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Restart: Biden Vice-Presidential Pick Do-Over - "The Sunday Political Brunch" June 14, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Last month I wrote two successive columns on who Democratic nominee Joe Biden might pick as his vice-presidential running mate. So many things have happened, and so many things have changed. Politics is often shaped by unplanned or unforeseen events such as Covid-19 and George Floyd. All of the sudden the political calculus has changed a lot. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar!” – During one of the debates in the waning stage of the campaign, Joe Biden pledged to pick a female running mate. It was a bold move, especially considering how many women were on the debate stage this year. But when George Floyd died at the hands of police, that put even more pressure on Biden to not only pick a woman, but a woman of color. I’m now convinced he will do just that.

“Minnesota Minimizes” – For the past year I have been touting (not endorsing) Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, as the likely VP choice. Suddenly her viability has hit a brick-wall, dead-end. Klobuchar was Hennepin County District Attorney in 2006, when Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin and three fellow officers killed a suspect. While the case was pending, Klobuchar was elected to the U.S Senate. Her successor and a grand jury decided not to prosecute Chauvin and the other officers. The problem for Klobuchar is that she now tangentially linked to the George Floyd case, because Officer Chauvin is charged in Floyd’s death, making her potential running mate status radioactive. Is that fair? Of course not, but in a political sense she is damaged goods. She’s out.

“The Talent Pool” – In my White House Patch columns on May 3 and May 10, I profiled 14 women whom I was handicapping as potential Biden running mates. Eight of them are women of color. So, the nominee has plenty of talent to choose from. Here are links if you’d like to review: https://patch.com/us/white-house/so-who-does-biden-pick-vp and https://patch.com/us/white-house/chapter-two-so-who-does-biden-pick-vp.

“The Final Four” – As mentioned I profiled eight women of color in those columns, but at this point I believe only four are viable and under serious consideration. They are Rep. Val Demings (D) Florida, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) Atlanta, Sen. Kamala Harris (D) California, and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, (D) Michigan is the only white candidate still viable.

“California Dreamin’” – I’ve known Kamala Harris many years, from her days as San Francisco District Attorney beginning in 2004. She’s smart, charming, brash and gusty. She did the rare thing of challenging an incumbent in her own party and beating him. Harris is of mixed ethnicity as her mom was Indian and her father Jamaican. She was tough as California Attorney General at times, but some say too harsh on African Americans. That doesn’t help in a year where aggressive law enforcement is suddenly a big issue. California is more than likely to back Biden, no matter who he picks. Harris is still in the running, but I don’t think she is the first choice.

“Bottoms Up!” – So many people are pushing Stacey Abrams, who lost the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, that a fellow Georgian is getting overlooked. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) Atlanta, has run one of America’s biggest cities, one with a history of both racial divisions and racial healing. She was on the city council for eight years and has served as mayor for two. She and her husband could not conceive children, so they adopted four kids. She’s the daughter of the renown, late R&B singer Major Lance. Both she and her husband are accomplished lawyers. In short, she has chops, but she also has a backstory (including some trouble with campaign contributions). At 50, she is the youngest of my “Final Four” so her day may come down the road. But, keep an eye on this political rising star.

“Demings Rising” – I have my top-two picks. One of them is Rep. Val Demings (D) Florida. Yes, she’s only been in Congress four years, but before that she had a 27-year career as a police officer, ending up as Chief of Police in Orlando, Florida. Law enforcement is suddenly one of the top-three issues this year, and she’s an expert. Her husband Jerry Demings is also a career law enforcement officer and is now Mayor of Orange County, Florida. He was also Chief of Police in Orlando and later Orange County Sheriff. While in Congress, Val Demings was one of the seven House Impeachment Managers in the impeachment for President Trump. She could also help bring Florida back into the Democratic camp, and if they take Florida on Election Day, the race is over for President Trump. She’s a big-time contender here.

“Wanna Obama?” - I was on the Ronn Owens show on KGO Radio 810-AM in San Francisco this week. I shocked my old pal Ronn, when I predicted Biden was going to pick Michelle Obama as his running mate. He was stunned because just six weeks ago I had written off that notion as a gimmick. While she’s never been elected to anything, eight years as first lady is a real training ground. You get to see everything and be a part of a lot of decisions. Plus, when you are an Ivy League educated corporate lawyer, you’re not just window dressing. Some first ladies like Betty Ford, Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton were very hands on. Others like Laura Bush and Roslyn Carter were more low-key, but you can bet they were in the loop and influential. The Obama-Biden bumper sticker worked, so why not Biden-Obama?

“My Logic?” – In my column from last week, I talked about how African American voter turnout plummeted in Wisconsin and Michigan by 12 percent from Barack Obama in 2012 to Hillary Clinton in 2016. In Detroit alone, black voter turnout dropped by nearly 50,000 votes, and Trump won Michigan by a mere 11,000 votes. If the African American vote leaps back up in 2020, Biden can win those states and others with Mrs. Obama on the ticket. She’s the only candidate of my “Final Four” who has nationwide appeal and can help in multiple states. The others may help in their own state, but where do they add value beyond their borders? Right now, Michelle Obama is my prediction, with Val Demings still with a strong shot!

Who would you like to see Joe Biden pick for vice-president? Click the comment button and let us know!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media 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.

© MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: PBS.org

The Battle for the Battleground States - "The Sunday Political Brunch" - June 7, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Well, the 2020 Election is just five months away, as we continue to stagger through the primary season – including West Virginia this week. A lot of national polls and state polls show bad news for President Trump, but Democrats may want to cue up the old classic from The Who - “We Won’t Get Fooled Again!” There are 13 so-called battleground states where this race will be decided. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Crash and Burn?” – If you look at the latest composite poll from Real Clear Politics, it does not look good for the incumbent. The national poll has it at 49.2 percent for the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. Republican President Donald Trump comes in at 42.2 percent. The problem for Democrats is that in 2016, Trump managed to win the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. So, a national popularity lead at this point may not be that significant.

“The Big Three” – As I have been harping on in my column for months, the Democrats' path to the White House resides in winning back all three of the traditional “blue states” Trump swept away in 2016, namely Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Here are the latest RCP composite polls for all three: Pennsylvania, Biden 48 percent to Trump 44 percent; Michigan, Biden 47 percent tot Trump 42 percent; and, Wisconsin, Biden 46 percent to Trump 43 percent. If Biden wins back all three, plus all states Hillary Clinton won in 2016, he’ll be president.

“The Linchpins for Trump” – The things to watch on election night are the early East Coast trends, which were bellwethers for Trump in 2016. Some of the first states to report are places Trump needs to win again. Right now, the RCP composite poll in Florida has it 48 percent for Biden and 45 percent for Trump. In North Carolina, the poll average has it 46.4 percent Biden 45.6 percent for Trump, statistically a dead heat. But my election night advice is this: if Biden wins either, or both, Florida and North Carolina, turn off the coffee pot and go to bed. There’s no reason to pull an all-nighter.

“Rust Belt Rules” – The ultimate bellwether state for any Republican is Ohio. No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying the Buckeye State, too. The RCP poll has it close with Biden at 46 percent and Trump at 45 percent. I long thought that Senator Sherrod Brown, (D) Ohio had a shot for the vice-presidential slot on the ticket, to help take back his state. Right now, he doesn’t even appear on Biden’s list, since the nominee promised a female running mate. Breaking that promise, just to win Ohio, would be the kiss of death. Don’t plan on making any Biden-Brown bumper stickers or yard signs!

“First in the Nation Station!” – Much is always made of the ‘first in the nation” status of the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary, both of which are battleground states in November. Last time around, Clinton won New Hampshire and Trump took Iowa. Right now, it looks like a repeat. The latest RCP composite poll in New Hampshire has Biden up over Trump, 48 to 44 percent. In Iowa the numbers flip, with Trump at 48 percent to 44 percent for Biden.

“The Non-Factors” – I was surprised that Virginia and Texas were listed as key battleground states this year. Texas has long been a GOP stronghold and I doubt that will change. Virginia was always a solid GOP state, too, but that has changed. Barack Obama carried it twice, and Hillary Clinton won big in 2016. The huge growth in the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Arlington, Alexandria and five other urban Northern Virginia counties has moved this state to the blue column. The latest RCP poll has it 49 percent for Biden, 39 percent for Trump. Texas, though, looks closer. The latest RCP poll has it 46 percent Trump to 44 percent Biden. Obviously, Texas is a Republican linchpin. It remains so.

“The Outliers” – The final three battleground states this year are Minnesota, Arizona and Nevada. Minnesota is traditionally blue, but the last few cycles were close. Right now, the RCP poll shows Biden at 49 percent to Trump’s 44 percent. Therefore, I’m still convinced Biden will choose Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota as his running mate. Arizona is another Sunbelt state showing a possible color change. The reliably red state is showing shades of a blue shift with Biden at 47 percent and Trump at 44 percent. If we get west of the Mississippi River without a clear winner early on election night, this could be the deciding state. Also out West, Nevada hangs in the balance. Long a red state, now trending blue, the latest poll has it 48 percent Biden, to 44 percent Trump.

“Things Have Changed?” – I always tell folks that polls are just a snapshot in time. It’s a “freeze-frame” of one day in June 2020. There are five months until the election and a lot can happen. As an aside, all these polls were taken before Friday’s good economic news, where unemployment dropped two full percentage points, 2.5 million jobs were created, and the Dow Jones surged past 27,000 points. If those trends continue, that helps the incumbent, especially in states where it is close. These polls also offer another potentially important clue. While Biden leads in most of them, he hasn’t broken the 50 percent majority barrier in any of them. The undecided voters are going to be pivotal. Remember, the overconfidence of Democrats based on similar polling data led to their defeat in 2016. It’s a mistake I am sure they don’t want to repeat.

How are things looking in your state? 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 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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