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What the 2018 Elections Tell Us About Campaign 2020 -- Sunday Political Brunch June 9, 2019

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Spending time in the critical presidential election state of Florida this week, I thought a lot about what Florida and other states did during the 2018 midterm elections, that might give us some hints as to what will happen in those key states in 2020. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“A Florida Frost?” – President Trump won Florida 2016 with 49 percent of the vote, to 47.8 percent for Hillary Clinton. The raw vote margin was a tight 130,000 votes. It’s a state the Democrats could win back (with 29 Electoral College votes), but right now the trend seems to be red. Republicans won a close race for governor here, and took the U.S. Senate seat long held by former Sen. Bill Nelson (D) Florida. Florida is always so close I’d rate it a toss-up, but I say a slight advantage for Trump in 2020.

“Penn Station Stall” – Right now I would rate Pennsylvania as the best and biggest chance for a Democrat pick up in the 2020 presidential election. Donald Trump won the Keystone State in 2016 with 48.2 percent of the vote to 47.5 percent for Hillary Clinton. The raw margin of victory was just 44,000 votes. Fast forward to 2018 and Sen. Bon Casey (D) Pennsylvania and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) Pennsylvania were easily reelected. The big story was in the U.S. House where Democrats flipped four House seats held by Republicans, while Republicans took out one incumbent Democrat. So, the net gain was three U.S. House seats for Democrats, who are now in the majority. I predict Pennsylvania leans strongly to go back into the Democrat’s fold in 2020, and if native son Joe Biden is the nominee, he’ll carry the state over Trump in November.

“Ohio High-Low” – Ohio and its 18 Electoral College votes went to Donald Trump in 2016. It’s a state that is the best predictor of all fifty states. Win Ohio and you’re president. The 2018 election produced mixed results. Call it the status quo election. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) Ohio easily won reelection. On the other hand, Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) Ohio was elected governor, replacing term-limited Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio. Democrats and Republicans both kept their incumbent seats in the U.S. House and so that balance stays the same. I rate Ohio as clear advantage for Republicans in 2020.

“Badgering Voters” – Donald Trump really shocked the political world by winning Wisconsin and its 10 Electoral College votes in 2016. But in truth, Hillary Clinton lost the Badger State by simply failing to campaign here in person after winning the Democratic primary in April 2016. The much-heralded Foxconn deal here has yet to hit pay dirt and that may hurt Trump, but the promise of lots of new jobs beyond 2020 may help him. Also, in 2018, Incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) Wisconsin, was defeated in a very close race as he sought a third term. But none of Wisconsin’s U.S. House district flipped, so I say Wisconsin leans to Trump in 2020.

“Carolina (North) on My Mind” – North Carolina has become a key toss-up state in past few presidential election cycles, after being a solid red state for decades. But 2018 offered some mixed results. Democrats won the governor’s race beating a Republican incumbent. On the other hand, Democrats and Republicans each held their incumbent U.S. House seats, with one exception. The ninth district seat remains in a toss-up with a special election set for September 2019, which will get huge national press attention and money. Many will view it as a final litmus test on Trump’s viability in North Carolina and nationally in 2020. Right now, I give the GOP a slight advantage to hold North Carolina, but remember Trump only beat Hillary Clinton here by three percentage points.

“Virginia is NOT for All Lovers!” –The sea of “red” hearts in Virginia has indeed turned “blue.” Between 1952 and 2004, this was a reliably Republican state. But like so many of the Southern States, people began moving in from elsewhere and things changed. Democratic presidential candidates won handily here in 2008, 2012 and 2016. Virginia has elected two successive Democrats as governor, and in 2018 came within one vote of tying Republicans for control of the House of Delegates, and within one vote of controlling the State Senate. Look for Virginia to stay in the “blue” column in 2020.

“’Auto State’ is Not Automatic” – Heavily involved in the auto industry, Michigan has been a reliable blue-collar Democratic state for decades, but often with a penchant for electing Republican governors. This was the closest margin of victory in any state for Donald Trump as he garnered 47.5 percent of the vote, to 47.27 percent for Hillary Clinton. The difference was just 10,704 votes out of 4.5 million votes cast. Democrats kept a U.S. Senate seat, picked up the Governor’s mansion and flipped two U.S. House seats. I rate the state as leaning to flip back to the Democratic side in 2020.

“Why All of This Matters” – Right now I am predicting the Democratic nominee for president will win back Pennsylvania and Michigan in 2020. While that adds 36 Electoral College votes to the blue column, it does not put Democrats back in the White House. If my prediction holds true, and all other states vote the way they did in 2016, Democrats would have 263 Electoral College votes, 7 shy of taking the keys to the White House. They’ll have to flip either Wisconsin, North Carolina, Ohio, or Georgia. It’s going to be an uphill fight!.

Who is ahead in your state? Who are people chatting about? Just click the comment button to add your voice to the chorus!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations that are providing coverage of the 2020 presidential campaign in West Virginia, its five neighboring states of Ohio, Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Pennsylvania, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

The Long and Winding Road to Impeachment – Sunday Political Brunch June 2, 2019

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – This week I am in the crucial “Sunshine State” which will play a critical role in who wins the White House in 2020. For months I have predicted that House Democrats would begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump whether there was merit or not. I think the momentum is now gaining in that direction and has lots of implications. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Mueller Moves On” – This week Special Counsel Robert Mueller closed his office and resigned. But before departing he held a press conference in which he made statements but took no questions. Among the things he said: “As set forth in the report, after the investigation, if we had confidence that the president did not clearly commit a crime, we would have said so.” Conversely, he said the DOJ policy against indicting a sitting president means "charging the president with a crime was therefore not an option we could consider." Mueller added that the Constitution provides a "process other than the criminal justice system" to address wrongdoing by a president. That means impeachment is the option available to Congress.

“Good Cop – Bad Cop” – While many rank and file Democrats have called for impeachment of the president in recent weeks, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not been a fan of that idea. She remembers full-well the impeachment of President Clinton which took an entire year (1998-99), and resulted in legislative gridlock in Washington. In the end, Clinton was impeached, but not removed from office. Pelosi envisions a similar result for Trump, so she may be trying to be the “good cop” here. But I predict if the majority of her caucus serves up the “bad cop” role, she’ll allow impeachment inquiries to move forward.

“The Math Doesn’t Add Up” – Right now Democrats control the U.S House with 235 seats, to 198 for Republicans with two vacancies. In 1998, Republicans held a similar majority while investigating President Clinton, and clearly had enough votes to impeach, and so they forged ahead and passed two articles of impeachment. If nothing else, this is “get even time” for Democrats. The real problem is the U.S. Senate, where Republicans hold a 53 to 47 seat majority. Removal from office requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate or 67 votes. Clearly, Democrats would have to convince 20 Republicans in joining them to remove Trump from office. They might get two or three but getting 20 looks insurmountable. Even in 1999, Republicans had a 55-45 majority in the Senate, but needed 12 Democrats to expel Clinton. They got zero Democrats to join them.

“Impeach me, Please!” – Speaker Pelosi has warned Democrats that she believes Trump actually wants his foes to launch an impeachment. Pelosi told her caucus that President Trump “wants to be impeached” so that he can be cleared by the Senate. I think she’s right on the money. I mean, just look how the Mueller investigation emboldened Trump supporters and made them even more passionate in their backing. Trump seems to be inviting his own “Trojan Horse” to the impeachment process. Fascinating!

“The Potential ‘Coattail’ Fallout” – I think there is an interesting dynamic to watch here that concerns the timing of everything. In January 1998, Republicans launched their investigation of President Clinton over his involvement with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky. It was also the beginning of the 1998 midterm Congressional election cycle. If the Trump impeachment process starts now and goes a year, we may have resolution well before the 2020 presidential election (and Congressional elections, too). In 1998, Democrats won a net gain of five seats in the House, plus Newt Gingrich was ousted as Speaker. It was a clear sign Republicans overplayed their hands on impeachment. But there was no change in the Senate’s 55-45 GOP majority.

“Home Party Rules” – Remember that impeachment is a political process, it’s not a legal process like the criminal courts. Party loyalty can play a huge factor in a political process. For example, in 1999 only five House Democrats voted to impeach President Clinton, but in the Senate no Democrats voted to remove him from office. On the other hand, go back to the 1974 impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. Seven Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee voted to file three articles of impeachment against Nixon. After that, a group of Republican lawmakers visited the White House and told Nixon he could not survive and would be removed from office if he did not resign. Two days later he quit. My point is, when your own party says it is time to close the curtain, then you are done. It really makes little difference what the opposing party says.

“Unity and Division” – The only other example we can study on impeachment is that of President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded President Lincoln after his assassination. Lincoln, a Republican, chose a Southern Democrat in Johnson of Tennessee, for what was dubbed a National Unity Ticket. When Johnson replaced Lincoln, many Republicans did not trust him or want him. As mentioned earlier, impeachment is a political process, not a legal proceeding. Johnson was impeached on three articles, and in all three cases he survived removal from office by only one vote in the Senate. Interestingly, after Johnson left the presidency, he ran for U.S. Senate and won!

“Why All This Matters” – When it comes to impeachment, Congress has to tread carefully. In Richard Nixon’s case, the evidence was overwhelming and enough people in both parties were ready to remove him from office. In Bill Clinton’s case, it was clear he committed perjury by lying under oath to a U.S. District Judge. Of course, the lie was about an extramarital affair, and as reprehensible as many in both parties found Clinton’s behavior, many just didn’t feel it warranted removal from office. In Andrew Johnson’s case, he may have violated laws Congress specifically passed to bait him. But again, it was more of a political offense. My guess is that until House Democrats find clear violations of the law or breeches of national security, the Trump impeachment is going nowhere.

Do you favor or oppose impeachment of President Trump? Please click the comment button to place your vote and explain your position!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five surrounding states, plus most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He’s a National Contributing Writer for the White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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