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“The Red Tide vs The Blue Wave” -- Sunday Political Brunch August 12, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It’s beginning to sound like a professional wrestling card, “The Red Tide” versus “The Blue Wave” in a loser-leaves-town match, but that’s how crazy it is getting. On Tuesday several states held primaries or special elections, but evaluating the significance was – as usual – way over the top. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Red Tide v. Blue Wave” – There is no big trend here. Both sides claim the advantage, but here are the honest-to-goodness numbers. There have been ten special Congressional elections since the 2016 ballot. Republicans have won 7 and Democrats 2, with Ohio’s 12th Congressional District “to close to call.” Folks, individual special elections never signal a trend. The real trend will be a collective national vote on November 6th. Midterm elections are always a referendum on the party-in-power, especially in the White House.

“Drilling Deep in Ohio” – All the big national focus this week was on Ohio’s 12th Congressional District which has been solidly Republican for over three decades. Republican Troy Balderson is leading Democrat Danny O’Connor by just over 1,500 votes. If Republicans prevail, it’s because they are marginally in control of a district around Columbus they used to dominate. If Democrats win, it’s a huge upset and a slap at President Trump.

“But Wait, There’s More” – The special election was August 7th. But, guess what? No matter who wins, the same two men will face off in November for reelection. Literally we may have a Congressman for two months, before a do-over election for the full-term. My point is, what happens this week may not be the same result in November. The August special election was the only thing on the ballot. In November we will also have a hotly-contested race for Governor of Ohio, as well as a competitive U.S. Senate race. Coattails could flip in November, what voters previously chose in August!

“Oh Wait, There’s Even More!” – Ohio remains the most important political state in the nation. It is the national kingmaker. If you want to be president, win Ohio and you will live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! I say this because I firmly believe that termed-out Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio, is planning on challenging President Trump for renomination in 2020. Kasich has been among the most vocal Republican critics of Trump. Just remember, four of the most recent Presidents who faced an intra-party challenge for renomination – lost the election or declined to run again. They are Presidents Johnson, Ford, Carter and George H.W. Bush.

“The Trump Factor” – Obviously President Trump likes to claim victory every time a GOP candidate wins, but what really is his track record? A lot of Republicans – including Governor Kasich - were hoping Trump would stay out of Ohio. Yet, he showed up last week to endorse Troy Balderson who was trailing in the polls. If the Republican candidate squeaks by, Trump will claim credit. This also appears to be true in Kansas where Trump-endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach, holds a narrow lead of fewer than 100 voters over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer, (R) Kansas. But again, this can cut both ways, especially in states where Trump is not popular.

“The Intra-Party Battles” – One of the big things to watch as we head to November, is the fight for control of each party. The two-big wins so far for Democrats were Sen. Doug Jones, (R) Alabama, and Rep. Conor Lamb, (D) Pennsylvania, who narrowly won by less than a thousand votes. Both Democrats are centrists (read moderate to conservative). In other races, the more progressive candidates (read liberal), have not fared well. On the GOP side, the Trump endorsements has been a boost (except for Alabama), but more moderate Republican candidates have turned a cold shoulder to Trump. These are trends to watch as Campaign 2018 hits full-speed Labor Day weekend.

“Here’s What to Watch” – As we see in every election, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as famed Clinton presidential advisor James Carville likes to say. We are at full-employment at 3.9 percent. Financial markets are cooking. Yes, I know the so-called “trickle down” effect and “living wage” haven’t touched many blue-collar and low-income workers, but demand for workers is high and that could drive up wages. If people are feeling better economically, that favors the Republicans. And if there are no terrorist attacks (saying prayers), that also favors the party in power, regardless of your politics. But, lots can happen between now and November.

“Happy Birthday!” – To my dear sister Tierney Curtis, I say, “Happy Birthday!” We won’t mention any numbers or milestones (she’s younger), but Tierney has been one of the biggest supporters of my political coverage over the years, including the publication of my book, “Age of Obama: A Reporters Journey with Clinton, McCain, and Obama in the Making of the President 2008.” God bless you my fellow “Cheesehead” and, “Go Packers!” We’ve enjoyed Packer games in person from San Francisco to Lambeau, alike! And a lot of political chatter, too!

What are your thoughts so far on Campaign 2018? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and the five surroundings states and the District of Columbia.

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

“The 100 Day Dash to Election Day” -- The Sunday Political Brunch August 5, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Last Sunday marked an important milestone – just 100 days until the November midterm election. This is going to be a fight to the finish for control of the U.S. Senate and House. Let’s “brunch” on some of the key races this week:

“By the Numbers” – If you are keeping score – and the math is important – here’s where to crunch the numbers. Right now, the Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence being the tie-breaker, if need be. In the House, it’s Republicans 236, Democrats 193, with 6 net gain of vacancies. A simple majority is 218 seats, so Democrats are within striking distance.

“Manchin Ads” – For those who live outside of West Virginia, you cannot believe the onslaught of ads in our U.S. Senate race, which have been almost non-stop since the May primary. It’s relentless. Ads from groups backing the Republican nominee, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, have targeted Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) for his stances on immigration reform. Conversely, groups supporting Manchin have attacked Morrisey for lobbying work he and his wife did on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. It’s ugly and intense. And it’s pedal to the metal to November with no let-up in sight. The latest Real Clear Politics composite has Manchin up by 7 points, but Morrisey is a fierce competitor. Both have won state wide several times.

“He’s Back!” – Don Blankenship became something of a national media darling after his Quixotic run for the West Virginia Republican Senate nomination in May. And now he’s back. The state’s Constitution Party gave Blankenship the nomination for the U.S. Senate in November. Problem is, the state has what’s known as a “sore-loser law,” which aims to prevent spring primary losers from re-emerging in November as candidates on a third-party ballot. Blankenship filed with the Secretary of State, only to be rejected. Get ready for a fast and furious court fight that could go the U.S. Supreme Court. Blankenship – who has a seemingly bottomless wallet – told me, “I will spend whatever is necessary to get my name on the ballot.”

“WV 3” – Toss-up!” – One of the most fascinating races for the U.S. House in the nation is right here in West Virginia. The third Congressional District is an open seat after Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) had an unsuccessful bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. The prestigious Sabato Crystal Ball report had the race as “Leans Republican” but now it’s listed as a “Toss Up.” The Democratic nominee is firebrand State Senator Richard Ojeda (D-Logan), who openly endorsed and voted for Republican Presidential Nominee-turned President Donald Trump. The Republican nominee is Delegate Carol Miller (R-Cabell), the daughter of longtime U.S. Rep. Samuel Devine (R-OH). Put this in your “Top Ten” national House races.

“Trump on the Stump” – In Florida, President Trump hit the campaign trail this week with an intense rally where he endorsed Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) for governor. But DeSantis faces State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R-FL), who previously served 10 years in Congress. It’s unusual for a president to get involved in a primary race, but as we’ve seen, this is an unconventional presidency. On the other side of the aisle is former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL), in the Democratic primary. Her dad, Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), was also a two-term governor of Florida.

“North, By North Dakota” – Control of the U.S. Senate may lie in a few states. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is hoping to earn a second term in a state that went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016. Right now, the polls show Heitkamp is in a dead-heat with three-term Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND).

“Indiana Wants Me” – Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is also in a tough re-election fight, especially in the home state of Vice President Mike Pence. A Gravis Poll in May 2018 had it Republican nominee Mike Braun at 47 percent, with Sen. Donnelly at 46 percent. Flip a coin folks!

“The Other Hot States” – Other states with potentially very competitive Senate races include Nevada, Montana, Arizona, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Florida.

“Why All This Matters” – I think it’s fair to say that President Trump is the most polarizing commander-in-chief in U.S. history. Will that rally his party? Or will it rally the opposition? Stay tuned! And, yes, how people feel at home could also sway races for governor, senator and representative around the country.

What races are hot in your state or region of the country? Just click the comment

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the state of West Virginia, and its five neighboring states.

© 2018 MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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