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The First Big Turning Point in Campaign 2020 – “Sunday Political Brunch” - November 24, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – After months of Democratic Presidential debates, and some sharp swings in the polls, we are at a major turning point. There are still too many candidates, and some probably need to go. I’ve spoken with a lot of my friends in the Democratic Party about who they like and don’t like, and why. Without naming names, let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Biden’s Boo-Boos” – On the positive side, he has the experience. And he’s the party’s elder statesman. There is a clear consensus among Democrats that Biden has the best resume and the most experience in this field. But Biden’s debate performances – including this week in Atlanta - have been meandering and lackluster and unfocused. One Biden fan told me, “It’s like he’s in a fog.” There is a feeling that Biden’s best days are behind him, and there are concerns whether he has the energy and stamina for the primary and general election campaigns, not to mention the job if he wins.

“Warren Warnings” – She gets an A+ for being the best debater. She knows her message and agenda, and she delivers it unwavering without apology, whether you agree with her or not. She’s confident and comfortable in her own skin, offering everything from free health care to free college tuition. Republicans attack by saying, “It sounds great, but how are you going to pay for this?” Well many Democrats who talk to me have the very same concern. What’s the price tag, and who pays? This may eventually erode some of her support.

“Burning Bernie” – Senator Sander’s biggest assets are his passion and his anger. He can really stir a crowd! But he gets so emotional at times that some Democrats worry the tag line offered by President Trump and Rush Limbaugh, who call him “Crazy Bernie!” is right on the money. Like his soulmate Elizabeth Warren, many Democrats know Sanders can win the nomination, but they privately worry he can’t win in November.

“Mayor Pete and Repeat” – He’s a close second to Elisabeth Warren in his debate prowess, with a grade of A. He knows his message and how to deliver it clearly. He has a genuine respect from a lot of different quarters for being openly gay, and is a solid guy, too, as a military veteran who’s fought for his country. A lot of folks from all political stripes say, “I may not agree with his private life, but I can stand with a guy who wears the uniform and defends his country.” The begrudging respect he has built is huge. On the other hand, he’s 37 years old, and many fellow Democrats think he’s too young and too lean on political and life experience for this job, just yet.

“The Harris v. Gabbard Feud” – Certainly the most combative element of this past week’s debate was the explosive feud between Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D) Hawaii. It was intense, so look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GVY5XnSqds.
A lot of the national press has portrayed this as a “cat fight” between these two women (and office holders), who clearly don’t like or agree with each other. Gosh, if it were John McCain and Barack Obama in 2008, people would say, “These are two combative, principled, passionate politicians who are standing their ground.” Yet, when it’s two women with the same political divisions it’s a “catfight,” or they are “bitches.” It’s a sexist, and unfair double-standard.

“The Harris Harangue” -- A lot of Democrats believe Harris may drop out well before Iowa and New Hampshire. She threw a knockout punch in the first debate against Joe Biden, and then got timid when attacked in ensuing contests. The consensus is her real intent was to build capital for 2024, to perhaps succeed Trump’s second term. But her exit (and that of her nemesis Gabbard) are probably coming soon. Gabbard needs to declare for her House seat if she wants to remain on the national political stage. Harris will be just four years into her Senate term in 2020, so she’s not on the ballot again until 2024.

“The Democrats' Turtle” – Everyone on the political scene refers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as, “The Turtle!” Yes, he looks like one of the Ninja turtles, but he also gets the chops for being a slow and steady legislator. So, who is the Democrats' “turtle?” I maintain it is Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota. She had another solid, credible debate this week. And while she’s not glamorous or flashy, she exudes competence and the ability to be in charge. Those are qualities voters want if something bad happens to the boss. She’s the vice-presidential pick that would pair well with virtually every other Democrat on the presidential stage.

“Exit Stage Left” – This is a race between Warren, Sanders, Biden and Buttigieg. Everyone else has faded or is back in the weeds. Late upstarts like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Gov. Deval Patrick, are showing up an hour after the starter’s pistol fired. Others, such as wealthy, self-funded candidates Andrew Yang and Tom Steyer are fascinating with out of the box ideas, but they’ve not caught fire. And, we’ve never nominated anyone in either party below age 40, so Gabbard and Buttigieg are probably done soon, just as Eric Swalwell and the other under 40-types faded.

Who is your choice for president in 2020, and why? And have you switched? Just click the comment button to let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five surrounding states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

An Impeachment Flashback That May Haunt 2020 – "Sunday Political Brunch" November 17, 2019

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The public impeachment inquiry of President Trump began this week, and it will be fascinating to see how it proceeds. In the past several weeks I have written a lot about comparisons to the impeachment processes involving Presidents Nixon and Clinton, both of which were prominent in my lifetime and career. But that made me curious about comparisons to the first presidential impeachment, that of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. Some of the similarities to today are stunning. Let’s “Brunch” on that this week:

“A Political Shotgun Marriage” – Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President of the United States. Elected in 1860 and having presided over the Civil War and the end of slavery, he faced a daunting reelection bid in 1864 to try to unify a fractured nation. So, Lincoln dumped his GOP Vice President Hannibal Hamlin, and picked a Southern Democratic Senator Andrew Johnson, of Tennessee, to join his National Union ticket. Despite being from the South, Johnson opposed secession and the Civil War. But he did not support allowing freed slaves to become citizens. So, he had some baggage. He was billed as a War Democrat, who supported the Union. It made him few friends.

“On the Fast Track” – Just six weeks after taking the oath as vice president, Lincoln was assassinated, and Johnson was elevated to President. Still, he was a Democrat, and many of Lincoln’s fellow Republicans in Congress had difficulty embracing the new boss. Plus, Johnson was at odds with several Lincoln policies, including opposition to the 14th Amendment. Many Republicans treated him with contempt and suspicion.

“Midterm Troubles” – Tell me if this sounds familiar? You have a controversial (and in some quarters a very untrusted president), whose first big political test was the midterm election in 1866. Johnson’s Democrat Party suffered huge losses in Congress in 1866. Republicans won many more seats, exceeding a better than two-thirds majority in the House and Senate – enough to override presidential vetoes. Many Democrats worried that such midterm losses could spread like cancer to the next election in which the president would be on the ballot. Sound familiar?

“Citizenship Versus Immigration” – Slavery, and the end of it, was the big issue in the mid-1860s. While President Lincoln supported allowing former slaves to immediately become U.S. citizens, his vice president didn’t like that plan. Fast forward to 2019, and you have a president strongly at odds with plans to allow immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally, to be put on a path to citizenship. In no way am I equating slavery with illegal immigration, except to say they were very divisive and controversial issues in their day. Both Trump and Johnson were cheered and vilified for their hard-liner stances.

“Election Year Impeachment” – As I have reported several times, Presidents Nixon and Clinton had already been elected to their second terms when impeachment proceedings began. But Andrew Johnson and Donald Trump have something very much in common. Their impeachment events occurred in, or on, the eve of their reelection year. That’s an insightful and fascinating difference. Johnson was brought up on 11 articles of impeachment and had his Senate trial in May of 1868, just three months before his party’s nominating convention. Johnson defeated attempts to remove him from office, and on several counts, it was by one single vote. Yet, he was so politically wounded he was defeated by his own party for renomination in July 1868.

“A Political Versus Legal Strategy” – There are those on the Democratic side who have already concluded President Trump violated the law with his actions concerning Ukraine. To them it’s clearly an impeachable offense. Then, there are other Democrats who are very concerned that their party cannot beat Trump in November 2020. So, one option is to impeach Trump – regardless of whether the Senate will remove him from office – and offer the voters a very politically damaged candidate, much like Andrew Johnson. And you have to wonder if some other Republican, i.e. John Kasich, will offer himself as a potential alternative nominee at the national convention next year. Yes, history might repeat itself.

“Cabinet Disunity” – Another thing to look at in comparing the Trump and Johnson impeachments, is the issue of cabinet dissention and disloyalty. Both administrations had a lot of it. Johnson quarreled with, and eventually fired, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, who was ultimately reinstated by the Senate. Johnson tried to install General Ulysses Grant to Stanton’s post. Grant ultimately was elected president in 1868, beating the candidate who torpedoed Johnson’s renomination. Watch to see if some other Republican candidates step forward in 2020.

“The First ‘Comeback Kid’” – Some politicians – and I think Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton exemplified this – are alike a “cat with nine lives.” So, whatever happened to Andrew Johnson after he was voted out of the White House? Well he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee in 1874, and to this day is one of only two former presidents elected to Congress after a White House defeat, (John Quincy Adams was the other). Johnson had served only five months in his new Senate term, when he died in July 1875.

Do you think President Trump should be impeached, or not? Click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five surrounding states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2019 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Library of Congress

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