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Cutting the Democratic Presidential Field -- Sunday Political Brunch - August 4, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Okay, we’ve now had debates on MSNBC and CNN, two nights a piece, fielding 20 candidates, in ten-person groupings. It’s too many, and unsustainable, given some upcoming debate rules. I think we’ll quickly see ten candidates depart the race by Labor Day. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The Final Curtain Call” – I predict these are the ten who will get cut: author Marianne Williamson, former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet (D) Colorado, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) New York City, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) New York, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Rep. Tim Ryan (D) Ohio, and Governor Steve Bullock (D) Montana.

“You're Safe, For Now!” – Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, Sen. Cory Booker (D) New Jersey, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) Texas, former Rep. John Delaney (D) Maryland, businessman Andrew Yang, and Gov. Jay Inslee (D) Washington.

“The Next Debate” – Democrats will gather again on September 12 (and possibly September 13), for the next debate in Houston. To qualify, a candidate must have at least 2 percent support in four separate polls. They must also have 130,000 individual donors. As of now seven candidates are in: Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, O’Rourke, Sanders and Warren. The deadline to qualify is August 28. If ten or fewer candidates qualify, there will be only one night of debate.

“The Elimination Round” – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Rep. Tim Ryan both had memorable moments in this week’s debates. Gabbard excoriated Senator Harris about her record as District Attorney and then Attorney General in California. It was as bad as Harris’s schooling of Joe Biden in the first debate. Harris was caught off-guard and knocked off-balance. But Gabbard’s polling numbers are in the weeds. Plus, she and Ryan have a big decision to make. They have safe seats in Congress, and they may just opt out of the presidential race to keep their day jobs.

“The Ying and Yang of It” – I predict businessman Andrew Yang stays in the race. He is independently wealthy, and he is a novelty candidate. His idea of giving many Americans $1,000 a month is quirky and unique. He’s polled as high as 2 percent in numerous polls so he may indeed qualify for the next debate. Like Godfather’s Pizza executive Herman Cain in 2012, Yang has caught the fancy of enough people to remain on the stage.

“The Fight for the Party’s Soul” – These four initial debates proved one thing. There is a fight for the soul of the Democratic party with progressive liberals such as Warren, Sanders and Harris on one side, with moderate-centrists Delaney, Ryan, and Bullock saying the liberals may win the nomination, but can’t beat Trump. The one moderate who can stay in the race is Delaney. He amassed a fortune in business, and since he’s no longer in Congress he has the time and money to fight an ideological battle. His big issue is the potential negative impact of Medicare-for-all proposals. He’s feisty, combative and knowledgeable. I say he stays in as his party’s foil.

“The One-Trick Pony” – He may come across as a single-issue candidate but Gov. Jay Inslee has picked an issue with legs – climate change. In fact, he’s the most passionate and vocal candidate on the issue. Some nights he’s the only one bringing it up. In truth he has other issues, such as leading the lawsuit that blocked Trump’s travel ban from seven predominately Muslim countries. Inslee won’t be the nominee, but he will be the party’s loudest environmental voice, and that may win him a promised cabinet spot with the eventual nominee.

“Here’s One to Watch” – Sen. Amy Klobuchar had a more vocal debate voice on CNN than she did in her meek MSNBC debate where she hardly got a word in edgewise (which I blame more on the moderators than the candidates). I see Klobuchar as a very serious vice-presidential contender. She could help the party win back her neighboring state of Wisconsin, which the Democrats must do to win the White House.

“A Better Biden” – The former vice president had a much better showing than the first debate, when he was pummeled by Senator Harris. In fact, as he walked out on the stage and greeted her Wednesday night he said, “Go easy on me, kid!” He was better prepared, and was more measured, although he still could be a bit more combative. My guess is he is trying to stay above the fray by portraying himself as a wise party elder. We’ll see if it works!

Who are you liking for the Democratic nomination and why? Weigh in by clicking the comment button!

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

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

All Eyes on the U.S. Senate Prize in 2020 – “Sunday Political Brunch” - July 28, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – There is a temptation to write about Robert Mueller’s testimony this week but, a) everyone else is writing about it, and, b) he really didn’t offer anything new, and there was certainly no bombshell testimony. Instead, I’m keeping an eye on what I believe is a bigger story concerning the 2020 election, and that is who will control the U.S. Senate? Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“By the Numbers” – Right now Republicans control the U.S. Senate 53 to 47. They made gains in the 2018 election when Democrats were defending 26 seats, while Republicans had to defend only nine. It was a big advantage for Republicans, because the fewer seats you must defend, the less vulnerable your majority. Fast forward to 2020 and Republicans have the exact opposite problem. They are defending 22 seats, while Democrats are defending just 12. A net gain of four seats (or even just three), will put the Democrats in charge. That would be huge politically. Think Barack Obama in 2008, when Democrats won the White House, House and Senate. That’s how they got the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” passed in 2010.

“Divided Government” – Certainly another scenario is that President Trump wins reelection, his party keeps the Senate, but Democrats hold the House (our landscape now). Two possibilities occur here: gridlock where nothing gets done, or meaningful compromise on issues such as immigration reform. Another scenario is Trump wins reelection, Democrats hold the House and take control of the Senate (a real possibility). Under that scenario, you’d see more Executive Orders, more foreign travel and focus (where Congress has a weak voice), and probably no meaningful joint White House-Congressional domestic legislation.

“Safety in Numbers” – Incumbency, (based on name recognition), is really the strongest weapon in politics. Incumbents in both parties usually win about 96 percent of the time. With that in mind, various polls are ranking 16 of the 34 Senate races as “safe” for the incumbents, which includes 10 Republicans and six Democrats. Among the most vulnerable seats are where an incumbent retires and gives up a safe seat. In 2020 Republicans are vacating seats in Tennessee and Kansas, while an incumbent Democrat in New Mexico is giving up a safe seat.

“Unsafe at Any Speed” – I spoke about the strength of incumbency, but when is an incumbent the most vulnerable? The answer is after just one term. That’s especially true in the House of Representatives, but it can play that way in the Senate, too. Voters often “kick the tires” in the first term and if they don’t like the result, an incumbent can be toast! Again, this favors Democrats in 2020 because seven Republicans up for reelection are just finishing their first terms, whereas only three Democrats are first-termers. Now, once you win a second term you can probably be in Congress for life if you avoid scandal!

“What if I Get Promoted?” – Believe it or not, seven sitting Democratic U.S. Senators are running for president right now. That’s 14 percent of the party’s caucus. Why is this important? Well, it’s possible some of these senators could be elected president, vice president, or both. If that happens, the governor in most states has the power to replace the senator by appointment. If Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California wins, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) California will surely pick a fellow Democrat to replace Harris in the Senate. But what if Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts is elected president or vice president? Well, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) Massachusetts is free to pick a fellow Republican to replace Democrat Warren in the Senate. This complicates the balance of power even further.

“Fuzzy, but Fun Math!” – Okay, this is about to get fun! CNBC did a great article about the nine most vulnerable U.S. Senators in 2020. It’s worth a read: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/21/top-senate-races-in-2020-election-includ... I post this because three of the most vulnerable are Democrats, while six are Republican. Let’s just assume the opposing party wins each race, and all other races stay status quo in terms of party. Guess what, that would give us a 50-50 split in the U.S. Senate!

“Why All of this Matters?” – If we have a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate, the party that wins the White House also controls the Senate! That’s because according to the Constitution, the Vice President of the United States is also President of the U.S. Senate. The VP is the tie-breaker, and in that case the party in power appoints all committee chairs and controls the calendar and agenda. Folks, this is a very real possibility next year. Democrats can control the Senate with just a net gain of three seats, plus they must win the presidential race. A lot is at stake!

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. television market. He is a National Contributing Writer for the White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis media, LLC

Photo courtesy: C-SPAN.org

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