Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Obama Targets Independent Voters

President Obama’s trip to Colorado targeted independent and swing voters.  His State of the Union speech was heavily loaded with positions that swing voters find attractive.

A focus group of Denver swing voters conducted as he was giving his speech showed that in a before and after test his clean energy and anti-oil company positions produced a 22 percent shift in his favor.

But, the latest Gallup poll of twelve swing states, including Colorado, shows Obama in a dead even race with Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney.  Neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul runs well at this time. 

The survey reaffirms that the campaign is amazingly close and that Republicans generally will return to Romney as the party’s standard bearer to best Obama.  Hence, the campaign will make a difference as both camps fight for weak partisan and independent voters.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Nomination Contest Shifts From Single States to National Race

Assuming the Romney campaign regains its footing and can survive Florida, the race for the nomination shifts from a sprint through the month of January to a long slog to reach 1,144 delegates, which will likely take the candidates through May and even June’s nominating schedule.

Colorado, which a couple of weeks ago could have been a Romney coronation, is now a contested stop on the schedule with Super Tuesday, March 6, the first major delegate haul on a single day (592).

For all the media attention thus far adding the result of the Florida primary only 115 delegates will have been chosen out of the 2,285 at stake.

Romney leads with 31 delegates, but Gingrich is close behind with 21.  Rick Santorum (13 delegates) and Ron Paul (4 delegates) complicate Gingrich’s effort by siphoning off some conservative votes.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Saving RTD’s Transit Program

Vince Carroll just did RTD a big favor.  He highlighted highway head Don Hunt’s proposal to link additional RTD sales tax funding to improvements in metro roads.

At the very moment most states are reconsidering and either canceling or delaying massively expensive transit projects, Denver’s political establishment is racing head long to double the transit tax just voted on in 2004.  It would increase RTD’s share of limited transportation funds in the region for transit from $160 million per year to $320 million.

The subsidy is to an agency still unable to provide a reasonable projection of costs and revenue for its main responsibility – providing bus service – much less its sub par performance in estimating the costs or revenue of the transit proposal approved in 2004.

But, if the RTD tax increase was scaled back and joined with a roads proposal, there might be both a justification for a tax increase and assurance that at least half the funding would go to an agency with well-identified need and track record of successful completion of projects.

See Vincent Carroll column:  Governor needs a two-track mind

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Education Will Rule the 2012 Agenda

The Denver Post published a guest column (Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012) on the host of K-12 reform and funding issues likely to be action items in 2012.  Most of them have powerful protagonists and will generate much news coverage.  Some will decide if Colorado continues on its path of reform.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Romney’s Campaign in Trouble

The latest national Gallup poll taken after the South Carolina results showed the race between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich at a near tie, with Romney at 29 percent and Gingrich receiving 28 percent.

Romney achieved his biggest lead on January 15 at 37 points to Gingrich’s 14 points, a gap of 23 points, which has now disappeared.

RealClearPolitics.com produces a daily running average of recent polls, which is beginning to show the race closing between Romney and Gingrich.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Primary Elections are Volatile – Gingrich on the Move

Rick Santorum surged more than 20 points in Iowa between Christmas and January 3 and Newt Gingrich came from 9 points down to 12 points up in less than a week in South Carolina.

South Carolina always had the potential to restart the Republican nomination contest and it did.  Newt Gingrich going away win of 12 points ended Romney’s inevitability and shifted the momentum going into the February 21 Florida primary.

Mitt Romney had a 20-point head start in Florida on Monday, January 17, but the momentum is with Gingrich, and Romney is now 9 points down (Jan. 23).

Florida, with 2 million Republican voters, has a track record of supporting more moderate candidates than South Carolina.  In the 2008 Republican primary, Florida gave McCain a 36 percent win, followed by moderates Romney (31%) and Rudolph Giuliani (15%).  The conservative Huckabee came in fourth with 13 percent of the vote.

Gingrich had a great week before South Carolina’s Saturday primary with two solid debate performances.  His aggressive, but effective, attacks both shifted already engaged South Carolina voters and added more than 100,000 new voters.  They came to believe that he was the person best able to beat President Obama, a position Romney held through the first two contests.  And, Romney had a terrible week with the recount results in Iowa and his poor defense of this personal taxes and Bain Capital’s track record.  Gingrich also became the primary conservative candidate as Rick Perry dropped out and joined Sarah Palin in endorsing him.

But, the real problem for Romney, which this primary exposed, is that he has yet to connect with the bulk of Republican voters, leaving him highly vulnerable to a surge as demonstrated by Rick Santorum at the end in Iowa and Gingrich in South Carolina.

Colorado Republicans Exceed Democrats by More Than 100,000 Partisans

Republican voter registration is now 109,000 ahead of Democrats among new and active voters (voters who have participated in most recent general election).

The Democratic challenge will be registering new and inactive voters to participate in the presidential election – an election in which Democrats thus far have been less enthusiastic about.

Unaffiliated voters are most likely to not participate in non-presidential elections and, hence, most likely to drop down to inactive status.

As of January 1, 2012, there were 2,100,000 active voters and 3,372,000 total voters in Colorado.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Conservatives Predominate in U.S. and Colorado

Gallup just published one of their frequent snapshots of America’s political philosophy.

Continuing the trend since President Obama’s inauguration, the largest bloc of U.S. voters labeled themselves “conservative” (40%).  “Moderates,” who usually dominated prior to 2009, came in second at 36 percent and “liberals” remained in third with one-fifth of the electorate.

It is this ideological array that leads national pundits to label American politics center right.

Colorado has somewhat different ideological distribution.  Although the latest Ciruli Associates poll shows voters are most likely to call themselves “conservative” (42%), as of December 2011, more Colorado voters labeled themselves “liberal” (29%) than “moderate (24%).

The national 2008 exit poll in Colorado showed that people who labeled themselves “moderate” or “middle of the road” in the presidential election were the dominant group (46%).  They help produce Colorado’s volatile politics.  The strong conservative ascendancy in the early 21st century was replaced by liberal dominance from 2006 to 2010.  Then conservatives roared back to power in 2010.

Both parties, in terms of their activists, tend to be monopolized by their extremes.  Liberals, many describing themselves as “strong liberals,” are the most influential Democratic leaders around the country, including the President and a majority of the Democratic members of the Senate and House.  And, of course, conservative House members, many elected in 2010 as Tea Party Movement supporters, have produced most of the gridlock in D.C. during the 2011 session.

However, on Election Day, it is the moderates who are prepared to join liberals, at least as often as conservatives, that make both national and Colorado politics volatile and competitive.

Today, Colorado, like Washington, is now in an ideological standoff waiting for the 2012 election to rearrange the game.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Obama Back to Colorado

KOA Radio reports President Obama will be back for his first of many visits this year.  He arrives next Thursday as national polls indicate he’s tied with Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney.

Colorado’s position as a frontline state in the presidential contest is confirmed by being included by Obama in his first road trip of the election year.

Along with concern about the surprising good polling for Republicans in the midst of their bitter South Carolina primary, Obama’s campaign is no doubt hoping to counter the Republicans’ dominance of political news in early February due to their February 7 nominating caucus.

It is also a new presidential communication technique to mount a road show after a major address like next Tuesday’s State of the Union.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hickenlooper Lite

Hickenlooper, the craft brewer, decides to keep his second State of the State lite.

He encouraged creativity, good health and entrepreneurship (the most frequent mention of the less controversial term than capitalist in State of the State history), but offered few legislative proposals. A planned bike ride on the high plains has nice aesthetics, but is mostly symbolism and not substance. His few policy proposals pleased the Republicans. Reforming state personnel procedures, developing rules for teacher evaluations and privatizing Pinnacol Assurance are mostly conservative positions.

His only proposal of controversy was for liberals. Civil unions legislation was already drafted by Democratic legislators and would have been introduced with or without the Governor’s support. But, Democrats need Hickenlooper to protect their interests from the Republican House majority and to support a few high-profile goals, like civil unions.

Of course, the Governor’s low key and mostly aspirational speech reflects the reality of the public’s current lack of interest in more government, the dearth of funds and a divided legislature.

Some of Hickenlooper’s most active initiatives are administrative actions. Like President Obama, Hickenlooper appears to be downplaying legislative involvement for his version of administrative self-help, such as cutting red tape and consolidating early childhood programs.

The lack of an active legislative strategy would normally provide an opportunity for legislators to take the lead on their agendas, but the divided partisan control and election year gridlock may negate that.

Hickenlooper lite may be what a de-leveraging economy and stifled politics calls for. It’s short on policy and long on style, self-help and the aesthetics of governance.

See 9News: Hickenlooper focuses on jobs, economy in State of the State

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Polling is Dangerous

There are places in the world where publishing a poll can get you fired, interrogated or shot. 

A couple of weeks ago, the power of the Chinese media apparatus was aimed at suppressing a mild-mannered pollster at the University of Hong Kong for publishing data showing that two-thirds of Hong Kong residents identify more with the enclave than the China as projected by the Beijing government.

Robert Chung has withstood Beijing’s attacks before and will likely survive this one.  But, it is a reminder that for whatever economic success the Beijing foreman has achieved, it has a high cost to freedom and can be dangerous to those living in its proximity.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Could Western Caucuses Decide the Race?

If Mitt Romney sweeps the first four nominating events, the odds of stopping him begins to drop to near zero.  And, due to their timing, the Nevada and Colorado caucuses in early February could be the two events that confirm Romney’s mastery of the field.

After the Colorado caucus on February 7, there is no event until the Arizona and Michigan primaries on February 28.  This year, Super Tuesday is on March 6 (date of Colorado Democratic caucus) when 592 Republicans are selected in one night.

See 9News:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Class Warfare Not Getting Traction

Weirdly, in a desperate last stand, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry are attempting to stir up class resentment within the Republican Party against Mitt Romney.  Good Luck.  Republicans are simply not as class envious as Democrats and their attacks are producing a major blowback.  But, class resentment will be a factor in the election.

Much of the reporting on Congress’ lack of action on the payroll tax is framed in class analysis.  It is assumed by reporters and their pundit sources that voters will frame the issue as Republicans favoring the rich and ignoring the “have nots” in the economy.

Actually, the more likely frame for voters is another bout of Congress “doing nothing” to earn their salary.  A mass of polling evidence show that the resentment of the rich theme that President Obama, the Occupy Wall Street movement and Democratic legislative leaders have offered since September is not finding a majority or even plurality of support in the electorate.

American voters continue to resist class resentment and the solution of more government.

Recent polls report:

·         Fewer Americans see country divided into “haves” and “have nots”:  58% say they don’t see U.S. divided by class.  The number of Americans holding the class division view has dropped since the beginning of President Obama’s term and is now down to 41%.  (December 15, Gallup)
-        Importantly, few independents (37%) and moderates (38%) agree America is divided by classes

·         Americans prioritize economy over reducing wealth gap as the most important action to take.
-        82% believe important to grow economy; only 46% believe important to reduce income and wealth gap  (December 16, Gallup)

·         Americans blame government more than Wall Street for economy.
-        Americans are more than twice as likely to blame federal government (64% to 30%) for economic problems as blame Wall Street

·         Most Americans say “big government” (64%) is a bigger threat to country than “big business” (26%) or “big labor” (8%).

In each case, Democrats are dramatically to the left of independent and Republican voters on class analysis.

Also see:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Congress and Campaign Contributions

A competitive Colorado congressional race in 2010 spent between $3 and $5 million.  But money wasn’t a critical factor.  In the Republican sweep, Scott Tipton beat incumbent Democrat John Salazar in the 3rd CD, but was outspent by $860,000.  Cory Gardner, who won by a huge majority in the 4th CD, had $1.2 million less than incumbent Democrat Betsy Markey.  However, Democratic incumbent Congressman Ed Perlmutter won handily and outspent Ryan Frazier by about $700,000.

This year, the big spending races are likely to be the 3rd CD for a second time and the newly redesigned 6th CD, which hasn’t seen a serious two-party race since it was created in 1991.  Incumbent Mike Coffman has already banked a million dollars.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Romney Gaining Inevitability

Gallup reports that the candidate who is ahead in its national poll after the New Hampshire primary is the prohibitive favorite.  In 2008, McCain led (33%) over Huckabee (19%), Bush was ahead (56%) in 2000 and Dole (41%) in 1996.

In the January 3 Gallup tracking poll, Romney barely led Newt Gingrich.  After Tuesday’s results, Romney’s lead is now 15 points over Newt Gingrich.

Although Romney only wins 31 percent of Republican votes against the current Republican field, when matched against President Obama, he runs within 2 percent.  Most Republicans are lining up behind him.  Opposing Obama is the party’s strongest motivation for voting.

Romney is seen by 60 percent of Republicans as the candidate likely to win the nomination, and a majority (59%) find him acceptable.  Of course, Romney’s low level of Republican support against the field may later presage a lower level of enthusiasm among fellow partisans in the general election.

See Gallup polls:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Will Congressional Incumbents Sink With Super Committee and Payroll Tax Impasses?

Congressional approval has never been lower and incumbent anti-re-election sentiment higher.

Congressional approval began its latest descent in July as the debt ceiling gridlock dominated the media.  It continued during the collapse of the House and Senate Super Committee negotiations and became a national and international statement of political futility as the Senate and House bypassed each other with legislation and the President Obama mostly won on points by focusing on assigning blame.

Generally speaking, the public states it wants compromise.  Sixty percent of national adults wanted the Super Committee to agree to a compromise.  Even 55 percent of Republicans said they wanted a compromise.  Of course, 42 percent didn’t, and 53 percent of Tea Party members said hold out, and they are most likely to show up at Republican caucuses and primaries.

The payroll tax cut was popular and the administration framed it in their favor.  Republicans gave up to cut their losses.  Obama’s approval numbers have improved.  He ended the year at 47 percent in the year’s last Gallup poll.

As the election year begins, will voters translate this disgust with the national political process by voting incumbents out?  Although historically a majority of voters have told pollsters they are planning to vote against incumbents, they still send the vast majority of U.S. congressmen back to the House – the “my Congressman exception.”

Voters’ options are to vote against the incumbent President’s party as they did in 2010, vote against all incumbents reflecting their general disdain or vote mostly against Republicans as the party of gridlock as the President prefers.

A new Pew poll (December 15, 2011) argues that incumbents, specifically the Republican majority, could be voted out of office.  The President and Democrats are apparently gaining same traction in blaming Republicans for the Washington impasse.

The presidential election may be an even more potent factor in congressional elections this year as President Obama runs on his “do nothing Congress” theme.

See following links:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mormon Religion Factor, But Not Bar

Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion is a factor for some voters, but it is likely to be mostly background noise if it’s a Romney vs. Obama race.

Gallup has recorded since the 1960s between 17 percent and 22 percent of voters (a high of 24 percent was registered in 2007, the last time Romney was a high-profile candidate) saying that they would not vote for a Mormon, who by all other criteria, was well qualified. 

Gallup points out what the double-digit resistance to electing a Mormon president has survived for more than 40 years, whereas resistance to Catholics, Jews, blacks and women has declined to single digits since the 1960s and 1970s.  Only a gay, lesbian or atheist candidate would generate as much resistance as a Mormon today.

But the importance of the issue is mitigated by many people not being familiar with Romney’s religion and it being most important to more churched voters, who are highly unlikely, due to partisanship and social issues, to vote for President Obama.

The election dynamics will likely make Mormonism a bigger issue in the primaries than the general election.  Pew points out that the white evangelical voters have the most qualms with Romney’s religion.  Since Romney survived Iowa, and if he can maintain momentum through South Carolina, he likely will be judged on a host of other issues than his religion for the rest of the nomination process.

However, he will likely have a Jeremiah Wright movement sometime in 2012 where he must, in a high-profile way, explain what his religion does and does not do for him as a politician.

See following articles:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Marijuana will be on the Ballot

John Ingold reports in the Denver Post that a legalization of marijuana for recreational use will very likely be on the ballot in November. The marijuana interest groups backed up with big distribution money (and wealthy libertarians) believe time is on their side. The public is getting more tolerant of use.

This will be Colorado voters second consideration of it. They said no by 59 percent in 2006 and California voters defeated it in 2010.

But, a new robo poll claims it has one-half the voters in favor of it – an improvement from years past – but hardly a strong opening position.

“That result, said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli, shows the Colorado campaign is starting from a weak position, as voters generally become more conservative on issues as the election approaches. But Ciruli said a well-funded campaign from proponents could change the pattern.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January Presidential Events

Although January’s four Republican presidential delegate events only represent 115 delegates to the Republican national convention (5% of 2,285 total delegates), it will winnow the field and, in fact, could decide the race.

John McCain’s victory in three primaries – New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida – with only about one-third of the vote gave him momentum into an early Super Tuesday in 2008 (February 7) to drive Mitt Romney out of the race shortly thereafter.

The participation in the first four events increases with each event and involves upward of 3 million voters, most of them participating in the Florida primary (Iowa more than 100,000 caucus attendees, 250,000 plus voters in New Hampshire, 500,000 in South Carolina and 2 million in Florida). 

The first western events will be the Nevada and Colorado caucuses on February 4 and 7, respectively.  Super Tuesday this year isn’t until March 6 and will involve fewer contests and delegates.

Could the Republican race be over quickly?  Yes, but the ubiquitous debates and changes in delegate selection rules and dates could lead to a lengthy contest between the Republican establishment and insurgent forces.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Republican Debates Top TV Show in 2011

The thirteen Republican debates in 2011 drew strong viewership, incessant commentary, and made and removed several candidate frontrunner statuses.  Herman Cain’s initial boom in the Florida straw poll and Rick Perry’s stall reflected their performance in the first CNN Tea Party Movement debate.

The interest in cable networks to gain access to candidates, stories and audiences partially explains the proliferation of debates.  The partnership with political interest groups, movements and think tanks is new and added events.

Mitt Romney’s image of a steady, if uninspiring, candidate was largely created by his debate performances through December.  Newt Gingrich’s late ascendance to top rank was a function of his ability to reframe debate questions to serve his anti-media themes and Tea Party Movement preferences.  The lack of a debate the two holiday weeks made him more vulnerable to the late attack ads against him.

About one-third of Republicans in early October (Pew, Oct. 13-16, 2011) reported having watched the Republican candidates debate, but one-half of Tea Party supporters said they watched.  Tea Party watchers were the most likely to say the debates led them to reassess their choice of candidates.

The debates have changed the Republican landscape since June:

·         Debates nationalize the race, especially when combined with polls.  Much less emphasis has gone into state visits and more into debate preparation until very late before the Iowa caucus.
·         The tone of the race became highly negative and candidates’ weaknesses were put on a national stage early in the race.
·         Early debates provided a forum for under-financed and mostly known candidates to stay in the race.  Will post Iowa debates encourage also-rans in Iowa and New Hampshire to keep campaigning?  Apparently not, but they did dominate the 2011 media coverage.

See articles:
Wall Street Journal How TV debates have changed the race

Hickenlooper – Good Start, What’s Next?

Tim Hoover’s Denver Post year-end review of John Hickenlooper gave him good initial grades, but Republicans accuse him of avoiding hard choices.

The public liked Hickenlooper’s first year.  See blog:  Hickenlooper – The Nonpartisan Governor

“A poll released last week from Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli shows Hickenlooper with a 59 percent approval rating from Coloradans and only a 17 percent disapproval rating.  Another recent poll pegged him as the second-most-popular governor among 37 states where opinions on governors had been polled in 2011.

‘Definitely, given that these are difficult times for politicians, he has maintained the popularity he came into office with,’ Ciruli said.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2012 Begins in Dead Heat

Americans are closely divided on the direction they wish to send the country in the next four years.

Gallup’s final 2011 polls show that Republicans two top candidates, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, are within the margin of error in their challenge to President Barack Obama.

·         Obama wins by two points.  That is probably the smart money play.
·         Dislike of Obama is main motivation of vote.  Voters, including many Republicans, still don’t know or particularly like the Republican frontrunners.
·         Obama wins close races.  Four years ago in June 2008, Obama was barely ahead of Hillary Clinton among Democrats and only four points ahead of John McCain in match ups.
·         Obama and Democrats lost 2010, but they made a recovery in 2011.  Obama ends year at five-month approval high.

See Gallup polls: