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The Ever-Evolving Presidential Campaign Changes Again – “Sunday Political Brunch” - October 6, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Just when it seemed like the presidential campaign was getting stagnant, there are a whole bunch of new twists and turns. After three rounds of debates, former Vice President Joe Biden was holding a steady lead, but all a sudden things are in flux, on many fronts. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Sanders Health Scare” – Senator Bernie Sanders (I) Vermont was taken to a Las Vegas hospital this week after some alarming discomfort in his chest. After tests were done, there was blockage in an artery of his heart and two stents were inserted. His campaign says he’s off the trail until further notice, but remember the next big debate is in Ohio on October 15th. Everyone responds differently to this - and on a personal note - I had similar surgery in June on a Friday and was back at work Monday. I’m 18 years younger than Sanders, but he’s a passionate energetic guy, and I fully anticipate he’ll make the debate.

“Is This the Age of the Senior?” – Bernie Sanders is 78, the oldest candidate in the race. But this is the most senior field the nation has ever pondered. Joe Biden is 76, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D) Massachusetts is 70. President Trump is 73. Some people thought Ronald Reagan was too old to be president being elected at the age of 69 and re-elected four years later. Look, people are living longer, and modern medicine has more treatments and medicines. If candidates appear physically healthy and mentally sharp, I don’t think age will be an issue. Remember that those born in the “baby boom” generation are now between 55 and 73 years old and are not inclined to be fans of age discrimination. Competence, not age, will define this issue.

“The Warren Bounce” – In my opinion, Senator Warren has been the most solid and consistent performer through all three rounds of debates. She’s been steady as she goes. Now that’s not an endorsement of her policies and positions, but rather an assessment of her performance on a crowded stage, with a lot of grenades being lobbed. She can throw a punch and take a punch.

“What Say the Polls?” – The polls are starting to shift, and in some cases dramatically. I believe it has a lot to do with Warren’s three solid debate performances. She’s about the only candidate where you can say, “She had a really good night,” at all the debates. The Real Clear Politics national composite poll now has it Biden 26.1 percent, Warren 24.4 and Sanders at 16.7. More striking – since there's no national primary – is what we are seeing in the first two primary/caucus states. Warren has surged ahead in Iowa with 23 percent, to 20.3 percent for Biden, and Sanders at 12 percent. In New Hampshire Biden still leads with 23.2 but Warren is at 21 and Sanders at 17.2 Biden and Sanders have been losing support, while Warren is gaining.

“Impeach This!” – I am trying to get my arms around the political strategy of impeachment right now, as a tactical campaign issue. I’ve left the Constitutional and legal issues up to others for now, while I assess tactics. Democrats seem in a hurry, many even wanting a vote by December. This whole thing could be over by Christmas, with the House impeaching, but the Senate acquitting. Call me crazy but wouldn’t the Democrats want to drag this out, at least through the primary season which ends around June 1? That keeps it on the front pages, especially while people are out campaigning and debating. If you dispatch it too fast, the public may snooze. In that vein, let me talk about “Exhibit A.”

“Exhibit A: The Power of Prominence” – In early October 2016, the infamous “Access Hollywood” tapes were released. Like many other political analysts, I thought Trump was done and would lose by a significant margin. The story was huge for a few days but then faded from prominence. Yes, it was shocking to hear Trump talk about kissing and grabbing the private parts of women he barely knew. But in the 24-hour news cycle, many stories have the shelf-life of a loaf of bread and go stale within days. That is not to minimalize the significance of sexual improprieties, which is quite a serious issue. But I think many Democrats assumed Trump was done as well, and they did not hammer home this point and drive a nail in his political coffin. By the time a full month had passed, the story faded and he escaped like a political Houdini.

“The Next Debate!” – The next Democratic debate is in Westerville, Ohio, near Columbus on October 15th. There will be 12 candidates on stage making it the largest faceoff yet. By the way, keep an eye on Senator Sherrod Brown (D) Ohio. This is a key swing-state and a must-win for Republicans to keep the White House. Brown has got to be on the vice-presidential short list for any potential presidential nominee.

Is your support for any candidate shifting? If so, who are you leaving, and who are you now backing? Just click 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 Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2019, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Lessons from Impeachments Past – “Sunday Political Brunch” -- September 29, 2019

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I’m not here to advocate for, or, against impeachment. That’s for my readers and partisan politicians to decide. But we’ve been down this road only three other times in our history, and I was alive for two of them - and was deeply invested in both. I was in grade school and high school, riveted to President Nixon’s plight in the 70s. And then I was a White House reporter in Washington, D.C, during the Clinton years, so I have some perspective to share. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Do the Math, (and Show Your Work!)” – Remember that impeachment is a political proceeding, not a legal one. Because of that partisanship is important, whether you like it or not. The House currently has 235 Democrats with 198 Republicans. There is one independent and one vacancy. Clearly Democrats have the numbers to file and pass articles of impeachment. I believe they will do so.

“Impeachment Two-Step” – Because it happens so infrequently, there is a common misperception that if you impeach a president, he is out. Not so. The House votes to impeach, but the Senate must hold a trial and then vote on removing from office. It’s not a simple majority decision as you need a two-thirds vote of the Senate to expel. The current Senate is 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats (two of whom are independents, who caucus with the minority). So, you’d need 20 Republicans to join with the 47 minority party members to remove Trump from office. That’s a tough road to hoe.

“The Bill Clinton Math” – In 1998, the House passed two articles of impeachment against President Clinton (even though the Judiciary Committee had approved four). Still, Republicans were the majority party in both chambers and the process moved to the Senate. The GOP held a 55 to 45 majority in the U.S. Senate, but with a two-thirds vote needed to remove Clinton from office, they’d need 12 Democrats to join them. The Democratic caucus did not waver. All 45 Democrats rejected removal from office on both counts, and on one charge five Republicans joined them. Clinton was easily saved, and for now Trump is on a similar glide path.

“Proceed at Your Own Peril” – The country was very divided in 1998 as the impeachment of Bill Clinton moved forward. While many Democrats joined with Republicans in condemning Clinton’s personal indiscretions, many in both parties felt removal from office (and undoing an election) were too extreme. Many voters felt the same way. In the November 1998 midterm elections, Republicans lost five seats in the House and the caucus made it clear it was overthrowing Newt Gingrich as House Speaker and he stepped down. While the GOP Senate majority stayed the same, the public message from voters was hard to ignore. People thought Congress had far more important business to attend to.

“The Nixon Dilemma” – We will never know for certain the fate of President Nixon, since he resigned before impeachment could move forward. But support for his impeachment was bipartisan. Seven Republicans joined with the majority party Democrats in voting to impeach Nixon. On August 7, 1974 Senators Barry Goldwater (R) Arizona and Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R) Iowa and House Minority Leader John Rhodes (R) Ohio went to the White House to tell Nixon his own party was turning on him and he would not prevail. The lesson here is watching the president’s own party. If it abandons him, the party’s over!

“Timing Matters” – The thing that the Nixon, Clinton, and Trump impeachment inquiries have in common is that they all hit their stride in an election year. In 1998 when I was a reporter in Washington, D.C., many Democrats who supported Clinton publicly told me privately, “I’ve got to defend this?” They were mad because they were painted into the corner of defending Clinton, even though many voters in their home districts were furious about Clinton’s behavior. While they were on the ballot in 1998, Clinton was not. The same was true for Nixon in 1974, when Republicans lost a ton of House seats. No matter your party, you don’t want the president’s anchor of scandal tied around your neck.

“Looking Forward” – Democrats hold such a large majority in the House of Representatives, they are unlikely to lose their grip on power. But Republicans would like to make some gains back from the 2018 midterm losses. In the Senate, Democrats have a shot at regaining the majority, because Republicans are defending almost twice as many seats. The big problem for Republicans is not the removal of Trump from office (for now unlikely), but rather losing their majority in the Senate and losing even more seats in the House. A lot of Republican lawmakers – fearing their own fate – could cut and run from Trump as many did for Nixon in 1974.

“The Bottom Line” – Don’t watch what the Democrats do in the impeachment process. They will hold their hearings and cast their votes against Trump in a very partisan fashion, and that’s their prerogative. But the real show will be to watch what the Republican rank and file do as a matter of conscience or political self-preservation.

Do you favor or support impeachment? And why? Just click the comment button!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia and 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.

© 2019 Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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