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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 31, 2016


(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) – It was a very grueling two weeks on the road at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. There were pluses and minuses for both sides, so let’s “brunch” on them this week:

“A Tale of Two Speeches” – The two nomination acceptance speeches could not have been more different. As I said last week, Donald Trump was forceful, disciplined, and angry. This week, Hillary Clinton was more inspiring, uplifting, and idealistic. But, that’s not to say she gave the better speech. Yes, she was trying to paint herself in sharp contrast to Trump, but who better reflects the public mood? Trump got to the nomination by touching the raw nerve of voter discontent; and Bernie Sanders nearly won the nomination by similar appeals to the left. It was one of Clinton’s better speeches and some of her humor (a rarity) made her more likeable. I give both nominees a grade of B. My big question for their programs is "How are you going to pay for all this?"

“A Style in Contrast” – The last time we had two politicians with such polar-opposite speaking styles was 1980, with Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. Reagan could hit notes of anger and defiance (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” circa 1987), but he could also be lofty, with phrases such as “It’s morning in America,” and we’re a “shining city on a hill.” In July 1979, President Carter said in his infamous Oval Office “malaise” speech: “It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation.” Reagan was an optimist; Carter was a pessimist; and a year later Carter lost his reelection bid.

“Weekend at Bernie’s” – The big post-convention question is “Where are the Bernie Sanders supporters going to go?” They have four options: Vote for Trump; find a third party, such as Libertarian or Green; stay home and don't vote; or vote for Hillary Clinton. Sue Thorn, a Sanders delegate from West Virginia, told me: "Right now I'm undecided. I'm here supporting Bernie, and we'll figure that out at a later date; but I am here representing Bernie, and I am very proud of that."

I also had this exchange with Franz Gorman, another West Virginia delegate, who said, "I'm just happy to be here and represent West Virginia, and I hope that we do win. I think that we need to defeat Trump, no matter what. That's the bottom line." When I inquired: "Can you vote for Hillary Clinton in the end if that's what it comes down to, Hillary or Trump?" Gorman replied "No I can't, I can't."

“Strange Bedfellows” – There were some surprise visitors to the media tents in Philadelphia: Libertarian Presidential candidate and former Governor Gary Johnson (R-NM); Libertarian Vice Presidential nominee and former Governor Bill Weld (R-MA); and Green Party Presidential nominee Dr. Jill Stein. These are serious, talented, and credible candidates. I believe they will pull significant numbers of voters away from Trump and Clinton. Who gets hurt more remains to be seen.

“Best Food” – For many years, I have not only covered politics, but I’ve also done food reviews on the campaign trail, just like the late Washington, D.C., Bureau Chief for “The New York Times,” R.W. “Johnny” Apple, Jr. This year’s winners: Del’s Catering in Cleveland for its pulled-pork tacos with red cabbage slaw, and My Four Suns in Philadelphia for their Korean fusion tacos with a spicy “Yum Yum” sauce. Both catered the conventions on site, since there was no time to leave and dine out. Sixteen years ago, Johnny Apple dined at the table next to me at The Fork Restaurant in Philadelphia, still one of the greatest places I’ve dined in America (twice in 2000 and twice in 2008). Sadly, I had no time for a return trip during the DNC this year.

What are your thoughts now that the conventions are over? Just click the comment button at

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 24, 2016


(Cleveland, Ohio) – The Republican National Convention is in the books, and now it’s on to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Both candidates have picked running mates. Pretty soon we’ll be in full-bore campaign mode, heading to November. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Citizen Kaine” – It comes as no surprise that Hillary Clinton has picked Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)to be her running mate. He has a great resume: Mayor of Richmond; Lt. Governor of Virginia; Governor of Virginia; and now U.S. Senator. He was also chairman of the Democratic National Committee for two years. A 58-year-old, Harvard-educated lawyer, he’s a seasoned political pro who could step in and be President.

“The Electoral Math” – I think Kaine was a good choice for the Democrats; and Mike Pence was a good choice for the Republicans. Both bring extensive leadership and experience to the table. You want that in the Vice President, in case the worst happens. Pence will probably secure Indiana’s 11 Electoral College votes for the GOP ticket, but Kaine's home state is not as secure for the Democrats. The Old Dominion was a “red state” from 1968 through 2004 in Presidential races, but Barack Obama won it in 2008 and 2012. It’s a battleground state - with 13 Electoral College votes - that remains up for grabs; but, for now, I’ll say it leans Democrat. The bottom line, the net advantage is two Electoral College votes for the Democrats.

“Si!” – Another big asset Kaine brings is that he is fluent in Spanish and speaks it at many rallies, as well as in social media. No, he is not Hispanic; but when you can speak the same language, you can connect with people in a unique and personal way. Remember, the Latin vote is the fastest growing demographic in the electorate. Swing states, such as Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada, used to be solidly “red” but President Obama won all three in 2008, and again in 2012. Each has a rapidly growing Hispanic voter pool. Subtleties matter. Kaine’s bilingual skills may also help Democrats in the two most crucial states: Florida and Ohio.

“Trump Stump” – I thought Donald Trump gave a very good acceptance speech. It was the most forceful address I have ever seen him give. It was also the most disciplined address, as it was scripted and in a teleprompter (although you could tell he would ad lib when he felt the need). The tone was angry from the start to finish, but I’m not saying that in a critical way. In fact, I believe it was an asset. Trump was successful this year (as was Bernie Sanders) in tapping into the considerable anger in the American public, so I give him points for that. My overall grade: B.

“I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take It Anymore” – That was the famous line from network news anchor Howard Beale in the movie “Network.” The acclaimed film won numerous Academy Awards. But in the movie, Beale “articulates the popular rage,” as it was referred to often. The problem was that no solution to assuage the rage was ever offered. People were just encouraged to open their windows and vent about how mad they were. Trump hit that same nerve, but never laid out any concrete battle plans as to how to turn the anger into action. Had he done so, my grade would have been an A.

“Odds and Ends” – Political conventions are carnival side shows in a lot of ways. All kinds of colorful characters show up, and an endless number of people are there to “pitch stories” to the press. One woman asked me if I’d like an opportunity to interview a young lady “to get the perspective of the election from a 14-year-old’s point of view.” Really? She’s not even old enough to vote, and she’s a juvenile. I just found it odd and exploitive; so I passed.

“Hair-Spray Gate!” – I have never been comfortable with the amount of hair spray and makeup I have to wear for my job. It’s kind of silly, but necessary. As I went through the security screening on Tuesday, a female Secret Service agent confiscated my hair spray because it was in an aerosol can. I politely pleaded that I needed it for work. The woman’s male supervisor suddenly interjected, asking, “What kind of work do you do?” I told him I worked in television. “Are you on-air?” he asked; and I responded "Yes." “Okay sir, you can keep it, but please go buy a pump spray bottle for next time,” he said. It was a very funny exchange, especially with the male agent coming to my defense!

“Cleveland Rocks!” – That’s the name of a famous song by British singer-songwriter Ian Hunter. Even though I grew up in Wisconsin, I had never been to Ohio until late last year, and this was my first trip to Cleveland. The city on Lake Erie has always been the butt of comedians’ jokes, but I loved Cleveland. The theatre district is spectacular, and the lake has been cleaned up over the years. Some nice restaurants catered the convention, so there is a culinary buzz. I missed the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame party, but I can’t wait to go visit again as a tourist. Nice city; I was impressed!

I’ll have more from Philadelphia next Sunday. Share your comments at

© 2016 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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