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What Do Voters Want in 2020? -- Sunday Political Brunch April 14, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I think it’s early in the 2020 political season, yet it really is not. We’re nine months from the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Already, 18 Democrats have declared for the White House, including another young face this week. It made me wonder, “What are voters looking for? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“It’s a Small World, Swalwell” – I used to live in the Congressional District that Rep. Eric Swalwell, (D) California, now represents. This week he announced his run for President of the United States. I’ve met him, but don’t know him well, as he was entering local office just as I was departing California. He’s 38 and is in his fourth term in Congress. He’s something of a maverick and legend for defeating 40-year Congressman Pete Stark (D) California. Stark and I had a bond as two former Milwaukee kids who wound up in the Bay Area. His defeat by Swalwell was a shock, and maybe this young upstart has some buzz. We’ll see!

“The Generational Divide” – As mentioned there are 18 candidates declared on the Democratic side. Nine of them are under age 50, while the other nine are over 50. At the extremes, three of them are in their 30s; six of them are 66 years or older. And we aren’t including Joe Biden, age 76, since he has yet to declare for the nomination. Wow! What does this say about not only the candidates, but the potentially divided voter pool? Again, wow!

“Why Don’t Young People Vote?” – I grew up during the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Young people, who could not vote until age 21, were so outraged that a Constitutional Amendment was approved lowering the voting age to 18. The irony was that in ensuing years, young people didn’t show up to vote in numbers that were near parity to the rest of the population. In 1976, only 44 percent of youthful voters (ages 18 to 24), cast ballots. Remember this was the first election since Watergate and the Vietnam War ended. The low turnout was a head-scratcher and continues to be, with few exceptions.

“The Outliers” – Youth voting further declined and dropped to its lowest points in 1996 and 2000, with just 36 and 35 percent of young voters turning out in those elections, respectively. 2008 was a big exception, and potentially offers a model for 2020. Youth voters were truly inspired by Barack Obama and came out in droves to support him. A full 49-percent of voters age 18 to 24 turned out according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, known as CIRCLE. Young voters were engaged by the young, enthusiastic, and inspiring candidate in Barack Obama. By the way, the second highest youth voter turnout (at 48.6 percent), was in 1992 when Bill Clinton was first elected.

“Do You See a Pattern Here?” – The two times where youth voters were most engaged were in 1992 and 2008. Bill Clinton was 46 when elected; Barack Obama was 47. By comparison their opponents, George H.W. Bush was 68 and John McCain was 72. Young voters like young candidates. What we may see in 2020, is another surge in young voters, and they may gravitate towards one of the newer, younger faces in their party. There could well be a generational split in how people vote next year, given the age range of the 18 candidates in so far.

“The Tactics” – If you’re going to leverage youth voters, you must get in the game early. And Joe Biden may be making a mistake by taking so long to make a final decision on entering the race. Declared candidates are already building staff and raising money. Yes, Biden has a big lead in the polls and will have some well-oiled, heavy-hitters as backers, but in politics you never assume the frontrunner spot is safe and secured. Hillary Clinton made that fatal mistake in both 2008 and 2016.

Who are you backing in 2020? Or are you taking a wait-and-see attitude? Click the comment button or email me at Mark@MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five surrounding states, as well as most of the Washington, DC media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC
Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Long Knives for Biden Mostly DEM Not GOP – Sunday Political Brunch April 7, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va.— He’s the Democratic frontrunner for president, but he finds himself in perilous trouble at the starting gate (and he hasn’t even announced his candidacy yet). Former Vice President and long-time Senator Joe Biden is beating back accusations that he acted inappropriately with women. Many wonder: Will he still run? Who is his base? And, can he still win? Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Friendly Old Joe” – Joe Biden has always been a very good retail politician. He’s a back-slapper, a handshaker and a hugger. When you come from a small state like Delaware, you must be a “boots on the ground” politician greeting folks at factory gates and grocery stores alike. He always has a big smile and a gregarious nature. People called him “Uncle Joe” or “Old Joe” and he had the charm to fill the bill. So, a lot of people will look at the videos and pictures and say, “Aw, that’s just Joe being Joe!”

“A Different Generation” – The problem for Biden, is that he’s an old-school politician from a different era gone by. What worked for him in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, may not be in the political playbook today. The politics that Biden grew up in was a nearly all male, “boy’s club.” There was a pecking order. Most of elected officials were men, but many of the subordinate staffers and volunteers were women. There was a power structure and some men took advantage. But after the most recent election, Congress is basically 25-percent women, and the trend is growing. The margins are even closer in legislatures and city councils. In many of these places, women get equal pay, and share power. The behavior of the “good old boy network” had to change to reflect the shifting power dynamic.

“In Plain Sight” – There is a big difference between complaints about Joe Biden and accusations against others like Brett Kavanaugh. A lot of photos and videos of Biden’s behavior are surfacing. Some are cringeworthy, while other are innocuous (even though they make some uncomfortable). My point is the images really don’t appear overtly sexually, nor do they contain the kind of old-school quid pro quo of Washington or Hollywood, where the male attitude was often, “I’ll give you a job, but you have to sleep with me first.” So much of Biden’s behavior is in plain sight, not in a closed-door room on a casting couch. My guess is that even people who find his behavior inappropriate, may also find it forgivable.

“Trump: Pot, Kettle?” – One of the most surreal moments this week was President Trump making fun of Joe Biden for his dilemma. While Trump didn’t speak directly of Biden’s behavior, he tweeted a doctored video showing a second Joe Biden sneaking up on Joe Biden who was speaking, then massaging his shoulders and kissing the back of his head. All that President Trump said was, “Welcome back Joe!” Yes, it’s a parody, but it also reminds the public about Trump’s own misbehavior with women. As Trump famously bragged on the Access Hollywood tapes, “I just start kissing them,” adding, “I don’t even wait.” He even claimed he would, “Grab ’em by the pussy.” Trump hardly has the moral high-ground here.

"Susan Collins Weighs In” – Oddly, the defense from Republicans may be a big asset to Biden at this hour. Sen. Susan Collins, (R) Maine said, “I’ve known Joe Biden for so many years, and he is a very friendly, affectionate individual who is a natural toucher — never found him to be inappropriate,” she told reporters Tuesday.

“Lindsay Graham Weighs In” – Among the Republicans defending Biden was Sen. Lindsay Graham, (R) South Carolina, who said, “Maybe at times he’s done some things that make people feel uncomfortable, but it matters to me that what his intent is,” he said. “I just think he’s a good guy. I think he means nothing bad by this.” Graham said Biden was just a “Glad-handing politician.”

“Democrats Disqualifier” – The accusation against then Vice President came from Rep. Lucy Flores, (D) Nevada. Biden was at a campaign rally for her as she was running for lieutenant governor in 2014. Last week Flores told NPR that Biden should not run for president because of her encounter. But she said if Biden was the nominee against Trump, "That's not even a question. Of course, I would support Biden,” Flores said on CBS News. Other prominent leaders including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D) California, says Biden should not be disqualified from a presidential run. But, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D) Massachusetts said, "I believe Lucy Flores. And Joe Biden needs to give an answer."

“Biden: In His Own Words” – Following the allegations from former Rep. Lucy Flores, (D) Nevada, Joe Biden issued a statement that reads, in part, “In my many years on the campaign trail and in public life, I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once -- never -- did I believe I acted inappropriately," he said in the statement. "If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention." He said he did not recall his public interaction with Flores, but said "we have arrived at an important time when women feel they can and should relate their experiences… "And men should pay attention," he said. "And I will."

“The Democrats Dilemma” – Democrats know they have a challenging fight to win back the White House in 2020. Trump, like him or not, is formidable after carrying the key states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin into the White House. Even if Democrats win two of those states, and all else stays the same, Trump wins a second term. Right now, the latest Real Clear Politics composite poll has the Democratic race with former VP Joe Biden 29 percent; Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I) Vermont, 22 percent; Sen. Kamala Harris, (D) California, 10 percent; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, (D) Texas, 9 percent; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, (D) Massachusetts, 6 percent. The other eight contenders are all polling at less than four percent each.

“The Strategy?” – I’ve said many times this is a race for the heart, soul and future of the Democratic Party. Biden and Sanders are white males in their 70s, party elders whom many on the younger generation wish would proudly walk off into the sunset. There’s a real push to put a young, progressive (read very liberal) Democrat, perhaps a female or person of color, at the top of the ticket. That may be the wish of young party insiders, but the poll hardly suggests broad public support with Biden and Sanders winning a collective 51 percent of votes. But it's very early and I suspect the numbers may change drastically, and often. Stay tuned.

Which Democrat do you feel has the best chance at winning the nomination and the White House in 2020? Just click the comment button!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chef Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, the five surrounding states, and much of the Washington, DC media market.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

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