Mark Curtis's blog

Labor Day with Political Labor Pains - "Sunday Political Brunch" - September 1, 2019


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s Labor Day weekend, the traditional kick-off of the political campaign season. But, let’s face it, the political season kicked-off in June with the MSNBC debates, then into July with the CNN debates. On September 12, we’ll have round three of the Democratic Party debates, and a lot has changed on the landscape. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Who Made the Cut” – Only ten Democrats qualified for the ABC News debate on September 12, and all of them will debate on stage that night. They are former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts, Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indiana, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) Texas, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, businessman Andrew Yang, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and Senator Cory Booker (D) New Jersey.

“More Drop-Outs” – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) New York left the field this week. So has Rep. Seth Moulton (D) Massachusetts, who never even got on a debate stage, (why? I am not certain). They join former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) Colorado and Gov. Jay Inslee (D) Washington, who exited last week, and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) California who bolted about six weeks ago.

“So, Who Gets Their Voters?” – Each of these dropouts was only getting 1 or 2 percent of the vote, but where their supporters go can be influential on the margins. Gov. Jay Inslee was the most ardent advocate for climate change issues, so I bet his voters go to Sanders. Moulton, a Marine officer, could see his votes go to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii, or Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who are the only other two candidates to serve in the military. I see many Gillibrand supporters who backed Medicare-for-All and are Northeastern liberals, going to Elizabeth Warren. Hickenlooper, the solid moderate in the field, may see most of his voters switch to Biden.

“Biden v. Warren” – The one new twist is that for the first time Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren will be on the same debate stage. The MSNBC and CNN debates were split on two different nights, and the two wound up not debating each other. I’ve said before, she was the best debater in the first two rounds, while Biden was on the defensive and got knocked back on his heels a few times. These two will tangle, and this could be fascinating.

“My ‘Hawkeye’ is on Iowa” – Folks, the first state to vote matters. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll in Iowa has 26 percent for Biden, Warren 18 percent, Sanders 14 percent, Harris 13.5 percent and Buttigieg at 7.5 percent, with neighboring Minnesotan Amy Klobuchar at 3.5 percent. The big surprise is late-entrant Tom Steyer who is already at 2.5 percent, surpassing some long-time, better-known candidates.

“Don’t Take New Hampshire for ‘Granite’” – The most recent Real Clear Politics composite poll in New Hampshire has Biden at 21 percent, Sanders 19.3 percent, Warren 14.7 percent, Harris 9 percent. Sanders and Warren play well, and stronger, in their native New England.

“South by South Carolina!” – The fourth contest after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, is South Carolina. This is often a crucial test, because South Carolina is high in African-American voters compared to the predominately white Iowa and New Hampshire. The question is, can you play well to more diverse demographics? In the latest RCB composite poll, Joe Biden is way ahead at 38 percent, followed by Sanders at 14.3 percent and Warren at 12.7, Harris at 12 percent and Pete Buttigieg at 5 percent. The trend is that if Biden wins (or does very well) in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’ll be hard to stop with this big lead in South Carolina.

“The Votes of Red October” – I know you are probably overwhelmed, and don’t want to hear this, but there will be another round of debates in October. I won’t explain the weird rules for qualifying (and I’m not sure I can), but it’s possible the “September 10” candidates will be joined on stage with Rep. Gabbard and businessman Tom Steyer, who just missed qualifying in September. Please, if we have 12, split it into two nights, with two “six packs” of candidates!

Who are you backing, and have your loyalties changed after the first two rounds of debates? Just click the comment button and let us know!

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

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Where Presidential Candidates Stand on Guns - "Sunday Political Brunch" - August 18, 2019


CHARLESTON, W. Va. – With three recent mass shootings in the United States, the presidential candidates are espousing their positions on gun rights and proposed gun laws. I thought what I would do this week, is pull their stances on gun issues from their websites, and post in their own words with no editing by me. I can’t do all of them, so my benchmark was picking the top ten candidates based on the latest Real Clear Politics composite poll. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

Joe Biden – “In the months ahead, Biden will also detail his plan to tackle the public health epidemic of gun violence in America, starting with universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Biden’s plan to reduce gun violence will address not only mass shootings but also daily acts of gun violence.”

Elizabeth Warren – “The majority of Americans, including a majority of gun owners, support common sense gun safety reforms. But for years, those reforms have been blocked by far-right ideologues in Congress bought and paid for by the gun industry and their NRA partners. Enough is enough. My plan to reduce gun violence includes ambitious executive actions and comprehensive legislation to break the influence of the gun lobby and implement real reform that will save lives.”

Bernie Sanders – “Expand background checks. End the gun show loophole. All gun purchases should be subject to the same background check standards. Ban the sale and distribution of assault weapons. Assault weapons are designed and sold as tools of war. There is absolutely no reason why these firearms should be sold to civilians. Prohibit high-capacity ammunition magazines. Crack down on “straw purchases” where people buy guns for criminals.”
Kamala Harris – ”If Congress fails to send comprehensive gun safety legislation to Kamala’s desk within her first 100 days as president – including universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, and the repeal of the NRA’s corporate gun manufacturer immunity shield – she will take executive action to keep our kids and communities safe.”

Pete Buttigieg – “Make background checks universal and close the loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to acquire and keep guns. After each new mass shooting, it has become routine to learn that the perpetrator acquired their guns legally. Current federal law only requires licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks on gun sales, allowing too many people who are banned from having guns to acquire them anyway. This loophole and others that allow dangerous individuals to obtain guns have to be closed.”
Beto O’Rourke – “Beto believes everyone should have to undergo a background check before purchasing a gun. As president, Beto will: Implement Universal Background Checks, which the vast majority of Americans support—and which have been proven to reduce gun violence. Beto believes people who have exhibited a tendency to harm themselves or others shouldn’t have access to firearms. As president, Beto will: Enact Red Flag Laws, also referred to as Extreme Risk Protection Orders, which allow police officers to prevent people who have exhibited a tendency to harm themselves or others from keeping their weapons.”
Cory Booker – “As president, Cory will pursue the most sweeping gun violence prevention plan in history: Take on the NRA and the corporate gun lobby; Keep guns out of the wrong hands with gun licensing; Pass universal background checks, ban assault weapons, and close the loopholes that allow people who should never have a gun to get one; Bring real regulation and oversight to gun manufacturers End legal immunity that prevents victims of gun violence from seeking justice; Require handgun microstamping; Close the “Charleston Loophole” and the “Boyfriend Loophole”; Ban assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and bump stocks; Limit gun buyers to one handgun per month.”
Andrew Yang – “Responsible gun owners should continue to enjoy the right to bear arms, subject to licensing and education requirements that will enhance public safety. But we need to ban the most dangerous weapons that make mass shootings as deadly as they have become, and address the other violence – particularly suicide – that is plaguing this country.”

Tulsi Gabbard – “Both Democrats and Republicans support legislation I have co-sponsored to ban bump stocks. Both Democrats and Republicans support legislation to uphold Second Amendment rights and strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Now is the time for us to come together and to take meaningful action towards responsible, common sense gun safety reform… pass legislation already supported by a majority of Americans, like universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole and reinstating a federal ban on military-style assault weapons.”

Amy Klobuchar – “Amy supports a package of gun violence policies including instituting universal background checks by closing the gun show loophole and banning bump stocks, high capacity ammunition feeding devices and assault weapons. She is also the author of a proposal that would close what is commonly referred to as the ‘boyfriend loophole’ by preventing people who have abused dating partners from buying or owning firearms.”

“Why All of This Matters” – With three mass shooting in recent weeks, this gun issue is front and center on the presidential campaign trail and in the debates. Some of the positions here are vague generalities and platitudes, and some are very specific policy proposals. Websites are easy to edit and update. You get the sense that some of these candidates have updated their positions given recent events, but others have not. Voters can read and judge for themselves.

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

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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