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“The Sunday Political Brunch” – April 24, 2016

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(Beckley, West Virginia) – I’m on the road this weekend in the coal country of West Virginia. Candidates are already planning visits to the Mountain State ahead of the May 10 primary. So far, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are on the books; but before they get to “Almost Heaven,” there is campaign business to address elsewhere. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The Final Five” – This may be the last “Big Tuesday” in the primary season. No one will win the nomination on April 26, but five states are up for grabs: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The big prize is delegate-rich Pennsylvania, but momentum is also at stake on both sides, so overall performance is crucial in these five states.

“The Last Stand” – Governor John Kasich (R-OH) has staked his hopes on his neighboring state of Pennsylvania. It may not play out. The latest Real Clear Politics Composite Poll has it: Donald Trump 44 percent; Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) 25 percent; and Kasich 24 percent. My prediction is that Governor Kasich will suspend his campaign Tuesday night or - at the latest - Wednesday, but will remain very viable as the pick for Vice President. Remember, Republicans win the White House only when they win Ohio. Kasich campaigned in Rhode Island this weekend (photo above).

“Let It Be” – Of the three remaining GOP candidates, only Donald Trump has a chance to win the 1,237 delegates for the nomination before the July GOP convention in Cleveland. He might make it; he may fall short. But at this point, is there any way to stop him without the Republican Party self-destructing? The brokered convention strategy could backfire, if the party – in essence – defeats itself in November. Might it be better if the party just let the campaign take its course organically and let the chips fall where they may?

“New York State of Mind” – The wins by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in their home state of New York on Tuesday night were stunning. It’s no surprise that both won, but the margin of victory was well beyond what anyone predicted. Trump won with 60 percent of the vote; Clinton, with 58 percent. Those aren’t just wins, they are landslides, and there may be no philosophical (or mathematical way) for opponents on either side to stop what now seems inevitable.

“Reality Check” – With five primaries this coming Tuesday, there will be a lot of speculation about the meaning of the outcome. Here’s the “cold water in your face” analysis. There are not enough delegates at stake Tuesday to make anyone the nominee in either party; nor are there enough delegates at stake on May 3 in Indiana or on May 10 in West Virginia and Nebraska or the following week in Kentucky to accomplish that feat. I predict we’ll know the Democratic and Republican outcomes on June 7, when six states - including the big prize of California – hold primaries.

What are your thoughts on who will win the nominations, and when? Just click the comment button, at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Alexandra Curtis.

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- April 17, 2016

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – In nine months we are going to have a new President; that is a certainty. But our federal system is a three-act play, with the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. How will Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, or John Kasich deal with Congress? History can be a guide. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“A Perfect Storm” – Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976, and the post-Watergate class in Congress was a landslide for Democrats. You’d think Carter could have gotten anything done with that kind of majority. But Carter ran as a Washington outsider, and then tried to govern that way. At one of the Inaugural parties, he seated House Speaker Tip O’Neill way in the back of the room, instead of at the head table. It was a huge gaffe, and O’Neill never forgave him. It was a metaphor for a doomed, one-term Presidency, even with Carter’s own party in charge of Congress.

“Insider-Outsider” – If anyone knew how to play the political game it was Ronald Reagan. He won the Presidency running as an “outsider” but knew how to play “insider” as soon as he got to Washington, DC. His days as Governor of California with a strong Democratic legislature taught him well. My friend,, former California House Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, – used to tell me how Reagan was a master at wooing Democrats to his side or - at least - to cooperation in Sacramento.

“Split Government” – Reagan was the most recent President to have a mandate when elected. He won in a landslide, and his coattails swept Republicans into control of the U.S. Senate. And, with Southern conservative Democrats on board with Republicans, he had at least a philosophical majority in the House of Representatives. Reagan got tax breaks and a huge defense buildup through a split Congress. It was political art (photo above).

“Third-time; Not the Charm” – In 1988, George H.W. Bush was elected President in what was really “the third Reagan term.” But by then, the Iran-Contra scandal was full-fledged, and the Senate went back to Democrat control in 1986. Despite his popularity leading the victory in the first Gulf War, Bush caved to Democrats in Congress on his “no new taxes” pledge; and it cost him reelection.

“You Won; Now Lead” – Bill Clinton almost fell into the same trap as Jimmy Carter in 1976. He won the White House with big margins in both chambers of Congress and figured he could do as he wished. He couldn’t. Congress is a huge kingdom, with lots of little “fiefdoms” everywhere. The Clinton team thought it could rush health care reform through Congress, but steamrolled some key Democratic committee chairman in the process. That doesn’t work. Congress is about accommodation, not domination. Health care failed, and Clinton’s first budget survived by only one vote.

“Divided Government Can Work” – In 1994 – in part due to a disastrous first two years of the Clinton term – Democrats lost control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in forty years. Despite the crushing defeat, Clinton masterfully co-opted the Republican agenda, passing welfare reform, the crime bill, and telecommunications reform, among others. He worked better with House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senator Majority Leader Bob Dole as his foils, instead of his Democratic allies. Clinton was almost as masterful as Reagan, in that regard, and won reelection in 1996.

“Bush II” – The Congressional relations of George W. Bush are hard to assess, since the September 11th attacks occurred so early in his term. While he came into power with a Republican Congress, there was eventually a tie in the Senate that tipped in favor of Democrats when liberal Republican Jim Jeffords (I-VT) bolted his party. Bush had strong support from both chambers to engage in wars in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, but Congress was later criticized as being a rubber stamp on both sides of the aisle. Republicans lost the House from 2006 to 2010 and lost the Senate until 2014.

“Obama ‘Rama” – When President Obama was elected, Democrats had restored majorities in both chambers of Congress. He had enough votes to pass his most significant legislation to date, The Affordable Care Act (better known as "Obamacare".) But the backlash helped Republicans regain control of Congress – the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014. Little has been passed since.

“Why All of this Matters?” – A President has to be able to maneuver through the tricky, dangerous waters of Congress to succeed. Some have done that masterfully; others have failed miserably. No one in Congress owes Donald Trump any favors; some members despise Hillary Clinton, while others might work with her. Bernie Sanders is an independent, with few Congressional allies; Ted Cruz is widely disliked by his own party in Congress; and John Kasich - as a twenty-year veteran - has deep respect on Capitol Hill. Yet, none of these traits - for any of the candidates - is a guarantor of success or failure in the White House. Our vote is a roll of the dice.

Which candidate do you feel could work best with Congress? Click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: britannica.com

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