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The Political “Purple Wave” of 2018 -- Sunday Political Brunch November 11, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – For months we’ve had predictions of a Democrat “Blue Wave” in 2018, and a Republican “Red Wave.” Well, how about both, given the mixed results? If the late musician Prince Rogers Nelson were still alive, he might re-tool his song to read, “Purple Wave, Purple Wave!” Let’s brunch on that this week.

“Senate Stays the Course” – While the final results are not in yet, it looks like we will see a U.S. Senate with 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats. That’s in line with the 2 or 3 seat GOP gain I have been predicting for weeks. It’s close now, but as of press time Arizona (leaning Democrat) and Mississippi (leaning Republican) are the two wild-card seats. If we split the difference, we get 53-R to 47-D.

“Who Has the Advantage?” – The Senate has a unique role in American politics. It has the sole authority to confirm or deny federal court appointments and treaties with foreign nations. The House gets no say. If there are more Supreme Court appointments and Cabinet picks (i.e., the replacement for Jeff Sessions as Attorney General), it should be a smooth ride for Republicans. This is huge. Yes, cabinet members only last until the administration ends, but federal court picks are lifetime appointments at the District Court, Court of Appeals, and yes, at the Supreme Court level. Trump – even if he only serves one term – could shape federal court rulings for a generation.

“The Ginsberg Factor” – Look, I hate this part of covering politics – the political circling of the vultures. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg fell and broke a few ribs this past week. She’s 85 and has so far won her battle against cancer and heart disease. She’s a legal warrior and a tough human being. But, no one lives forever. If her health fails further, President Trump may have another Supreme Court pick. I can’t remember the last time a president had three picks just in the first term. President Reagan had three picks, but over two terms. Other presidents with multiple picks include Franklin Roosevelt with nine; Harry Truman with four; and Dwight Eisenhower with five.

“The House is a Louse!” – Again, as I predicted for weeks, the House will be in Democratic control for the first time in eight years. As of the latest Real Clear Politics count there are 225 Democrats, and 198 Republicans, with 12 House races still undecided. I didn’t do too bad on my prediction that the final count would be 221 to 214 in favor of Democrats.

“Who Has the Advantage Here?” – As with the Senate, the House has some unique powers, too. Since all revenue bills must begin in the House, Democrats will have a big say on the extension of many of the Trump tax cut legislation benefits. While some tax cuts were permanent, others providing middle and low-income tax relief will “sunset” after five years. Will there be extensions? Stay tuned!

“All Politics is Local” – The old favorite saying by U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill rings true all the time. The politics closest to you matters most, meaning your city council, school board, and county commission. But when you bump that up a notch, your Member of Congress is still a very locally-centric candidate compared to your U.S. Senator charged with representing the whole state. A switch in control of the U.S. House tells you that national issues aside – people are restless at the local and regional level. It’s a political alert on the radar screen that trouble may be brewing in the next election. So, 2018 could be a precursor for 2020.

“All Politics is Local – Chapter 2” – This week Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) won reelection after a bruising primary with Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R-WV). In the final weeks, Morrisey had three visits in West Virginia by President Trump, and one from Vice President Mike Pence. In a state where Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points in 2016, Manchin beat Morrisey by just 3.2 percentage points. You can probably attribute that to Manchin’s gift for retail politics in his 36-year political career. Shaking hands and kissing babies still matters in some places.

“Mr., I Mean Madame President” – Sorry to jump the gun to the next election. I confess to binge watching the final season of “House of Cards” with President Claire Underwood, I mean Claire Hale, now in charge. But in a world where “art imitates life” are we again on the verge of electing our first woman president? The list of names is growing: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), and, yes, even former Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) still in the mix. Across the aisle there’s U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley of South Carolina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM), among others.

“The Political Domino Effect”—I have long thought that after President Trump got rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the following scenario would occur. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) would be nominated to be Attorney General. With his senate seat vacated, Gov. McMaster (R-SC) would appoint Nikki Haley to the U.S Senate. It still could happen, but given Graham’s often sharp criticism of President Trump, it may not. Either way, keep your eyes on the rising political star of Nikki Haley. She’s not done yet!

“Why All of this Matters?” – No one likes to hear this. Yes, Election Day 2018 was November 6th. The start of Campaign 2020, began at sunrise on Wednesday, November 7, 2018. Let the games begin!

God Bless those who defend us this Veterans Day weekend, past present and future!!!

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

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC -- Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

What Matters at the Election Finish Line -- Sunday Political Brunch - November 4, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – This is it folks! The weekend before Election Day, November 6, 2018. Midterm elections are always a referendum on the party in power at the White House, and 2018 is no different. A lot is on the table, including which party controls the U.S Senate and U.S. House. The big issues could cut both ways at the eleventh hour and I will grade each party’s potential advantage. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“It’s’ the Economy, Stupid!” – The famed line from Democratic operative James Carville always rings true. People vote their pocketbooks. The economy has the lowest unemployment rate since the 1960s. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is growing at its highest level in years. Tax cuts helped many, (but not all). However, in recent weeks the financial markets have fluctuated wildly. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped sharply on several days, only to rebound. There are jitters out there, but overall: “Advantage Republicans.”

“The Health of Health Care” – The one sector of the economy that continues to grow at an inflationary pace is health care. Republicans keep promising if they control the House and the Senate after Election Day, there will be another attempt to repeal and replace Obama Care. But Democrats continue to argue that millions of people with pre-existing conditions will lose coverage. In West Virginia for example, an estimated 800,000 of the 1.8 million residents, have a pre-existing condition. Democrats nationwide have stoked a lot of fear and concern that millions will lose medical coverage and it’s resonating with voters. True or not: “Advantage Democrats.”

“National Security” – Former President Bill Clinton always talked about peace and prosperity as the two most important factors in a reelection campaign. If people are working and stable financially, that’s a good thing. If the world is at relative peace and threats from overseas are abated, people feel safe and secure. The party in power usually gets the credit, or the blame. As mentioned, many economic indicators are cooking and threats from overseas are quiet. Grade: “Advantage Republicans.”

“Immigration Nation” – President Trump’s signature issue, and maybe the main reason he got elected, was immigration reform. No, the wall has not been built (and may never be), but right now this issue is again volatile. With a caravan of thousands of Central Americans trying to make their way to the U.S. border, there could be trouble. While the President has ordered 5,000 troops to guard the border, it’s unlikely the group will be here by Tuesday. Right now, “Advantage Republicans.” On the other hand, if others make it to the border and we see any extent of family separation, then all bets are off. The last thing this White House needs is more video of children being taken from their parents. Grade: “Standstill but Wait and See.”

“Immigration by Birthright.” – President Trump is talking about issuing an Executive Order to end the practice of granting legal citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil, even if to illegal immigrant parents. He calls it a “crazy policy.” The problem is, it’s not a policy. It’s a Constitutional Amendment. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” I predict if he signs an Executive Order, there will immediately be an objection filed in federal court, and an injunction will be granted preventing the implementation. “Advantage: the U.S. Constitution.”

“Birthright Citizenship be Gone?” – Make no mistake, the Fourteenth Amendment may be flawed. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t a good idea to declare automatic citizenship by birth. I leave that to my fellow citizens to decide. But if it’s bad policy, there’s only one way to change it and that’s by amending the Constitution again, which is a process reserved - in part - to Congress, the states, and the citizens. The Constitution grants no power to amend the document to the Executive Branch of government, or the Judicial Branch. Amending the Constitution is by design very difficult. Other than the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights - approved with the original document - the U.S. Constitution has only been amended 17 times in 242 years.

“2016 Backlash?” – From the day Donald Trump was elected two years ago, opponents have been promising to upend his agenda and reverse the election in the 2018 midterms and ultimately in his 2020 reelection bid. There have been marches on Washington, D.C., and in many other cities across the United States. There has been public outcry over his second Supreme Court appointment, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and that this election might be a backlash. But a total national revolt and shaming of the Trump agenda? I don’t think so. If there is peace and prosperity Americans have a historic pattern with staying the course, no matter the party in charge. “Advantage: Two-Thirds Republican; to One-Third Democrats.” Read on to see why.

“My Predictions” -- I will stay with my prognostications from a few weeks ago. Republicans will have a net gain of three seats in the U.S. Senate, increasing their majority to 54 to 46. On the other hand, Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives with a narrow 221 to 214 majority.

“Is Divided Government Bad?” – The short answer is no. You will hear next Tuesday night and in the following days, predictions in the media of government gridlock. Yet in my lifetime, I remember two distinct periods when divided power worked well. In the 1980 Ronald Reagan landslide, Republicans not only took the White House, but seized control of the Senate as well, while Democrats held the House. Collectively, they got a lot done. Fast forward to 1995-96 when Democrat Bill Clinton was in the White House with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress. It was the most productive time in Clinton’s term. A lot got done – including the most recent balanced federal budget. “Advantage: The Nation.” We’ll see if history repeats.

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 MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

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