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Sunday Political Brunch: Have the Wheels Come Off the White House Wagon? - July 30, 2017


CHARLESTON, WV – White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has resigned. I’m not surprised. It was only a matter of time. But is the White House now in free fall, or is this a reboot to Trump 2.0? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Scary Scaramucci” – The signs were all in place as new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci scorched Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and others before their departures. Communications Director Sean Spicer, who worked with Priebus at the Republican National Committee, departed days earlier. This is a White House in turmoil, trying to hit the reset button. Based on Scaramucci’s profanity-laced tirades ahead of the departures, matters may get even worse. I don’t think he’ll score points for diplomacy.

“What’s Your Record?” – I’ve said it here often: Politics is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business.” The repeal and replacement of Obamacare has failed; no substantive immigration bills have passed; tax reform remains on hold; and much of the rest of the Trump agenda remains in a holding pattern. A house cleaning may have been in order, but I suspect it won’t stop with Priebus and Spicer. More heads will roll. Will Attorney General Jeff Sessions be fired next? Or will Special Counsel Robert Mueller be sent packing?

“Have We Seen This Show Before?”—Yes, and no. I’ve seen administrations stumble out of the starting gate, but nothing like this. In the first year of President Bill Clinton’s administration, they had lost focus. They kept holding campaign-style events, even though he had already won. Eighteen months into the Clinton tenure, Chief of Staff (and long-time Clinton friend) Mack McClarty was gone. The combination of press secretaries George Stephanopoulos and Dee Dee Myers lasted less than two years, as well. No, it’s not the same as the compressed mess of the Trump term, but it was troubling for many of the same reasons. The public wants to see accomplishments. Period!

“What’s Wrong?” – No matter who is Chief of Staff or Communications Director, the Trump White House has some built-in problems. Its biggest worry is the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans won their majority in 2010, and have held steady ever since. Speaker Paul Ryan and the House do not owe their majority to President Trump. On the other hand, the Senate does owe its majority to Trump. His coattails carried Republicans in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. If not for that, Democrats would be in charge. But Arizona is not beholden to Trump, and maverick Senator John McCain (R-AZ) will always vote his own way. My point is that Republican party loyalty to President Trump is thin, at best.

“The Report Cards” – In my lifetime – and in my professional career – I have learned to rank Presidents in a different way. Rather than grade administrations as “good vs. bad” I have chosen over the years to rate White Houses as “effective vs. ineffective.” For me, that removes the subjective value judgment. The most ineffective White House in my lifetime was the Carter administration, followed closely by the Trump White House so far. The most effective was President Reagan’s administration, followed by that of President Lyndon Johnson. You might not agree with what Reagan and Johnson did, but they got a lot of stuff done.

“Can They Turn It Around?” – Make no mistake. The Trump White House is in crisis. It is right now in a state of paralysis and free fall. Can they right the ship? Sure, they can; but it’s going to require a drastic mid-course correction. The President needs to find a populist issue Democrats can rally around and work together with Republicans. Is it tax reform? Is it immigration? Stay tuned.

“The Replacement” – Reince Priebus, a 45-year-old civilian party loyalist, deep in the Republican ranks, is gone. Who’s his replacement? A 67-year-old General John Kelly, who is currently Secretary of Homeland Security. Kelly is a career Marine officer, bringing a sense of discipline that this White House has sadly lacked. General Kelly knows the ultimate sacrifice to this nation. His son Robert – also a Marine officer - was killed in Afghanistan in 2010. General Kelly brings a sense of discipline to a White House badly in need of anti-chaotic leadership.

“Why All of This Matters” – People evaluate parties by what they’ve done, or what they’ve failed to do. The report card comes in the mid-term elections, in between Presidential balloting. In 1976, Democrats made huge gains in Congress and won the White House on the heels of the Watergate scandal. But in 1994, 2010, and 2014, Republicans seized control of Congress due to dissatisfaction with the Democrat in the White House. Midterms are litmus tests on the party in power. This should be of huge concern to President Trump, who is having trouble enforcing party loyalty now, and is having trouble getting anything of real substance done.

What would you recommend to this White House? Just click he comment button at

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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Sunday Political Brunch: The Senate Scramble - July 23, 2017


MILWAUKEE, WI – The “Brunch” is on the road this weekend, as I visit my native state of Wisconsin. It is one of the 33 states where a U.S. Senator is up for reelection in 2018. As my faithful readers may recall, I was once a Legislative Aide for former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI). Control of the U.S. Senate is in play in 2018, and the dynamics favor Republicans right now. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“By the Numbers” – As mentioned, 33 Senate seats are in play in 2018. Democrats are defending 23 of them; Republicans, just 10. That gives the GOP an immediate advantage. Making matters worse for the Democrats is that President Trump carried ten of the states where Democrats have Senate seats up for grabs. Right now, four Democratic Senate seats are listed as vulnerable, those being in West Virginia, Missouri, Indiana, and North Dakota. All four states went for Trump in 2016.

“Almost Heaven, West Virginia” – Right now this is shaping up as the marquee national Senate race in 2018. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been in the Senate since 2010, having succeeded the nation’s longest-serving Senator, Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). Manchin – who was also Governor of West Virginia for six years - comes from a well-known political family. He may get lucky because of a hotly contested and potentially nasty Republican primary with Representative Evan Jenkins (R-WV, District 3) locked in a competitive primary with state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R-WV), who has been elected twice statewide.

“The Heidi Chronicles” – North Dakota had the closest race in the U.S. Senate in 2012. Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) beat Representative Rick Berg (R-ND) by fewer than three-thousand votes. They are likely poised for a rematch in 2018. Both are longtime state office holders in North Dakota, so this could be another bruising battle. Like Senator Manchin, Senator Heitkamp aligns with conservatives on fossil fuel issues such as oil and coal, which could help them both.

“Indiana Wants Me” – Vice President Mike Pence’s home state looks to be very competitive. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) is finishing his freshman term in the Senate and, prior to that, spent six years in the U.S. House. Like Senator Heitkamp (D-ND), Donnelly won his Indiana Senate seat with barely 50 percent of the vote. Historically, the Hoosier State is “red,” but Barack Obama did carry it in 2008 (although he did not in 2012). The bottom line: Indiana is up for grabs next year.

“The Cheesehead State” – It’s good to be on my native soil. Wisconsin has one of the richest political histories in the nation, with such luminaries as Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI) and the man who eventually succeeded him, my old friend Senator William Proxmire (D-WI), whom I consider the greatest retail politician in U.S. history. Someday, I’ll share that whole story. But first, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) - who succeeded my former boss Herb Kohl – is up this year, too. She served 14 years in the U.S. House before being promoted to the U.S. Senate. Despite Trump’s huge upset win in Wisconsin in 2016, Senator Baldwin may be hard to unseat.

“The Show Me State” – Of the four most vulnerable Senators, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is the only one not in her freshman term. She is completing her second full six-year term. Yet, she is vulnerable, Why? Well, Missouri is a key swing state, and the “Show Me” state has not been won by a Democratic Presidential candidate since President Bill Clinton in 1996. If the Russian controversy is trouble for President Trump, then it could prove toxic for Senator McCaskill, who earlier this year tweeted she never met with the Russian Ambassador, despite two tweets from 2013 and 2015 when she, in fact, confirmed meeting with him. No, it’s not a smoking gun, but ouch!

“Why All of This Matters” – Unlike all the contentious special elections to fill vacant House seats in 2017, the 2018 midterms will be a referendum on the Trump Presidency. Historically, the party-in-power in the White House usually loses seats in the midterm elections. Oddly, the GOP may lose House seats in 2018, but may gain four to eight seats in the U.S. Senate. If they gained eight, the Republicans would have the filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the upper chamber. That’s huge. I don’t think they’ll get there, but a 57-43 Republican majority in the Senate is very possible.

Whom are you backing for U.S. Senator and what do you think the margin will be? Just click the comment button at

© 2017 Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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