Friday, March 30, 2012

Obama Ahead by Five

Although President Obama has mostly been on the defensive in the month of March, his lead over Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney has stretched to five points.  It seems eons ago, but on January 1, as the Iowa caucus approached, Romney only trailed Obama by 2 points.  But it was Super Tuesday, February 7, when Romney lost Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri that he slipped behind Obama by four or more points.

A variety of factors have helped Obama, especially an improving economy, the raucous Republican primaries and Romney’s stilted performance.

The last 30 days, Obama’s troubles have been gas prices, Obamacare and open mics.  No impact in the horse race question has been detected as yet.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Scouts and Trackers

Colorado’s frontier history produced famous scouts who made early civilization a bit safer.  Today’s political trackers make our politics a little less civilized.

Kurtis Lee of the Denver Post reports on the National Republican Congressional Committee hiring young operatives with a hand-held camera to track the candidates in the Democrats’ two most winnable districts – Sal Pace in the third district and Joe Miklosi in the sixth... 

Having seen the impact in the 2006 Virginia senate race (“Macaca Moment”), trackers are now part of the normal campaign background in high-profile, targeted races.

“‘It’s almost a standard operational procedure and comes to be expected that with highly targeted races, both Republicans and Democrats are going to hire individuals to videotape the every move of a rival candidate,’ said political analyst Floyd Ciruli.

Ciruli said that with this year’s congressional races – where some have the potential to be close contests – catching a candidate in an unscripted moment can become a talking point all the way up until Election Day in November.

‘With social media these days, a sound clip can reach millions instantaneously,’ said Ciruli, who calls tracking an interactive form of opposition research.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Republican Nomination Officially Over June 6 – Romney Wins

If Mitt Romney continues gathering delegates at his 55 percent rate, he will have 1,147 delegates after the June 6 primary, which includes New Jersey and California.

There tends to be a bandwagon effect as it becomes clear the non-frontrunners can’t win.  Newt Gingrich is having a hard time attracting a press following, except as a political deathwatch.  Rick Santorum’s campaign is increasingly less credible and his statements more extreme and hostile.  It reminds observers of his 2006 Pennsylvania 18-point crash and burn experience.

The questions becomes:  Can the Republicans get over it and shake off this nomination fight and can Romney get this back to a two-point race it was in January?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Romney Maintains a National Lead

After tough battles in the south, but the big Illinois win, Mitt Romney continues to hold a national polling lead over Rick Santorum of seven points.

Newt Gingrich is in low double-digits with Ron Paul.  Gingrich only has 141 delegates, which is unlikely to grow much.  Polls indicate if he got out, his votes would split between Santorum and Romney, which may be his main motivation for staying in the race – revenge.  He wants to deny any of those delegates or his future primary votes to Mitt.

Gingrich’s mediocre performance on Super Tuesday has doomed his campaign to, at best, spoiler status.  And even that role is unlikely.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Romney Breaks 500 Delegates

Mitt Romney’s sweep of Puerto Rico helped him reach the 500 delegate threshold, or 49 percent of the delegates needed for nomination.  Romney in the last ten days swept the islands, with Hawaii and Puerto Rico the bigger wins, for a total of 54 delegates. 

Rick Santorum may have the passion of the grassroots, but his campaign has been a failure of delegate strategy.  Santorum’s collapse in Illinois, at least partially, reflects an under-financed campaign and his failure to file for delegates in parts of Illinois.

The next major milestone will be reaching 573 delegates, or half the goal to the 1,144.  April will produce nine contests with more than 375 delegates, including New York and Pennsylvania.

·         Romney 55% of decided delegates
·         Romney 49% of total for nomination

As my March 7 blog stated, “Santorum and Newt Gingrich have no plausible theory to win the nomination…”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

U.S. Ahead in Far East Competition With China

As the U.S. shifts alliance and defense attention from Europe to Asia, it begins with a considerable history and some reservoir of good will.  Our competitor for influence, China, has substantial and growing resources and proximity, but many neighboring people are not impressed or comfortable with China’s leadership.

A Gallup poll of late last year shows among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) citizens, the U.S. has a 44 percent approval of its leadership whereas China has 30 percent.

When examining each nation, the U.S. is strongest in Cambodia (68% approval) and the Philippines (63%) and has the least approval by Indians (16%) and the Vietnamese (21%).

China only gets above 50 percent among Cambodians (55%).  Its second best approval is in Malaysia (42%).  Like the U.S., India (10%) and Vietnam (22%) provide the worst scores.

Obviously, there are a number of nations, especially India, that the U.S. needs to build alliances with citizens and national leaders.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hispanics Back Obama

The latest Fox News poll published March 5 shows that President Barack Obama is winning the Hispanic vote by 70 percent to 14 percent against Mitt Romney.  Romney’s share is less than one-half of the Hispanic vote John McCain received in 2008 (31%).

In Colorado, 70 percent would be a major improvement over the 61 percent Obama received from Hispanic voters as reported by the 2008 exit poll (see Blogspot, Sept. 28, 2011).

Although Hispanic voters are not happy with the administration’s handling of immigration, they consider the economy, jobs and health care as more important, and they tend to support liberal-, Democratic-oriented positions on them.

And, more important, the Republican nomination fight has pushed the candidates to take very sharp and high visibility positions on illegal immigration.  Romney, for example, in the Arizona debate praised controversial Maricopa County (Phoenix) Sheriff Joe Arpaio and advocated building a wall and ending federal legal action against state’s, like Arizona’s, anti-illegal immigrant legislation.

In contrast, Hispanics overwhelmingly support the Dream Act (91%), which grants legal status to unauthorized immigrant children if they attend college or serve in the U.S. military for two years (Pew, Dec. 2011).

Two-thirds of Hispanics report affiliation with the Democratic Party (67%), which ensures they are more likely to support President Obama.  Only 20 percent of Hispanics consider themselves Republicans.  Income, religion and ideology produce some of the largest partisan difference among them.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Same-Sex Marriage Finding a Majority

Same-sex marriage has been winning in courts and most recently in legislatures (e.g., Washington, New York).  But it has not won a statewide electorate.  Finally, in California, it now appears a majority of the public supports same-sex marriage (59% approve to 34% disapprove).

Gay rights is one of the few social issues where there is growing consensus on the liberal side of the issue.  California Democrats (69%) and non-partisans (67%) are most supportive, but nearly two-fifths of Republicans (39%) support same-sex marriage.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows 49 percent of Americans approve of same-sex marriage, an increase from 40 percent in 2009.  In a February 13 Blogspot post, a national Pew poll showed 46 percent support (Blog: Gay rights and Gill in the news).  In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Democrats provide 67 percent support (up 12% since 2009), independents 46 percent (up 9%) and Republicans 31 percent (up 9%).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Supreme Court Hears Health Care Appeal March 26

Both sides of the health care law are gearing up demonstrations in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building as the Court begins an extraordinary three days of arguments on March 26.

The Obama administration had hoped the law would be a valuable plank in its re-election platform.  Instead, a bare plurality considers the law a good thing (45%) and the administration is having to help facilitate and encourage health care interest groups and friendly partisans to join the demonstrations.

Both President Obama and the law’s opponents believe the case provides an opportunity to present the arguments yet again in an effort to move public opinion, which has been closely divided on the issue for more than a year.

However, given that partisans have a 73 percent difference in views on the decision to have the law repealed (Democrat 14% vs. Republican 87%), it’s unlikely that opinion will move much during this presidential election year.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Republican Poverty

The Colorado Republican Party, which was competitive at state-level politics and dominated local politics throughout the 1990s, was basically bought out of the game in 2004.  Democrats, with four multi-millionaire and some new funding rules and techniques, outspent and out-campaigned Republicans to take over Colorado.  And, it continued through 2010.  Democrats had $4 million to Republicans’ $30,000 in 2010, helping stop the Republican national tide in Colorado.

Karen Crummy of the Denver Post analyzes the Democratic takeover of Colorado politics beginning in 2004 as mostly a reflection of an influx of big donors, new organizations for collecting interest group donations and distribution to targeted races while conducting well-run campaigns.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Conventional Wisdom – Race Over, Obama Wins

The spin from the cable talking heads that President Obama will win re-election is moving faster than Iranian centrifuges.  For many analysts this is an attractive alternative thesis given their partisan and ideological preferences.  But even level-headed and more neutral commentators are being drawn into the gravitational field.

The theory goes that since Obama repositioned himself last fall, he has reframed the election about jobs, social justice and Republican intransigence – themes for his base and independents.  And, of course, he’s been hugely helped by a gradually improving economy and the Republican primary.

But, there is still considerable evidence that voters haven’t moved much off of their view that Obama has been a disappointment and things are still not reliably going in the right direction.

Gallup’s latest approval average for Obama for the month of February is 45 percent approve and 47 percent disapprove, keeping him clearly in the grey area for re-election.

Obama has been above 50 percent in approval only once since February 2010 (the May 2011 shooting of Osama bin Laden).

Gallup notes it is extremely unusual for an incumbent president to not receive a 50 percent approval at least a few times in their first term, if not routinely

Voters still overwhelmingly believe the country is moving in the wrong direction and that the economy, while improving (40% say it’s growing), is still the top issue, with 46 percent describing it as in a recession or depression.

And, for all the commentary on how the Republican primaries are hurting the candidates, Republican partisans are still more enthusiastic about voting in 2012 than Democrats (53% Republicans to 45% for Democrats).  Obviously, with the end of the primaries and an acceptable, if not thrilling, nominee, Republican enthusiasm should increase.

The message is that this election has the potential to be within a couple of points and decided by the quality of the campaigns and any late game changing circumstances.

See Gallup:

Monday, March 12, 2012

Republicans – End This Race

Evidence appears to be mounting that the Republican primary is harming the party’s chances in November. Pew/Washington Post reports the “GOP race is rallying Democrats” and a NBC/Wall Street Journal poll claims “Primary season takes ‘corrosive’ toll on GOP and its candidates.”

The long-term impact of this observed damage remains to be seen, but in the short-term, party leaders are beginning to maneuver an end to the race.

Karl Rove of Super PAC fame is the lead signal caller for unity behind Romney and wrapping things up. He has a lot of behind-the-scenes support from current and former Republican officeholders who are not certain Romney can win, but the alternatives look like disasters hurting House, Senate and State level races.

The nominating process is hurting both the image of the party and of the candidates.

• 49% of Democrats say Republican nomination battle is making Obama look better, Pew/Washington Post
• 26% of Republicans say nomination battle has improved their impression of GOP field, Pew/Washington Post
• 40% of adults say GOP nomination process gives them less favorable impression of Republicans, NBC/Wall Street Journal
• Romney’s unfavorable rating going up and favorable rating going down
 January 2012 – 31% favorable/36% unfavorable
 February 2012 – 28% favorable/39% unfavorable

Expect to see more endorsements from officeholders for Romney timed near primaries and caucuses. Also, efforts to limit attacks on Romney are likely to increase.

Historically, the Republican Party power structure had many ways to hurry the conclusion of a race. But 2012 has, due to the new rules and the weakness of Romney, been a much more free flow and cantankerous affair.

See articles:
Pew: GOP race is rallying Democrats
NBC/Wall Street Journal: Primary season takes ‘corrosive’ toll on GOP and its candidates

Friday, March 9, 2012

Democratic Caucuses Bring Out Handful of Party Faithful

President Obama wisely worked to avoid any challenge on his left, but the cost is that the party apparatus has to do other things to motivate members during the primary season.

In Colorado that is a special challenge since there is no statewide race of consequence.  Allison Sherry of the Denver Post described the likely low turnout for the Democratic caucuses, accompanied by the apparent quieting of Democratic liberals and minorities concerning the President’s performance.

“‘He basically came out and said, “Let’s forget about working with the Republicans with this debt-ceiling nonsense,”’ said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli.  ‘I don’t hear the dissatisfaction, or even anger, anymore like I used to.’”  (Denver Post, March 6, 2012)

It is a combination of the President moving left, at least in rhetoric, an improving economy and the very shrill Republican presidential primaries.

Kurtis Lee in his Denver Post blog reports the rock bottom Democratic partisan caucuses’ turnout.

“‘The caucuses are driven overwhelmingly by the interest in the contest.  If there’s no interest, then there is usually not attendance,’ Floyd Ciruli, a political analyst, said.

Ciruli adds that the 12,500 who participated are ‘compulsive political followers.’

‘They’re party people that would never miss a caucus,’ he said.”  (Denver Post, March 7, 2012)

See Denver Post:

U.S. House May Not Move Much

Most observers believe former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will retire if the Democrats don’t retake the House.  That should help motivate some of the Republican grassroots.

Democrats have a high hill to climb to overcome their historic loss in 2010 (63 seats).  They need to pick up 25 seats, but the latest polling shows the generic test for voter intention in congressional races is dead even; i.e., no Democratic advantage.

In Democratic wins in 2006 (they retook the House) and 2008 (they padded their majority), they were ahead by about 10 points in the generic test.

Nor is there much evidence that a strong presidential race will help House candidates.  Neither Clinton in his 1996 re-election nor Bush in 2004 picked up more than a handful of seats.

Is Pelosi’s retirement imminent?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Romney Wins, But Headlines Say No

Mitt Romney had a big night on Super Tuesday, but the headlines offered more doubt than kudos.  It is hard to see a delegate strategy by which Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich can win.  However, a scan of the Wednesday headlines suggest Romney is the candidate with all the problems. 

·         Romney wins a few rounds, but a bruising battle goes on, New York Times, 3-7-12
·         More delegates and doubts for Romney, New York Times, 3-7-12
·         Romney is showing scars from ugly battle for GOP nomination, Washington Post, 3-7-12
·         Battle in Ohio reinforces GOP divide, Los Angeles Times, 3-7-12
·         Romney ekes out Ohio win, Denver Post, 3-7-12

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Super Tuesday Big Boost for Romney

Mitt Romney accomplished what he needed to on the biggest primary and caucus night of the nomination season.  With more than 400 delegates at stake, Romney won over half, or more than two-to-one over the field.

Most importantly, he battled back in Ohio as he did in Michigan and checked Rick Santorum’s early lead.

Equally significant, Romney came in second in the major states he didn’t win – Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma – affirming he is an acceptable second even where his opponents dominated.

The delegate math is becoming inexorable.  Romney now has 55 percent of the selected delegates and he is a third of the way to the 1,144 he needs for nomination.

Santorum and Newt Gingrich have no plausible theory to win the nomination without completely changing the trends begun in Iowa on January 3 and continuing through last night.  While the two of them may stay in this race, by the current math, Romney should have the nomination by the end of May.

Although Romney hits a bad patch in the remaining events in March, he breaks into some good fertile territory with large states and winner-takes-all events in April and May.

·         Romney 55% of decided delegates
·         Romney 35% of total for nomination
·         End of May, 1,956 delegates voted upon, with many of them “winner-takes-all”

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Romney is Back – Again

After Mitt Romney’s Arizona and Michigan primary wins, he took back over first place in national polls of Republican Party identifiers.  Romney last moved ahead shortly after his Florida win, but quickly lost it when Rick Santorum hit his trifecta on February 7, with wins in Minnesota, Missouri and the major upset in Colorado.  This will be Romney’s fourth time on top since last November, a volatile race.  A rush of events in March began in the Washington state caucus, which Romney won on March 2.

Santorum now appears to be Romney’s chief rival, if still under-funded.  Newt Gingrich has been relegated to a weak third place, and only appears to have a chance in his home state of Georgia in today’s ten-state Super Tuesday contest.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Oil Prices are Obama’s Problem

Oil price increases are a danger to President Obama.  Last year’s mid-year economic slowdown was, at least partially, caused by the run-up in gas prices, and it could happen again as average prices approach $4.00 per gallon ($3.65 on Feb. 24, 2012).  A mid-summer economic slowdown could reverse the President’s recent climb in approval rating and endanger his re-election. 

But gas prices themselves can move polls away from those deemed responsible and toward those out of office.  The last major spike in the summer of 2008 ($4.10) caused Democrats, who had stopped offshore drilling, to rethink their position.  The Colorado Senate race between frontrunner Democrat Mark Udall and Republican Bob Schaffer tightened for one of the few times during the campaign.

Finally, Obama is vulnerable on policy grounds.  Democrats’ energy policy for the first four years of the Administration focused more on greenhouse gases than supplies.  That policy, dominated by cap and trade legislation, did not make it out of Congress.  Grants, loans and tax breaks for green energy have had little impact on energy use thus far.

Obama’s most high-profile energy decision in 2011 was delaying the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to Texas.  The public opposes Obama’s decision.

About two-thirds (62%) of the public have heard about the Keystone Pipeline, and among them 66 percent believe it should be approved.

The administration is playing defense, worried about the economy, voters’ immediate reaction and their policy vulnerabilities.  This is likely to be an issue that gets hotter with the summer driving season.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Pueblo's Super Tuesday Caucus

Although the Colorado Democratic caucus on March 6 will be ignored with the Republican presidential candidates battling in 10 other states, Pueblo County Democrats will start a season of contests for two county commissioner positions and district attorney.

The biggest surprise is incumbent District Attorney Bill Thiebaut’s challenge from County Commissioner Jeff Chostner.  Thiebaut so dominated the Pueblo Democratic Party four years ago, he pushed out then incumbent Gus Sandstrom, who could not get enough delegates to even get on the ballot.  Now he is playing defense for alleged ineffective prosecutions and wasted efforts against a Colorado Springs water project.

The races for county commissioner are a part of Pueblo Democrats full employment.  Incumbent County Commissioner John Cordova will be challenged by well-known former City Council Ray Aguilera.  The open county commissioner seat has four Democrats competing, a Pueblo Democrat jobs program.

In both cases, Republicans who seldom win countywide in Pueblo are looking for opportunities.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Americans Will Support Response to Iranian Aggression

Americans are war weary.  They are glad to be out of Iraq, which they call a mistake, and support the Afghanistan withdrawal.  But, if Iran takes a hostile act against America or its vital interests, Americans will support a strike against it.

Iran is mentioned most frequently as American’s “greatest enemy.”

Gallup reports Iran also has an 87 percent unfavorable rating, the bottom of a list of countries that Canada, Australia and Great Britain lead and Iran and North Korea anchor.

If Iran goes nuclear, attacks Israel or closes the Strait of Hormuz, Americans will support a counterstrike.

If Israel attacks Iran, Americans’ response will likely depend on the context.  Israel has the advantage of being favorably thought of by 71 percent of Americans, but they will need a strong justification.

Iran represents a danger to the administration.  Americans are worried about it.  Pew reports people are closely divided on Obama’s handling of Iran.  Forty-eight percent approve and 41 percent disapprove.  Presidential elections and Iran have had a bad history, witnessing Jimmy Carter’s long unsuccessful effort to extract the hostages in 1980.