Monday, October 20, 2014

Independents Could Decide Colorado’s Senate Race

The percentage of voters registering independent (unaffiliated in Colorado) or stating their independent status to pollsters has surged in recent years. It is a reflection of America’s dissatisfaction with government and belief that both parties are to blame.

Independents are now the largest bloc of voters in Colorado. From Barack Obama’s first election to today’s midterm, unaffiliated voter registration in Colorado has increased 40 percent.

Today, 37 percent of registered voters are unaffiliated. However, they are an even larger bloc of inactive voters. They tend to vote less frequently.

Normally, in polls of likely voters they are the smallest group in the sample, typically between a quarter and 30 percent. Because of Colorado’s population growth since 2008, overall voter registration has increased more than 411,000 voters.

Repeal Marijuana Legalization?

Marijuana, which had not been an issue in the governor’s race largely because both candidates did not support legalization, suddenly became part of the conflict during last Thursday’s Fort Collins Channel 9KUSA debate.

From a question by Brandon Rittiman, KUSA’s political reporter, Republican candidate Bob Beauprez said he believes marijuana has a deleterious effect on young people and he would support repeal. Governor John Hickenlooper was more cautious and said repeal was not called for at this point.

Recent polling appears to show some deterioration in pubic support for legalization. Only 50 percent of Colorado voters support it and less than half (42%) approve the state’s effort at regulation.

Democrats, including Hickenlooper and Senator Mark Udall, have been recipients of marijuana industry campaign contributions and Congressman Jared Polis is a high-profile advocate of federal legalization.

It is not clear the issue will move any voters. Coloradans are closely divided on the legalization and commercialism of marijuana. But, a repeal has not had a public discussion. Does Beauprez win votes as the most anti-marijuana candidate, does he lose libertarian Republicans, does he attract late money to oppose him from the pot industry or is the issue of low interest and little affect?

See:
Washington Times: Colorado governor slams marijuana legalization, then takes pot lobby donations
9News: Should Colorado repeal legal marijuana?

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Economist: High, Tolerant and Republican?

The top reporters for the Economist don’t receive bylines, but Lauren Schuker Blum replaced Tom Nuttall, who is now writing the regular European commentary (Charlemagne) from Brussels.

She asks and attempts to answer the question that frames the 2014 Colorado election: How does a state that has behaved so liberally the last half decade appear to be treating its top Democrats so poorly in their re-election?

President Obama’s unpopularity after just winning the state substantially in 2012 is the top reason, along with Republican challenger Cory Gardner’s “Mona Lisa smile” and well-run campaign.

Incumbent Mark Udall, following the Democratic Party’s 2014 playback, has attempted to show his independence from Obama, but Republicans have been relentlessly arguing that Udall sides with the President “99 percent” of the time.

The Democratic attack that has become tiresome is that Gardner is an extremist due to his pro-life position.  The “war on women” ads are so repetitive and harsh that they not only seem to have lost affect, but are producing a backlash of criticism.

However, Udall’s biggest vulnerability may be – after a 16-year career in office (Colorado State House starting in 1996, four terms in the U.S. House) – it’s hard to identify his signature issue.

Critics say Mr. Udall’s negative campaign reflects his lack of accomplishments. He comes from an old political family: his father ran for president in 1976, and his cousin is a US senator from New Mexico. But “the problem is that Udall just hasn’t done a whole lot,” says Mr. Ciruli, the pollster. This is not fair. He is the best golfer in Congress. He is also a reliable eco-warrior, voted against the Patriot Act because of his belief in privacy and battled with the NSA over its spying on Americans. On the campaign trail he stresses his love of civil liberties and independence from Mr. Obama.

Colorado’s Two Parties

Real Clear Politics has proposed a new index to measure strength of the two parties nationally by aggregating election results and creating an index showing the partisan control of the presidency, Congress and the states; i.e., governors and legislators.

A slightly modified version in Colorado shows the parties in close competition and, although Democrats are exercising more control due to their holding the governorship, both senators and a majority in the legislature, Republicans have an advantage in raw numbers due to their majority of county commissioners.

In recent elections, John Hickenlooper received 51 percent of the 2010 vote for governor and Michael Bennet received 48 percent of the vote for U.S. Senate. The 2012 total congressional vote was 1,076,000 for the Democrats and 1,143,000 for the Republicans. And, of course, President Obama won the state twice, with 54 percent and 52 percent in 2008 and 2012, respectively.

Republicans have considerable clout at the county level. They dominate county commissionerships nearly two-to-one and have near complete control of many top counties with Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa and Weld. Democrats control Adams, Boulder and Pueblo. Denver is a municipal/county hybrid of “non-partisans” in which Democrats rule. Democrats tend to have somewhat more influence in large municipalities, but the officials are described as non-partisan.

Bottom line is that Democrats, due to a strong campaign application and Obama’s popularity have dominated top positions since 2006 in Colorado, but that Republicans maintain a strong platform to keep Colorado competitive in 2014 and in the next presidential election.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Udall Machine

The Udall for Senate campaign intends on overcoming a bad Democratic year and any weaknesses in controlling the narrative with the vaunted Democratic turnout machine on steroids.

This accelerated effort began in 2013 when Democrats in control of the legislature enacted universal mail-back voting. All 2.9 million active registered voters (and you can register even on Election Day) will receive a mail-back ballot replacing the old system of ballots only mailed to voters requesting them in partisan elections. Hence, the expected 2.1 million votes by November 4 could be substantially larger.

To achieve this improved system, aspects of the Michael Bennet campaign 2010 machine (which helped pull out a 30,000-vote victory in a horrendous Democratic year) were merged with the 2012 Obama campaign’s use of big data, massive in-depth polling and sophisticated algorithms.

And then the Udall campaign added more of everything. Voila, the new super turnout machine.

Can relentless turnout efforts make up for “Democrats in trouble” narrative that is now dominant?


Universal Mail-back Voting Starts Today

Ballots are being mailed. Voting will start today. The Colorado Secretary of State reports all active voters will be sent a ballot. At least 2.1 million voters will send back their ballots, but with the convenience of mail-back ballots and active campaign solicitations, expect a major increase above 2 million. Which party benefits the most?


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Glass Ceiling Coming Down

9KUSA’s Cheryl Preheim reports that the modest numbers of women in political office is changing. Colorado’s in the forefront and younger voters the driving force.

Ciruli expects the number of women in the highest political offices to go up because local numbers are growing.

“It is your county commissioners and mayors and city council people who become your legislators,” Ciruli said.

In Colorado, women hold 30 percent of those local municipal offices.

While women don’t hold any of the highest state offices, like governor or attorney general, the Colorado State Legislature has the highest percentage of women of any state with 41 percent.

Ciruli says the day when the country is closer to a 50/50 representation at all levels of government is getting closer. He says the millennial generation will play a part in that shift.

“Our sense from those younger voters is that they feel it is time for the glass ceilings to come down and more women to be in those roles,” he said. “I think it’s coming. It’s just sort of a question of a little bit of practice and change of attitude.”

See The Buzz: Women in politics