Of Political Odds and Ends -- The Sunday Political Brunch October 14, 2018


CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- It's that time of year. We are just over three weeks until Election Day and all kinds of stuff is going on, including a lot of interesting speculation. It's a fascinating time! Let's "brunch" on that this week:

"Haley's Comet!" - Many people in the political world were surprised to hear that U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is resigning at year's end. Some are suggesting she will challenge President Trump in 2020, which she promptly denied in his presence. Honestly, if Haley and Trump had a major falling out, they wouldn't be doing a joint appearance in the Oval Office to announce her departure; nor would she be staying on through December.

"The Senate Scramble?" - I found another intriguing theory, more plausible. After the election, Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) is nominated to be Attorney General. Assuming Republicans still control the Senate and he is confirmed, Haley would be a likely replacement in the Senate. The former Governor would also be building a bigger resume for a possible presidential sun in 2024 or 2028. I'm putting money on my theory! At age 46, she has a lot of presidential cycles ahead of her.

"My Predictions Three Weeks Out" - As I always preface when I make predictions, these results are what I "believe" will happen, not a reflection of what I "want" to happen. It's important to make that distinction, because I crunch a lot of polling data and talk to a lot of voters to gauge public opinion. I am making an educated guess; not a mindless, wild prediction.

"U.S. Senate" - Right now Republicans have a 51-49 margin of control. I predict the GOP will have a net gain of three seats, making the margin 54-46. My main issue here is that Democrats are at a huge mathematical disadvantage. They are defending 23 incumbent seats this year, while Republicans are defending only eight seats. Democrats face an uphill fight and have vulnerable incumbents in states Trump won by huge margins in 2016.

“Who’s on the Bubble?” – One of the Senate seats in play is that of Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). As progressives protested outside his campaign headquarters last Friday- some of them sex abuse victims - Manchin was the only Democrat in the U.S. Senate to vote for confirming Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Will it hurt his re-election bid? "I think there are definitely people here who will not vote for him. But I do not think we can say there's a cohesive opinion on that,” said Karan Ireland, a protester and a Charleston, WV City Councilor, who now opposes Manchin. Manchin won his primary against little-known and under-funded Paula Jean Swearengin, a progressive. Still, she garnered 30 percent of the vote. Few of these liberals will vote for Republican nominee Patrick Morrisey, but many may simply stay home.

"U.S. House" - Right now Republicans have a 235 to 193 margin, with seven seats vacant. House Republicans face a similar dilemma as Democrats in the Senate - tough math! Over forty House Republicans resigned, retired, or sought other offices this year. If Republicans simply lose half of those races, they will lose control in the House. Right now, I'm predicting that will happen - barely - with Democrats winning at 221 to 214 House majority. Here’s how bad it looks for the GOP. Of 32 races declared as toss-ups by Real Clear Politics, 30 are Republican seats, and just two are held by Democrats. Even if the Republicans win half these races, it’s still not enough.

“Divided Government in 2019: What That Looks Like?” – For people that think divided government means gridlock, well that’s not necessarily the case. After the 1980 Ronald Reagan landside, Republicans held the White House and U.S. Senate. Even though Democrats still controlled the House, when you added in conservative Southern Democrats, plus Republicans – then you had an ad-hoc conservative majority. That enabled the Reagan tax cuts and the military expansion to get done. Could Trump build that coalition in the House again? Maybe, but the Democratic Caucus may have far more liberal-progressives in 2019, than in 1981.

“What Does Senate Control Mean?” – This remains huge for the Republicans, especially if they gain seats as I predict they will. Remember, only the Senate gets to approve cabinet appointees, federal court nominees, and foreign treaties. Yes, Democrats may hold the House but if there is another U.S. Supreme Court vacancy, then Trump appointees may have a clear path in the Senate.

“What Does House Control Mean?” – Well, the House has its own unique powers, too. All revenue bills must originate in the House, and if Democrats control, that could wreak havoc with further tax cuts and other GOP spending priorities. And, yes, the House has the sole power to commence impeachment proceedings, so if we go down that road it has the potential to freeze the White House agenda in place. Mind you, a GOP Senate is highly unlikely to remove the president from office, but a Democratic House gumming up the gears could gridlock Trump’s agenda. Remember, Bill Clinton was impeached in his second term; but Trump will still be in his first if Democrats seize the House. It’s a very important difference in the comparison.

With just over three weeks to go, which way are you leaning? Democrat or Republican? Please send your comments!

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political writer, analyst and author. He is now Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations service West Virginia and surrounding states.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media, LLC

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