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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- October 19, 2014

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(Bellows Falls, Vermont) -- Okay we’re down to the wire in this campaign season with just over two weeks to go. All the coverage has been very interesting (but very stressful). So today, just some fun political trivia as I venture through Vermont looking at fall colors to sooth my soul before the final campaign rush.

“Two ‘fer” – Vermont is the second least populous state in the nation behind Wyoming, but the tiny Green Mountain State has produced two presidents, Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge. However, both men left Vermont before ever achieving their political pinnacle. Arthur became politically active in New York; Coolidge in Massachusetts. Both ascended to the presidency after the death of their boss. Arthur after the assassination of President James Garfield; and Coolidge after the sudden death of President Warren Harding. Coolidge is buried in his hometown of Plymouth, Vermont while Arthur is buried in New York.

“Who is that Man?” -- In neighboring New Hampshire, the state highway signs feature a profile image of a famous Granite State resident. When I looked it up, I found that it was Franklin Pierce, our 14th president. Given New Hampshire’s prominence in electing U.S. Presidents, I am surprised there have not been more from here.

“Name the Original Thirteen!” – If I don’t keep current on my history, I get a bit rusty, I admit it. Being in Vermont, Hew Hampshire, Rhode Island and Massachusetts over the weekend made me wonder – which were the original 13 colonies? I know, it seems easy, but it’s not. I would have sworn Vermont was in the original 13, but it wasn’t; same with Maine, so here goes: The original 13 colonies, (flag photo above), are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. (For the record, Vermont was originally part of New York; Maine was originally part of Massachusetts).

“New England” – Speaking of membership, there is only one clearly defined region in the United States, and that is New England. There are six states, period! Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Six – no more; no less! I mention this because someone recently tried to tell me New York was also part of New England. It ain’t. This region is clearly defined; others are nebulous. I had a co-worker once who argued that Colorado was in the Midwest. It’s not. Kansas may have a case for Midwest – albeit vague – but not Colorado. Some count Texas and Oklahoma in the South; many disagree. Again, the only unarguably defined U.S. region is New England.

“Whose da’ Boss?” – There is a lot of pride over which state has elected the most U.S. Presidents. It’s not precise, since some Presidents were born in one state; but were elected from office from another. For example, Abe Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but as a grown man, was elected President as a resident of Illinois.

“By the Original 13” – This is amazing. Our original 13 states have produced 26 of our 43 Presidents. That’s staggering. I mean in the first several decades of the country you might expect that, but 238 years later, it is still true. While many were born and elected from the original 13 colonies, some were born in New England – George W. Bush in Connecticut, and George H.W. Bush in Massachusetts, only to have been later elected from Texas. Maybe it’s about roots!

“By Region” – As a region, New England states have produced eight Presidents who either were born here, or were born and elected from one of these states. By the way, 12 or our 43 Presidents graduated from either Harvard (Massachusetts) or Yale (Connecticut), so the region’s educational influence is substantial.

“By State” – This is a trick question because some Presidents were born and elected from the same state; while others were born in one state, but grew up and were elected elsewhere. Let’s look at the two lists. States that elected the most Presidents: New York 6; Ohio 6; Virginia 5 and Massachusetts 4. Presidents by birth state: Virginia 8; Ohio 7; Massachusetts 4; and, New York 4. So, three of the original 13 states remain fertile ground for producing Presidents.

“On the Other Hand”- For all the strength Massachusetts has had in producing Presidents, it is 0 for 3 in its most recent tries. Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-MA); Sen. John Kerry (D-MA); and Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) were all nominated for President by their parties in recent years, only to lose the election. Still, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) are considered strong prospects to be President someday, so the original 13 states continue to put forth viable candidates.

“Why All of this Matters?” – Electing Presidents is still steeped in much tradition. There seems an inclination (rational or not), that candidates born, raised, or educated in the Northeast are somehow more qualified for that office. If we tossed in Vice Presidential nominees and Presidential nominees who failed to win, the list would include an even more disproportionate number of New Englanders or candidates who hailed from the original 13 colonies. As we get ready to choose nominees in both parties for 2016, watch how this phenomenon plays out because it is still a factor

What factors are important to you in electing a President? How important are geography, history, and education? Let me know by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: USFlagDepot.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- October 12, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – It is just over three weeks until Election Day 2014. Many people refer to the final stretch of the campaign as, “The Silly Season!” which is right on the money. All kids of oddities take place – some of them funny; some of them strange – but almost all amusing! Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Of Pizza and Politics” – I had my first interview with Gov. Chris Christie (R) New Jersey, this week. He was at Luigi’s Restaurant in Johnston, Rhode Island campaigning for Ocean State Republican Allan Fung for Governor. The press scrum asked a lot of the usual questions of him, when suddenly there was a silent pause. I had noticed the rotund Governor (who is about my size) walked passed a couple of fresh pizza pies, without eating a crumb: “Did you try Luigi's pizza?” I shouted. “I didn’t try the pizza,” Christie said. “I saw you walk right past it,” I said, challenging him. Christie shot back, “I did. You know I am trying my best to lose some weight so you know, Luigi's Pizza would not be a help in that regard, so.” Suddenly, Johnston Mayor Joe Polisena – a Democrat – interjected, “It's lo-cal!” The crowd burst out laughing. “Yeah, that's what everybody tells me Mayor,” said Christie, “That’s how I got in trouble in the first place. Everybody told me it was all lo-cal and it's not." The crowd loved it!

“Déjà vu All Over Again!” – I don’t know what it is about me and politicians and food questions. In my book, “Age of Obama: A Reporters Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President 2008,” I had a similar encounter with former President Bill Clinton. Like Christie, (and me), Clinton is a voracious foodie, and we’re always fighting our weight. I ran into Clinton outside of the Lexington BBQ, in Lexington, North Carolina. As he shook my hand, I inquired, "How was the barbecue Mr. President?" "It was unbelievable." he said. "The barbecue was good. The hush puppies were good." "Anything else?" I asked. "If I had the ice cream, I'd need a nap," Clinton said. He walked a few steps farther and - still waving to the crowd - got into his Secret Service van and left. At first I wondered, "What was I thinking? This is the most critical election in sixty years, and I ask the ex-president and husband of one of the candidates about food?" Then I thought, "Lighten up, Mark. Campaigns are supposed to be fun, too!"

“The Cool Moose, On the Loose!” – I am just finishing my 37th year in radio and television broadcasting, and trust me I have met a lot of interesting characters. Among them, Bob Healey, who founded the “Cool Moose Party” in Rhode Island. Bob is this year’s Moderate Party candidate for Governor, and could very well be the “spoiler” in the race. Healey is not raising any money, so his publicity has to be creative. A friend of his owns a building along I-95 in Downtown Providence, so Healey hand-painted his own “free” billboard on the side (photo above). The fact that 180,000 cars pass the sign each day means Healey’s artwork is an artful dodge! Take a look: http://ww.abc6.com/story/26759261/bob-healey-puts-billboard-up-on-i-95

“The Grimes Grind” – Wow! Democrats had their best shot this year of unseating Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), in the nation’s marquis U.S. Senate race. In fact, control of the upper chamber of Congress hangs in the balance. Democrats had a good candidate in Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D-KY), who had led McConnell in some polls. But now, it appears Grimes - a big Hillary Clinton backer - did not vote for Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012. This may cost her the election. Ouch! Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NpAqyHs3RE

“Yikes!” – State Sen. Wendy Davis (D-TX), who grew up in my current hometown of West Warwick, Rhode Island, produced a jaw-dropping ad this week. Davis, who is running for Texas Governor, against current Attorney General Greg Abbott, has an ad featuring an empty wheelchair, saying Abbott has argued cases against the disabled. Abbott – who is partially paralyzed from a tree accident – actually uses a wheelchair to get around. Whether her claim has any legitimacy or not, it’s a tough political sell trying to attack a guy who actually is wheelchair-bound. What were her political consultants thinking? Here’s the spot: http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/10/politics/wendy-davis-wheelchair-ad/index.h...

“Dalk Wog” – When I give public speeches, I often get asked, “What’s the dumbest flub you’ve ever made on-air?” Believe me, I could write a book. But I laughed almost uncontrollably the other day when I said something silly on the air. Look, this political season has made me “punch drunk!” I am covering politics, 24/7 and I’m tired. So during Monday’s newscast, I was talking about a charity “dog walk” I had emceed, except I kept calling is a “dalk wog!” Say that three times fast! You can’t make this stuff up!

“I Know a Guy!” – And finally, Rhode Island is one of those states where, “Who ya’ know,” can make a difference in what you can get done. Here, it’s referred to as the, “I know a guy” mentality. It’s about inside connections. So, my employer WLNE-TV ABC6 decided to spoof that philosophy, in a promotional announcement for my political coverage! Enjoy, “I Know a Guy! Do You?” Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUna406DzsM&feature=youtu.be

What crazy story do you have from Election 2014? Please click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Mark Curtis, WLNE-TV, ABC6 News.

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