"The Sunday Political Brunch" -- July 8, 2012

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(Providence, Rhode Island) – For many people this is the slow season of politics. With the Fourth of July landing on a Wednesday, it was an entire vacation week, with not much attention to the headlines. But, as always, we have some nuggets to discuss:

“How Close Is It?” – CNN has a fun interactive map where you can play with potential Electoral College results. Right now CNN projects 247 Electoral votes for President Obama, with 206 for Governor Romney; and 85 are toss-ups. Seven states are listed as undecided. Given that scenario, if Obama wins Florida, for example, he wins a second term. But there are lots of other possible scenarios! Have fun with it! http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/ecalculator#?battleground

“Tax, or Not a Tax” – Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the penalty for Americans not buying insurance under the Affordable Care Act is, in fact, a tax. But, last Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew appeared on TV saying it is not a tax. Even stranger, a top aide to Mitt Romney also said the penalty is not a tax. Candidate Romney later contradicted his own staffer. This kind of double-speak by both sides of the aisle is why many people find politicians so contemptible. Like it or not, the U.S. Supreme Court is the final word on the Constitutionality of any issue. If the high court calls it a tax, it’s a tax! Republicans can still repeal Obamacare (and the tax); but, again, it’s still a tax!

“What Would Ms. Manners Say?” – There is a lot to like about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. His candor and non-scripted stump speeches offer a rare breath of fresh air in the stale world of politics. Too many politicians just rehearse canned answers and sound bites, and that’s all the public and press get. So, Christie gets points for sincerity and spontaneity. On the other hand, he has recently berated reporters and even a constituent, calling them “idiots” and “stupid.” That’s out of bounds, even if he’s getting heckled (which comes with the job). Name calling by a Governor just demeans the office. Good manners ought to prevail, especially with cameras rolling everywhere. Governor Christie can disagree without being disagreeable.

“The Rules of Engagement” – One of the things that set Governor Christie off was that his staff had told reporters they could ask questions about only one topic. That is taboo in the world of press-politico relations. The only rule is: There are no rules. If Governor Christie calls a news conference on education and wants to talk only about that, reporters are still free to ask about other topics, even at the risk of being called "idiots.” President Clinton used to bristle at questions about Monica Lewinsky when he was holding press avails with foreign leaders, but often that was the only time we could ask him. If you don’t want the scrutiny, don’t run for the office! By the way, it’s a two-way street. Reporters who express hurt feelings for being barked at need to develop thicker skins, too. Sorry folks, politics is a full contact sport!

“Flatline!” – It was hard to view Friday’s jobs report showing 8.2 percent unemployment as a victory for anyone. For President Obama, the anemic economy is hardly a ringing endorsement for reelection. On the other hand, unemployment has stayed at 8.2 percent for three months now, suggesting to some that the economy – though still bad – may be stabilizing. That’s not good for Mitt Romney’s hopes of capturing those undecided independent voters, especially in key swing states. There will be only four more jobs reports between now and the November election, including one on Friday, November 2, just four days before we cast our ballots. The direction unemployment is “trending” by that time could very well determine the outcome in the seven swing states – and ultimately the election!

As always, we welcome your questions, comments and disagreements (as long as they are polite!). Just click the comments button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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