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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- December 4, 2016


(Charleston, West Virginia) – Okay, I know once I say this, most of my readers are going to want to club me, but here I go! It’s time to start handicapping Presidential candidates for 2020. We’ll start with Democrats this week, and follow jp with the Republicans next week. I know! I know! We just finished an election, but the race to New Hampshire is already on! Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Third Time the Charm?” – A lot about who steps up to challenge President Trump in four years will depend on how well his first term goes. If it has big problems, don’t count Hillary Clinton out for an “I told you so” rematch. If her health is good (and I know she’ll be 73 – but we’re all living longer), I firmly believe she’s viable for one more election cycle. But, if Trump does well, she may have to give her final shot a pass.

“Another Famous Name” – I think a lot of the competition will be between new faces and the party’s old guard. Having said that, I believe Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) kind of fits in both groups. Plenty of party old-timers will be sentimental for his dad; yet many of the party’s youngest voters will have no memory of Governor Mario Cuomo (D-NY). Andrew has an impressive resume, including a Presidential Cabinet slot and having been New York Attorney General, before getting the state’s top job. At age 58, he’s “young enough," yet “old enough" to be viable in four years and beyond.

“Gavin, Who?” – Back in 1999, when I first started working as a reporter in San Francisco, people were touting a young County Supervisor named Gavin Newsom as eventual Presidential fodder. I liked Gavin, but I scoffed. He was a baby-faced 31-year-old at that time – smart and sincere – but, I thought the idea was nuts. Fast forward. He is now Lt. Governor of California and could become Governor in 2018. The one-time most-eligible bachelor now has a beautiful wife and kids, and they look like they fell out of a Kennedy photo album. Images matter, folks! On the plus - and the minus side - he is the person most responsible for same-sex marriage becoming legal in the United States. As Mayor oF San Francisco, he made a bold - yet controversial - move in favor of same-sex marriage, and he won.

“The Warren Report” – Much of what happens to the Democratic Party depends on whether it veers far, liberal left, or tries to have a more centrist philosophy. The odd-year elections in New Jersey and Virginia could be a key, but the real test will be in the 2018 mid-term Congressional and state elections. Again, much of this hinges on Trump’s success or failure. But Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) remains very popular in her party’s liberal wing. She is the heir to the Bernie Sanders movement, the power of which should not be underestimated. She’s viable.

“Raising Kaine” – Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) is very viable. By his own admission, he’s boring and dull as dirt; but if you are looking for competency, he may be the man. Kaine has been a Mayor, a Governor, and a Senator – plus a Vice Presidential nominee. Not many people can say that. He was also chairman of the Democratic National Committee, so he has the potential to tap into the party’s deep purse. On the downside, he could be the bland, Walter Mondale-like nominee matched against a show-biz more Ronald Reagan-like charmer.
That Mondale lost in 1984. Trump – like Reagan – will be hard to beat if his first term goes as well as that of “The Gipper!”

“My, Oh My, O’Malley” – He did not catch fire in the Democratic primaries, but I think former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) still has a shot at the White House. In hindsight, he should have run for U.S. Senate in 2016, instead of his ill-fated Presidential campaign. He, too, has been a big-city Mayor and Governor, and the Senate would have rounded out his resume like Tim Kaine’s. In his early 50s, O’Malley has a few more election cycles to play with.

“Si, Senor!” – I predicted that the Hispanic vote would be a huge factor in the outcome of the 2016 election, just as it had been for the previous three Presidential elections, but I was wrong. Trump lost the Latin vote badly, yet still won the Electoral College. I think it’s an anomaly, unlikely to be repeated. That said, I believe the Castro brothers from Texas will emerge as viable candidates – if not in 2020, then beyond. Julian Castro is Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, after having served as Mayor of San Antonio. His 42-year-old twin brother, Joaquin, has been in Congress going on three terms. Yes, they’re young, but keep them on the radar screen.

“Rethinking the Map” – I have said many times that I hate the Red State v. Blue State mentality that dominates my journalistic profession. Let me be blunt: It’s junk-food for the politically simple-minded! In 2008, Barack Obama challenged conventional wisdom and said, “We can win in the red-states of North Carolina, Virginia, and Indiana,” and he did. In 2016, Donald Trump said, “We can win in the blue-states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin,” and he did. People thought both men were off their rockers, yet both won with those states. So when I mention the Castro twins above, the question is whether they can win Texas, Arizona, and Georgia – three traditional red-states with booming Hispanic populations? In reality, the Electoral College map is like a giant chess board!

Who do you support for President in 2020? Just click the comment button at

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 27, 2016


(Charleston, West Virginia) – It’s been a crazy, topsy-turvy political year, one which I don’t think anyone could have predicted. Something tells me the unsettled political business – for better, or for worse – is not over yet! Let’s brunch on that this week:

“Cuba” – At press time came word of the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. In my lifetime, there have 11 U.S. Presidents, from Eisenhower to Obama; yet Cuba has had only one, Fidel Castro (pictured above with former President Jimmy Carter in 2002). Yes, Fidel's brother Raul has been a figurehead the past few years, but everyone knew who ran the show.

The great singer Sam Cooke had a big hit song, “A Change is Gonna Come.” I can hear it playing now. It will be fascinating to watch Cuba emerge from the third-world, into a thriving, vibrant Western economy. I wonder whether the Trump Company will build a resort casino there? I’d bet on it!

“Hillary Clinton First” -- She lost the Electoral College, but she won the popular vote, and I think the significance of that should be noted. A majority of the U.S. population said, “We have no hesitation in electing a woman to be President.” It signaled that the public has relatively little political gender-bias left. She probably won’t be the first female President, but maybe Democrat Hillary Clinton just paved the way for a Republican President Nikki Haley, or for a Democratic President Maggie Hassan. Politics works in mysterious ways. Haley, the South Carolina Governor, was just nominated to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

“Speaking of Which” – An article trending in the days after the election was entitled “Never underestimate how much America hates women,” Really? Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by two million ballots. Nine new women were elected to the House of Representatives (six Democrats; three Republicans). For the first time ever, the U.S. Senate will have 21 women (16 Democrats and five Republicans). President-elect Trump has named three women to Cabinet or cabinet-level posts, with many more slots to be filled. Six U.S. Governors are women. Parity for women in government across the board? Certainly not yet, but their numbers keep increasing. The Supreme Court could have four female Justices by spring. To say that “America hates women” is just rhetorical nonsense.

“Do-Over 2020?” – It’s odd to speculate, but I do not think Hillary Clinton is done. Four years from now she’ll be 73, but if she is in good health, she could be a viable candidate again. First, a lot depends on Trump’s successes or failures. Second, the Clintons love a fight! Yes, she lost in 2008 and 2016, but would the Clintons dare all odds and try again in 2020? Health permitting, I say yes. These are not people who walk quietly into the night. Think of Ronald Reagan barely losing the GOP nomination in 1976, only to come roaring back in 1980, ousting President Carter, who had a very bad four-year tenure. The Clintons are that calculating.

“Thanksgiving Leftovers” – Green Party Candidate Jill Stein is trying to raise over seven-million dollars to conduct recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. She and others believe some voting machines may have been hacked, thus the inquiry. The money is being raised privately, as candidates - not taxpayers - must foot the bill. Why not? If it helps to clear the air and to remove any lingering doubts about the election, then so be it.

“A Familiar Name” – Last week I talked about a lot of fellow Wisconsinites who’ve risen to national political prominence, but I forgot one. Representative-Elect Liz Cheney (R-WY) is taking her dad’s old seat in the House. But former Vice President Cheney’s daughter was actually born in Madison, when her mom and dad were graduate students at the University of Wisconsin. Cheers to another “Cheesehead!”

“Be Careful What You Wish For” – A lot of Republicans are excited about the GOP holding the White House, the House, and the Senate - all at the same time. While that may sound like “Kumbaya,” just remember that in 1976 and 1992 Democrats won all three prizes and proceeded to have an intra-party war over things such as national health care. The last time the GOP held all three was from 2003 to 2005, but it was a highly unstable time politically, as control of both the House and Senate were shifting back and forth, and not a lot got done. Contrast that with 1996, when Democrats had the White House and Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress, but a lot got done. Divided government is often the better model to watch.

“Not the End of the World!” – There is certainly more anxiety after this election than any other in my lifetime (including 2000). But our country has never imploded, not even after the Civil War. Oddly enough, it was President Obama who advocated for change when the electorate did not like it. In 2013, after a government shutdown was resolved, he said to Republicans, “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it.” In 2014, the GOP did just that, taking back control of the Senate and - in 2016 - the White House. Change happens. That's the ebb and flow of democracy; so Democrats will have their day in the sun again, maybe in 2018, or 2020, or later.

“2017 Elections” – I always love the odd-year elections. New Jersey and Virginia are the only states that have statewide elections in the off years. Incumbents Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) are termed out. Both are likely to seek higher office. The races for their seats in their respective states should be very competitive and fun to watch! And it gives political junkies something to chatter about in an odd-numbered year!

Who do you see as an up-and-coming female candidate in either party? Just share your comments by clicking the comment button at

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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