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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 21, 2016

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – We are still on the road this week with a visit to my old home of Providence, where - as elsewhere - there is turmoil among the voting public. Many here are dissatisfied with the two main Presidential choices and are thinking about third-party candidates, or about just staying home and not voting. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The Sanders Dilemma” – I have talked repeatedly with Bernie Sanders supporters, perhaps way more than those of any other candidate. I bet the count is over 100, but so far only four have told me they are definitely backing Hillary Clinton. Some may vote for Trump, and some will vote Green or Libertarian, but the largest group includes those who just may not vote at all. Providence City Councilman Wilbur Jennings, Jr., tells me: “Right now I’m undecided, although I am a die-hard Democrat. But I was a Sanders convention delegate, and right now I am trying to keep the revolution alive.” Jennings believes the nomination was unfairly taken from Sanders, but in the end says he might vote for Clinton, although he’s still not certain.

“Johnson/Weld” – Support for the Libertarian Party ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld – both former Republican Governors – remains solid. This week, I interviewed Rhode Island Libertarian leader Tony Jones, who has run for office under that party’s banner (photo above). I asked Jones what it means to be a Libertarian; and he said, “It’s fiscally conservative and socially cool.” Even my old friend, former State Senator Dawson Hodgson (R-RI), has bolted his party’s candidate, to endorse Libertarians Johnson/Weld. He’s hardly alone.

“What Say You, GOP?” – So after all of the turmoil in Campaign 2016, why is Donald Trump still viable despite derision from the left, and division from the right? Former West Virginia Republican Party Chairman Mike Stuart, who now runs the Trump campaign in the Mountain State, perhaps sums it up best. "At some point - Republicans and Democrats - it started to turn off in me in terms of those speeches, every year or every two years promising, 'I'm going to fix it, I'm going to fix it,' and nothing gets done. They do nothing. And so what I like about Donald Trump is that he's a guy who does it. He gets things done," Stuart said. In short, the unconventional candidate still has lots of appeal.

“The Common Bond” – So we’ve heard from a prominent Democrat, an ardent Libertarian, and a rebel Republican. Is there a common theme about voter anger and dissent this year? “I think there is such an anti-incumbent, anti-two party [theme], such a major dissatisfaction that actually this election cycle people are willing to think outside of the box and to think about third-party and independent candidates,” said Libertarian Tony Jones. Would a Democrat like Wilbur Jennings go third-party? “Well it looks like they are still possibilities, because I see they are out there working very hard. I see people telling me they are going to vote for the Libertarian candidate, because people just don’t know what to do. I’m all over the City of Providence and people say, ‘I don’t know who to vote for,’” Councilman Jennings said.

“What the Polls Say” – The Libertarian ticket has polled as high as 13 percent. Right now the Real Clear Politics composite poll has them at 8.6 percent. The Green Party’s Jill Steins is at 3.1 percent. So how does this help or hurt the two major parties? Well, in a head-to-head matchup Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 6 percentage points. When you factor in the Libertarian and Green party votes, Hillary Clinton’s lead over Trump shrinks slightly to 5.5 percent, so right now the third parties are not deal breakers. But if a third-party nominee reaches 15 percent in the polls, they will make the fall debate stage and that changes everything.

“Why All of This Matters” – Despite a rough three weeks since the conventions ended, I don’t think Trump is toast – not yet, anyway! He needs to get the management of his campaign on track after the departures of his first chief, Corey Lewandowski, and now his second chief, Paul Manafort. Bringing a radioactive Roger Ailes and the chief of the Brietbart News Network to the team may or may not work. But the public is mad, and a volatile electorate is very hard to predict. The Trump campaign is on oxygen, but it’s not on life support just yet.

Is your vote changing at all in Campaign 2016? Have you switched? Tell us by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo Courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 14, 2016

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(Chambersburg, Pennsylvania) – We are on the road again this week, with a visit to my old stomping grounds in New England, plus a stop in the hotly contested state of Pennsylvania on the way. We’ve talked a lot about the Presidential race here of late, but the other big political story of 2016 is for control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans currently have a 54-46 majority, but a lot of toss-up races could swing it back to the Democrats. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Ohio” -- Incumbent Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is in a tough battle against former Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH). Strickland also served 12 years in the U.S House. The most recent Public Policy Poll has Portman up by five points, 43 to 38 percent. But that leaves 19 percent undecided. If Hillary Clinton swamps Donald Trump in Ohio, this seat could switch. If the Trump-Clinton race is close – and one poll has her up by 1.8 percent - the GOP may hold the seat, even if Trump loses Ohio. Tight!

“Pennsylvania” – Incumbent Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) – a Rhode Island native – is in a tough reelection fight. The first-term Senator is facing Democrat Katie McGinty, a former aide to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and former Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA). In the latest Susquehanna Poll, she leads 42 to 40 percent. Donald Trump is down eight points in the Keystone State, and a poor Presidential showing there could swing the Senate seat to the Democrats. Toomey’s campaign hit McGinty hard with radio ads during the DNC in Philadelphia, but that seems to have had little effect.

“Florida” – Incumbent Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he would not run for reelection this year as he sought the Republican nomination for President. But his Presidential hopes were crushed, and Rubio did an about-face and announced he would seek Senate reelection after all. A couple of prominent Republicans who were seeking to replace him had to duck and cover and go back to their House races.

“Wisconsin” – My home state of Wisconsin has a real donnybrook going on in a Senate rematch, between Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and the man he defeated six years ago, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Senator Johnson – you may recall – was the one who provoked Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi hearings over the deaths of four Americans at the outpost. “What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?” Clinton shouted angrily during the hearing. You can expect to see that sound bite to be in many campaign ads this fall. Still, the battleground Badger State is polling with Clinton up 6 points, so that may have an impact on this Senate race.

“New Hampshire” – The only thing certain here is the next U.S. Senator from New Hampshire will be a woman. Incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is in a tough battle against current Governor Maggie Hassan (D-NH). This race is all over the map. One recent poll had Hassan up by 10 points, and another had Ayotte up by 9 points. But Hillary Clinton is polling well ahead of Donald Trump in this key, battleground state, so the coattail effect could be in play.

“Missouri” – U.S. Senator Roy Blount (R-MO) is seeking a second Senate term, after serving 14 years in the House. He is opposed by Secretary of State Jason Kander (D-MO). A Recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch Poll had Blount up by a margin of 44 to 39 percent. Missouri is a battleground, swing state in the Presidential election. It has gone Republican for the past 20 years, so that could be good for Blount.

“History” – The last time a Presidential winner’s coattails mattered was in 1980 when Ronald Reagan shocked President Jimmy Carter in a landslide upset victory. Reagan’s coattails were so strong he carried the GOP into control of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 1956. This could be that kind of year. Trump likely wins only in a very close race, whereas Hillary Clinton could win in an electoral blowout based on recent poll trends. If she wins big, she likely carries the Senate back into Democratic control.

“Why All of This Matters” – The next generation of the U.S. Supreme Court rests on this Presidential election, like no other in modern times. First of all, there is still one vacancy already existing from the death of Antonin Scalia. Then you have Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, age 83; Anthony Kennedy, age 80; and, Stephen Breyer, age 77, all poised for possible retirement. That’s four possible appointments, even if the next President only serves one term. Wow!

What are your thoughts about the future of the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Court? Please let us know by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: senate.gov

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