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“Race to the Primary Finish Line” - Sunday Political Brunch September 16, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – This marks the final week of primaries before the November election, with New York, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire holding contests this past week. Is anything a predictor of what will happen on November 6th? Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“New York, New York” – It was a fascinating Hollywood sideshow, but in the end Governor Andrew Cuomo won a decisive primary win against “Sex in the City” actress Cynthia Nixon by a margin of 66 to 34 percent. It’s no surprise that the Cuomo “steamroller” of political influence won out, but the fact that one-third of the party faithful wanted someone else after two terms may be a warning call for this fall. In this volatile political climate, all bets are off. It’s open season.

“Rhode Island Red?” – My former home of the Ocean State has a Rhode Island Red as the official state bird, but that hardly extends to politics. This is a solidly “blue state” in the legislature and in Congress, but “Lil’ Rhody” has had a reputation of sending Republicans to the Governor’s office, such as Governors Lincoln Almond and Don Carcieri from 1995 through 2011. This year we have a rematch between Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-RI) and Mayor Allen Fung (R-Cranston) who lost a close race in 2014. As with then, a third-party challenge could sink the GOP. In 2014 it was the now late Bob Healey, (M-RI); and in 2018 it’s former State Rep. Joe Trillo (I-RI), who could be the spoiler.

“New Hampshire, First in the Nation” – My favorite state in the nation to vacation, and yes cover politically, is New Hampshire. I just love it here. The First District Congressional seat will now feature a fascinating race between Chris Pappas (D-NH) the first openly gay nominee in state history, going against the Republican, a former police chief Eddie Edwards, an African-American. As always, New Hampshire politics is fascinating and could be a national bellwether about changing tides..

“Massachusetts Last Week” – Like Rhode Island, the Bay State is another reliable Democratic stronghold politically. But – just like Rhode Island – Massachusetts has no shyness for electing Republican governors, such as current Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA), and former Govs. Mitt Romney and William Weld (R-MA). Yes, these are more moderate Republicans, but the state is not always a lock for Democrats.

“A Party Divided” – I make the point that few state parties have a lock on any office or constituency. There are intra-party fights. Rep. Mike Capuano (D-MA) lost his primary race last week to Ayanna Pressley, a more progressive-liberal candidate, compared to the more moderate Capuano. There is no Republican nominee, so Pressley will be the new member of Congress. There are other districts like this across the United States.

“IntraParty Fights” – The big political trend to watch this year is not Republican v. Democrat. It’s the intraparty fight in both parties. For Democrat it’s the battle between more moderate-centrists and the more liberal-progressive wings of the party. For Republicans it’s the battle between the Donald Trump faction which now runs the party versus the “Never Trumpers” who are more centrist, traditional members of the GOP more inclined to accommodation and compromise with Democrats. The collective will – and direction - of each party is at stake.

“The Politics of Nuance” – I’ve been covering politics for over 40 years, so I hope I have some degree of credibility. I get frustrated with my fellow reporters in the news business who declare certain states as “red states” or “blue states” as if it is cast in concrete, and the results are inevitable. The great lesson of the 2016 campaign is that things move, evolve, and change. The notion that the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin were simply a slam dunk for Democrats, was debunked when candidate Donald Trump won all three on the way to the White House. The lesson: Don’t assume anything!

What are your predictions for Campaign 2018? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

“A Summer of Political Drama Heads to Fall” - Sunday Political Brunch - September 9, 2018

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As summer fades to autumn (and my vacation fades back into the workplace), it’s time to assess some of the big political developments that could have an impact at the ballot box come November 6th. A lot is happening both inside and outside of the beltway. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Florida on My Mind” – I was in the Sunshine State for the Florida primary for governor and there is a lot to chew on from the results. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Florida), is leaving Congress after three terms, as he easily won the Republican nomination for governor. The big drama was on the Democratic side of the aisle where Mayor Andrew Gillum (D-Tallahassee) scored an upset primary win over former Rep. Gwen Graham, (D-Florida). Graham is the daughter of former Governor and Senator Bob Graham, (D-Florida). Gillum is a progressive, whereas Graham (like her dad) was the more centrist candidate. This is the same internal fight Democrats have faced in many other states. It’s a fight for the future direction of a party divided.

“Monkey Business” – Congressman DeSantis did himself no favors the day after he won the gubernatorial primary. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state,” DeSantis said. Since his opponent Mayor Andrew Gillum is black, many viewed the “monkey this up” reference as racist. In looking at the entirety of the DeSantis interview, I don’t believe he meant it that way. On the other hand, it is easy to see how the “monkey” reference could be misconstrued. DeSantis is guilty of an incredible lapse in judgment over his choice of words. What on Earth was he thinking?

“A Senate Rocket Ride” – All of a sudden, one of the hottest U.S. Senate races in the nation is now in Florida. Sen. Bill Nelson, (D-Florida), was polling well against Gov. Rick Scott (R-Florida), but now the tables have turned. A recent Gravis Poll has the two men dead-even at 47 percent a piece. Many polls over the past year had Nelson with a small but steady lead. All that’s gone now, and Scott is leading slightly in some polls. The Governor’s race could have an impact, and remember, this is a state President Trump won in 2016. Florida is truly a “purple” state, so this one could go either way.

“Arizona” – By sheer coincidence, Arizona was hosting a primary election last week in the wake of Sen. John McCain’s death. The primary was scheduled long ago and had the important distinction of picking nominees to replace Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) who is not seeking re-election. Rep. Martha McSally, (R-Arizona) won a convincing primary against some far more conservative opponents. McSally, a retired Air Force fighter pilot, will face fellow Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona).

“The Kyl File” – Former Sen. Jon Kyl, (R-Arizona) is back. He will fill out the remaining two years of John McCain’s term. This is significant for several reasons. First, Kyl is a consensus choice in what could have been a nasty fight. The White House likes him, the U.S. Senate leadership likes him, and John McCain’s family deeply respects and loves him. He will be a “yes” vote on Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court. And with that he takes away the prospect of a maverick Senate appointee voting against the Trump pick, Kavanaugh. Well played by all sides on what could have been a potential disaster.

“Oklahoma, Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’” – There were no big surprises in the third primary in the last week, that being in Oklahoma – a reliably red state. But, here’s something to keep an eye on. There were several teachers strikes in states across the nation this year, most notably in West Virginia where the trend began. Oklahoma teachers walked out for nine days inspired by the 5-percent pay raises that were won in West Virginia. On primary night in Oklahoma, six legislators who voted against a pay raise were voted out of office. Keep an eye on this developing trend, especially in states with teacher-labor disputes.

“Kavanaugh Will Win” – There is no mystery here. Judge Brett Kavanaugh will be the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. And I predict it will happen so fast, that he will be on the bench when the high court convenes on October 1, 2018. The bigger issue to watch is how the voters cross party lines, especially in red states where Democratic Senators are in tough re-election fights. Keep an eye on Sen. Joe Donnelley, (D-Indiana); and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, (D-North Dakota), as well as Sen. Jon Tester, (D-Montana), and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia).

What are your predictions about 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 surrounding states.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

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