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“Oh, that’s Right! There’s an Election This Year!” – Sunday Political Brunch, April 12, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I am up to my eyeballs in the Coronavirus coverage. It’s literally all I do anymore - morning, noon, and night. I am physically and mentally drained by this story. In fact, I am so all-consumed by it, I’ve hardly had time to focus on any of the political implications. That’s a weird feeling, because after all, this is an election year. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Bernie ‘Burns Out’ in ‘Flame Out!’” – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont officially ended his second quest for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party. Even though Sanders has 941 of the 1,991 delegates needed for the nomination - with a lot of states yet to vote – the momentum isn’t going his way. The surge in recent contests puts Joe Biden in the lead with 1,217 delegates. Most of the other candidates who’ve dropped out have endorsed Biden and released their delegates. It’s his nomination to lose, or is it?

“Oh No, it’s Cuomo!” – Many Democrats are speaking privately about a brokered convention. Yes, Biden can win the nomination, but can he beat President Trump? There are a lot of doubters. The Coronavirus crisis has rocketed Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) New York into the forefront. No state has been hit harder by Covid-19 than New York. Cuomo and Trump have talked a lot, and have been complimentary to each other, but you must wonder how long that will last. A lot of us thought Cuomo would run for the White House in 2020, but he passed. But has the opportunity closed entirely? I don’t think so. Keep an eye on Cuomo. A New York Post poll has 56 percent of Democrats want Cuomo, with 44 percent sticking with Biden. Wow!

“Cuomo Versus Cuomo” – Okay, this is probably an “inside journalism” ethics debate, but is anyone else besides me concerned about how many times Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appeared on his brother Chis Cuomo’s show on CNN? In journalism school they told us this a is big “no-no.” It’s a huge conflict of interest. But in the interests of full-disclosure, I have interviewed my daughter several times on-air, as she has been a newsmaker in her own right. I think it’s okay if you ask them questions you would ask of any other person in their role. The big concern comes if you are actively trying to promote their cause or agenda. Chris asked his older brother if he was going to make a backdoor run for president. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “People asked me, well, will you run for president, I said no. I’m not that guy, Chris. I’m not that politician that says, yeah, it’s all about me, the next step on the ladder. … I am true to my word.” We’ll see.

“Trump’s Troubles” – We’re less than seven months away from the November election, and there is some troubling polling for President Trump. A Reuters/Ipsos Poll this week shows that only 42 percent of respondents approve of President Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus outbreak. That’s down from 48 percent approval last week. A March 22 poll had 55 percent approving of Trump’s responds. So, the erosion of support is concerning to Republicans. The big wild card here is how long the crisis lasts. If it peaks, then dissipates in the next month, Trump may be on a glidepath to reelection. But if the caseload and death rate explode and we’re still dealing with this in June, he has serious problems that, perhaps are irreversible.

“To Primary, or Not to Primary?” – For the second time this primary season we’ve seen a state literally have a meltdown over whether to hold a primary election. A few weeks ago, it was Ohio where it was on-again, off-again a least four different times in a 24-hour period. Ultimately Ohio moved its primary to June. In my home state of Wisconsin, it was on-again, off-again as well, until the Wisconsin Supreme Court said the election could proceed this past Tuesday. In many polling places it was chaos, with not enough poll workers, and voters confused about where to go, and what to do. There was a grand push for people to vote absentee, but for many it was too little, too late. I heard lots of complaints from both Democrats and Republicans in my Badger State.

“West Virginia Gets it Right” – I firmly believe all voters have the right to vote in peace, and not fear and chaos. They need to vote with clarity, not confusion. In West Virginia, our Governor, with support from the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, decided last week to move the May 12th primary, to June 9th. In addition, all 1.2 million registered voters were sent a postcard this week, asking if they would like to vote by absentee ballot, instead of in person. Tradition tells us polling places are packed with elderly voters, and senior poll workers – a high-risk group for Covid-19. This was a well-executed plan to maximize voter participation, while minimizing the health risks. More states should follow West Virginia’s lead!

How has the Coronavirus affected your voting plans in 2020? 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 it’s five surrounding states, and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Reporter for The White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2020, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

“The Politics of Coronavirus: Chapter Two” - The Sunday Political Brunch April 5, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – For the second straight week I am analyzing the politics of the Coronavirus. As I said last week, it’s unseemly, but it’s also reality. The political operatives on both sides of the aisle in Washington, D.C. and in most state capitols, are having the very discussion we’re having here because 2020 is a critical election year. Politics is a game of strategy, and even a pandemic can’t change that. Let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“I am a War President” – What does that mean? President George W. Bush said that often during his reelection bid in 2004. The message is both practical and political. That means, a) the nation is at war, and there is imminent danger; and, b) you don’t change leaders when you’re in the middle of combat. This was the strategy used by Lincoln, Wilson, FDR and others. But it’s NOT a guarantee. Remember Bush II only won by a one-state margin (Ohio) in 2004. And George H.W. Bush peaked too soon. Yes, he blew Iraq out of the water in early 1991, but the memory was long faded by November 1992, when he lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton.

“The Long-Haul” – There are a variety of forecasts for coronavirus in the United Nations. The most optimistic scenario is that it peaks by early May, and then fades away. But another model has a fade soon, but then a reflash in fall, and perhaps a third wave in early 2021. Obviously, the best scenario for President Trump is the first one. If the disease is defeated and the death toll is relatively low, he’s going to get a bounce. But if the disease has peaks and valleys, with a relapse in the fall, he’s probably toast in November. It’s all about winning, and of you aren’t winning the war on the disease, you probably aren’t going win an election.

“Wasn’t it, ‘It’s the Economy, Stupid?’” – I’ve often stated in this column that most elections – especially for president – rise and fall on the state of the economy. Famed political strategist James Carville often told the Clinton campaign staff in 1992, “It’s the economy, stupid!” What he was saying is that most people vote with their purses and pocketbooks. In 1992, the post-Iraq War Bush popularity faded with a brief recession. Carville was right and Clinton won.

“War Versus Economy” – So what do you do if the war effort is up, and the economy is down? This is the most critical threat to President Trump chances for a second term. The stock markets have tanked, and millions of people have been suddenly tossed into the unemployment line. The economy was the president’s signature issue. A year ago, we had the lowest unemployment in 50 years, and the Dow Jones had surged 10,000 points up in Trump’s term. But two weeks of Coronavirus has wiped out all those employment and investment gains. If this downturn gets worse as November approaches, there probably won’t be a second term. Those are just the fates and fortunes of the political pendulum swinging, and presidents don’t control it.

“The Dangers for Democrats” – As challenging as this issue is for Republicans, including President Trump, it may be doubly risky for Democrats. Look, the nation is in crisis and when that happened the public sentiment is for the two sides to put away their partisan differences and solve the problem. We saw the unanimity in Congress last week when lawmakers passed the $2 trillion-dollar economic stimulus bill. But if Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi and likely presidential nominee Joe Biden are too harsh on their criticism of Trump, it could backfire. People might view it as unpatriotic or un-American, even though political dissent is one of our most important and cherished rights. We only have one president at a time. No one should fall behind him in lock-step support, nor should people criticize him just because he’s on the other side of the aisle. Democrats need to play their opposition very strategically, and factually. For example, “The White House knew the nation needed 100,000 ventilators, but they only came up with 10,000 and because of that people died.” It can’t be the simplistic, “Trump sucks!” That doesn’t work.

“Here’s Who Matters” – A Gallup Poll published this year shows that 29 percent of Americans self-identified as Democrats, while 30 percent said they were Republicans. Fully 39 percent of people said they were registered or voted as independent. I say this – and justify my above analysis – because these are the people who elect presidents. There are not enough voters in either party to win an election outright. The independents are the ones most turned off by partisan politics as usual, and the ones most inclined to be turned off by negative attacks.

“Performance, Not Politics” – Ultimately the political piece of this discussion will be determined by policy outcomes. If the Trump administration is successful in shutting down the virus, and limiting the numbers of deaths, there could be a huge political payoff. On the other hand, if the death rate soars and the economy tanks further, voters may be inclined to make a change. But the key people to watch, are the 39 percent who claim no party affiliation.

It’s report card time, give President Trump a grade so far, by clicking the comment button!

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 Political Writer for the White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2020, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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