Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Conference of Western Pollsters Examines the Run-up to Super Tuesday Presidential Primaries

At the annual conference of the Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR), a panel of top public pollsters will present opinion data on the political factors that will affect the 2020 presidential primaries, especially the California and Colorado Super Tuesday events, March 3, 2020.

The panel, titled “Election Issues in Western States,” will also explore the status of impeachment, issue differences in western states and the future of the California GOP. I will moderate the panel and present on Colorado’s transition from a swing and even Republican-leaning state up to about 2004 to an apparently mostly Democratic state in 2020. What were the dominant factors in the shift and how resilient is it?

The panel of pollsters is among California’s most prominent in the media and commentary.
The panel will convene at 8:30 am on December 6 at the PAPOR conference held at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel in downtown San Francisco. For conference agenda and more information, see PAPOR conference here.

Friends of the Crossley Center

More than 160 Crossley Center friends participated with the Korbel School’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research and Office of Global Engagement presentation, “Countdown to 2020 – One Year Out.” The event was led by the University of Denver’s Ambassador Chris Hill and Floyd Ciruli, director of the Crossley Center. Dean Fritz Mayer provided the introductions and joined the discussion and question and answer session. New Chancellor Jeremy Haefner welcomed guests.

This was the third in a regular series that was started on Wednesday after the 2016 November election and on each annual anniversary since.

The entire session can be watched on the Global Engagement website here

See blog: November 7

Monday, November 18, 2019

Colorado Sun Previews Prop. CC Battle

John Frank in the October 31, 2019 Colorado Sun previewed the Proposition CC battle as close and being fought online, on TV and especially door-to-door.

He reported on the October 8 panel at DU’s Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research, which concluded the Proposition CC advocates liberals were late starting. The Proposition is also seen as a gift for the GOP, allowing it to rally behind a more typical Republican fiscal and not a polarizing social issue.

Kelly Maher
Kelly Maher, a Republican strategist, called Prop. CC “a gift” from Democrats, because it allows conservatives to unite behind a fiscal issue, rather than a social one that divides the GOP.

And more directly, the ballot question is a major test for Polis, the first-year governor. He promised in the 2018 campaign that he would build a coalition to overhaul TABOR and “win at the ballot box.”

The outcome of Prop. CC also affects two additional promises Polis made: to pass a measure to find more money for schools and find new revenue for transportation.

Steve Welchert
Even with such high stakes, the campaign to support Prop. CC began late and with little urgency. The “kickoff” came in October, days before ballots were mailed to voters. Steve Welchert, a Democratic strategist, called the campaign “a little bit of political malpractice.” 

Welchert suggested the supporters didn’t do the work needed in the summer months to build a strong campaign — a point echoed by Sheila MacDonald, a consultant with experience on ballot measures. Both spoke at a political forum at the University of Denver.

Sheila MacDonald
“It does matter to the Democrats in both chambers and the governor’s office,” MacDonald said. “And they need a win. They put this on the ballot, and they put their reputations on the line.”

See Crossley blog: DU Panel on Colorado 2020 Primaries Attracted a Packed House

Proposition DD Looks Well-Positioned; CC is Struggling

Examining the campaign and recent off-year ballot history, Proposition DD, sports gaming for water, should win. They have a broad group of endorsements, from businesses, agriculture, water, many environmental interests, and most of the state’s newspaper editorial pages. The campaign also has $2.7 million (reported in late October) for advertising, to no funds declared for the opposition.

Proposition CC on the other hand is in a serious fight.

Three ex-governors and Jared Polis weighed in to support it, accompanied by a $4.5 million advertising campaign. They have two major advantages. The “happy talk” ballot wording that avoids unpleasant details or possible problems for an upbeat description that attempts to counter the proposition’s main vulnerability. The ballot title highlights: “Without raising taxes and to better fund public schools….within a balanced budget.”

The second advantage of Proposition CC is the $4.5 million campaign, using all the online and election media available with their message of funding for teachers, roads and colleges with no new taxes.

But, the opposition also has some advantages, the most important being low turnout in an off-year election. As of last Friday, Proposition CC would have likely lost. Republican turnout was 62,000 voters above Democrats, with counties, like El Paso (90,700), Douglas (41,000) and Jefferson (89,700), having high early turnout, whereas Denver (56,500) and Boulder (38,800) lagging,

Republicans represent only 28 percent of current voters, whereas 38 percent of Friday voters were Republican.

One Republican governor missing in the picture is Bill Owens, who is helping lead the opposition with most of the Republican establishment. They have a more modest $1.8 million campaign, and the message is more diffuse than more teachers and roads with no new taxes. The Republican Party has gotten out the early vote.

But the Democrats need to get out their core voters. And, indeed, Denver and Democrats in general have been voting the last weekend and the last day in recent elections. As of Friday, nearly 700,000 votes were in, about half of the expected (1.4 million).

Expecting Record Off-Year Turnout

There are only two statewide issues and numerous local decisions, but more than $10 million has been spent to encourage turnout and a favorable result. Turnout is above the last two elections and may exceed the record 2013 vote of 1.4 million. Advocates are encouraging turnout with digital and election advertising, door-to-door and robo calls. Republicans still are dominating turnout with 38 percent of the vote recorded, even though they’re only 28 percent of registered voters.

Jefferson County has the highest early metro turnout, with El Paso tops in the state. Denver and Boulder tend to vote the last two days. Baby Boomers (55-74) are dominating the vote, with the under 35 year-olds the lowest.

The Impeachment of Donald John Trump, President, House Resolution 660

By a vote of 232 to 196, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to begin the impeachment process of President Donald Trump.

This day was not inevitable, but was at least teed up by the Mueller Report. It was the whistleblower complaint on Ukraine that launched it, moved Democrats and finally Speak Nancy Pelosi.

Now the Drama Begins
White House photo

The vote:

Read resolution here

Can a Single District Court Judge Make a Difference in an Impeachment?

Judge John Sirica
In March 1973, Watergate burglar, James McCord, wrote Judge John Sirica a letter stating his earlier trial testimony for burglary, conspiracy and wiretapping was perjured and the burglary was not a CIA operation. He was motivated by “Maximum John” Sirica’s 25-year sentence. His cooperation became the first of many Watergate defendants that Sirica fostered by his tough trial action and reputation.

Is Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for D.C., Beryl Howell, a new Sirica? Her 75-page opinion is being cited widely not only as a rejection of the Justice Department’s refusal to turn over redacted parts of the Mueller Report to the House Judiciary Committee, but offered a strong rebuttal to the White House’s and its counsel’s total stonewalling of the entire House impeachment process as “constitutionally invalid.”

Howell ruled that the Judiciary Committee’s request was part of a valid impeachment inquiry and that: “Blocking access to evidence collected by a grand jury relevant to an impeachment inquiry, as DOJ urges, undermines the House’s ability to carry out its constitutional responsibility with due
Chief Judge Beryl Howell | Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

She specifically rebuked the White House Counsel’s letter as an overreach that strengthened the Judiciary Committee’s case.

“The White House’s stated policy of non-cooperation with the impeachment inquiry weighs heavily in favor of disclosure. Congress’s need to access grand jury material relevant to potential impeachable conduct by a President is heightened when the Executive Branch willfully obstructs channels for accessing other relevant evidence.”

Howell also rejected the White House’s and the DOJ’s position that there had to be a House vote to start in inquiry.

Although this ruling will likely be appealed, it undermines the critical rationale of the White House/DOJ case. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had her own rejoinder: “Mr. President, you are not above the law. You will be held accountable.”

Baghdadi is Dead. Is ISIS?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (1971-Oct. 26, 2019) committed suicide October 26 after being cornered by Delta Force of the Joint Special Operations Command in western Syria close to the Turkish border.

Baghdadi had led ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq) since 2010. In 2013, he announced the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and a year later, Baghdadi declared the formation of the worldwide caliphate with himself as caliph. At a high point in 2015, ISIL had control of areas in western Iraq to eastern Syria, including the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul, with more than 10 million people, an annual budget of more than $1 billion and more than 30,000 fighters. A U.S. led intervention coalition formed in late 2014 began the fight against ISIL. But, it took until 2017 to win back Mosul. By the end of 2017, ISIL was down to a handful of areas under their control in Syria.

Declaring ISIS defeated, President Trump first announced the U.S. withdrawal from Syria in December 2018 (Secretary of Defense Mattis resigned) and later repeated the order in October 2019.

America has been announcing the end of Middle East operations for decades. President George W. Bush thought the end of combat operations in May 2003 (Mission Accomplished on the USS Abraham Lincoln) was a conclusion to the Iraqi war. After Osama bin Laden’s death in April 2011 and progress in the transition to the Iraqi government, President Barack Obama withdrew the last of America’s combat troops out of Iraq in late 2011. Later, he failed to enforce a red line in Syria in August 2012. But, reluctantly, Obama had to restart air and ground operations in the fall of 2014 to deal with ISIS.

Unfortunately, the Middle East has a long history of drawing us back into combat operations.

In a posed photo, President Trump is joined by Vice President Mike Pence (second
left), National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien (Left), Secretary of  Defense Mark
Esper, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark A. Milley,
and Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans, Deputy Director for Special Operations (right), in the
Situation Room of the White House to watch U.S. Special Operations forces
close in on al-Baghdadi, Oct. 26, 2019 | White House photo

DPS in Fight for Its Future

Since the DPS teachers’ strike settled mostly to the union’s benefit earlier this year, the union’s goal has been taking control of the school board. The election on November 5 will record their success or failure. Three seats out of seven are up, with none of the reform (non-union) group of incumbents, who have dominated the board for a decade, running. A two-seat victory by either side of the union vs. reform split will decide the district’s direction – pro or anti strike, pro or anti charter/independent schools, and pro closing low performing schools or anti closing any schools.

More than $1.3 million has been spent on the campaigns, balanced between the two sides, with mailers and social media inundating Denver voters. Six candidates on the two sides are facing off for the three positions.

Colorado May Be the Land of Millennials, But They’re Not Voting

Millennials make up about a quarter of Colorado’s population. It is the generational cohort aged today about 25 to 40 (there are several competing definitions), and they are Colorado’s largest, overtaking Baby Boomers, which has been the largest since they came of age in 1964 (the cohort began in 1946). But, they are not sending in their ballots for the November 5 election. Thus far, only 39,100, or 10 percent, of those who voted as of Monday, October 28, were Millennials, whereas more than half are Baby Boomers (55-74). Another 2 percent were Generation Z (18 to 25 years old).

Republicans Dominating Early Returned Votes

Republicans represent 28 percent of registration, but are currently 39 percent of the turnout in the October 28 report from the Secretary of State, 8 days before Election Day.

Currently, about 11 percent of registered voters have returned ballots. Off-year elections tend to have lower turnout than even numbered general elections. But the pace of return of ballots so far this year is ahead of off-year elections in 2015 and 2017. However, those two elections were without contested statewide ballot issues. The most recent high point in an off-year election turnout was 2013 when Amendment 66, a billion-dollar tax increase for education, generated over $10 million in campaign contributions from supporters. Turnout was 1.4 million and it lost to a modest opposition campaign by two-to-one (64%). Turnout in 2015, when a little contested marijuana tax was on the ballot, attracted 1.2 million voters and 1.1 million in 2017 when no statewide propositions were on the ballot.

Jefferson County has the highest early metro turnout, with El Paso tops in the state. Half the vote so far is from Baby Boomers (55-74). They are the largest voting group (52%) and Gen Y and Z (Millennials) (≤40) the lowest (12%).

It is too early to draw any conclusion about local and state propositions, but liberal positions on issues and where it’s a factor for municipal candidates will require Denver and likeminded unaffiliated voters to assist them to overcome the high Republican turnout (proportionally) in off-year elections.

Denver Post Recommends a “Yes” on Proposition DD, Sports Gaming for Water

The Denver Post endorsed Proposition DD, the sports gaming for water funding for projects on the November 5 ballot.

The editorial page cited the success of the Great Outdoors Colorado program that uses lottery revenue to fund land conservation, public parks and recreation projects as an example of a successful program depending on gaming revenue.

The Post earlier recommended a “no” vote on Proposition CC, the TABOR override, as poorly drafted and a permanent change in the operation of the amendment.

All Roads Lead to Putin

The House of Representatives voted 354 to 60, including 129 Republicans, against President Trump’s abrupt Syrian withdrawal (10-16-19). Trump’s foreign policy behavior, besides Ukraine, is becoming connected to his potential impeachment. The White House confrontation between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump on the same day of the Syrian rebuke weaved together Ukraine, Putin, NATO, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The Speaker Confronts the President
on “All roads lead to Putin”
“The Russians were the beneficiaries of any withholding of assistance or encouragement to the Ukraine. Again, Putin benefits. The Russians benefited, Putin did, when the president placed some doubt about our commitment to NATO, right from the start of his administration. All roads lead to Putin. Then, the president said, ‘Well, the reason I’m taking the troops out of Syria is because I promised in the campaign to bring the troops home.’ My question to him is, is Saudi Arabia home? Is Saudi Arabia home? […] He said ‘Well, the Saudi Arabians are paying for it.’ Really, we’re putting our troops in harm’s way for Saudi Arabia because they’re paying for it? […] What it did do was cause a meltdown on the part of the president because he was unhappy with those questions.” (Brookings, Oct. 18, 2019)

Photo: White House

A majority of the public back the impeachment inquiry and 48 percent support actual removal from office. While the Democrats want to move more quickly, each week’s testimony and events bring more bad news.

Although Trump is unlikely to be convicted in the Senate – he only needs 35 Republicans – he is increasingly likely to see more than half the Senate – 50 votes – in favor of his conviction.

Friday, November 15, 2019

McConnell Takes on Trump, Isolationism, Defends America’s Global Leadership

Without mentioning Donald Trump’s name, Mitch McConnell, in a high-profile guest editorial in the Washington Post, took on President Trump’s foreign policy, labeling it isolationist and specifically claiming his Syrian withdrawal is a “grave strategic mistake.” It will, in his view, make the “American people…less safe…embolden our enemies and weaken important alliances.”
Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Picture: J. Scott Applewhite/AP photo

He cites three policy lessons distilled from decades of U.S. experience dealing with national threats:

  • The danger “is real and can’t be wished away”
  • American leadership is essential
  • We can’t do this alone

McConnell reaches back to the pre-1950s isolationist period to warn that it was America’s global leadership since WWII that created a better world and a safer, more prosperous environment for the U.S. He articulates the Mattis Doctrine: We need others, especially local forces to help us.

It is a searing indictment of Trump’s world view and current tactics. And, while the urge for isolationism is always around, the American people repeatedly say that the U.S. needs to be a global leader and maintain alliances.

Polls on Foreign Policy Internationalism

Chicago Council of Global Affairs, October 2, 2018
Do you think it will be best for the future of the country to take on an active part in world affairs or if we should stay out of world affairs?
     Active part – 70%
     Stay out – 29%

They support forward basing and not abandonment of allies. Do you support for maintaining long-term military bases in:
     South Korea – 74%
     Japan – 65%
     Germany – 60%

Gallup, March 4, 2019
Do you think the NATO alliance should be maintained or is the alliance not necessary anymore?
     Maintain – 77%
     Not necessary – 19%

Pew Research Center, November 24, 2018
Percent who say the following should be a top foreign policy priority. Taking measures to protect U.S. from terrorists?
     Total – 72%
     Democrats – 61%
     Republicans – 84%

KOA Interview: Colorado’s Senators in Tough Fights

In an interview with KOA’s morning anchors, Marty Lenz and Ed Greene, the prospects for Senator Cory Gardner’s re-election and Senator Michael Bennet’s presidential bid were discussed. Neither looks good as of now.

Cory Gardner
Gardner’s major challenge is being tied to President Trump, who is not popular in Colorado and has had a very bad month. Starting on September 24 with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of an impeachment inquiry, to the President’s tweet on the Syrian withdrawal, to the announcement of the pullback of the G7 Summit at the Doral, Trump has forced vulnerable senators, such as Cory Gardner, to answer very controversial media questions guaranteed to cost votes from the many Colorado voters who don’t approve of Trump.

On October 11, Gardner attempted to duck – not very successfully – a pointed question on asking a foreign country to investigate a political rival. But on October 16, he declared support for the House resolution rebuking the President’s Syrian withdrawal.

A new poll confirms earlier data that Trump is highly unpopular in Colorado (60% all voters rate him unfavorably), especially among unaffiliated voters (67%). Similar to national polls, 54 percent of the public want an impeachment inquiry to start. Nearly all Democrats (91%) and almost no Republicans (6%) support it, but 61 percent of Colorado unaffiliated voters do. A group, that if against you in Colorado, spells doom. Trump is politically toxic statewide in Colorado.

Also, the poll shows, as many previous polls have indicated, the Democratic frontrunner, John Hickenlooper, has an 11-point advantage over Gardner, 54 percent to 43 percent, again with unaffiliated voters at 61 percent to 34 percent advantage Democrats.

Michael Bennet
In an interview on October 15, as Michael Bennet watched the Democratic debate, he did a running dialogue on his views of the candidates, his anger at not being on the stage and an acknowledgment of his longshot status.

  • Bennet noted that out of the five U.S. Senators running, he’s the only one not on the stage. He believes the rules are arbitrary and keeping some choices from the public. Beto O’Rourke and Tulsi Gabbard are both rhetorical bomb throwers and are damaging the Democrats’ prospects in November.
  • Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are offering unrealistic and unrealizable proposals and giving the Party the image of being far left. It will not play in key battleground states. Warren, in particular, is disingenuous with her hiding the cost of Medicare for All.
  • He likes Biden, but doesn’t believe he’s shown he’s up to the task of beating Warren or Trump yet.
  • He points out that DPS has a much bigger budget than South Bend.

At the end, Bennet admitted he’s a long, longshot, but believes his message and approach is what the U.S. and Washington needs to heal and move forward after 2020. He will shortly be dragged back to an impeachment trial in the Senate, which may be a relief from endless meet and greets in Iowa.

October 15, 2019 Democratic presidential primary debate | Tony Dejak/AP

Pelosi and Trump are Near Tie in Favorable Public Opinion

The Speaker Confronts the President

After more than a decade being pummeled by Republicans in congressional campaigns, Nancy Pelosi is now nearly even with Donald Trump in public favorability. She is the leader of the national Democratic Party and well ahead of her congressional colleagues on public approval.

Mitch McConnell is rapidly becoming the favorite target of Democrats anxious to take control of the Senate in 2020.

The West’s Top Pollsters Gather in San Francisco to Preview the 2020 Election

The annual Pacific Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (PAPOR) will meet December 5 and 6 in San Francisco to present new research on public opinion trends and insights.

One of the most anticipated panels brings together top western states pollsters in a panel titled, “Election Issues in Western States,” to discuss the factors that will shape the 2020 elections, especially in the West. Among topics are the presidential primaries, a host of which are looming on or before Super Tuesday, March 3, 2020. There are at least two competitive senate races – in Arizona and Colorado. And, of course, the presidential race and its impact on lower ballot races, for example, congressional races in Orange County.

The panel has assembled some of California’s best public pollsters:

  • Mark Baldassare – President of Public Policy Institute of California, frequently conducts statewide polls on political, social and economic topics
  • Mark DiCamillo – Director of the Berkeley IGS Poll. With the Los Angeles Times, polling California presidential primary and other public policy topics
  • Jill Darling – Survey Director of USC Dornsife College’s Center for Economic and Social Research, conducting national and California polls, often with the Lost Angeles Times

I will moderate the panel. My topic will be the shift in several states and sub-state jurisdictions from competitive and Republican-leaning areas to blue status today. What are the primary factors causing it and can the Republicans recover during or even post the “Trump era”?

For further information on the conference, go to the PAPOR website here

Colorado Water Congress Joins Host of Agriculture, Business and Recreation Organizations for Proposition DD

The Colorado Water Congress (CWC), the association of the state’s water community, including municipal and special district water organizations, has endorsed Proposition DD, the sports gaming for water funding proposal. They joined dozens of businesses and agricultural associations that realize the critical place water has in Colorado’s prosperity and quality of life.

Among the water agencies endorsing the proposal are: Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and Water Roundtables in the Rio Grande Basin and North Platte Basin.

Endorsements are still being collected.

The House Will Indict President Trump

At the conclusion of Robert Mueller’s turgid testimony (July 2019), there were 100 House members ready to proceed to an impeachment inquiry. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “no.” There was no Republican support, and most importantly for her most vulnerable members, only a third of the public was in favor.

Slowly, actions by President Trump (obstruction to congressional inquiries), the pro-impeachment politics in member districts and pressure to move forward within the beltway got that number to 150 by early September. So, when the much clearer and more dramatic Ukrainian whistleblower story broke, it didn’t take long to assemble the current 225 members in favor on an inquiry, move Pelosi to say “yes” (Sept. 25, 2019), and after waiting five months, proceed with speed.

Prediction: Trump will be indicted by the House. Pelosi, Adam Schiff and House leadership must only handle Trump’s defense and keep a majority of the public satisfied that the process is fair and well-managed. (More than 50% now favor an inquiry and very near a majority (49%) favor impeachment.)

Observation: Trump is so convinced that Joe Biden will beat him in key swing states, he has repeatedly engaged in Ukraine-type acts and empowered his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to do likewise. “Biden fear” has launched Trump’s impeachment – like Dick Nixon’s fear of Democrats in 1972.

Mueller Report: The Mueller Report and Robert Mueller’s testimony remain a powerful constant in the impeachment story. One hundred members said they were for an inquiry after the testimony. For them, the Ukrainian imbroglio is just more evidence of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

See The Buzz:
DU Panel on Colorado 2020 Primaries Attracted a Packed House
Fast Moving Impeachment Story Driving Public Opinion

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Who Votes in Colorado’s Presidential Primary?

Will 200,000, 600,000 or a million voters participate in the March 3 presidential primary? In Colorado’s first presidential primary in 1992, Governor Jerry Brown just edged out the comeback kid, Bill Clinton, and Massachusetts Senator Paul Tsongas in a contest that attracted 235,000 voters. That vote total was the decade-long high for turnout in Colorado’s presidential primaries.

In 2000, the last year a primary was conducted, 178,000 voted in the Republican primary between George Bush and John McCain, and 84,000 Democrats showed up to support Al Gore over Bill Bradley.

Governor Bill Owens, with legislative help, shifted back to the caucus system, which parties operate and pay for. They usually don’t attract much more than 100,000 to 150,000 voters in competitive years.

But, Colorado’s recent June 2018 gubernatorial primary attracted more than a million participants, including over 200,000 unaffiliated voters who can now participate in party primaries. The Democratic side of the primary saw 640,000. Combined with the ease of mail-back voting, will 600,000 Democrats show up on March 3 presidential primary? Will opposition to President Trump attract any Republican partisans?

Surprise, Denver Post Opposes TABOR Override – Proposition CC

With a huge financial advantage, drafted by the dominant Democratic Party and supported by many within the business, local government and nonprofit establishments, Proposition CC was assumed to be the recipient of endorsements from organizations hostile to TABOR and favoring bigger government.

Not the Denver Post. In a Sunday editorial, the paper criticizes the proposition’s revenue allocation as “fatally flawed” and the override’s permanent aspect making it impossible to correct.

The Post, of course, does not like TABOR and believes more money is needed for education and transportation, but Proposition CC will:

  • Exasperate K-12 educator inequalities
  • Create a lobbyist windfall for higher education funding
  • And leave transportation allocation undefined

Drafters knew the permanent aspect was an overreach. We shall see if they can sell it. The Denver Post said “no.”

KOA: Age is Becoming an Issue in the Democratic Primary

Bernie Sanders leaves Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in
Las Vegas after suffering heart attack, Oct. 5, 2019 | Photo:
Bernie Sanders’ cancelled events and hospitalization was the topic in an October 3 interview with April Zesbaugh and Marty Lenz. Shortly before Sanders’ health crisis, former President Jimmy Carter had suggested an age cap might be appropriate for serving as president.

Sanders, who is 78, had political problems before his heart attack (later confirmed). He was never able to get even with Joe Biden in the polls, and most recently, he’s slipped behind Elizabeth Warren nationally, but more importantly, in early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire and Super Tuesday mega state, California.

Sanders is not alone at the top of the Democratic primary field dealing with the age question. Joe Biden is 76 and was challenged in the last debate by Julián Castro, and Elizabeth Warren is 70 and demonstrates her vigor by often jogging up to the podium at events. And, for course, President Trump is 73, and frequently feels compelled to say he is a “stable genius.”

If one of the septuagenarians wins the nomination, age may become a vice presidential selection criterion. Fortunately, most of the second- and third-tier candidates – Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet and others – are younger and would most likely accept second-place.
Former President Jimmy Carter | Photo:

It’s interesting that Jimmy Carter, who is a 96-year-old brain cancer survivor, should suggest an age limit. With chronic illnesses better managed and life expectancy now at 79, limits are unlikely. Voters are likely to continue to use mental and physical performances on the campaign as the best indicator of health and ability to handle the job.

Listen to interview here

Fast Moving Impeachment Story Driving Public Opinion

A majority of the American people (51%) now support the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s Ukraine behavior and 46 percent support impeachment and removal, a 10-point increase of support since July (36% to 46% today).

Although President Trump has been losing the early media exchanges due to the events of the last two weeks and their saturation media coverage, it is still difficult to see how support for removal rises much above the approval of his performance (43%). Also, with nearly 90 percent of Republican-identified voters opposing impeachment, anticipating a break by Republican congresspersons and senators from Trump seems unrealistic (favor impeachment: Democrats 79%, independents 44%, Republicans 2%, Source: 538).

The key group to watch will be self-described independents. They have been 5 to 10 points less in favor of impeachment than the average. If they start to shift in favor, the numbers for impeachment will surge and numerous Senate and House Republicans in competitive states and districts could lose interest in defending the President.

Read The Buzz: Support for impeachment inquiry increases, country now closely divided

Campaigns Underway for Two Statewide Propositions

After a late start, the TABOR override, Proposition CC, campaign finally launched with a $1.8 million war chest and a month to convince voters to shift state tax refunds to education and transportation. Opponents, with much less funding, have been in the field with online media and grassroots activity since the summer.

The major difference in campaign financing between the two groups is that many pro-spending initiatives can call on a host of wealthy individuals and interest groups, such as the educational unions and professional associates. Pro TABOR groups don’t have the same friends and allies. The Koch brothers’ funds are one of the few sources often available.

It is likely at the next finance report on October 25, there will be a considerable increase in money raised.

Not surprising, the sports gaming proposition has nearly all its campaign financing – over $900,000 from the gaming industry. The opposition, self-described Coloradans for Climate Justice, had not reported on September 25 and likely will have little funding.

U.S. Senate Nomination – Colorado

The Democrats will have a spirited contest for their U.S. Senate nomination against incumbent Cory Gardner. It is assumed the winner has a better than ever chance to defeat Gardner in a state that has been trending Democratic in a year Donald Trump’s re-election will dominate politics. President Trump lost the state by 5 points in 2016, and every recent poll and the 2018 midterm reinforce that he could lose by more in November 2020.

Colorado uses a bifurcated system of nominations, with a caucus-convention process and petitioning. In recent years, both systems have been used with party activists dominating caucus and convention, but often more popular, ambitious nominees use petitions. Current frontrunner, John Hickenlooper, will first have to campaign among the 100,000 to 150,000 party activists that have historically participated in the caucus and convention system. If that appears a problem, he could use the petition process.

In 2018, both gubernatorial frontrunners and eventual nominees used the petition system, although Jared Polis also participated in the caucus/convention and got 33 percent (above the 30 percent requirement for nomination).

The primary is June 30 next year, which will designate each party’s nominee. Turnout in the 2018 gubernatorial primaries was at record levels due to the participation of large numbers of unaffiliated voters. On June 26, 637,000 Democrats and 503,000 Republicans participated.

Gaming Helps the Environment

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) announced that its latest awards included a $7.5 million grant, which provided half the funds to create the state’s newest park, Fisher’s Peak, with its iconic rock feature near Trinidad.

Fisher’s Peak Ranch in southeast Colorado
Photo: The Nature Conservancy
GOCO is one of Colorado’s most successful independent grant-making agencies. It was created by a voter approved initiative, and has invested $1.2 billion of lottery gaming proceeds into the preservation of 1.2 million acres of land, restoration of 900 miles of trails and funded more than 5,000 projects in its 27-year existence.

Ciruli Associates helped design the initiative in 1991 and directed the petition and election campaign and its public opinion research through a 58 percent statewide victory in 1992.

The initiative created the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, which redirected lottery gaming proceeds from prison construction into the preservation of open space and a host of preservation, restoration and recreation projects for the state and local communities.

On the 2019 ballot, Proposition DD proposes using gaming revenue from sports betting for water conservation and management programs. Will the public see the benefit of using a gaming tax for an environmental purpose? They did in 1992.

Colorado Senate Race With Three Million Voters, But Within Two Points, or 60,000 Votes?

Colorado voter registration is racing toward four million (3.9 million active and inactive today) and turnout is exceeding 75 percent. In the 2004 presidential election, registration was 3.1 million, with Republican registrants ahead of unaffiliated voters and 178,000 in front of Democrats. Republican officeholders had dominated the state with President Bush winning the electoral vote, and Republicans having the governorship, both senators and four of the congressional seats.

After a decade of rapid population growth, starting after the Great Recession (2008), Democrats went ahead of Republicans, but unaffiliated voters exceeded them both. They are now at 39 percent of the active electorate, and exceeding second-place Democrats by more than 300,000 voters. Republicans have dropped into third-place.

Turnout is also rapidly increasing. The most recent non-presidential year, the 2018 midterm, had a peak turnout when 2.5 million voters showed up and gave the Democrats an across-the-board win. Interest in the upcoming election and the polarized political environment suggest a robust turnout exceeding 3 million voters.

Although turnout has grown, the results in the U.S. Senate races are frequently tight between the parties, except for Michael Bennet’s 2016 blowout of Darryl Glenn by 155,000 votes. It was a good Democratic year – Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump by 5 points and Darryl Glenn was not a strong candidate and took a long time to develop a campaign.

The 2010 and 2014 elections were within 2 points and less than 40,000-voter difference. Colorado was considered a swing state and statewide elections were often closely contested. Is the growing Democratic advantage seen in the Bennet senate and Jared Polis gubernatorial races (10-point wins) becoming the longer-term trend or is it just a reflection of the polarization of the Trump era?

The Numbers Start to Move – Iowa Caucus First; Warren Surges, Bernie Falters and Biden Drifts Lower

In the September 18 Iowa poll of caucus goers, who will start the run into the 2020 caucuses and primaries on February 3, Elizabeth Warren was ahead of Joe Biden, 22 points to 20. The biggest loss of support was registered by Bernie Sanders, down 5 points since the June CNN/Des Moines Register/ poll. The poll was conducted by Selzer and Co, Sept. 14-18, with 602 caucus goers by phone.

New polls in New Hampshire and California show the same shift with Warren now in the lead in both states.

Iowa is not typical of the Democratic Party’s makeup, but often has massive impact on the frontend of the race. Barack Obama won it in 2008, and in 2016, Hillary Clinton (49.8%) and Bernie Sanders (49.6%) tied. It is a mostly white, middle- and upper-class Democratic electorate that is highly liberal in its policy preferences, although in 2020, tempered by a near desperate desire to defeat Donald Trump.

Reflecting the latest polls, including a couple of national polls showing Warren ahead of or closing in, Biden (27%) remains only 4 points ahead nationally, with the new second-place candidate, Warren (23%), and Sanders now in a double-digit third-place (18%) (RealClearPolitics, Sept. 30, 2019).

Colorado’s primary is one month later than Iowa’s on March 3, Super Tuesday, with 15 other states. The state’s only candidate left in the race, Michael Bennet, did not receive enough first-place votes out of the 602 interviewed in Iowa to round to one percent. Should Mr. Bennet give it up? Does Biden’s downward trajectory create a new opportunity for Bennet? How does, if at all,

Impeachment Opinion is Moving, But Not Trump’s Approval

Action tends to be better in politics than reaction, and Democrats now have charged into what will likely be the dominant political story for the near future. Congressional hearings through the holidays, a new lead topic at the presidential debates, possible changes in the line-up, and a potentially competing story for next year’s primaries.

Public opinion will be a key factor to watch as the parties and personalities struggle to control the narrative. The ratio that has dominated the Trump presidency is 40/55. The President’s approval and disapproval have ranged within 3 to 5 points, plus or minus of those numbers. As the impeachment process continues and time for the primaries closes, presidential approval, support for impeachment and the President’s head-to-head numbers will be key indicators as to the impact of impeachment on the election. Very importantly will be the movement of Republicans, both voters and elected officials. The following are some early numbers.

“Whether you love me or hate me…” – Donald Trump, Aug. 16, 2019

The most recent Sabato Crystal Ball rates the national election a deadlock, with 248 electoral voters each for Trump’s re-election and a generic Democrat. The 42 electoral vote toss-up states are: Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10) (Nebraska 2nd CD). And, other likely battleground states due to their closeness in 2016 and won by Democrats are , Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nevada. Of course, Trump just claimed New Mexico was a target, which most observers believe is a longshot.

On August 16, Trump brought the road show to New Hampshire, a state that Sabato puts on the “lean Democrat” category due to the President’s repeated low poll approvals. But, the campaign believes he can win it. It was here that Trump announced “Whether you love me or hate me, you have to vote for me” because your financial future will go “down the tubes” without his re-election.

Trump was beginning to recognize that he is ten points behind the Democratic frontrunner and the latest University of New Hampshire poll shows the usual 42 percent approval, 7 points below a 49 percent approval for handling the economy.

Trump is mostly right about the importance of the economy for his re-election. History indicates how important it is to re-election, but in Trump’s case, it also makes up for the fact that his personality is a drag on his approval and re-elect numbers. Trump has the good fortune that in the last 100 years the S&P 500 has been up about twice as often than down, but up 20 percent to 30 percent less frequently. The bigger lift is probably needed by Trump to make up for his grinding personal behavior.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Support for Impeachment Inquiry Increases, Country Now Closely Divided

New polls from Politico since the whistleblower revelations and Democrats calling for an impeachment inquiry show that the public has shifted from 36 percent in favor to 49 percent against impeachment, to a tie of 43 percent in favor and 43 percent against. Much of the movement in favor is among Democrats, who are now 77 percent in favor of an impeachment inquiry compared to 66 percent in a poll before the latest developments (only 10% of Republicans and 39% of independents support impeachment). A new NPR/PBS/Marist poll confirms the Politico survey, but suggests more movement toward an inquiry is likely.

Up until the latest revelations, impeachment had been unpopular (see Quinnipiac and Monmouth surveys). And, although support has increased the last few days for an inquiry, it’s too early to judge a shift in sentiment toward indictment or conviction.

Proposition DD: Dealing With Colorado’s Mixed Views on Gaming, Water Funding and State Taxes

Colorado voters have had an ambivalent relationship with gaming, limited experience with tax funding water projects and are decidedly hostile to statewide tax increases.

State Taxes
Elections since the early 2000s reinforce voters’ lack of trust and support for state tax increases, for example, with “no” votes for education funding in 2005 and a deluge of “no” votes in the high turnout, generally liberal, electorate of 2018, defeating tax increases for schools and roads.

The only water proposal using bonds to fund water projects was crushed in 2003 (Amend. A).

After years of effort, a limited gaming proposal was approved in 1990, legalizing casinos in three small mountain communities, with final approval in 1992. Since then, efforts to increase gaming to other locations, such as a host of small counties and cities outside the Front Range and at race tracks, have been defeated. Only a proposal to expand hours and betting limits in the three casino cities passed (2008) since the original authorization.

In the last two decades. Gaming expansion beyond the current footprint has been defeated by super majorities (81% in 2003 and 70% in 2014). In both cases, the gaming industry mounted well-funded opposition campaigns. In 2003, the proposal expanding gaming to video lottery, to horse and dog racing tacks, and again in 2014, the goal was to provide economically-struggling race tracks with off-site betting – the answer was no.

Legislative and industry proponents of Proposition DD, the 2019 gaming sports proposal, have tried to carefully tread this difficult history. Their proposal offers the following:

  • Limit expansion to benefit current casinos. Get existing industry to support.
  • Protect from tax revenue shifts from current beneficiaries, such as the Historical Society and local governments.
  • Attract as much of the political establishment as possible, but at least avoid the animosity of the governor. Previous governors, especially Roy Romer and Bill Owens, were decidedly anti-gaming expansion.
  • The beneficiaries of the gaming revenue have seldom been much help. Economic development for small communities, tourism and K-12 education have not especially attracted voters to overcome the determined opposition of the current casino industry. But, water funding has its own problems – witness the 2003 debacle. Using the well-regarded, but little known State Water Plan, was an effort to reduce the usual arguments related to East and West Slopes and conservation vs. storage. The small amount of money (possibly $20 million) also reduces the arguments since it is obviously a program modest in size and scope.
  • Finally, due to TABOR, the ballot language highlights the state tax increase. Hence, the proposal will need to emphasize the tax is modest and only on the gaming users. The proceeds are for regulation enforcement and the principle beneficiaries.

The campaign will start in earnest in early October and mail-back voting shortly begins after October 14.

Anna Staver: Colorado Voters Have an Ambivalent Relationship to Gaming, Denver Post

In a front page, top-of-the-field story, Denver Post reporter, Anna Staver, captures Colorado voters’ ambivalence toward gaming. After having authorized casino gaming in 1990 and 1992 in three historic mountain towns, they have decisively said “no” to expansions off those footprints. She points out that at least some of the resistance is based on the mixed results in the three communities, especially in terms of historic preservations as key original purpose.

I related some history of gaming elections:

Ciruli has asked voters about several gambling ballot measures over the last two decades. The only successful campaign was in 2008, when Colorado voters gave the existing casino towns permission to raise bet limits, add games and stay open round-the-clock. It passed, he said, because it didn’t expand gambling to other parts of the state — giving it critical support from the gaming industry.

“Once we passed gaming, what is very clear is the voters of Colorado do not want to expand it,” he said. “It is where it is, and we don’t want to see it anyplace else.”

She quoted Governor Roy Romer’s opposition in 1990, and I pointed out that proposals in a host of smaller towns and counties were defeated (Pueblo, Manitou Springs and Trinidad, and numerous small cities and counties, mostly in southeast and southwest Colorado).

“Some were quite sympathetic,” Ciruli said. “But we’ve just never been able to get off those campuses.”

My polling (Adams County likely 2019 voters) suggests the vote is close, with nearly a fifth of voters unaware of the issue. But, an effective “yes” campaign should get a “yes” vote.

Longtime Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli told The Denver Post the limited polling so far suggests a coin toss when it comes to the proposition’s chances in November, but he’s still betting on the “yes” campaign convincing enough voters to put DD over the top. If passed, taxes raised from it would go toward the state’s water plan.

Jerd Smith: Proposition DD Off to Slow Start

Jerd Smith, as part of her Water Education Colorado beat, reported that with six weeks until the November 5 election, the public has a low-level of awareness of Proposition DD, legalizing sports gaming to fund the State Water Plan.

Supporters have a major media campaign planned and no funded opposition. But, they still have a lot of voters to convince.

Smith reported on my Adams County voter poll that showed nearly a fifth of voters undecided (18%) and support below opposition as the campaign began. Also, men (47%) are much more supportive than women (32%).

But, I argue:

With campaign coffers full, DD could get a yes from Coloradans, Ciruli said.

“The public, over the years, has demonstrated that water is very valued and the water plan itself was popular,” Ciruli said. “Right now, beyond extreme environmental interests, [DD] isn’t generating much opposition. It could be a good sell.”

Frank Evans’ Legacy: Payment in Lieu of Taxes

Frank Evans
It was just announced that Colorado will receive $40 million out of $514.7 million distributed by the Department of the Interior because of the 1976 passed statute, Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT).

Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet and, of course, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt
announced the awards to local communities, mostly smaller rural countries where a large federal footprint deprives local governments of tax revenue. Recently, the funding battle has been to fully fund the distribution.

PILT was one of the most significant legislative accomplishments of Congressman Frank Evans of Pueblo (3rd CD, 1964-1978). Passed in 1976, it took years of work with the National Association of Counties (NACo) to convince easterners that small counties with large federal institutions and land holdings are deprived of essential tax revenue for schools, roads and local services.

Frank, always supported by his partner and wife, Eleanor, worked tirelessly from his perch on the Appropriations Committee (he had seniority and many friends) to pass PILT, which has provided more than $9 billion for local government since its passage.

Photo Op Diplomacy

John Bolton | Gage Skidmore/Flickr
Although there is near universal relief from American allies and adversaries with the departure of John Bolton, at least one of his positions that aroused the ire of Donald Trump was welcomed in foreign policy circles – criticism of photo op diplomacy.

Photo op diplomacy, like handshakes in Singapore, walks across the DMZ, smiles in Helsinki, and proposed Taliban meetings at Camp David and at the UN with Iranian leaders, all devoid of any planning, strategy or follow-up. Of course, Bolton’s opposition was to negotiating at all with the countries and leaders.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un cross the DMZ in Panmunjom,
South Korea, June 30, 2019 | Dong-A Ilbo/Getty Images

Denver Metro Area Continues to Prosper

Recent cautious state and private financial projections of 2020 Colorado tax revenue are incorporating the many factors that appear to be slowing down the U.S. and world economies. But, the Denver metro area continues to show considerable prosperity.

The year-to-date increase in sales tax in the metro area for July is 5.7 percent, a significant increase showing consumer and business activity in the area and a reflection of continued growth in the economy and population. The 2019 rate has held steadily at about 4 percent and not declined yet.

Castro Crosses a Line, Helps Biden

Julián Castro attacked Joe Biden on his age. The audience booed and his fellow debaters criticized it. Biden was helped, not hurt. He gained sympathy; Castro, from his one percent position, looked desperate. He tried to bail out in later interviews, but damaged his already negligible chance to move up.

Joe Biden at Sept. 12, 2019 debate | Win McNamee/Getty Images
Julian Castro at Sept. 12, 2019 debate | Getty Images

The exchange provided two main observations. Ageism is a dangerous strategy when the top three nominees are over 70. Secondly, the media establishment and Democratic-leaning commentariat are beginning to move toward Biden due to 1) his survival after three months of debate attacks, 2) the contrast his image and demeanor provide to Trump (highlighting Trump’s main weakness), and 3) polls that seem to confirm electability (the top nomination criteria).

Hickenlooper’s Position Strengthening

The most serious candidates running for senate in terms of fundraising and experience are dropping out and endorsing John Hickenlooper. Mike Johnston, John Walsh and Dan Baer have begun the consolidation behind Hickenlooper, which is reflected in the polls of the Democratic rank and file. As I blogged yesterday, Democrats want to beat Cory Gardner and Mitch McConnell, not engage in an intraparty fight.

John Hickenlooper, along with other contenders for Democratic primary runoff,
at a forum at the Durango Public Library, Sept. 7, 2019 | Jerry McBride/Durango

Hickenlooper in Trouble?

The mostly unknown group of U.S. Senate candidates is hoping that the Colorado Democratic Party is as divided between progressives and moderates as the national party appears.

Some local political observers seem to agree, but that viewpoint is countered repeatedly by polls. A just released poll makes it clear that John Hickenlooper is a 60-percentage point favorite for the nomination (PPP, 8-28, 30, 2019), and in a host of polls, he’s the ten-point leader over incumbent Republican Cory Gardner.

Even among very liberal Denver Democrats, Hickenlooper receives nearly half the primary vote. Why isn’t the progressive/moderate divide helping the arguably farther left candidates, especially Andrew Romanoff?

Answer: Because the overwhelming interest of Democrats isn’t the right-left contrast, but defeating Cory Gardner, who they consider far-right. In this calculation, Romanoff’s handicap is that he’s lost two high-profile races. He has little credibility that he can win statewide. The other candidates are mostly unknown and untested in the critical criteria of defeating a strong campaigner like Gardner, who will have millions of dollars available for negative advertising. A two-term gubernatorial track record is a huge advantage for Hickenlooper over lesser known candidates without similar political experiences.

Hickenlooper was a bust in the presidential race, but he’s going to be hard to beat for the senate nomination.

John Hickenlooper, along with other contenders for the
Democratic primary runoff, at a forum at the Durango
Public Library, Sept. 7, 2019 | Jerry McBride/Durango