Bob Sweeney is flanked by Aurora City Council Member Johnny Watson and guest speaker Magellan Strategies CEO David Flaherty.
BY FREDA MIKLIN
Unaffiliated voters decide elections. If Republicans want to win their votes, they need to offer solutions to the problems that matter to them. Voters want teachers to be paid more and public-school administration costs cut. They want a plan for reasonably-priced health care. They want roads and transit that will get them where they’re going in a predictable time frame.
David Flaherty, founder and CEO of Magellan Strategies, a highly regarded Republican pollster, came to the Arapahoe County Republican Breakfast Club at Maggiano’s DTC March 6 to deliver harsh truths about Colorado Republicans’ prospects in 2020 after getting shellacked by the Democrats in 2018. Perhaps club members were expecting bad news; turnout for the monthly event was smaller than usual.
In 2008, active voter registration in Colorado was split evenly in thirds between Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. As of Feb. 1, unaffiliated voters were the largest group with 40 percent of those registered. Democrats comprised 31 percent of the total, and 29 percent were Republicans.
Colorado used to be a state where unaffiliated voters were the least likely group to vote in non-presidential election years. In 2010, 39 percent of Coloradans who turned out were Republicans, 33 percent were Democrats and 28 percent were unaffiliated. The following non-presidential voting year, 2014, saw similar results. Republicans represented 37 percent of the vote, Democrats 32 percent, unaffiliated voters were 31 percent of the total turnout. That pattern was turned upside down in 2018. Even though a whopping 71 percent of citizens who were affiliated with either of the major parties cast a ballot, more unaffiliated voters cast ballots than did registered Democrats or Republicans.
Today, increasingly more active and involved voters shun party affiliation, especially younger people. In the 18 to 34 age group, 49 percent are unaffiliated. In the 35 to 44 age group, 44 percent are unaffiliated.
Flaherty conducted a post-election survey of 500 unaffiliated voters. “59 percent of respondents said they voted for Jared Polis for governor and 25 percent (said they) voted for Walker Stapleton, for a Polis win margin of 34 percent.” That indicates unaffiliated voters leaned Democratic.
Looking toward 2020, Flaherty pointed to a finding in his ongoing polling that many unaffiliated voters opposed Walker Stapleton for governor “because of his support of Donald Trump and his policies.” He also noted that “a 2020 presidential ballot test found 55 percent of unaffiliated voters support the “generic” Democratic candidate and 23 percent support Donald Trump.” Only 17 percent of the unaffiliated voters in a recent survey described themselves as undecided about the 2020 presidential race, which is an unusual finding pointing to the polarization of politics.
Flaherty separately surveyed registered Republicans after the dust settled on the November election. Last month he found that “Republicans strongly approve of the job Donald Trump is doing…” and that “Republican voters overwhelmingly prefer uncompromising, conservative candidates (61 percent) to moderate candidates who are more willing to work with Democrats to get things done (33 percent).” Separately, Flaherty said that likeability is a huge factor when people vote and that is good for Sen. Cory Gardner.
The City of Centennial was well represented by Mayor Stephanie Piko, Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem Carrie Penaloza, and city council members Kathy Turley and Mike Sutherland. Everyone’s favorite, former Mayor Cathy Noon also attended. Also listening carefully from their city councils were Katy Brown from Cherry Hills Village and Johnny Watson from Aurora.
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