Mark Curtis's blog

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


(Charleston, West Virginia) – No Trump! I thought it would be fascinating to analyze Thursday night’s Republican debate in Iowa, the one from which Donald Trump backed out. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Trump Stump” – I think Trump's backing out was a bad mistake. I’m not sure it will cost him votes or the Iowa Caucuses (which are Monday), but - at the very least - it was disrespectful to the people of Iowa. He wasn't punishing Fox News by not showing up; he was cheating the voters and viewers. He wants to be President, so the voters should have heard from him directly. Plus, he gave his opponents an open shot to gain ground. It was not a wise decision, in my analysis.

“On the Plus Side” – I think finally we got to hear more from the other candidates. I learned a lot by hearing Rand Paul in greater detail, without Trump's interrupting him with insults. The same goes for Jeb Bush. I suspect that if Trump had showed, he would have been on the attack against Ted Cruz and vice versa; and those two would have overshadowed the other candidates. In summary, the voters got a much better look at the others.

“Best Lines” – When the debate opened, Ted Cruz was asked about the “elephant” missing from the room. He responded: “I’m a maniac; and everyone here on this stage is fat and ugly; and, Ben, you’re a lousy surgeon,” (quoting Trump’s earlier insults). Cruz added that they could then start the debate, “Now that we’ve gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way.” It was a funny icebreaker.

“Avoiding Donald” – Marco Rubio had an interesting tactic. It seemed that every time a subject came up – including Trump – the Florida Senator would digress and talk about President Obama and Hillary Clinton, as if they were Siamese twins joined at the hip. Of Trump, he said: “This campaign is not about Trump. He’s an entertaining guy. He’s the greatest show on earth.” Rubio then launched his first Obama-Clinton attack. I lost count; but it was clear that Rubio said the words “Obama” and “Clinton” way more than anyone else on the stage. For months now, national polls have shown Rubio as the only Republican beating Mrs. Clinton in a head-to-head match-up. Attacking her was a smart strategy.

“From the Executive Office” – For many years - from Jimmy Carter, to Ronald Reagan, to Bill Clinton, and to George W. Bush – having been a Governor was the best path to the White House. With that in mind on Thursday night, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and John Kasich all touted their years of experience as chief executive of their respective states. Christie probably won the most points by mocking the “Washington-speak” of the Senators on the stage. “This is why you need to send someone from outside of Washington, to Washington. I feel like you need a ‘Washington-to-English’ dictionary converter,” Christie said to laughs and cheers.

“Winners & Losers” – The debate spotlight shifted more attention on Cruz, as the number-two candidate in national polling. He and Rubio mixed it up well and did not make any major gaffes. Of the three Governors, I would say Christie came out on top. I would rate Cruz, Rubio and Christie as the winners of the debate, in no particular order. Bush and Kasich neither hurt nor harmed their respective causes, so they get a neutral grade. The same goes for Rand Paul, who simply holds appeal to the party’s libertarian wing. Ben Carson, I thought, was flat and seems to keep losing ground. He was probably the debate’s loser.

“Saying Goodbye” – Finally, this week I must say goodbye to my friend and colleague, Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, Jr., who died Thursday morning. Buddy served as Mayor of Providence in two stretches totaling 22 years. Yes, he was twice run from office, both times on felony convictions; but he was also the architect of that fine city’s renaissance. His was one of the most astute political minds I’ve encountered in covering nearly forty years of politics. He loved talking politics and invited me on his TV and radio shows many, many times - most recently to discuss this year’s Presidential election. Cheers, Buddy! I’ll miss you!

What are your thoughts on Thursday’s “Trumpless” debate? Just click the comment button at

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- January 24, 2016


(Charleston, West Virginia) – The Mid-Atlantic States and some others are getting hit with a severe winter storm this weekend – including over 18 inches on the ground where I live. In the meantime, the political campaign has gotten equally as frosty. It’s getting so nasty it makes me wonder whether both sides can “kiss and make up” with just over a week until the Iowa Caucuses. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Shifting Polls” – According to the Real Clear Politics Composite Poll, Donald Trump leads in Iowa, with 29 percent of the vote to 26 percent for Ted Cruz. No one else in the GOP is even close. On the Democratic side, it is much closer, with Hillary Clinton at 48 percent to 42 percent for Bernie Sanders. Can you become President without winning Iowa? Yes. Just ask Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. (The latter received only three percent of the vote in 1992.) But placing well in Iowa can bring “The 4 ‘M’s of Politics” - momentum, money, manpower and media buzz.

“Don’t Take Granite State for Granted” – Just eight days after the Iowa Caucuses comes the New Hampshire Primary. Right now on the GOP side, Donald Trump is at 32 percent, with Governor John Kasich (R-OH) suddenly sliding into the number-two position at 13 percent. Trump has held a steady lead, but the runner-up spot has changed often, from Bush, to Rubio, to Carson, to Cruz, and now, to Kasich. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has pulled out to a huge lead over Hillary Clinton, 52 to 40 percent. New Hampshire really revitalized Clinton’s campaign in 2008, so a loss there would be tough.

“Third State Is the Charm” – Both parties have debated recently in the third state to vote, South Carolina; but polling there has not changed much. Trump and Clinton hold substantial leads. If no one takes them out by the third contest, are their nominations inevitable? We’ll see.

“Nastiness Sets In” – When the vote gets close, the gloves come off. Former First Lady Barbara Bush appeared in her son Jeb’s latest TV ad, saying he “has real solutions" unlike those "talking about how popular they are or how great they are” - an obvious slap at Donald Trump. Trump fired back on Twitter, saying, “Just watched Jeb’s ad where he desperately needed mommy to help him. Jeb, Mom can’t help you with ISIS, the Chinese, or with Putin.” Ouch! How low will they go?

“Nastiness, Part II” – Hillary Clinton hit hard on Bernie Sanders and his socialist viewpoint saying, "Theory isn't enough. A President has to deliver in reality." Clinton went on to say, "I am not interested in ideas that sound good on paper but will never make it in the real world." Then there’s more. "He [Sanders] has suggested that we invite Iranian troops into Syria," Clinton said. "That is like asking the arsonist to be the firefighter.” Sanders, in turn, continues to attack Clinton’s ties to Wall Street, and the millions in campaign contributions she receives from there.

“Why All of This Matters” – One wonders if either party will survive these blistering attacks. It’s hard to imagine George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, George W. Bush, or even Jeb Bush endorsing Donald Trump after the nasty things he’s said about the Bush family. Yes, Bob Dole and Sarah Palin both endorsed Trump this week, but their voices are miniscule compared to the vast Bush political empire (and the money that comes with it). Hillary Clinton will need the far, far left of her party in November – many of whom now back Sanders. Will they warmly jump aboard the Clinton train?

“The Politics of Anger” – Well, now we are seeing nasty ads and even more angry rhetoric, but that’s nothing new to politics. Campaigns always get aggressive when a vote nears. What makes this year different is that the anger started at the very beginning of the campaign. Trump and Sanders built their campaigns on voter anger and frustration from the very start, and that has fueled their surging popularity. I’ve often said Trump and Sanders are two sides of the same coin. They are bookends of the political spectrum, appealing to the same sense of disenfranchisement (and disengagement) on each end of the political conversation. It’s very powerful.

“Back to the Polls” – Say what you want about Donald Trump, but he may be able to do something no one else can. A Florida Atlantic University poll now shows him beating Hillary Clinton in Florida by a close 47 to 44 percent margin. Republicans have their best shot at the White House if they can win back Florida. A candidate who can do that is very appealing. Yes, the same poll also shows Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio beating Mrs. Clinton in Florida, but it’s their home state. Neither man has the broad national appeal of Trump.

“Mending Fences” – In 1980, George H.W. Bush excoriated Ronald Reagan’s plan for job growth and taxes by calling it “voodoo economics.” Yet, even after that blistering attack, the two men joined forces and collectively held the White House for twelve years. If they can “kiss and make up,” all of the above-mentioned people can, too. The only question is whether they are willing.

Have you chosen your candidate yet? If so, tell us who and why by clicking the comment button at
© 2016, Mark Curtis media, LLC.
Photo courtesy: Associated Press

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