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Sunday Political Brunch: Is President Trump Getting a Bounce? -- September 24, 2017


CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA – Despite low approval ratings for much of his eight months in the White House, President Trump is now seeing an uptick in some national public opinion polls. The reasons may be many, but the big question is will this be short-lived or a long-term surge? Well, the answer depends on a lot of factors. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“By the Numbers” – This week, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll had Mr. Trump’s approval rating at 43 percent, up from 40 percent in August. The Marist Poll gave him a rise from 35 to 39 percent during the same period. In the CNN poll, he ticked up to 40 percent in September, from 38 percent in August. So, yes, he’s getting a bounce, albeit a modest one.

“Bipartisan Vibe” – The President has sent a lot of mixed signals since January, at times standing with Republicans, warring against Democrats. And then, more recently, choosing sides with the Democrats on some key issues. Americans like it when Congress and the White House govern in a bipartisan fashion. For example, a CNN Poll in July showed that 77 percent of the public wanted Congress and the White House to find a bipartisan solution to the health care debate, instead of just gutting Obamacare.

“Move It on Over” – Well, bipartisanship hasn’t happened on health care; but on two other issues the President likely scored points that brought up his approval numbers. First, he sided with Democratic Congressional leaders on a plan to raise the debt ceiling and keep the government from shutting down. Then, he announced that he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were in general agreement on trying to pass a bill regarding DACA, the policy that would allow children who were brought to this country illegally to stay if certain conditions were met. While that policy has some ways to go before becoming law, it - at the very least - shows a willingness to compromise and cooperate on both sides.

“North, by North Korea” – Some of the polls this week surveyed people after President Trump spoke at the United Nations, but other polls were conducted before his speech. Still, his hardline stance against North Korea (and that from others in his administration, such as Defense Secretary James Mattis and U.N Ambassador Nikki Haley) have bolstered his no-nonsense approach. The President told the General Assembly, “If… forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary… That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.” He not only called out Kim Jong Un; he called out U.N. leaders, too. My guess is that even a lot of Trump detractors liked his rhetoric after all the menacing and unprovoked North Korean threats and missile launches.

“Disaster Aid Equals Presidential Aid” – It’s one of the simplest rules in Presidential politics. When Americans are in crisis and need help, you show up in person to show you care. President Trump received high marks for the tone of his visits to damaged areas following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Certainly, you can sign all the disaster declaration letters, and put all the federal aid you can muster into motion from the White House or aboard Air Force One; but if you delay in showing up – as President George W. Bush did during Hurricane Katrina – you upset a lot of people. To be sure, a President’s physical presence on a disaster scene does nothing for the actual relief effort. But what it does show is caring, compassion, and concern – traits we like to see in our leaders. Yes, its symbolic leadership; but it’s something Americans have come to expect.

“How Long Will the Bounce Last?” – That’s an eternal question in politics, which is essentially a love-hate business. President Trump’s sudden, resurging threat to repeal and replace Obamacare could erode some of his newfound support, especially from the other side of the aisle. But if he’s victorious, it could help him among establishment Republicans who still keep him at arm’s length. Quite honestly, the President’s biggest vulnerability might be an ill-advised tweet that upsets a cross-section of the public. He’s had a penchant for doing that. As I always say about politicians, their worst wounds are often self-inflicted. Stay tuned.

“Why All of This Matters” -- Governing is a difficult dance. You can be wildly popular one day, but a total “goat” the next. Some of it is within your control; much of it is not. But successful governing takes public and political support. It takes loyalty to stick by your party; but sometimes bold courage to reach across the aisle. If it were easy, every President would be a success. I suspect President Trump – after a pretty rough first eight months – is experimenting, just as so many of his predecessors did. If your game plan is not working, maybe it’s time to try another strategy. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, an olive branch to the other party can earn you greater respect from a skeptical public – at least for trying to be bipartisan, even if that effort doesn’t succeed.

We want to hear your opinion. Has President Trump turned a corner in how he governs? Just click the comment button at

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst, and writer based in West Virginia, where he serves as Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the Mountain State.

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Sunday Political Brunch: Who Will Be the First Female President? - September 17, 2107


CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA – On her book tour this week 2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton said she would not be a candidate for office again, including another run at the White House. 2020 is still some ways away, so she always has the chance to change her mind. But, a lot of people have asked me in recent days who I think might be our first woman President. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The Clinton Pass (Or Is It?”) – Politics is a “never say never” business. I have always thought there was an outside chance Hillary Clinton might make one last shot in 2020. But there are two things that must occur for that to happen. First, Democrats needs to make huge gains in the 2018 midterm elections. A significant changing of the tide in the House and Senate would be necessary, and, in fact, Democrats would have to seize control of one or both chambers. Second, the Trump Presidency would have to falter badly in two areas: the economy and national security. These developments would give Clinton the “I told you so” campaign theme she’d need. But if Trump is even modestly successful and the GOP holds control of Congress, she has no chance.

“Hail to Haley” – I wrote about Nikki Haley a few weeks ago, but her rising-star status bears repeating. Haley is now the tough-talking U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, often a springboard to bigger political ambitions. Her prominent, hard-liner stance against North Korea has made big headlines. Haley was a two-term Governor of South Carolina, and a state legislator before that. As an Indian-American, she is also a woman of color whch does not hurt in the modern political landscape. At some point she is the likely successor to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and that puts her on a glide-path for a potential Presidential run in 2020, 2024, or later. Haley is just 45-years-old and will be viable for several more election cycles.

“New York, New York” – You can never discount candidates who come from the nation’s most populous states, which are also rich in Electoral College votes. Keep your eye on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who is – like Nikki Haley – a rising star, albeit with Gillibrand in the Democratic Party. Gillibrand, who is now 50, was elected to two terms in the U.S. House and was something of a surprise choice to fill the U.S. Senate vacated when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State. Gillibrand has chops, including knocking off a Republican incumbent to win her first House election. In upstate New York, that’s no small feat. Like Nikki Haley, the moderate Gillibrand is viable for several more Presidential election cycles.

“Feeling the Bern” – No, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is not likely to run for President again – he’ll be 79 in 2020. But many people lay his progressive mantle in the lap of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Warren is one of the closet ideological soulmates to Sanders, but that cuts both ways. It may gain her the Democratic Presidential nomination, but can a true-liberal progressive be elected President in 2020? My guess is that a more moderate Democrat has a better shot, but quite honestly the rule book of Presidential politics was kind of tossed out the window in 2016 with the election of President Trump and the strong showing by Senator Sanders. Warren could seize on that upheaval, disenchanted left-leaning voter base.

“Go West Young Man, (or Woman!) – If Elizabeth Warren is too liberal to be elected President, then Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers might be viewed as too conservative. Still, she is the highest-ranking woman in the House leadership, as Chair of the House Republican Conference (the fourth highest leadership post). She’s in her thirteenth year in Congress, and served many years in the Washington state legislature before that. She’s very popular amongst evangelical Christians, which can sometimes cut both ways. Her best shot may be as a Vice Presidential running-mate, but she does come from the State of Washington, a more liberal-leaning state than her district reflects.

“The Show-Me State” – Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), is an interesting case study. Yes, she’s won two terms on the U.S. Senate, but her state has gone Republican in the Presidency in eight of the last ten elections. The only Democrat to win the “Show Me State” in modern history was neighboring Arkansan Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. The other downside for McCaskill is a tough Senate race looming in 2018. She’s considered vulnerable, and on-the-bubble by many national political analysts (including me). And, if she loses her Senate race next year, a White House bid seems a long shot.

“The Others” – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): yes, a rising star; no, she’s not well-known. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): she’s a sleeper, who if elected to a third Senate term in 2018, raises her stature. If you think Minnesota is Podunk, just remember the names Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Vice President Walter Mondale. Former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK): her ship has probably sailed. Her profile has plummeted from the 2008 VP run. I suspect her political career is over after she chose not to run for U.S. Senate.

Which woman would you like to see as the first U.S. President? Just click your vote and thoughts on the comment button at

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter author and analyst based in West Virginia.

© 2017 Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy:

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