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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 23, 2015

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – The "Brunch" is on the road again this week in the Mountain State! I’ve been wondering of late who Hillary Clinton might pick as a Vice Presidential running mate, should she win the Democratic nomination. There are various lists bouncing around the political chatter online, but let’s start by discussing a possible running mate from here in West Virginia:

“I Owe Ya’ Joe!” – In many respects, politics is about paybacks and returning favors. I know people find that unseemly, but it’s just part of the business. Secretary Clinton owes a great debt of gratitude to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). When she ran for President back in 2008, Manchin – then Governor of West Virginia – was one of her biggest supporters. In fact, he helped deliver a primary victory for Clinton with a whopping 42-point margin over Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). Manchin is perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the U.S. Senate, so he’d give the ticket ideological balance. West Virginia could be a swing state in 2016, so its five Electoral College votes might matter in a tight race. This is coal country; and the miners – who held a huge protest rally last week – are critical voters (photo above).

“Double-Trouble” – For the first time in my lifetime – and perhaps in history – twins are being considered for Vice President. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro is the former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas. At 40, he seems to have a bright future in the Democratic Party. He is said to be Mrs. Clinton’s number-one choice, but it’s really too early to handicap the pick. His twin brother is Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). Either Castro brother will have appeal to the critical Hispanic vote and will give Democrats a more competitive chance in the traditional red state of Texas.

“Raising Kaine” – Another interesting possibility is Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), who is also a former Governor of Virginia. He also served as Lieutenant Governor and was Mayor of Richmond prior to that. He has that rare advantage of having worked in local, state and federal government. Kaine is also from the key battleground state of Virginia, which went for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, but which otherwise hadn’t voted for a Democrat since President Johnson in 1964. It is a crucial swing state now, and Kaine could help keep it blue.

“It’s a Woman’s World” – There is speculation that Mrs. Clinton might pick another woman for a running mate. Names mentioned include Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). I think it’s a longshot. The U.S. may be on the verge of electing its first female President, but it’s still a difficult road ahead. Having two women on the ticket may hurt Democrats' chances among male voters (who still vote heavily Republican). Remember, elections nowadays are won among independent voters, not party loyalists.

“O’Malley Rally” – From the start of the campaign, I predicted that former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) would be the veep choice. He’s a former Mayor of Baltimore, too, so he brings a lot of experience to the table. I’ve always said that it’s likely the Clintons “recruited” O’Malley to run for President, so that Hillary would have someone to debate, but that ultimately he would be chosen as her running mate. I believe that scenario is still plausible.

“The Rahm-ba!” – It would be an odd dance, but some have suggested Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel as a potential number two. Emanuel is a former White House Chief of Staff and Congressman. He may be the most fiercely partisan Democrat in America – a little too extreme to many who think more in terms of bipartisan governance. But Illinois is not a lock for native Hillary Clinton. Republicans shocked a lot of people by electing a new Governor there last year, and they hold one of the U.S. Senate seats. Despite Chicago’s crime problems, putting Emanuel on the ticket could put the Land of Lincoln in the blue state column again.

“Bernie Burnout?” – The big fascination right now is with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). He has pulled ahead of Secretary Clinton in New Hampshire, and is drawing huge crowds wherever he goes. Many Democrats feel that Sanders has earned the number-two slot and could deliver a lot of disenfranchised voters come November of 2016. Still, Sanders self-identifies as a socialist; and someone who is to the left of the liberal Clinton may not bring the ideological balance that a Senator Joe Manchin might. Then again, Sanders may have wide appeal to those all-important independent voters.

“Odd Men Out” – Some of the craziest – yet possible options – include keeping Vice President Joe Biden on for another term (VP has no term-limits), and Hillary Clinton selecting Bill Clinton as her running mate. Yes, it would be legal and constitutionally possible to have an ex-President on the ticket. (Remember Ronald Reagan considered picking Gerald Ford for VP in 1980.) But the Clinton-Clinton ticket idea is too weird, and I don’t think the voting public would buy it.

Who is your pick for Vice President if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for President of the United States? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 16, 2015

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – Conventional American politics is being turned upside down in Campaign 2016. On the heels of the first Republican debate and continued questions about the Democratic frontrunner, four people have emerged in this campaign who are simply the talk of the town. Maybe they’ll win; maybe they won’t; but it’s shaping up as an unforgettable chapter in U.S. politics. These four make the “2016 Mount Rushmore of the Candidates” list. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Trump Trumps!” -- For all of the controversy and consternation over the first Republican debate and Donald Trump’s battle with Megyn Kelly, guess what? His lead is growing, not shrinking. In the latest CNN/ORC poll in Iowa, Trump leads the first Republican Caucus state with 22 percent of the vote. Trump also leads in New Hampshire with 18 percent, in Michigan with 20 percent, and - nationally - with 17 percent. He is clearly the Republican frontrunner, whether his critics like it or not.

“Carson Surges” – That CNN poll from Iowa is raising eyebrows for other reasons, too. Surging into second place in the GOP field is non-politician Doctor Ben Carson. Carson – who had some great one-liners in the first debate – has been growing in popularity among Americans tired of seeing the race card played at every turn in politics. Carson is an African-American neurosurgeon with a populist stump speech that often rankles liberals, particularly on gay rights issues.

“Feisty Fiorina” – Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina clearly outperformed her six opponents in the “lower-tier” GOP debate, and she’ll be on the big stage next time the combatants meet. Fiorina is now in fourth place in Iowa, with 7 percent of the vote, and also is fourth in New Hampshire, with 7 percent. Those two states vote first, so she could be the breakout candidate. By the way, Fiorina is a close number two in Michigan, behind Trump, with 15 percent of the vote, according to a Fox2-Detroit poll. Nationally, Fiorina has risen to 9 percent. Keep an eye on her.

“Weekend with Bernie!” – The one person besides Trump who seems to be electrifying huge chunks of the electorate is Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Last week, Sanders drew an estimated crowd of 28,000 to a rally in Portland, Oregon – by far the biggest turnout for any 2016 candidate. Sanders, in fact, has now surged ahead of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire. The latest Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University Poll has it Sanders 44 percent to Clinton 37 percent, with Vice President Joe Biden – still an undeclared candidate – at 9 percent.

“Voter Thoughts” – Every week I ask for reader comments, and one of the most frequent contributors is Ron Keffer, an old friend and fellow Salvation Army supporter from San Jose, California. Keffer, a Democrat, remains a staunch Trump supporter; but he likes the other two “flies in the ointment,” as well. “I like Trump. He tells it like it is; and if he is chosen to run, I will vote for him… I like Dr. Carson. He is intelligent and probably way ahead of any politician in office at the present. Carly, the media has already chastised her. She was hired to cut the fat at HP, and she did just that. We need the fat cut in our government, from the bottom to the top,” said Keffer.

Here in liberal-dominated New England, a famous car dealer named Ernie Boch, Jr., will hold a party for Trump, although Boch has not formally endorsed him. “Of all the candidates so far, I think he’s the most attractive,” Boch told "The Boston Herald." “He doesn’t act like a politician. He doesn’t talk like a politician. I don’t agree with everything he says, absolutely not.”

“Impact on Other Races” – Will 2016 be a watershed year? We’ll see, but the backlash against traditional politics as usual is extending to other races. Former California Republican Chairman Duf Sundheim – who has never held elective office – is now thinking of running for the U.S. Senate next year against Attorney General Kamala Harris (D-CA). An email I received from Sundheim this week describes Washington, D.C., as “…where the professional political class is locked in partisanship and beholden to special interests. California deserves leaders who will bring a problem-solving approach to Washington, where too often politicians are only there for political ambition.” Sound familiar?

“Recurring Theme” – My colleague, Dr. Valerie Endress, Professor of Political Communication at Rhode Island College, attended that Bernie Sanders rally in Oregon last week which attracted nearly 30,000 people. Dr. Endress said, "Sanders is probably one of the most anti-charismatic candidates I've seen in many years. He's plainspoken, talks without a teleprompter, makes no attempt to soften his Vermont accent, hasn't learned to play to the audience. On the other hand, I've seldom seen a more riled-up audience for the content of his discourse. They roared when he castigated big bank practices, the power of machine politics, CEO domination, and growing economic inequality." Endress reports that the crowd was filled with Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and the expected Millennials - many in each group with families in tow. In short, Sanders has struck a raw nerve.

“Why All of This Matters” – These four candidates are clearly resonating with the “anti-politics as usual” class of voters. Yes, Bernie Sanders has been an elected official most of his adult life; but, as an independent and a socialist, he has always been on the outs with traditional politicians in both parties. Sanders, Trump, Fiorina and Carson make the “2016 Mount Rushmore of the Candidates” list simply for sticking their collective thumbs in the eye of U.S. politics as usual. They feel the pulse of the angry voter, and it is strong!

What are your thoughts? Click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo: Mark Curtis reporting at Mount Rushmore, SD, from the book: “Age of Obama: A Reporter’s Journey with Clinton, McCain and Obama in the Making of the President 2008.” (Nimble Books, LLC)

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