Public Relations • Strategic Planning • Lobbying • Coalition Development
Grassroots Coordination • Public Opinion Polling

Arizona Summer Blockbusters

July 28th, 2014

With the D-Backs swoon and football still weeks away, we are deep into summertime blues. The searing heat of a Phoenix summer has created quite a brain swelter.

The only thing left to do with goings on of the State and its political news is to… laugh. The reaction may perhaps be considered dark, but nevertheless, these stories generate a least a bit of a wry smile:

1. To Mock an Inmate!

The local and national media was mouth breathing last week when it took nearly two hours for an Arizona inmate to be executed. Michael Kiefer, of the Arizona Republic, dutifully recorded the number of times the inmate snored, gulping for air, demonstrating the “botched” execution.

Ironically, it all could have been prevented if the defense lawyers and the death penalty opponents were not engaged in an all out effort to publicly intimidate the pharmaceutical companies. They’ve created such a hysteria that states are refusing to divulge where the drugs are coming from and pharmaceutical companies are reticent to make correct drugs to carry out the execution in a timely manner.

This drama does not star any Atticus Finch’s; the true villains are the defense attorneys ensuring their own death row clients’ execution does not happen in a timely manner to drive public hysteria on the inhumanity of the death penalty.

Rated R for ridiculous: dark humor, adult situations, and irony.

2. Mission Accomplished Part 2 – Staring President Obama

A New York Times story on Saturday indicated that nearly half of all unaccompanied children initially placed in shelters have gone on to be reunited with at least one parent already living in the United States.

This summer blockbuster stars President Obama doing his best to mitigate any bipartisan support for substantive immigration reform. A true disaster movie, the protagonists actions pretty much crush any hopes of addressing our nation’s broken immigration and border security policies.

This drama makes American audiences wince at the comparisons between a Kremlin oligarch set on doing whatever he wants and a President of a constitutional democracy acting in nearly identical ways.

All the while the national media is willfully swallowing the White House narrative as if they worked for Pravda:

  • Migrant Children – how many of these kids are teens? How many parents with children have been resettled in the US? Reports say they have been placed mostly with family. Mostly? Really, is that an accurate assessment and how do they know?
  •  Fleeing Central American Violence – Well of course, let’s open up the US to folks from the Ukraine, Syria and Gaza as well. Let’s make a foreign policy crisis a domestic one. Obama’s foreign policy mishaps are legendary, his domestic accomplishments, well everyone knows about those!

In September of 2012, New York Times columnist, David Brooks wrote that, “The next President has to do three big things, which are in conflict with one another, increase growth, reduce debt, and increase social equity. The Democrats offer no actual plan, but Obama at least offers a vague whiff that he would be capable of advancing these cross cutting challenges.”

Much of politics today is just about winning an election – not about governing. Like Wall Street where it doesn’t matter if your client makes money, it’s only important that a trader prospers. Today winning an election is an end in itself. Even if this were not true, Brooks’ conclusion has one other fatal flaw.

Obama lacks the humility necessary to be a 21st century consensus builder. His competitive instincts make him have to be the smartest guy in the room, which is a major turn off. Obama lacks Dr. King’s willingness to sacrifice himself for a cause that was greater than him. Obama doesn’t know anyone or thing greater than himself.

Rated PG-13, only suitable for older migrant children: Dark Humor, Adult Situations, Michael Moore is on permanent vacation from any attempt to use the same ridicule he focused on previous administrations on this imperial presidency.

3. The Manchurian Endorsement

For those Arizonans paying attention at the end of July, Sunday’s Arizona Republic endorsement of Doug Ducey was a bit of a summer time shocker.

The editorial began with two paragraphs of policy accolades for Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and mentioned that he alone was the only candidate for Governor on the Republican ticket who had endorsed all of Governor Jan Brewer’s major policy initiatives. You know, the same one’s the Republic editorial board has been supporting as well; Proposition 100, Medicaid Restoration, Arizona College and Career Ready Standards, etc.

Right, so the endorsement goes to… Doug Ducey? Talk about a M. Night Shyamalan twist.

The paper went onto recite all of the “big name” endorsements that Doug Ducey’s campaign has received and ended by mentioning that even the “Big Unit” himself had endorsed the conservative ice cream guy. Really? Randy Johnson sealed the gubernatorial endorsement?

We suspect that there may be some pigeon feathers flying around on this one…

Ok, so here is the secret inside the Manchurian endorsement – the Arizona Republic really wants Fred DuVal to be your next Governor.

So when Christine Jones and the “Better Leaders for Arizona” get done dragging the conservative ice cream guy into the Arizona summer time sun, the Arizona Republic will backtrack and say again, that there is no Republican fit to serve.

There you go; the paper is really back to where it was all along!

This drama has not yet been rated. Wait for this blockbuster to appear on your screens in early September!

What if candidates didn’t put up roadside signs?

July 22nd, 2014

By:  Chuck Coughlin

From the Arizona Republic

If candidates did not put up yard signs, voter turnout would go down.

Signs are an annoying, but helpful way of reminding us that it is time to vote. From a campaign perspective, signs are an inexpensive way to encourage participation and serve as a visual cue that reminds voters that Election Day is approaching.

Approximately 56 to 60 percent of registered voters are expected to turn out for this November’s General Election. Unfortunately, only 26 to 28 percent of registered voters are anticipated to turnout for the primary.

A majority of candidate campaigns will be determined by the August 26th primary. There are 17 legislative districts with Republican voting majorities and 13 districts with Democratic voting majorities. The State Senate has 17 Republicans and 13 Democrats. Primaries matter.

More than 820,000 voters receive ballots at home but do not cast them during the primaries. Earlier this year, we surveyed many of these voters. While 81 percent claimed they voted in all elections, 100 percent of them did not.

In fact, 49 percent admitted they didn’t know when the primary was, and only 5 percent correctly named August as election month.

Yes, signs are annoying, but so are some of the incredibly stupid things we hear candidates say. But, if you live in a democracy and you expect it to work, seeing sign pollution for three months every two years and listening to candidates are small prices to pay.

Remember to vote on Aug. 26. Your vote makes a difference.

GOP Race for Arizona Governor is Wide Open

July 14th, 2014

Latest survey shows “undecided” leading the pack with double digit lead & widespread angst within the electorate over the current immigration crisis

PHOENIX – (July 14, 2014) A statewide survey of high efficacy primary voters conducted July 10-12 shows that, despite heavy ad buys in the gubernatorial primary, Republicans in Arizona are still overwhelmingly undecided on who will be their party’s nominee to succeed Governor Jan Brewer.

The survey shows that 44.8% of voters who participated in at least two of the last three Republican primary elections in Arizona are undecided on the race with another 5% that didn’t know or refused to answer.

The live telephone survey (attached) was conducted by HighGround Inc. of 400 high efficacy Republican primary voters with a 4.9% margin of error at a 95% confidence interval. The survey was balanced to reflect the anticipated turnout in the 2014 primary election by age, gender, party affiliation, congressional district turnout and early voters who are on the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL).

Q: If the Republican primary election for Governor were held today, who would you vote for: [Randomize names]

17.3% Doug Ducey
15.3% Christine Jones
9.8% Scott Smith
3.5% Ken Bennett
3.0% Andrew Thomas
1.5% Frank Riggs
44.8% Undecided
5.0% Don’t Know, Refused

“We believe the results show that the Republican primary is a wide open race between the top three candidates – Ducey, Jones and Smith,” said Paul Bentz of HighGround, Inc., who has conducted surveys for the firm and its clients for the past 10 years. “With just two weeks left before early balloting begins, nearly half of the likely primary voters are still undecided. It looks like it is going to be a marathon to earn every vote, not a jog to the finish line for any of these candidates.”

Immigration Now Higher than at the Peak of SB1070

In addition to measuring the candidates head to head, the survey also delved into the issue of immigration and border security. Voter interest has spiked because of the crisis of child migration into the United States from several Central American countries.

Q: What do you consider to be the top issue facing Arizona today? [Randomize]

62.8% Immigration and Border Issues
20.8% Jobs and the Economy
8.5% Education
3.5% State Budget
2.8% Healthcare
1.5% Taxes
0.3% Transportation

Nearly 63% of the primary voting Republican electorate indicated that immigration and border issues were by far and away the top issue facing Arizona today. “In a June 2010 survey two months after Governor Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070, 49% of the primary electorate considered immigration and border issues the top issue. Today, it’s a full 13 points higher than at the height of that public policy crisis,” said Bentz.

Immigration and Border Issues Considered Major Crisis

The survey also revealed that over 65% of the respondents indicated that immigration and border issues were a ‘major public policy crisis’ facing Arizona today. Another 22% believed that it was a ‘serious issue.’

Q: On a scale of 5 to 1 on which 5 means a major public policy crisis, 4 means a serious issue, 3 is not an important issue, 2 means an ordinary issue, and 1 means an overblown issue, how would you rate immigration and border issues in Arizona?

5.8% Overblown issue
1.8% Ordinary issue
4.5% Not an important issue
21.8% A serious issue
65.3% A major issue crisis
1.0% Undecided, Refused

Support for Immigration Reform Measures amongst Republican Voters

A slim majority of Arizona Republican voters support the general notion of ‘comprehensive immigration reform.’ Without any additional description, 51.5% of the primary voters stated that they supported the concept, while 30.0% opposed.

Q: Do you support or oppose comprehensive immigration reform?

22.5% Definitely Oppose
7.5% Probably Oppose
19.0% Probably Support
32.5% Definitely Support
18.5% Don’t Know, Refused

“We acknowledge that comprehensive immigration reform means many different things to different voters, so we decided to dig a bit deeper into this issue,” Bentz stated. “We fielded a more specific policy question that has been articulated as a potential response to the ‘Gang of 8’ proposal supported by Arizona’s two U.S. Senators.”

Q: Would you support an immigration reform policy that would secure the border with more agents, fencing and technology; crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants; provide a 10 year waiting time to apply to become a lawful permanent resident, but NOT citizenship; and develop a system to issue temporary visas for limited periods for both high and low skilled workers where jobs are not being filled?

10.0% Definitely No
5.8% Probably No
34.0% Probably Yes
43.0% Definitely Yes
7.3% Don’t Know, Refused

The data show that 77% of Arizona Republican voters overwhelmingly support a policy to:

  • Secure the border with more agents and technology;
  • Crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants;
  • Provide a 10-year waiting time to apply to become lawful permanent resident, not citizenship; and
  • Issue more visas for both high and low skilled workers where jobs are not currently being filled.

“There is a path forward with Republican voters on immigration reform, but it appears that the key to finding common ground on the issue is settling the issue of citizenship,” Bentz stated. “Republicans are much more likely to support a policy that does not include citizenship.”

Strong Demand for Immediate Return of Unaccompanied Children

Q: What do you think the Federal Government should do about the estimated 50,000 children who have entered the U.S. illegally in recent months? [Rotate]

66.3% Immediately return unaccompanied children back to their country of origin
17.0% Permit children to stay with relatives in the US while deportation hearings proceed
5.5% Keep the children in Customs detention centers while deportation hearings proceed
3.8% Allow the children to stay in the United States
7.5% Don’t Know, Refused

“The data suggest any continuing effort by the Obama Administration to relocate or parole these children into the U.S. will be met with fierce opposition amongst the Republican primary voting electorate,” said Bentz.

The law requires Health and Human Services to take custody of these ‘unaccompanied children’ pending the children’s immigration hearing within 72 hours after determining that such child is an unaccompanied alien child, but it has been pointed out that the President could use his Executive authority to require expedited deportation or removal hearings to begin to send these children home and deal with this issue as a foreign policy crisis rather than making it a domestic policy crisis. Also, the current law does not require the Administration to parole these children into the United States to live while waiting for their deportation or removal hearing (8 U.S. Code 1182 (d)(5)(A) and 8 USC 1232 (c)(2) and (3)(A) and (B)).

In addition under current law, children accompanied by an adult when apprehended need not be paroled to live in the United States and may be immediately returned to their home country under what is called the ‘expedited removal process’ (8 U.S. Code § 1225 Subsection (b) (1) (A)(i)). Further, ‘unaccompanied children’ from Mexico and Canada may be immediately returned to their home country in an ‘expedited removal process’ for unaccompanied children from a ‘contiguous country’ (8 USC 1232 (a)(2)).

Nearly 58% of Republicans Would Support Raising Arizona Taxes to Secure the Border and Increase Immigration Enforcement

Q: If the Federal government refuses to secure the border, would you support the state of Arizona increasing taxes to allocate additional resources to securing the border and increasing immigration enforcement?

24.5% Definitely No
12.3% Probably No
20.5% Probably Yes
37.3% Definitely Yes
5.5% Don’t Know, Refused

“In our research, we have found very few issues where members of the GOP are willing to increase taxes,” Bentz stated. “Needless to say, this came as a bit of a shock but it does show the depth of frustration within the Republican electorate. Republicans are so fed up that they are willing to try almost anything, including breaking the cardinal rule of Republican politics —raising taxes— to secure the border,” stated Bentz.

“I believe these results reflect the stubborn independent voter streak which lies within the Arizona electorate and its distaste for the protracted and inefficient Federal response to this crisis,” Bentz continued. “The spirit of Barry Goldwater, John Rhodes and Mo Udall lives in the hearts and on the minds of Arizona voters. The ‘Hell, if they won’t do it, we will!’ attitude is alive and well in the Grand Canyon State.”

More than a Third of Primary Voters Identify Themselves as Independents, Rather than Traditional GOP or Tea Party

Q: If you had to chose, would you more closely identify yourself as [Rotate]

35.8% Part of the traditional Republican Party
23.3% Part of the Tea Party Movement
34.5% An independent
4.0% Other
2.5% Don’t Know, Refused

“Several other surveys have shown a lower number of undecided voters in the gubernatorial contest but we believe those surveys may have oversampled self-described ‘tea party’ supporters. In fact, many samples only reflect traditional GOP and tea party supporters. However, we must be mindful of the growing number of voters who are registered and vote in Republican primaries but increasingly do not identify themselves as Republicans despite their registration,” said Bentz.

“While we remained conservative on our modeling of Independent and PND turnout, this block of voters’ increased participation is something to look out for. This election cycle may be unusual for the number of Independent and PND voters who participate in the electorate along with a large number of registered Republicans who no longer identify themselves with their own party. With early ballots two just weeks away, it appears the Governor’s race is wide open and will go down to the wire,” concluded Bentz.

About HighGround & Public Opinion Polling

HighGround, Inc. has a long history of successful public affairs work that reflects their unique ability to manage and characterize public policy issues in various environments. HighGround and Bentz have conducted live call surveys for the past 10 years in Arizona, working often with Margaret Kenski of Arizona Opinion, Moore Information, and others. The firm has a great deal of experience in determining and measuring statewide, regional, and local voter behavior.

HighGround’s data capabilities are unparalleled in their depth and samples are based on reliable voter data and historic voting trends. HighGround has performed surveys for clients on a wide variety of statewide and local issues including Medicaid restoration, school funding, minimum wage, transportation, local ballot initiatives, and candidate campaigns, among others.

Next DNC ‘AZ GOP Intolerance’ Poster Child

June 10th, 2014

As June temperatures soar and campaigns become more desperate for waning public attention, it appears that Republican CD 1 candidate Gary Kiehne continues to succeed where few have gone before.

In the past month the wealthy oil rancher’s oratorical skills have proven to be as effective as the proverbial cow at drawing summertime flies.  From comparing Arizona police officers to the SS, making offensive comments about immigrants or throwing out wildly inaccurate statements about mass shootings, Kiehne has doubled down on his “Intolerance R Us” campaign to persuade Republican voters in his CD 1 primary that he’s their man.

Our bet here is that the DNC is rooting for Kiehne victory so they can trot him out as Arizona’s latest example of intolerance and ignorance.

They’d like to do anything but talk about the major issues facing Arizona and Kiehne appears eager to do just that. The DNC will be singing ‘Anchors Aweigh, My Friend’ the minute Gary “mass shootings are done by Democrats” Kiehne waves the victory flag in August.  Yes, that’s ‘Anchors Aweigh’ as in he will be an enormous anchor on the entire Republican ticket. Many won’t remember, but Kiehne reminds us of Texas Gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams in 1990.  If you don’t remember Clayton, you must remember his incredibly ignorant comments on rape and other head scratching remarks that cost Republicans the Texas Gubernatorial Election of 1990. Sharron Angle and Todd Akin also jump to mind as more recent mistake-plagued candidates who cost Republicans control of the Senate.

Arizona Republicans don’t need their own Clayton Williams or Todd Akin. We need to nominate a solid conservative that focuses on jobs and immigration, not someone who is in the running to be the next poster child of the DNC.

A Young, Modern Day Patriot

June 4th, 2014

We’re always very proud of the extremely talented crew we have here at HighGround and it looks like some of that talent has been passed on to the next generation. Houston Johnson, the six-year old son of Summer and Robert Johnson, was recently awarded the national first place prize among 1st graders for a short story he wrote for the Daughters of the American Revolution, with the theme of American Heritage. Take a read below:

“One night I fell asleep reading my Revolutionary War book. I dreamed I climbed into a time machine then there was a flash!!! Then I was standing in the middle of Yorktown. I heard gun shots. Then a sweaty and tired Patriot came out of the battle field. He knocked on my door and I said “Come in.” The Patriot soldier asked me “Do you want to be a Patriot soldier?” I said “Yes more than anything.” He handed me a gun and said “I’m very glad you are on our team.” I felt brave and happy because I always wanted to be Patriot. We walked to the battlefield.

We wanted to be free from British rule. We met General Washington, and I was really honored to see him. The tired sweaty soldier helped me learn how to reload the gun. The battle was long. When I saw some bloody men, it made me scared but I was brave enough to keep fighting. I felt really happy the day the British surrendered. We won the war but we lost a lot of friends. George Washington also risked his life as a general and became our first president. He said “farewell” to his men. It was awesome to meet this great founding father who was willing to sacrifice his life so we could have better lives.

I was watching General Washington step into his boat and float down the Potomac when I heard a voice calling me. I jumped back into my time machine and “flash”, I was back home and my mom was telling me it was time to get up and have breakfast. As I ate vanilla scones I thought about how thankful I am for my American heritage. I thought about how proud I am that my mom and dad worked at the White House. I thought about my dream and what I could do right now to honor and serve this great country. I decided in my heart that I would be a modern day Patriot.”

Congrats, Houston! We are looking forward to running your campaign someday. Houston is going into the 2nd grade at Northwest Christian School in Phoenix