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“Does Anyone Care About Politics Right Now?” -- Sunday Political Brunch March 22, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W, Va. -- Remember the age-old philosophical question: “If a tree falls in the woods, and nobody is there to hear it, does it still make a sound?” I must ask the same question with the coronavirus outbreak this week. Yes, we had some big-time politics going on this week, but was anyone listening, and did anyone care? Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Politics DID Happen This Week!” – Three states held primary elections on Tuesday, while a fourth – Ohio – cancelled its primary at the eleventh hour. Here are the results: In Florida, former Vice President Joe Biden had 62 percent of the vote, to 23 percent for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). In Illinois, Biden took 59 percent, to 36 percent for Sanders. And in Arizona, Biden won 44 percent to 33 percent for Sanders. It was another clean sweep for Biden.

“Delegate Counts Matter” – Any candidate needs 1,991 delegates to win the nomination. After this week’s primaries Biden has 1,142 delegates, and Sanders has 824. Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg and Tulsi Gabbard have all dropped and have endorsed Biden. Collectively, they hold another 81 potential delegates that could move to Biden. Elizabeth Warren, who has yet to endorse anyone, is most closely politically aligned with Sanders. She holds 73 delegates. Look, this is strongly trending to an inevitable Biden nomination. Remember there are “super delegates” which are seats reserved for party leaders such as members of Congress, and Governors. The party faithful are strongly backing Biden.

“Does Anyone Care?” – The problem for politicians – especially those running in primaries soon – is, are people paying attention? Coronavirus stories are dominating the news, and if you look like you are trying to take political advantage by attacking opponents, it could backfire as pure political opportunism. It’s a fine line to walk, and it puts non-incumbents and newcomers at a disadvantage to incumbent office holders. Those in office have a legitimate role (and votes) in dealing with the crisis now, and not in November.

“VP is a She-VP!” – In last Sunday’s political debate on CNN, Joe Biden made the bold announcement that he would be picking a woman to be his vice-presidential running mate. Later in the debate, Bernie Sanders begrudgingly said he’d consider a woman as well (though it was clear Biden took strategic advantage as the first to make the pledge).

“So, Who is She?” – As my regular readers will note, I’ve been predicting for about eight months now, that Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) is the woman likely to get the nod. She’s a former corporate lawyer, a former chief prosecutor in a big, urban county, and she’s been elected three times to the U.S. Senate. She’s never lost an election. She’ll be the best pick for Biden or Sanders. Plus, she’s a fresh face with a long resume. I’ve heard people all week speculate that Biden would choose Michelle Obama, or even Hillary Clinton, but both come with baggage. Klobuchar is a fresh face, is well-qualified, and at age 59, has a bright political future ahead of her. She’d be a pick about tomorrow, not about yesterday!

“Gabbard Gabs Good-Bye” – It didn’t make huge headlines, but Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D-HI), finally dropped out of the Democratic nomination contest this week. Why she hung on so long amazes me, as she passed on her chance to file for re-election to a safe House seat. A military veteran, still in her 30s, she has a bright future ahead of her and we’ll hear from her again down the road. Had I been an advisor, I would have told her to fold her tent long ago and run for Congress again. Now, that platform is gone, which I think is a mistake. She’s an impressive young lady. Keep an eye on her!

“To Have the Job vs. To Want the Job” – After some initial stumbles and downright boneheaded statements about the coronavirus threat, President Trump has done a lot to right the ship, and perhaps, instill more public confidence in his handling of the situation. His Oval Office address and many of his daily White House briefings have been far more sober and focused, that his often bombastic and inflammatory tweets. Many times, he has come across as far more “presidential” and diplomatic, than the often-confrontational nature of his first three years. And he has become far more deferential to the experts, such as Dr. Tony Fauci. How Trump continues to manage this crisis could well determine whether voters give him a second term.

“So, What’s Next?” – The trick of politics is to know what you control, and what you don’t. We are in uncharted territory, and there are “six ways from Sunday” this whole coronavirus crisis could go south. If the President and members of Congress look like they are in control of the situation, and the threats and fears dissipate, then that’s gold at the ballot box. But, if the illness explodes out of control, with countess deaths and suffering, anyone in office now, is in peril. Remember, politics remains to many voters a, “what have you done for me lately” business.

How is the coronavirus response shaping your political hopes and votes? 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 surrounding 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

“It Ain’t Over, ‘til it’s Almost Over!” Sunday Political Brunch - March 15, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s been quite a week in the world of politics as the coronavirus scare has now greatly overshadowed everything in the universe, including the presidential primary season. But we may be headed toward some sort of closure, so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“A Fish Out of Water”- Let me apologize in advance for even broaching the idea of political strategy this week. We’re in a worldwide crisis - and suddenly - petty political differences seem small. On the other hand, we’re trying to pick the best people to lead when we get into an emergency such as this, so trying to vet who might handle it best is just human nature. There’s no such thing as a Democratic or Republican coronavirus. What matters is that we get the solution right.

“The Voices of ‘Junior’ Tuesday” – It was a week of six primaries – certainly not the magnitude of last week’s Super Tuesday, but it is still consequential. I mean, you had Michigan, Missouri and Washington voting, three states of considerable influence. But Joe Biden carried all three states, plus Mississippi and Idaho. North Dakota was Sander’s lone win.

“Looking Forward” – This coming Tuesday could be the beginning of the end. You have four of the nation’s most populous states castings ballots: Illinois, Florida, Ohio and Arizona. If Biden makes a clean sweep, or even takes three of four, his nomination is inevitable. Sanders really must win two, to call it a draw and move on.

“Delegate Counts Matter” – Before we get to this coming Tuesday, here are the delegate numbers so far: Biden 887. Sanders 731, Elizabeth Warren 71, Michael Bloomberg 61. The magic number needed for the nomination is 1,991. If Sanders can at least keep pace on Tuesday, he stays in the race.

“What’s Trending?” – Here are the latest Real Clear Politics composite polls for Tuesday’s key states: Florida – Biden 65 percent to Sanders 23 percent; Arizona – Biden 48 percent to Sanders 26 percent; Ohio – Biden 57 percent to Sanders 35 percent; Illinois – Biden 60 percent to Sanders 32 percent. Look, it’s getting to be a tougher road for Sanders.

“Sealing the Deal?” – I have pondered this for months, how a frontrunner might seal the deal not just for the nomination, but for the general election in November. The traditional focus has been on naming the vice-presidential running mate, but what about naming the whole team? Biden, for example, could make a huge statement by naming Amy Klobuchar as his VP, but then going on naming Kamala Harris as his Attorney General designee, Pete Buttigieg as his HUD Secretary, Jay Inslee as Secretary of Energy, and John Hickenlooper as Interior Secretary. You can imagine all kinds of names. Why wait until November, when you could assemble a cabinet now?

“Coronavirus Implications” – Louisiana has already cancelled its upcoming primary due to coronavirus concerns. Who’s next? Suddenly, the primary season is taking a back seat to a real health crisis. You must wonder if it may affect – or cancel – this summer’s national political nominating conventions in Milwaukee and Charlotte.

“The Politics of Crisis” – Any politician can appear strong when the economy is humming, and the “trains are running on time.” But, the real measure of leadership is how you handle a crisis. Timing matters, too. Had Hurricane Katrina happened in September 2004, President George W. Bush might have been trounced at the ballot box. But the storm hit in 2005, and he was already secure in his second term. If President Trump appears to handle this emergency well, he’s on a possible glide path for reelection. If he falters, he’s toast. In politics, timing is critical and decisive.

Who are you supporting for the Democratic nomination for President? Has your choice changed in recent days? 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 Political Writer for the White House Patch, at www.Patch.com.

© 2020, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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