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“On Wisconsin!” Why the Badger State is Critical in 2020 – “Sunday Political Brunch” October 20, 2019

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MILWAUKEE, Wisc. – I am on the road this week in my native State of Wisconsin where I grew up and cultivated my love of politics. “America’s Dairyland,” as it is known, is usually one of the eight or ten battleground states that decide a presidential election. 2020 will be no different as the Badger State will be critical to who gets the keys to the White House doors.

“An Unconventional Convention” – The 2020 Democratic National Convention will be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 2020, the first time the state has ever hosted a national nominating convention. The other finalists and semi-finalists were Denver (in a likely blue state), Houston, (in a likely red state), and Miami (in a leaning red state). Atlanta, (in a leaning red state), Birmingham (in a certain red state), and Las Vegas, (in a likely blue state), also bid. What’s the difference? Wisconsin is a clear toss-up state Democrats must win back in order to take back the White House. There really was no other logical choice here.

“The Ghosts of 2016” – Wisconsin was supposed to be a slam-dunk for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Yet she lost the Democratic Primary to Bernie Sanders by 13 points. The General Election polls indicated Wisconsin was likely a blue state, so Clinton never returned to the Badger State after the primary. That was a huge mistake. Wisconsin is one of those states where retail politics still matters. You must shake hands at factory gates at 6am, even if it’s minus-10 degrees, and there are two feet of snow on the ground. You go bowling, and attend a Packer game, too. She did none of that. Donald Trump showed up early and often, and he won by 23,000 votes, with the percentage 47.22 for Trump to 46.45 for Clinton. It was razor thin.

“Read Your History” – I have covered the last 11 presidential elections, starting with the Carter-Reagan-Anderson contest in Wisconsin in 1980, when I did news on 850AM WMUR, Marquette University Radio. Of those 11 races, Republican candidates won Wisconsin six times, and Democrats five. But the most instructive statistic is that in 8 of these 11 elections, Wisconsin voted for the winning candidate. So yes, the state is purple, and see-saws between picking Democrats and Republicans, but almost always Wisconsin picks the winner. The state is a great bellwether for reading the national mood.

“What’s a Purple State?” – Well, it’s a state with a mix of strong liberal leanings, and solid pockets of conservatives. The simplest way to analyze it is to say Democrats do well in urban areas, and Republicans do well in rural areas. But it’s not that simple. Yes, the city of Milwaukee and its blue-collar suburbs are powerful union Democrat strongholds. But the middle and upper-middle class suburbs of Milwaukee, are largely white and conservative. Madison, often called the “Berkeley of the Midwest” is easily the state’s most liberal-progressive enclave. But Green Bay, another urban area is very red. The state is not easily defined politically, nor is it predictable. The worst thing you can do is assume you’ll win. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

“A Neighborly Place” – Wisconsin has a reputation for being one of the nicest, friendliest, most hospitable states in the nation. It’s downright neighborly. And one of its best neighbors is Minnesota. In 1976, Jimmy Carter named Senator Walter Mondale (D) Minnesota as his running mate, and it played well. The Carter-Mondale ticket carried Wisconsin in a close race and that carried it to victory at the White House. It is for this very reason that I still see Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota as a top-tier candidate for vice president in 2020. She could help win back Wisconsin for the Democrats.

“But, Wait a Minute!” – Maybe the most important lesson about Wisconsin politics is that its voters should never be taken for granted. Yes, in 1976 they chose Carter-Mondale, but with the Iran hostage crisis and the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression, Wisconsin flipped and voted for Ronald Reagan and George Bush in 1980. The lesson here is that neither party owns this state. You must win it, and then perform to the satisfaction of voters, to win it again. Make no assumptions. Wisconsin votes on results, and this is a lesson to which President Trump must play attention.

“Why All This Matters” – On the surface you might look at Wisconsin and its 10 Electoral College votes and say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just Wisconsin!” Well, in 2016, Donald Trump specifically targeted Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania in the final three weeks, and he carried each state. Many political analysts – including me – predicted he would win none of these states, yet he pulled a hat-trick and took all three. If all other states remain the same, Democrats must win ALL three of these states to take the keys to the White House. So, Wisconsin matters a lot.

My biggest dilemma is not choosing candidates, but rather hamburgers. While in the Badger State this week do I dine at “George Webb,” or at “Culvers” for my burgers. It’s a tough choice!

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

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: WUWM.com

The Potential Potholes and Pitfalls of Impeachment – “The Sunday Political Brunch” - October 13, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – All the clamor from Washington, D.C. over impeachment is raising a lot of questions and concerns. As someone who covered President Clinton’s impeachment from gavel-to-gavel and was riveted to TV during President Nixon’s impeachment hearings, I have some perspective I’d like to share. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“What’s Getting Done?” – Congressional action – like the way we budget time in our own lives – is a series of choices. Time is finite, so when we say we want to pursue Agenda A and Agenda B, then we might be eliminating time and resources to address Agendas C and D. This was a huge argument in Bill Clinton’s impeachment, when the Nation’s Capital came to a grinding halt and seized up completely in the impeachment investigation.

“Times They Are a’ Different” – In 1974, President Nixon had already been reelected to a second term and would never appear on the ballot again. The same is true for President Clinton in 1998. Not so, for President Trump, who will be on the ballot in 2020 for reelection. The perspective here may cut a number of ways. First, the entire process may appear entirely political. House Democrats are already pushing for a vote by Christmas knowing they have the numbers to impeach, even though the Senate has the numbers to keep Trump from being expelled from the White House. Is this all just to taint his reelection campaign? That will be the accusation. Bet on it!

“What Have You Done for Me Lately” – It’s important to think about why Trump was elected in the first place. His top issue was immigration reform. Let’s face it, official Washington – both Democrats and Republicans alike – have refused to confront the illegal immigration problem in any serious way. They may nibble around the edges but no historic reforms are near. If impeachment goes forward, immigration reform will not. In fact, most other legislation and a host of issues, will come to a grinding halt, just as they did in the Nixon and Clinton cases. Impeachment simply sucks all the oxygen out of the room in Washington. Democrats will say Trump is an impeached president; Republicans will blame the House for being a “do-nothing Congress.” Tit-for-Tat here we come!

“The Finger-Pointing Game” – In 1998-99 when I was covering the Clinton impeachment, I can’t remember any bills of significance being passed. Republicans were accused of being a “do-nothing” Congress. The majority of the public – while outraged by Clinton’s personal indiscretions – did not believe it warranted removal from office. Republicans, who were criticized by many as overplaying their hand, lost five seats in their House Majority and Speaker Newt Gingrich had to walk the gang-plank, and was ousted by his own caucus.

“Same Song; Different Verse” – Quite honestly, Democrats in 2020 could face the same peril as Republicans in 1998. If you are perceived to be wasting a lot of time and money on what may be a partisan attack, and little else gets done, you could face the wrath of voters who want action on all kinds of issues from immigration reform, to Obamacare fixes.

“What’s the Rush?” – Many Democrats want to conduct impeachment hearings and have a vote by Christmas. That’s fast. From a purely political, tactical. perspective why not run it low and slow and deep into the 2020 campaign cycle and keep in on the front pages? With enough votes to impeach in the House, but not enough to remove in the Senate, Trump could spin this as a major political victory on New Year’s Day. “Democrats tried to take me out, but they failed,” he could say which might rally his base.

“The Power of Voter Anger” – Remember that Trump’s election had a great deal to do with voting against the status quo. And in the states where he surprisingly won such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, he appealed to a lot of those so-called “Reagan Democrats” who felt ignored by their own party. Impeachment may inflame, rather than placate the passions of those voters.

“Overview” – When I covered the Clinton impeachment of 1998-99, I ran into an incredible number of people in both parties who thought it was a colossal waste of time and money. Republicans went into the problem knowing they easily had enough votes for a House impeachment but were sure to lose in the Senate which required a two-thirds vote for expulsion. We face the very same math today and woe to the politicians on the bubble facing voters in 2020.

“A Huge Difference” – In 1974 and in 1998, the House held a largely symbolic, yet important vote, to call for an impeachment inquiry. I say symbolic, because the House Speaker – as Nancy Pelosi has done this year – has the power to call an inquiry without a vote of the rank and file. The symbolic votes on Nixon and Clinton were largely to show consensus. Yet in 2020 there are a significant number of Democrats in the House, who were elected in 2018, in districts Trump won in 2016. Democrats are very protective and trying to save those seats in an act of political self-preservation. It’s a move that could backfire when members currently sitting on their hands must cast a “yay” or “nay” vote.

Are you for or against impeachment, 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, 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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