Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Election Central: Pre-Labor Day Update

The Democratic Convention is done and the Republicans are underway. Join us September 1st when the conventions are over to preview the race before the campaigns start in full force. The Friends of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research have organized a session to have a conversation as to where the campaigns stand.

We will have two highly watched races in Colorado – one for U.S. Senate, and after the upset primary, the 3rd Congressional District. But, of course, most importantly and powerfully influential on local races will be the contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

The following topics will be discussed on September 1st at 11:00 am MT:
  1. Where’s the election today? Who’s ahead, who’s behind? U.S. Presidential, Colorado Senate, Third Congressional?
  2. Are the polls accurate? What about the Silent Majority (secret Trump vote)?
  3. Will the race tighten? What are the underdog’s strategies to win and will they work?
  4. Who’s going to vote? How many? Problems?
  5. What will election night look like? When will we call the race?

Former VP Joe Biden (L) and his wife Jill Biden (2nd left) and Sen.
Kamala Harris (2nd from right) and her husband Doug Emhoff (R) wave
to supporters after Biden spoke during the fourth day of the Democratic
Convention, Aug. 20, 2020 | Andrew Harnik/AP

Friday, August 21, 2020

Election Central: Pre-Labor Day Update

With one convention completed and the second about to begin, the election is poised to start in full force. Before the onslaught, the Friends of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research have been invited to a session to present a status report and have a conversation as to where the campaigns stand.

We will have two highly watched races in Colorado – one for U.S. Senate, and after the upset primary, the 3rd Congressional District. But, of course, most importantly and powerfully influential on local races will be the contest between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

The following outlines topics we will discuss on September 1st at 11:00 am MT:
  1. Where’s the election today? Who’s ahead, who’s behind? U.S. Presidential, Colorado Senate, Third Congressional?
  2. Are the polls accurate? What about the Silent Majority (secret Trump vote)?
  3. Will the race tighten? What are the underdog’s strategies to win and will they work?
  4. Who’s going to vote? How many? Problems?
  5. What will election night look like? When will we call the race?


Crystal Ball
Electoral College Rating
July 14, 2020

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Battlegrounds: Millions are Being Spent in Battleground Advertising. Are the Numbers Starting to Move?

In the last month, there has been little movement in the battleground numbers, even with millions in advertising expenditures from the Trump campaign. The state polling numbers in 2020 are more reliable with multiple polls conducted by national media outlets.

The President improved his position by a point in Arizona and Michigan, two points in Florida, and his biggest gain of four in North Carolina, going to three points for Biden to one for Trump. He lost a point in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. I’ve added Ohio to the watch list. Trump won it by 8 points in 2016 and is now behind by 2 points.

Out of the seven states on the battleground list, three are within the margin of error (typically ±3 points). This remains a close race that will likely be fought through Election Day, and this year, like 2000, possibly after Election Day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

National Dashboard: Democrats in Strong Position as Convention Begins

Examining the National Dashboard from the last post on July 28 shows little change in the presidential race. As the Democratic National Convention begins, the Democratic presumptive nominee, Joe Biden, is 8 points ahead of Donald Trump. The convention appeared to get initial good reviews. The polls have been frozen in a narrow range and it will be surprising to see much of a bounce. And, of course, the Republican Convention begins next week and may receive its own bounce.

Trump’s approval rating remains at 42 percent in spite of repeated polls showing he has lost the COVID-19 management and the race relations issues by more than 20 percent. He does win approval on the economy, but it hasn’t helped yet. His highest approval this year was after impeachment and before the virus. It’s not clear how he gets back to that number.

Most professional pollsters and campaign consultants believe the race will tighten, especially after Labor Day. In fact, the race has closed by one point if July 1st is used as the baseline.

Third Congressional Now a Competitive Race

A top Democratic polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR) just released a Third Congressional District poll that showed the race is tied (43% Mitsch Bush to 42% Boebert). It was a bit of a surprise. The district was judged to lean Republican because of recent wins by the incumbent Congressman Scott Tipton and Donald Trump’s 12- point win in 2016. The recent history would likely still give Republicans an edge in the district. But, the fact President Trump is also tied with his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden (43% each), this becomes a race.

Neither candidate is well-known, except for extreme images argued by partisans. Diane Mitsch Bush is labeled a “socialist” due to having support for Medicare for All and Democratic positions from her 2018 run. Lauren Boebert is a gun-toting, strong Trump supporter who’s made reference to QAnon. If the presidential race is close in the Third Congressional District, an “extremist” label is unhelpful. If Boebert avoids it, she’ll have the advantage because of her public relations skills and Trump-like positions. But, in a Democratic dominated House, having a pragmatic Democrat may be the preferred choice. Expect major campaigning with millions spent.

Read blog
Tipton is Gone. Can the Republicans Hold the Seat?

Economic Recovery Stalls as Deaths rise: Twin Towers – Part Nine

Since the last Twin Towers report on July 13, California, which had been fifth in COVID-19 fatalities, moved to third, and Texas leapt over a host of states to become fourth, with Florida following it at sixth, and likely to move up the next 30 days as total deaths have kept a steady pace of increases. Fatalities were up 22,000 from mid-June to July and 26,000 since mid-July to August 12 to a total of 168,000.

Although treatments are improving and fatality rates declining, the sudden flare-up after re-opening has spread anxiety about controlling the virus and undermining the confidence of individuals, business and government decision-makers on gauging the safe path to pre-COVID-19 activities. Reconvening schools and athletics and restarting the hospitality and recreational industries have been especially affected.

The unemployment rate in July compared to June went down to 10.2 percent from 11.1 percent in June. That remains a record high, near the top rate in the Great Recession of 2008-09 (10.0% Oct. 2009). Although 1.8 million jobs were added, that was lower than the 4.8 million in June and very few were in goods producing manufacturing.

The recovery was slowed in Florida, Texas and Arizona due to their spikes in COVID-19. The nationwide recovery is now being affected by the growing view that major labor market growth will depend on businesses having confidence that consumer demand will be steady and employees will feel safe. The spikes have reduced confidence, required some rollbacks, and extended the time required for the recovery. The most commonly heard comments are about the lack of national leadership, including the recent failure to extend unemployment payments and federal funding for schools, and state and local governments.

See blogs:
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part One
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Two
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Three
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Four
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Five
The Twin Towers of Pain: Part Six
Recession Starts, COVID-19 Continues: Twin Towers – Part Seven
Surge in Infections and Deaths Threatens Jobs: Twin Towers – Part Eight

Friday, August 7, 2020

Trump is a Problem for Gardner, But Also a Great Benefactor

Donald Trump is losing Colorado today in the presidential race and may drag Cory Gardner down with him. But, it is also a great boon having a friend in the White House worried about Gardner’s re-election.

Much of Gardner’s campaign message will tout what he accomplished for Colorado, including passing the Great American Outdoors Act, moving BLM, securing the Space Force, etc. Gardner is also very adept at working with the Senate leadership. Very impressive record for a freshman, but is it enough?

President Donald Trump signs the H.R. 1957, “The Great American
Outdoors Act,” at the White House, Aug. 4, 2020 | Alex Brandon/AP

Trump Searches for Silent Majority With New Ads – Unfortunately, It’s Not 1972

The Trump campaign released a couple of new advertisements in target states that have early voting. It’s part of the shift in strategy by the new campaign manager, Bill Stepien. The messaging is basically aimed at the base Trump Republican voters. The message is that Joe Biden is captive of far-left Bernie Sanders, AOC wing of the party. It shouts out: taxes, immigrants and crime.

The Silent Majority strategy is an attempt to replay the Richard Nixon 1972 campaign of running against “acid, amnesty and abortion.” The difference between the Nixon and Trump campaigns is that Nixon managed to quiet most voter concern over the COVID-19 issue of that era – the Vietnam War. Through Vietnamization, Peace with Honor and massive troop reduction from 536,000 in LBJ’s last year to 24,000 in 1972, he could then focus his campaign on social issues and label Democrats “captured by the far-left wing of the party.”

It’s the Pandemic, Stupid
Unfortunately for Stepien, Trump’s still losing by 60 percent to 30 percent the main issue on people’s minds – COVID-19. The Trump campaign is just reinforcing its narrow base, which may get it to 42 percent, but will have a struggle to even get the 46 percent of 2016, much less Hillary Clinton’s 48 percent.

Biden is Not McGovern
The second problem with Stepien, et al’s approach is that George McGovern and the 1972 Democratic Party was clearly controlled by the party’s insurgent wing. McGovern defeated establishment figures, like Ed Muskie and Hubert Humphrey, and the chaotic convention didn’t welcome big city mayors, like Richard Daley, Democratic governors or major labor unions. Biden defeated the liberal wing on Super Tuesday and they surrendered shortly thereafter. The basic Republican message is not a good fit. It’s not 1972.

Watch “Silent Majority” ad here

See Washington Times article:
Trump team’s blitz on Biden shifts to early battlegrounds

The South and West are Rushing Forward in COVID-19 Fatalities

From well back in the queue, California is now in third-place among the states in COVID-19 fatalities, jumping ahead of Massachusetts in the last week. New York and New Jersey are still the frontrunners in number of deaths, but also in managing the virus. Texas is on a tear, and in the last week, overtook Florida in reported deaths. Texas and Florida are now sixth and seventh, respectively, as the states in the Northeast and Midwest have lowered their rates of new infections and deaths.

This is clearly a difficult disease to manage and it’s putting tremendous strain on the health care system, the economy and social relationships in general. But, political leadership from Washington, down to counties and mayors, are reeling from the tension between the virus and the economy. Although there are majorities for safe, careful reopening and return to schools, there is also a strong and vocal minority resisting masks and social distancing and for a rapid return to pre-pandemic conditions.

Democrats Need Four Seats to Win the Senate – Three are in the West

Democrats need a net of four new seats to win control of the Senate and remove Mitch McConnell as majority leader – a top party goal. They assume they are going to lose the Alabama Senate seat won in 2018 in a very strange special election. They are targeting vulnerable incumbents in Maine and North Carolina. But, three possible wins exist in the Mountain West in Arizona, Colorado and Montana.

  • In Arizona, Mark Kelly is 7 points ahead of incumbent Republican Martha McSally. President Trump is losing to Joe Biden by 4 points. Trump truly needs the state and is visiting it incessantly. He carried it by 3 points in 2016. 
  • Trump is far behind in Colorado. The state received an Ivanka Trump visit, but is not targeted. He’s behind by 13 points. The senate race is closer, but Democrat John Hickenlooper is still 6 points up over Cory Gardner. Trump lost the state by 5 points in 2016. 
  • Montana is new to the list of Democratic senate targets. It is a longer-shot since Trump is ahead by 6 points and won it by 20 points. However, Democrat Governor Steve Bullock is now ahead of incumbent Steve Daines (44% R to 46% D).

If elected, the three new senators would make their state delegations all Democrat, joining with New Mexico (a very likely Democratic win replacing retiring Democrat Tom Udall) and Nevada.

In Last Half of July, Mexico Reaches Third and India Jumps to Top Five in Fatalities

Europe is receding in new virus infections and fatalities, even as it opens up, but the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and India are surging. With Mexico just jumping around the UK to third in deaths, the Western Hemisphere now dominates the COVID-19 crisis. In the last three weeks, the U.S. added 22,000 deaths, about 1,000 a day, a major increase from the plateau reached in June.

Weak health care systems and irresolute leadership appear to be contributing to Brazil, Mexico and India joining the U.S. as the top COVID-19 countries, with France, Italy and Spain falling back in the queue.

After four months, it’s finally dawned on Donald Trump that his presidency was likely to be another fatality of the virus. It’s not clear that the Jair Bolsonaro, Andrés Manuel López Obrador or Narendra Modi – all populist-style leaders – will have the same political problem as Trump, but managing the virus is the overwhelming crisis and political imperative for these times.

See The Buzz:
World Fatalities Pass 560,000: Brazil Now in Second, Mexico Jumps to Fourth and the U.S. Surges Again
World Fatalities Pass 400,000; Brazil Moves to 3rd
Open for Business and Living With the Risk

Gardner Needed That

It was a good week for Cory Gardner. First, a poll was reported that had him closing the gap with John Hickenlooper. And then, Donald Trump touched the third nail of American politics – cancelling an election – which Gardner was able to quickly condemn. The seriousness of Trump’s transgression was reflected in the speed it was rejected by even the cautious Mitch McConnell and usually supportive Wall Street Editorial Board.

Read Crossley blog:
Can Trump Hold the Line?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) and Sen. Corey Gardner
walk to the Senate Chamber, July 27, 2017 | Cliff Owen/AP

Will the Presidential Race Tighten?

The President and his campaign are attempting to adjust to the reality of nearly two months of polls – both national and battleground – that show him losing well beyond Hillary Clinton’s polls at the same time in 2016 and upwards of twice the margin of error.

President Trump has been a few points behind Joe Biden since early in the year, but it was after Memorial Day that the spread expanded, settling at 8 points on June 17. It rose to 10 and is currently at 8. Trump remains highly unpopular, with a 43 percent approval and a negative 55 percent (12% deficit). His party is down 9 points in the generic ballot test and only 23 percent of the public believe the country is moving in the right direction.

But, will the polls tighten? Yes, for several reasons:

  • After Labor Day, all pollsters shift to likely voters because attention to politics ramps up and registered voters are more likely to know if they will vote. This should help Republicans since historically likely voters have tended to be older, higher social economic status.
  • Trump, in an effort to close the gap, is ramping up his social media and traditional campaign advertising with an emphasis on cultural issues, and is targeting his voters, including identified undecided and weakly committed. Also, he is aiming to persuade people who only occasionally or seldom vote.

Could Trump Win?

No, not with these numbers, but many things could happen in the last 95 days. Biden has kept a low-profile, but soon will decide a vice president, direct a virtual convention and debate. All of the activities have possibilities of mistakes.

Finally, there’s the completely unexpected: the Comey, WikiLeaks, Access Hollywood type of event that caused a major turbulence in 2016.

So hang on. The polls may be correct today, but they can and are likely to change, especially in a year where a pandemic and George Floyd-type of events dominate and so many historic political and presidential norms have been broken.

Can Trump Hold the Line?

The Crossley blog regularly reports the political numbers. The table below has been updated monthly starting in April.

President Trump is aware his biggest problem is that his massive national polling deficit has spread to battlegrounds states where the vote is closer, but still significantly in Joe Biden’s favor. Republicans are in serious danger of losing the Senate in states where Trump is behind Biden, such as Arizona, North Carolina and Maine. Even until recently, seats thought safe are in play, such as Montana and Iowa.

RealClearPolitics currently rates the Senate with leaning and secure states as: 46 Democrats, 47 GOP and 7 toss-ups. When they distribute the toss-up seats by the available polls, the result is 52 Democrats and 48 Republicans, a source of concern for Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority.

As President Trump’s national and especially battleground state polling position has declined, a critical question becomes: Can he hold Republicans in line? He knows that respect or friendship for him among Republican colleagues is thin, but even among the most loyal, political survival is foremost and senators, governors and representatives are going to start looking for some separation.

The President hopes his numbers improve to reassure nervous colleagues. He has attempted some adjustments in his behavior related to the pandemic, changed campaign managers and dramatically stepped up campaign advertising, but there’s no relief in sight yet.

Trump Losing the Economy

Up until the last month, Donald Trump maintained a slight advantage in public approval in handling the economy. But, it has slipped away, and RealClearPolitics now, in its aggregate poll, has Trump’s approval as 48 percent to 48 percent disapproval.

His problem is complicated by the negative rating in handling the virus, which RealClearPolitics places at 39 percent approval to 59 percent disapproval, or a negative 20 points. As recently expressed in the Wall Street Journal, there are “doubts about a growing economy and recovery due to the uneven public health response.” The Federal Reserve, for example, sees a deeper downturn and more difficult recovery unless there is more effective action.

What Trump has never understood, and it has cost him much public support, is the relationship between the economy and public health. His distrust of government and skepticism of science have been major handicaps in his ability to deal with a recession induced by a pandemic.

Landslide: For Trump or Against Trump?

Although it is hard to believe now, earlier in the year supporters of Donald Trump thought he would win easily and possibly by a blowout. Even after the pandemic started, many kept the faith, believing handling COVID-19 well was an opportunity.

There are presidents in traumatic times who won by 20 points in popular vote and 200 or more electoral votes. Since Roosevelt, the biggest winners trying for reelection were Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 after the Kennedy assassination, Richard Nixon in 1972 in the tensions between the anti-war movement and Silent majority, and Ronald Reagan in 1984 as America emerged from a recession into “Morning in America.”

Looking back, these presidents’ opponents mostly appear hapless and off-key and choice is often an important element of the voters’ decision, but the economic and political context of these elections was even more decisive. In the three landslide elections listed below, only one challenger was above 50 electoral votes and they averaged less than 40 percent of the popular vote (see table below).

However, what President Trump’s team might consider is that he could get the challenger’s popular vote and dramatically fewer electoral votes than Hillary Clinton received in 2016 (227 electoral votes).

Public Skeptical Schools Should Reopen

Two new polls show the public much more skeptical about reopening schools than President Trump.

Only 8 percent of Americans say schools should open as usual for in-person instruction, the position of the incredibly obtuse Orange County School Board. Far more (77%) believe they should either not reopen (31%) or only with major adjustments (46%). Opinion reflects the 80 percent of the public who are very concerned that reopening schools will cause a major surge in the virus. Even 63 percent of Republicans register the same level of concern (AP/NORC poll).

When given a choice in a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll between reopening schools now to get people back to work and children in classrooms or wait until the virus contagion is low as possible, safety over back to work carried the day 63 percent to 32 percent.

Trump’s position, which is framed on the needs of the economy with little or no emphasis on safety, is shared by only about a fifth of the public, although about half of Republicans. A third of the public doesn’t want to reopen and presently prefers remote learning, but the majority position supports reopening with safety conditions, like masks and social distancing, along with remote learning options where needed or preferred by parents.

DU Pioneer Legacy Society Hosts Conversation on 2020 Election

On July 29, DU’s Advancement staff sponsored an annual event for its premier contributors. This year, they brought together Professor Seth Masket with me and Anne Trujillo as moderator in a political conversation about the 2020 election. A few questions addressed:

  • Will there be a big November turnout?
  • Can the polls be trusted?
  • Who’s likely to win the Colorado U.S. Senate race?
  • How has Donald Trump changed American politics? 

To hear the conversation, click on the link below and move the bar on the video to about 29:10 minutes in to start watching the conversation.

Ballot Issues Pile Up. Some Cultural, Some Big Money Changes.

Among the seven ballot propositions already approved, three are major advances in the cultural wars (wolves, abortion and citizenship), one is a straight- up partisan advantage effort (popular vote), and two raise more tax revenue (cigarette tax and Gallagher Amendment).

Three of the four waiting approval change the tax structure. Two are reductions and one (medical leave) is an increase. Casinos will most likely be left to self-regulate with one.

Ballot Issues With a Comment

Citizen Initiatives Approved
  • Repeal national popular vote law. A lot of grass root support for repeal, but Democratic tide? Partisan Advantage
  • More gray wolves. Urban vs. rural. Polls say popular, but is it a bad year to hassle ranchers? Cultural War
  • Late term abortion prohibition. Get-out-the-vote item for pro and con activists. Polls say popular. Cultural War
  • Only U.S. citizens can vote. Cultural War

State Legislature Referred
  • Repeal Gallagher Amendment. Major tax shift for businesses and smaller local government districts. Increase Tax Revenue
  • Raise cigarette and vaping products taxes. More Sin Taxes
  • Rules on charitable gaming.

Pending Review of Signatures
  • Lower state income tax of 4.63% to 4.55%. Major Tax Reduction
  • Vote on “fees” that raise big revenue. Major Tax Limitation
  • State-run medical leave. Major Business Tax Increase
  • Casino cities (and their industries) able to set betting limits. Gaming in three cities becomes wide open.

Senate Race Tightens

Cory Gardner needed a poll to show that, despite Donald Trump’s chaotic reelection campaign, he still has a chance in Colorado. It would have been disastrous to go into Labor Day down double-digits to John Hickenlooper. Final money from the national Republican Party, big PACs and dark money sources will get very competitive given the risk to the control of the Senate.

The poll was conducted by Morning Consult with 616 likely Colorado voters from July 17-26, 2020. They also polled in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and North Carolina. Although the poll provides a lift for the Gardner campaign, it still highlights the challenge of running in tandem with Donald Trump.

The President is 13 points behind Joe Biden in Colorado. He is approximately 6 points lower than his national RealClearPolitics position as of August 3, 2020 (42% Trump to 49% Biden). It suggests that, even if he closes the race nationally, he will still be significantly behind in Colorado. Biden is at 52 percent, or 4 points ahead of Hillary Clinton in 2016 in Colorado (48%), and Trump is 4 points behind his result (43%).

In this poll, Gardner is 3 points (42%) above Trump (39%) and 6 points behind Hickenlooper (48%). Gardner and Hickenlooper were neck-and-neck in their respective senate and governor victories in 2014 (48% and 49%, respectively).

Both Hickenlooper and Gardner have their base voters’ support (87% Democrat and Republican support for each). Hickenlooper’s principle advantage at this point is among self-declared independent voters who claim to support him 48 percent to 35 percent for Gardner, a 13-point advantage. The ranks of independent-type voters have always been large in Colorado, but in a recent surge, they have gained many new residents and younger voters who have been mostly voting Democratic in partisan races since 2018.

The Hickenlooper and Gardner contest compared to the other four states’ polls is near the middle. Democrats are strongest in Arizona, with popular former astronaut Mark Kelly beating incumbent Republican Martha McSally by 16 points. Biden is up 7 points. Republicans do best in Georgia where Trump is only down one point and Republican incumbent David Perdue is up 3 points. In North Carolina, the presidential race is tied at 47 percent each, but Democrat Cal Cunningham is defeating incumbent Thom Tillis by 9 points. Michigan, which Trump barely carried in 2016 to push him over the top in electoral votes, is now a bust. He’s down 10 points to Biden and the Democratic candidate incumbent Senator Gary Peters is up 14.