Tuesday, July 31, 2012


It is sad to hear of Helen Thorpe's and John Hickenlooper’s separation.
They married just as his career was shifting from business to politics, and she made it clear that the political life was not her favorite activity.  She maintained her profession and recently authored a book.
The transition from mayor to governor may have contributed to the strain.  Gubernatorial issues and travel are statewide and Hickenlooper’s profile has recently been raised by the fires and shooting of July 20.
The Colorado governorship has caused family difficulties in many recent governors.  Roy Romer, Bill Owens and Bill Ritter each had to deal with the tensions.
It is unlikely that an amicable separation will cause the Governor any political harm.
We wish them both the best.

Also see Washington Times:  Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper announces separation

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hickenlooper Gathering Positive Press

A long Reuters article describes Governor Hickenlooper’s image as friendly, easygoing, independent, if slightly eccentric.

It works in Colorado and may draw a national constituency.
“Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper stood in front of a slew of cameras hours after the carnage in an Aurora movie theater and struggled to find words:
‘The victims of this senseless act of ... of violence ...’
Hickenlooper stumbled, then gave up. ‘Again, there just aren’t words,’ he said.
The governor's remarks, at a news conference last Friday, sounded even more unfocused by comparison with the crisp report delivered minutes later by Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates.
But his halting performance on the national stage did not seem to bother the governor’s constituents. On the contrary, the geeky Democrat with the funny name has earned high marks from Colorado voters precisely because he's unpolished, unscripted and slightly awkward - all of which makes him seem authentic and, especially in recent days, genuinely empathetic, political analysts say.
Hickenlooper consistently earns favorability ratings of 60 percent or higher in a state where the electorate is roughly divided in thirds among Democrats, Republicans and independents. That makes him one of the most broadly popular governors in the country; he's sometimes mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2016.
Watching him at the news conference, wearing rumpled shirt sleeves and fumbling to find the right tone, outsiders might have said ‘He was not as professional as he could be,’ said Floyd Ciruli, an independent pollster in Denver. ‘But that is pure Hickenlooper. He is in no way artificial or practiced.’ (Stephanie Simon, Reuters, July 25)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hickenlooper Speech Starts a Presidential Buzz

By giving a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire, John Hickenlooper has restarted the buzz he’s running for president in 2016.

That still seems doubtful, but the recent national coverage of the fires and the Aurora shooting has raised his profile.

See Fox 31:  Hickenlooper to speak in New Hampshire, fueling 2016 buzz

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tragedy in Aurora

The tragic shooting in Aurora has already reopened a national conversation concerning gun control.  Democrats stopped advocating more gun control legislation after the 2004 presidential and congressional elections.  They became convinced it cost them seats and votes in gun rights areas.

Public opinion may change after this horrific incident, but a 2011 Gallup poll showed support for banning handguns had declined since 1980 and the shooting of President Reagan.  And, that decline is in the face of many violent incidents, including Columbine, Virginia Tech and Tucson to name a few.  People do want strict enforcement of current laws.

There is more support for regulation of automatic weapons (63% ban on assault weapons, CBS/NYT 2011), but politicians have avoided the issue in recent years.

Will Marijuana Bring Out the Youth Vote? – Denver Post

Colorado will have a recreation marijuana initiative on the ballot and it could help Barack Obama with the youth vote, or they might vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, who is a legalization advocate.
“‘Obama on his best day is at 45 or 47 percent out here,’ says longtime Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli.  He thinks the marijuana initiative, support for which has ranged from 46 to 61 percent in polls (depending on how the question is asked), may well do better than the president in November and that Democrats ‘can’t take that vote for granted.’” (Salon.com, 7-19-12)
Obama is winning voters aged 18 to 29 years old by 23 percentage points according to Gallup, but they are 20 points less likely to vote than the average turnout of all registered voters.

Young voters favor the legalization by large majorities.  Will it drive turnout?  At the margins, yes.  Will those voters be attracted to vote for Johnson rather than Obama?  Not likely.
But Denver political consultant Floyd Ciruli said neither Romney’s nor Obama’s campaigns should be worried.
‘By and large, the Libertarian Party brings almost nothing to the table other than ballot access,’ Ciruli said. ‘The individual would have to be a celebrity or be independently wealthy or have an issue that is just raging with the people.’” (Denver Post, 6-19-12)
Denver Post:  Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson, Libertarian from New Mexico, attempts to woo voters
Gallup:  Young U.S. voters’ turnout intentions lagging
Salon.com:  Obama’s pot problem

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Metro Denver Retail Recovery Underway

The Denver seven-county metro area has had a tremendous surge of activity its first five months of the year as measured by sales tax receipts.  Year-to-date receipts (May) are up 8.4 percent over a year ago and sales tax revenue up 9.1 percent for the month compared to May 2011.  This represents a strong improvement over the last three months.  The March year-to-date was up 3.8 percent over 2011 and month-over-month revenue was up 5.8 percent compared to March 2011.

Colorado may be an anomaly, as recent national retail sales slowed in June.  But, areas are unique, and Colorado has had higher personal income growth and lower unemployment than the national average.  So, the improvement through the end of the year could be more modest, yet still ahead of the national average, and the growth is certainly welcomed.

See Wall Street Journal:
When pockets of strength just aren’t enough
U.S. News:  Retail sales cap sluggish quarter

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

West Most Competitive – NPR

Gallup reports that western U.S., along with the Midwest, are the most competitive areas for the presidential race.  Barack Obama has a slight advantage in each.

Within the western states considered very to somewhat competitive, Colorado is the most competitive.  Obama leads by 3 points (average of the most recent polls).

The best indicator of Colorado’s prominence in the presidential campaign is the frequency of candidate visits.  Mitt Romney has been here three times since securing the nomination, including a week ago. NPR Don Gonyea covered the visit.
GONYEA: But despite such moments, long time Colorado pollster, Floyd Ciruli, says Romney is moving cautiously at this stage in the state, avoiding so far the Denver metropolitan area.
FLOYD CIRULI: I assume this is a Maoist strategy - take the countryside and the cities will follow.
GONYEA: Polls in Colorado have given the president a narrow but consistent lead over Romney, even when bad news on the economy or other topics has hit the administration. Ciruli says Romney will need to win over suburban voters around Denver. He says those are the people who decide statewide elections here.
CIRULI: And so ultimately, that's where this battle will be and he hasn't gotten there yet.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, are even more frequent visitors, having just visited the Colorado Springs fire area and Pueblo.

Obama will contest Colorado and Nevada.  Although the campaign talks about Arizona, as of today, he is not competitive there.

One caveat:  There are few polls in many of these states and many were conducted in May or earlier.

Also see Gallup:  Midwest, West most competitive regions in 2012 U.S. election

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sixth Congressional Money Reports – AP News

Republican incumbent Mike Coffman continues to dominate the money race for the 6th congressional district.  He collected $596,000 in the last quarter and has $1.8 million cash on hand.  His opponent, Joe Miklosi, raised $338,000 in the quarter and only has $453,000 cash on hand.
“The other factor making the 6th District a race to watch is its role in national politics. Both presidential campaigns are working furiously to court voters in Arapahoe and Jefferson counties, and the district also plays an outsize role in Democrats' hopes to gain the 25 seats needed for a majority in the U.S. House.
‘If Democrats are going to take the House back, the 6th District in Colorado has got to be one of those they pick up,’ said Floyd Ciruli, a nonpartisan pollster in Denver.” (AP News, July 12, 2012)
Although Miklosi will receive national Democratic money, he will need to make his own breaks in the campaign.  Both parties are working to achieve local turnout, and there is no national advantage building for the Democratic House of Representatives challenge as measured in generic polling.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Supreme Court Can Decide Fate of Presidents

The U.S. Supreme Court can decide the fate of the president.  In 1974, the Watergate tape case brought down President Nixon. Decided on July 24, he left Washington for the last time on presidential Marine One on August 9 (the helicopter is now at his Yorba Linda museum).
No more direct or dramatic example of the power of the Court exists than the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore in December 2000 when the Court stopped the Florida recount and in effect allowed the electoral votes to be awarded to G.W. Bush.
And although no Affordable Health Care bounce is visible in the polls, President Obama was a big winner from the 5 to 4 decision on June 28, 2012 to uphold his signature legislation as constitutional.  A loss would have likely been a blow that could well have been very difficult for him to overcome.
Although the Court is the least democratic branch, it often has the greatest impact on the functioning of our democracy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Will Bad Jobs Data Finally Move the Polls?

The July 6 jobs numbers are as weak as June’s.  The race did not tighten in June.  Will July be different?  Barack Obama has been ahead of Romney since January, ranging from six points to a tie on May 7.  His recent three-point lead has held up throughout June and, although it tightened to two points, it still seems impervious to the poor economic news.

That was a surprise and is a big problem for Mitt Romney. Historically, the strength of the economy measured by unemployment and direction were key indicators if an incumbent was going to be re-elected.

Unemployment is stuck at a high 8.2 percent and the direction flat. Are the polls struck or can Romney move ahead for the first time this year in the Real Clear Politics polling average?

Although there are a multitude of alternatives for the November election, the current scenario is for the Democrats to pick up a few seats in the House, lose a few in the Senate and the President to be re-elected by two points.  

A number of factors appear to be helping Obama and keeping Romney in second place.
  • Obama has been using media advertising to counter the bad news.  In June, when bad employment numbers and the Democratic blow-out in Wisconsin should have helped Romney, nothing changed.  Although a majority of the voters have made a decision, those in swing states still open to persuasion are viewing a barrage of anti-Romney ads.
  • Obama has worked hard to shift the discussion from current unemployment to his claim of improvements since early 2009. He also argues that he inherited the problem from Bush. But most importantly, he argues that Romney and his policies are unfair and will hurt the middle class.  Obama has introduced Romney and it’s been overwhelmingly negative.
  • Obama is aggressively using an incumbent’s power to hand out benefits, from grants and programs to status and recognition. The administration is busy announcing rural development grants, patent office placements, changes in illegal immigrant deportation rules and support for gay marriage. Obama is attempting to win over voters who are only weakly committed or are base Democrats, but may not vote without an extra incentive.
G.W. Bush was ahead by three points in June in the 2004 re-election against John Kerry.  He won by three in November.  His problem wasn’t unemployment, but the war in Iraq.  The Bain attack is having the effect of the Swift Boat attacks, which was mounted by an independent group in the summer of 2004, but put Kerry on the defensive.  He never recovered.

July 6 9KUSA News interview:  Weak jobs figures do little to shake up Presidential race
July 11 NPR interview:  Romney campaigns in conservative parts of Colorado
USA Today:  Swing states poll:  Amid barrage of ads, Obama has edge

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Is Mexico Back?

Are the economic reforms promised since Vicente Fox was inaugurated in 2000 about to be instituted?  Will parts of the nation’s greatest dinosaur, Petroleos Mexicanos, be privatized?  Will the drug cartel violence recede?  Could all this happen with the Mexican party in charge, that is noted for its authoritarianism and corruption?

For all of Mexico’s many friends north of the border, we hope so.

The president-elect, Enrique Pena Nieto, is at least as media savvy as Fox, who remade the image of Mexican presidents.  Nieto’s party only won a plurality (38%) and not the lower house.  A far cry from the old days when the PRI would regularly win 100 percent of the vote.

Twelve years in the wilderness has taught the PRI how to campaign.  Now, we will see if it finds the talent to pass and implement its agenda.

Mexico’s political center is more left than in the U.S.  Their left candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who got 32 percent of the vote this year, is much closer to Hugo Chavez than Barack Obama. In 2006, he only lost by 250,000 votes out of 40 million cast.  Of course, Mexico will always have a more socialized economy than the U.S., and its foreign policy will remain more aligned with the developing world than the U.S.
But, they want to lift their GDP above its weak current 2 percent and they want Mexico, not Brazil, to be the Latin American country first thought of as on the move.
Go Mexico!  We’re pulling for you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Denver Region’s Economic Development Strategy Looks Befuddled

It has not been easy to accumulate the number of bad headlines the Denver metro region’s economic development leaders have racked up in the last couple of months.  And, that has been in spite of news reports describing a steady recovery in Colorado.

The Gaylord project was a complete disaster, from attempting to hijack the Stock Show to the lack of candor on the part of Gaylord’s management related to their commitment to the project.  But in the last few days, the Gaylord project collapse has been joined by the GE solar plant delay due to bad economics, and most spectacularly, the Colorado Winter 2022 games initiative being shelved due to a lack of communication with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which has different plans.

One sympathizes with the economic development officials who have had to explain what’s going on:
“I don’t think it’s off the table for Denver, but for the near term it won’t be full steam ahead.”
Sue Baldwin, Denver Sports

“Colorado made a long-term commitment to GE, and we intend to remain good business partners.”
Ken Lund, Executive Director, Colorado Office of Economic Development

“It is difficult dealing with public companies.  They had issues they had to address.  We are still talking.”
Wendy Mitchell, Chief Executive, Aurora Economic Development Council

“It’s a take a breath moment.”
Tom Clark, Chief Executive, Metro Denver Economic Development Corp

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Politics of Wild Fires – 9KUSA Sunday, July 1, 5:00 PM Interview

Of course, there was a little politics around the President’s June 29 visit of the wild fires.  Colorado is a toss-up state and every visit has a political component.
But, presidents are increasingly involved in natural disasters, especially after the Katrina hurricane so negatively affected President Bush.  Presidents show national concern and sympathy for the losses.  They bring disaster relief and recognize workers.
After a bit of initial criticism, the state’s political establishment came together to welcome the President and federal help.  Congressman Lamborn and the mayor of Colorado Springs, both Republicans, joined the Governor and both U.S. senators, Democrats, to welcome the President. 

Can Romney Get 30% of Hispanic Vote?

Thirty percent seems like a modest goal, but a host of new polling reports show President Obama winning two-thirds of Hispanic voters nationally, including in Colorado.  The latest poll from a group called Latino Decisions shows 70 percent of Colorado’s Hispanic voters support Obama and 22 percent for Mitt Romney.
As the McClatchy Newspapers quoted:  “In Colorado, ‘If Romney gets 30 percent he’ll be pleased.’  Romney has one possible advantage: During the February caucus, he was painted as the centrist in the race, losing to conservative Rick Santorum.” (Floyd Ciruli; David Lightman, reporter)

Romney’s challenge is that Hispanic voters are most likely to identify as Democratic due to their social economic status, many attitudes, such as preference for government solutions and their local political leadership being mostly Democratic.
Romney benefits from having a less extreme image overall and his recent attempts to distance himself from his own and some elements of the Republican Party’s harsh positions on immigration.
“Romney still has time to make a difference to trim Obama’s lead among Hispanics if he presents a compelling and clear message, says Denver political analyst and pollster Floyd Ciruli.
‘I think there’s a competition between Obama and Mitt Romney over how big that percentage is.  Clearly the Democrats will win it (in Colorado.)  But there’s a difference,’ Ciruli says. ‘The difference between 60 percent and 70 percent is about 20,000 votes. It’s not a small number.  Republicans are definitely interested in it.’
While immigration reform generally ranks third in importance among Hispanics – after jobs and the economy, and education – it’s an issue that remains crucial in the election. Republicans need a solutions-oriented approach, Ciruli says.
‘It doesn’t have to be what the activists in the civil rights community want.  But there has to be some type of approach there because it really is nearly a litmus test issue,’ he says. ‘Before people will pay attention to you, they have to feel that you are at least sympathetic to the plight of millions of people who are undocumented and to the impact it is having on the entire system.  That will be Romney’s challenge.  What he has going for him is that Hispanic voters, just like and in fact even more so than Anglo voters, are worried about the economy.  And he has an economic platform.’
‘George W. Bush came out of a Texas culture that had a high comfort level with the Hispanic community, which has been in Texas longer than the Anglo community,’ Ciruli says.  ‘He had a tough immigration position.  He also was looking for solutions and reached across the aisle.  That’s what it takes.  He ran in some of his elections at 50 percent of the Hispanic community.  And in the presidential election, he had 40 percent.  That shows it can be done.’”  (Mike Cote, Colorado Biz Magazine)
Hispanics are more concerned about the economy and health care than immigration, and the public at large, including Republicans, are more positive about immigrants than in recent years.  No doubt, a function of the dramatic drop in illegal immigration from south of the border.

But, Romney’s potential for upside support is still limited due to Hispanic voters, especially in the West orientation to liberalism and their own Democratic Party leaders.

Obama’s challenge is that in an effort to raise turnout, he doesn’t move so far to the left as to anger independent and moderate voters who are very much in the center on immigration issues.
Latino Decisions: New Poll: Obama leads Romney among Latinos in key 2012 battleground states
USA Today/Gallup Poll:  Latinos strongly backing Obama
Gallup:  Americans more positive about immigration
Gallup:  Hispanic voters favor gov’t involvement to solve problems
Gallup:  Hispanic voters put other issues before immigration
Real Clear Politics:  Obama’s puzzling immigration decision
Washington Post:  The Fix: Obama’s immigration decision turns off voters in three swing states
Colorado Biz Magazine:  Courting the Latino vote in a swing state

Friday, July 6, 2012

Chostner, the New Boss of Pueblo County – Pueblo Democrats Take Their Politics Seriously

Most Colorado Democrats sat out the June 26 primary, but 40 percent of Pueblo party regulars poured out and removed a seated District Attorney, Bill Thiebaut, and County Commissioner, John Cordova.

Thiebaut is an interesting case.  Eight years ago, desiring to secure a job after a long legislative career and a failed Lt. Governor race in one of the doomed Rollie Heath campaigns, Thiebaut beat longtime Democratic incumbent DA Gus Sandstrom in the party convention.  Sandstrom didn’t contest the decision in the party primary, but there was long-term bad blood.

Thiebaut, with no prosecutorial background and liberal instincts, lost some high-profile cases and busied himself with Democratic city politics and environmental causes.  His formidable opponent was County Commissioner and former Air Force JAG attorney, Jeff Chostner, fresh from a November 2010 countywide re-election.

Interesting, Thiebaut’s office manager, a former County Attorney and County Democratic Chair, Terry Hart, won the open commissioner seat.  Popular former Pueblo West legislator Buffie McFadyen soundly beat Cordova, whose term was punctuated by a number of controversies and who had won office after a bitter primary four years ago.

A lot of new faces and good news for Pueblo West, the second largest concentration of voters in the county.  McFadyen is a former representative and Chostner was often picking fights.

November should not produce any surprises, although the Republican Party have candidates in both commissioner seats.  Pueblo just has a lot of Democrats.  Sal Pace got 14,800 as an unopposed Democratic congressional candidate and Scott Tipton, the Republican incumbent, attracted only 6,500.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Democrats Lose the White Middle Class

President Barack Obama is losing the White middle class. Mitt Romney is 19 percentage points ahead of Obama with White voters making $36,000 up to $90,000 in household income. Obama is also losing independent middle-income voters by 8 percentage points.

Obama carries lower-income voters (less than $36,000) and Romney wins wealthy voters (over $90,000). But, Obama’s challenge is that, although there are more lower- than higher-income voters, low-income voters say they are less likely to turn out.

Democrats, of course, have been losing the White middle class for years, but Obama’s problem this year is that support among middle class and even lower-income (down to $24,000) Whites (non-Hispanic) has declined since the 2008 sweep against John McCain. His support of 37 percent is 6 percent lower than 2008.

Among the middle-income voters, Obama has targets of opportunity with women (currently wins by 3%) and, of course, more secular voters.

Gallup: Romney edges Obama in battle for middle-income voters 
Gallup: Obama’s White base shows cracks compared with 2008
Real Clear Politics: Obama’s White support is too low to win 
National Journal: How diversity divides White America

Monday, July 2, 2012

Will There be a Robert’s Bump? Tie Race at Start of July

President Obama begins the final four months of the campaign with the same slight advantage he’s held for months.

Fresh off his June 28 Supreme Court win, which saved his legislative legacy, but after a tough month overall (bad job numbers, Wisconsin loss, behind in fundraising, etc.), will the health care decision provide a lift for Obama?

On July 1, Obama is below 50 percent in both approval and head-to-head with Mitt Romney in the Real Clear Politics poll average. It reinforces that the race will be decided in a handful of states and overall by a couple of percentage points.

In Colorado, the current polling average is 3 percent for Obama, tracking the national trend. Expect Colorado to be in the final toss-up category.