Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Pink Tide Recedes?

Even as Castro’s Cuba achieves recognition and overtures of friendship from its longtime capitalist adversary, the left wing tide of governments of Latin America, which surged in the last decade, appear to be receding. Stagnant economies, spectacular scandals and increasing authoritarian measures are diminishing their support among workers, students, and financial and media elites.

Although the circumstances of the Latin left are different in each country, they have generally been united in their socialist orientation, anti-American rhetoric and preference for non-Western trade and diplomacy.

Not every left-leaning government is in crisis; however, the main players are in trouble – Argentina, Brazil and especially Venezuela. With commodity prices in decline and easy money tightening, the Latin left’s economic model may have hit its high point in the latest cycle of socialist ascendance. And, although the Cuban regime is receiving a short-term bump in survivability, the one-party socialist system will be severely challenged with the growth of American money and visitors in Cuba.

U.S. vs. Cuba – Finite

How quickly 50 years of enmity has subsided. Recognition announced December 17, 2014, and on April 10, 2015, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama shake hands and sit down for the first substantial meeting in more than 50 years.

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuba's President Raul
Castro at the Summit of the Americas on April 10, 2015 in Panama City
(Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
As opposed to many of President Obama’s recent foreign policy initiatives, the rapprochement with Cuba was immediately welcomed by Americans who believed the policy of isolation had failed.
Although there are dissident voices on the U.S.’s shift on Cuba due to the island’s continued record of human rights abuse, even the majority of Cuban Americans, who left Cuba due to the Castro regime or are the decedents of that tenth of Cuba’s population, approve the opening of relations with Cuba.
Polls since the December decision confirm both Americans and Cuban Americans support the change in relationship.
Still, recent polls show the public divided on their views of Cuba with a favorable rating improving, but not yet half the public in positive territory (48% Gallup, Feb. 2015) and most people skeptical that the overtures will lead to more freedom for the Cuban people (60% about the same, 32% more democratic, Pew)

Most interesting due to the lack of data, a stealth poll just out from Cuba shows the island’s inhabitants may be the most famished for a new relationship.
  • 97% of Cubans interviewed believe normalization would be good for Cubans
  • 64% believe it will change the economic system, but 54% believe the political system will remain the same
  • 96% favor ending the embargo
  • 89% believe President Obama should visit Cuba
One tertiary benefit of the shift in American policy was the positive reception it received at the Summit of the Americas in Panama City, Panama. The meeting of 35 countries represented in the Organization of American States (OAS) was the first since Cuba’s 1962 expulsion (which the U.S. barely secured with opposition of six countries, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico) with both the U.S. and Cuba present. Even though the suspension of Cuba was lifted as soon as Obama took office (June 2009), Cuba refused to participate in the OAS.

Although regional Marxists still bemoan the slow pace of ending Cuba’s embargo and American capitalist-orientation; i.e., the use of trade and investment to promote open markets and civic space, in general, America’s position is enhanced in Latin America.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Comparing the Republican Field With Hillary Clinton

About 80 percent of the Colorado electorate are prepared to express a choice for president, and they are nearly equally divided between the Republican field and Hillary Clinton. In an early April Quinnipiac poll, Colorado voters placed Rand Paul as the top Republican challenger and Jeb Bush as the weakest in a field of seven candidates.

The following table shows the Republican candidates’ total support vs. Clinton’s placed in “( )” and the Republican support in each of the variables listed in a head-to-head with Clinton.

Paul vs. Clinton

Paul beat Clinton in the survey (44% to 41%) by capturing a larger percentage of Republicans (87%), two-fifths of the declared independents and the top percentage of men (50%) compared to in the field, similarly losing the least number of women to Clinton (38%) against the field.

A Clinton advantage against Paul and most of the Republican field is her hold on about 90 percent of Democrats. One exception is with Bush where she gets her lowest percentage (85%) and he picks up the largest share of Democrats (6%) among the Republican field. Bush tends to frighten Democrats less, but underperforms with Republicans. The gender gap is present, with Paul having a 15-point advantage with men but losing women by 7 points, the least in the field giving him an 8-point positive gap (the best among his fellow Republicans).

Bush vs. Clinton

A major reason for Bush’s last place position, along with him only receiving 81 percent of Republicans, was his gender gap numbers. Worse than losing women by 8 points was only winning men by 4 points, the lowest percentage in the field and 9 points below Paul, giving Bush a 4 point net gender deficit.

Among independent voters in this sample, the Republican field won them against Clinton by 5 points (Paul – 5, Christie – 4, Huckabee – 5, Walker – 7, Rubio – 3, Cruz – 5, Bush – 1). Bush’s losing independents by a point was another reason for the weak position in the field.

KOA Radio: Hillary Clinton is in the Race

April Zesbaugh and Steffan Tubbs on Monday morning at 6:41 am, the early drive time for Colorado's most powerful radio station, 850-KOA, launched their discussion with me on Hillary Clinton and her prospects for winning the 2016 presidency.
Steffan Tubbs & April Zesbaugh

I started with KOA with Election Night coverage in 1982, with a legendary voice of the Denver Bronco’s Bob Martin, who could read election results as expertly as football statistics.

Sports has always ruled Denver radio, but in the decade starting in the late 1980s, KOA, 9KUSA and the Rocky Mountain News used Ciruli Associate polls in joint programming of political coverage. Today, in spite of Colorado’s swing state status, political coverage is still not as important as sports and regular news, but political advertisings has made Denver’s media a valuable property. And consequently, elections have moved up on most stations’ programming.

Our most newsworthy item Monday morning was that Clinton’s handlers expect to raise and spend $1.5 to $2 billion dollars, double the 2012 Romney vs. Obama budget per candidate. A big number, and one reason why Colorado media is valuable.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hillary Clinton in Colorado

The Clintons have won one presidential election in Colorado and lost one. In 1992, Bill Clinton, with the help of Ross Perot, denied what should have been an easy G.H.W. Bush victory. Four years later, Colorado reverted to its long history of preferring Republican presidential candidates and gave Bob Dole the nod by less than 2 points, while Clinton was winning the presidency by 8 points.

But Barack Obama broke the Republican hold on Colorado presidential politics with two substantial wins in 2008 and 2012. At the presidential level, Colorado is now considered a top tier swing state, but for many observers, there is a slight Democratic presumption based on Democratic advantage in a higher presidential turnout and the party’s very strong campaign apparatus.

Although Hillary Clinton inherits that platform, she faces significant challenges. She lost the Democratic activists in 2008 as Obama won the state caucus with major turnout from young voters and liberals. The party’s Hispanic and more moderate caucus attitudes favored Clinton. She won Pueblo and Adams counties. Motivating the state’s younger, liberal and African American voters will be a challenge.

As Mark Barabak wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Colorado and the interior West has become more competitive between the parties not less. Early in the Obama administration, Democrats hoped Colorado, Arizona and Nevada would be solidly Democratic and Montana a swing state. As we approach 2016, all three of the former appears in play and Montana more solidly Republican.

Monday, April 13, 2015

LA Times: The West is “Back in Play”

Mark Barabak
Photo: LA Times
Mark Barabak, a top national reporter with the Los Angeles Times, wrote Sunday on the front page that, although Barack Obama was able to bring much of the West into the Democratic fold in his two elections, most of the states in the interior Rocky Mountains are now in play for the 2016 presidential election. He quotes a host of Colorado political players and observers:

Mike Stratton, Colorado native, longtime Democratic strategists:
“It [Obamacare] glommed onto a lot of fears people have in the West about federal intrusion,” said Mike Stratton, a native Coloradan and longtime Democratic strategist. “From there it became part of a larger narrative, about big government and the IRS and Obama supposedly coming to take away your guns.”

Paul Harstad, Colorado-based Democratic pollster, worked for Obama’s presidential campaign:
“It is the hysteria and distortions of the right-wing media and Koch brothers apparatus and Republican officeholders that have polarized and alienated some. This is the same crowd that blindly denies climate change, appeals to bias against minorities and gays, doubts Obama’s citizenship and legitimacy and often won't even affirm evolution.”

Dick Wadhams, former Colorado Republican Party chairman agreed:
“To win, he said, Republicans will have to nominate someone with greater appeal, especially among women and minorities, than John McCain or Mitt Romney, the party’s last two nominees.

‘We can win with the right kind of candidates,’ said Wadhams, who has fought within his party to expand the outreach to Latinos and other minorities and tone down some of the harsher rhetoric surrounding issues like immigration. ‘A candidate who represents the future, who can articulate a Republican agenda in a way that attracts voters and doesn’t repel them.’”

Governor Hickenlooper:
“Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who survived a tough 2014 reelection fight even as Republicans knocked off the state’s senior U.S. senator, Mark Udall, said the winner here will be the candidate who can best ‘navigate toward the middle,’ regardless of party.

‘We’re one-third Republican, one-third Democratic and one-third independent,’ he noted in an interview. ‘There’s a lot of negotiation that has to go on.’

That, Hickenlooper said, is how things work in the West.”

I was quoted saying:
“But even some defenders lay a portion of the blame on Obama and his policies, especially the enactment of sweeping healthcare legislation, which they said did more than anything to undermine his image as a less activist, more moderate style of Democrat – especially after the law’s botched rollout. Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan Denver pollster who has charted decades of Colorado public opinion, said Obama’s support collapsed during the fight over healthcare and, though he carried the state in his 2012 reelection campaign, never recovered.”

Friday, April 10, 2015

9KUSA – The 2016 Presidential Election has Official Competition

As of Tuesday, April 7, the 2016 presidential contest has two declared competitors: Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. And in Colorado on Tuesday, undeclared but actively campaigning candidate, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, was fundraising with gas and oil and other supporters.

Early returns from the declared candidates are mixed. Cruz raised a record sum from Super PACs in two weeks, $31 million, but he has since been overshadowed by the regular news and the sheer volume of prospective Republican candidates.

Photo: 9News
Rand Paul is still trying to explain his rapidly evolving foreign policy views. From his 2010 start in politics, he has represented the anti-war, anti-intervention sentiment among many Americans, especially young libertarians, his base. But events and the Obama administration’s foreign policy struggles have made the position untenable, especially in the Republican Party. Hence, Paul has shifted on Iranian negotiations, intervention against ISIS and foreign aid to Israel. And his explanations have included testy run-ins with the Washington cable news press corps.

Finally, in the busiest week in the nascent presidential campaign, reports indicate Hillary Clinton is on the cusp of her announcement for the Democratic nomination.

Colorado will continue to be a platform for aspiring nominees. It is a swing state with many passionate partisans who will work for candidates and help fund them.

Let the 2016 campaign begin!

See 9News: Campaigning for 2016 without a campaign