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Sunday Political Brunch - The Perils of Party Infighting -- November 12, 2017

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CHARLESTON, WV -- Two new political books are shedding light on something a lot of people don’t like to admit – party infighting is one of the worst maladies in politics. It reminds me of that adage that the worst wounds in politics are often self-inflicted. That is true at the personal and the party level. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Donna Brazile” – The longtime Democratic political operative and network commentator sent shock waves through the political community with some of her claims in a new book. Brazile - who was Acting Chair of the Democratic National Committee last year - said she considered a procedure to remove Hillary Clinton as the party nominee, after Secretary Clinton had a health scare at a September 11th memorial event that was caught on camera. Brazile thought of trying to replace the Clinton-Kaine ticket with Vice President Joe Biden paired with Sen. Cory Booker, (D-NJ). Brazile – who found the Clinton campaign complacent and lackluster – never made the move. But the fact that someone of her stature had such thoughts, reflects an alarming level of doubt within the party that many like me heard via whispers from party faithful in the shadows.

“Bush Bash” – It’s no secret the Bush Family has no love for President Trump. He treated fellow candidate Jeb Bush with great disdain and disrespect, during the campaign, and key members of the Bush family openly voted for Hillary Clinton. Former President George H.W. Bush, had this to say about Trump in “The New York Times”: “I don’t know much about him, but I know he’s a blowhard. And I’m not too excited about him being a leader.” The senior Bush added bluntly, “I don’t like him [Trump].” Bush even leaked his intention to vote for Secretary Clinton, by telling former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D-MD), daughter of the late Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-NY). Bush went dynasty-to-dynasty to whack Trump publicly via the Kennedys.

“Son of Bush Bash II’ – Just as he followed his father’s footsteps, and eventually won the White House, former President George W. Bush has also hit President Trump with faint praise. "This guy doesn't know what it means to be president," said Bush “43” to “The New York Times.” He added that he did not cast a vote for President in 2016. He left that portion of the ballot blank.

“The Clinton-Gore Fallout” – “The New York Times” reported extensively about the growing distance between President Clinton and Vice President Gore during the 2000 campaign of Al Gore, to succeed his boss. The two men, who had forged such a successful political bond when they won in 1992, had grown apart. Gore wanted to distance himself from Clinton, and it may have been a mistake. “The Times” reported that Gore did not want Clinton to campaign for him. “This is something Gore is going to do on his own,” said his campaign press secretary Chris Lahane. Many believed Clinton could have helped Gore in African-American communities in Arkansas and Tennessee. Instead he sat on the bench, and George W. Bush won both states. Had Gore taken just one of his and Clinton’s home states, he would have been President.

“Virginia-New Jersey Fallout?” – Democrats won both races for Governor Tuesday night. New Jersey was no surprise as Governor-elect Phil Murphy swamped current Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R-NJ) by 14 percentage points. Virginia chose Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam over longtime Republican political operative Ed Gillespie by nine points. Late polls had the race closer, but Gillespie was still in an uphill battle. Now, if I hear one more network reporter say this was a clear referendum on the Trump administration, I will scream. It is not. Two states simply do not make enough of a scientific sample to make a predictive trend for 2018. That’s not an opinion, folks, it’s a fact based on social scientific principles. Both elections were a reflection of the political mood in two states – one a solidly blue state (New Jersey); and one a “purple” swing state that can go either way (Virginia). How does that predict what might happen in Ohio or Idaho in 2018? It doesn’t.

“The ‘Check Engine’ Light is On!” – On the other hand, Republicans ought to take notice of what happened in the Virginia House of Delegates where Republicans had a 66 to 34 majority when Election Day began. By the end of the night, the GOP had lost 15 seats, and with three going to recounts, it is possible Democrats could swing control of one chamber of the State House. Now that is a trend worth noting. Was this because of strictly local or state issues, or were people venting against the President Trump? As I always say, political movements are built from the ground up (grass roots) and not from the top down. That’s how Republicans came to power in both chambers of Congress, and a majority of state legislatures and Governor’s mansions. This was the big (and largely unnoticed news) from Tuesday’s election results.

“The Big Concern” – Intraparty fights are amusing to the press and public, but a lot of times we don’t know about them until after the fact. That’s because it’s often hard to get people to tell us about the inside battles in real time. But they can have political costs. Every time in my life when an incumbent President has been challenged for re-nomination from within his own party, he has lost the election. This was true for Presidents Johnson, Ford, Carter and H.W. Bush. I mention this because I believe President Trump is going to face credible, perhaps multiple challengers from within the Republican party in 2020. Right now his big concern is not Democrats, but rather fellow Republicans.

Who might you support for President in 2020? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author based in West Virginia. His coverage can be seen in West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, D.C., from the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia.

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Sunday Political Brunch: President Trump Had a Roller Coaster Week -- November 5, 2017

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CHARLESTON, WV – It was an up-and-down week for President Trump – perhaps his most topsy-turvy week in the White House. He sure had some highs and lows and they could have both short-term and long-term impacts. Let’s “brunch” on that with a report card this week:

“Book ‘Em” – It’s never good to have someone close to you be indicted. You may have done nothing wrong but the “guilt by association” friendships can bring criticism (fair or unfair), and can have a lasting impact. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and a deputy Richard Gates were charges with crimes related to their business dealings, long before they came to the Trump campaign. It may turn out that the charges have zero to do with the election. But public perception may be that the campaign was too cozy with a couple of shady characters. That’s not a confidence builder, at a time when Mr. Trump’s public confidence is still low. Grade: C-

“The Coffee Boy” – Another Trump campaign worker named George Papadopoulos plead guilty to charges related to the Russian investigation, in a likely plea deal to testify against others. A whistle-blower is never a good thing. The White House tried to downplay his significance, referring to him as a low-level, unpaid volunteer. A former top campaign leader called Papadopoulos a lowly “coffee boy” and Trump tweeted that he was a liar. But other sources say Papadopoulos has a much greater role, and was knowledgeable about campaign contacts with Russians (more below). If he were just a “coffee boy” why is he pleading guilty to federal charges? It doesn’t pass the smell test. Grade: F

“Terror in New York City” – A terrorist attack on any President’s watch is not a good thing. It makes us all feel more vulnerable and less secure. But in this case, the suspect was taken into custody immediately, charged as a terrorist and enemy combatant, and no more damage was done. From a political standpoint, that’s a plus for President Trump. Yes, all the real credit goes to law enforcement, but if you create a climate where people feel secure and protected, that reflects positively on a President. While Trump still has low approval ratings, his two key strengths are if people feel safe, and if they feel the economy is prospering. Grade: B+

“Show Me the Money” – As mentioned several times in this column over the past nine months, President Trump is still in need of a major legislative victory. This past week House Republicans unveiled their tax reform package. The usual arguments were there – Republicans saying it would cut taxes and promote economic growth for all; while Democrats say it would mostly benefit the well-off. The truth is a lot would depend on individual circumstances. But if the President and lawmakers can convince the public this will make things easier and help the economy - and they get it passed - then it’s a big win. President Trump wants it done by Christmas, but I find that awfully optimistic. Grade: B- (for putting it on the table; could go to A- if they can get it done).

“What Say the Markets?” – The biggest asset that President Trump has right now is the hot financial marketplace. The Dow Jones closed Thursday at 23,516. Many other financial indicators are preforming very well. Sure, people with lots of money and investments benefit the most, but average folks with 401(k) retirement accounts are benefitting, too. As mentioned the two biggest items for any President are national security, and the economy. When things go bad they get the blame; and when things go well they get credit (whether it’s fair or not). Grade: A-

“Ag is Not in the Bag” – On Thursday President Trump’s nominee to be the top scientist as the Department of Agriculture, withdrew his name from consideration. Sam Clovis had contacts with the above-mentioned George Papadopoulos, who entered a guilty plea in the Russia investigation. President Trump was described as “seething” this week over various developments in the Russia investigation, although none has directly led to him. Even if they never do, it’s a major distraction that pulls attention from one’s agenda. Grade: D

“The Sun Also Rises” – President Trump travels to Asia this week with stops in Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China and more. This is a crucial trip given the nuclear tensions with North Korea. Even in the depths of domestic scandal and distraction, President Nixon made great headway on the international stage with groundbreaking trips to Russia and China. Mr. Trump certainly can’t match those historic feats (it’s a high bar), but how any President looks on the international stage can set a tone for the White House. Grade: Incomplete.

“Why All of This Matters” – I’ve said it often, politics is a “what have you done for me lately” business. Politicians make promises; the public wants results. The above grades are subjective; not a precise science. It’s a mixed bag. The President has performed well in some areas; but remains suspect on other achievements and policies. One year from this week, voters will issue the first major report card on the Trump White House, when they vote in the critical midterm Congressional elections. Stay tuned!

What grades would you give on what issues? Just click theh comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations service West Virginia, and is a nationally-known political analysts and author who appears on KGO Radio 810-AM San Francisco.

Photo courtesy: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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