Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Clinton Expects to End Contest March 1st Super Tuesday

KOA anchors Steffan Tubbs and April Zesbaugh hosted a discussion of Hillary Clinton’s latest foray into Colorado in advance of the March 1st caucus. In 2008, Clinton lost the Colorado caucus to candidate Barack Obama, highlighting his strategy of focusing on low turnout caucuses that young people and liberals could dominate.

Former Sen. Mark Udall introduces Hillary Clinton
 at organizing event at Boulder Theater on Nov. 24
Photo: Pat Duncan/Colorado Statesman
Clinton doesn’t intend on losing to Bernie Sanders in 2016.
  • Although Clinton dominates the race as of the end of November in terms of polling support (55% Clinton to 27% Sanders in Colorado, Quinnipiac poll, Nov. 2015), the measure of command of the nomination is about to shift to delegate counts. The March 1st Super Tuesday will, if all goes according to Clinton’s plan, create such a sweep of momentum to make her nomination a forgone conclusion. She hopes to win the four February events, demonstrating national support and early momentum. But, it is the eleven events on March 1st with a powerful southern tilt that could well crush Sanders.

Also events on March 1st in American Samoa and for Democrats abroad.
  • Clinton came to Colorado for endorsements and contributions. She got both; Wellington Webb is leading the caucus rally and many of the state’s current and ex-public officials have endorsed (Mark Udall, Ken Salazar, Jared Polis, Dickey Lee Hullinghorst). About 700 of the 4,000 Democratic delegates are automatic so-called super delegates. Clinton plans to have most of them by March.
  • Although terrorism is the issue de jure (when she was here on August 4 her focus was criticizing Jeb Bush on immigration and Republicans for defunding Planned Parenthood), it is not a strong issue for Democrats. And indeed, she kept focused on social and environmental positions, favored by liberals and young voters – for example, gun control and global warming. Clinton’s challenge is not a lack of appeal to the basic liberal sentiments of potential caucus attendees, but their passion and motivation to attend.
  • Basically, Clinton represents the old Democratic establishment anxious to hold on to power and the presidency, hardly an aspiring message. Clinton attracted about a 1,000 supporters to each of the two events: one in Denver and one in Boulder. In Bernie Sanders’ two Colorado visits, he attracted 9,000 in Boulder and 5,000 at DU – 5-to-1 is probably about the enthusiasm level between the two candidates at the grassroots.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Immigration May Decide the Republican Nominee

The Republican debates have repeatedly highlighted candidate differences on immigration and the Paris attack placed Syrian refugees on the front page. The issue may decide who is the Republican nominee. The candidates are making clear there is little room for any nuance. This is partially a reflection of the public’s visceral reaction to the Paris massacre, but it also expresses the long-established Republican rank and file hostility to America’s immigration policy.

A poll in the last week shows a majority of Americans opposing accepting Syrian refugees, which corresponded to more than half the states’ governors stating they wouldn’t accept any. Their authority on the issue is not clear, but the politics is clearly controversial for most politicians and has a litmus test quality for Republicans.
  • 56% of the public nationally disapprove of accepting Syrian refugees; 81% of Republicans, 59% of independents (NBC News SurveyMonkey, Nov. 2015)
  • The public is closely divided on the question of building a fence along the entire U.S.-Mexican border (46% favor, 48% oppose), but Republicans are overwhelmingly in favor (73%).
U.S. immigration policy’s linkage with terrorism may give Republicans an advantage with an issue that had considerable downside risk with both immigrant populations and more reasonable voters who can support a path to citizenship if accompanied with sufficient conditions.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Act of War

Not since President George W. Bush in 2001 has the world heard the term “act of war” as frequently as it has since Friday’s Paris massacre. President Obama rejected the war terminology and banned it in his first year of office. The War on Terror became a criminal justice activity in America and a special ops strategy to attack specific terrorist cells and networks abroad. Further, the administration refuses to label various perpetrators of terror and the leaders of the ISIS Islamic terrorists.

Obama’s statement of sympathy after the attacks highlights his philosophy of a narrow engagement with ISIS. He made no reference to Islam and offered to support the French “bringing the terrorists to justice” and go after terrorist networks and help on investigations.

It appears his approach is being swept aside by the horrific events and leaders, both foreign and domestic, who intend on a more aggressive response to ISIS.

President Obama’s Final Foreign Policy Moves Not Scoring Any Points

As Barack Obama’s presidency ends, his foreign policy accomplishments are becoming increasingly muddled. Events and politics are undermining his goal to reduce the American military involvement and depend on diplomacy. The Paris attack is just the latest and most serious blow. A quick scan of world hotspots highlights Obama’s problems.

Ukraine. Although a fragile cease fire is holding in Ukraine, mostly due to Russian interest in maintaining it, pressure is building from regional allies to step up NATO’s ability to counter Russia’s newly honed skill at disrupting neighbors with a so-called “hybrid war.” The long-term trend of reducing troops in Europe is now in reverse as men, war materials and exercises with NATO partners increase.

Although Obama has kept the U.S. out of arming Ukraine and provided only minimal assistance, pressure is building to do more. And while it is unlikely Obama will change policy, the next administration may. The momentum is for more action, not less. President Putin has shown himself as an effective opportunist. His military is getting stronger and his aggressive nationalism is playing well at home.

Asia. The administration pivoted to engage China where possible and counter it where needed. But China is a difficult power to manage. As the recent naval exchange in the South China Sea around China’s manmade islands make clear, America’s basic role in ensuring navigation and protecting allies is being threatened, and neither President Xi Jinping nor his military is likely to change the direction they are on. It will be a major challenge for the next administration.

Middle East. Obama was hoping his signature legacy would be the so-called rightsizing the U.S. commitment, especially removing military from Iraq and Afghanistan. It is in the Middle East that Obama’s preference to treat terrorism as a criminal problem and not a war was most visible. But events and politics are disrupting his approach in nearly every area:
  • Iran: The nuclear agreement is his signature policy. It contains Obama’s desire to change policy direction, use diplomacy, engage allies and achieve a laudable goal. But the agreement doesn’t have domestic support, and as Iran’s recent rhetoric and behavior makes clear, they have no intention in opening the country up to Western influence or especially Americans or dampening their regional support for Shia-inspired conflict.
  • Libya: An effort to help allies and protect a people without follow-up has left a failed state and a platform for Jihadists.
  • Israel and Palestine: No real progress and an alienated Israel leadership.
  • Iraq: Withdraw completed in December 2011, but in September 2014 had to re-introduce air power and a few support troops to fight Sunni army that filled the vacuum of power. Little progress after the year of militarization.
  • Syria: After proclaiming Assad must go did little to encourage it when it might have helped. Obama finally adopted a policy of training and arming an army of anti-ISIL moderates, which spectacularly failed. ISIL took advantage of the vacuum and now Russia props up Assad and makes war on both so-called moderate anti-Assad forces and ISIL.
  • Afghanistan: Afghanistan is where Obama reluctantly accepted military advice for a surge of troops, but added a withdrawal date. The mission is generally not going well and a small number (probably insufficient) of troops will remain.
Even before the Paris tragedy, the domestic criticism from Republicans and some Democrats is as heavy, if not as lethal, as the shooting in the field. As this scan indicates, Obama’s foreign policy goals are mostly under attack from foreign actors who do not share his or America’s goals and values and do not play by his rules. There have been some highlights and he has a few more goals, such as closing the Guantanamo facility, but he will be mostly playing defense the next twelve months.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hillary Clinton Takes Command of Democratic Nomination

Nine days in October from the Democratic debate on October 13 through the Benghazi hearing on October 22, Hillary Clinton took command of the nomination of the Democratic Party.

Her steady performance in the two events won plaudits and the ending of Joe Biden’s shadow campaign extinguished the doubts that had come to overshadow the campaign from its April start through the summer and fall e-mail controversy.

Endorsements, many of whom are Democratic convention super delegates (Clinton claims more than 400 on road to 2,250 needed), and campaign contributions, which are now rolling into the campaign and her super PAC ($30 million in last reporting period; total through June - $98 million, $20 million in super PAC). Her polling position is well above half the Democratic Party voters nationally and she is now even with Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, the only early state he had registered a lead.

Of course, Clinton still has an outstanding investigation, but that is hardly a new phenomenon for the Clintons. Republicans should not depend on it to derail her nomination.

See Gallup: Democrats’ positive views of Clinton improve after debate

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Challenge to Their Survival

Keith Coffman in a Reuters post-Colorado recall election story points out that the Jefferson County recall election involved a host of issues beyond just the Board’s perceived anti-union approach. Although the loss of union control in a well-off suburban school district was a “challenge to their survival,” I pointed out in that the large margin of the recall victory “showed there was wider discontent with the trio’s performance” (the school board’s conservative majority).

In an effort to reverse school reform (a word in some controversy) in Colorado, the national and local teachers union orchestrated a statewide counterattack on conservative board members and picked up seats in the Douglas County, Adams 12, Colorado Springs 11, Steamboat Springs, Mesa and Greeley. They took back control of Thompson School District in Loveland.

Republican Contest has Two Tiers, But No Resolution

Two very identifiable tiers have been established in the Republican nomination field: Donald Trump and Ben Carson in the lead, followed by Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both of whom benefited from their CNBC debate performances.

But Republicans, especially the very power establishment, remain unconvinced that Carson can either go the distance or has the depth to be the nominee, and Trump’s ad hoc campaign and lack of a predictable philosophy causes considerable anxiety.

Talk has begun that no candidate gets much more than 30 percent of the delegates, and there could be the feistiest brokered convention since 1948 and the Dewey nomination (3 ballots).