Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- May 4, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – I attended a fun birthday party this past week for my friend, co-worker, and fellow Marquette University alum Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, Jr. At 73, Buddy is beating back cancer, and thinking about running for a third stint as Mayor of Providence (Photo above with former Mayor Joe Paolino, me, and former Mayor Cianci). It got me thinking about some of the more famous political comebacks - and comeback attempts - in my lifetime. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Third Time the Charm” – Like him, or not, (and there are plenty of both), but Buddy Cianci is an American political legend. Elected as the Republican Mayor of Providence in 1974, at the age of 33, Cianci was the only GOP Mayor of a major American city at the time. He was forced to resign from office in 1984 after an assault conviction, but was elected Mayor again in 1990. In 2002, he was again force to resign in the “Plunder Dome” scandal and served almost five years in federal prison. Yet, Cianci, who was widely credited with the economic and aesthetic rebirth of Providence in the 1990s, is again considering a run for Mayor. As political analyst Valerie Endress, Ph.D., told me this week, “He’s got a real shot!”

“The Comeback Kid” – I’ve often said that popular politicians are like, “a cat with nine lives.” No one exemplifies that more that former President Bill Clinton. Clinton, whose womanizing ways almost torpedoed his 1992 run for President, finished a strong second in the 1992 New Hampshire primary on the heels of the affair accusations from Jennifer Flowers. Clinton’s staff as Governor of Arkansas for 12 years and for 8 years in the White House, constantly had to deal with what they called, “bimbo eruptions.” Yet, Clinton won reelection in 1996, and beat back impeachment in 1999. He and a Republican-led Congress balanced the budget and the era was one of peace and prosperity. He is well-loved by many to this day.

“The Unforgiven” – Yes there are great political comebacks, but there are comeback failures, too. Just last year former Congressman Anthony Weiner was trounced in his attempt to be elected Mayor of New York City, and former Governor Eliot Spitzer (D) New York was badly beaten as he tried to revive his political career by getting elected New York City Comptroller. So why do some succeed in their comebacks, while others fail miserably? I’ll offer my analysis shortly!

“Failing Forward” – At the age of 31, Dennis Kucinich was elected Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. Within a short period of time the city went into default (not all Kucinich’s fault, as the Mafia put out a hit on him…really!!!). He was voted out of office in 1979, and was considered dead politically. Yet, in 1995, he was elected to the Ohio State Senate, and two years later he was elected to Congress where he served 16 years. He even staged a feisty campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008. Today the ultra-liberal Kucinich is a counterpoint analyst on the Fox News Network. Despite a rough start in politics, he’s an enormous success.

“Buddy’s Buddy” – If you think a third-run run as Providence Mayor, would be implausible for Buddy Cianci, consider the career path of his peer and political colleague, former Governor Edwin Edwards (D) Louisiana. Edwards – who like Cianci served time in prison for corruption – served three separate stints as Governor: from 1972 to 1980; 1984 to 1988; and from 1992 to 1996. Edwards, who once said the only way for him to lose an election, “is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy,” is now out of prison and running for Congress this year at the age of 86. You just can’t make this stuff up folks! He just might win!

“Nixon’s the One!” – Few in the political world have truly been the proverbial “cat with nine lives” as Richard Nixon. Nixon was elected to the U.S. House in the 40s; the Senate in 1950; and Vice President in 1952 through 1960. But then came the crushing defeats of losing a close Presidential race in 1960 to John Kennedy, and the California Governor’s trace to Pat Brown in 1962. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” he famously said. Yet, he came back to win the White House in 1968 and 1972, only to be forced out in the Watergate scandal and resigned in 1974. But he came back again, writing nine books and giving numerous lectures and was revered at his 1994 funeral for his diplomatic breakthroughs with Russia and China.

“Why All This Matters” – The public is very forgiving. Politics is the art of the possible. Political cats can have nine lives. Yes, they are all political clichés, but with a certain ring of truth. But why do some comebacks succeed, while others fail? If people associate the politicians with success, they may be forgiving and vote them in again. While Buddy Cianci is remembered for the Plunder Dome scandal that sent him to prison, he is also remembered as one of the principal architects of the urban rebirth of Downtown Providence in the 1990s after the city slid into depression and decay. It is vibrant to this day, and many credit Cianci. On the other hand, Spitzer and Weiner were widely rejected by New Yorkers. Their terms were not remembered for any great successes – and in Weiner’s case – he further perpetuated the scandal by “tweeting” more lewd self-portraits. Here’s the final cliché – “Politics is a ‘what-have-you-done-for-me-lately’ business!”

What are your thoughts? Would you vote to revive the career of a disgraced politician? Click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Dee DeQuattro/Mark Curtis, ABC6 News.

"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- April 27, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – Over the past few months we have looked at the key U.S. Senate races this year, with control of that body of for grabs. In the coming weeks we’ll look at key U.S. House races, but this week let’s look at the top races for Governor in the United States. Right now there are 29 Republican Governors and 21 who are Democrats (photo above).

“Ain’t No Sunshine” – Florida has perhaps the most intriguing race for Governor this year. Incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott is vulnerable. Former Republican Governor Charlie Crist – who ran as an independent and lost for U.S. Senate – is now a Democrat, running for Governor. He has a real shot, but now Senator Bill Nelson (D) Florida is thinking of coming home and running for Governor, too. An expensive Democratic primary fight could be the gift the GOP is looking for. The latest Mason-Dixon Poll has a Scott v. Crist match up tied at 42 percent each.

“An Ocean of Candidates” – Rhode Island may be the smallest state, but it has a history of multi-candidate free-for-all races for Governor. This year is no exception. The main Democrats are Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, State Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Clay Pell, grandson of the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D) Rhode Island. The Republicans are Cranston Mayor Allan Fung and former Moderate Party candidate Ken Block. You can’t beat it for diversity: a Latino, an Asian, a woman, a white male, and one candidate (Pell) who is perhaps overshadowed by his much more famous wife, Olympic ice skater Michelle Kwan. This race could go a multitude of ways. Call it a toss-up right now.

“The 2016 Kingmaker” – Ohio, could once again be the state that decides a close Presidential race in, as it most famously did in 2004. Currently Republican Governor John Kasich is likely in a tough reelection bid against Democratic Ed FitzGerald, who is Cuyahoga County Executive. The latest Public Policy Poll has them tied at 44 percent each. Whomever wins could be influential in who wins the state’s key Electoral College votes in 2016. The most intriguing possibility is Kasich as the VP nominee on the Republican ticket.

“A Carter on My Mind” – In Georgia, Republican Governor Nathan Deal is vulnerable, especially after badly mishandling a winter storm with the Democratic Mayor of Atlanta. Right now State Senator Jason Carter (D) is leading in at least one poll, and is close to Deal in a couple of others. Carter – Grandson of President Jimmy Carter – could also benefit from another famous name on the ballot. Democrat Michelle Nunn – Daughter of retired Senator Sam Nunn -- is running for Senate and has a real shot. Carter could ride Nunn’s coattails. Georgia is a state to watch!

“On Wisconsin!” – My home state should have another really nasty battle for Governor. Republican Scott Walker who won in 2010, and then beat back a recall in 2012, is facing a tough reelection challenge from Democrat Mary Burke. Walker is polling ahead, but it’s close. Tons of money is pouring in from out of state. This may be one of the most expensive and nastiest races this year. People either love Scott Walker or they hate him. There is no middle ground for this lightning rod Governor -- who if he wins -- may eye a White House run in 2016. Put your Packer helmet on to protect yourself in this race!

“Boston You’re my Home!” – Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) Massachusetts, has a sizeable lead over Republican Charlie Baker, who lost in 2010.
But this is the same Martha Coakley who once had a 30 percentage point lead over Republican Scott Walker in the 2010 Senate race to succeed the late Senator Ted Kennedy. Coakley – who made a series of late-campaign political gaffes – blew her massive lead and lost to Brown. Could she meltdown again? Stay tuned!

“Texas Two-Step!” – Republican Rick Perry is leaving the Governor’s Mansion after 14 years. Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has been one of the nation’s fiercest critics of Obamacare, especially in the courtroom. But Democrat Wendy Davis is a real gamer who has served on the Fort Worth City Council and is now in the State Senate (photo above). Abbott holds a solid lead right now, but Davis is a attracting a lot of attention (and money) from around the country, and an upset may be brewing. Even if she doesn’t win, she is one to watch on the state and national political scene.

“Pennsylvania Polka!” – Current Republican Governor Tom Corbett is in real trouble as he seeks a second tern. A recent poll from Franklin and Marshall College puts his approval rating at just 17 percent. Democrats have a crowded primary but businessman Tom Doyle or Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D) Pennsylvania, look like the two frontrunners. A bruising and expensive Democratic primary could help the GOP, but Governor Corbett has to reclaim a lot of lost ground. Like Ohio, the Keystone State could be a key battleground state in the 2016 Presidential race.

“Why All This Matters” – Certainly control of the nation’s Governorships is not as critical as political control of the House or Senate in Washington. But Governor’s can be influential in Presidential elections, and this year there will be competitive races in several of the key Presidential battleground states including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Wisconsin. These Governors will also help shape legislative reapportionment after the 2020 Census. And Governors are influential in gaining and distributing federal funds from Washington. The bottom line: this year’s races for Governor are a big deal!

What’s hot in your state? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: abcnews.com

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