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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- September 14, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) -- I know they drive most people crazy, but polls are a part of politics. People always tell me how much they hate all of the polls, only to turn around and ask me, “Who’s ahead?” I’m a numbers guy. I love polls. I love to analyze and dissect them. I love to skewer them, too, (after the fact), when they are horribly wrong. A new CNN 2016 Presidential Poll is out from Iowa. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Who’s Ahead?” – As Ronald Reagan might say, “There you go again!” Yes, everyone is asking about the leaders. To no one’s surprise, Hillary Clinton is leading Democrats in Iowa, preferred by 53 percent of those polled. Vice President Joe Biden is way back in second place at 15 percent; Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is at 7 percent; with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at 5 percent. Presumably the remaining 20 percent are undecided. That’s significant if Clinton is already hitting a “ceiling” at 53 percent.

“Don’t Bet the Farm on It” – Hillary Clinton supporters may be excited about her huge lead, but let me throw in an ounce of caution (and a bit of history). In early December 2007 – just a month before the Iowa Caucuses – Hillary Clinton looked like Iowa, and the entire nomination, was all hers. A Pew Research Poll in Iowa had Clinton at 31 percent; Barack Obama at 26 percent; and, John Edwards at 19 percent. Not only did Obama surge from behind to win Iowa, but Clinton actually finished a close third right behind John Edwards. The lesson is that things can change, and they can change quickly.

“Biden Biding Time” – The person who may be most pleased with the Iowa polling is VP Joe Biden. In that same December 2007 poll, he was preferred by 2 percent of Iowa voters, but finished the Caucuses with .9 percent of the vote. For him to leap up to 15 percent in this latest poll may embolden him.

“It’s Nomination; Not a Coronation” – I mentioned the Pew Research Poll from December 3, 2007 for another reason. I keep harping in this blog that the nomination of Hillary Clinton in 2016 is not a certainty. In 2007, just a few months before the primary season, every poll had her winning the nomination by a wide margin. Nationwide, the Pew Poll I cited had it Clinton 48 percent, Obama 22 percent and Edwards at 11 percent. That’s not even close to how it ended. (I should point out, too, that many of those same national polls had Rudy Giuliani winning the Republican nomination by an equally big margin).

“What About O’Malley” – Okay, I know what you are thinking. I have written several times about my projected dark horse candidate, Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD). Yes, I know, he didn’t even rate in the new CNN Iowa poll. Well, this far out before the 2008 race, Barack Obama was just a blip on the radar screen, too. I’m telling you now, if Hillary Clinton falters, the two-term Governor of Maryland will be the Democrat to watch. He’ll blow right past Biden, in my opinion.

“What About the GOP?” -- Here’s the big surprise. Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) is leading with 21 percent; Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) – the former Vice Presidential nominee – is second at 12 percent. It’s clear most Republicans are undecided. CNN reports that Senator Rand Paul (R-KY); former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL); and, Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), are all in the single digits.

“Huck-a-who?” – I know that to many people, Mike Huckabee as the frontrunner is a surprise (photo above). But remember, Huckabee won the Iowa Caucuses on the Republican side back in 2008. He has the advantage of being from a Heartland state – Arkansas – which is not all that far from Iowa. Bob Dole beat George H.W. Bush in Iowa in 1988, largely on the heels of Dole being from neighboring Kansas - a farm state. Iowans love you if you seem like kinfolk. But the fact that big names such as Christie, J. Bush and Paul are barely registering here, might be a big concern for the GOP. By the way, Huckabee – like Bill Clinton – grew up in Hope, Arkansas.

“Jimmy Who?” – Look, the biggest lesson for both parties about Iowa, is a guy named Jimmy Carter. In 1976 the little known former Georgia Governor shocked everyone by winning in Iowa, and that propelled him into the national spotlight – not to mention the covers of Time and Newsweek – and on to the White House. It’s no small irony that the baseball movie, “Field of Dreams,” was based in an Iowa corn field. The movie’s famous line, “If you build it; they will come!” can ring as true for politics in Iowa, as it does for baseball.

“Don’t Believe Everything You Read” – My advice to voters who read the polls is to take them with a grain of salt. In a video dominated world, they are simply one snapshot, at one point in time. They are an indication of peoples’ leanings today – not next week; not next year – just today. View them as such!

“Why All of This Matters” – I teach my students that success in politics requires the “Four M’s” for a candidate. Those M’s are: money, manpower, message and media buzz. But, in truth, there is a fifth “M” – it’s called momentum. That’s why doing well in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire is so important. It can create momentum and create an air of inevitability. It can also whittle down the field. Hillary Clinton clearly lost momentum when she lost Iowa in 2008, but gained a lot of it back when she won New Hampshire just five days later. The same thing happened to Republican John McCain in 2008.

Who do you like for President in 2016, or is it way too early for you to make up your mind? Let us know by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: ABC News

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- September 7, 2014

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(Washington, D.C.) – I was in the “belly of the beast” this week, as I visited my old stomping grounds in Washington, D.C., for a few days. There was a lot going on in the world of politics there, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“A Fall from Grace” – On Thursday, former Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) was convicted on 11 counts involving corruption while in office. His wife Maureen was also convicted. McDonnell was on the short list of possible Vice Presidential running mates for Mitt Romney in 2011; and even if he wasn’t chosen for that, he was being considered for U.S. Attorney General had Romney won. At 60, he was even being touted by some as a 2016 GOP Presidential candidate. Now he and his wife are looking at federal prison time. It would appear his immediate political future is toast.

“Waiting in the Wings” – I have said here for months that Hillary Clinton does not have a lock on the Democratic nomination for President in 2016. If her health or ambition falters, who would Democrats turn to? My prediction has always been Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD). He is currently finishing his second and final term. O’Malley may wind up as Hillary Clinton’s running mate; but, keep an eye on him because if she looks weak or vulnerable he could actually challenge her for the nomination. He has the same cocky anti-incumbent, anti-favorite bravado that Bill Clinton had in 1992.

“Don’t Telegraph Your Moves” – It’s the kind of stuff that makes your press secretary wince and the viewing public cringe (or makes your enemy gloat). “We don’t have a strategy yet,” President Obama announced in a White House press briefing when talking about what to do with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. First of all, the drone strikes speak for themselves. You actually do have a strategy, however unfocused or limited it might be. Here are a couple of better quotes: “We have a strategy, but it would be foolhardy to make it public,”or the simple “We are weighing a number of options.” But as a politician (and world leader), don’t ever, ever tell the press and public you don’t have a strategy! It does not engender confidence in your leadership. No one is asking you to lie. Just be “purposefully vague.” It’s national security; it matters what you say!

“Does my GPS Show Appalachian Trail?” – The saga that is Mark Sanford continues in the nation’s capital. The Republican South Carolina Congressman turned Governor turned sex scandal subject turned Congressman again is back in the headlines. His ex-wife Jenny Sanford is trying to keep their 16-year-old away from the Congressman and his now fiancé Maria Belen Chapur. Chapur is the Argentinian woman with whom Sanford was having an affair. He claimed he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail, when in fact he was in Argentina “hiking” with his gal pal. Jenny Sanford filed a court brief hoping to prevent her former husband from exposing the teen "overnight to a member of the opposite sex not related to the Plaintiff or Defendant through blood or marriage who could reasonably be construed as a paramour,” according to the file in Charleston County Family Court. The Sanfords divorced four years ago, but the fights go on. The lawyers must be getting rich!

“Crying Wolf” - It’s hard to believe Republicans would give up a safe seat as they try to strengthen their grip on Capitol Hill, but 34-year veteran Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) is retiring from Virginia’s 10th Congressional District. While the GOP should hold the House by a wide margin, this was the last remaining Republican stronghold in the D.C. metro area, which has become increasingly liberal. At 75, Wolf would have been a shoo-in. Now two local politicians will fight it out for what should have been a safe GOP seat. They are State Delegate Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and County Supervisor John Foust (D-Fairfax). Nationally, it’s a U.S. House race to watch!

“It’s a Different Town” – President Obama was not in Washington, D.C., while I was there, and even if I did not know that from the news, the vibe of the city tells you that. I worked there for six years and have been back many times, and you always know when any President is in town or not. Security, while tight, is not as strict; and the press corps that remains behind is not as wound-up. It’s weird, but I bet others who work there will tell you the same thing. It’s something I always noticed when I lived there, but I’ve never quite been able to explain it. Whoever sits in the Oval Office casts a long shadow, and when he’s missing, you know it. Weird!

“Like Father, Like Son… I Mean Daughter” – I was in the nation’s capital this week to help my daughter Alexandra move into her apartment. She will be working as a Congressional Fellow in a program known as Running Start - www.RunningStartOnline.org - which helps women running for public office (photo above). Twenty-two years ago I went on a similar adventure as a Congressional Fellow with the American Political Science Association. Working in the halls of Congress was one of the greatest experiences of my life, as I know it will be in hers. Congrats on your journey Allie!

What are your thoughts on the state of politics as we head toward Election Day? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Alexandra Curtis

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