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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 20, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – I was chatting on Facebook Saturday with my old Washington, DC news colleague, Bob Franken of CNN fame – I was at Cox DC back then. I mentioned that as of January 2015, I would start spending a fair amount of time in New Hampshire, getting ready for the 2016 Presidential election. Yes, that’s right, the campaign there will begin in earnest right after this November’s election. It got me to thinking, “What’s the strategy to victory for all of the big name candidates?” Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Hillary Clinton” – Okay, people presume she has the nomination in the bag, which is a huge mistake. They said the same thing about her in 2008. So, lesson one is be humble and make no assumptions. Two, don’t try to portray yourself as “ordinary people” with voters, ala the “we were practically broke when we left the White House” story line. Instead, sell your experience for Heaven’s sake: First Lady eight years; U.S. Senator eight years; and, Secretary of State for four years. Experience and resumes impress lots of people. P.S. Neutralize you potential opponent and ask Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) Maryland to be your running mate early in the process. If not, he may run against you!

“Jeb Bush” – Yes, like Hillary Clinton, you have a big family name. Don’t try to oversell it though. “Bush fatigue” is as dangerous as “Clinton fatigue” in different parts of this country. Your Vice Presidential pick is crucial. Don’t be Mitt Romney and pick another white male who looks pretty much just like you. You have to pick a woman, or a Hispanic, or – get this – how about both? Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM) would be an excellent choice for Bush. She’s a woman (which helps neutralize some of the female vote for Hillary); she’s Latina, and can help bring swing states such as New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado back into their old GOP home. P.S. Jeb is fluent in Spanish; has a Latina wife; and, has multiracial children. Leverage that, Governor, and you could have the same job as your dad and brother.

“Marco Rubio” – Okay, you are Latino and you can win Florida. That’s not enough. If the GOP had won New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, and Florida in 2012, Mitt Romney would have been President. Yes, it was only a four state margin (see map above). So, Rubio needs to pick Gov. John Kasich (R) Ohio to be his running mate. Rubio carries Florida; Kasich carries Ohio; together they carry Virginia; and, the combo is probably enough to draw a winning Hispanic margin in New Mexico, Colorado, or Nevada - so New Hampshire is moot. Here’s another plus. Kasich – like Dick Cheney and Joe Biden – is an old Washington hand. He was in the House 20 years and chaired the Budget Committee. When you elect a young, or “outsider” President such as Carter, Reagan, Bush II, Clinton, or Obama, the “Washington Insider” VP is crucial.

“Chris Christie” – First, you must carry your home state of New Jersey. The first rule of Presidential politics is, “Thou shalt carry thy own state!” So, he’s won statewide twice, and, he needs to do it again. New Jersey’s 14 Electoral votes become crucial if the GOP can’t capture the 18 in Ohio. Beyond that, Christie needs to neutralize the non-white and female vote that may gravitate to Hillary Clinton. So, like Jeb Bush, he needs to pick Gov. Susana Martinez (R) New Mexico as his running mate.

“Martin O’Malley” – Let’s just speculate that Hillary Clinton falters or chooses not to run. O’Malley is the go-to-guy among a lot of Democrats. He’s not well known outside of the political chattering classes, but he’s considered the potential “next big thing” ala Bill Clinton in 1988. If he’s the nominee, there will be considerable disappointment among female voters who wanted Hillary. So, he needs to pick a female Vice Presidential running mate. For geographic and gender balance he needs to pick Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, or Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) Michigan.

“Joe Biden” – I consider the Vice President a long shot, but again, we’ve seen front runners falter before. As with O’Malley, if Biden is at the top of the ticket, he has to pick a competent female running mate to mitigate the disaffected Hillary voters. In addition to Sens. Klobuchar and Stabenow mentioned above, look for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, (D) New York, to be on a Biden VP short list. Or, if Wendy Davis, (D) Texas, pulls an upset in this year’s race for Governor, she’ll rocket to the top of peoples’ lists, too.

“Mitt Romney” – The speculation this past week that Romney might take a third “bite at the apple” was a bit over the top, but he could. Nothing against Rep. Paul Ryan, (R) Wisconsin, but he was simply the wrong pick in 2012. Had Romney picked Sen. Marco Rubio, (R) Florida, he might be living in the White House today. If Romney is the 2016 nominee, how about Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, (R) Washington, the number four ranking Republican in the House leadership? She’s much more conservative than Romney, and could deliver the party’s right wing, which was always suspicious of the moderate Romney.

“Rand Paul, Ron Paul, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, et. al.” – If you are the nominee, then many of the above caveats for the Republican Party apply to you, too. Remember Ronald Reagan’s “Big Tent” philosophy? The GOP needs to get back to that. Some of the nation’s most pioneering females and Hispanics who’ve held high office were Republicans. You have prominent conservatives African Americans, too, in Dr. Ben Carson, Herman Cain and Thomas Sowell. The party needs to foster that kind of diversity without sacrificing its conservative ideals. Broaden and diversify your base under the “Big Tent” and you might just win back the White House.

Who did I miss? Who would you like to see on the Presidential tickets in both parties? Let me know by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ABCNews.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- July 13, 2014


(Providence, Rhode Island) – The big news in politics this week is the immigration crisis at the border, with thousand of kids from Mexico and Central America being dropped off there by bus or by their families, in hopes of being granted permanent legal entry into the United States. This week I was on KGO Radio AM-810 in San Francisco, where I work as a contributing political analyst. Here are some of the issues we talked about.

“Déjà Vu All Over Again” – This is not the first time in relatively recent history we’ve seen something like this. The Mariel Boatlift from Cuba to Florida may have been in 1980, but it is very relevant to the modern discussion (although I concede there are some “apples v. oranges” comparisons here). In any case, the Mariel Boatlift saw 125,000 Cubans flood into the United States. Estimates from the current illegal immigration crisis put anywhere from 60,000 to 80,000 unaccompanied foreign children on U.S. soil, primarily in four border states.

“Border Crisis” – Among the differences between the two cases are the types of people arriving. In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro released many prison inmates and mental patients onto the waters, headed to Florida. The current case involves mostly juveniles. Nonetheless, there is an unavoidable cost - to be borne by the individual states and the nation as a whole - when you have such a huge, sudden influx of people. The cost is borne regardless of the various political divisions over what to do. At its basic level, thousands of people are suddenly here; and the local, state and federal governments are going to take care of them until a permanent solution is found.

“What Does it Cost?” – It’s hard to put an exact price tag on it this early; but the State of Texas, for example, has budgeted $1.3 million dollars a week just for police overtime pay. That’s $70 million dollars a year. And that’s not counting housing, health care, or food. So far, New Mexico, Arizona and California have not put a firm estimate on their costs but are likely to do so soon.

“Paybacks?” – There is an assumption by many that the states will simply submit a bill to Congress and be reimbursed for their expenses. Sadly, it just doesn’t work like that. For example, in 1988 the State of Florida asked Congress for reimbursement of $148 million dollars for costs from the Mariel Boatlift (not the true total cost to the state, I suspect). In any case, in 1989, Congress appropriated $35 million dollars to help defray Florida’s expenses. That’s about 25 cents on the dollar and is not a very good rate of return.

“Emergency Aid” – The President’s request to Congress this week was for $3.7 billion. Of that, $1.6 billion is for the Department of Homeland Security to provide additional border enforcement; $1.8 billion for health care, housing and other care for the children while they are on U.S. soil for what may be an indefinite period; and $300 million for a public information campaign in Central America to tell people to stop sending their kids to the border in hopes of securing U.S. citizenship. State reimbursements are not yet specified.

“Policy v. Politics” – Whenever I mention the political fallout from a crisis like this, I will get email comments basically saying, “How can you talk about the impact on elections? This is a humanitarian crisis. It’s about people, not politics!” I know it sounds insensitive, but as I tell my students: “Every public policy decision has a political implication or impact. Politics is always part of the equation.” Yes, it’s the harsh reality of politics, but it gets discussed in the backroom wheeling and dealing. Unseemly to many, but it’s reality!

“The Fallout” – So what is the political fallout? In the short term, it is potentially very troubling for Democrats, which is why some in the party have publicly criticized President Obama. He’s not on the ballot this November, but most of them are. Right now, Republicans are teetering on seizing control of the U.S. Senate (and they are very likely to hold the U.S. House). So, the President and his party may be about to lose most of their leverage in Congress. Have we seen fallout like this before? Yes, in 1980 after the Mariel Boatlift. That crisis ran from April to October of 1980, and the perceived mishandling of it was one of the reasons cited for President Jimmy Carter’s reelection defeat. And that’s not all. In 1980, many of the Mariel refugees were sent to camps in Arkansas, where they rioted. A young Governor by the name of Bill Clinton lost his reelection bid that year, too.

“Complications” – So how long will this crisis last? No one knows, but it could be lengthy. Initially, some of the children will be sent back if they have no legal standing to be in the United States and if their families can be located. But many others are likely to claim political asylum (and, yes, some have been coached to do just that), so that means drawn out legal proceedings and deportation hearings. With thousands in the pipeline, the legal system could come to a grinding halt.

Whether people agree with it or not, the United States remains the most humanitarian nation on Earth, especially when it comes to children. Critics will say that allotting so many resources to those pouring over the border is grossly unfair to children in need who are already legal citizens of this country, and their point may be hard to argue. But the notion that busses will just be reloaded and sent back to Guatemala – or elsewhere - is not likely in the short run.

What are your thoughts? Click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: ABCnews.go.com

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