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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 29 2015


(Providence, Rhode Island) – It’s great to be back on the road this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, taking a break from my reporting duties in West Virginia and being with my family in Rhode Island. It reminds me that my love of good food and of politics have been intertwined for more than 50 years. Oddly enough, I owe much of my passion for both to two women named Margaret, who went by the nickname of “Peg!” Let’s brunch on that this week:

My first cooking lesson came on Thursday November 28, 1963. It’s the first Thanksgiving Day I remember. I was just four and a half years old. Most children that young would not recall such an occasion, but something so profound happened just six days earlier that it is forever burned into my memory.

President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. Less than a week later - on Thanksgiving - the whole nation was still in shock. “What are we supposed to be thankful for?” is what I wondered, even at such a young age. Everyone was so sad.

But it was Thanksgiving; and I learned that day a lesson which has lasted me a lifetime. I learned that time marches on. The clock keeps ticking through our grief, and we just forge ahead, even if sometimes it feels as if we are "just going through the motions."

My mom, Mary Beth Curtis, and her mom, my beloved grandma, Margaret Kelley Dougherty, were in the kitchen early in the morning preparing our feast. Yes, her name was "Margaret," but she was just “Peggy” or “Peg” to all of us. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever called her "grandma."

In any case, they needed help getting the dinner ready, so Peggy taught me to chop all of the onions, celery, mushrooms, giblets, and bread slices to make the stuffing for the turkey. Back then, there were no cubed stuffing bags at the grocery store, so we just took slices of bread and let them sit out overnight to dry out. By the next morning, they were stiff as a board; and it was easy to cross-cut them into cubes.

It was tedious, but enjoyable. I loved the cutting and chopping with the big knife, and the stuffing tasted so good when it came out! To this day, the stuffing is my favorite part of the meal; and we still use the very same recipe

We did the same drill in 1964 - when I was in kindergarten – right after the Johnson-Goldwater Presidential election, and I listened as my mom and grandma talked politics while I chopped all the stuffing ingredients again. Sadly, less than a year later, my sweet Peggy was gone after a series of strokes. My heart was broken in October, 1965, as there would be no more Thanksgivings with her.

Fast forward to November, 1992, when I got a job in Washington, DC. We moved in with my wife’s great aunt, Margaret “Peg” Ware. Are you sensing a theme here?

“Aunt Peg,” as she was known, was 89 years old and legally blind, but as sharp as a tack. She was a retired home economics teacher who taught cooking for many years and was an expert in the kitchen. Her late husband was a retired Colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers, and they loved the political chatter of Washington, DC.

Since she could not see, Peg would sit in the kitchen as my wife Kathi or I prepared a meal. She would bark out orders. While the years had robbed her of her eyesight, her sense of smell and taste were heightened. She could tell what ingredient was too much or which was too little. It was as if she had “foodie radar.” It was amazing!

Aunt Peg loved politics, too! Every day when I returned home from my job as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill or later from my TV reporting job, she would always ask, “Was there any startling news in Washington today?” I remember watching such profound events as President Nixon’s funeral, and O.J. Simpson’s bizarre white Bronco chase in Los Angeles on her TV. She just loved the news. Even though she could not see, she was a political junkie at heart. Margaret “Peg” Ware died in September, 1999, at the age of 96.

We shared seven Thanksgiving dinners with Aunt Peg; and I shared six with my Grandma Peg. That’s thirteen years of Turkey Day blessings with two great cooks and political chatterboxes named Peg. Talk about something to be thankful for. God bless their souls!

Do you have a favorite relative who was special during the holidays? Share your story by clicking the comments button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.
Photo courtesy: Pillsbury.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 22, 2015


(Charleston, West Virginia) – Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) dropped out of the 2016 Presidential campaign this week. Yes, that was the big headline. Seriously, the implication of Jindal’s move was the real headline. The poll numbers provide a harsh reality. It’s time for others to move on, too. Let’s brunch on that this week.

“Rebound” – First, let’s clear the deck on the Democratic field. Back on July 1, Hillary Clinton had a commanding 63 percent of likely primary voters; but by late October her numbers plummeted to 41 percent. Some of this decline was due to questions about her emails; some of it was due to the buzz over Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). But after two debates, Clinton’s numbers have shot back up to 55 percent, with 32 percent for Sanders, and four percent for former Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD). Unless she tanks in Iowa or New Hampshire, she’s on her way to the nomination.

“No Dropouts Here!” – Even if Clinton has the nomination in the bag, Sanders and O’Malley will stay in the race. If nothing else, they provide foils for her to debate. She will remain in the headlines more if her nomination is still contested, even if the competition is only a token effort.

“Some Dropouts Across the Aisle” – Republicans don’t have the same luxury as Democrats of keeping the also-rans in the race. The GOP stage is simply too crowded. Since each of them is polling at less than two percent of the vote, former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), former Governor Jim Gilmore (R-VA), and former Governor George Pataki (R-NY) should all join Bobby Jindal in leaving the primary field now. That will still leave ten Republican candidates; but a leaner, more competitive race will help clear another four or five candidates by year’s end.

“Money Can’t Buy Me Love” – Here’s the problem with the size of the GOP field. In a two-hour debate featuring the four lower-tier candidates, each winds up getting about 30 minutes of airtime. In a prime-time, two-hour debate with the main ten candidates, each should get an average of 12 minutes airtime. That kind of math makes no sense. For a competitive GOP candidate to be viable, he or she needs more airtime, not less. What will happen next is that more campaigns will simply run out of money, regardless of where the candidates are in the polls. That will likely eliminate Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) and former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR), leaving a workable eight-person field. Those eight are: Trump, Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Kasich, Fiorina and Bush.

“Trending” – The big buzz phrase in politics, media and marketing today is "What’s “trending?” Much of the answer is driven by social media, in a “What’s Hot; What’s Not?” type of statistic. The reality of 2016 politics right now is that only five people have any realistic shot at the Republican nomination. In alphabetical order, they are Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump. Let’s examine each.

“Bush-whacked!” – At his peak in July, Jeb Bush was at 16 percent and was winning. By late September, he dropped to ten percent and is now at five percent. He’s trending down, and fast. If his name were "Jeb Smith," the race would be over for him. But the Bush name brings money and manpower, and he is one of the few people in the field who could surge from behind and win, much like John McCain did in 2008.

“Carson City” – Dr. Ben Carson was at ten percent in July; rose to 16 percent by late September; and is now favored by 25 percent of likely Republican voters. But his numbers have slipped in New Hampshire, where he is now running third. Still, he is nipping at Donald Trump’s heels and is remaining competitive.

“Fast Cruz” – Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been a real up-and-comer in the polls. He was at four percent in July, inched up to seven percent by late September, and is now at 11 percent. He’s trending upward. He’s been very feisty in the debates, and he and Rubio continue to poll well in the critical Hispanic voting bloc. Cruz is one to watch!

“Marco Makes His Mark” – Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been steady. He started with nine percent of the vote in July and stayed there through September. But his strong debate performances have inched him up to 12 percent on the polls now, and he has surged to second place in New Hampshire and third place in Iowa. Gaining momentum in the first two states that vote could boost him even more.

“No Longer an Apprentice” – After four solid months as the frontrunner, Donald Trump is no longer a novelty candidate. His national poll numbers have slipped some, only to bounce back. His numbers are consistently strong across the board. He started at just 7 percent in July; rocketed to 24 percent by late September; and, is now at 27 percent and holding steady. And as someone who can self-fund a campaign, he’s in the race for the long haul.

“So, Where’s This Headed?” – I’m not sure, but here is a fascinating result from the latest Public Policy Polling: The only Republican who beats Hillary Clinton right now in a head-to-head matchup is Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). As a Latino from the key state of Florida, that will make him hard to resist in many GOP quarters where they want to win back the White House.

Who do you like? Just click the comments button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2015, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: CBSnews.com

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