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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- November 6, 2016

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(Charleston, West Virginia) -- It’s finally here!!! Election Day is Tuesday, November 8; and - as I do every election season - I'm listing here some key things to watch. Remember, it’s not just the White House at stake; Congress is worth watching, too! Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Plan Your Bedtime” – I know that not everyone is a political junkie like me. I am scheduled to work all day and night (with a HUGE Facebook appearance, the details of which I can’t share yet), and then I will probably see the sunrise Wednesday morning. Here’s your bedtime cue from the Eastern Time Zone. If Hillary Clinton is declared the winner in Florida, North Carolina, or Ohio, then you can mosey off to bed. Donald Trump must win all three, or he won’t be President of the United States. I’ve done the math countless times, and he must win all three states.

“Rust Belt Never Sleeps” – Okay, let’s assume Trump wins all three of the above-mentioned states and carries Arizona and Nevada, too. That brings him (with the other definite Trump states) to 265 Electoral College votes, just five short of the White House. Trump needs just one more state, and here are the only options: New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Colorado. A top Trump operative – who is a trusted friend of mine – tells me this is why Trump has spent so many of the campaign's waning days in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He needs just one more state to go over the top.

“Expect the Unexpected” – Today, Real Clear Politics moved Michigan from “Leans Democrat” to “Toss-Up” status. So, too, for Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. National poll averages still have Clinton up by 1.7 percent – or similar amounts – but the race is trending to Trump. Whether he can win is still challenging. Finding that last state is tough; but if I had to pick the likely one, it would be Colorado.

“North Carolina is King!” – In 2000, Florida was the most important state. In 2004, Ohio was the “king-maker.” This year, I believe that distinction will go to North Carolina, and for two reasons. First, as stated, if Hillary Clinton wins North Carolina, she’s our next President. Second, but almost of equal importance, her coattails may carry North Carolina U.S. Senate nominee Deborah Ross to Capitol Hill. The Senate race in North Carolina is just as close as Clinton v. Trump. If Trump wins the state, incumbent Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) is likely going back to Washington, and the GOP will remain in control of the Senate.

“Why the Senate Matters” – According to the Constitution, only the U.S. Senate has the power to confirm or reject Federal Court Judges (including U.S. Supreme Court Justices). Only the Senate gets to approve international treaties. Hillary Clinton would be greatly empowered if she wins the White House and also wins control of the Senate. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won the Presidency in a landslide so huge that it also swept in Republican control of the Senate for the first time in 24 years. That paved the way for a lot of the Reagan agenda, and helped shaped the Federal Court system for a generation.

“Plan-B” – Well, I painted a scenario above of a Pennsylvania-Michigan-Wisconsin path for Trump to become President if he wins only one of those states. But can he still win if he loses in all three? The answer is "Yes," and it depends on Colorado. If Trump heads west of the Mississippi with the 265 Electoral Votes in states where he now leads, then he still needs one more state. The only possibilities are New Mexico (where Clinton holds an eight-point lead) or Colorado (where her lead is just two points). Colorado could decide the White House race if we have no clear winner as we move into the Mountain Time Zone.

“The Significance of ‘October Surprises’” -- I am surprised I am even writing some of the things I’m writing this week. When the “Access Hollywood” tapes were released on October 7, I figured Trump was toast. Clinton’s poll lead ballooned to 12-to-14 points. How could Trump overcome that? But Clilnton's problem is that WikiLeaks emails and the FBI reports came out in the last week, and that simply swung the momentum away from her. In short, the effect of Trump’s “October Surprise” peaked and then waned, just as Hillary's “October Surprises” surfaced. In politics – as with so many things in life – timing is everything.

“Third-Party Swing” – Another thing to watch is the exit polling, especially among those who are (or planned to be) third-party voters. Last summer, the two most prominent third-party candidates were Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein, who collectively polled as high as 18 percent. Their combined total is now down to six percent. My educated guess is that people who earlier wanted to vote for Johnson or Stein simply decided to cast their votes for someone who could actually win – Trump or Clinton. The most fascinating exit poll numbers will show where the majority of Bernie Sanders’ voters wound up casting their ballots. That may be what decides this election!

“My Prediction” – I make predictions, not endorsements. I make educated guesses, not exercises in wishful thinking. My gut and my analytical mind both tell me that the Electoral College outcome will be 273 for Clinton, to 265 for Trump, meaning that he never finds that one missing state which I spoke of above. It is also possible that Trump wins the popular vote, but loses in the Electoral College, a party reversal of the 2000 outcome. I also predict Republicans will hold the U.S. Senate by a 52-48 margin, but may lose 10 to 20 seats in the U.S. House, where they will still hold solid control. Divided (and shared) governance will continue, but may do so in gridlock.

What are your predictions for Election Day? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: CBSnews.com

“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- October 30, 2016

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(Charleston, West Virginia) – There are ten days left in Campaign 2016, and this is basically “do-or-die” time in every race from President of the United States on down to town dog catcher. Races can be won or lost in the final days, but the stars must align. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Reagan V. Carter 1980” – Polls in the final weeks of Campaign 2016 have varied quite a bit, but all except two have Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by anywhere from one to twelve points. Can that kind of trend be overcome? Yes! On October 26, 1980, President Jimmy Carter led Governor Ronald Reagan 47 percent to 39 percent. Two days later and one week before the election, Reagan and Carter held their only debate. On Election Day, Reagan won in a landslide. So the answer is "Yes; it’s possible, but it’s a challenge."

“1980 Versus 2016” – As a practical matter, it is difficult to compare polling techniques that are 36 years apart. We certainly did not have today’s computer technology back in 1980. On the other hand, we did not have today’s cell phone technology (which makes it easier to avoid pollsters) in 1980. I wonder how truly accurate our samples are today, when many people (including me) have no landlines in their homes and have cell numbers that are unpublished. That said, polling data in the past two Presidential election cycles was – on balance – pretty accurate.

“Brinkley on Reagan” – It’s important to remember that in 1980 most everyone in the media did not see Reagan’s last minute turnaround and landslide coming. The late, great news anchor David Brinkley said on NBC News that night: “I'd like to ask a question of you folks. We have here what I think reasonably could be called a landslide, or certainly something approaching a landslide. Where did it come from? Nobody anticipated it. No polls predicted it. No one saw it coming. How did that happen?” Brinkley speculated that many people may not have wanted to admit to pollsters that they were for Reagan. Could there be a similar “Trump effect?” I doubt it, but stay tuned. Remember that in 1980 Reagan crushed Carter in the debate. It was devastating to the incumbent. You can’t draw a parallel to the debates in 2016.

“RCP” – I like the Real Clear Politics composite poll. Basically, it is just a rolling average of all media and academic polls; and - while the average is not scientific – it does give you a good snapshot of all prominent polls conducted with a social science discipline. Wednesday night the RCP poll had Hilary Clinton with a 5.4 percent lead over Donald Trump, up from a 4.4 percent lead earlier in the day. A sampling of some polls include: The Los Angeles Times/USC Poll, which had Trump up by one point, and the Fox News Poll, which had Clinton up by five points.

“Why the Poll Disparity?” – Poll results are often influenced by two key factors - how you take the sample and how you ask the question. If - in drawing the sample - I simply ask potential voters: “Are you a registered voter?” I would have a very poor sample. Why? Well, in most elections, 50 percent (or fewer) of those registered even bother to vote. But, if I ask, “Did you vote for President in 2012, 2008, and 2004?” and the answer to all three is "yes," I have now found a “likely voter.” Voting behavior is a better predictor than simply being registered. Once I determine whether you are a likely voter, then asking you, “For whom will you vote, Clinton or Trump?” is far more pointed and precise than “Would you ever consider voting for Donald Trump?”

“Trump’s Ten-Day Strategy” – With ten days to go – and no more debates – it’s harder to move the needle, but it can be done. If I were Trump, I would contact all major networks and even some minor networks and buy a half-hour of prime TV time on Sunday, November 6. He has the money, so why not? He needs to sit at a desk in an Oval Office-type setting, to look straight into the camera and to talk for thirty minutes about his plans for the United States. His talk needs to be straight and sober – with no name-calling – and to lay out his plans with justifications. It’s his last, best shot. Clearly, he also needs to hit hard on the latest Clinton email controversy.

“Clinton’s Ten-Day Strategy” – I am very uncomfortable with using kids as political props, but has anyone ever seen Hillary's grandchildren? Look, everyone loves babies, so why not walk out out with Bill, along with Chelsea, Marc, and their children? Hillary as a grandma could send a powerful message about caring for the next generation of Americans. You’d have to be careful about how you orchestrate the photo-op, but it could be done. Hillary Clinton’s biggest drawback is that she appears cold, calculating, and unlikable. People love grandmas; it could be endearing. Yes, tout your vast resume, but show your heart, too. She will also need - to the extent she can - to shed clarity on the latest round of email revelations.

“Third Parties” – The third-party effort in the race continues to fade. At one time, I thought the combined total of Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Jill Stein could reach 20 percent. It reached as high as 18 percent, but has waned. In the latest Real Clear Politics composite poll, Johnson is at 5.8 percent with Stein at 2.0. Their combined 7.8 percent hurts Clinton slightly more than Trump, but not enough to change the outcome of the election.

“Early Voting” – One thing we did not have in the Carter-Reagan election in 1980, was early voting. Depending on the day this week, as many as 37 states are participating in early voting. That prevents a significant number of voters being able to change their minds at the last minute. I heard on the radio this week – and it’s just anecdotal – that “90 percent of the advertising money is spent after 20 percent of people have voted.” I doubt the amount is as high as 90 percent, but the line is well noted. A lot of people cast their ballots early, and their minds can’t be changed by a barrage of last-minute ads.

Did you vote early, and why? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2016, Mark Curtis media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: cbsnews.com

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