Mark Curtis's blog

"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- February 1, 2015

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – Ever year on Super Bowl Sunday, I write about the intersection of politics and sports, which happens more often than we know. Sometimes it’s about former athletes running for office, or politicians thinking they are top notch athletes. This year we’ll look at the nine Presidents in office during 49 years of Super Bowls - plus one hopeful - with an eye on what they did on the playing field:

“That’s Quite a Class” – New England Patriot’s head coach Bill Belichick will be coaching his sixth Super Bowl team this year. Belichick is a 1971 graduate of the prestigious Phillips Academy Andover. His classmates included former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) – a potential candidate for President in 2016 - and former Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D-RI). Patriot’s executive Ernie Adams was also in that class. At one of his White House Super Bowl receptions, Belichick posed with President George W. Bush, who graduated from the same prep school in 1964 (photo above).

“Basketball Barry” – President Obama is well-known as a big basketball fan, and every year a big splash is made about his picks in the NCAA March Madness brackets. But in his day, he was a pretty good high school basketball player. My friend Candace Andersen - who is a County Supervisor in Contra Costa, California – was a high school classmate of Obama’s in Hawaii. She tells me that back then Barack was known, simply, as Barry!

“Of Bushes and Baseball” – President George W. Bush played baseball in high school, and later went on to be the co-owner of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team. Bush also played rugby at Yale. His dad, former President George H.W. Bush played college baseball at Yale. Somehow the baseball bug did not bite Jeb Bush, although at 6 foot 4 inches, he was a stand-out tennis player at Phillips Academy.

“The Clinton Clique” – Bill Clinton was more of a musician and less an athlete in high school and college. He did, though, have a passion for jogging. When he was elected President, he liked to take daily runs through Washington, DC. Soon, it became the “in-thing” to join the group running with the President, but then traffic gridlock ensued. The daily jog also had the odd stop at McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin. Eventually, the President kept his jogging to the fenced-in White House lawn.

“The Gipper” – By all accounts, Ronald Reagan was always in great physical shape. He played football and was on the swim team at Eureka College in Illinois. Yes, he played the movie role of football coach George Gipp, earning him the lifelong moniker of “The Gipper!” But Reagan probably owes the sports world a great big thank you for his political success. After college, Reagan worked as a Chicago Cubs baseball radio announcer. On a trip to the West Coast with the ballclub, he did a screen test in Hollywood, and the rest is history. His acting career and political activism led him to the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento, then on to the White House.

“It’s Not Just Peanuts!” – Jimmy Carter played basketball in high school; loved fly-fishing; and, was an avid jogger. Beyond that, he was never really known for his athletic prowess. But he must be doing something right, as he is 90, and is still going strong!

“Ford Motors” – Certainly the most athletic of our Presidents was Gerald Ford. He was an All-American in football at the University of Michigan, and was drafted to play in the NFL by the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers. But Ford chose to go to Yale Law School instead, and helped coach the Ivy League football team. He also was an assistant football coach at my alma mater, St. Mary’s College of California, which was a national football powerhouse back in the 1940s and 50s. Like most modern Presidents, Ford was an avid golfer.

“Nixon’s the One!” – Richard Nixon had a childhood scare with tuberculosis and was discouraged from athletic activity. But he would eventually play basketball and football at Whittier College. Nixon loved football, and in fact while he was President he would call Washington Redskins head coach George Allen, to suggest football plays. The political and sports relationship with Allen, eventually paid dividends as Allen’s son George, became a Republican Governor of Virginia, and later, a U.S. Senator.

“Johnson Scores” – When the first Super Bowl was held in 1967, Lyndon Johnson was President. He was also in office for Super Bowls in 1968 and 69. Johnson played baseball in high school, but was never really known for his athletic ability.

Do you have any good stories about politicians and athletics? Leave your comments at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: NFL.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- January 25, 2015

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(Corning, New York) – We are on the road this week in the Empire State. New York always plays a large role in any Presidential campaign, simply by the sheer number of Electoral College votes it holds. But in 2016 New York may have an even bigger voice. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“By the Numbers” -- Right now New York has 29 Electoral College votes, tied with Florida for the third largest take. New York lost two Congressional seats in the 2010 census, while Florida gained two seats, again, leaving them tied at 29. New York almost always votes for the Democratic nominee, but that’s not guaranteed in 2016.

“Primary Colors” – Here’s an interesting twist. The tentative date for the New York Primary is now February 2, 2016. That would make New Yorkers the third batch to vote after the traditional Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary. (Right now Colorado, Minnesota and Utah, are planning votes the same day as New York, but that could change). My point is, New York is very high up in the pecking order, more so than ever before. Why? Is it to give Hillary Clinton a strategic advantage, or is it to give another New Yorker like Gov. Andrew Cuomo an inside edge, should Secretary Clinton falter?
If the date and position hold, New York could be huge for both parties.

“The Favorite Son (I Mean Daughter)” – Right out of the box, Hillary Clinton has the home state advantage. Yes, I know she grew up in Illinois, and spent her significant adult years in Arkansas, before moving to DC as First Lady. But running for U.S. Senate from New York in 2000, firmly put her in the Empire State. Unless she has a health issue, or makes a huge political gaffe, she is the frontrunner for the 2016 Democratic nomination, and all the karma in her “new” home state aligns, or does it?

“Chris Christie’s Neighborhood” – He may be unpopular at home these days for backing the Dallas Cowboys over hometown teams such as the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, but Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) still remains a threat in his neighboring state. Again, keep in mind that while New York is generally a “blue” state, a populist, moderate Republicans can win here. It’s not always easy, but there is a lot of precedent for it from Teddy Roosevelt, to Nelson Rockefeller, and George H.W. Bush (nationally), to Rudy Giuliani (locally) and George Pataki (statewide).

“The Other Cuomo” – Hillary Clinton is not the only one with a famous name in the hunt here. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) is waiting in the wings, should she stumble. Make no mistake, the Cuomos and Clintons have been allies over the years, for the most part. But remember, Clinton was the clear frontrunner when 2008 began, and lost a titan primary battle to then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). If Clinton should fade, Cuomo could quickly jump in as a New York “favorite son” candidate. Early in the process, that could give him momentum.

“The Pataki Factor” – Some may consider him a “dark horse” candidate, but I think that would be a mistake. Former Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), has said he is exploring a run for the White House. Pataki served 25 years in public office, from Mayor Peekskill, to the New York House and Senate, and then Governor for 12 years. That’s a remarkable GOP resume in a solidly “blue” state. The biggest factor is that he can carry New York statewide, as he did in three bids for Governor. He helped the nation through 9-11, and people don’t forget that. He could be a huge spoiler, to both parties. (Photo of Govs. Pataki and Cuomo above).

“Kristen, Who?” – Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) is a long-shot at this point, but worth keeping on your “watch list!” The state’s junior Senator has been greatly overshadowed by former Senator Clinton, Gov. Cuomo, and the state’s senior Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). But there is huge pressure inside the Democratic Party to nominate a woman. Again, if Hillary Clinton runs into trouble, Gillibrand and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are people being looked at as female alternatives. Gillibrand also becomes a viable Vice Presidential competitor if the Presidential nomination goes to former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD). Bottom line, being a New Yorker ups her political capital.

“All Bets are Off!” – The day after I complied most of the information for this column, Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-NY) of the state Assembly, was arrested and charged in a four-million dollar federal bribery and corruption scandal. How does that affect anyone from New York, I’ve listed here? None of them may have anything to do with this particular scandal, but the whole mess is another reason why the public at-large finds politics so distasteful. Silver, for example, is close to Gov. Cuomo and that could shake some people’s opinion of their Governor as a Presidential candidate, again, even if he had nothing to do with it. If nothing else, it’s a big black eye for New York politics.

“Why All of the Matters” – Look, a lot of political analysts are already saying the 2016 Presidential election is a done deal. It’s Hillary Clinton with a lock on the Democratic nomination, and then on to the White House. I don’t think it’s that easy or simple. A lot of other viable people want that job, and there are a lot of potholes to drive through on the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Suddenly – and strategically – New York is an early hurdle that all candidates must cross. This could get very interesting!

What are your thoughts? Is the country in a “New York State of Mind?” Click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com and let me know your opinions!

© 2015, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo Courtesy: Office of the Governor, State of New York

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