Mark Curtis's blog

A Topsy-Turvy Week of Political Hodge-Podge

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Wow! What a weird week in politics. We had four state primaries, and all kinds of Washington tumult, plus our ongoing attempt in West Virginia to impeach the entire State Supreme Court. It’s a topsy-turvy hodge-podge! Let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“Vermont Transgender” – It certainly is an unusual election year, and we are in for some potential firsts. In Vermont, the first transgender person to ever be nominated for a state governorship in the nation is Christine Hallquist (D-VT). She’ll face incumbent Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) in in November. Maybe it’s the Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner phenomenon, but people tend to look past the gender thing these days in favor of perceived competency.

“Minnesota, Not So Nice” – In 2012 two-term Gov. Tim Pawlenty, (R-MN) ran for president on the slogan that he was, “Minnesota nice.” It’s didn’t work, and Mitt Romney was the party’s nominee. Pawlenty moved on to Washington, D.C. to be a banking lobbyist, but suddenly returned to the Gopher State this year to run for Governor again. He’s a moderate, not popular with the Trump White House. Tuesday night, Pawlenty lost the primary saying, “The Republican Party has shifted. It is the era of Trump, and I’m just not a Trump-like politician.”

“West Virginia Supremes” – It is one of the most jaw-dropping events I’ve covered in my 42 years in working in mass media. On Monday the West Virginia House of Delegates impeached the four remaining members of the State Supreme Court, after the fifth justice quit last month. The following day, another justice retired. Now the remaining three face a Senate impeachment trial next month. The reason? Over three-million dollars in lavish renovations and furnishings to their personal office in the capitol, including the now-infamous $32,000 blue suede couch in the office of suspended Justice Allen Loughry, who is also under a 25-count federal criminal indictment. Wow, wow, wow!

“Pink Wave” – They call it the “pink wave” perhaps because it is happening in both the blue and red parties. Record numbers of women running and winning this year. In governors’ races, 11 of the major party nominees this year are women. Right now, only 6 women are governors, so look for some gains. There was also a record number of 476 women running for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives this year, and 184 have been nominated – again, the highest number in history. Look for big gains in November.

“Omorosa” – Why is this disgruntled ex-White House, ex-Apprentice employee news? Yes, like a train wreck it’s interesting to watch and hard to turn away. But there are a lot of critical issues facing the nation right now from the opioid crisis, to trade tariffs, to immigration problems. Omorosa hardly seems worthy of all the air time, but as a creature of reality TV culture (as fueled by Trump), it’s not a surprise. Word late in the week that Trump campaign operatives may have offered her “hush money” after she was fired will ratchet up the coverage. Trump only makes it worse by tweeting about it daily.

“Inside Baseball?” – There was a lot of clamor this week about former CIA Director John Brennan having his security clearance pulled by President Trump on Wednesday. Having been a reporter for six years in Washington, D.C., I always referred to these stories as “inside baseball.” Yes, it’s a big deal in the nation’s capital, but beyond the beltway nobody really cares. Another protected bureaucrat has lost some key privileges, but how does this matter to a struggling family in Kansas trying to make ends meet and save for their kids to maybe go to college? It doesn’t. But you watch the network news, and you’d think we were in nuclear war.

“John McCain” – President Trump and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) have had some sharp differences and have traded plenty of barbs. Trump even once questioned whether the former Vietnam War POW was a hero. This week, Trump traveled to New York to sign the “John McCain Defense Authorization Act of 2018,” yet he never even mentioned the heroic senator by name or praised his service. McCain, who is dying of brain cancer, was not there. The Trump slight of McCain – who is beloved and respected by Democrats and Republicans alike - was shameful. Maybe one of the lowest points in Trump’s presidency. It’s one thing to disagree on policy, but another matter to disrespect the heroic service of a great American.

“The Trump Factor?” – One of the big factors this November will be the so-called “Trump Factor.” In short, he may help candidates in states where he is popular; but may tank in states where he is despised. In Kansas, Trump backed Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R-KS) in the race for governor, over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer R-KS). Kobach won by just 345 votes at last count. Colyer was more of a moderate, while Kobach was a hardline advocate against illegal immigration. Was the Trump endorsement the deal maker for Kobach? Hard to say when the margin is that close, but it helped him unseat the incumbent governor.

What races are you watching in 2018? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia.

© 2018, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

“The Red Tide vs The Blue Wave” -- Sunday Political Brunch August 12, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – It’s beginning to sound like a professional wrestling card, “The Red Tide” versus “The Blue Wave” in a loser-leaves-town match, but that’s how crazy it is getting. On Tuesday several states held primaries or special elections, but evaluating the significance was – as usual – way over the top. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Red Tide v. Blue Wave” – There is no big trend here. Both sides claim the advantage, but here are the honest-to-goodness numbers. There have been ten special Congressional elections since the 2016 ballot. Republicans have won 7 and Democrats 2, with Ohio’s 12th Congressional District “to close to call.” Folks, individual special elections never signal a trend. The real trend will be a collective national vote on November 6th. Midterm elections are always a referendum on the party-in-power, especially in the White House.

“Drilling Deep in Ohio” – All the big national focus this week was on Ohio’s 12th Congressional District which has been solidly Republican for over three decades. Republican Troy Balderson is leading Democrat Danny O’Connor by just over 1,500 votes. If Republicans prevail, it’s because they are marginally in control of a district around Columbus they used to dominate. If Democrats win, it’s a huge upset and a slap at President Trump.

“But Wait, There’s More” – The special election was August 7th. But, guess what? No matter who wins, the same two men will face off in November for reelection. Literally we may have a Congressman for two months, before a do-over election for the full-term. My point is, what happens this week may not be the same result in November. The August special election was the only thing on the ballot. In November we will also have a hotly-contested race for Governor of Ohio, as well as a competitive U.S. Senate race. Coattails could flip in November, what voters previously chose in August!

“Oh Wait, There’s Even More!” – Ohio remains the most important political state in the nation. It is the national kingmaker. If you want to be president, win Ohio and you will live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! I say this because I firmly believe that termed-out Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio, is planning on challenging President Trump for renomination in 2020. Kasich has been among the most vocal Republican critics of Trump. Just remember, four of the most recent Presidents who faced an intra-party challenge for renomination – lost the election or declined to run again. They are Presidents Johnson, Ford, Carter and George H.W. Bush.

“The Trump Factor” – Obviously President Trump likes to claim victory every time a GOP candidate wins, but what really is his track record? A lot of Republicans – including Governor Kasich - were hoping Trump would stay out of Ohio. Yet, he showed up last week to endorse Troy Balderson who was trailing in the polls. If the Republican candidate squeaks by, Trump will claim credit. This also appears to be true in Kansas where Trump-endorsed Secretary of State Kris Kobach, holds a narrow lead of fewer than 100 voters over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer, (R) Kansas. But again, this can cut both ways, especially in states where Trump is not popular.

“The Intra-Party Battles” – One of the big things to watch as we head to November, is the fight for control of each party. The two-big wins so far for Democrats were Sen. Doug Jones, (R) Alabama, and Rep. Conor Lamb, (D) Pennsylvania, who narrowly won by less than a thousand votes. Both Democrats are centrists (read moderate to conservative). In other races, the more progressive candidates (read liberal), have not fared well. On the GOP side, the Trump endorsements has been a boost (except for Alabama), but more moderate Republican candidates have turned a cold shoulder to Trump. These are trends to watch as Campaign 2018 hits full-speed Labor Day weekend.

“Here’s What to Watch” – As we see in every election, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as famed Clinton presidential advisor James Carville likes to say. We are at full-employment at 3.9 percent. Financial markets are cooking. Yes, I know the so-called “trickle down” effect and “living wage” haven’t touched many blue-collar and low-income workers, but demand for workers is high and that could drive up wages. If people are feeling better economically, that favors the Republicans. And if there are no terrorist attacks (saying prayers), that also favors the party in power, regardless of your politics. But, lots can happen between now and November.

“Happy Birthday!” – To my dear sister Tierney Curtis, I say, “Happy Birthday!” We won’t mention any numbers or milestones (she’s younger), but Tierney has been one of the biggest supporters of my political coverage over the years, including the publication of my book, “Age of Obama: A Reporters Journey with Clinton, McCain, and Obama in the Making of the President 2008.” God bless you my fellow “Cheesehead” and, “Go Packers!” We’ve enjoyed Packer games in person from San Francisco to Lambeau, alike! And a lot of political chatter, too!

What are your thoughts so far on Campaign 2018? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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