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The Kentucky Political Derby, (Not!) – “The Sunday Political Brunch” November 10, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – We tend to cover politics like it’s a horse race, and often it is. So, it was only fitting that we would have a photo finish in the "Kentucky Derby State.” Incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (R) Kentucky, is some five-thousand votes behind Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) Kentucky, and may in fact lose the governor’s mansion. Many of my national political analyst colleagues are calling this a bellwether for the end of President Trump. But it isn’t by any stretch. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Kentucky Reign” – I think it’s reasonable to assume Democrat Andy Beshear is the next Governor of Kentucky. Congrats to him and his family, as his dad was a two-term Kentucky Governor. But, is this the death of President Trump’s reelection bid? No. The governor’s race may in fact be an anomaly, because Republicans took every other competitive race in the state from Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, etc., all the way down to county dog catcher. So, for network analysts to suggest the Bluegrass State is in play in 2020, and might flip blue, is almost laughable. Trump carried the state by 30 percentage points in 2016. Still, he campaigned in Kentucky with Bevin the night before the vote, and it didn’t work.

“Why is That?” – There is a phenomenon known as “avoidance reaction,” which is essentially fleeing something or someone who turns you off. In Kentucky, Matt Bevin had a low approval rating. Many felt he picked the wrong side in a statewide teacher’s strike last year, and was wrong on the issue of LGBTQ rights. The fact that all other major statewide offices in Kentucky went Republican, tells you that the vote to oust Bevin was a vote against him, not a vote against Trump. My prediction: Kentucky stays solidly red in 2020.

“A Yellow Caution Light” – Given what I just said, I caution that Republicans should not be arrogant and assume all things are thumbs-up for Trump in Kentucky in 2020. On Wednesday morning, after the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) Kentucky suddenly and finally gave his blessing to a bipartisan bill to save and protect the pensions of 100,000 current and retired coal miners and widows. McConnell has blocked this legislation for years, but suddenly did an about-face.

“All Politics is Local” -- I interviewed one of the miner’s pension bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) West Virginia, and she said, “You know there are eight thousand miners in Kentucky that are impacted by the possibility of losing their pensions. And I’ve been working on Senator McConnell.” With the GOP holding a thin 53-47 margin in the U.S. Senate, (and Republicans defending more than twice as many Senate seats as Democrats in 2020), McConnell may be worried about losing his majority, and his leadership post.

“Virginia May Be the Cookie-Cutter” – I have said it dozens of times over the years in this column: “Political movements happen from the bottom up; not from the top down.” We pay too much attention to races for president and governor in trying to look for trends. That’s a mistake. The most important thing to look at are city councils, state legislatures, and yes, Congress. The State of Virginia was strongly controlled by Democrats for decades, until the 1990s when Republicans began to gain control of both houses of the legislature and occasionally the governor’s mansion, too. Well, as of election 2019, Democrats have now gained control of both the House of Delegates and State Senate, in addition to the governor’s mansion. A once solidly red state has turned blue.

“The Mississippi Political River” – While most of the nation and media were focused on the outcomes in Kentucky and Virginia, Mississippi was holding an election, too, for an open seat in the governor’s mansion. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) Mississippi, beat Attorney General Jim Hood (D) Mississippi, 52 to 47 percent. Mississippi, a solidly red state, is unlikely to flip in 2020.

“What’s Old is New Again” – Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has launched a comeback bid to win his old U.S. Senate seat in Alabama. Sessions was the first Senator to endorse Donald Trump’s campaign for president in 2016. He was rewarded with a “Top Four” cabinet seat, but in his role as AG he quickly angered President Trump by recusing himself from the Russia investigation and appointing Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Trump fired Sessions a year ago, but now may need his help. Sessions could unseat Sen. Doug Jones (D) Alabama, perhaps the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in 2020. Will Trump and Sessions “kiss and make up?” Stay tuned, as politics often makes for strange bedfellows!

“What’s Trending?” – Since President Trump was elected in 2016, there have been 17 special elections for Congressional seats. Republicans held nine of their seats, while Democrats held four where they were incumbents. Democrats gained five seats that had been held by Republicans. But the GOP gained no seats from Democrats in places where they already held the seat. There is not much of a trend here to prognosticate forward. The bottom line, the incumbent party won 76 percent of the time.

What’s your prediction for the 2020 Senate races, and will Democrats seize control of the upper chamber of Congress? Just click 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

The Launching of Impeachment 1,2,3 – “Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 3, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – For the fourth time in U.S. history, the nation finds itself on the road to a presidential impeachment. It’s a checkered history. In two cases, impeachment was approved, but removal from office was rejected by the Senate. In another instance, the president resigned. What will happen this time around? All bets are off! Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“By the Numbers” – The final vote total in the House on Thursday came as no surprise. It was 232 in favor of going ahead with the impeachment inquiry, to 196 against. The vote was pretty much along party lines, with all but two Democrats voting yes, and all Republicans voting no. Just to be clear, this was simply a vote to go ahead with the impeachment process, it was not a vote to impeach.

“What Happened Last Time?” – You keep hearing people say impeachment is a political process and not a legal one. That is more cliché than truth, because it is both. After all, the impeachment process is spelled out on the U.S. Constitution. But, yes, the engagement is highly politicized. In the final House impeachment vote in 1998 against President Clinton, only five Democrats voted to impeach. In the Senate trial, not one Democrat voted to remove President Clinton from office on either of the two counts. So, the politics matters.

“High Crimes and Misdemeanors” – That’s the Constitutional guideline for impeachment. Yet, it is not precisely defined. The president is not really charged with a crime. For example, President Clinton was impeached on a count of perjury. It short, that was because he lied under oath to a federal judge. Yes, it’s very serious, but he was never charged criminally with that offense. In Trump’s case, he potentially faces a charge of “abuse of power.” It’s not a necessarily a criminal offense, but more a reflection that he abused his authority by suggesting Ukraine investigate a domestic political opponent. Foreign policy and politics are supposed to “stop at the water’s edge,” as the old saying goes, and the issue is whether he used poor judgment, or even violated the law, on that standard.

“Why the Math Matters” – I don’t want to get ahead of the House proceedings, but the endgame is in the U.S. Senate, after all. The Constitution says you need a two-thirds vote, or 67 yay, to remove a president from office. With the Senate margin currently 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats, it’s an optimistic reach to say the least. The Democrats need 20 Republicans to bolt, and that’s going to be nearly impossible. I predict they might get seven or eight, but 20? No.

“Will the Defense Ever Rest?” – This is going to be a fascinating public relations game as the inquiry moves forward. In 1998 President Clinton chose to have certain surrogates such as attorney Lanny Davis speak on his behalf. The theory then was the impeachment was a political stunt, and President Clinton wanted to stay above the fray and show people he was too busy running the country. This won’t go that way. President Trump was fast to tweet his thoughts, and I am sure will be the “defender-in-chief” for his own case. I predict he will tweet relentlessly. His combative nature is probably the number one thing his supporters like about him.

“The Political Impeachment Potholes” – This week’s vote was more of a “rubber stamp” as the House impeachment inquiry has already been underway for weeks at the instruction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) California, which is her right. But in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon and President Clinton, there was a full House vote (albeit symbolic) to start the impeachment inquiry right from the get-go. Why was this time different? Well there are 31 Democrat House members who were elected in 2018, in districts that President Trump won in 2016. By putting those members “on the record,” as Trump and many Republicans wished, that put them on the reelection bubble in 2020. It’s a real dilemma as Republicans need to win 20 seats to take back the House.

“Who Cuts and Runs?” -- In October, 1973, 21 Democrats and 17 Republicans voted strictly along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee, to begin impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. But by July of 1974, the very same House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon. On Article I of impeachment six Republicans voted yes; on Article II seven members of the GOP said, “yay”; and on Article III, two Republicans in committee voted yes. Yes, you expect a political party to “circle the wagons” at first to support the boss, but in the end all these folks are on the ballot next year and have their own political futures to think about. So, watch Trump, but more importantly watch Republican members of the House and Senate.

Do you favor impeachment or oppose, and why? Just click the comment button and let us know!

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

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