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The Launching of Impeachment 1,2,3 – “Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 3, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – For the fourth time in U.S. history, the nation finds itself on the road to a presidential impeachment. It’s a checkered history. In two cases, impeachment was approved, but removal from office was rejected by the Senate. In another instance, the president resigned. What will happen this time around? All bets are off! Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“By the Numbers” – The final vote total in the House on Thursday came as no surprise. It was 232 in favor of going ahead with the impeachment inquiry, to 196 against. The vote was pretty much along party lines, with all but two Democrats voting yes, and all Republicans voting no. Just to be clear, this was simply a vote to go ahead with the impeachment process, it was not a vote to impeach.

“What Happened Last Time?” – You keep hearing people say impeachment is a political process and not a legal one. That is more cliché than truth, because it is both. After all, the impeachment process is spelled out on the U.S. Constitution. But, yes, the engagement is highly politicized. In the final House impeachment vote in 1998 against President Clinton, only five Democrats voted to impeach. In the Senate trial, not one Democrat voted to remove President Clinton from office on either of the two counts. So, the politics matters.

“High Crimes and Misdemeanors” – That’s the Constitutional guideline for impeachment. Yet, it is not precisely defined. The president is not really charged with a crime. For example, President Clinton was impeached on a count of perjury. It short, that was because he lied under oath to a federal judge. Yes, it’s very serious, but he was never charged criminally with that offense. In Trump’s case, he potentially faces a charge of “abuse of power.” It’s not a necessarily a criminal offense, but more a reflection that he abused his authority by suggesting Ukraine investigate a domestic political opponent. Foreign policy and politics are supposed to “stop at the water’s edge,” as the old saying goes, and the issue is whether he used poor judgment, or even violated the law, on that standard.

“Why the Math Matters” – I don’t want to get ahead of the House proceedings, but the endgame is in the U.S. Senate, after all. The Constitution says you need a two-thirds vote, or 67 yay, to remove a president from office. With the Senate margin currently 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats, it’s an optimistic reach to say the least. The Democrats need 20 Republicans to bolt, and that’s going to be nearly impossible. I predict they might get seven or eight, but 20? No.

“Will the Defense Ever Rest?” – This is going to be a fascinating public relations game as the inquiry moves forward. In 1998 President Clinton chose to have certain surrogates such as attorney Lanny Davis speak on his behalf. The theory then was the impeachment was a political stunt, and President Clinton wanted to stay above the fray and show people he was too busy running the country. This won’t go that way. President Trump was fast to tweet his thoughts, and I am sure will be the “defender-in-chief” for his own case. I predict he will tweet relentlessly. His combative nature is probably the number one thing his supporters like about him.

“The Political Impeachment Potholes” – This week’s vote was more of a “rubber stamp” as the House impeachment inquiry has already been underway for weeks at the instruction of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D) California, which is her right. But in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon and President Clinton, there was a full House vote (albeit symbolic) to start the impeachment inquiry right from the get-go. Why was this time different? Well there are 31 Democrat House members who were elected in 2018, in districts that President Trump won in 2016. By putting those members “on the record,” as Trump and many Republicans wished, that put them on the reelection bubble in 2020. It’s a real dilemma as Republicans need to win 20 seats to take back the House.

“Who Cuts and Runs?” -- In October, 1973, 21 Democrats and 17 Republicans voted strictly along party lines in the House Judiciary Committee, to begin impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. But by July of 1974, the very same House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon. On Article I of impeachment six Republicans voted yes; on Article II seven members of the GOP said, “yay”; and on Article III, two Republicans in committee voted yes. Yes, you expect a political party to “circle the wagons” at first to support the boss, but in the end all these folks are on the ballot next year and have their own political futures to think about. So, watch Trump, but more importantly watch Republican members of the House and Senate.

Do you favor impeachment or oppose, and why? Just click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed. D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and its five neighboring states. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for the White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

As the Presidential Campaign Turns – “Sunday Political Brunch” October 27, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Remember the old TV soap opera, “As the World Turns?” It aired for 54 years from 1956 to 2010. That’s most of my lifetime! Politics is often like a soap opera that goes on forever, with all the twists and turns. Campaign 2020 (like many others) is shaping up that way. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“By the Numbers” – We’ve been through four rounds of debates with another coming on November 20, and the numbers are moving. The national Real Clear Politics composite poll has it former Vice President Joe Biden 28.7 percent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts 22.1 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont 18.7 percent, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend, Indiana at 6.4 percent. Here’s the trend: Biden and Sanders are dropping slightly, with Warren and Buttigieg picking up steam from strong debate performances. Kamala Harris has faded after a strong early showing in June. Right now, this is a four-person race.

“Who’s on First, in the First States?” – As I’ve said before, national polls mean little in a race so influenced by the first two contests. There are big shifts to watch. In the first caucus state of Iowa, Biden’s once solid lead continues to fade. The RCP composite has it Biden 21.0 percent, Warren knocking at the door at 20.7 percent, Buttigieg surging to 14.3 percent and Sanders at 14.3 percent as well. Biden once had a double-digit lead here, but now he and Warren are in a statistical dead heat.

“Take Nothing for Granted in the Granite State” – The “first in the nation” New Hampshire Primary is always critical. After a solid lead there, Biden has now faded to second place. The RCP composite has it 27.3 percent for Warren, to 24 percent for Biden. Sanders is at 16.7 percent, with Buttigieg picking up steam to 8.7 percent. Folks, based on the Iowa and New Hampshire data, this will be at least a four-person race through the next two states of South Carolina and Nevada. After that, I bet the dust settles around just two candidates.

“Warren-Sanders Team Up?” – Here’s a big issue to watch. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are close friends, with almost identical platforms. Sanders is the oldest candidate and recently had serious heart issues. If he fades more and loses badly in Iowa and New Hampshire, watch for him to bow out and endorse Warren. Their combined support could obliterate Biden, especially if the former vice president continues with lackluster debate and campaign performances. Buttigieg then becomes a wild card. If he drops out and endorses Biden, is there a VP offer or a cabinet spot for him, say Secretary of Defense? That might even the Warren-Biden score for a very competitive primary race.

“Castro Convertible?” – Another person to keep an eye on is former HUD Secretary and former Mayor Julian Castro (D) San Antonio. Castro has indicated in the past few days that if he does not get the financial and polling support to make the November debate stage, he may drop out of this race. But if he does, Castro has some political capital to spend. As the only Latino in a race where that demographic will be key, does he negotiate for a cabinet promise, say Secretary of Education? He has leverage, so stay tuned.

“Name the Cabinet Now?” – Speaking of cabinet spots, I have pondered for several weeks that naming cabinet nominees early might help the eventual Democratic nominee. Buttigieg, Tulsi Gabbard and Joe Sestek are the only Democrats with military experience. Might promising one Secretary of Defense in advance score some points? How about Kamala Harris for Attorney General? I just have this gut feeling that a Democratic nominee alone won’t beat President Trump. A nominee with a team already lined up, may have a better shot.

“Will they Remember on November?” – As mentioned, the Democrats have already held four rounds of debates. The next one is in Georgia on November 20. That’s the week before Thanksgiving, with people traveling and getting ready for holiday shopping. Sure, political junkies like me are engaged, but is the rest of the population even tuned in? I have my doubts. Well, the Democrats will also debate in December, but no date nor location has been finalized. I am wondering if a debate near Christmas will just fall on too many deaf ears?

“The Trump Card” – For weeks I have been analyzing the impeachment inquiry from a tactical, political vantage point. Presidents Nixon and Clinton had already won second terms when their impeachment inquiries began. Such is not the case for President Trump. I’m just wondering out loud if all the intense impeachment debate we’ll be seeing in November and December will just drown out the actual primary campaign. If everyone is focused on Trump’s impeachment, will much attention be paid to the candidates? I bet Trump – who is likely to be impeached in the House, but not removed from office by the Senate – is counting on just that! My late political analysis colleague, and long-time Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci, used to call that, “the politics of distraction.”

Who are you supporting in the Democratic campaign, and have you switched candidates? Just click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D. is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five neighboring states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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