(Providence, Rhode Island) – Congress is now on a two-week spring break, and it’s also Holy Week. So, is the world of politics coming to a halt? Hardly. Here’s a quick peek at what’s going on.
“On the Road Again” – President Obama’s trip to the Mideast was big news. An open microphone caught him joking about getting away from Congress, and there is a ring of truth in that remark. Since only the Senate gets to approve treaties, a traveling President is only wearing one Congressional handcuff. He has a freer hand to operate and negotiate overseas. Plus, Air Force One isn’t a bad taxi to have at your disposal. Presidents tend to travel a lot during their second terms, so expect to see more trips.
“Holy Week” – There are many who think religion and politics don’t mix - or shouldn’t mix. But they do. As I predicted, the Roman Catholic Church selected its first Pope from South America (although I predicted the Cardinal from Brazil). In any event, forty percent of the world's Catholics now live in Central and South America. The Church is going where its growth is. In the political world, many observers think the Republican Party needs a similar strategy. Many Hispanics are conservative anyway, and they also represent the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. While the Hispanic vote went strongly for Obama in 2008 and 2012, Republicans have done extremely well with Latino voters in Florida, Texas and Arizona in certain elections. I predict the GOP will cultivate a “Papal” strategy in the next two election cycles.
“A Photo Finish” – Speaking of the Papacy, when was the last time two Popes met? The photo of new Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has people scrambling for their history books (photo above). The last time two Popes met was over 600 years ago, and there were no cameras then!
“First Steps” – While we are on the subject of political strategies aimed at Hispanic voters, watch the week of April 8 closely, as that is when Congress reconvenes. A bipartisan group of Senators is likely to roll out an immigration reform bill that is politically targeted to segments of both the Democratic and Republican parties. While the bill will have pragmatic elements that have to deal with the illegal immigration problem, it will also offer some highly partisan elements for both sides. It probably will get through the Senate, but the House will be a struggle. It also could be the President’s last and only major domestic accomplishment before the 2014 midterm election.
“Why Wait for 2014?” – Before we get to those critical midterm elections, there will be a huge Senate race to decide. The seat left open in Massachusetts, when John Kerry became Secretary of State, is now taking center stage. All five candidates (2 Democrats and 3 Republicans) were crisscrossing the state this weekend. The primary is April 30; and with lots of money pouring in, we will start getting the TV ad blitz and the robo-calls soon!
“Gay Marriage on Center Stage” – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two major cases this week dealing with the issue of same-sex marriage. The decisions – which will likely come in June – could have a huge impact on whether or not same-gender marriages are allowed nationwide, or at least in some specific states. In Rhode Island this week, over 600 people showed up at a State Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that is considering two gay marriage bills. And Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) – a potential 2016 Republican Presidential or Vice Presidential contender – has announced his support for same-sex marriage. (He has a gay son.) So, this issue is now reaching its peak in the political process. The big question is: Will the U.S. Supreme Court decisions be sweeping and apply to all states; or will they rule in a very narrow sense, affecting only the states in question. Stay tuned!
“Politicians – Like Cats – Have Nine Lives” – The names of Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris and Elliot Spitzer all have one thing in common. They are all politicians or political operatives who were pronounced dead by the pundits after political scandal or defeat. All rose to life again. So, add to the list former Florida Republican Governor Charlie Christ, now a Democrat. The failed independent Senate candidate is thinking of running for Governor again, and in some polls he now leads Florida’s current Republican Governor, Rick Scott. Yes, like cats, some politicos seem to have nine lives.
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