Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 31, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – Happy Labor Day weekend to all! This marks the beginning of the final push to Election Day (or in some states such as Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, Delaware, and New Hampshire - a Primary Election Day). I thought as the campaign hits the final stretch we’d “brunch” on what’s at stake and the big races around the country.

“The Grand Prize!” – The big thing up for grabs this year is control of the U.S. Senate. Right now that chamber has 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans. While that sounds like a big split, Republicans need only a net gain of 6 seats to win control. This year the GOP has a big advantage in that Democrats are defending 21 of the 36 seats up for grabs

“Another Comeback Kid?” – One of the most fascinating races this year involves former Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) who moved north to New Hampshire and is taking on incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). The race is competitive. A recent WMUR-TV/University of New Hampshire Poll had it 46 percent for Shaheen to 44 for Brown (photo above). By the way, a number of U.S. Senators have represented two different states; one was even elected from three different states. So, Scott Brown’s comeback bid is not unprecedented.

“Nunn of the Above” – Another fun race to watch is for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia, where Michelle Nunn is trying to represent the Peach State - as did her father - former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA). The race is rated as a toss up with the latest Real Clear Politics composite poll showing Republican businessman David Perdue at 46 percent to Michelle Nunn at 42 percent. But a recent Landmark Poll had Nunn up by 7 points. It’s a race to watch.

“My Old Kentucky Home” – As I have reported before, the “biggest of the big” races has Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the fight of his political life. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY) is very competitive. The most recent RCP composite poll has McConnell up by a mere two percentage points. Grimes was leading in a different poll. So, the GOP could take control of the U.S. Senate this year, but in the process could lose its leader.

“Another Comeback Kid, Part II” – Some of the races for Governor are fascinating this year. Florida is probably the biggest and oddest race. Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist switched parties and is now running to get his old job back as a Democrat. Incumbent Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) has proven unpopular in many quarters. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll has it 44 percent for Scott and 43 percent for Crist. No matter how you slice it, this race is a toss up.

“On Wisconsin!” – The other marquee Governor’s race is in Wisconsin where controversial Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) beat a recall vote just two years ago. Now he is in a tight reelection bid against Former Wisconsin Commerce Secretary Mary Burke. The latest Marquette University Law School Poll has Burke leading at 49 percent to 47 percent for Walker. But Walker has led some of the individual polls, so mark this one as a toss up, too!

“She’s Back; He’s Back” – All of a sudden the Massachusetts race for Governor looks interesting. Attorney General Martha Coakley (D-MA) is trying to redeem herself for a disastrous campaign and loss to Scott Brown in the Senate special election nearly five years ago. She’s being challenged by Republican Charlie Baker who lost to Deval Patrick in 2010. In the very liberal Bay State, the latest poll results are surprising. A Boston Globe poll out Friday had it Baker 38 percent to Coakley at 37 percent. She had been leading in most polls, and by a healthy margin up until now. Obviously there are a lot of voters still undecided.

What close races are you watching? Let us know by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy ABC News.

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 24, 2014

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(Cape Cod, Massachusetts) – I spent most of Saturday on Cape Cod, which was full of vacationers. President Obama and his family remain just across the water from here for their annual vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. Every President (spouse and kids, too), deserves a vacation! But sometimes what a President does on the job, (or on vacation), shows a certain tone deafness to the public. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Fore-getaboutit!” – President Obama has taken his share of criticism for how much he plays golf (as have many of his predecessors). Hey I can’t begrudge any of them for wanting to get out on the links and blow off stress, but sometimes the criticism is warranted. This past Wednesday the President held a news conference to condemn the murder of American journalist James Foley at the hands of ISIS terrorists. After the briefing he went right out to play golf with former basketball star Alonzo Mourning (photo above). To many people, it just seemed insensitive and out of touch. It’s a round he should have cancelled! Had he waited one more day to golf, few would have cared.

“The Plane They Call the City of New Orleans” – In September 2005, President George W. Bush flew to a long-scheduled fundraiser in San Diego. In the process, he flew over – but did not stop in – Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans. Look, I realize that Air Force One is a “flying White House!” A President can launch a war from there; or sign any emergency order to provide aid in a national disaster. He can put in motion everything New Orleans needed from 35,000 feet, but it’s hard to demonstrate the symbolism of compassion and caring from that altitude. Yes, he should have cancelled the fundraiser and landed in Louisiana. He went there later in the week, after much public outcry. Had he made a similar gaffe just a year earlier, he would have lost his 2004 reelection.

“It’s Impeachment; Not a Pep Rally” – One thing Presidents have to remember is that they have the job of President, but they also must represent the institution and office of the Presidency. They don’t own the job or the institution; but they are guardians of it. So on December 19, 1998 when President Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives, Democrats responded by throwing what amounted to a pep rally for the President at the White House. Good lord, the country was facing a Constitutional crisis, not cheering sides in the Super Bowl. I get that Democrats wanted to rally around their leader, but it came off as smug and arrogant, and not befitting the dignity of the office. I know many Democrats who were appalled that they were pressured to participate. It was one of those occasions where the White House should have just issued a printed statement saying the President would vigorously fight the charges.

“Who Cares About the Price of Gas?” – President George H.W. Bush was also guilty of a bad public relations gaffe. In June of 1989, with gasoline prices spiking, the President was vacationing at his family’s compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. Again, we shouldn’t begrudge any President who needs a breather from probably the most stressful job on Earth. Quite honestly, I’d be more concerned about a President who did not take a vacation at all. But in this case, the President was photographed and videotaped speeding around in his cigarette boat. It looked like a blast, but they are expensive and gas-guzzling boats. I forget what gasoline was a gallon back then – cheap compared to now I am sure – but average folks were struggling to fill their own tanks. As with some of the other instances cited here, the President simply looked insensitive and out of touch.

“They’re Called the Olympic Games; Not the Political Games” – In the summer of 1980, President Jimmy Carter would not allow Team U.S.A. to participate in the Olympic Games in Moscow. This was a protest over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. What was meant as a punishment against the Soviets, turned instead into a punishment of the U.S. athletes and the viewing public. If we truly wanted to show up the Soviets, we could have gone and kicked their tails on the athletic field, just as Black American track star Jesse Owens did to Adolf Hitler during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Instead, Carter made himself (and the country) look petty and weak. He lost the 1980 election; and the U.S.S.R. then countered by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

“Why All of This Matters!” – Yes, most of a President’s job is about public policy, but some of it is also about public relations. Sure a President can issue billions of dollars in emergency aid with the stroke of a pen; but it’s quite another thing to go stand knee-deep in water to hug a crying victim. The President isn’t just Commander in Chief; he is also Consoler in Chief. I know it is politics by photo-op, but it matters. People want to know you care, and sometimes the only way to do that is eyeball-to-eyeball. It is a pitfall that hits most Presidents, regardless of party. I worry sometimes that the trappings of the White House, Air Force One, and the access-only to the wealthy and influential simply insulate a President and make them insensitive to the plight of ordinary folks.

Let me know what you think? Are you concerned that President’s lose touch, the deeper they get into the job? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: AOL News

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