On the Road Again on the Political Trail - The Sunday Political Brunch, April 15, 2018


WASHINGTON, D.C - I'm on the road this week, including a trip on the nation's capitol. There were some fascinating political developments this week, including that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will not seek reelection after 20 years in Congress. Let's "brunch" on that this week:

"Fellow Cheeseheads" - I've met and interviewed Paul Ryan during his time in public service. (He even waited on my table years ago at Tortilla Coast, when he worked as a waiter in Washington, D.C.) We are both Wisconsin natives. Trust me when I tell you this was - as he stated - primarily a family decision, and not a political snub aimed at President Trump. When Ryan was a teenager, his dad, age 55, died suddenly in his sleep and it left a profound effect on Paul. He was very publicly reluctant to become Speaker in 2015 because of the potential impact on his children, who are now entering their teens. He wants to be there for them.

"Politics is Always Part of the Equation" - Having noted his family concerns, no decision is ever made in Washington, that doesn't have a political element to it. Forget about his battles with Trump for a moment, and look at what may lie ahead for Paul Ryan. He's been Speaker; he's been the Vice Presidential nominee of his party; he was Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee; and, he was Chairman of the House Budget Committee. That's an amazing résumé, and he's only 48 years old. I have believed for a long time, that Ryan will run for President. Maybe not in 2020, or even 2024, but I bet he runs!

"Do the Math; and Show Your Work!" - How many times did you hear that phrase growing up? The nuns drilled it into me. As I've pointed our often in this column, Democrats have a huge disadvantage in the U.S. Senate. They are defending 23 seats, while the Republicans are defending only eight. At least five Democrats are very vulnerable, so the GOP could make gains. But the House is just the opposite. With Paul Ryan not running, it brings the total number of Republican retirees in the House to 40. Right now the Republicans have a 44 seat majority. Remember that incumbents in both parties generally get reelected 96 percent of the time. But when there is no incumbent, many seats become toss-ups. Democrats could wrestle control of the House this year.

"David Versus Goliath Races" - We have a fascinating Senate race in West Virginia. Senator Joe Manchin (D) West Virginia is in the political fight of his life. Three heavyweights are battling for the GOP nomination: U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, (R) WV; State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, (R) WV; former coal executive Don Blankenship. The race also has three "dark" horse candidates, and one may be suddenly emerging from the back to upset the apple-cart. Business and military veteran Tom Willis describes himself to me in 17 seconds this week: "I come to the table with veterans experience. I have 18years in the West Virginia National Guard, serving as a Special Forces Green Beret. I am also the owner of this hotel, called the Glen Ferris Inn. It's a real jewel for West Virginia, 200 years of history. I'm a family man and a man of faith." He's running as an outsider and is suddenly generating lots of buzz. Keep an eye out!
"The Outsider's Advantage" -- The reason I cite Tom Willis, is that he represents a theme running through recent campaigns. Non-politicians, running against Washington, will be commonplace this year. That's how President Trump got there, and that's how others in both parties may get there as well. Even someone like Senator Bernie Sanders positioned himself as an "outsider" even though he's served in Congress for nearly three decades. The public is in a foul mood, and that could signal change.

"Sunshine Outsider" - Speaking of outsiders, Governor Rick Scott (R) Florida announced his run for U.S. Senate this week. Scott, who is term-limited, wants to take on Senator Bill Nelson, (D) Florida. Nelson has served in various political offices in the Sunshine State since 1972, including the last 18 on the U.S. Senate. While he was in the U.S. House, he flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia, one of only three sitting Members of Congress to take a space flight. By contrast, Scott was a wealthy businessman who'd never held political office until he became Governor - again, running as an outsider. What had been a safe Democratic seat, is now likely a toss-up.

"On the Rhode Again" - Part of my trip this week will take me to Rhode Island, where a huge political battle is brewing in the race for Governor. Incumbent Governor Gina Raimondo, (D) Rhode Island, will face a primary challenge. The Republicans are gearing up with a three-way primary now, but their field could grow. Then you mix in potential independent candidates and this could be a real mess. Raimondo won in 2014 with just 41 percent of the vote, to 36 percent for Republican Allen Fung, and Moderate Bob Healey, at 21 percent. This could be another Raimondo-Fung rematch, but the colorful Healey, passed away since the last election. As always, it's bare-knuckle politics in the nation's tiniest state.

What are your thoughts on these latest political developments? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

(c) 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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

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