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"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- March 8, 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) – Some big political events are set in Iowa and New Hampshire in the next two weeks. Everyone is gearing up for Campaign 2016. With that in mind here are some campaign thoughts I wrote in my column last July 20, 2014. Enjoy!

“Hillary Clinton” – Okay, people presume she has the nomination in the bag, which is a huge mistake. They said the same thing about her in 2008. So, for her, lesson one is to be humble and to make no assumptions. Two, don’t try to portray yourself as “ordinary people” with voters, a la the “We were practically broke when we left the White House” story line. Instead, sell your experience, for Heaven’s sake: First Lady eight years; U.S. Senator eight years; and, Secretary of State for four years. Experience and resumes impress lots of people. P.S. Neutralize you potential opponent and ask Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) Maryland to be your running mate early in the process. If not, he may run against you!

“Jeb Bush” – Yes, like Hillary Clinton, you have a big family name. Don’t try to oversell it though. “Bush fatigue” is as dangerous as “Clinton fatigue” in different parts of this country. Your Vice Presidential pick is crucial. Don’t be Mitt Romney and pick another white male who looks pretty much just like you. You have to pick a woman or a Hispanic, or – get this – how about both? Gov. Susana Martinez, (R)New Mexico, would be an excellent choice for Bush. She’s a woman (which helps neutralize some of the female vote for Hillary); she’s Latina and can help bring swing states such as New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado back into their old GOP home. P.S. Jeb is fluent in Spanish, has a Latina wife, and has multiracial children. Leverage that, Governor, and you could have the same job as your dad and brother.

“Marco Rubio” – Okay, you are Latino, and you can win Florida. That’s not enough. If the GOP had won New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida in 2012, Mitt Romney would have been President. Yes, it was only a four-state margin (see map above). So, Rubio needs to pick Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) to be his running mate. Rubio carries Florida; Kasich carries Ohio; together they carry Virginia; and the combo is probably enough to draw a winning Hispanic margin in New Mexico, Colorado, or Nevada - so New Hampshire is moot. Here’s another plus. Kasich – like Dick Cheney and Joe Biden – is an old Washington hand. He was in the House 20 years and chaired the Budget Committee. When you elect a young or “outsider” President - such as Carter, Reagan, Bush II, Clinton, or Obama - the “Washington Insider” VP is crucial.

“Chris Christie” – First, you must carry your home state of New Jersey. The first commandment of Presidential politics is, “Thou shalt carry thy own state!” So, Christie has won statewide twice, and he needs to do it again. New Jersey’s 14 Electoral votes become crucial if the GOP can’t capture the 18 in Ohio. Beyond that, Christie needs to neutralize the non-white and female vote that may gravitate to Hillary Clinton. So, like Jeb Bush, he needs to pick Gov. Susana Martinez (R) New Mexico as his running mate.

“Martin O’Malley” – Let’s just speculate that Hillary Clinton falters or chooses not to run. O’Malley is the go-to guy among a lot of Democrats. He’s not well known outside of the political chattering classes, but he’s considered the potential “next big thing,” a la Bill Clinton in 1988. If O'Malley is the nominee, there will be considerable disappointment among female voters who wanted Hillary. So he needs to pick a female Vice Presidential running mate. For geographic and gender balance he needs to pick Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, or Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) Michigan.

“Joe Biden” – I consider the Vice President a long shot, but again, we’ve seen front runners falter before. As with O’Malley, if Biden is at the top of the ticket, he has to pick a competent female running mate to mitigate the disaffected Hillary voters. In addition to Sens. Klobuchar and Stabenow mentioned above, look for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D) New York, to be on a Biden VP short list. Or, if Wendy Davis, (D) Texas, pulls an upset in this year’s race for Governor, she’ll rocket to the top of peoples’ lists, too.

“Mitt Romney” – The speculation this past week that Romney might take a third “bite at the apple” was a bit over the top, but he could (but ultimately did not!). Nothing against Rep. Paul Ryan, (R) Wisconsin, but he was simply the wrong pick in 2012. Had Romney picked Sen. Marco Rubio, (R) Florida, Romney might be living in the White House today. If Romney is the 2016 nominee, how about Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, (R) Washington, the number-four-ranking Republican in the House leadership? She’s much more conservative than Romney and could deliver the party’s right wing, which was always suspicious of the moderate Romney.

“Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, et. al.” – If you are the nominee, then many of the above caveats for the Republican Party apply to you, too. Remember Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” philosophy? The GOP needs to get back to that. Some of the nation’s most pioneering females and Hispanics who have held high office were Republicans. You have prominent conservatives and African Americans, too, in Dr. Ben Carson, Herman Cain and Thomas Sowell. The party needs to foster that kind of diversity without sacrificing its conservative ideals. Broaden and diversify your base under the “Big Tent,” and you might just win back the White House.

Whom did I miss? Whom would you like to see on the Presidential tickets in both parties? Let me know by clicking the comment button at

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

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“The Sunday Political Brunch – March 1, 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) – Here we go again! Another partial government shutdown looms – this time the Department of Homeland Security. We’ve dissected shutdowns before - since I have been through a few - so as President Reagan might say, “There you go again!” Some of my commentary is adapted from previous shutdowns in 1995 and 2013. Let’s brunch on that this week:

“The History” – The U.S. government closed from November 14 to November 19, 1995. When it reopened, the truce did not last long. The government shut down again from December 16, 1995, through January 6, 1996. As a reporter in Washington, DC, at the time, I found it surreal. You could have fired a cannonball through the capital city and not hit a soul. It was a ghost town. The Metro rail system was largely empty. I remember interviewing a little boy outside the Smithsonian museums which suddenly closed, and his birthday visit was cancelled. It was weird seeing such a bustling city at a standstill.

“Political Fallout?” – The government shutdowns of 1995-96 did little to help Republican Presidential nominee Bob Dole. Dole was a deal-maker and power-broker in Washington, DC, not a confrontational type like then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Yet, Dole was dragged into the shutdowns as an unwitting participant. He lost the election to Bill Clinton in November by a decisive margin. Republicans also lost eight seats in the U.S. House, but maintained a solid majority. The GOP actually gained two seats in the U.S. Senate. A shutdown can have political risks – and potential benefits - for both parties.

“What’s Different Now?” – The difference is ISIS. If Homeland Security is dialed back and there is a terrorist attack, Republicans are in big trouble. As I have said before, the public has been very unforgiving over the past generation (which is 25 years). The swings in power in both the White House and Congress tell you that the public is not interested in political BS as usual. The GOP is taking the biggest risk in this standoff; and if it gambles and fails, 2016 could be a crushing backlash – not only in the race for the White House, but the race for Congress, too!

“It’s Not Just the GOP’s Fault” – In politics – as in dance – “It Takes Two, to Tango!” Republicans are blocking the Homeland Security funding because many in the party object to President Obama’s Executive Order on not deporting certain illegal immigrants. Democrats don’t think Republican objections belong in the current budget battle. But the fact that the Department of Homeland Security now oversees the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), means the GOP concerns are relevant. It’s up to the third branch of government – the Judiciary – to determine to what extent. Bottom line: It’s not just the GOP’s fault.

“The Dynamics of Washington” – There are 535 Members of Congress. There is only one President. While much of the press coverage (and public opinion) blamed Republicans in 1995-96, in truth the Democratic White House was an equal partner in the shutdown. So why did Congress get blamed? Well, it’s the dynamic of the two institutions. Congress always looks like chaos and appears unruly. A President – sitting in the Oval Office all alone – appears under siege, but also looks more sympathetic and dignified compared the chaos down the street. Ronald Reagan knew this better than anyone else in my lifetime, and he was a master at leveraging it to shape public opinion for his own advantage.

“It’s All Relative” – Politics and public service is a “What have you done for me lately?” business. People - whether Democrats or Republicans - want whatever services are being promised. It’s called “constituent service,” and it’s one of the main advantages of incumbency. More than anything after 9-11, people want to feel that their government is protecting them. They didn’t that day, and have been jittery ever since. Anything that either party does to shake public confidence is done at its own peril. Elections are often about perceived results and public approval. Election 2016 could be a real roll of the dice!

“Boehner Banished?” – The most immediate question in all of this concerns the future of House Speaker John Boehner (photo above). At this point, there is rebellion in the party, as he is unable to reign in his own troops for a long term Department of Homeland Security budget. How long will he be Speaker? Stay tuned!

What are your thoughts? Just click the comment button at

© 2015 Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ABC News

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