Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 9, 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) – The Republican candidates for President of the United States held their first televised debate Thursday night, and it was quite informative and entertaining. There were many memorable lines and moments, so let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Class Warfare” – Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) had some good jabs in the debate, including at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who - together with husband and ex-President Bill - made tens of millions of dollars since leaving the White House (despite earlier claims that they were practically broke in 2001). Rubio said: “If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton going to lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck.” Rubio was the son of poor Cuban immigrants in Miami.

“Left, Right; Left, Right” – Some lines were loved and hated at the same time. Conservatives praised former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR) when he criticized allowing transgender troops into the armed forces; liberals widely condemned him. “The military is not a social experiment,” Huckabee said. “The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things,” he added. Like him or not, Huckabee probably had the most candid and provocative zingers of the night.

“Smack Down, Times Two!” – It felt as if they almost came to blows when Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) went on the counterattack against Senator Rand Paul (R-KY). “Listen, Senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that,” said Christie. The New Jersey Governor was responding to Paul’s opposition to national security policies which collect information on Americans. Paul shot back at Christie saying, “I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead.” Ouch! Earlier Paul and Trump had a similar verbal battle.

“If I Only Had a Brain” – Doctor Ben Carson, who has never held any office, had one of the best lines of the night about the professional political class, as he differentiated himself from the other candidates: “I’m the only one to separate Siamese twins; the only one to operate on babies while they are still in their mother’s womb; and the only one to take out half of a brain, although you would think if you go to Washington that someone had beat me to it,” said brain surgeon Carson. Funny – and sadly – a ring of truth!

“Scary, and Probably True” -- Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), took one of the sharpest jabs at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. He said members of the Russian and Chinese governments “know more about Hillary’s emails than the U.S. Congress.” It was Walker’s best line of the night in a debate where he just faded into the background.

“Moving On” – “We’ll accept it,” Governor John Kasich (R-OH) said of the same-sex marriage ruling by the U.S. Supreme Count. Kasich supported a ban on same-gender weddings in Ohio. “And guess what?” he added, “I just went to a wedding of a friend of mine who happens to be gay. Because somebody doesn’t think the way I do, doesn’t mean that I can’t care about them and love them.”

“Candid Camera” – Donald Trump admitted to donating to almost every other Republican on the debate stage – and even to Democrats – and that he expected political favors in return. “To Hillary Clinton, I said 'Be at my wedding,' and she came to my wedding. You know why? She had no choice. I gave to a foundation that - frankly, that foundation is supposed to be used for good. I didn’t know her money would be used on private jets all over the world.”

“Line of the Night!” – In his closing remarks, former Governor Mike Huckabee lamented about all the attention on another candidate and said, “We’ve been talking about a person high in polls, but doesn’t know how to lead. A person who has scandals…” (There was a long pregnant pause, and everyone assumed he was going to say 'Donald Trump'). Instead, he said, “I’m talking about Hillary Clinton.” The line brought down the house! His timing was perfect! You could even hear Trump shout, “Thank you!” It was classic!

“Who Won?” – I think there were four big winners. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Governor Huckabee (R-AR) certainly cemented their conservative credentials. This is, after all, a fight to win the Republican base. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was certainly the most combative of the candidates with his dust-ups with Donald Trump and Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ). Governor John Kasich came across as the most competent and qualified person on the stage.

“Who Lost?” – Donald Trump – in my opinion – came off as petulant, not Presidential. And he made a serious rookie political mistake by attacking moderator Megyn Kelly. It never works in politics to “shoot the messenger.” It always backfires. I say this as a critique of his debate tactics, not as a critique of his political positions. Three non-scientific polls taken after the debate all had Trump still polling well ahead of the pack.

“Playing it Safe!” – Aside from Trump, who still leads most polls, former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) are the two highest-polling candidates. Perhaps that’s why both men gave such boring, lackluster debate performances. In politics – as in medicine – the motto, “First Do No Harm,” is probably the rule. Bush and Walker played it pretty safe, but sooner or later they have to create some fireworks.

“Carly, Who?” – As I predicted, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was the breakout candidate in the “second-tier” debate featuring the lowest polling seven candidates. Fiorina blistered Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and won her debate hands-down. She’ll be on the main stage in the next debate, perhaps displacing Dr. Ben Carson.

Who do you think won? Just click the comment button at

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Fox News Channel

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- August 2, 2015


(Fort Lauderdale, Florida) – We’re on the road this week in the key battleground state of Florida, where I spent fifteen years as a political reporter. Once again the Sunshine State could be the Presidential kingmaker. It’s a must-win if the Republicans are to take back the White House. In 2000 I predicted it would be the most important state in that election cycle; and it was. I will make the same prediction right now that Florida will be the crucial Electoral College state in 2016. Let’s brunch on that this week:

“History” – Florida is a very good predictor of who will become President. In my lifetime (which began in 1959), the Sunshine State has been on the losing side only twice. In 1960, when it had a mere ten Electoral College votes, Florida went for losing candidate Richard Nixon. In 1992, Florida went to President George H.W. Bush, who lost nationally to Bill Clinton. Today, Florida has 29 Electoral College votes and - as we saw in 2000 - can be the deciding factor.

“Jeb Bush Statewide” – He may be white, but it bears noting that in 1998 - in his first successful bid for Governor of Florida - Jeb Bush took home 61 percent of the Hispanic vote. Four years later, his reelection bid garnered 57 percent of Latino voters. Yes, Bush has a Mexican wife and three mixed-race children; he speaks fluent Spanish; and Cuban-Americans love Republicans. But, wow! Sixty-one percent of the Latino vote in Florida? That’s a huge, huge asset as he pursues the race for the White House. One word of caution to Republicans, though: They only do well with candidates who have strong ties to the Latino voters. In 2014, incumbent Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) won only 38 percent of Latin votes.

“Rubio Statewide” – While he has only run once statewide in Florida – and he won – Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has very telling poll numbers. He won 55 percent of the state’s Hispanic vote (and he is a well-known Cuban-American politician); but he also won 55 percent of the white vote in Florida. Rubio – if he is the GOP nominee – will be formidable in his home state.

“Hillary Money Lead” – According to Associated Press analysis of Federal Election Commission documents, Hillary Clinton leads in cash from Florida donors with $3 million. Jeb Bush has collected $2.6 million from Sunshine State donors; and Marco Rubio is in third place with $1.8 million in donations. This is critical because Florida has ten television markets where advertising dollars are crucial; and the Clintons have strong pockets of popularity here. While Bill Clinton lost Florida (but still won the White House) in 1992, he did take Florida in 1996 in his reelection bid over Bob Dole.

“VP Bill Nelson?” – If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she will likely consider some prominent Floridians for the Vice Presidential slot on the ticket. Topping the list might be Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who has won statewide in Florida five times. Even though he is 72 years old, Nelson has to be considered if he’s in good health. The fact that he once flew a mission as an astronaut on the Space Shuttle doesn’t hurt. He has 15 years in the U.S. Senate, 12 in the U.S. House, six as the State Insurance Commissioner plus six years as a State Representative. He has a long Florida resume!

“Latino Vote” – The Hispanic population in Florida is critical. It is 24 percent today, more than double the Latino population when I moved there in 1984. One of the biggest subgroups is the Cuban population, which surged in South Florida in 1959, when people fled Cuba after Fidel Castro came to power. Cuban-Americans have traditionally been one of the most conservative voting blocks in the state, giving candidates such as Marco Rubio and the Bush brothers a huge boost.

“George W. Bush” – George W. Bush won Florida in 2000 by a hotly-contested 537 votes. But the real tale-of-the-tape is how he did among Hispanic voters. According to Roper Polling, nationwide in 2000, he won 36 percent of the Latino vote; in 2004, he won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote and won a second term. By comparison, John McCain won just 31 percent of Latino voters in 2008, and Mitt Romney won a mere 27 percent in his losing effort in 2012. Republicans don’t have to win the Hispanic vote to win the White House; they just have to be more competitive. If they get 40 percent Latino support nationwide, they will likely be back in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Where it Stands Today” – Most of the recent polling is focused on intraparty contests in 2016. Needless to say, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, and Marco Rubio are the top three choices for Florida primary voters. The most recent theoretical November, 2016, poll from Public Policy Polling has it Hillary Clinton 47 percent, to Jeb Bush 44 percent; and Hillary Clinton 48 percent, to Marco Rubio 46 percent. At best, that tells you it’s too close to call; and Florida is clearly up for grabs as a top prize in the 2016 Presidential election.

Who is your choice? Just click the comment button at and let us know who you would like to see next in the Oval Office!

© 2015 -- Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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