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Thinning the 2020 Presidential Herd, the Sequel -- Sunday Political Brunch May 12, 2019


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Last week we gave you snapshots of seven of the 21 Democratic candidates for president in 2020. People liked it, and I promised more. So, let’s “meet and greet” another seven. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Bettin’ on Bennet?” – The most recent entrant in the race is Senator Michael Bennet (D) Colorado. Who? Well, before we have another “birther” debate, Bennet was born in New Delhi, India, where his American diplomat father was serving in the U.S. Embassy. So, yes, he’s a native born American. He’s been a school superintendent, an aide to a big city mayor, and worked in the U.S. Justice Department. That plus ten years in the U.S. Senate, and at the relatively young age of 54, Bennet may be viable for several more presidential cycles.

“Bookin’ with Booker!” – I remember covering and meeting Senator Cory Booker (D) New Jersey, at the 2012 Democratic National Convention when he spoke to the Iowa delegation. You got the idea he was warming up to Iowans for a reason. At the time, Booker was Mayor of Newark. He’s also a Stanford-educated Rhodes Scholar, who got his law degree at Yale. He’s 50 and has a promising future. If he doesn’t win the nomination, look for him as a potential pick for vice-president.

“Casting a Castro Vote?” – Former HUD Secretary and Mayor of San Antonio, Julian Castro (D) Texas remains someone to keep an eye on for the next several presidential cycles. He’s just 44, so he’ll be viable for some time. The oddity is that his twin brother is Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) Texas, a six-year congressman who also served a good stretch in the Texas Legislature. His brother is not running for president (yet), but my question is, does one Castro brother pull votes from the other? This will be interesting to watch as I suspect these two will be on the political landscape for quite some time. We’ve never seen this kind of “twin trouble” in U.S. politics.

“Delayin’ for Delaney?” – Former Rep. John Delaney (D) Maryland was the first Democrat to announce a presidential bid for 2020. He served six year in Congress, but I’m not so sure being first in line for the presidency really matters now that 20 people have lined up behind him. But Delaney has a more interesting story in the business world, compared to the political world. He co-founded two very successful companies, Health Care Financial Partners and CapitalSource. Delaney made a lot of money as a savvy businessman and was the only CEO of a publicly traded company while serving in Congress. He has financial chops. Keep an eye out for him.

“From the North Country (Way North!!) – He’s a life-long hell-raiser and at 88 years young former Senator Mike Gravel (D) Alaska may be the most colorful candidate in the race. Yes, he’s a longshot, but he could stir the pot on a debate stage if most of the other 20 candidates are dull and vanilla. A fierce anti-Vietnam War crusader, Gravel made headlines trying to end the military draft, and assisted in the controversial release of the Pentagon Papers. Many will view him as a “troublemaking 60s has-been,” but he could be provocative and a wild-card in the debates, where so many candidates are running far-left where he has authentic credentials. The entertainment factor alone could be worth the price of admission.

“Hiccups for Hickenlooper!” – I know he’s polling in the weeds, but I would keep an eye on former Governor John Hickenlooper (D) Colorado, who also served two terms as Mayor of Denver. Is this the year of the mayor? I ask because Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend has been polling well in presidential match ups. Mayors are politicians who are closest to the people. They are often hands-on problem-solvers, whereas governors, senators and representatives are more distant. Former New York City Mayors Rudi Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg have polled well over the years. I just wonder if city halls are the new political launch pad. Watch!

“Jammin’ for Gillibrand!” – I’ve written about Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in this column before. I think she’s impressive. But Democrats are sure to win New York and its 29 Electoral College votes, so where does she help her party beyond the Empire State. My gut says female candidates have an advantage in 2020, but they need chops beyond gender identification. She’s not polled well nationally, but I see her as a contender as we get closer to Iowa and New Hampshire.

“Why All of This Matters?” – Right now, polls show Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders polling in the 30-plus percent range, with everyone way back in the back. But consider this: with 21 candidates, someone could win the Iowa Caucuses with as little as 4.8 percent of the vote, if everyone is bunched up in the pack. This is about creating a niche voting base, and then expanding it. With this many people in the race, anyone can win if their message and platform catch fire!

If you voted today, who would you pick for president in 2020? Click the comment button!

Mark Curtis, Ed. D, is 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. He’s a weekly contributing writer for the White House Patch at

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Thinning the Political Herd – Sunday Political Brunch May 5, 2019


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – There are twenty Democratic candidates for president, but you can only have one nominee. I am watching Miss USA 2019 as I write this, and realize it’s a very similar process. There are 51 contestants but only one will become Miss USA. By the way, I am thankful presidential politics has no swim suit competition! But you do have to find ways to stand out in the crowd. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Passion Play” – Whether you agree with his politics or not, there’s hardly a candidate that has as much raw passion as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont. Sanders gets worked up and downright angry at times. He can stir up a crowd. It’s fascinating that one of the oldest candidates (age 77), can have such passionate appeal to the youngest voters. Sanders is raw, which is maybe why he has such rabid support among young people.

“Outside the Box” – You can think back to not too distant times where a gay candidate would almost be immediately dismissed just based on his homosexuality. Yes, there were Congressmen Barney Frank, Gerry Studds and Steve Gunderson, but those are local districts, not the whole Electoral College map. Fast forward to 2019, and we have an openly gay candidate in Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend. But Buttigieg was a U.S. Navy officer and served in the war in Afghanistan. He’s also a Rhodes Scholar. So, he is smart and brave, and nobody seems to really care much that he’s married to another man. He has an interesting niche.

“Mixing it Up” – Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California has an interesting mix. Her dad was Jamaican, and her mother was Indian, and she’s the third woman to serve California in the U.S. Senate. She’s been a District Attorney and an Attorney General, so she comes to the table with real political and policy experience. Plus, winning statewide in California requires pulling together a broad tapestry of voters. She’s formidable.

“Experience is Hard to Beat” – If voters are looking towards someone with a long, deep resume, then that helps former Vice President Joe Biden. With 36-years in the U.S. Senate, and eight in the White House, he has a resume that may be tough to beat. But in 2008, Democrats chose someone with an inspiring story and a great stump speech (Obama) over a candidate who had a lot more experience (Clinton). So, experience can be an asset, or it can conversely say, “this person has been around too darn long.” Biden must play his cards carefully.

“Not Just a Pretty Face” – Like Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Rep Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii is in her 30s. She has striking good looks and has a lot of opportunities ahead of her. And like Buttigieg she has military experience in the U.S. Army, having served in the Iraq War. Military service is a political asset, and not everyone has it. A lot of voters who might otherwise dismiss a female or gay candidate, might take a different look knowing that a candidate served their county in a war zone.

“Being Inventive?” – We don’t just have career politicians in the race. How about someone with no political experience, but who has a ton of experience in the tech sector and the philanthropic community? Andrew Yang is just such a person and he’s also running for the Democratic nomination for president. His skill set is outside the traditional political box and separates him clearly from the other candidates. If that sounds vaguely family, it’s because it’s similar (not ideologically) to the tack Donald Trump took to the White House standing on a similar stage with approximately 20 other candidates. Yang can really contrast himself to the others. Might work!

“Avoiding the ‘Trump Trap’” – The candidates can’t make a contest out of who despises President Trump the most. He’ll just beat you down with tweets and more tweets. Just ask Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts. He goads her into responding and she takes the bait, and he always seems to get the last word. It’s a race down a rabbit hole.

“Why All of This Matters” – Democrats in the year 2020, risk campaigning as 20 shades of vanilla. There is a big push in the party to be the most progressive candidate. Everyone seems to be pushing “Medicare for All” and “Free College” or student loan forgiveness. As mentioned, candidates need to focus on identifying their clear differences and making themselves stand out as unique. Tell me why you are more qualified that the others. Otherwise, we might as well just pick names out of a hat. Now, I’ve addressed seven of the 20 candidates here, we’ll do another analysis of the rest in the coming weeks!

If you voted today, who would you pick for president in 2020? Click the comment button!

Mark Curtis, Ed. D, is 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. He’s a weekly contributing writer for the White House Patch at

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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