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“Lucky Number 7 Presidential Debate is Next!” – Sunday Political Brunch December 29, 2019

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – It’s crunch time for the Democratic presidential candidates. While they have been doing one debate per month, that is about to accelerate. In the course of just 41 days, they will debate four times in January and February. Maybe that will serve to whittle down the field even further. By the time February ends, four states will have held primaries or caucuses. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Debate Lucky #7!” – The next debate takes place on January 14 in Des Moines, Iowa. It is the seventh debate and the final forum before the crucial Iowa Caucuses. The Democratic National Committee has tightened the qualifications for the debate and so far, only five candidates have qualified: former Vice President Joe Biden, Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Senator Cory Booker and businessmen Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang are trying to make the field, but the stricter criteria to qualify may keep them out. I kind of like the idea of a debate of five, but since the first contest is so critical, I’d like to see maybe two more get in.

“The Best of the Rest” – The next three debates after Iowa are February 7, just four days before the New Hampshire Primary; February 19 just three days before the Nevada Caucuses; and, February 25, four days before the South Carolina Primary. In all cases, the debates will take place in the state of the next primary. That’s crucial for home-state voters to get the final look-see of the candidates left on stage. On balance I’ve enjoyed these debates and have been informed by them. Whether you agree with these candidates or not, the DNC deserves a lot of credit for putting them out there so often. No one can say they didn’t have the chance to make an educated vote.

“Who’s on First?” – The latest national composite poll from Real Clear Politics (RCP) has former VP Biden leading with 8.5 percent. Bernie Sanders is trending back up in second place, while Elizabeth Warren is trending down slighting in third. Pete Buttigieg is a solid fourth. But as I’ve said, a national poll really doesn’t matter, since we don’t have a national primary. What matters is how any candidate performs in the first four primary season contests, especially the first two.

“Hawkish on the Hawkeye State” – The nation’s first contest is the Iowa Caucuses on February 3. While Biden may lead nationally, the latest RCP composite poll has Mayor Pete leading with 22 percent, to Senator Sanders at 20 percent, Biden at 18.8 percent and Warren at 16 percent. Likely VP choice and neighboring Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is solid at 6.3 percent. Yes, Biden may lead nationally, but the Iowa and New Hampshire contests are all about momentum, even if you don’t win. The Iowa numbers for Biden, who once led big here, must be troubling.

“Don’t Take Us for Granite” – The Granite State of New Hampshire holds its primary on February 11. The RCP composite poll has neighboring Vermonter Sanders leading with 19 percent, to Buttigieg – who once led here - with 17.7 percent. Biden who also once led here is now third at 14.3 percent and Massachusetts neighbor Warren – who also once led here as well – is now fourth at 13.3 percent. The fact that she’s trending downward in both Iowa and New Hampshire must have her staff and supporters worried. Thus, perhaps, the motivation of her “wine cave” fundraiser attack on the surging Mayor Pete, which was quickly lampooned on Saturday Night Live! Warren did have one of the best lines in last week’s debate when moderator Tim Alberta of Politico asked, “Senator Warren you would be the oldest president ever inaugurated. I would like you to weigh in as well.” And Warren responded, “I’d be the youngest woman ever inaugurated!” The crowd loved it!

“Will the Gloves Come Off?” – The most glaring issue in this race is that Sanders and Warren are joined at the hip. They are dear friends and ideological soul mates. Their issue stances are so close, you’d be hard pressed to slide a sheet of paper between the two. That is probably hampering them both and preventing a breakout. Warren was clearly the best debater through the first six contests, and Sanders was hobbled by health issues. Now, Sanders clearly is at full strength and has his fire and passion back, and the polls reflect a bounce. At what point do these two cut their losses, and attack each other? It’s got to happen, or both may be done. Politics is a full-contact sport. You can’t “nice and polite” your way to the White House in either party.

“When the Gloves Come Off, Part 2” – My point about Warren and Sanders needing to challenge each other is backed up by scrappy Mayor Pete and equally-scrappy Senator Klobuchar’s dust-up. Both have been gaining ground and political buzz, so they each needed a marquee moment in the debate to grow momentum. Klobuchar, who has been a county prosecutor and three-term U.S. Senator, chided the Sound Bend Mayor for his lack of political experience, plus the fact that he lost badly in a statewide race. Klobuchar said, “We should have someone heading up this ticket that has actually won and has been able to show that they can gather the support that you talk about. Like moderate Republicans and Independents, as well as a fired-up Democratic base.” To which Buttigieg retorted, “If you want to talk about the capacity to win, try putting together a coalition to bring you back to office with 80 percent of the vote, as a gay dude in Mike Pence’s Indiana.” It was the kind of good feisty exchange we need between Sanders and Warren!

What did you think of last week’s debate in Los Angeles and did it change your allegiance? Just click the comment button to 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 also a National Contributing Political Writer for, “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

“Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead” on Impeachment, Election – Sunday Political Brunch - December 22, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – To no one’s surprise, the House of Representatives has impeached President Trump on two articles. The Constitutional process now moves on to the Senate for trial. But this is more than just about President Trump’s actions in office. It has lots of political implications for the 2020 election. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Boy Was I Wrong!” – As a political analyst, I take an educated guess on how things will play out. With 43 years’ experience covering politics, I usually have a pretty good radar. Last week I predicted, in an act of political self-preservation, upwards of 15 Democrats would vote “no” on impeachment, mostly 2018 freshman who won districts that Trump carried in 2016. There are about 30 seats like this. But in the end, only two Democrats cast “no” votes on impeachment. So, my prediction was way off.

“Why is That?” – It’s interesting, because many of these Democrats in marginal districts may be in political trouble in areas where Trump is popular. Did they just commit political suicide, or will standing on principles carry them to reelection? It will be fascinating to watch. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi basically told her members to “roll the dice” and take their chances. The safe, calculated, political choice would be to let enough of these folks bolt the party and vote “no” just to save their own vulnerable seats. Instead, the “yes” vote is a bold political gamble that could cost Pelosi her majority, or embolden it to further success with its agenda, especially if Trump is reelected. Just fascinating!!!

“Déjà vu, All Over Again” – The classic Yogi Berra line holds true in baseball and politics. For some in Congress this impeachment is not their first rodeo. The most fascinating is Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) California, who may be the only person in U.S. history to work on three impeachments. In 1974, she was a Congressional staff member to long-time Rep. Don Edwards (D) California, who served on the House Judiciary Committee, working on President Nixon’s impeachment. Elected to Congress in 1994, she was on the committee considering impeachment articles against President Clinton, and then again, this year for President Trump. Lofgren, whom I’ve known and covered for years, scores the “impeachment hat trick!”

“And Then There are More” – President Clinton was impeached on December 19, 1998. President Trump was impeached a day short of 21-years December 18, 2019. In both cases, the House said “yes” to two articles of impeachment but heading into the Senate trial we know that on both occasions there were not enough votes to remove either from office. NOTE TO CONGRESS: Political impeachments during December are a bad idea. First, the season has a lot to do with redemption and forgiveness, plus people are full-bore into the holidays and not really focused on politics. Only two of four impeachments had the desired result. President Andrew Johnson was impeached in May of 1868, and lost renomination two months later. The House Judiciary Committee passed articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in August 1975, and he resigned days later.

“Political Implications?” – You need a two-thirds vote in the Senate, or 67 votes, to remove a president from office. Right now, the Senate is 53 Republicans to 47 Democrats. In theory, 20 Republicans would have to join with a unanimous minority caucus (not a safe bet), to remove Trump from office. Here are five Republicans who could bolt. Sen. Susan Collins (R) Maine is up for reelection in 2020. She may be the most liberal Senate Republican. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) Tennessee, is retiring so he can just cast “a vote of conscience” without facing the wrath of voters. Sen. Mitt Romney (R) Utah does not like Trump but would have no political risk in voting for removal. Sen. Cory Gardner (R) Colorado is the most at risk of losing his seat in 2020, so he’d be a safe “yes” on removing Trump. Sen. Martha McSally (R) Arizona is trying to hold her appointed seat in 2020, but upsetting Arizona Republicans could get her defeated in a key swing state. Still, these represent only five votes, far short of the 20 needed.

Are you a “yes” or “no” on removing President Trump from office? Just click the comment button and tell us why!

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

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Phot courtesy: U.S House TV & Radio Gallery

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