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"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- June 28, 2015

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – We’re back in New England from last week’s road trip. There is a lot going on in the world right now, so this week’s column will just be a political smorgasbord
we can “brunch” on!

“Bernie Who?” – A new CNN/WMUR poll out this week says Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is now within eight percentage points of former Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in the State of New Hampshire, which traditionally holds the nation’s first primary. Sanders, who is from neighboring Vermont, probably has more regional than national strength, but still this poll has to be alarming for the Clinton camp. Sanders is the only avowed socialist in Congress, but his current showing is probably more a reflection of “Clinton fatigue” in the Democratic Party than it is a groundswell for Sanders.

“Gay That It’s Over” – Both parties have to be cheering behind the scenes over the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. I don’t mean cheering the ideology of the decision, but rather the political impact of the decision. That’s because gay marriage has been removed from the table in terms of major political issues for the 2016 election. The Supreme Court ruled, and there isn’t much opponents can do to reverse the decision. Even if Republicans win the White House, there will be no ability to “stack” the Supreme Court with appointees to reverse the decision. It’s over! Hillary Clinton – who once opposed legal same-gender unions, but now supports them – won’t have to rehash her former position. Like I said, the issue has been neutralized. Or has it?

“For Whom the Bells Toll” – The one wild card in all of this is what happens to places of worship. There are some in the political world who would like to see churches that refuse to perform gay weddings stripped of their nonprofit and tax-exempt status. I can’t imagine such an idea gaining serious traction; but if it did, it would be a political battle the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. Remember, the Courts have ruled often that the separation of church and state cuts both ways. Keep an eye on this issue.

“Trump Trumps Himself” – Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump shot himself in the foot right out of the starting gate. He made comments about immigration reform that offended many in the Hispanic community. Now, Univision is threatening not to run the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which Trump owns; and the NBC network may follow suit. Trump, who has signed contracts with both networks, is threatening to sue them both. The bad publicity is dominating his campaign.

“By the Numbers” – Here is what Trump said about Mexico: “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best.” He added, “They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

According to the U.S. Census, there are 54 million Hispanics legally in the United States, four percent of whom are in jail, prison, on parole or on probation. That totals just over two million criminals. Assuming the rest are good citizens, then it's hardly fair to assume that of the remaining 52 million only "some...are good people."

“The Fallout” – Make no mistake, the Republican Party must do better among Latino voters to win back the White House, and for the most part they will be competitive. But Trump's comments are not what the party needs if it is trying to broaden its base. He’s a long shot to be the nominee. With prominent Hispanics in the Presidential race or being mentioned for Vice President, the GOP is growing its Latin appeal with candidates such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), both of Cuban descent, and with Governor Susanna Martinez (R-NM) and Governor Brian Sandoval (R-NV), both of Mexican descent. The Bush brothers - while not Hispanic - both speak fluent Spanish and always did well among Latino voters. The party doesn’t need Trump’s comments to set it back.

“Can Trump Win?” – When Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) entered the race this week, he became the 13th candidate in the GOP field. At least three more Republicans are planning to jump in. If you have a race with 16 candidates, the margin needed for victory drops dramatically. In theory, if it’s a close race across the board, a candidate could win with as little as seven percent of the vote. The margin probably won’t be that low, but that new CNN/WMUR poll has former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) leading in New Hampshire with just 16 percent. Trump is third, at 14 percent. Yes, Trump could win the nomination if the field stays crowded through most of the primary season.

“The Growing Issue" – It’s just a hunch, but I think the emerging issue in the 2016 race will be national security. The economy has bounced back from the depths of the severe 2008 recession, and most social issues are not galvanizing the voting public. But just in the last couple of days we’ve seen simultaneous ISIS attacks around the globe, and I anticipate there will be more. We’ve also seen various cyber attacks and data security breaches. I think we’ll see more of those, too, making the American public even more ill at ease. I predict national security will surpass the economy as the main issue in 2016.

What will be the big issue for you in the 2016 campaign? Let us know by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ijreview.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” – June 21, 2015

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – “Almost Heaven; West Virginia; Blue Ridge Mountains; Shenandoah River!” Those are the opening lyrics from John Denver’s classic song, “Country Roads,” that I hear every time I enter this beautiful state. But it’s also a very political state, and West Virginia could once again be a key swing-state in the 2016 Presidential election. I was here this week on business, so let’s “brunch” on that:

“Tie Game!” – You would be hard-pressed to find a more classic swing state. In the past ten Presidential elections, West Virginia has voted five times for Republicans and five times for Democrats. The GOP is on a roll, winning the past four, but that’s no predictor of 2016.

“Moore, Than You Bargained For” – One person to watch in the 2016 Presidential cycle is Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). She was the first Republican woman elected to the U.S. House and Senate from West Virginia. Right now, she’s not on the national radar screen, but I say she will wind up on the short list for consideration as a Vice Presidential running mate. She was a state delegate for four years, a U.S. House Member for 14 years, and is now in the U.S. Senate. She has the resume and depth of experience that Sarah Palin lacked in 2008. She is the daughter of the late three-term Governor Arch Moore, Jr. (R-WV).

“Keys to the White House” – Republicans must do two things to win back the White House. They need to pick up about five percentage points among female voters and five percentage points among Hispanic voters. Now, if former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) or Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) is the GOP nominee, then Governor Susanna Martinez (R-NM) is a good VP choice because she is a Latina. But if Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) or Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the nominee, they have the Hispanic base covered, so a running mate such as West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore might be more viable. You heard it here first: Moore has a legitimate shot!

“Hillary Strength” – A female running mate on the Republican side is going to get huge consideration this year. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is going to get a lot of votes – especially from independents – because she would be the nation’s first female President. But Republicans may be able to mitigate that impact by putting on their ticket a female who is credible and equally appealing to many independent voters. It’s a political game of chess, with a check and checkmate strategy.

“Manchin’s Mansion” – Over the past several years, West Virginia has transitioned from a solidly Democratic state to one where Republicans now control the legislature and hold four out of five seats in the Congressional delegation. Still, current Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is a Democrat, as is Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). This is more of a purple state than a solidly red or blue state. Joe Manchin has also been one of Hillary Clinton’s most avid supporters. Back in 2008, when he was still Governor, Manchin staunchly backed Senator Clinton (D-NY), and she won the state primary over Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) by 42 points (photo above). That was the largest margin of primary victory in 2008. By the way, Obama was backed by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Robert Byrd (D-WV), but Clinton crushed him in a landslide. That’s a testimony to Manchin’s clout!

“West Virginia Political Legacy” – The Mountain State is filled with political legends and characters. The aforementioned Senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert Byrd left enduring imprints on state and federal policy. Former U.S. Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) served 38 years in Congress before his defeat in 2014. Governor Arch Moore, Jr. (R-WV) is one of the state’s few three-term chief executives. He also went to federal prison for corruption in the 1990s. He’s deceased now, and his misdeeds certainly have caused no harm to his daughter’s political career, nor will they in 2016. It’s a politically fascinating state that I predict will be in play in 2016.

“Who Are Your Neighbors?” – Here’s another reason to keep your eyes on West Virginia in 2016. It is bordered by five other states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky. Right off the bat, Maryland is likely to go Democratic in 2016, while Kentucky should be an easy win for Republicans. But Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania will all be joining West Virginia as battleground states. When you have a cluster of four states in the toss-up category, what happens in one could affect another. Certainly you will see a big influx of candidate visits in all four.

“It’s Not Over, 'til It’s Over!” – While so much of the focus will be on the first caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, don’t forget the potential significance of late primaries, especially in a competitive race. In 2008, Hillary Clinton’s huge primary win in West Virginia came on May 13 and was a critical part of her comeback. We did not learn the Democratic nominee that year until June 1. With at least a dozen candidates in the 2016 race, Republicans are likely to be late picking a nominee, so the May 10 West Virginia primary could still loom large on that date.

Do you have any predictions yet on 2016? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo: Mark Curtis Media, May 13, 2008

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