Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Immigration: Presidential Action, But a Divided Public

In the most important poll tested and talking point-ready policy of his second term, President Obama used his executive authority to provide millions of illegal immigrants a temporary safe status. They will be able to apply for work permits, driver licenses and basic documents.

In a ten minute TV address (covered live on 9KUSA but not the network), the President made his best case. In follow-up analysis, Brandon Rittiman and I discussed the politics:
  • In a speech better prepared than his last TV address on September 10 announcing the beginning of the “war” against ISEL, Obama took the controversial step that has long been promised and repeatedly delayed due to the politics. But, Obama believes action is better than no action to prove his relevance and lift the Democratic Party out its post-November 4th funk. His recent actions on climate change, net neutrality and now immigration reform displays him as a leader and not a lame duck.
  • The policy obviously rallies the progressive wing of his party and further cements its relationship with the Hispanic community, especially activists and elected officials (Hispanics gave Democrats 63% of their votes in midterm election according to exit polls). The degree of its long-term benefit assumes the Hispanic vote grows a percentage of the electorate and continues to vote Democratic. 
  • Republicans are divided in a response and, in spite of the fact that they will control both sides of the Hill next January, their options are either weak or vulnerable to appearing extreme. Lawsuits are slow and lack drama. The shutdown and impeachment wing of the party continue to agitate for the most harsh measures, offering controversial options for an issue the public relates as secondary. Establishment leaders and the party’s consulting class want to avoid hostility with Hispanics while countering the President’s order. Expect more emphasis on the executive order than the substances of the proposal.
  • In a change of pace for an Administration not known for smooth rollouts of initiatives, Obama had an answer for all the expected Republican counters such as its amnesty (what we have now is amnesty, this is accountability), it will lead to gridlock (this shouldn’t lead to a shutdown or stop us from other deals), it’s unconstitutional (other presidents have done it, this is a limited program).
  • The program clearly has risks. Indeed, recent polls confirm that an unpopular president unilaterally deciding a controversial initiative starts in a very weak position.
    • After the political disaster of November 4, Obama remains at 42 percent and his party is now in polls behind Republicans on handling a number of issues, including immigration.
    • A plurality of the public oppose executive action by the president on immigration. 
    • Amnesty is hard to define, but easy to label on immigration policy. The public supports a path to citizenship, but it requires conditions, and even then, a passionate opposition continues.
    • The public claims it voted November 4 against gridlock and the Democrats’ contribution to it. This act will clearly exasperate it. 
Colorado is one swing state where the Hispanic vote is very important. Needless to say, Michael Bennet supports the President’s policy.

How this plays out is unclear, but Obama and his fellow Democrats have finally taken a position. The President is convinced that alone is a victory that will set the stage for more.

Transcript: Obama’s immigration speech
New York Times: Hispanic voters are important for Republicans, but not indispensable
Washington Post: Understanding how Americans feel about immigration, in 7 easy charts
USA Today: Poll: Resistance to Obama order on immigration
Washington Post: This summer, support for a path to legalization dipped badly. It’s bounced back.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The ACA – A Problem for Both Parties

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) still does not have majority support from Americans. Numerous polls show it approximately tracks President Obama’s approval of 40 percent. And, approval hasn’t changed significantly since passage in 2010.

With a new Republican majority in the Senate and the latest controversy from one of the academic architects loudly admitting design and promotion in 2009 and 2010 was strongly influenced by a deliberate strategy of deception, the ACA has never been more vulnerable. The latest Gallup poll has approval at 37 percent, an all-time low. In fact, the only thing stopping a repeal reaching the President next year is the Senate’s 60-vote rule that can keep bills from being considered (such as the Keystone Pipeline).

The ACA was far more important as a voting decision to Republicans than Democrats in the midterm election (Republicans 64% important to 42% for Democrats) and only 8 percent of Republicans approve the act vs. 72 percent of Democrats.

So, Republicans are safe within their party to oppose it and advocate repeal, but the country is highly divided on the government’s responsibility to provide coverage for all (51% no, 45% yes) and there is only modest support (less than 30 percent) for repeal.

Gallup: As New Enrollment Period Starts, ACA Approval at 37%
Gallup: Majority Say Not Gov’t Duty to Provide Healthcare for All
Pew Research: ACA at Age 4: More disapproval than approval
Pew Research: More Republicans see health care stance as “very important” to midterm vote
9News: Obamacare’s future amid new controversy

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Pipeline Vote Shows Every Senate Seat Counts

To pass the Keystone Pipeline out of the Senate during the interim session, supporters, which now include Senator Landrieu of Louisiana, needed 60 votes. Senator Bennet joined 12 fellow Democrats (plus Landrieu), which got them to 59. It failed.

One reason Senator Reid is so intent on saving the Landrieu seat even though he is now the Minority Leader regardless is that Democrats in the next session want Republicans to have to find seven votes not six.

Currently, Mitch McConnell has 53 Republican seats next January. Landrieu losing to a Republican gives him 54, or only 6 short, to send legislation to President Obama.

Of course, with a presidential veto, Republicans need 69 votes to override – a much tougher number to reach.

Bennet is on Deck in 2016

Now that Colorado has reestablished its swing state status after the November 4 split decision, speculation has started concerning first term Senator Michael Bennet’s re-election prospects.

The Hill newspaper published an early review of Bennet’s circumstances. There are several factors that point to his initial advantages going into the election:
  • Voter turnout will be up to presidential levels. The 2 million this year will balloon to 2.7 or 2.8 million. Many of the less frequent voters lean Democratic.
  • Bennet works his Washington and Senate networks for maximum advantage. He’s substantially less publicity shy than Mark Udall. It’s assumed he’ll be ready with a powerful resume and a substantial war chest. 
  • The Republican bench in Colorado is thin if current officeholders are the main prospective candidates. Congressman Coffman and State Treasurer Stapleton may not be interested. Stapleton looks more to the governorship in 2018 and Coffman would not necessarily get the field clearing effort by major donors and Republican leaders that Cory Gardner received.
But there are several factors that point to a tough race for Bennet:
  • The Democratic nominee for president and Democratic senators up for re-election will likely be running with a very unpopular president. Historically, passing on the presidency to the same party after an unpopular president is difficult.
  • It is far from clear Washington and especially Congress will be in any better graces with the public in 2016 than today. In any event, maneuvering the gridlock and partisanship will produce votes that will test the most agile politician. 
Bennet’s recent vote in favor of the Keystone Pipeline was understandable given his previous position on the issue and responsibility for vulnerable Democratic senators, like Mary Landrieu, but it upset grassroot environmental Democrats. There will be many votes over the next two years that produce conflict between trying to find agreements with Republicans and the interests of Democratic core constituencies.

Also see Washington Times:  Colorado Republicans claim biggest legislative win

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Republicans Rule Statewide Offices

Midterm elections have been good for Republicans running for Colorado statewide constitutional offices. Appointed incumbent Democrats were beaten in the 2010 midterms and three credible candidates crushed in the 2014 election.

It appears Cynthia Coffman was nearly the state’s highest vote getter, being beaten by the governor by only about 700 votes.

Safe Democratic Congresspersons Stay Safe in Midterm Elections

Colorado’s three most Democratic congressional seats don’t vary much in midterm elections compared to presidential years. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter’s margins have remained the same in the recent midterm and presidential elections. Interestingly, the redistricting changes from 2010 to 2012 when compared to 2014 don’t appear to make much of a difference in the final numbers even though there were changes in the geography of two of the districts.

The statewide percentage vote leader was Ken Buck with 65 percent. Even with Mike Coffman’s substantial win over Andrew Romanoff (9 points), Coffman had the lowest re-election percentage of the seven districts at 51 percent. In general, with the exception of Coffman’s 6th CD, Colorado congressional candidates all won by double-digits.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Coffman Sweep

As the first November 4th returns were reported, it was clear Congressman Mike Coffman was winning a huge victory. His early lead in Arapahoe County doomed Andrew Romanoff and led 9KUSA to call the race early (and first). Coffman ultimately carried Arapahoe by 8,500 votes. He won all three of his district’s counties, and by a final total of nine points.

In a race that was considered one of the closest in the county earlier in the year, where both candidates had ample financing, Romanoff was completely crushed at the end. This result was not just a product of a bad year, while Romanoff was losing Arapahoe County by more than 8,000 votes. Mark Udall carried the county by 3,000 votes and John Hickenlooper won it with 18,000.