Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- December 28, 2014

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – Well, 2014 is about to end, so it’s time to evaluate the winners and losers in the political arena this year, but it might not be what it seems at first blush. Some may have won in the short term; but be careful what you wish for. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Midterm Elections” – Clearly – at least in the numerical sense – this was a huge win for the Republicans. They took control of the U.S. Senate and widened their majority in the U.S. House by 13 votes. They rule Congress for the next two years, but can they get anything meaningful done? In the short run, they are winners; but unless they pass key legislation in the next two years, they could wind up a bunch of empty suits (and promises). Stay tuned.

“Obama the Loser; Obama the Winner?” – The midterm defeat was certainly a big blow to President Obama and his Democratic Party. In fact, the Congressional roadmap doesn’t get any easier in 2016. As with most second-term Presidents with two years to go, look for lots of foreign trips and policy initiatives where the President has more leeway. Without a friendly Congress, might we see a more rogue President? Certainly we could see more Executive Orders like the one on immigration, as unpopular as that might be in many quarters. Both Presidents Reagan and Clinton were able to win public sympathy and support going over the heads of a stubborn opposing party in Congress. Can Obama do the same? We’ll see!

“Hillary Clinton” – Talk about flying under the radar in 2014. Perhaps the biggest headline Hillary made was becoming a grandma. Yes, I know she wrote a book, “Hard Choices,” and went on tour; but it generated few headlines. In a way, that’s good news for the former First Lady-turned-Senator-turned- Secretary of State. The Clintons are lightning rods for controversy, but her low-key demeanor kept the smoldering embers of Benghazi out of the headlines. You know her opponents will use that issue against her in 2016, but by then many in the public may deem it “old news.”

“Florida Matters” – The state with the most political clout in the nation now is Florida. In the last five Presidential campaigns, the candidate who won Florida won the White House. That will likely be true again in 2016. California and New York were always the big Electoral College mules for the Democrats, while Texas and Florida were for the Republicans. But Florida is truly a swing state, and Hispanic voters there are much more evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. This is one reason why you see two well-known Floridians, Senator Marco Rubio and former Governor Jeb Bush, both eyeing Presidential bids. The GOP knows either one of these men can carry the Sunshine State, but other potential GOP candidates may not....

“Bipartisanship” – Perhaps the biggest loss in this last election cycle was to the willingness of either party to work across the aisle (photo above). If anyone can name a serious issue or policy initiative where the two sides earnestly worked together, then send it to me in an email. Until then, I am just scratching my head.

“Old School – No School” – It was not a good year for political comebacks. Two of the nation’s most colorful politicians – both of whom had served time in prison – failed in their comeback bids. Former Governor Edwin Edwards (D-LA), age 87, lost his Congressional race; and former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, age 73, lost his race for a third stint as Mayor. At this point, their political careers are likely over; but my political instinct says, “Never say never!”

“The Rising Stars” – For every pol who fades – like the two I just mentioned – there are also rising stars to keep an eye on. Of note this year were a couple of winners. Republican Joni Ernst won the U.S. Senate race in Iowa. At age 44, she is an up and comer in the world of politics and is the first female U.S. Military veteran to serve in the U.S. Senate. The Democrat to watch is California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. At 47, Newsom is about to begin his second term, having previously served as Mayor of San Francisco for seven years. After some tumultuous problems in his personal life, he has married again and has three young children. He has grown up in politics and is poised to succeed Jerry Brown as Governor, or Dianne Feinstein or Barbara Boxer in the Senate. If he wins either job, he’s a potential White House contender down the road.

Who are your political “winners” and “losers” for 2014? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ABC News

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- December 21, 2014

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(Washington, DC) – We are on the road again this week in the belly of the beast – the nation’s capital! I spent six of the best years of my life here, working in both press and politics. Now the very real possibility of another “Clinton v. Bush” Presidential race is shaping up for 2016. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“This is Not ‘All in the Family'!” – There will be attempts from both sides, as this race materializes, to pin the failures of President Bill Clinton on Hillary Clinton and, similarly, to tie the perceived shortcomings of President George W. Bush on Jeb Bush. Both strategies would be huge mistakes. Hillary is not Bill; Jeb is not George. Hillary has a record as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State; Jeb has a record as a two-term Governor of Florida. They have to run on their own policies (and be challenged on them by the public and press). They don’t have to run on the records of their famous relatives.

“Insider vs. Outsider” – Both candidates may be tempted to try to portray themselves as Washington outsiders. That would be foolish; and the public won’t buy it for a minute; but I bet you each of them tries. Jeb never worked in Washington, D.C., and Hillary has been “gone” for four years. Both have amassed wealth, so no one is going to believe they are average folks like people along Main Street America. Yet, they will probably try to paint themselves that way.

“Ali vs. Frazier” -- I will confess up front - as a member of the working press (and this will be my tenth Presidential campaign) - that this is the race I would really like to see. That’s not an endorsement of either candidate, or of their policies; it’s rather an endorsement of the sheer drama and public attention this race would draw. It is akin to the legendary Ali-Frazier boxing matches of the 1970s. This potential race has more facets that a fine diamond. What??? You want a Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) versus Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) race instead of Bush v. Clinton? ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz! The Clinton-Obama contest for the nomination in 2008 was the single most fascinating race I’ve ever covered. I want something similar in 2016.

“Strategy: Bush” – Republicans need to pick up about ten percentage points from Latino voters nationwide to win the White House. How does Bush do that? Well, he is fluent in Spanish, his wife is from Colombia, and they have three bi-racial children. He’s also done very well among Hispanic voters in Florida over the years. He really has to maximize this. His campaign has a built-in connection to the Latino community, and it needs to take that beachhead!

“Strategy: Clinton” – Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, and Israel are among key U.S. allies which have had had female chief executives. Many U.S. voters – men and women alike – would like to see us elect the first female U.S. President. As a practical matter, women have a significantly higher voter turnout than men. Yes, it’s opportunistic, but that’s the nature of politics. Just as many Catholics (even conservatives) flocked to John Kennedy as the first Irish-Catholic President; and many others, to Barack Obama as the first African-America President, so, too, will many female voters gravitate to Hillary Clinton. Yes, politics is part “novelty,” so why not run with it!

“Fatigue Factors” – As novel as a “re-match” race might be between the Bush and Clinton families, there is a downside. Many Americans suffer what is commonly referred to as “Bush fatigue” and “Clinton fatigue.” Legacy political families become tiresome to many. For example, the Kennedy and Roosevelt luster has faded for many voters. The same old families, controlling the same old parties, can make the public weary. It may be the reason Barack Obama won a razor-thin victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries. It may be the main reason Republican Scott Brown trounced Democrat Martha Coakley in the 2010 Senate race to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. Both the Bush and Clinton camps need to strategize against this if they want to win.

“Wildcards!” – Some of the intangible factors will include who the candidates pick for their Vice Presidential running mates. If I were Hillary Clinton, I would pick retiring Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD). He’s young, energetic, good-looking, charming, smart, and experienced, with that “Kennedy-like” persona. He may even challenge Hillary for the nomination; and if he does so unsuccessfully, he would be a good number-two pick. If I were Jeb Bush, I would pick Governor Susana Martinez (R-NM). She’s a two-term Governor, a tough former prosecutor, a Latina, and could help swing heavily Hispanic populated states, such as New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, back into the Republican tent. She helps Bush bring more Hispanics and women into the GOP fold. That could be a winning combination!

For whom would you vote in 2016 - Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Jeb Bush? Cast your ballot and tell us why at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo credit: ABC News

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