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Why Trump Won the White House - Sunday Political Brunch May 26, 2019


MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin – This past week I visited my birthplace and the city where I grew up. It will be hosting the 2020 Democratic National Convention. It was a good choice since Democrats must win back this blue-collar state if the party hopes to defeat President Trump’s reelection bid. A lot of my Democrat friends believe it’s already a done deal, but I say over confidence sunk the arty in 2016 and could again in 2020. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Why Trump Won: The Disenfranchised Factor” – 2020 marks the 16th presidential campaign in my lifetime and the 11th I will cover as a reporter. I can think of only four elections where the winning candidate successfully appealed to a large block of voters who felt disenfranchised by the system. Those victors were Richard Nixon in 1968, Bill Clinton in 1992, Barrack Obama in 2008, and Donald Trump in 2016. The fact that we’ve had two back-to-back presidential nominees do this - albeit from both ends of the political spectrum - is fascinating. Both Obama and Trump were able to reach and inspire large numbers of people who felt left out of the political process.

“Why Trump Won: The Immigration Factor” – Exit polls show one of the strongest issues for Trump voters was the problem of illegal immigration. Various studies put the estimated number of people in the country without legal permission to be about 12 million and growing. The two parties offered very different priorities. Democrats sought a path to legal citizenship for millions of children brought here illegally by their parents, while Republicans offered to build a wall. The GOP plan was embraced as tough (and by critics extreme), while the Democratic plan was looked at as fair and practical for the co-called “dreamers” (but weak on all other immigration policies). Trump won this issue going away on tough talk, whether a wall is plausible or not.

“Why Trump Won: Democrats Overconfidence” – It seemed to so many people to be a slam dunk. Donald Trump was fading in the polls, but he was out campaigning hard. Hillary Clinton took on an air of inevitability and campaigned less in person. Clinton had won the Wisconsin Primary in the spring, and never set foot in the state for the remainder of the campaign. It was a strategic blunder. Wisconsin is one of those states where retain politics still matters. As I passed factories and bowling allies on my trip this week, I thought of all the candidates who visited those spots at midnight, noon or in between, shaking hands and asking for votes in sub-zero temperatures. Hillary Clinton declined to do that, and it cost her Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania (the three states that put Trump in the White House.

“Why Trump Won: The Strategy” – About six weeks before the election, a high-level Trump campaign operative laid out the battle plan for me. With about three weeks left on the campaign, the Trump team would pull major assets out of Florida, North Carolina and Ohio. Internal polling showed them winning all three. Those resources (and money) would be re-deployed in the toss up states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The Clinton campaign largely believed only Pennsylvania was vulnerable, so it did not take seriously the Trump threat on Michigan and Wisconsin. Having grown up in Wisconsin, but with a close eye on Michigan politics, I thought Clinton was safe in those two, but felt strongly that Trump would carry the largest prize of Pennsylvania. Still, by my math, that would fall short of the White House keys. Boy was I wrong, as he won all three states.

“Why All of this Matters” – It matters because I watch a Democratic Party that may be about to repeat every mistake I laid out here from 2016. Party faithful I speak with assume it’s over for Trump whether the nominee is former Vice President Joe Biden or a far lesser-known candidate such as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii. The Democrats need to find an appeal to people who feel cut out of the system, who usually don’t vote, and motivate them to get to the polls. Democrats must put forth a tough plan on illegal immigration, even if there is no wall funding. They can’t look passive on this issue, while Trump talks tough (even if he can’t do what he promises). They also need to have a coherent strategy to win back other potential swing states such as Ohio and Iowa, both of which Trump won in 2016. You just can’t assume you’ll win states where the party has performed well before. You must fight for every inch of ground.

Have you made up your mind on a Democrat candidate for 2020? You have at east two dozen from whom to choose. Tell us your pick, by clicking the comment button.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political writer and author. These days he’s the Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the State of West Virginia the five surrounding states, including most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He’s a National Contributing Writer for the White House Patch on

© 2019, Mark Curtis Medi, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Tracy Curtis/Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Thinning the 2020 Political Herd, the Final Frontier - Sunday Political Brunch May 19, 2019


PROVIDENCE, RI – We’re on the road again this week in my old New England stomping grounds! As promised we are providing our third straight week of “thumbnail” sketches of the 24 Democratic presidential candidates. Let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“Steve Bullock” – Gov. Steve Bullock (D) Montana, is in his second term, having previously served as state Attorney General for one term. He’s 53 and is a Columbia University Law School graduate. He is rated as the most popular Democratic Governor in the nation, and the fourth overall following three Republicans who have higher approval ratings.

“Jay Inslee” – Gov. Jay Inslee (D) Washington, is also in his second term after previously serving 15 years in Congress. Inslee is 68, and is a lawyer by trade, including years as a criminal prosecutor. Inslee made national headlines when he sued the Trump administration after it issued a 90-day travel ban from several majority Muslim countries. Inslee’s side prevailed in court.

“Amy Klobuchar” – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota is now in her third term. Before going to Washington, D.C. she served as Hennepin County Prosecutor for eight years and was also a corporate lawyer. A Yale graduate, she wrote her senior thesis on the politics behind construction of the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis. The wheeling and dealing to build a sports stadium includes a lot of tension, intrigue and high political drama. It’s a pretty “outside the box” topic for a Yale student, and I’m tempted to take a peek!

“Wayne Messam” – Mayor Wayne Messam, (D) Miramar, Florida, is former star football player at Florida State University who played one season with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals. Messam is 44 and African American. He is a general contractor by trade and was elected mayor of this city west of Miami in 2015. Before that he served on the Miramar City Council.

“Seth Moulton” – Rep. Seth Moulton is a three-term Congressman from Massachusetts. He has multiple degrees from Harvard and was also an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, with four tours of duty in Iraq spanning five years. He’s 40 and has worked a lot in TV and radio, so he has good communication skills which is a big asset in politics.

“Beto O’Rourke – Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) Texas, served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1918 he gave up a safe seat and nearly toppled Sen. Ted Cruz (R) Texas. At 46 he probably has a long political career ahead of him. Here’s a bit of trivia: can a House member run for the Senate in a nationally-watched race and lose, only to be elected president down the road? It’s been done before, just ask Abraham Lincoln.

“Tim Ryan” -- Rep. Tim Ryan (D) Ohio, may only be 45 years old, but he has already served 16 years in Congress. He even challenged Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D) California, in the race for Speaker of the House. He also served in the Ohio State Senate and was an aide to colorful former Rep. James Traficant (D) Ohio, and succeeded him in Congress. Ryan is a real up-and-comer, from a state Democrats must win to take back the White House. Keep an eye on him for several election cycles to come.

“Eric Swalwell” – Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) California, is currently serving his third term in Congress. At 38, he is one of the youngest candidates in a race where he may simply be building national name recognition for a more serious challenge down the road. While he’s viewed as a long-shot, he did take out a 40+ year incumbent in former Rep. Pete Stark (D) California, so Swalwell should not be underestimated by any means.

“Marianne Williamson” – A best selling author, Marianne Williamson has never held public office. She did run for Congress in 2014 but was defeated. She is a nationally-known advocate for AIDS patients and runs a non-profit food delivery service for those in need. She may be one of the least known candidates, but in a crowded field of 24 candidates now, it’s theoretically possible in a tight race, a person could win with just 4.2 percent of the vote. That makes lower-tier candidates more viable if their issues catch on.

“Bill de Blasio” – Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) New York City, has served in that capacity since 2014. Prior to that he was the NYC Public Advocate. He also served on the City Council for seven years. At 58, he has national name recognition as mayor of the nation’s largest city. He’s an old political hand who once served as Hilary Clinton’s campaign manager.

“Why All of This Matters” – As mentioned a packed field means anyone can win in a tight race. And for those who say the field is too crowded for the party to win in November, you need look no further than Republicans in 2016.There were 17 Republicans candidates in 2016, and only six Democrats. A packed field did not doom the GOP.
Are you already backing a candidate for president in 2020? If so, who and why? Just click the comment button to weigh in.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and the five surrounding states, plus a large portion of the Washington, D.C. media market. He’s a national contributing writer at with a weekly column in The White House Patch.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images.

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