by Floyd Ciruli
The following e-mail newsletter was distributed prior to the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday primary. The most recent update is posted first, followed by two earlier updates.Western States Make History 2-5-08
Colorado will make history on Feb. 5, 2008. Both parties will participate in the presidential nominating contest while it is still undecided. Due to its late date and complex caucus rules, local partisans had previously been left out of the nomination game. But this year, Colorado will join six other western states to provide about one-third of the elected delegates on Super Tuesday. California dominates, offering 68 percent of the Democratic delegates and 59 percent of the Republicans.
Independent voters can participate in few western contests. Both, or at least one party, allows independents to vote in California, Idaho and Utah. A statewide winner-takes-all option, which Republicans allow, is provided in Arizona, Montana and Utah. California uses winner-takes-all, but most of the delegates must be selected at the congressional district level. Other western states apportion their delegates reflecting voter preference in the primary or caucus.
Colorado has 55 elected Democratic delegates, and 71 total after the 16 super delegates are added. Republicans will elect 43 delegates to the convention, with three automatic unpledged delegates.
Hispanic Voters a Key Election Bloc 2-5-08
Hispanics will be the key voting bloc in both the primaries and caucuses and the general election. Hillary Clinton has the lead among Hispanic voters by two-to-one over Barack Obama in the early going. She carried them in the Nevada caucus and is leading by 60 percent to 20 percent in California polls from late January. She calls it her “firewall,” as the African-American vote has increasingly consolidated behind Barack Obama.
Clinton’s strength with Hispanic voters reflects their awareness of her name, the attention former president Bill Clinton’s administration gave Hispanics including frequent trips by the Clintons to California and a long list of supporters assembled early in 2007 including the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa.
Democrats are hoping Hispanic voters will swing Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico into their column in November. President George W. Bush captured 40 percent of Hispanic voters in his 2004 re-election, but exit polls in 2006 showed Hispanic voters supporting Democrats by 70 percent. Their support was one reason Democrats made gains in congressional, statewide and state legislative races in western states, such as Colorado and Arizona.
The number of independent registered voters has doubled in some western states during the last decade. About one-third of Colorado voters have been unaffiliated with the two major parties for several decades (an even higher percentage claim to be independent when asked party identity in polls). The percentage of independent voters has grown rapidly in the last decade, doubling in Arizona and New Mexico and nearly doubling in California.
In the early primaries and caucuses, exit and entrance polls have shown independents more attracted to Barack Obama and John McCain than other candidates. In the 2006 Colorado election, unaffiliated voters voted Democratic by 2 to 1. Exit polls showed they gave a similar critical edge to Democrats nationally. Today, they are as likely to say the country is on the wrong track as Democrats.
See “Colorado Voters Mull Immigration, Economy Ahead of Caucus” (Betty Anne Bowser, PBS Online NewsHour: Report, Jan. 30, 2008).
Economy Pushes Immigration and War Out of Top Issue Position 2-5-08
For most of 2007, the Iraq War was rated as the most important issue by voters and framed the election. But in early December, the economy surged to the top position with voters. The consequences of the shift were rapid as candidates moved economic policies to the top of their agendas and advertising. Rudy Giuliani may have been most negatively effected since his raison d’etat was 9/11.
In the Denver Post poll of January 23, the economy was first on peoples’ minds, with Iraq, health care and immigration following.
Nationally, an LA Times poll asked voters to cite their top two issues. For Republicans, the economy was first with terrorism and immigration in second and third place. Iraq fell to fourth. The Democrats considered Iraq and the economy tied for their attention. Health care was third and immigration at the end of the list.
Voters in both parties rate the national economy’s performance poor. The percentage of voters concerned with the economy is at levels not seen since the mid-1990s.
Candidate Strengths and Weaknesses in Final Polls 2-5-08
The long-standing demographic differences among the candidates were confirmed by the final polls. The final California Field Poll was used for this analysis.
Clinton is ahead with women, Latinos, seniors, conservatives, less educated and lower income Democrats. She represents the old base of the party. In national polls, she seldom goes below 45 percent, but never goes above 50 percent.
Obama leads with the few non-partisans expected to vote in California’s open Democratic primary, Black, young, liberal, post-graduate educated and higher income voters. He represents the newer forces in the party that were seen in the 1984 Gary Hart campaign, but up until now, haven’t represented a majority of the party. His national support is now above 40 percent.
Republican differences in sub-voter groups are more muted, except in ideology, with McCain winning moderates and losing strong conservatives to Mitt Romney, and McCain ahead with upper income voters, while voters whose incomes are under $80,000 are more closely split among all three candidates. Mike Huckabee nearly ties with McCain among Republican voters who say they are born-again.
In a runoff between Republican and Democratic nominees, Obama tends to run slightly better than Clinton due to his attraction of independents and a few moderate Republicans. Also, McCain tends to be the stronger Republican in the field due to his capturing independent-type voters.
Final Caucus Turnout Prediction 2-5-08
Colorado has not had a caucus event since the 1980s that either party felt any enthusiasm about. Colorado Democrats strongly supported Gary Hart in 1984 and Republicans had some spirited battles around the Reagan candidacy in 1976 and 1980. But historically, the Colorado caucus was too late to generate any participation beyond party regulars. The frontrunners were usually already crowned by the April and March caucus dates.
Also, the caucuses have been too complex and opaque to attract anything beyond the regulars. Democrats began implementing procedures to encourage participation in the late 1970s. Only this year Republicans instituted a presidential preference poll. Neither party ever reported the results the evening of the event beyond a few antidotes and general impressions of who did well or not.
For the three presidential elections in the 1990s and 2000, a primary system was used. The 2004 caucus held little interest for Republicans who had no contest. The Democratic race was over when John Kerry became the forbidding favorite in late February.
Turnout in caucuses and primaries has been up this year around the country, especially in the Democratic contests. Democratic turnout has been doubling. However, it is still a modest figure compared to general election turnouts.
Colorado’s caucus turnout is typically less than 50,000 statewide for both parties. Hence, doubling will produce 100,000 partisans. Independent voters are not allowed to participate in the Colorado caucus. The state has 2 million partisan voters.
Delegate Hunt: Clinton and McCain are Frontrunners 2-4-08
Hillary Clinton has 50 percent of the delegates as of Feb. 4, although only one-quarter of the delegates needed for the nomination have been selected. After Florida, John McCain jumped to 93 delegates, or 43 percent of those decided. About 18 percent of Republican delegates needed for nomination have been selected. The race is now focused on which candidate can clinch the nomination with a majority of delegates (50% plus one). The next phase of the race is less about winning statewide and more about delegate counts. Although several states voting Tuesday are winner-takes-all for Republicans, many delegates in both parties are selected in congressional districts.
Colorado Polling Shows Close Democratic Race 2-4-08
The only poll published in the last 10 days in Colorado shows Barack Obama ahead of Hillary Clinton by 2 percentage points. Mitt Romney holds a 19-point lead over John McCain, but the poll was taken before the Florida primary, after which McCain moved ahead in national polls. Clinton continues to lead by 5 percentage points nationally. Also, caucus state polls are especially difficult to conduct due to low turnout.
Nationally, McCain has consolidated his position during the last week, although polls in California have a tight race between McCain and Romney. The Democratic race is very close nationally with Clinton holding the 45 percent she’s had for months, but Obama now closing and ahead in some polls, including in California.
About Half the Delegates at Stake for Each Party 2-4-08
Democrats will pick 52 percent of their delegates Tuesday in 22 states, and Republicans will choose 45 percent in 21 states (24 states total hold an event). More than 40 percent of the delegates are yet to be selected with the next largest events in Texas and Ohio on March 4.
In recent races, the nomination was wrapped up by mid-March at the latest.
Party rules are complex, but both parties have regular delegates chosen in primaries and caucuses, and unpledged delegates selected due to their position in the party, such as national committee persons and elected officials.
As the race continues and if it remains close in either party, super delegates or unpledged delegates can make the difference by pulling a candidate over the top. The Democratic nominee needs 2,025 votes and the Republican 1,191.
Super Tuesday in the West 1-31-08
Colorado joins 24 other states on Feb. 5 to select nearly half of the Democratic and Republican delegates (22 Democratic contests and 21 Republican contests, for a total of 24 states with primaries or caucuses). Six intermountain states and California will hold events. California will be the primary battleground because of the rich delegate load, the intense media coverage and the bragging rights from winning the largest state in the union.
Although Clinton and McCain are ahead in most of the largest states, the volatile election environment this year has made projections from pre-election polls unreliable.
Many western states have more independent and Hispanic voters, making Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico likely to be key battlegrounds in November. See “The Mountain West, once GOP turf, is now competitive.” “The interior west had added new independents and Latino voters who are up for grabs.” (Ben Arnoldy, Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 31, 2008).
February 5 Colorado Precinct Caucus 1-31-08
On Feb. 5, thousands of Coloradans will participate in the Super Tuesday selection of presidential nominees. A record turnout is expected at the Colorado caucus. Typically, caucuses attract less than 5 percent of registered partisan votes. But, even with the poorly understood system, at least double the historic number of voters are expected, or more than 200,000 partisans.
McCain Becomes Frontrunner 1-31-08
The latest primary, Florida, gave a close victory to John McCain, ending Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s campaign, and finally shifting voters’ focus to Super Tuesday Feb. 5. McCain and Hillary Clinton lead nationally, but with less than 10 points separating them from their rivals, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.
A series of reports will be distributed as Colorado voters participate in the Feb. 5 caucus.
Floyd Ciruli will join Dick Wadhams, Republican State Chairman; Pat Waak, Democratic State Chairwoman; and Lynn Bartels of the Rocky Mountain News in a post-delegate election analysis at 7:30 a.m. at the Denver Newspaper Agency auditorium.
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Ciruli Associates is a non-partisan research firm providing polling, election analysis and political commentary to Colorado and national organizations and media since 1976.