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Stuffing the Political Turkey this Thanksgiving - Sunday Political Brunch November 25, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – More than two weeks after the midterm election on November 6th, and we are still tabulating results and assessing the consequences. Let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“Senate Update” -- Things are getting clearer in the upper chamber. Gov. Rick Scott (R-Florida) is now U.S. Senator-elect, after defeating Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida). That leaves the Senate margin at 52 Republicans to 47 Democrats. The lone remaining race is in Mississippi where Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) is in the fight of her life against former Rep. Mike Espy (D-Mississippi), who also served nearly two years as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The runoff election is this Tuesday, November 27.

“House Update” – The latest count is 233 Democrats to 201 Republicans, with one race yet to be decided. As of now, that’s a net gain of 38 Democratic seats. I know Democrats are buoyed by that, but remember Republicans basically surrendered 40 seats through retirement, resignation or pursuit of other offices. Had the GOP not had to defend so many seats, they might still hold the House. On average, incumbents win 96 percent of the time. Giving up seats, just erases that advantage.

“State House Update” – It’s now 27 GOP to 23 Dems in the governors’ mansions, but a net gain of seven for the Democrats. In New Hampshire, New York, Colorado, Connecticut and Maine, Democrats took control of the state Senate. They took control of the state Houses in Minnesota and New Hampshire. To be sure, Republicans still control 30 Legislatures, but a net loss of seven chambers is significant. Remember, “all politics is local” and nowhere is that more evident than in choosing ones local House and state Senate members, as well as in individual Congressional districts. The politics closest to you is the politics that matters most.

“Dissecting the Details” – One of the most closely watched races in the nation this year was for the U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is one of the most popular politicians in West Virginia history. Since 2000, he has won a race for Secretary of State, two terms as Governor, and two races for the U.S. Senate. In all cases he won with a large majority, exceeding 50 percent of the vote every time. Yet, in his 2018 Senate reelection bid he won with 49.5 percent of the vote to Atty. Gen. Patrick Morrisey (R-WV) at 46.3 percent. It’s probably a sign that long-time office holders nationwide need to tread carefully in 2020. A lot of incumbents retired or were beat in 2018, so no one should assume the office they now hold is theirs to keep forever.

“So, Who’s Popular and Who’s Not?” -- I think there is a growing sentiment out there that President Trump will be a one-term commander in chief. I think that is an unwise assumption. Democrats (and most fellow Republican candidates) underestimated him in 2016, yet he won. Yes, he’s controversial but he has developed a strong core constituency. A recent poll in Real Clear Politics might be instructive. It ranked the favorability ratings for U.S. leaders. The results: President Trump 41 percent; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 28.5 percent; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 21.8 percent; and, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) 29 percent.

“Advantage 2020?” – For the past year I spoke of the huge advantage Senate Republicans held in the 2018 cycle, and my prediction that they would gain seats, which they did. It was because Democrats were defending 26 seats, to just nine for Republicans. Those are tough odds. Well, fast forward to 2020 and almost the opposite happens. The GOP will be defending 21 Senate seats, and the Democrats only 12. And as always, a lot will hinge on coattails (or lack of them) in the presidential race.

What do you think this year’s political results mean for 2020? Just comment here or click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and the five surrounding states.

© 2018, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

The Post-Election Hangover -- The Sunday Political Brunch November 18, 2018

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Elections – like hangovers – can seem like they go on forever, especially after the party has ended and the sun comes up. Over a week after Election Day 2018, there is still a lot to dissect, and there is still a lot to be decided. I was on Capitol Hill this past week assessing the situation. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Senate: Where Things Stand” – As of press time, Republicans held 51 seats in the Senate to 47 for Democrats, with two undecideds in Florida and Mississippi. Right now, Republicans lead in both races, and I predict will win both seats with a resulting 53 to 47 majority, an overall increase of two seats.

“House: Where Things Stand” – Right now, Democrats have won 230 seats to 199 for Republicans, with six races still up in the air. I predict the GOP will take four of these and Democrats two. The final House total will be 232 Democrats and 203 Republicans, clearing a solid win that puts Democrats in charge of the House for the first time in eight years.

“Governors: Where Things Stand” – This, I think, was the most under-reported result from Election Day. Republicans hold 26 governorships, to 23 for Democrats. The race in Georgia remains too close to call. But right now, Democrats have made a gain of six seats. There was likely a similar shift in the make-up of state legislatures, where Republicans have controlled a majority of states for years. As I always say, political movements start from the ground up, not the top down. If Democrats made significant gains in state houses, watch out on 2020. That may be when a real “blue wave” occurs.

“Famous Names” -- Keep an eye on the rising star of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming). Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2016, and just won reelection to a second term. Despite her lack of seniority in Congress, she has already been elected as Chair of the House Republican Conference, the third ranking position in GOP leadership. Now that’s a rocket ride to the top. Only House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) outrank her.

“California Dreamin’?” -- With the Republicans being led in the House by Californian Kevin McCarthy, there is also the prospect that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) will once again be elected House Speaker. That raises an interesting question: Has any state ever held the top two leadership posts in the House at the same time? I’ve been Googling all kinds of different questions, but have yet to find an answer. Is it possible the Pelosi-McCarthy leadership from California will be a first? Email me if you find a similar precedent from the past!

“Agenda 2019” – As I have mentioned in recent weeks, divided government can often lead to two possible extremes: gridlock or cooperation. In my lifetime I’ve seen both. The Reagan and Clinton administrations are two examples where significant legislation took place despite Democrats controlling some portion of the government, and Republicans the other. Then we’ve seen other times where the partisanship and hostility led to little cooperation including parts of the Obama and Bush II administrations. It’s hard to predict which way we’ll go in 2019.

“Issues: Immigration” – It may come as a surprise, but I think immigration reform may be one area where we will see bipartisan cooperation. Democrats want DACA made permanent. The acronym stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The eventual goal is to create a path to citizenship for minor children who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents or others. Many of these children were very young, and willfully broke no laws and are now into productive adulthood, albeit in the shadows. In exchange President Trump may get partial or even substantial funding for a border wall. Stay tuned!

“Issues: Infrastructure” – There was a lot of agreement between the White House and Congress over the past two years that a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure bill needed to get done. This could help rebuild the nation’s highways, bridges, airports, schools and even state and municipal roads. It’s a good way to stimulate the economy, too. The need is real and the economy is cooking, so what’s the problem? Well, unemployment is at an all-time low, so where do you get the workers? This may tie into the immigration issue above? Would a “guest worker” program help staff these jobs?

“Issues: Income Taxes” – The Trump tax cut package added stimulus to the economy, although the wavering markets of late are a concern. While corporate tax cuts were a permanent part of the deal, individual income tax cuts for most low and middle wage earners are set to sunset after five years. With Democrats in charge of the House Ways and Means Committee - where all revenue bills must originate - will they extend tax cuts indefinitely? The ball’s in their court!

“Issues: Health Care”— With the Democratic takeover of the House, there will be no repeal of Obamacare. But are there issues they can work on? The President wants to clamp down on the cost of prescription drugs. Democrats and Republicans alike want to stop the spiraling increases in premiums and co-pays. Obamacare appears here to say, but can they tweak it and fix it and make it better?

Where and what would you like to see President Trump and Congress do? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, the five surrounding states, and the District of Columbia.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

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