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“The 100 Day Dash to Election Day” -- The Sunday Political Brunch August 5, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Last Sunday marked an important milestone – just 100 days until the November midterm election. This is going to be a fight to the finish for control of the U.S. Senate and House. Let’s “brunch” on some of the key races this week:

“By the Numbers” – If you are keeping score – and the math is important – here’s where to crunch the numbers. Right now, the Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence being the tie-breaker, if need be. In the House, it’s Republicans 236, Democrats 193, with 6 net gain of vacancies. A simple majority is 218 seats, so Democrats are within striking distance.

“Manchin Ads” – For those who live outside of West Virginia, you cannot believe the onslaught of ads in our U.S. Senate race, which have been almost non-stop since the May primary. It’s relentless. Ads from groups backing the Republican nominee, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, have targeted Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) for his stances on immigration reform. Conversely, groups supporting Manchin have attacked Morrisey for lobbying work he and his wife did on behalf of pharmaceutical companies. It’s ugly and intense. And it’s pedal to the metal to November with no let-up in sight. The latest Real Clear Politics composite has Manchin up by 7 points, but Morrisey is a fierce competitor. Both have won state wide several times.

“He’s Back!” – Don Blankenship became something of a national media darling after his Quixotic run for the West Virginia Republican Senate nomination in May. And now he’s back. The state’s Constitution Party gave Blankenship the nomination for the U.S. Senate in November. Problem is, the state has what’s known as a “sore-loser law,” which aims to prevent spring primary losers from re-emerging in November as candidates on a third-party ballot. Blankenship filed with the Secretary of State, only to be rejected. Get ready for a fast and furious court fight that could go the U.S. Supreme Court. Blankenship – who has a seemingly bottomless wallet – told me, “I will spend whatever is necessary to get my name on the ballot.”

“WV 3” – Toss-up!” – One of the most fascinating races for the U.S. House in the nation is right here in West Virginia. The third Congressional District is an open seat after Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) had an unsuccessful bid for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. The prestigious Sabato Crystal Ball report had the race as “Leans Republican” but now it’s listed as a “Toss Up.” The Democratic nominee is firebrand State Senator Richard Ojeda (D-Logan), who openly endorsed and voted for Republican Presidential Nominee-turned President Donald Trump. The Republican nominee is Delegate Carol Miller (R-Cabell), the daughter of longtime U.S. Rep. Samuel Devine (R-OH). Put this in your “Top Ten” national House races.

“Trump on the Stump” – In Florida, President Trump hit the campaign trail this week with an intense rally where he endorsed Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) for governor. But DeSantis faces State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R-FL), who previously served 10 years in Congress. It’s unusual for a president to get involved in a primary race, but as we’ve seen, this is an unconventional presidency. On the other side of the aisle is former Rep. Gwen Graham (D-FL), in the Democratic primary. Her dad, Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), was also a two-term governor of Florida.

“North, By North Dakota” – Control of the U.S. Senate may lie in a few states. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is hoping to earn a second term in a state that went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016. Right now, the polls show Heitkamp is in a dead-heat with three-term Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND).

“Indiana Wants Me” – Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is also in a tough re-election fight, especially in the home state of Vice President Mike Pence. A Gravis Poll in May 2018 had it Republican nominee Mike Braun at 47 percent, with Sen. Donnelly at 46 percent. Flip a coin folks!

“The Other Hot States” – Other states with potentially very competitive Senate races include Nevada, Montana, Arizona, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, and Florida.

“Why All This Matters” – I think it’s fair to say that President Trump is the most polarizing commander-in-chief in U.S. history. Will that rally his party? Or will it rally the opposition? Stay tuned! And, yes, how people feel at home could also sway races for governor, senator and representative around the country.

What races are hot in your state or region of the country? Just click the comment

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

© 2018 MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Do Sharp Elbows Spike Poll Numbers? -- Sunday Political Brunch July 29, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va – Last week was a bad one for President Trump, or was it? He faced a barrage of criticism in both parties and in the media for “going soft” on Russian President Vladimir Putin on the issue of interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Trump got pummeled. So, what happened? His poll numbers went up. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“A Trump Bump?” – A new poll out from American Barometer this week showed President Trump’s approval rating at 48 percent. No, it’s not a majority of the public, but it’s about as high as he’s ever been. Even though he was widely lambasted for his summit with Russian President Putin, a lot of people still believe Trump is doing a good job, especially regarding the economy.

“On the Other Hand” – Another poll from NBC has more troubling news for Republicans because it zeroes in on specific key states – Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Even though Trump won Wisconsin and Michigan in 2016 – his main keys to the White House along with Pennsylvania – he now finds himself struggling. Trump’s approval ratings are 36 percent in Wisconsin and Michigan; and 38 percent in Minnesota (which he narrowly lost in 2016). My point is that all three states have marginal House and Senate races that could trend Democratic in 2018, as the parties fight for control of the House and Senate. Keep an eye on these three!

“Speaker has Spoken” – One of the House races in the above states is the seat currently held by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R) Wisconsin. The first district race in the Badger State (my home) is competitive. If Paul Ryan walked away from a safe seat, only to see it go blue, it could be a bad election night trend for Republicans. It might not bode well for his future presidential ambitions either.

“A Speaker Squeaker” – The race to replace Paul Ryan as Speaker, is really heating up. Rep. Jim Jordan, (R) Ohio, an arch-conservative supporter of President Trump has announced his intention to run for Speaker, likely against the more moderate House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R) California. Jordan is co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus, a group of 30-plus hard-core, right-leaning lawmakers who first drove then-Speaker Rep. John Boehner from office. Can Jordan beat McCarthy? Well he’ll need a lot more than 30 votes, but this could be divisive in the GOP caucus and among non-incumbent Republicans running for the House. Which horse do you bet on?

“On the Other Hand – Part 2” – Republicans may be in disarray over who would be their next leader, but they are not alone. Many current Democratic House members – and hopeful candidates – are not for supporting former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) California, in her hopes to return to the top office. Upwards of 40 House candidates say they can’t endorse her.

“The Politics of Distraction” – Here we go again. As Stormy Daniels fades away, now there are allegations that Trump and his then-attorney Michael Cohen were arranging a pay-off for Playboy Bunny Karen McDougal who says she had an affair with then businessman Trump. My gut tells me this is not a successful road to travel. While there was wide public disdain for President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affairs, there was little stomach to remove him from office because of it. I suspect the same for Trump.

“A House Divided” – Another drama playing out in Washington, DC this week is an effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Robert Mueller’s investigation of the alleged Trump-Russia political connection. Several House Republicans want to impeach Rosenstein, but House Speaker Paul Ryan is opposed. That probably means no dice. It’s an odd idea anyway. Impeachment is normally reserved for the top jobs: President, Cabinet Secretary or Federal Judge. Rosenstein is the number-two guy in his agency, not usually a top-tier candidate to be removed from office.

“On the Other Hand – Part 3” – Speaking of impeachment, we are going through that process in West Virginia right now. The five State Supreme Court Justices are facing potential impeachment. One in particular – suspended and indicted Justice Allen Loughry – authorized the purchase of a $32,000 blue-suede couch for his office - according to fired Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury who said he confronted the Chief Justice about the bill: "This couch is 32-thousand dollars, do you want me to go through with this? I remember specifically and now in hindsight, it seems to be prophetic. But he said 'yes' and essentially said, 'If it ever becomes public I'll just blame it on you. You're the administrator.'" If true, wow! House Speaker Pro-Tem John Overington noted that Big Lots has a three-piece couch set for a mere $400.

Summer days are long, nights are short! We’re keeping the blog short this week. If you have opinions, click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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