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Sunday Political Brunch -- The Looming March Madness of Politics February 18, 2018

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CHARLESTON, WV – We are kind of in the odd political no-man’s land between President Trump’s State of the Union Address, and the spring primary elections. Some of those primaries will be held over the next few months, and what’s on the political agenda in Washington, D.C. could be a critical factor. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The State of the Union” – As I always preach, it’s an overrated speech, no matter who is President. This year is no different. President Trump talked a lot about immigration reform, the economy, terrorism, and lots of other feel-good legislation. But the big test is “where the rubber meets the road,” as the old tire commercial said. Yes, it sounds good in January, but is it still alive in July? Has anything become law? Stay tuned!

“All-in-All It’s Just Another Brick in the Wall” – Here’s one of the darkest secrets on Capitol Hill. A lot of Republicans – who don’t want to speak out publicly – don’t want the border wall with Mexico. I should be more specific. It’s not that they don’t want the wall; they just don’t want to pay for it. President Trump says Mexico will eventually pay for it, but there are no guarantees. Few in Congress want to go out on a multi-billion-dollar limb and pay for something, that may never get paid back. In other words, if you’re a GOP candidate in Nebraska, how do you convince voters this is a good idea? It’s a tough sell.

“An Olive Branch Cut Off” – A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators crafted another immigration compromise this week that would deal with DACA – the kids brought here illegally by their parents – many of whom are now productive adults. The President shot it down (even though he previously indicated he’d accept what Congress negotiated). What this President still needs is an olive branch – where he can include Democrats and Republicans in the victory rally. I’m convinced this is still the issue to do just that, but I don’t think it will happen.

“Immigration Imagination” – Why is this issue so hard? Why haven’t we had any significant immigration reform in over 30 years? Here’s one of the worst kept secrets in Washington: Democrats do not want to solve illegal immigration, because they view those coming here as a source of potential Democratic voters. Republicans don’t want to solve illegal immigration because it still provides a cheap, underground labor force that helps a lot of GOP business supporters, i.e., the farming and hospitality industries. Pardon the edgy pun, but it’s a “Mexican Standoff” of the political variety.

“Infrastructure Structure” – If there was one bit of advice I could pass on to incumbents of both parties, it would be to pass some form of the President’s infrastructure bill by June 1st. This country’s roads, highways, and bridges are in sad shape overall. A strong infrastructure is the sign of a strong nation. Plus, it creates jobs and a lot of economic stimulus. Here’s the problem: the nation’s unemployment rate is at historic lows. So, who will fill these jobs? West Virginia – which past a billion-dollar road bond in October – is a microcosm of the problem. Thousands of new jobs are coming. Will some have to be filled with immigrant labor?

“Timing is Everything in Politics” – Having championed infrastructure bills, there is an important caveat. Let’s say Congress passes it tomorrow and the President signs it the next day. It’s likely that almost all bids for contracts won’t be awarded over the next several months, and it’s doubtful any of the construction could begin before Election Day 2018. Therefore, the public has seen no direct benefit that might influence a vote. Remember President George H.W. Bush coming off a huge military victory in the first Persian Gulf War? He finally passed a bill with one of the greatest nicknames of all time, “The Ice-Tea Bill”, in December 1991. The acronym was ISTEA, for Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, but most of the jobs were not created until after Bush was defeated for reelection in 1992 by Bill Clinton. Again, timing matters! If you fix someone’s potholes – but not until after Election Day - it may not matter.

“Market Turmoil” – The bizarre ups and downs of the markets the past two weeks have got to shake up the White House, not to mention everyone else in official Washington, and the financial markets. The President got a huge boost when he and Republicans passed the tax reform bill at Christmas-time. The markets were already cooking, and many companies started offering bonuses and pay hikes. The party may be short lived on inflationary jitters. Things may stabilize and bounce back, but then again, election year politics may weigh in.

What are your thoughts about the current state of politics and the economy? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political analyst and author. He is currently the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the state of West Virginia.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Sunday Political Brunch: Which Politicians Get Your Valentines?

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CHARLESTON, WV – Get your chocolates, roses, and champagne ready. We are starting a new tradition here at “The Brunch” of sending political Valentines. Politicians love to claim credit for things, that sometimes are truly the gifts (and works) of others. So, I’m in a gift giving mood! Let’s “bunch” on that this week:

“A Supreme Thanks!” – President Trump needs to send a Valentine to Senator Mitch McConnell, (R) Kentucky, the Senate Majority Leader. Yes, President Trump nominated Neal Gorsuch to be Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he was confirmed. But it was really McConnell, who stalled the nomination process when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. President Obama nominated the able Federal Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to the post, but since we were knee-deep in the Presidential campaign, McConnell and many others felt the new President – no matter who it was – should pick the next Justice. Yes, it infuriated Democrats, but McConnell’s stall gave the GOP a court pick, it might not have had.

“Everyone Knew Her as Nancy” – Liberal Democrats and “the dreamers” ought to send Valentines to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, (D) Minority Leader. She stood on the House floor for over eight hours this week, arguing for legal citizenship for people affected by DACA. The House doesn’t have the filibuster, as the Senate does, so her lengthy speech was a rare event, and the longest in U.S. House history. So far, her marathon speech has not resulted in any legislation, but it keeps the children’s immigration issue on the front-burner. Like her, or not, Pelosi has passion for her constituency.

“Hey Joe, You May Not Go!” – Last week President Trump and Vice President Pence were in West Virginia for the annual Republican Congressional retreat. At one-point VP Pence launched into an attack on Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia, who is perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and the one who most often sides with Republicans. It may have been a tactical mistake. Manchin – who is in the political fight of his life to keep the seat – is a political brawler who loves a good fight. Manchin responded saying, "The Vice President's comments are exactly why Washington sucks." Manchin also chastised the VP for not lodging his complaints, “to my face.” Pence may have provoked the “sleeping giant” in Manchin, who’s not likely to lose without a bruising fight. Joe, send Mike an unintended Valentine!

“To Serve; With Love” – Democratic Congressional candidates should send an en-masse Valentine to Republican incumbents and the GOP leadership. Again, as the government teeters on shutdown, the GOP continues to shovel electoral gold to Democrats. Look, the party in power is always going to get blamed for a shutdown – just look at the past three. Yes, the Democrats are probably way out of bounds for tying DACA to federal budget votes, but Republicans continue to look like, “the gang that can’t shoot straight.” Yes, partial government shutdowns are more theater than actual damage, but they are symbolic in the sense that it looks like the leaders can’t “keep the trains running on time.” Competence and leadership matters. Democrats sling your love arrows to the GOP!

“I ‘Heart’ Public Record Searches” – President Trump needs to send a dozen roses and a box of chocolates to FBI agent Peter Strzok and lawyer Lisa Page. The two – who were romantically and professionally involved – exchanged in an extensive series of anti-Trump emails and other communications. Given their involvement in the probe of Russian election meddling, etc., it gives the impression (real or perceived) of an internal FBI bias against candidate - and now President Trump. In a courtroom where a defense lawyer may have to argue “reasonable doubt,” this is gold. To be clear, President Trump has not formally been accused of any wrongdoing, but if he ever is, the Strzok-Page communications may be “Exhibit-A” in his defense.

“How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away” – The nation needs to send Valentines to the countless men and woman who stood up to sexual harassment in the workplace this year, especially in the world of politics and public policy, where it seems especially bad. Members of both parties – sadly too numerous to mention here by name - have been caught, quit, or have otherwise been shamed by accusations from subordinates. Look, you were sent to Washington, D.C., or your state capitol, or to city hall to represent us and do the will of the people. It’s a State House; not frat house. A lot of offenders were sent packing this year on both sides of the aisle. Good riddance!

“Nobody Loves West Virginia More Than Me” – I won’t be sending him a dozen roses, but maybe a dozen shotgun shells (he loves hunting). Governor Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia is the most colorful politician I’ve covered since the late Senator Howell Heflin, (D) Alabama. Like Heflin, Justice is a huge figure (literally and figuratively), who says whatever he likes, without regard to whom it might offend. Last year Governor Justice (who called himself a grizzly bear), told the Senate Majority Leader (whom he compared to a little yelping, pesky dog), that he was “going to eat his a**” live on a statewide radio show. Love him or not, Justice and his folksy quotes are gold to any political junkie and reporter like me.

Who is you political Valentine this year? 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 its five surrounding states, as well as Washington, D.C.

© 2018 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images.

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