Sunday Political Brunch - May 7, 2017: Sorting Out Winners and Losers


(Charleston, West Virginia) – Success in the political world often relies on momentum. In today’s techie parlance, the term often used is “trending.” It’s a good analogy; but sustaining momentum – like sustaining a trend – can sometimes give way to counter forces; and tidal waves can move in the opposite direction. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“When a Win Is a Win!” – The House vote to repeal and replace Obamacare was a significant victory for the Trump White House. I don’t say that from a policy advocacy standpoint; I say it from a political momentum standpoint. A picture is worth a thousand words - sometimes many more. The photo of President Trump standing with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other members of Congress in the White House Rose Garden (above) is a powerful "optic." Trump had needed to show that he can work with Congress and get things done. Not every Presidential objective can be accomplished by Executive Order.

“When a Win Is Not a Win” – If the Atlanta Falcons are leading the Super Bowl at halftime, they have momentum and the advantage, but they don’t have a victory. (Just ask the New England Patriots.) My point is that President Trump has an advantage, and he has momentum, but he doesn’t have victory. Getting the Obamacare repeal and replacement through the Senate will be a mighty task. And it may get amended in the upper chamber and sent back to the House. Given its razor-thin margin in the House last week, there’s no guarantee that Senate tinkering will get rubber stamped at the other end of the Capitol.

“Why Teamwork Matters” – On the playground at recess, it matters that the kids can get along. Politics is no different. As mentioned, the photo of Trump says, “I can work with Congress; the members are my equal partners.” For much too long in his first 100 days, the White House message was, “I’m going it alone.” That almost always fails.

“Why Teammates Cut and Run” – The strategy going forward gets tricky. All 435 members of the House of Representatives are up for reelection, as are 33 members of the Senate. One name not on the ballot is Trump's. Yet, the midterm election is a referendum on his first two years. Over the next year, you may see many of these Republicans widen the distance between themselves and the President. Call it the “Ten-Foot Pole” phenomenon. If the Obamacare fight drags on and bounces back and forth between the House and the Senate, it could see an erosion of votes; and it won’t take but a few departures to kill it. Congress must get it done by October 1, 2017, or it may get shelved. That would be a huge defeat and fuel many Democratic challengers.

“The Odds” – Oddly enough, the odds favor Republicans in 2018. Of the 33 Senate seats up, 21 are occupied by Democrats; and 10 of those are in states Trump carried in 2016. The irony is that the party in the White House usually loses seats in the midterm elections. Right now, Republicans have a 52-48 Senate advantage. I bet they pick up at least four seats. In the House, they could lose a dozen seats, but probably not lose their majority. However, if there is a major Trump agenda policy meltdown, then watch out. Few saw the Republican tidal wave coming in 1994. Republicans gained 54 House seats and 9 in the Senate to take the majority in both chambers.

“Where the Rubber Meets the Road” – Politics and policy intersect; you can’t avoid it. Here’s a real-world example. If coverage of pre-existing medical conditions is reduced, studies show the state that would be hardest hit is West Virginia. The Mountain State has the highest per capita rate of people with pre-existing condition. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, and aligns with Republicans on key issues. They may need his vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, but he’s also facing a tough reelection bid next year. So how does he vote? Stay tuned!

“An Immigration Olive Branch” – One strategy that might prove useful in the still-early days of this administration is to extend the proverbial "olive branch." President Trump wants to build a border wall and to defund sanctuary cities, but he has also talked about embracing some pro-immigration ideas, such as the “Dream Act.” It would protect and eventually give legal status to children who were brought here illegally by their parents or others. Many of those children are now educated, working adults. The Dream Act would grant them a path to citizenship and - at the same time - show Mr. Trump’s flexibility on immigration issues. The President would be wise to show he can work across the aisle at times.

What are your thoughts? Can the Republicans be a party of unity, or of division? Just click the comments button at

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, author, and analyst. He is currently Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations in West Virginia.

© 2017, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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Trump needs to handle the media better. The firing of the FBI director. He should have been told at least one day before he announced his firing.

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I wish we still had a free and unfettered press. But we don't!
Recently I emailed one of your fellow contributors, Mark Fecteau and asked him if it bothered him that George Soros financed the Mother's march. His reply was "No, not really"
At least your column appears to be unbiased

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