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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 19, 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) – There are now 15 official Republican candidates for President, with two more planning to jump into the hot tub soon! Over the past few months we’ve done snapshots of nine of these candidates, so let’s “brunch” on the most recent eight entrants:

“Walker: Pluses and Minuses” – Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) comes to the table as a bare-knuckled fighter. After winning his first election in 2010, he beat back a nasty recall election just two years later and was then reelected in 2014. He has successfully battled the state’s public employee unions which has brought him both wide praise and bitter hatred, depending upon which side you are on. Walker leads polls in Iowa and is close to the top in New Hampshire, but a big question is whether Walker could even carry his own state as a Presidential nominee.

“Christie: Ups and Downs” – Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) is mostly an unscripted, unfiltered firebrand, who can be something of a loose cannon at times. A lot of people find that endearing, especially when he berates the press. But what is charming to some comes off as temperamental and juvenile to others. Christie is still very popular in the Garden State and is perhaps the only Republican in the field who could carry New Jersey and its 14 Electoral College votes. It’s a traditionally blue Presidential state.

“Trump: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” -- The billionaire real estate mogul is the real wild-card candidate for the Republicans this year. Unlike all others, his own personal fortune could keep him in the race from start to finish, even if his poll numbers decline. Despite his controversial remarks about Mexicans, his poll numbers actually spiked, and, he is - in fact - the frontrunner nationally in the latest USA Today poll. But his proclivity for controversy and self-promotional blather could wear on the public’s patience in a long campaign. Like Ross Perot in 1992, Trump is fascinating, but with the same potential for pushing the self-destruct button.

“Perry: Texas Hold Him?” – Former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) was the longest serving chief executive in his state’s history, but the Lone Star state is likely to go Republican, no matter the nominee. What else would Perry bring to the table, aside from his home state? Another concern is his lackluster 2012 campaign for the GOP nomination. In one famous debate, he simply forgot his answer about halfway through and had to stop. Moments like that get repeated over and over again on YouTube and on political talk shows. His meltdown was the Republican’s version of the Howard Dean scream in 2004.

“Kasich: Ohio’s the One!” – Governor John Kasich (R-OH) will formally declare for President this Tuesday. His biggest asset is his resume, including 18 years in the U.S. House, six as Chairman of the Budget Committee. He is in his second term as Governor in a state the Republicans must carry in 2016, and he’s frequently mentioned as a Vice Presidential pick, too. His downsides include a boring stump speech (Being a budget expert is not very sexy!) and the fact that he’s not well known beyond Ohio or the DC Beltway.

“Jindal: Pluses and Minuses” – Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) is part of growing number of prominent ethnic minority members in the Republican Party. That helps diversify the GOP’s base and image. Jindal is also considered an expert on health care and education, which will be two huge issues in the campaign. On the downside, Jindal’s proposal to replace the Louisiana income tax with an increase in the state’s sales tax fell flat. In a tough economy, his home-state job approval rating has declined rapidly.

“Graham: Hits and Misses” – Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is seen as an expert on national defense issues; and in a world where we are seeing an increase in terror attacks at home and abroad, he may appear to people as having the right credentials at the right time. His early call to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House drew wide praise and much derision, depending on which side of the debate you were on. Graham is popular in his home state and inside the beltway, but who else knows him except political junkies?

“Gilmore: Ups and Downs” – Former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA) will announce his candidacy the first week of August. He has a strong background in military intelligence and is a longtime prosecutor at the local and state level. His law- and-order personna will be an asset. Virginia is a must-win state for the Republicans, but it voted Democrat the past two Presidential election cycles. There are questions about whether Gilmore can even carry his own state after he was badly trounced in a U.S. Senate race, garnering only 24 percent of the vote statewide in 2008.

“Crowded Field Conundrum” – There are now 17 legitimate Republican candidate for President of the United States. In theory, if they all had similar levels of support, it is possible someone could win a primary with as little as 5.9 percent of the vote. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s anyone’s race right now.

If you were voting for GOP candidates, which one would be your pick? Just let us now by clicking the comment button at

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- July 12, 2015


(Londonderry, Vermont) -- We are out on the Presidential campaign trail this week in Vermont. Favorite-son candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is really stirring up the pot in his Democratic primary challenge to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. While many people started out by saying, “Bernie who?” Sanders he is now surging in many polls. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Who is Bernie Sanders?” – Here are the stats: Bernie Sanders is 73 years old; Jewish; University of Chicago educated; married with four children; and the only avowed socialist in Congress. Politically speaking, Sanders was first elected to public office in 1981, serving as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, for eight years, then 16 years in the U.S. House, and now eight years in the U.S. Senate. He is the longest-serving independent member of Congress in history.

“Latest Polls” – Here’s the story by the numbers. According to the latest CNN/WMUR-TV Poll, Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders in Vermont has shrunk to 43 to 35 percent, so with a four-percent margin of error, it is statistically a tie. The new Quinnipiac Poll in Iowa has it Clinton 52 percent to Sanders 33 percent. In Florida, the Gravis Marketing Poll has it Clinton 65 percent to Sanders 21 percent. Yes, former Senator Clinton is still in the lead, but Sanders has rocketed from zero in the polls just a couple of months ago to being a real player in this race.

“His Appeal” – My old friend from Milwaukee, Marie U., recently posted this on her Facebook page: “As I'm getting ready to go to work on this Independence Day, I thought I'd state for the record that I'm supporting U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. If he wins, and I think he's got a pretty good shot since most of us are sharpening our pitchforks and lighting our torches, then maybe, just maybe, me and all my friends that own our own small businesses won't have to work like dogs to hang on to what we have. Go Bernie!!!!!” I think this reflects a weariness with the politics of the status quo and a looming fatigue over potential legacy nominees, such as Clinton and Bush. Many people want a new, fresh face. Right now, Sanders has captured their fancy.

“It’s Getting Crowded” – If you think my friend Marie in Wisconsin is just having a pipe dream, guess again. On July 1, 2015, in Madison, Wisconsin – just 60 miles west of Milwaukee – Sanders held a campaign rally that attracted over 10,000 people. It is the largest campaign rally yet of any Presidential candidate - Democrat or Republican. If nothing else, it tells you the natives are restless. Maybe Sanders will be a "flash in the pan." Then again, maybe he’ll be around long enough to be a spoiler. Stay tuned!

“So What’s the Attraction?” – Sanders will have an appeal to a lot of voters – both liberal and conservative – who feel disaffected by our system of government. He has a libertarian streak. On one hand, he has perhaps the most progressive agenda in Congress, supporting wage equality, boosting the minimum wage, and breaking up big banking, long before it became the rage for the most liberal on Capitol Hill. On the other hand, he has supported legislation backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), so some conservative voters on the far right may like him, too. He strikes people as a libertarian maverick, beholden to no one.

“Show Me the Money, (Not!)” – Sanders is running as an anti-big-money candidate. He promises no Super PAC (political action committee) that would go after the deep-pocket donors. Instead, he is pledging to run on small, individual donations. To date – according to his campaign – Sanders has raised $15 million from just 250,000 small donors. That may be dwarfed by the Clinton campaign war chest, but - in many respects - the populist Sanders wants this to be a David vs. Goliath fight.

“Campaign Warren-ted!” – The surge of Bernie Sanders may well mean that Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), will not enter the Democratic primary. Warren – like Sanders – is a big anti-Wall-Street advocate. Many Democrats – suffering from Clinton fatigue – wanted Warren to be the female alternative to Secretary Clinton. However, Sanders and Warren feed at the same political trough, and it’s hard to imagine there is room for both in this race. It does tell you that many in the party view the Clintons as being among the same multi-million-dollar fatcats they themselves used to rail against.

“All Bets are Off” – If the nomination were to be decided tomorrow, Hillary Clinton would win it hands down; but the primary season is still seven months away, and a lot can happen. Back in 2012, Republicans had a “flavor-of-the-week” candidate selection process in which we saw Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich all surge to be frontrunners, only to fade as Mitt Romney finally emerged as the GOP nominee. Is Bernie Sanders the real deal, or just the Democrats' version of the “flavor of the week” in this election cycle? It’s going to be fascinating to watch a guy who was on no one’s radar screen four months ago, but is now on everyone’s watch list.

Who do you like in the Democratic primary? Candidates Jim Webb, Martin O’Malley and Linc Chafee are all out there, and maybe VP Joe Biden, too! Let us know your preference by clicking the comment button at

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC
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