Friday, February 27, 2015

Argentina in Crisis

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner wanted to change Argentina’s constitution and run for a third term. Her government is now so disliked that she can’t consider a constitutional change and, as of today, would be unlikely to win a third term.

So the presidential election has started for a first round vote in October this year. Ms. Fernández has a 25 percent approval and most people (70%) believe that a state prosecutor, who was about to indict her and members of her government for obstructing an investigation, died from a suicide or assassination. A criminal indictment filed by a new prosecutor was dismissed by an Argentinian judge. She denies any involvement in the obstruction or death of the prosecutor, but the latest incident, along with a struggling commodities-dominated economy, has left her and her Peronist Party in trouble.

Public opinion in Latin America is regularly measured in the Americas Barometer. The latest edition shows increased polarization. A fifth of Argentinians rate President Fernández de Kirchner either “very good” or “very bad,” up from six percent in 2008.

Trust in governing institutions. Argentina tends to be among the low end of countries in terms of public trust in the executive (president) – 42%. The U.S. is also low (39%) and Venezuela is at the bottom of the list (36%).

Corruption. Argentina is ranked third from the top in public perception of corruption among Latin American countries. Venezuela is at the top.

Assessing Colorado’s Partisanship, Ideology and Support for President – A Swing Presidential State

Gallup has just released its annual report of the state-by-state partisanship, ideological leanings and President Obama’s approval rating. The following are among the observations:
  • President Obama’s overall 2014 approval was lower than 2013 by 4 point, 46% to 42%. In the West, Obama’s approval was highest in California (5th highest nationally) at 50%, and dead last in Wyoming at 19%, both nationally and in the West. Colorado came in as the 23rd most approving state, right at the President’s national average of 42%.
  • Democrats have a slight 4-point national advantage over Republicans in 2014. But 43% of Americans identify as independents, dramatically up since 2008 (35%). Democratic identities have shrunk the most in the last 6 years from 36% in 2008 to 30% today.
  • Republican partisan identifiers are down from 28% to 26%. When the public is pushed to identify which party they lean toward, Democrats win 45% to 42% over Republicans (in other words, only 13% of Americans truly don’t favor one party over the other). The rise of independents reflects both disenchantment with the performance of government and the growth of Millennial new voters, who tend to identify as independents, but in the Obama era, voted Democratic.
  • The country has been moving to the left on the liberal to conservative self-identification scale since Bill Clinton was elected in 1992. During those 22 years, liberals have gone from 17% of the population to 24%, an increase of 7 points, about 2 points in each presidency (Clint, Bush, Obama). However, conservatism still has 14 percentage points more adherents than liberal identifiers and has increased 2 points since 1992.
  • The percentage of Democrats claiming to be liberal has increased from 29% in 2000 to 44% in 2014. There has been little or no change in self-identified independents or conservatives calling themselves liberal. About 70% of Republicans have been calling themselves conservative since Obama’s election in 2008, an increase from 62% in 2000.
  • Conservatives were a quarter of the Democratic Party in 2000 and are now only 19%. Independents have become somewhat more conservative, up from 29% in 2000 to 33% in 2014. The major increase took place after Obama’s election in 2009.

Clinton Ahead by Less Than Margin of Error in Colorado

The latest Quinnipiac poll (February 2015) shows Hillary Clinton ahead of the Republican field, but among two candidates, Governor Scott Walker and Senator Rand Paul, her lead is within the margin of error. Both Walker and Paul, who poll well nationally in the crowded field, tend to span some of the divisions in the party. Walker appeals to establishment Republicans as a no-nonsense governor, evangelists due to his Baptist background, and Tea Party adherents with his gutsy anti-government union and cut spending Wisconsin record.

Paul’s attraction is more eclectic, but he has base of support among younger Republicans, libertarians and more liberal groups (both small). But he appears to attract more independent-type voters than many of his Republican colleagues.

Notice Clinton’s share of the vote doesn’t exceed 44 percent, leaving two to six points to be fought over (Hickenlooper received 49%, Udall 46% both in 2014; Obama in 2008 received 54% and 51% in 2012).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Public Ahead of President on “Boots on Ground”

On September 10, 2014, President Obama announced the campaign to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.” He was playing defense, not only against the sweeping victories of ISIS, but with the American people, who had decided weeks before it was time to take action and protect Americans. A flock of polls posted on September 9 showed that the public was already anxious for military action and that the President’s leadership was faulted as hesitant. Importantly for the future of the war effort, the public was skeptical that there was a credible plan for victory. (See blogs: Panic in the White House – Foreign Policy (9-15-14) and ISIS and the Midterm Elections – 9KUSA (9-16-14))

Now five months later, the public that was in September only in favor of bombing ISIS, have come to believe it will be necessary to have some troops engaged or, as the administration likes to claim will never happen, “boots on the ground.”

Three new polls show the public has shifted to support for some level of direct military intervention against ISIS. The most recent poll from CBS News (Feb. 13-17, 2015) shows a majority of the public (57%), including Democrats (50%) and independents (53%), want U.S. troops on the ground to fight ISIS. It reflects an increase of 18 percentage points since September 2014.

  • The poll also shows the public believes the congressional authorization for military action should be passed – 66%
  • ISIS campaign is not going well – 67%, 33% very poorly
  • ISIS threat is very serious – 65%
  • Airstrikes are supported – 77%, now up from 71% in October
Other recent polls show there is varying levels of support for concern about ground forces. Question wording affects results and, not surprising given recent experience, a majority of the public worry that it will lead to another long ground war.

CNN: Poll: Most disapprove of Obama handling of ISIS
NBC: Poll: 54% want Congress to Back Obama’s authorization against ISIS
Fox News: Poll: Terrorism, economy, love
Pew Research: Increased public support for the U.S. arming Ukraine

It’s Colorado’s Move on Water Planning – Denver Post

The Denver Post published a guest column on water planning, February 21, 2015.

Given the expected changes in the natural environment, the projected growth in residents and competition for water from downstream states, it is in the state’s interest to continue our collaborative planning process and arrive at workable solutions.

The full text follows:

Colorado State Water Plan a Top Priority

Colorado’s statewide water planning is overdue. California and Texas, the nation’s two largest states and users of Colorado headwaters, have moved well ahead of the state in planning and investment.

Both downstream states are facing major shortages. Texas voters, using a rainy day fund, approved a $2 billion bond with 20 percent reserved for conservation, 10 percent for rural areas and the remaining funds for investments in reservoirs, recycling aquifer recharge and other supply infrastructure. California, which experienced gridlock for more than a decade among its perennial competitors--farmers, environmentalists and municipalities--and a horrendous divide between north and south water users, managed to craft a $7 billion conservation and infrastructure bond initiative that passed last November by 65 percent with help from serious drought and a very popular Governor Brown.

Colorado, after more than a decade of discussions river basin by river basin, has finally produced a draft plan, making 2015 potentially the year for making progress on water. But the state faces forces similar to California’s contentious factions. A continuing division exists among east and west slopes, environmentalists who argue for conservation measures to the exclusion of most other options, and basin parochialists who want to protect only their water and support strategies that send it out of state rather than storing and reusing it.

One of the most useful aspects of Colorado’s planning effort has been conducting two scientific studies of the state’s water needs and supply. The first took place during Governor Bill Owens’ administration (2004) and the second was completed near the end of the Governor Bill Ridder’s term (2010). Both studies confirmed a water supply gap up to 600,000 acre-feet by 2050, and that figure assumes a host of projects and programs will be in place within the next few decades--including conservation, storage and reuse.

Fortunately, Colorado voters have prioritized water supply and conservation and strongly support addressing the supply gap. A statewide voter survey conducted for the Colorado Water Congress in the summer of 2013 as the water planning process was accelerating in preparation of the draft report indicated that voters were strongly supportive of the assumptions and approach of the planning effort. The poll of 600 voters statewide showed Coloradans:
  • Strongly support the planning process to address the supply gap – 80%
  • Want to avoid the loss of irrigated agriculture in the state – 88%
  • Believe meeting the supply gap will require the full range of approaches, including conservation, reuse, water storage and new supply – 87%
  • Greatly prefer the cooperative approach that the state’s planning process has adopted and recognize that compromise will be necessary. They want the effort to continue – 89%
  • Encourage the collaboration among urban and rural and small and large communities – 82% 
Colorado voters were generally not supportive of extreme views. When asked if conservation alone would be sufficient to make up the water supply shortage, they strongly disagreed and said it would have to be accompanied by storage. And, nearly 90 percent of voters want Colorado to claim its legal share of water rather than allow it to flow out of state, rejecting the view that any one basin has sole control of its supply and can chose to send it to Nebraska, California or Texas before allowing full use by Coloradans.

The identified water gap will require decisive action by the Governor and Colorado’s political leaders. After a decade of study and talk, time is running out. Taking measures to ensure Colorado maintains its strong economy and quality of life can no longer wait, and our downstream competitors have already made their moves.

9News and Homeland Security

Prediction: Republicans will not take the issue of funding the Homeland Security Agency to the brink of shutdown.
  • They campaigned to end gridlock, not cause it.
  • They control Congress and will be blamed for the shutdown, not the President.
  • Any incident characterized as terror and they will be vulnerable. Would Republicans do this to the army? Homeland Security is our domestic army.
Brandon Rittiman asked me if Republicans can settle it by Friday: “They could unwind it in about 5 minutes if they wanted to.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Obama’s Foreign Policy at End Game

President Obama
The Obama administration is at risk of losing control of its foreign policy. In three critical areas – Iran, ISIS and Ukraine – the next thirty days will decide if the administration’s approach of restraint and diplomacy will be sustained or if critics, who generally are advancing more aggressive strategies, dominate.

Iran. Negotiation with Iran concerning their nuclear program is scheduled to reach a deadline on March 31 (formal date July 1, 2015) on political issues. After two extensions, it is unlikely there can be another. In fact, President Obama said at this recent press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that time is up and Iran must show it’s ready to make a decision.

Opponents of the negotiations are active, vocal and have bipartisan membership. The highly controversial Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on March 3 to a joint session of Congress is part of the opponents’ strategy. In general, they don’t trust either Iran or the administration to either dismantle the Iranian program for the most conservative pro-Israeli interests to even sufficiently restrain it for moderates.

Ukraine. The fragile Minsk (2-12-15) cease fire and Russia’s continued supplying Ukraine separatists has created a direct challenge to the Obama administration’s policy of diplomacy and sanctions. The pressure for a more aggressive policy (weapons for Kiev government) from Democratic and Republican foreign policy leaders will be empowered if the current policy collapses as appears likely.

Europe and especially the great powers of Germany, France and Great Britain appear unwilling to be more assertive vis-à-vis Russia.

ISIS. President Obama’s resolution for limited war-making power against the Islamic State is now being debated by a very polarized Congress. The effectiveness of the current strategy against ISIS is a factor in a debate that sees Democrats arguing the scope of authorization is excessive and Republicans somewhat contradictory arguing for more authority given their disdain for the administration’s competence.

Although the President argues the resolution is mostly for a show of unity and resolve and that he already has sufficient authority, a loss will be interpreted, both here and abroad, as a rejection of the administration’s strategy. It would be another blow to its already embattled foreign policy and low level of credibility.