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Trump v. Democrats: Campaign 2020 Now in Full Swing – “Sunday Political Brunch” - June 23, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s now “official,” which is what we’ve all known for about two-and-a-half years. President Trump has declared his candidacy for a second term. Many
Democrats are predicting a blood-bath victory, but I say not so fast. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Location, Location, Location!” – The old real estate mantra holds true in politics as well. Location is critical. So where did President Trump choose to kick off his reelection bid? Why, Orlando, Florida. This was wise. Florida is truly five-states-in-one. Trust me, I’ve lived and worked there on-and-off for over thirty years. South Florida is a Democratic haven. The Jacksonville-Gainesville-Tallahassee corridor is very liberal, while the panhandle is quite conservative. The Daytona-Orlando-Tampa corridor is the moderate-to-conservative swing belt, of this swing state. If you win here, you win the state. Trump’s kick-off rally in Orlando was a smart choice. The same holds true for Democrats picking Milwaukee for their 2020 Convention, and the Republicans selecting Charlotte. You’ve got to go where you need to win!

“The Magnificent Seven?” – I love polls; I hate polls. They are over-rated, and often give us a very jaundiced view – one snapshot-in-time – of the electoral mood, which in no way is indicative of the end result. That said, as I look at the latest composite poll from Real Clear Politics, I see only seven viable Democratic candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden 32 percent; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont 15 percent; Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts 12 percent; Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indiana 7 percent; Senator Kamala Harris (D) California 7 percent; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) Texas 4 percent ; and Senator Cory Booker (D) New Jersey 2.3 percent. The rest are buried in the weeds.

“What Have You Done for Me Lately?” – Politics is about performance. It’s a “what have you done for me lately?” business. The surging economy and markets are a bonus for Trump, but the 2020 election is still 18 months away. President George H. W. Bush was riding high in June 1991, but the economy tanked into recession – briefly - by the end of the year. While the economic downturn was relatively short and mild, it created a lot of anxiety and uncertainly and Bush lost to Bill Clinton.

“Here Come the Debates” – I’ve said this before. The Democratic nominee will not get to the main stage just by attacking President Trump. If he or she wants to be the Democratic nominee, the candidate will need to also attack other Democrats in the field. That’s why so many of the younger Democrats have criticized elder statesman Joe Biden for his comments about being able to work with, and get along with, two segregationist senators in his early Senate years. While what he said is true, critics found the statements insensitive, out of touch, and relics from a bygone era. I bet he gets hammered on it again in this week’s two Democratic debates in Miami.

“The Trump-Iran Factor” – The stand-off this week between Iran and the United States is one of those critical test moments in a presidency. It’s critical from a public policy standpoint (the response), but it’s also critical from a political standpoint (it’s role in the 2020 election). It’s a unique moment for any president, because he stands naked and alone at the decision-making podium. He can’t blame Congress, he can’t blame political foes, and he can’t blame previous presidents. In a crisis, the duty falls squarely on the shoulders of the president. The last U.S.-Iran crisis in 1979-80 was a watershed moment for President Jimmy Carter, who ultimately failed winning reelection.

“The Impact of Trump’s Options” – This was clearly one of the most fascinating moments in the Trump presidency. While many anticipated a tough show of force with a quick military retaliation, Trump stopped the mission ten minutes short of execution. I believe there are three possible explanations: 1) he flinched under pressure and relented; 2) he’s true to his word, and really was concerned about the proportionality in the response where zero died on one side, and 150 could die on the other side. I like option 3), that this was a Trump “Art of the Deal” moment where he purposefully and intentionally aimed to knock his enemy off balance. Was he trying to provoke Iran, being an unexpected “peacemaker?” My gut says scenario 3 was the plan. We’ll see!

“Trump 2.0” – To underscore my hypothesis from above, I submit “Exhibit B,” which was Trump’s reversal on Saturday’s promised ICE raids around the nation. The President said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents would round up and start deportation proceedings against thousands of people who are in the U.S. illegally. Like the Iran strike, he pulled the threat at the eleventh hour. “At the request of Democrats, I have delayed the Illegal Immigration Removal Process for two weeks to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get together and work out a solution…” Trump said in tweet.

“What’s the Deal?” – Is President Trump trying to be like former President George H.W. Bush, who tried to appeal to, and inspire “a kinder, gentler nation?” Look, up until now, Trump has been the proverbial “bull in the China shop” on both Congressional relations and international diplomacy. He’s not known to have a softer side. Is he growing into the job and realizing he must share power, or is he setting a trap for opponents if they accomplish nothing, even though he extended an olive branch. A more conciliatory and inclusive presidency might boost his reelection bid, or will the public just view it as more of his theatrics? Stayed tuned as 2020 is shaping up to be fascinating year.

Have you made a choice for 2020 yet among the 24 Democrats and two Republicans who have announced so far? If so, tell us who you picked and why, by clicking the comment button.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five surrounding states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: WhiteHouse.gov

Joe Biden for Vice President, Again? – “Sunday Political Brunch” - June 16, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Okay, this may sound crazy, but I’ve been wondering if former Vice President Joe Biden might be willing to serve in that office again. The Constitution does not term limit the VP, only the boss. As odd as it may sound now, there are plausible reasons why Biden might be willing to play second-fiddle again. Let’s brunch on that this week.

“The VP Scenario” – It’s no secret that right now Joe Biden is the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president. But this is no guarantee of anything. At this point in the race for the 2008 nomination for president, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani were the clear-cut frontrunners, way ahead of the pack. By the time of the party conventions, neither was the nominee. In 2016, Jeb Bush was the Republican frontrunner, but faded fast under the tidal wave known as Donald Trump. On the Democrat side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton was supposed to be a slam dunk, but barely beat the challenge of Bernie Sanders.

“The Presidential Experience Factor” – There have been 15 presidential elections in my lifetime. In five cases, voters chose the candidate with the most experience (1964, 68, 72, 84 and 88). In three cases, the experience levels of the two nominees was essentially a tie (1960, 1980, and 2012). But in most cases – seven in all – voters selected the candidate with the least political experience (1976, 1992, 96, 2000, 04, 08, and 16). I lay this out because Biden clearly has the most experience in the Democratic field, and while he is the frontrunner now, history tells us it may not end up that way.

“Modern Vice-Presidential Strategy” – In six of the last seven presidential elections, voters chose the least experienced candidate. One of the reasons that worked is because a relatively inexperienced presidential candidate was paired with a very experienced, seasoned Washington hand who knew the ropes. In 1976 a very experienced Walter Mondale was VP to a green Jimmy Carter. In 1980 and 84, perhaps the man with the longest Washington, DC resume ever – George H.W. Bush - joined a less experienced Ronald Reagan. In 1992 and 96, a DC old-pro Al Gore helped Bill Clinton to the White House. In 2000 and 04, senior statesman Dick Cheney aided an up and coming George W. Bush. In 2008 and 16, rookie Barack Obama got a big boost from old-pro Joe Biden. In 2016, the vastly experienced Mike Pence, helped a green Donald Trump.

“Why VP Biden 2.0 Works” – Each party has a penchant for picking new, flashy and different candidates for president in the modern age. So, what if voters pass on the experienced, older candidates Biden, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren. Many in the current Democratic field are in their 30s, 40’s and early 50s. Rising stars maybe, but hardly old pros. But as we saw in 2008, a young, energetic candidate with an inspiring, message and stump speech (Obama) can rocket ahead of a vastly more experienced, yet staid (even boring candidate) in Hillary Clinton. What if voters decide they want to nominate Sen. Kamala Harris, (D) California who is in her first term, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg, (D) South Bend, IN? How about Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D) Hawaii? The young nominee may need a senior, seasoned VP like those listed above. Who would be better than Biden?
“The Keystone State is the Key!” – As I pointed out in my column last week, the single most important state in 2020 is Pennsylvania. If Democrats cannot take back the Keystone State, their likelihood of winning back the White House is pretty much hopeless. Joe Biden is a native Pennsylvanian, born and raised in Scranton. Yes, he moved to neighboring Delaware and represented it for over three decades in the U.S. Senate, but Delaware is really a suburb of Philadelphia. Biden can carry Pennsylvania for Democrats whether he’s at the top of the ticket or the number two.

“Country Over Party and Ambition” – Joe Biden and Donald Trump do not like each other. Both are street fighters and the war of words between the two will only get worse. Yes, Biden wants to take Trump head on, but I think he believes he can cut Trump off at the knees even if he’s the VP choice. He’d swallow his pride in losing the nomination, just to stay swinging in the fight. I say Biden would jump at the chance to be VP again. It would be historic. No VP has ever served more than two terms, but I bet he’d be willing.

Would you support Joe Biden, even if he wound up the vice-presidential nominee for Democrats? Just click the comment button to let us know your opinion.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five surrounding states, including much of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Writer for the White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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