Friday, March 27, 2015

Fracking Still a Problem for Democrats

Americans are divided over hydraulic fracturing. The latest Gallup poll shows 40 percent favor the process and 40 percent oppose it. The parties are polarized, with 66 percent of Republicans supporting it but only 26 percent of Democrats. More than half of Democrats oppose it (54%), but only 20 percent of Republicans.

The problem for Democrats is that their leadership does not agree with the rank and file. They favor it. The most dramatic example of the disconnect was last summer and fall when Colorado Democratic leaders, led by Governor Hickenlooper, strongly opposed ballot initiatives seen as fracking bans.

Very likely if one or more anti-fracking initiatives were proposed in 2016, Democratic leaders would again oppose them. They are currently attempting to design compromises that will address the issues of many opponents. But, given the public division and extreme anti-hydrocarbon advocacy groups in- and out-of-state, it seems unlikely a compromise is possible or a ballot issue can be avoided.

Iranian-U.S. Deal Days Away

The betting is that the Obama administration will declare a deal with Iran by March 31, even if it is a very rickety “framework.” After resets with Russia, Red Lines with Syria, a decimated al Qaeda and a “JV” Isis, the administration has run out of friends who will excuse errors or opportunities to declare big wins 21 months before departure – This is it!

The administration has been busy countering opposition, especially from Israel and Republicans, and applying carrots and steaks with Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been a special problem for the administration. His audacious and high-profile speech, with the administration’s petulance helping heighten it’s visibility and drama, was a major blow. And, Obama’s clear hostility to Netanyahu’s re-election and now “reassessment” of the relationship indicates just how important the Iranian deal is to him and the Israeli relationship is not.

It’s questionable if Obama can on his own reassess or rearrange the alliance with Israel. The New York and California Democratic delegations will, along with the establishment of the party, have views on that. But it is useful carrot for Iran. And the Senate’s insistence on reviewing the agreement can be considered a stick. Sanctions are not going away without a generally perceived good deal.

Since it still appears Iran wants this deal, expect late movement to provide sufficient justification for a round of drinks in Geneva.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Obama Goes All In – Stress for Former New York Senator

President Obama is forcing the American Jewish community to pick sides. Go with their historic allegiance with the Democratic Party and their liberal values or support their Zionist sentiments and the newly re-elected Likud government.
Hillary Clinton

If the elite conversation is an accurate referent, Democrats will hold their majority, but Speaker Boehner and the Republicans may get a bigger share of Jewish supporters then they have had in recent years. New York politicians, including former Senator Hillary Clinton, are going to be hard-pressed to show their difference with Obama’s war-like stance toward Prime Minister Netanyahu. The passion of the administration’s response reinforces the observation that the White House is better at opposing former allies than old enemies.

Bibi is Back; Democrats Not Happy

Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist campaign prevailed in a close race that appeared to be trending
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu
away from him the last week. Netanyahu went into full campaign mode, telling his Likud voters that all was lost unless they turn out. He shifted to the right in rejecting a two-state solution and warning that Arab voter turnout was a threat.

By 9:00 pm (MST), it was clear the final polls and the exit polls were wrong. Bibi was going to win a four-to-six seat victory over the center left Zionist Union Party.

Most U.S. media outlets, from New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, to CNN and Fox, stayed with the exit polls even though Wikipedia had a live feed, which by 8:00 pm (MST) showed Likud with 24 percent of the vote (they ended up with 23.2% compared to 18.7% for the Zionist Union).

Democrats, from President Obama to Secretary of State Kerry to Minority Leader Pelosi, aren’t happy. Obama and the administration now have an even tougher opponent. Not only did Netanyahu accuse the administration of working against him (i.e., opponents in the West financing his local opposition), but he moved to the right as he apparently secured a stronger coalition. All conditions unlikely to generate a rapprochement.

Polling in multi-party races with the top two parties receiving less than half the vote means that simple margin of error, much less any specific polling flaws, accounts for much of the variation. In addition, while Jewish voters have a philosophical disposition, their parties tend to come and go; i.e., party loyalty is less a factor and a less useful predicator.

Exit pollsters specifically mentioned the low cooperation from what appeared to be more conservative voters and the fact they quit polling early as explaining some of their failure to catch the Likud surge.

Most interesting was the strategic voting driven by polling. The polls clearly motivated Netanyahu and Likud strategists to switch from appearing as frontrunner to likely losers. The goal being to draw other conservative parties’ votes to Likud. Also, many individual voters seeing the late polls showing the Zionist Union winning independently decided to support Likud to put them over the top. Evidence for this came from media interviews with voters.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

City Council Forum Spotlights Some Differences

The five candidates running for District 10 city council did well at a recent forum, sponsored by Cherry Creek business community. They stayed within the time limits, of which a couple of rounds were one-minute answers, and they had well-thought-out answers to the basic business area questions of parking, traffic and growth.

Chris Chiari
Anna Jones
Travis Leiker
Wayne New
Chris Cornell Wedor
As a district that centers on Capitol Hill and runs from County Club to Colfax, perspectives are mostly left of center to far left on socio-economic issues, but seemingly more moderate on jobs and growth.
The growth issue mostly elicited generic statements about balance, but there is little doubt these candidates are hearing complaints about congestion, density and rapid development. However, in the heart of the District’s business community, they low-keyed the “us vs. them” rhetoric heard in some forums.
It was the two one-minute questions that elicited some of the most insight for business-oriented voters. The candidates were asked about raising the minimum wage and possibly setting it at the Seattle rate of $15.00. If it can be raised, these candidates are raising it, and one candidate believes $15.00 is acceptable. There was no reference to trade-offs with jobs or competition with suburbs or other metro areas.
Marijuana commercialization did highlight some differences, and the sharpest and most aggressive response of the session. Generally, views ranged from concern (impact on children) to aforementioned passionate defense.
Contrary to the Democratic legislative leadership, this group of aspiring Denver officeholders would support the construction defects bill. They see the current law as an impediment to building affordable housing
District 10 will be represented by a very articulate councilperson, regardless of who wins.
  • An aggressive anti-growth bias was not expressed – it may have been masked – every candidate expressed recognition of the city’s economic strengths and Cherry Creek’s contribution to it.
  • The “economic justice” argument and the policies that operationalize it; e.g., minimum wage, living wage, etc., is accepted with few doubts, reservations or concerns expressed about trade-offs.
  • Marijuana has its advocates, but there is caution. The industry may be at a point beyond repeal, but its commercial path will not be without resistance.
It’s possible District 10 will be the election’s most expensive race, doubling or more the current $250,000 of total contributions.

Chicago – Mayoral Election April 7

Mayor Rahm Emanuel will win a substantial re-election victory against Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the April 7 runoff unless there is a major change in voter sentiment captured by recent polls.

A local pollster, Ogden and Fry, use no undecided option in some versions, and has Emanuel running at least 10 points ahead, at or above 50 percent with more than 15 percent of voters claiming to be undecided.

Emanuel wanted to avoid a runoff, but he fell short of the 50 percent needed at the Feb. 24 runoff (46%) and Garcia came in second with 34 percent.

The runoff itself was unprecedented for an incumbent Chicago mayor and a product of some local issues: Emanuel is not an easy politician to like, the teachers union fighting budget cuts and the general austerity associated with balancing budgets in big cities. But, national liberal forces and union groups thought they could use another municipal election, like New York, to take control, or at least redirect, the Democratic Party. They appear to have failed.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Elections in 2015

There are a host of elections in 2015 that could have significant effect on foreign affairs and the world economy.
  • Stress in the EU –Greek election in January goes to anti-austerity far left. It may begin the disassembling of the great European experiment in unity.
  • The Island – Great Britain is losing its two-party tradition. Scottish separatists and anti-EU and anti-immigration parties may have veto.
  • Middle East – Israel extends Prime Minister Netanyahu’s mandate. But, Israel’s position is becoming more tenuous due to world opinion support for a Palestinian state.
  • Africa – Nigeria, an important but fragmented country, delays its February election to March 28 due to security issues. President Goodluck Jonathan, a southern Nigerian Christian, runs for re-election in a divided country with an active insurgency.