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The 2020 Primary Elections: One Year Out -- Sunday Political Brunch March 3, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I know the buzz of the week is about Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress. It was dramatic stuff – and I’ll talk a little bit about it this week – but I don’t want to miss the “big picture.” It’s March 2019, and the 2020 campaign begins in earnest, in just ten short months. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Cohen Comments” -- “He is a racist. He is a con man. And he is a cheat,” Michael Cohen said of President Trump. Cohen, who admitted he lied under oath to Congress to protect Trump, added, “I am not protecting Trump anymore.” Cohen laid out his case over hours of testimony, which was at sometimes combative. Cohen said that Trump lied to reporters about stolen Democratic emails, and instructed Cohen to lie about financial payments aimed at making sexual misconduct claims vanish. It was fascinating television, but will it lead anywhere? Stay tuned.

“I’m Prison Bound” – As powerful and dramatic and intriguing as Cohen’s testimony was before Congress, many view it through a skeptical lens. Cohen is a convicted felon, heading to federal prison for, among other things, lying to Congress. It’s the old, “If we couldn’t believe you then, why should we believe you now?” conundrum. Of course, in a former life the House was controlled by Republicans, and now Democrats are in charge. "Do you plan to pursue another book deal about your experiences?" asked Rep. Carol Miller (R) West Virginia. Cohen said, "Yes." Each party will try to leverage its perceived advantage.

“Watch the Economy” – Former Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist James Carville said it best when evaluating the most important issue in presidential politics. “It’s the economy, stupid!” Carville said as Clinton beat the recession that plagued President George H.W. Bush. This week the U.S. Commerce Department noted that economic growth had slowed to 2.6 percent in the final quarter of 2018. That compares to a second quarter report with growth above 4 percent. Folks, an economic slowdown one year before the primary season could be bad for President Trump, just as one doomed President Bush in 1992. Keep your eyes on this, more so than the investigations.

“Border Breakout” – Work continues on a border wall, or fence, or steel slats, or whatever it’s being called this week, but the important takeaway is that work continues. The House of Representatives has passed a resolution, attempting to rescind President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency at the border. Surprisingly, the Republican controlled Senate may have enough bipartisan votes to pass the resolution, too. President Trump promises a veto, which the House, but not the Senate, has the votes to override. The votes are largely symbolic, as Trump is certain to forge ahead.

“Kasich Competence” – No matter what happens to Trump, et. al., legally (which could take some time), the short-term focus is what happens to him politically. Former Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio remains out there as Trump’s most serious potential primary challenger. Kasich is staid, and boring. His most criminal offense for all his years in public office, is eating a pizza in New York City with a knife and fork, instead of folding it. Social faux pas yes, political suicide, no. Kasich has one strong asset – political competence. In 20 years in Congress, he balanced the budget with Democratic President Bill Clinton. He steered Ohio through rough waters. Flashy, no; competent, yes. He may give Trump a primary run for his money.

“DEM Clown Car vs. GOP Circus” – On the other hand, one of Trump’s best strategic assets is the sheer number of Democrats already in the field, or thinking of announcing. There are already ten Democrats who have formally declared, with at least 17 other current or past elected Democrats expressing interest. On the GOP side, Trump’s only declared challenger is former Gov. Bill Weld (R) Massachusetts, but at least four others, including Kasich, have expressed an interest. Trump is not invincible, and he could very well have several serious challengers from within his own fractured party. Like Democrats, Republicans may be fighting for the soul of their party.

“The Road Ahead” – The calendar is in flux. Right now, we are looking at a February 3, 2020 Iowa Caucus, with a potential New York primary the very next day. The New Hampshire Primary would be Tuesday, February 11. Nevada Caucuses would be February 22. The traditional first Southern swing is in South Carolina on February 29. These initial primaries and caucuses generally weed a lot of candidates out of the field.

Who is your favorite Democrat or Republican for the presidential nomination in 2020? Just click the comment button on this article, or on the comment button at www.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, including much of the Washington, D.C. media market.

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

More Candidates Jump into the Presidential Hot Tub – Sunday Political Brunch February 24, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – A few weeks back I wrote an article about all the Democrats who announced for president at that point. It was a lot then, but YIKES how the list has grown! More folks have jumped in the “hot tub!’ Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Feeling the Bern II” – Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is once again running for president as a Democrat. He just announced this week, and already his fundraising has gone through the roof. He nearly upset Hillary Clinton for the nomination in 2016. And in ultra-conservative states (with pockets of progressives) such as West Virginia, Sanders beat Clinton in every single county, even though she was backed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). Sanders is 77 but if he keeps his kinetic energy level up, no one will care. He almost immediately neutralizes other progressives in the race. He’s the person to beat!

“Biden his Time” – There are reports this week that former Vice President Joe Biden has 90 percent made his decision. That tells me he’s getting in. Biden is his party’s elder statesmen, and his resume is long. Biden is 76, and like Sanders, if he speaks sharp and is high energy, no one will care. Biden can be a pit bull in a debate, and that makes him maybe the best equipped to take on President Trump one-on-one. To this day, I believe Biden regrets not running in 2016, given how underperforming Clinton was as a candidate and nominee. Yes, she won the popular vote, but her campaign assumed she was a shoo-in and put forth weak efforts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all key states she should have won, but didn’t.

“The Klobuchar Star” – One of the least known candidates for the Democratic nomination, is one whom I feel has the one of the best shots. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is someone who may be more centrist or mainstream than coastal liberals such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts). Klobuchar was a corporate lawyer and then the Hennepin County Prosecutor for two terms, so she has expertise in business and law enforcement. Those kinds of chops help with more centrist voters, especially men. Some might view that as a sexist analysis but winning in politics is often about forging coalitions. Women voters alone won’t carry the day for any candidate. Klobuchar, 58, is in her third Senate term.

“The Female Factor” -- My advice to all is to keep a sharp eye on the female candidates for 2020, and there will be several. 2018 was clearly the “Year of the Women II” mimicking huge gains by women in both houses of Congress, as they did in 1992. Remember, there are more women in the population than men, and women also vote in greater numbers. Of course, women don’t all vote Democrat, and in fact the so-called gender gap is not as big as perceived. Women have made significant gains in both parties. But, there is a palpable hunger I see out there for the U.S. to elect its first woman president. That’s a huge wild card factor.

“Booker’s a Looker” – Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) is considered one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate. He’s been in office six years, after serving nearly eight years as the Mayor of Newark, New Jersey. If he wins, Booker would be the second African-American president. He’s a Rhodes Scholar, and at age 49, would be viable for several presidential election cycles to come. With ten Democrats already in the race, and more coming, anyone can win this nomination. We are 18 months from having a nominee and it’s wide open.

“All’s Well that Ends Weld” – It’s not just Democrats jumping in the presidential hot tub. The first official primary challenger to President Trump has announced. Former Governor William “Bill” Weld (R-Massachusetts) will run. In 2016, Weld was the Libertarian Party’s Vice-Presidential running mate to Presidential nominee, former Gov. Gary Johnson (R-New Mexico). Weld was a two-term governor, who left office after President Clinton nominated him to be Ambassador to Mexico. Weld was a liberal Republican, who shared many ideological positions with Democrats. Senator Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), was not a Weld fan and blocked him from ever being confirmed. Weld is 73 and could prove to be a real thorn in President Trump’s side during the 2020 primary. Expect other Republicans such as former Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio), to jump in, too.

“Don’t Thump Trump” – If you listen to the news any given day, there is this air of certainty that Donald Trump will be a one-term president. It’s as if it’s already a done deal. To my Democrat friends I say, don’t buy it. Overconfidence was the downfall of Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, and in 2008. You can’t run on the assumption you’re the inevitable winner. It’s not just overconfidence, it’s rank arrogance, and in both races it did her in. One of the smartest moves some of the lesser known Democrats might try, is to run as the underdog. I mean look what it did for Bernie Sanders in 2016. President Trump will be formidable in 2020 and has a strong core base of support. People who underestimate him (like most of his 2016 primary foes), often lose.

“The ‘X’ Factor?” – My gut tells me to watch the generational differences in the Democratic Party. The 2020 primary will be a litmus test of whether this is the party of the past (Biden, Sanders), or is it the party of the future (Harris, Gabbard, O’Rourke, Booker)?

Who are you backing in the 2020 presidential race? Just click the comment button on this Patch article or send comments to me at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 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, including much of the Washington, D.C. media market.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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