also pointed out that Colorado has a surfeit of metrics that suggest Democrats will be in power for at least as long as President Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. For example, 39 percent of Coloradans have a four-year college degree, reflecting it being the second highest educated state in the country. College educated voters prefer Democrats by 20 percentage points.

Missing may be the most important factor in Colorado’s recent high turnout election – Millennials. Ballot returns reported they were 32 percent of the electorate and polls showed they voted for Democrats by 20 points (pre-election and national exit polls). Colorado also has a surfeit of independents. They were 34 percent of the electorate and polls showed they favored Democrats nationally be 12 points and in Colorado by more than 20 points.

Arizona appears now to be a swing state for the 2020 election. The point was one we’ve made in numerous articles and op eds that there wasn’t so much of a wave, but a realignment of our deep divisions.

DU and the Korbel School Host Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright at Annual Dinner

Chancellor Rebeca Chopp announced the 20th annual Korbel Dinner will feature Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright. The annual event is a fundraiser for the school’s graduate programs.

Secretary Kerry will receive the International Bridge Builder Award. I will moderate a discussion between Kerry and Secretary Albright of their unique perspectives and current international politics.

The Josef Korbel School of International Studies is one of the nation’s most respected schools of international relations and one of DU’s largest graduate and undergraduate programs.

The event will be a dinner and program on November 29, 2018 at the Denver Hyatt Regency. For more information, click here 

U.S. Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright,
Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2013 | State Department photo

Record Turnout: Unaffiliated Voters Beat Partisans

I appreciate those occasions a prediction hits the mark. We projected record turnout of 2.5 million in an October 22 blog post, and the most recent count from the Secretary of State reports 2,581,426 midterm votes cast. Nationally, with 61.9 percent turnout compared to eligible voters, Colorado was the second highest state in voter turnout just behind Minnesota. That represents a 76 percent turnout of 3,379,992 active registered voters and 64 percent of total active and inactive registrations.

Historically, slightly more than 2 million voters turned out for the 2014 midterm election (71 percent), which had a U.S. Senate race accompanying the usual governor and state constitutional office races. It was a very successful year for Republicans. Republican Cory Gardner won the senate race against incumbent Democrat Mark Udall and Republicans won the three constitutional offices of Attorney General, Treasurer and Secretary of State. They also won one seat in the State Senate and gained control. They lost the governorship with the re-election of John Hickenlooper.

But in this year’s high turnout, Democrats dominated Republicans. Thirty-six thousand more Democrats voted than Republicans, but the surprise was the 878,360 unaffiliated voters, which exceeded Democrats by 29,000 voters. High turnout among Democrats, and exceptional unaffiliated turnout, contributed to the Democratic sweep. Colorado’s massive turnout reflected the strong desire among many voters to send a message to President Trump and Washington; the Democratic Party’s well-funded push for voters, especially the unaffiliated and new voters; and a surfeit of competitive, high-profile statewide and legislative races.

Read The Buzz: Midterm voting starts, record turnout expected

New House Leadership Will Make a Difference

In an opening interview, Representative Adam Smith of Washington, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services, makes clear he holds dramatically different views from the current chair, Mac Thornberry of Texas, and in opposition to much of the President’s and the Pentagon’s actions and plans.
Rep. Adam Smith | Twitter photo

More Information

“On issue after issue, they have made conspicuous decisions to roll back transparency and public accountability precisely when we need it most. Remedying this imbalance by bringing back oversight and accountability should be one of Congress’s major defense priorities.”

Leaner Budgets

“…Democrats will cut defense spending if they took power.” “In April, he warned Defense Secretary James Mattis that the Pentagon needed to plan for a lean future.”

Out of Yemen

End U.S. participation in the war in Yemen.

No New Nukes

“The biggest thing for me is I do not agree with diving into a nuclear arms race with Russia and China. The amount of money that we’re proposing to spend on nukes, I think, is both excessive and the wrong policy, without question.”

No Space Force

“What is the most cost-effective way to give space the emphasis it deserves? I know it is not a Space Force.”

Colorado Republicans Swept by Blue Tide

The Denver Post featured my guest commentary as their lead in its Sunday Perspective section. It serves as a bookend to my column of September 14, titled: “Hold on: Political rumblings afoot. Colorado political could be shaken to its core this November.” The cover graphic for Sunday’s column is an elephant exiting out a door with the caption:

Exit right, please: The political divide in Colorado deepened in this election as voters showed a score of Republicans the door, 

Jeff Neumann, The Denver Post, photo by Thinkstock by Getty Images

The 2018 midterm election brought not just a wave but a widening gulf as Americans parted and divided into distinct camps. In Colorado voters rode that swell and moved the state deeper into the blue. While nationally the Democratic wave was not as big as some predicted, it was more than enough to capture control of the U.S. House and deliver the message President Donald Trump and his administration need restraint.

Read The Buzz blog: Colorado politics could be shaken to its core this November

Pelosi: Stay or Go?

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks during a news
conference on Capitol Hill, Nov. 7, 2018 | J. Scott Applewhite/AP
After advocating that Nancy Pelosi should retire at the beginning of each new Congress since her loss of the Speakership in 2010, I’ve just been quoted suggesting that now is a moment her experience and gravitas is needed by the party.

Democrats have new power and a mandate from the public to rein in the administration, but how that is done will require great skill. A gaggle of House Committees, all launching investigations with no accompanying legislative strategy, will simply hand President Trump a new image to label Democrats a mob damaging the country and economy. The large freshman class has many liberals anxious to take on the administration and fulfill some of their more controversial constituencies’ desires. The House will be in need of discipline.

As I said to Jeff Barker in the Baltimore Sun after the election:

Among House Democrats, Pelosi “has the arguments of raising money and knowing the system,” Ciruli said. While a faction of the party is calling for new leadership, Pelosi might be appreciated for her ability “to rein in an incredibly tough president without making him look sympathetic,” he said.

Managing a House of 435 members and a caucus of 230 Democrats is very serious work. Pelosi backed up President Obama for six years as Minority leader and took on Trump for two. For all her image baggage, she’s ready.

However, Gallup reports Democrats are ready for a change. By 56 percent to 39 percent, Democrats say it’s time to replace Pelosi. A number of newly elected Democratic congresspersons pledged in their campaigns to not support her for Speaker. A few senior Democrats, like Colorado’s Ed Perlmutter, are trying to organize a challenge. And, of course, Pelosi is a foil for nearly every Republican campaign.

Most likely, Democrats will bring some new faces into leadership. It’s also possible, like John Boehner, she may step down before the next election cycle in 2020, but for now, Democrats should be cautious in this selection.

9NEWS Called Brauchler at 11:00 pm Tuesday

There were few surprises in an election that was mostly called by 8:30 pm Election Night. When Secretary of State Wayne Williams began the night behind, it was the first indicator that the surge of new midterm voters was sending a message, not sorting through the qualifications of candidates.

The only race that remained close, although still with the Democrat ahead, was for Attorney General. At 11:00 pm, as the 9NEWS election team reviewed the night’s show, a voter refresh from the Secretary of State website showed the race separating by another 10,000 votes (George Brauchler was more than 40,000 behind), and  knowing that Denver and Boulder were still counting ballots and that Brauchler lost his home county, I called the race. Indeed, final votes trended Democratic, and he won by 148,000.

Phil Weiser immediately announced his victory. Brauchler held out hope, but conceded Wednesday morning. Weiser had a narrow win in his primary, which I called for 9NEWS. He picked a good year and is a lucky politician.

Colorado attorney general Democrat candidate Phil Weiser and his wife, Dr. Heidi
Wald, take the stage after his win during the Democratic watch party in
downtown Denver, Nov. 6, 2018 | AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

Colorado attorney general Republican candidate George Brauchler at the
Colorado GOP watch party, Nov. 6, 2018 | Jesse Paul/The Colorado Sun

The Buzz: How Phil Weiser and the AG race was called
Colorado Politics: Election 2018: Democrats win all statewide offices
9News: Democrat Phil Weiser has defeated George Brauchler to become Colorado’s next attorney general

Germany is Losing its Center; the EU is Losing its Leader

Angela Merkel’s 13 years of leadership of the Federal Republic is coming to a rapid close. Her center party coalition of conservatives and socialists have lost votes to farther right and left extremists in two state elections in the last month. Merkel was forced to announce she wouldn’t stand for election to lead the Christian Democratic Union in December, a party she has led since 2000. She is hoping to hold onto the chancellorship to have time to groom a replacement. The only question now is who can replace her and lead the center-right coalition?

Her demise began quickly at the very moment global media declared her “Woman of the Year,” reflecting her long reign and leadership on EU issues, such as the Greek debt and Syrian refugees. It was Merkel’s border policy in 2015 that most contributed to the unraveling of her coalition.

It is the EU that may suffer the most due to her loss of power. At the moment, the EU is challenged by nationalist governments from Italy to Hungary and the withdrawal of Britain. Merkel’s prestige and Germany’s economic power are most needed. The Brexit process has drained Prime Minister Theresa May’s influence in Britain and Brussels, and France’s Emmanuel Macron barely registers a 30 percent approval due to a continued sluggish French economy and his domestic political missteps. Macron doesn’t lack ambition to lead, but his stark endorsement of the EU’s liberal model of “open borders, open markets and open societies” is unlikely to gain traction in Europe of 2019.

We are Going to Miss Mattis

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appears slated to be replaced by President Trump. It has been predicted for several months as his influence appeared to wane with the arrival of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton. Trump signaled it during his October “60 Minutes” interview with Lesley Stahl. He bristled when it was stated Mattis explained the value of NATO. Trump aggressively asserted that he knew “more about it [NATO} than he does.” Trump applied one of his denigrating labels on to Mattis, calling him “sort of a Democrat,” an apparent reference to Mattis’ moderate approach and disagreement with Trump on a number of issues.

Mattis has been the alliance guy, which Trump definitely isn’t. As a lifelong military officer, he understands the value of friends in a fight. His most recent statements in the Persian Gulf (Manama, Bahrain) remind us why he will be missed.

In reference to the Khashoggi case, he reaffirmed the rule of law:

“Failure of any nation to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most.”

He defended the Saudi and other alliances, but based them on trust and honesty:

“We must maintain our strong people-to-people partnership, knowing that with our respect must come transparency and trust…These two principles are vital for ensuring the continued collaboration we know is necessary for a safe, secure and prosperous Middle East.”

Mattis highlighted the importance of opposing Iran’s malevolent influence in the region and the fact Russia is not a substitute for America’s commitment. He argued for stability and unity over chaos and disruption. Not a preference always appreciated by the White House:

“We stand with our partners who favor stability over chaos, and we support unity of effort among our nations’ militaries in response to shared threats and challenges, for in such unity is the real power to set and to maintain peace.”

President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in the Cabinet
Room of the White House, March 8, 2018 | Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Win or Lose, Trump is Changing the Team

Rumors are rife in D.C. that at least a half dozen cabinet positions will change after the midterm. Most prominently on the departure list is Jeff Sessions, the endlessly disparaged Attorney General.

Changes are also coming to the national security and foreign policy team. Nikki Haley has already announced her departure, and Joseph Dunford, Chair of the Joint Chiefs, is about to leave the position due to the normal rotation.

President Trump appeared to confirm rumors that he had tired of Jim Mattis’ restraints on his many instincts. Trump’s favorite general, who he called “Mad Dog,” a name Mattis doesn’t approve, is now called behind-his-back, “moderate dog.” In Trump’s October 60 Minutes interview, he labeled Mattis “probably a Democrat,” not a term of endearment in the White House. Mattis claims he’s not leaving, but…

Chief of Staff John Kelly’s deputy, Kirstjen Nielsen, who became Secretary of Homeland Security, has a thankless job, and indeed, Trump doesn’t thank her. She’s on the rumor list. Kelly, of course, always looks somewhat uncomfortable in his job.

Since 2016, Leaders of Western Democracy Have Been Turned Out

In a December 2016 blog, I wrote:

The crises for the EU and the Western Alliance appear life-threatening and the struggle of survival is not going well for the advocates of the liberal Democratic ideal.

David Cameron is gone; Matteo Renzi just defeated; Francois Hollande dropped out; and Barack Obama’s term is up and legacy, including globalism, is slipping away. Only Angela Merkel is left to defend the alliance, and her hold has been weakened.

After a year of political turmoil and two recent weak state election results, Angela Merkel is now politically gone and only barely hanging onto the German chancellorship. Prime Minister Theresa May, who replaced David Cameron, is unlikely to lead her party into another election, and Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has an approval rating below 30 percent.

The EU and Western alliance are even more threatened today than in 2016 in the face of President Trump and a gaggle of nationalists assuming power in Europe and around the world.

Bolsonaro Wins, Merkel Loses

Sunday is an election day in many countries. Last Sunday, Brazilian voters elected a new president, Jair Bolsonaro, called the Donald Trump of the South. In Hesse state, home of Frankfurt, the German financial capital, voters continued to turn away from Angela Merkel, the European anti-Trump, and her ruling center parties and rewarded more left and right parties.

Both elections reflect a trend of voters looking for alternatives to the status quo, empowering parties and personalities recently seen as fringe and promising to disrupt the establishment. Bolsonaro, whose campaign focused on corruption and crime, joins nationalist in Western Europe now ruling in Italy, Hungary and Poland. He’s on the right, but is similar to Mexico’s newly elected president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is on the political left, but was elected as a similar anti-establishment disrupter attacking corruption and promising more security.

Merkel’s political power is gone and her term will end as soon as her coalition can find an alternative that can help them win an election. But, the likely winners in the next German election will be a mélange of parties making assembling a government even harder than it has been for Merkel the last year.

Mike Coffman: Trump’s First Midterm Casualty?

The Republican Party’s national political action committees have abandoned the campaign for a Republican challenger in Miami. Both the leadership PAC of Speaker Paul Ryan and the official National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) have withdrawn millions in TV ads from the race as  “beyond reach” (see blog: Mike Coffman Coffman: Out of Reach?).

The latest New York Times/Siena College poll, which shows Coffman losing by 9 points, highlights what’s different this time from Coffman’s previous tough re-elections. Coffman has not had to deal with two years of Donald Trump. Nationally, Trump is 8 points under water. In Colorado’s 6th District, he’s 22 points down. The generic ballot test is 8 points toward Democrats nationally, but 14 points negative for Republicans here according to the Times poll.

Coffman, of course, tried to keep his distance from Trump and the Republican House leadership, but Trump’s nonstop blunderbuss simply takes all the space to politically maneuver. Reinforcing this, Democratic advertising in the 6th CD, and in most Colorado state races, ties Republican candidates to Trump as their main message. And, the issues Coffman’s and his Republican colleagues focused on the last two years were of no help. Repeal but not replace on health care, nothing on guns, not even a bump stock ban, and constant dithering on DACA and funding the wall gave Coffman a record to run from, not with in 2018.

Knowing that Colorado’s 6th CD could help put Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker’s Chair, Democrats recruited a strong candidate in Jason Crow, and then loaded him with millions in financing. Even before the latest loss of funding, Crow had a $2 million advantage over Coffman with out-of-state money, which by the second week of October was a record $19.8 million in reported expenditures.

Coffman continues to run an aggressive campaign, and just received the Denver Post’s endorsement, which he has regularly won, but it appears this seat is going to contribute to the Democrats’ run for control of the House. If Coffman loses, the 6th CD will be a clear example that Donald J. Trump is a liability and not an asset for Republicans in many swing districts.