Monday, April 30, 2012

Steadman Not Happy

Senator Pat Steadman is well-known as a congenial go-getter who is making progress on civil union legislation.  But, he stressed out last week and called the Denver D.A. a villain and snake for disagreeing with a drug bill of his.  D.A. Morrissey offered a mild retort questioning Pat’s professionalism, and he probably wasn’t that angry given Snake Plissken may be one of the greatest law enforcement officers in popular culture.

Government Dysfunction Top Concern for Denver Metro Voters

In a new metro poll conducted by Ciruli Associates, government dysfunction was a top concern.  Denver area voters rated jobs and economy their number one concern, but government gridlock, corruption and extreme partisanship held second place, before the budget deficit and spending, health care and education.

With presidential approval below 50 percent and Congress below 20 percent, the 2012 political process is likely to remain volatile and the public in a surly mood.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Water a Key to Economic Sustainability

Since the 2002 drought, Coloradans have been especially supportive of the twin goals of water conservation and water storage.

After 10 years of sufficient moisture, including two recent very wet years where every reservoir was filled, Colorado is entering another period of drought.  Most water storage and development is initiated locally, and currently there is more than $3 billion in projects in construction or planning, mostly along the Front Range.

In recent years, the state has weighed in with a river basin grassroots process that has the state’s interest groups and interested citizens talking about the major collective decisions concerning protecting Colorado’s share of the Colorado River and stretching the water we have.

In a recent speech with the Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District, reported in the Durango Herald, water leaders from the four corners came together to discuss the state’s effort.

“Colorado continues to grow, with an additional 4 to 5 million residents expected by 2050, Ciruli said.

If all identified water projects are completed, there still will be a gap between demand and supply of 190,000 acre-feet, he said.

The gap could be as much as 630,000 acre-feet if projects fall through, he said.

Projects are moving ahead, but the solution to satisfying demand will be a combination of conservation, storage, reuse and mostly new supplies, he said.

‘People are saying that it’s time for implementation,’ Ciruli said.  ‘It’s time to get moving.’

Ciruli cited a 2011 report by the Inter-Basin Compact Committee to the effect that a status quo approach won’t work.

Water storage, preserving agriculture and making sure Colorado water isn’t appropriated by other states are important to Colorado residents, Ciruli said.

‘There’s worry about out-of-state interests,’ Ciruli said.  ‘Polls show that residents want us to secure our water, to stay ahead of the problem.’”

Monday, April 23, 2012

Colorado Republicans Still Divided

Party enthusiasm is up in spite of the race being over.  A huge crowd of Colorado Republicans fought over a small number of national convention spots Saturday, a week ago.  Because President Obama swept the state in 2008, Republican seats were reduced from four years ago.

The Republican state convention (April 14) shows the party is still divided over control of the state party and the nomination system.  Although Rick Santorum quit midweek, his supporters joined with vocal Ron Paul supporters and took about one-half the delegate slots to the late August Republican national convention in Tampa.

It was a combination of Santorum’s supporters wanting to go to Tampa and a desire to keep the conservative message strong.  There will be considerable negotiating with Romney’s establishment forces prior to and during the Republican convention. 

Santorum surprised Romney by winning a plurality of Colorado caucus attendees February 7.  It reflects that there is a wing of the party that emerged in strength in the 2010 caucuses and primaries and continues today.  Its members and leaders are very conservative and mostly non-metro.

“Everyone could see it was coming, but the timing was a little abrupt for us,” said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli.  “Santorum did it because of Pennsylvania – he wanted to get out before he lost – but out here, it means that Republicans only have a few days to cut their deals.”  (Washington Times, 4-12-12)

Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee and has more than one-half the delegates he needs and will roll up big majorities in the next round of events – April 24.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Santorum Quits – April 11, 2012 Race Over

Rick Santorum finally recognized the fate of his campaign and suspended it (April 10, 2012).  Mitt Romney’s immediate challenge will be to unify the Republican Party, which has been fractured by the long and bitter primary.

As Santorum quit, national polls showed he had a quarter of the Republican rank and file.

Romney has struggled through a volatile season.  Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Santorum had the lead sometime since August.  And, in early 2011, the party flirted with Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump.

Romney’s 41 percent support as his last major challenger quits is low for a candidate securing his nomination.  He beats George McGovern in 1972 (30%), but was behind the next lowest performer – Carter in 1980 (48%).

National polls show President Obama and Romney running within three points, with nearly equal percentages of their respective partisan loyal (47% to 44%,  The latest Gallup tracking poll has Romney up 2 points.

Both candidates have to be concerned about enthusiasm and turnout.  Republicans had a reported advantage, but it mostly dissipated in the long primary battle.

See Gallup polls:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Obama Beats Romney of 14 Points in Denver Metro Area, But “Other Candidate” Major Force

President Obama begins his campaign for re-election with 44 percent of the Denver metro vote, far below his vote in 2008 (61%) or his 54 percent statewide win over John McCain.  In a new Ciruli Associates poll, Obama has a 14-point advantage in the Denver metro area over Romney, but it is largely a product of 17 percent of voters preferring some “other candidate.”  While he won the state by 9 points in 2008, he was winning a landslide 29-point victory in the metro area, taking every county except Douglas.

Mitt Romney’s first challenge will be to unify the Republican Party.  The poll, completed the day rival Rick Santorum quit the race, had 18 percent of Republicans picking “other” for a candidate.  (Gallup reported that Santorum had 24 percent of Republicans nationally supporting him at the end of his campaign.)

Although a number of polls have shown Obama ahead in swing states and a recent Colorado PPP robo poll has Obama ahead of Romney by 13 points statewide, 52 percent to 40 percent, most analysts believe if the national race is close, Colorado will be within a couple of points (see latest Gallup poll: 45% Obama to 47% Romney; and New York Times:  46% Obama to 46% Romney).

In the metro area, Obama has unified his base, receiving 89 percent of Democrats.  Romney only gets 67 percent of Republicans.  Also, Obama is carrying independent voters by 12 points.  An “other candidate” is selected by more than one-quarter (27%) of independents, suggesting there is room for a third party candidate in Colorado.

The survey of the seven-county metro area voters was conducted by Ciruli Associate for the blog, The Buzz, using RDD probability sampling with 500 voters from April 6-10, 2012 (±4.4 percentage points).

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RTD’s FasTracks Tax Proposal has Weak Voter Support in Metro Area

RTD’s proposal to double its sales tax dedicated to the FasTracks transit program begins with 49 percent support in the Denver metro area.  It has only a three percent lead against a committed opposition.

Nearly one-third (30%) of metro voters “definitely oppose” the tax increase and only 17 percent “definitely support.”

The Ciruli Associates question in this survey used a historical context of the revenue provided for the project since its 2004 inauguration.  Previously, polls have shown people like transit, especially light rail, and would like the system built out quicker.  But, the decline in trust in government makes RTD and its ability to manage finances and the project an issue in this election.

FasTracks has two-thirds of Democrats (65%) offering support, but barely one-third of Republicans (38%).  Only two-fifths (41%) of independent voters support the tax increase.

Voters in the two counties that should receive the most benefit from the next phase of transit expenditure, Adams and Boulder, are among the least supportive of the tax increase.  Even Denver is only mildly supportive.

The survey of the seven-county metro area voters was conducted by Ciruli Associates for the blog, The Buzz, using RDD probability sampling with 500 voters from April 6-10, 2012 (±4.4 percentage points).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Governor Hickenlooper Has Mile-High Approval in Denver Metro Area; Obama Below 50 Percent

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper maintains his high approval rating in the Denver metro area one year into his term.  A new Ciruli Associates regional poll shows two-thirds of metro voters approve of Hickenlooper’s performance (67%).  On the other hand, President Barack Obama has a 45 percent approval, 22 points below the Governor.  Hickenlooper has enjoyed high levels of popularity since he began his political career in 2003 when he was elected mayor of Denver, whereas Obama, who won Colorado in 2008, has struggled in the state since early 2010 and may only now be in a slight recovery. 


Hickenlooper is most popular in his home county of Denver, but also has high approval in the Democratic stronghold of Boulder, swing county Jefferson County, and even Republican dominated Douglas County.  Obama’s approval is exceptional only in Denver.

The survey of the seven-county metro area voters was conducted by Ciruli Associates for the blog, The Buzz, using RDD probability sampling with 500 voters from April 6-10, 2012 (±4.4 percentage points).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Will Marijuana be Legal in Colorado January 2013?

Legalizing marijuana will be on the 2012 ballot.  It could pass.  A Colorado PPP (robo) poll in August 2011 showed marijuana legalization winning 51 percent to 38 percent, and a December survey had it ahead 49 percent to 40 percent. 

Colorado voters have had mixed views on marijuana.  They legalized medical marijuana in 2000, but voters tend to be hostile to local dispensaries.  And, an initiative to legalize small amounts for recreational use failed 60 percent to 40 percent in 2006.

California tends to be frontline for drug political activism.  In November 2010, California voters rejected Proposition 19 legalizing marijuana.  But, in a November 2011 PPP California poll, marijuana appeared to have a slight edge, if not majority support – 48 to 42 percentage points.

And nationally, tolerance for recreational drugs is growing.  A December 2011 national Gallup poll showed 50 percent support legalizing marijuana, up from 36 percent in 2006.

Although Colorado voters are closely divided, out-of-state dollars in favor of legalization could push the issue over the top.  One unknown factor:  What will the local medical marijuana industry do?  They have money and may not want competition.

District attorneys, MADD, parent groups and church leaders may not be effective opponents.  It’s not clear they will raise money and build an organization.  On the other hand, proponents look and work like the Ron Paul campaign (early version).

See Public Policy Polling:

Friday, April 13, 2012

Obama vs. Supreme Court – Who Won?

Oral arguments do not determine or presage Supreme Court decisions, but the health care court proceeding has been a disaster for the Obama administration since the opening of oral arguments on March 27.

The administration and its supporters entered the case confident of the logic and persuasiveness of their arguments, if not the popularity of the legislation.  But, the aggressiveness of questioning from conservative judges and the weakness of the government’s advocates shifted atmospherics against the administration.

Being thrown on the defense at the Supreme Court reverberated around the media and reminded commentators that political support among voters for the health care legislation was weak.  In fact, most people, regardless of their support for the law, believed it was unconstitutional. 

The President then compounded the administration’s problems with a high-profile media exchange where he appeared to try to drag the Court into the polarization that characterizes today’s political environment.  His comments, which were quickly interpreted as threatening the Court’s independence, were accompanied by what many called misstatements of legal theory and political facts.

His performance was broadly panned, even among allied editorial pages and mainstream media outlets.

The Supreme Court is much better thought of than the presidency and Congress even though it receives considerable criticism from parties and various ideological and interest groups depending on which party controls the presidency and the particular court case.  Abortion, affirmative action, criminal and terrorist rights, gay and gun rights, campaign financing, and the decision in Bush vs. Gore had major impact on attentive publics, but modest impact on broad public opinion.

·         The Supreme Court has a 58 percent favorability (Pew 2012)

·         A flood of polls from February and April confirm the public is closely divided on support for health care

·         Also, the mandate is opposed and seen as unconstitutional

See polls:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson Metro Swing Counties

Arapahoe County made the biggest contribution to Michael Bennet’s senate victory in 2010, and is now the state’s top battleground county.

The Denver seven-county metro area makes up about 55 percent of the state’s vote.  In 2010, it provided Democrats with 61 percent of their votes and Republicans 49 percent of their votes.

When Michael Bennet won a 30,000-vote victory in the 2010 senate race, it was a combination of drop offs in Republican Ken Buck’s potential vote and a smaller swing to Bennet that made the difference, and if polls were accurate, the shift took place the last two weeks.

A comparison of the senate race with Walker Stapleton’s race for State Treasurer against Cary Kennedy shows that Buck suffered a 22,000-vote drop off in the Denver metro area from Stapleton’s vote, with the largest shift in Arapahoe, Adams and Denver counties.  Douglas and Jefferson counties were Bennet’s largest pick up of votes over Kennedy.  He gained 12,000 votes.  It was the drop off that caused Buck his biggest problem.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Is Nancy Pelosi Going Home?

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi may be headed home in spite of being a prodigious fundraiser, keen legislative tactician and likely to win her own seat by 80 percent.

The most recent generic ballot test has Republicans up one point over Democrats – 45 percent to 44 percent.  If history holds, when the test is close, Republicans gain seats, not lose them. 

In 1994, Republicans were behind one point, yet won 54 seats and retook the House after a 40-year absence.  In the 2010 survey taken in October before the election, Republicans were up 7 points in the test and achieved an historic high shift of seats (63).

The pattern has been that Democrats win substantial seats when their lead in the test is 10 or more percent, and they need 25 seats in 2012 to take back their majority.  (They won 30 seats in 2006 when they retook the House.)

Although Democrats may gain a few seats, there does not seem to be any trend running in their favor.

·       The low esteem Congress is currently held may be mitigating against either party gaining a distinct advantage.  The election will likely be fought in trenches seat by seat.

·       President Obama’s current advantage is modest and greatly reflects the weakness of the Republican frontrunner.  It is not an endorsement of the Democratic Party.

Pelosi has been in the House since 1987 and was speaker for four years after Democrats took the House in 2006, but failing to take back the House in 2012 will likely bring her House service to an end.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Colorado’s Competitive Congressional Races Hit $2 Million Per Candidate

In the 2010 highly charged congressional elections, candidates hit $2 million in contributions (not counting independent expenditures).

Democrats defending seats spent more than Republicans on the attack.  But, of course, it was a Republican surge year (they took back the House of Representatives with a historic 63-seat pick up).

Notice two Democrats in competitive seats lost even with superior money – Markey vs. Gardner (4th CD) and Salazar vs. Tipton (3rd CD).

Kurtis Lee in his Denver Post blog reports Mike Coffman has already raised $1.37 million, with a rich $532,000 taken in during the first three months of this year.

It remains to be seen if Democrat Joe Miklosi will make a race of it.  On paper, the district is competitive.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Colorado Republicans Hold Their Lead

Colorado Republicans have added to their registration lead since January 1.  Republicans had a 109,000 voter advantage as the campaign year began.  Now Republicans are ahead by 118,000 active and new voters.

Democrats were only 7,000 votes behind Republicans in 2008.

Colorado uses a purge law that removes voters from the polls if they fail to vote.  In 2008, the last presidential election, there were 2.6 million active voters and 2.4 million turned out.  Hence, about 200,000 were purged.

In 2010, there were 2.4 million active voters, but only 1.8 million voted.  They became the new active voter list, 600,000 below the 2010 active voter level (they were purged from the voter file).  As of today, there are 2.2 million registered voters.