Mark Curtis's blog

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 2, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – The day of reckoning is near. Tuesday is Election Day, and the midterm election could offer some big changes and big surprises. Let’s brunch on that this week.

“Senate Control” – Republicans need a net gain of 6 seats to take control, and they may get there, but in a roundabout way. Right now, I predict Republicans will take five seats currently held by Democrats in Colorado, Iowa, Alaska, Louisiana and Arkansas, which will put them right at 50. The key state is Kansas, where Republican Pat Roberts is in the fight of his life. There is no Democrat in the race, only independent Greg Orman (photo above). In his lifetime, Orman has been both a registered Democrat and Republican. If he gets to Washington, with which party will he caucus? Whatever party he chooses will control the Senate. This guy is a spoiler and a kingmaker at the same time. He can ask for every pork barrel project on the planet to be moved to Kansas. Wow!

“House GOP Gains” – The Republicans will hold the House of Representatives and, I believe, will gain seven more seats. Why? Just a hunch, and because historically the party in the White House loses seats in the midterms.

“Of ISIS and Ebola” – Three months ago, I would have argued that the economy would have been the main issue in the national election. Not any more. Fears of ISIS terrorism and the threat of Ebola coming to the U.S. have the public worried. At the same time, President Obama’s approval rating now stands at a low of 41 percent. People know any President does not control the economy, but people do feel any President has far more control over national defense. Oddly, the economy has gotten markedly better, but President Obama gets no bounce from that. People want to feel safe, and many don’t. While the President is not on the ballot, many of his fellow Democrats may pay the price, especially in the Senate.

“Kansas is King!” – As mentioned, the Senate race to watch is now Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) versus Independent Greg Orman. Kansas is home to such Republican legends as President Dwight Eisenhower, Senator Bob Dole, Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum, and her dad, Governor Alf Landon. It is among the “reddest” of red states, and Roberts should be a shoo-in. What happened? Well, he’s been in Congress since 1981; and, like many colleagues, he has made the nation’s capital his home. In fact, some of Roberts' political contributors actually live in his Kansas home. Many feel he’s lost touch with his constituents, unlike Bob Dole, who went home all the time. Roberts may blow a safe seat.

“It Cuts Both Ways” – If a famous name such as Pat Roberts loses in Kansas for the Republicans, well he’s got good company on the Democratic side of the aisle. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the sister and daughter of two popular New Orleans mayors, is likely to lose in Louisiana; Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), son of a former senator and governor, is likely to lose his seat in Arkansas; and Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), son of a former Congressman, is likely to lose his seat in Alaska. Plus, Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), looks as if her upset bid for one of Georgia's Senate seats is fading. Has the public grown tired of legacy candidates?

“The One to Watch – Chapter One” – A couple of politicians who fell from grace and went to prison are on the comeback trail. At the age of 87, former Governor Edwin Edwards (D-LA) is running for a Congressional seat from Louisiana. The flamboyant Governor once famously said the only way to get him out of office was to “find him in bed with a live boy, or a dead woman.” Well, a bribery scandal sent him to prison instead, and my readers on the West Coast will remember that it was that same “business-political” deal that also ended Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.'s ownership of the San Francisco 49ers.

“The One to Watch – Chapter Two” – Right here in Rhode Island, former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci will try to win the Mayor’s office for a third time. He served six terms before being sent to prison in a corruption scandal, too! It is the most-watched race for Mayor in the nation this year, and he has a real shot at winning. Stay tuned!

“Here Comes the Gov!” – Right now, Republicans have 29 Governorships to 21 for Democrats. My prediction is a net gain of one seat for the Republicans. Democrats had a strong shot in Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia and Wisconsin; but the GOP may win all four. Rhode Island (currently with a Democratic governor) and Florida (presently with a Republican governor) are both toss-ups.

“Whoops!” – It’s bizarre to see candidates blow their races at the last minute, but they do. In Texas, Democrat Wendy Davis showed a wheelchair in an ad, criticizing her Republican opponent, who actually uses a wheelchair. Lesson: Don’t pick on the handicapped! In Massachusetts, Republican Charlie Baker has been building his lead on Democrat Martha Coakley; but one week before the vote, Baker tells the tearful tale of a fisherman in New Bedford and his two high-school-athlete sons who had to pass on college to work on the fishing docks. Problem is that no one can find said family. Did Baker make it up? Sometimes politicians are their own worst enemies!

“Why All This Matters!” – Will President Obama become a lame-duck President, or will he become Compromiser-in-Chief and help pass an immigration reform bill and other bipartisan legislation before he retires? Just remember: President Bill Clinton got more done when Republicans, instead of Democrats, held both houses of Congress.

What are your predictions? Click the comment button at

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- October 26, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) -- With roughly ten days to go before Election Day, campaign 2014 is in the final stretch. Many races are close, and I thought I’d publish a little list of “Do’s” and “Don’ts” for the final days of the campaign. Candidates and volunteers are tired and beat up at this point, which often makes them vulnerable to crucial last-minute mistakes. Here are some timely tips:

“Don’t Be Camera Shy” – Former U.S. Rep. Bill Baker (R-CA) is an old political interviewee and friend, so I can tell this story. In 1996, the Congressman got mad at my former employer, KTVU-TV2, because of the way he was interviewed by one of my colleagues. So, he refused to do any more interviews on the #1 TV station in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite my persistence, Congressman Baker said, “Mark, you’ve always been fair to me. This is not about you - but I have to boycott your station on principle. I’m sorry!” In short, he removed his name and face from the most-watched news venue in his district. He gave up all that free TV time. He was the only Republican in Congress defeated that year in the entire country! If you don’t like a media outlet, go on there anyway and be combative – if you have to – but go on and get your name out!

“No Such Thing as Bad Publicity” – There’s an old saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity. It’s mostly true, but not always. The most powerful tools in politics, though, are name recognition and incumbency, which go hand-in-hand. Not everyone is a political junkie like me and many of my readers. Most people are consumed with their own lives and watch politics from afar. So, building name recognition is gold. If undecided or uninformed voters go into the polling place and see the name “Bill Baker” on the ballot, they might just say: “Well, I see him on the TV news all the time or his name in the papers, so he must be doing a good job if he’s still there!” Name recognition is king, so don’t pass up free press – unless, of course, you’re accused of a crime!

“Location; Location; Location!” – Speaking of name recognition, all candidates should be maximizing their yard signs and bumper stickers by now; they should be everywhere. Look, they won’t win you an election, but they do build and reinforce name recognition, and those reps pay off. By the way, I always advise candidates I’ve trained (outside this market) to speak as if they already have the job. For example, “Bob Smith – U.S. Senate” makes it sound like you already have the gig even if you are the challenger. Certainly you can’t say “Vote Senator Bob Smith” if you aren’t the officeholder, but my first example holds! Also, “location” means being all over social media, in every venue!

“Run Like You're Six Points Behind” – Candidates need to be aggressive in the final days, not complacent. That’s easy for me to say; but a campaign is a marathon, not a sprint. I realize people are tired as they near the finish line, but they have to press on. As late as October 24, 1980, many polls were showing President Jimmy Carter would be reelected. But Ronald Reagan – at age 69 – pressed on. He was tough and aggressive, especially in the final debate; and he won in a last-minute landslide so big that his coattails carried GOP control of the U.S. Senate for the first time in decades. Be a pit bull! Act like an underdog!

“Don’t Fall in Love with Your Pollster” – If I hear one more politician say, “Well our internal polls shows us with a five-point lead,” I think I will scream. The problem with many internal polls is that you are paying a pollster to deliver good news. So, there is pressure to pick a sample and to skew the results to put a smile on the candidate’s face (and to keep the paychecks coming to the pollster). Polls independent of the campaigns are more trustworthy (for the most part), simply because they don’t have the vested interest of trying to please the candidates. Media and academic polls can be conducted in an objective manner, unless the poll developers and sample selectors make the conscious choice to introduce their own biases in an effort to affect the results. Buyer beware!

“Gas Up the Campaign Vans!” – Any person can answer the phone and tell a pollster whom he or she will vote for, but unless they actually cast their ballots, their opinions mean nothing. Campaigns need to have “get out the vote” troops and vehicles lined up to drive people – especially seniors – to the polls. I’ve seen candidates up by over 10 percentage points in pre-election polls, only to lose by 10 points. How does that happen? It’s the lack of “boots on the ground” to get voters into the booth to cast their ballots. Campaigns also need monitors at the polls to see who has yet to vote, and send someone to find that missing voter. This is tedious and labor intensive, but that’s how you win!

“Meet and Greet” – Be highly visible in the public. Shake hands outside of a shopping mall, at a parade, baseball game, or factory gate. Be direct and say, “I would be honored to have your vote on Election Day!” The downside of personal campaigning is that it is very inefficient. You can shake only so many hands in one hour, versus the number of people who see you in a 30-second TV ad. But, the upside of personal campaigning is that it is very powerful. Looking a voter straight in the eye and shaking his or her hand can be incredibly persuasive. If people feel like they “know” you, they are more likely to feel a personal kinship and to vote for you. Let them take photos with you to post on their own social media. Viral campaigning is hot!

Are you an undecided voter this year? If so, what are the things that sway you at the eleventh hour of a campaign? Post your comments by clicking the comment button at

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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