Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Three Million Voters in 2016 Presidential Election

In the 2014 national election, only 36 percent of eligible voters participated. California was at the low end of the scale with 31 percent. Colorado was at the high end of the states with 54 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot.

The state’s voter participation is typically above the national average. The 2014 final count of 2,080,000 was in line with previous midterm turnout. The range of turnout predictions ran from 2.0 to 2.2 million voters.

Mark Udall’s campaign claimed that 2.1 million voters was their goal. Given the preference of voters who turned out, it would not have been sufficient even if every additional voter supported him (from 2,080,000 to 2,100,000). However, if the final number had been 2.2 million and he received two-thirds of the final vote, he would have made up his 38,000 vote deficit. A possible, but unlikely, scenario. In other words, given the percentage of the vote, Udall received (i.e., 46 percent to Gardner’s 48 percent) more turnout; i.e., the Bannock Street Project, was not likely to save him.

Turnout will also be a much discussed factor in the next presidential election. The 2016 election could attract three million Colorado voters. That would be a 50 percent increase over the two million midterm voters and 400,000 above the 2.6 million who voted in the Obama vs. Romney 2012 election.

The 3 million voter projection for 2016 is based on historic turnout percentages from presidential elections and an assumption on the number of newly registered voters as shown in the chart above. Colorado is the fifth fastest growing state in the country and large numbers of Millennial voters are reaching 18 years old. The estimated used in this analysis is 400,000 new voters.

Democrats had hoped spending $15 million on a turnout effort in Colorado in 2014 was going to save them from a bad election environment and, ultimately, a weak campaign. Not surprising, they believe the increased turnout in 2016 will be a key advantage. But, the lesson of the 2014 midterm election is that a campaign cannot be rescued by a turnout effort if it is losing on message, regardless of the effort’s sophistication or cost.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Denver Mayor Unopposed?

It seems surprising that Mayor Michael Hancock may get through his first re-election effort with no serious opposition. Often politicians’ biggest challenges come at their first re-elections. Among recent Denver mayors, two were challenged and one had a walk. Denver mayors Federico Peña and Wellington Webb faced major challenges. Peña barely won re-election in 1987 and Webb lost the first round, but then scored a solid win in the 1993 run-off. Most recently, John Hickenlooper easily won re-election in 2007.

There are good reasons why serious politicians would shy away from a challenge to Hancock:
  • It is rare a seated mayor is defeated. The last time, Bill McNichols in his third re-election effort was defeated by Peña in 1983.
  • Hancock has support among major Democratic factions in a city dominated by Democrats. The African American, Hispanic and liberal communities do not appear dissatisfied or talking up potential opponents.
  • The Denver economy is booming. In fact, if there are complaints, it’s from overdevelopment. Various neighborhood groups are objecting to the number of cranes, scrape-offs and infill projects in the city. Sales tax revenue is up 9 percent this year. Housing values are increasing (and, of course, costs) and downtown office buildings are full, especially from the energy boom.
  • Hancock is congenial and mostly low-key. He attends charitable fundraising events more often than TV studios or press conferences. It appears to serve him well.
In spite of the longshot nature of a successful challenge, there are issues that have damaged his administration’s reputation. The jail is a constant source of bad news, some of which plays into the current dialogue on police and minority relations. Cost overruns and various controversies surround the airport, the City’s most important asset and economic generator. And, the aforementioned residential-developer conflicts have several neighborhoods stirred up. Whether or not these issues lower the Mayor’s voter favorability, which registered at 70 percent in a 2013 poll, remains to be seen. Typically, the neighborhood pain threshold must get very high for Denverites to turn against a reasonable amount of residential and commercial growth and the tax base and jobs it brings.

Is an opponent possible in this environment; i.e., someone beyond an eccentric or easy to ignore gadfly?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Landrieu Loses – The End of the Democratic South

With the win in Louisiana, Republicans gain nine senate seats and the last Democratic seat in the South. It has been an amazing transition from an entirely Democratic Deep South in 1960 to an entirely Republican one in 2014.

As of today, not including Florida or Virginia, no southern state from Texas to Arkansas to Georgia and the Carolinas has a Democratic senator, governor or Democratic-controlled legislature.  The transition was slow. Numerous Southern Democrats were able to combine the minority voting population with white Democrats into the 1990s. But, as the national party moved left, especially in the last decade, there were insufficient liberal white voters to get to a majority. Ms. Landrieu was the end.

Republicans Control Most of State Legislatures

Democrats hanging onto the Colorado House was an anomaly. The national Republican sweep was broad and deep.

Republicans added three governors (net) to a recent record high of 31. They extended their control of legislative chambers from 59 out of 98 to 68, another record (11 chambers flipped, including the Colorado State Senate). They now have the 4,100 legislative seats out of 7,363, a record high (since 1920).

Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature and the governorship in 15 states before the election, including Colorado. They now have just 7, compared to 23 Republican.

The 10-year dominance of Colorado Democrats was most felt at the state legislative level. Multi-millionaires, special interest groups and their strategists realized that, given their culture and social agenda, the state legislature should be the target and could be won over with money and organization.

On November 4 Election Night Republicans were within striking distance of a three-seat pickup in Senate and five in the House. Ultimately, they gained one and control of the Senate and three, but not control, in the House. Between reappointment and Democratic resources, Republicans have a ways to go to take control.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Denver Holds Election and No One Shows Up

In May 2015, Denver will hold its quadrennial city elections. It will be a very different affair than the battle just culminated on November 4 for governor and senator. Denver could be holding an election and nobody shows up. The 2015 Denver City election does not appear to have a major personality or issue that has captured the Denver public or attention.

Barely a third of Denver’s potential voters participated in the May 2011 elections in a year when there was a serious contest for mayor. This year, with a no contest for mayor as yet, expect a record low turnout. All thirteen Denver City Council positions are up for election or re-election, plus the mayor, auditor and clerk. The following are open due to term limits:
Auditor Dennis Gallagher
  • Auditor Dennis Gallagher – retires
  • District 2 City Councilperson Jeanne Faatz – far Southwest (only Republican and fiscal watchdog)
  • District 4 City Councilperson Peggy Lehmann – far Southeast
  • District 6 City Councilperson Charlie Brown – Southeast
  • District 7 City Councilperson Christ Nevitt – South-Central (not term-limited, but running for auditor)
  • District 9 City Councilperson Judy Montero – Downtown, Northwest
  • District 10 City Councilperson Jeanne Robb – Capitol Hill, Central 
Dennis Gallagher, who is about to retire, was the top vote getter in 2011 when voter participation was 38 percent (113,367). Gallagher is the oldest elected person in Denver City government and the person most likely to take on the city’s power structure.

Mayor Michael Hancock
Denver remains a one-party town. Governor Hickenlooper received 74 percent of the vote and Mark Udall 71 percent while they barely winning or losing statewide (Hickenlooper 49%, Udall 46%). The only two non-Democrats on City Council are term-limited: Jeanne Faatz (Republican) and Charlie Brown (unaffiliated).

Mayor Michael Hancock is unopposed as of today. It is not uncommon to have unopposed candidates. In 2011, five candidates were unopposed: Charlie Brown, Peggy Lehman, Paul Lopez, Chris Nevitt and Jeanne Robb (there were a few write-in voters in several races).

City Council jobs pay more than $80,000 plus 30 percent in benefits. Elections often begin 12 years of office holding or more than a million dollars in salary and benefits. Denver elections are a serious jobs program.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Coffmans on a Roll

Mike and Cynthia Coffman were the power couple of the November election. Probably the only real surprise Election Night was Mike Coffman’s crushing defeat of Andrew Romanoff in the 6th Congressional District. A race that had been rated as possibly one of the closest in the country ended with a 9-point win and 8,500-vote advantage in Arapahoe County.

But Cynthia Coffman orchestrated an even larger 10-point win over former DA Don Quick for Attorney General. Her statewide vote total of 1,002,000 was second only to Governor Hickenlooper’s re-election total (4,000 votes behind) and the only other million vote winner.

Mike becomes the frontrunner in speculation for the U.S. Senate race. After a couple of years, if successful, Cynthia can consider a full range of options, including governor, the U.S. House or otherwise.
Mike and Cynthia Coffman

Colorado Competitive, California Boring

Colorado politics have been swinging back and forth with the national trends since the Barack Obama victory in 2008, including both Republican resurgences in the 2010 and today’s midterm (see Denver Post articles).

But California has steadily resisted the national oscillation, and the home of Reagan and Nixon is now firmly in the Democratic camp. It makes for boring; i.e., non competitive, elections. Democrats control the governorship, both senate seats, most of the congressional delegation, all statewide offices and have near super majorities in the legislature.

California’s best pollster, Mark DiCamillo, director of The Field Poll, explains why in a new article, which he will present at the Pacific Chapter of the American Association of Public Opinion Research on December 12, 2014 in San Francisco.

See Opinion Today: California the exception in a nation increasingly voting Republican