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"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- March 22, 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) -- The "Brunch" is on the road this week, so the following is a column reedited from September 2014. We'll have an all new edition next week!

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 recent 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.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: TheWeedBlog.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- March 15, 2015


(Cortland, New York) – I am on the road this weekend, exploring some of the politics going on in New York state. As always, former Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) comes to mind when I am in the Empire State. Email troubles are causing her major headaches and headlines, as they are for a key potential rival. Let’s brunch on that this week:

“The Timing” – Yes, the email scandal is all over the news, but the timing – at least for now – is a big plus for former Secretary of State Clinton. Why? Because it’s all playing out in March, 2015, a full ten months before the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. As weary as many people are of the Clintons, the public may grow far wearier of this story. Most news stories have the shelf life of a loaf of bread these days. Advantage Clinton.

“It’s Funny, but Not Funny…” – Last week, "Saturday Night Live" did a scorching satire about the scandal. It was funny and memorable. As usual, art imitates life. More people will remember the SNL sketch - which will live forever on You Tube - than will remember Secretary Clinton’s news conference on the subject Monday. It undermines one’s credibility when comedy outlasts policy. If you don’t believe me, ask former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK). Disadvantage Clinton.

“But He Did It, Too!” – Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) has some email issues that parallel Secretary Clinton’s. As she did, he used a private email address and a private computer server. Bush has now made public over 270,000 of those emails, but there is a percentage of them that he won’t release because they are of a personal nature. Sound familiar? Some of Bush’s emails were with campaign donors, who then made suggestions for policy and political appointments. Quid pro quo? We’ll see. But Clinton was U. S. Secretary of State, a far more sensitive international position. (Remember Benghazi.) More controversy will surround Clinton, simply because of the nature of her job. Slight advantage Bush.

“Transparently Opaque!” – The big buzz word in the last three election cycles has been “transparency.” In other words, it’s about open government and the public’s business being done in the sunshine and available for scrutiny. The concept of a private email account on a private server simply flies in the face of that concept, regardless of one's political party. It has the tone of government shrouded in secrecy out of public view. Many already view the Clintons and Bushes as entrenched professional politicians, just conducting the public’s business the old-school way. Their email practices could hurt them both in contested primaries. Disadvantage Bush; disadvantage Clinton.

“The 2015 Rosemary Woods Award!” – Did it strike anyone else this week that this is reminiscent of Watergate and the “missing 18 minutes” of tape on the secret Oval Office recording made by Richard Nixon? Woods was the White House secretary accused of accidentally recording over that 18 minute of material. We’ll never know what was lost. But the accidentally “deleted” 30,000 emails from Hillary Clinton’s server and the approximately 20,000 “personal” emails that Jeb Bush won’t disclose remind me of that “missing” 18 minutes of audiotape. Technology may change, but politicians' non-disclosure of material and their convoluted explanations go on to this day. In other words: Same song; different verse. Disadvantage Clinton; disadvantage Bush.

“The Tech Wreck!” – At one point in her discussion, former Secretary Clinton said she could have made a “smarter” choice in her technology, using a smart phone for one email account while using a Blackberry for another email account. I am nearly of the same generation as Mrs. Clinton (She’s about 12 years older than I), so I understand her feeble grasp of technology, which I share. But any middle-schooler can tell you that a smart phone can now contain multiple email accounts. For example, I have three different email sources on my iPhone 4. Clinton can’t possibly use her lack of tech savvy as an excuse. Even if she doesn’t grasp the tech aspects of this case, surely she has aids that do. Her explanation rings hollow. Disadvantage Clinton.

“Why All This Matters?” – It comes down to trust. We want to know that our leaders are forthright and dealing openly in the best interests of us all. Any time they operate in the shadows, mistrust can set in. I agree that bumbling with new technology causes some of their problems; and surely political candidates are entitled to some semblance of a private life (and private emails). I am not interested in Hillary Clinton’s yoga routine; nor do I care about Jeb Bush’s dinner plans with his wife. But technology now exists to separate public versus private communications with ease. Let’s try it! Advantage all!

What are your thoughts on the email scandal? Will it affect your vote for President in 2016? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: AP

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