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“The Sunday Political Brunch” – May 22, 2016

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(Hagerstown, Maryland) – We are on the road again this week, at a crossroads of three states that may be interesting in Campaign 2016 – Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Let’s “brunch” on that and some other nuggets this week:

“When a Win Is a Loss” – Hillary Clinton declared herself the winner of Tuesday’s Kentucky primary by a margin of 1,924 votes. The breakdown was 46.7 percent for Clinton to 46.3 percent for Bernie Sanders. For the third straight week, Clinton had no rally anywhere. Four hours after polls closed in Kentucky, they closed in Oregon, with Sanders a big winner. He held a raucous rally in California, site of the crucial June 7 primary. Sanders seized the night, and the spotlight, and the media coverage. It was if he won both primaries!

“Coal Matters” – Clinton barely eased past Sanders in the coal state of Kentucky, but was swamped by Sanders last week in the coal state of West Virginia. Why two very different results? Well, West Virginia had an open primary, in which voters who are registered non-partisan or independent can request a Democrat or Republican ballot. In Kentucky, it was a closed primary, where only registered Democrats can vote in the Democratic primary. Independents are a huge source of Sanders’s support, and they were simply shut out of the process in Kentucky. Trust me, coal will be a major issue between Trump and Clinton in November, especially in these two states, as well as Maryland, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

“What’s Left?” – Mark June 7 on your calendar, as that is the date of six primaries, including New Jersey and California. It could be an early night because - if she wins enough delegates on the East Coast - Clinton may have enough delegates for the nomination; and then what happens on the West Coast will be moot.

“Math Matters” – Okay, this is crazy, but it’s possible Bernie Sanders will actually wind up winning the Kentucky Primary anyway. A re-canvass of votes could put him ahead; but even if it doesn’t, he may still win. Here is why: The race was so close that Clinton and Sanders have each been awarded 27 convention delegates, with one uncommitted. Of the state’s five super delegates, two have committed to Clinton, and three have not announced their allegiance. Yes, it is possible that if four of these unattached delegates pick Sanders, he wins the primary with 31 to 30 delegates!

“The Final Super Tuesday” – There have been several Tuesdays this year with multiple primaries. June 7 will be the last, with six states casting ballots: New Jersey, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, and California. It’s not unprecedented that a primary this late crowns a winner. I was in Montana and South Dakota on the final primary day in 2008. Hillary Clinton won South Dakota, but Barack Obama won Montana, giving him enough delegates for the nomination.

“Trump Reigns Supreme” – I found it fascinating that Donald Trump announced his “short list” of potential Supreme Court nominees if he is elected. It’s a dicey strategy. It certainly gives the other party plenty of time to do opposition research, but it also gives Trump a chance to show how he might reshape the bench in a term that could include three court nominees. I have met one of the possible nominees, Federal Appeals Court Judge Diane Sykes, who was a fellow student at Marquette University. She succeeded my dad’s college roommate and longtime family friend, Court of Appeals Judge John Coffey, on the federal bench. It’s a small world.

“Strange Bedfellows” – I was intrigued by the ABC News report this week that former Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) is not interested in being Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential running mate. Patrick – whom I have interviewed many times – is now working in business development for Bain Capital. Yes, that’s the same Bain Capital founded by former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA). Patrick has also often been touted as a potential Supreme Court nominee. He says he’s not interested in VP, but keep him on your short list for either job.

Do you have any thoughts on VP or Supreme Court, from either party? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- May 15, 2016

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – The Presidential campaign blew through West Virginia this week, and will be in our region again when Kentucky votes on Tuesday. One thing I have learned over the years is that momentum is a tremendous political asset and a tough thing to stop. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“The Poll Dance” – This will shock you. In an age when we are polled to death about such things as the Presidential campaign, there are virtually no polls on the State of Kentucky. I’m serious! Public Policy Polling did a survey in June of 2015 which had these results: Hillary Clinton, 56 percent; Bernie Sanders, 12 percent; Jim Webb, 7 percent; Lincoln Chafee, 5 percent; and Martin O‘Malley at 3 percent. Obviously things have changed dramatically in the past 11 months. So why is no one polling Kentucky? Odd!

“Divided Loyalties” – CBS News did exit polling in West Virginia this week, and the results were nothing less than shocking. An unbelievable number of Bernie Sanders supporters here – a whopping 44 percent – said they will vote for Donald Trump in November if Hillary Clinton in the Democratic nominee. That’s the highest of what I call the “Backlash Factor,” recorded so far in any state in the nation. Also, 35 percent of Democrats polled said they don’t believe Clinton can beat Trump in November. Wow!

“Common Sense” – While the above statistics shocked me, I don’t believe them. I call it the “Sour Grapes” factor, in which people are angry now, but their emotions may ease by November. I suspect many Sanders supporters will ultimately support Hillary Clinton. But, the big concern is not 44 percent voting for Trump, but rather that huge numbers of Sanders supporters will simply stay home and not vote at all. Voter discontent is a much more powerful phenomenon than people crossing party lines. This has to deeply worry the Clinton camp.

“Voice of the People” – I do a lot of streetside interviews for my stories because they add color and context to politics. I’ve heard a lot of discontent from party loyalists on both sides this year. This comment is fairly typical: "I'm a Democrat, but I'm not going to vote Democratic this year. I am going to vote for Trump," said voter Robert McVicker from West Virginia. There’s just a sea of discontent out there.

“Overconfidence vs. Smug” – Last week I wrote about Democrats being overconfident about this election and Republicans being smug. Those are tactical dangers on both sides, given the voter volatility this year. One of the political analysts I respect most is Political Science Professor Robert Rupp, of West Virginia Wesleyan University. This week he told me: "In this election, all of the rules have been suspended. This is a very unusual situation; and what we’re going to find, particularly, is that both major candidates have very high negatives, so we don’t know where this thing is going to turn out in six months."

“An Age of Discontent” -- Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders have almost nothing in common politically except that they have stirred up a public that is tired of politics as usual. "The fact that the Obama administration has let this [national] debt go to almost 20 trillion dollars has everybody upset," said voter Dick Holmes. Another voter who did not want to give her name said pessimistically, "Politics can't change the bad times we are living in right now."

“All Politics is Local” – That was the frequent saying of the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill, and there may be a lot of truth to it. The “outsiders” won here in West Virginia Tuesday night. Donald Trump won the GOP primary with 77 percent of the vote, with a lot of coal-miner support (photo above); and Bernie Sanders bested Hillary Clinton 51 to 36 percent. But locally, in all of the races for State House of Delegates and State Senate, only one incumbent was defeated.

“Speaking of Local” – Being on the wrong side of a local or regional issue can be poison. Back in March, Hillary Clinton said, “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business;” but then she offered a plan to retrain workers displaced in the energy transformation. The public simply wasn’t buying it. Clinton, who beat Barack Obama here eight years ago by 42 percentage points, was crushed in the 2016 primary by many of her former supporters. "I've not been in the coal mines, but my dad was years ago. And I think they need help," said voter Nancy McVicker of Nitro, WV.

“Eyes on Oregon” – Kentucky isn’t the only place voting this week. Oregon holds a primary Tuesday. The latest polls have Clinton up 48 percent to 33 percent for Sanders, with a large number of voters still undecided. But if Clinton wins both Oregon and Kentucky, she steals the momentum back from Sanders, who has won 19 of the last 25 contests (even though Clinton took a lion’s share of the delegates and super delegates).

“Why All of This Matters” – Three weeks after these latest primaries, Clinton and Sanders will face off on June 7 in California and New Jersey, as well as several other states. If she wins both California and New Jersey, she seals the nomination. If he wins at least one of these states, he stirs major doubts about her viability in November. Stay tuned!

What are your thoughts? Bernie or Hillary, and why? Just click the comment button at: www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.
© 2016, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo: Mark Curtis

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