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The Race to the Primary Finish Line - Sunday Political Brunch April 8, 2018

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – I’ve had a fascinating week as a political reporter. I began in Broward County, Florida – sadly, home of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings. And. I ended the week covering President Trump on tax reform in West Virginia. The diversity of political thought in this nation is a strength – not a weakness – from my experience as a reporter. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Trump Tax Cuts” – The President’s roundtable meeting on tax reform on Thursday was odd, in that it has already passed into law, just before Christmas. Usually, you move on to the next topic after a political win, but this is an unconventional President. “Percentage wise, you’re among the greatest gainers in this country. I think it’s great,” Trump said. Several family members and business owners also talked about what they’ve done do with tax cut resources. "We were able to pass along a three-percent across the board pay increase and a two-percent cost of living. That means real positive, more money in their take home pay," said Hugh Hitchcock, of Davis Financial in Elkins.

“But Politics, is About Politics” – There were about 20 people on the panel with President Trump, but who sat right next to him? On the right Rep. Evan Jenkins, (R) West Virginia – District 3; and to the left, State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, (R) West Virginia, both of whom are trying to win the GOP Senate nomination May 8, to face Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia. It may be the biggest, most competitive Senate race in the nation this year. The President made no endorsement. "Good luck. I don't know. You two. You two, good luck. That's going to be a, should we do a little test?" said President Trump, asking the audience to cheer their favorite. This race is one to watch nationally.

“Manchin Weighs In” – Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia is a fighter and a tough retail politician. He’s one of those guys who somehow remembers everyone’s name and story. He’s a political legend in West Virginia, but the state has clearly turned from a tough, union Democratic state, to a solidly conservative state. Even popular Democrats are being voted out, so Manchin is on the bubble. Manchin who voted against repealing Obamacare said in a press release after the Trump event, “What will the 200,000 West Virginians do when they lose healthcare coverage?”

“The Other Ones to Watch” – Manchin is not the only vulnerable Democrat. Keep your eye on Senator Joe Donnelly (D) Indiana; Senator Heidi Heitkamp, (D) North Dakota, Senator Claire McCaskill, (D) Missouri, Senator Jon Tester, (D) Montana, and Senator Bill Nelson, (D) Florida. The most vulnerable in the GOP is Senator Dean Heller, (R) Nevada. As you can tell, the math in 2018 favors Republicans who are only defending eight seats, compared to 23 Democratic seats up for grabs.

“How Tides Can Quickly Turn” – Nowhere in the United States is President Trump more popular, than in West Virginia – a state he carried by over 40 percentage points. Despite his tough time nationally, the Mountain State just loves him. Because of that you’d think his town hall on tax reform would dominate the day’s headlines. Well it was short lived. Back on Air Force One on his way out of town, the President simply said, “No!” when he was asked by reporters if he knew about the $130,000 payment aimed at keeping stripper Stormy Daniels quiet about her claims of a ten-year-old affair with citizen Trump. Guess what dominated headlines the rest of the day?

“They Did What?” – Among the most jarring news articles I read this week was in The Miami Herald. Accused mass murderer Nikolas Cruz is getting hundreds of “love letters” from teen women, all around the country. “I’m 18-years-old. I’m a senior in high school. When I saw your picture on the television, something attracted me to you,” read one letter from Texas. “Your eyes are beautiful and the freckles on your face make you so handsome,” said one teen girl’s letter, obtained by the newspaper. As sick as it sounds, it’s not without precedent. Convicted serial killers Ted Bundy and Charles Mansion, (both of whom I covered), along with Jeffery Dahmer, all got lots of love letters, too. Why? I just don’t get it. My heart goes out to the victims’ families in a of these cases.

“The Political Winds Turn” – Senator Marco Rubio, (R) Florida has angered people on both sides of the gun debate. He drew praise for departing from the entire Republican Caucus in Congress, by suggesting a ban on certain weapons might be acceptable. Then he drew the ire of gun control advocates who said what Rubio support was not good enough. He’s in a tough spot, but does not face reelection until 2022, so things may subside by then.

“Change Takes Time” – I watched some of the high school classmates on South Florida TV this week and many are clearly frustrated at how slow they perceive the political process to be. But political change takes time. It took decades to get equal rights laws into place. It takes years, if not decades to amend the U.S. Constitution. Technically it’s only been done 17 times since the Constitution was ratified (with the original ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights). We’re talking about a span of almost 240 years. Again, change takes time. Many of these high school students will soon go off to college. Will their political activism grow, or wane? Stay tuned.

“King Remembered” – He was the greatest public speaker in my lifetime. No one else even comes close. I was spell-bound as an eight-year-old child watching the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In our house, we always had the TV news on during dinner in our kitchen. As we ate on April 4, 1968 came the bulletin of King’s assassination. I’ll always remember my mom telling us to get up from the table, and kneel to say a family prayer for King’s family. It seems like just yesterday. Where have 50 years gone?

What’s on your mind in the news? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Mark Curtis, Ed., D. is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia.

Time for a Political Smackdown Sunday Political Brunch April 1, 2018

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – We were on the road this week for the West Virginia Broadcasters Association annual meeting and awards dinner. I am proud to report our team came home with the award for Network Long-Form Newscast, for our Sunday public affairs program, “Inside West Virginia Politics.” It’s a network show in that it airs on Nexstar Media’s five TV stations serving West Virginia. Certainly, we have plenty of political news to “brunch” on, too!

“When the ‘Stormy’ Blows Over” – Pardon the pun, but as I have been hinting at over the last few weeks, I don’t think this story has “legs!” I watched Stormy Daniels on “60 Minutes” and have no reason to doubt her story. The networks were all doing follow-up stories this week, but working in a local and statewide news
operation, our focus was on the old adage, “All politics is local.” The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was 20 years ago, and I don’t see a national groundswell to go back down that road again. People I know on both sides of the aisle are just shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Who cares?”

“Time for a Political Smackdown” – Honestly, the best political story of the past week was the veiled threats between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump. At an appearance in Miami, Biden, age 75, told students he’d “beat the hell” out of Trump if the two men were back in high school. Trump tweeted Biden was "crazy" and "weak, both mentally and physically." The president said Biden would "go down fast and hard, crying all the way." Trump, age 71 - as you may recall - has professional wrestling experience though his friend Vince McMahon at the WWE, World Wresting Entertainment. McMahon’s wife, Linda, is Trump’s Director of the Small Business Administration. Seems like a Trump v. Biden pay-per-view fight is in the cards! I’d pay to see that!

“Primary Colors” – Many of us are focusing on the November 2018 elections to see who wins control of both houses of Congress, as well as many governors’ mansions across the nation. But a big precursor to all of that is the spring primary season. May 8th is a date to mark on your calendar, with primary races for U.S.
Senate seats in Ohio, West Virginia, and Indiana. All three Democratic incumbents are vulnerable, and despite President Trump’s national unpopularity, it’s possible Democrats could lose all three of these seats, with the GOP gaining overall strength in the Senate. Stay tuned!

“Let’s Roll the Eggs!” – The annual White House Easter Egg Hunt will be held on Monday, April 2nd, the day after Easter. The annual (chaotic) tradition became a permanent thing in 1872 under President Rutherford B. Hayes, but other occasional egg rolls were held dating back to First Lady Dolly Madison (I thought she was best known for inventing snack cakes – just joking folks).

“The Census ‘Counts’” – A big issue flying under the radar right now is the looming 2020 census count across the United States, which determines how many seats are appropriated in each state for the U.S. House of Representatives. President Trump, who is mad about lack of funding for his border wall and the continuation of sanctuary cities, is considering adding a question to the census form about whether respondents are U.S. citizens or not. Because of the prospect of legal action, there are concerns that California, Florida and other states with a high population of illegal immigrants will be undercounted in the census, and lose seats in Congress. The Trump Administration can write the 2020 census questionnaire even though he could also be voted out later that year.

“Go Celebrate!” – Hey, it’s Easter weekend, and it’s Passover, too. So, go eat, pray, and enjoy your families. We’ll get back to all the serious, heavy politics next Sunday!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is an award-winning political reporter and author. He is now based in Charleston, West Virginia, for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the Mountain State. He’s been a political contributor to Patch.com for ten years.

© 2018, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo courtesy: The Library of Congress

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