Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Iowa has Spoken – Four Observations

After more than six months of nonstop campaigning, serial debates and interminable polls, on February 1st Iowa voters started the sorting and winnowing process.

1.  Clinton wins, but looks weak. Hillary Clinton still has a lock on the Democratic nomination. She carried more moderate and older voters in Iowa to survive the Bernie Sanders challenge with a tie. Adding them to minority voters, which she carries by 30 to 40 points, and toss in 400 already committed super delegates, will get her to the 2,382 delegates needed for nomination.

But Iowa confirmed what months of campaigning displayed. She is not very good at it, and her older voters are mostly practical, instead of passionate, in their support. She will be a weak candidate for the general election, and is likely to only win if the Republicans offer an even less attractive choice.

Clinton thought she would wrap the race up by the March primaries, but Sanders’ strong Iowa showing and likely New Hampshire win suggests the race will go deep into May. (See blogs: Clinton Struggling in Iowa and New Hampshire But Strong Beyond, Jan. 19, 2016; and Clinton Expects to End Contest March 1st Super Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015.)

2.  Trump underperforms his polls. Live by the polls, die by them. According to the polls, Donald Trump became the Iowa frontrunner a few weeks before caucus day. He believed them and raised the expectations that caused his campaign a crisis on caucus night that could leave him in a long-term defensive position.

The real benefit from quality polling, of which there was some in Iowa, including a poll as voters entered their caucus, is that it illuminated the Republican Party’s major factions and their alignment with each candidate. They also described what happened on caucus night with late deciders and new voters.

The fierce contest, the Iowa ground games and Donald Trump drew record turnout. It has long been speculated that Trump has a ceiling of public support. And, indeed, the caucus results appear to confirm it. His record-high unfavorability led many new voters to the caucus to vote against him. Also, his famous boorish behavior finally caught up with him. Late deciding voters broke strongly against him. Boycotting the debate not only hurt him, but his absence created the platform that gave Marco Rubio a push and brought him within one percentage point of catching Trump. Finally, the results confirmed what was suspected about a celebrity candidate with no organization – they can’t convert polls to votes. That flaw could be fatal and will be tested quickly in New Hampshire and South Carolina where polls have put Trump in the lead for months. In fact, even a win in New Hampshire, if it is substantially less than his polls, will be interpreted as a sign of weakness. (See blog: Republican Rush to Iowa and New Hampshire, Jan. 6, 2016)

3.  The establishment lane needs to clear out. New Hampshire should reduce the Republican race to three candidates – Trump for the angry, Cruz for the devout and rigidly conservative, and Rubio, if he can ride his Iowa momentum, for the practical, electability voter. Rubio left Iowa looking like a good candidate for the general election, demonstrating crossover ability for attracting some religious and some angry voters. But, he will have to emerge convincingly from the New Hampshire primary, where three governors are fighting for their political lives. Unfortunately for the governors, experience is less valued this year among Republican voters.

Iowa convinced Martin O’Malley, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum to withdraw. After months of effort and attacks on Marco Rubio and each other, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie need to either become the strong third candidate (assuming it’s not a tie for second or third post the New Hampshire debate) or get out after New Hampshire. John Kasich may have the New York Times, but if he can’t become a player in New Hampshire, it’s over. (See blog: The Winnowing Has Started, Jan. 20, 2016)

4.  The long game keeps lengthening. Iowa could have ended both parties’ races quickly. Had Clinton held her early lead, Sanders would be seen as the usual Democratic far left candidate isolated to the most liberal states. But Iowa highlighted the party’s close division on its future and voter’s attitudes toward Clinton’s tedious, desultory style. The Democratic race is likely to be a long story, even if Clinton has an advantage.

Had Trump won Iowa, he would have been catapulted into a very strong position for subsequent events. Now, the Republican race is still far from even becoming a three-person contest, and it is not yet clear which combination of party factions can sufficiently unite behind a candidate to reach the 1,236 delegate majority. (See blog: The Counting Begins, Jan. 28, 2016)

FiveThirtyEight: Donald Trump comes out of Iowa looking like Pat Buchanan
New York Times: Ted Cruz wins Republican caucuses in Iowa
CBS News: 2016 Iowa caucuses: Two races decided by very different factors
NBC News: Iowa entrance poll results: Rubio’s good night
Politico: Democrats lag badly in chase for national security voters
Sabato’s Crystal Ball: What we learned from Iowa
New Republic: Five takeaways from the Iowa caucuses
The Federalist: 13 quick takeaways from the 2016 Iowa caucuses
The Cook Political Report: Making sense of Iowa
ABC News: Schisms carve the Iowa contests, leaving a murky political calculus

Rubio Strongest General Election Candidate

Marco Rubio
The internal data in the latest Quinnipiac national poll shows why Ted Cruz will be a hard sell in the fall general election and Marco Rubio the strongest candidate.

Ted Cruz
The February 2-4 survey, which conducted a telephone survey of 1,125 registered voters nationwide (margin of error ±2.9 percentage points), presents overall data that among Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, only Rubio beats Hillary Clinton and he has the highest favorability rating of all four candidates.

A comparison of the internal data of Trump, Cruz and Rubio shows Rubio’s strengths with independent voters and his better than expected (or at least better than Trump or Cruz) support with Democrats, Millennials and women.

Rubio, with a 48 percent to 41 percent advantage over Clinton, carries 9 percent of Democrats, holds 89 percent of Republicans and beats Clinton with independents 47 percent to her 38 percent. He only loses women by 4 points and carries men by 20.

He beats Clinton with both the degree and non-degree voters and only loses Millennial voters by 13 points, compared to Cruz who loses to Clinton by 24 points (57% to 33%) and Trump who is crushed by 38 points (61% to 23%).

National polls are less important than statewide primary and caucus polls and results and each event produces a flood of new publicity, but at least after Iowa and before New Hampshire, Marco Rubio is the Republican Party’s strongest general election candidate.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

New Hampshire – Clinton Starts 18 Points Down

On December 1, Hillary Clinton was ahead in New Hampshire by four percentage points in the RealClearPolitics.com average. Today, she is down 18 points. New Hampshire polls are volatile, and the tie in Iowa should lead to a tightening in the race, although Bernie Sanders will, no doubt, maintain an advantage.

Probably what is most clear is that Clinton is in for a long slog. And long primary seasons tend to build negatives in the candidate’s image, create opportunities for stumbles, and in this race, move the candidate too far out of general election alignment trying to appeal to the Democrats’ alienated liberal wing.

Trump Leads in Remaining February Events

Unfortunately for Donald Trump, down is the most likely direction of his polling spread in New Hampshire and the remaining February nominating states. He leads by 21 points in New Hampshire, and between his underperforming second place finish in Iowa and the normal tightening of a race as advertising increases with voter attention, he may still win, but it’s likely to be much closer.

He now has to prove he can convert polling preferences to votes. The Iowa loss also suggested that his basic unlikability will keep a ceiling over him for all but his most hardcore voters.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hickenlooper's Legacy

Gov. John Hickenlooper
The new state water plan may be one of Governor Hickenlooper’s most important legacies. The water plan has been strongly supported by the public for its joining science, collaboration and action items, such as conservation, reuse and storage. Although the Governor highlighted the plan and water in his State of the State speech, water leaders are asking if the Governor is going to support projects identified in the plan essential to close the water gap and near final permitting, but stalled for various, mostly, bureaucratic reasons. The process now needs political leadership.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Polis Jumps Back into Fracking

Jared Polis possibly considers his anti-fracking political strategy in 2014 a success. Very few of his colleagues or fellow party leaders would agree. They, in fact, were nearly universally opposed to his action to fund and direct the anti-fracking initiatives.
Jared Polis

Not only did he spend millions in a failed effort to place the initiatives on the ballot, his actions were considered a threat to Democrats running for statewide office. Former Senator Udall and Governor Hickenlooper both opposed his approach, as did former Interior Secretary Salazar and former Denver Mayor Webb.

Interestingly, it did not particularly help him win local political support in the 2014 election for he managed to lose Larimer and Jefferson counties in his re-election against an underfunded Republican opponent. He also lost his bid to move up the leadership ladder in D.C. All-in-all, a weak showing for an expensive adventure.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Year of the Outsider – Denver Post, January 31, 2016

To open the 2016 presidential caucuses and primaries, the Denver Post published “The Year of the Outsider” by the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research director and author of The Buzz, Floyd Ciruli.

The article places the driving force of the 2016 as anger with the establishment and compares it with political upheaval in Europe and previous U.S. elections. The seismic factors that are affecting democracies are economic turmoil from the financial crisis of 2008; generational shifts; racism; ethnic and religious conflicts; massive migrations across national boundaries and national security anxiety.

The final question asked is will the year of the outsider bring resolution to some of the tensions and produce some sought after solutions or is this just the beginning of a crisis of democracy?