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“Rolling the Political Dice in Campaign 2020” – The Sunday Political Brunch February 23, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – It’s only fitting in the week when we have the Nevada Caucuses, that we bring in a gambling theme! Look, for some of these candidates the odds are getting better, while for others it’s still a crap shoot. And then we had the first debate-stage appearance by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R), then (I), New York City. There was a lot of other maneuvering this week that is worth a moment in the red-hot spotlight, too! So, let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“OMG!!!” – Oh my God!!! In the 43 years I’ve been covering politics, that was the meanest, nastiest, feistiest, bar-knuckled brawl of a debate I’ve ever seen. The gloves came off right out of the box with Elizabeth Warren saying, “So I'd like to talk about who we're running against, a billionaire who calls women ‘fat broads’ and ‘horse-faced lesbians.’ And, no, I'm not talking about Donald Trump. I'm talking about Mayor Bloomberg.”

“Old, ‘What’s His Name?’” – Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota, who’s had some brilliant debates – especially last week in New Hampshire – really faltered this week. She was chastised by many, including former Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) South Bend Indiana, because she was unable to name the president of Mexico in a recent interview. “But you're staking your candidacy on your Washington experience. You're on the committee that oversees border security. You're on the committee that does trade?” inquired Buttigieg of her gaffe. Klobuchar shot back, “Are you -- are you trying to say that I'm dumb? Or are you mocking me here, Pete?” Other candidates beat up on Klobuchar, too.

“Ouch, and Ouch Right Back at Ya!’” – The best “mix-it-up” moment of the night came between Bloomberg and Senator Bernie Sanders. After being attacked for his wealth all night Bloomberg fought back saying, “What a wonderful country we have. The best-known socialist in the country (Sanders) happens to be a millionaire with three houses. What did I miss here?” Sanders fired back, “Well, you'll miss that I work in Washington, house one… live in Burlington, house two… and like thousands of other Vermonters, I do have a summer camp. Forgive me for that. Where is your home? Which tax haven do you have your home?” Bloomberg shot back, “New York City, thank you very much, and I pay all my taxes.” Millionaire or billionaire, few average voters can relate to either.

“Biden His Time?” – Former Vice President Joe Biden had a lukewarm debate performance but may have made his best case when he said in the NBC sponsored debate, “In terms of who can beat Donald Trump, NBC did a poll yesterday. It says Joe Biden is best equipped to beat Donald Trump.”

“The Political ‘Hail Mary’ Pass!” – Maybe the most intriguing development this week is the idea put forth by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that he might choose 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton as his running mate. It created lots of buzz, intrigue and social media chatter. But oddly enough, not one of the five debate moderators asked Bloomberg (or, anyone else on stage) the question. An epic media fail!

“How Odd are the Odds?” – Las Vegas and Reno live by the game of numbers, so let’s go there. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll as we head to the caucus vote has it this way: Bernie Sanders 30 percent (up), Joe Biden 16 percent (down), Pete Buttigieg 14 percent (up), Elizabeth Warren 13.7 percent (up), Tom Steyer 10.3 percent (up), and Amy Klobuchar 10 percent (up). Michael Bloomberg did not poll. It goes without saying that the only person dropping in the polls is former Vice President Joe Biden.

“And the Winner Is?” – “And the Winner Is?” – At last look in Nevada, it was Sanders 47 percent, to Biden 19 percent, 15 percent Buttigieg, 10 percent Warren, 4 percent Steyer, and, 5 percent Klobuchar. With top-two finishes in the first three contests, Bernie Sander is now the front-runner.

“And the REAL Winner Is? – It’s a theme a lot of people said to me the morning after the debate. With the bitter division between Democrats, it may pave the way for President Trump’s reelection. Bloomberg said of Sanders chances. “I don't think there's any chance whatsoever. And if he goes and is the candidate, we will have Donald Trump for another four years. And we can't stand that.” In a roundabout way, Trump may have won the Las Vegas debate, if in the end Democrats can't unify behind one nominee.

“Can Democrats Unite and Win After This Fight?” – Yes, the debate was ugly. But is it a death sentence? Let’s go back to the first presidential campaign I ever covered in 1980 between President Jimmy Carter, former Gov. Ronald Reagan (R) California and Independent candidate Rep. John Anderson (R) Illinois. The Republican debates were feisty – though not as mean – but they were combative. At one-point candidate George H.W. Bush referred to Reagan’s financial plan as “voodoo economics.” But history shows the two “kissed and made up” and they united and held the White House for 12 years. Democrats can mend and survive this week’s dust-up, too.

There have been nine Democratic presidential debates so far. Has your candidate choice or opinion changed? 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, 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

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“Keep an Eye on a ‘Darkhorse’ named Klobuchar” - "Sunday Political Brunch" February 16, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – So much of the attention in the past two weeks focused on the voting fiasco in Iowa, and the inability to declare a clear-cut winner or frontrunner in the Democratic presidential nomination process. Then came New Hampshire, with another tight race, but also with a wild card waiting in the wings. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Let’s Do the Numbers” – Last week Iowa was a mess and uncertain. But let’s review the final numbers. Pete Buttigieg won by a hair at 26.2 percent of the vote to 26.1 for Bernie Sanders. Elizabeth Warren had 18 percent, and Joe Biden was fourth at 15.8 percent. Coming in at fifth place was neighboring Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) Minnesota at 12.3 percent.

“Who Won Round Two?” – Just eight days later in New Hampshire, here are the results of the first in the nation primary: Sanders 25.7 percent, Buttigieg 24.4, Klobuchar 19.8 percent, Elizabeth Warren 9.2 percent, and Joe Biden 8.4 percent. At first blush, this may look like a Sanders v. Buttigieg faceoff, with a virtual tie between those two men in the two leading “first in the nation” bellwethers.

“Dig Deep and Watch Trends” – The simplest analysis of the first two contests would focus at the top of he ballot, which could be a huge mistake. I have been touting her strength for months, so I again urge you to keep an eye on Senator Klobuchar. She is one of the few centrist-moderate Democrats in this race. She’s the kind of candidate that many Democrats could back nationally, who might have wide appeal among independent voters, and even moderate-to-liberal leaning Republicans. Look, 12.3 percent in Iowa, and just shy of 20 percent in New Hampshire means she polls well in a crowded field.

“The Likeability Factor” – Klobuchar showed a range of emotions and vibes in the New Hampshire debate last Friday. She was detailed, passionate, charming, folksy, funny, kind, tough, thoughtful, reflective, informed, and, at times, vulnerable. She came off as a human being people can relate to, and not some auto-matron, rehearsed, soundbite spitting candidate. Maybe I’m prejudiced, since I grew up in neighboring Wisconsin, but she has that folksy midwestern charm that put her Minnesota mentors Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale in the vice-president’s office, a heartbeat from the White House. She’s the real deal.

“Debates Matter” – I’ve been covering politics for 43 years, so I hope I come to this with some degree of expertise and authority. Many (including me), believe Klobuchar won the Friday night debate in New Hampshire, hands down. It wasn’t even close. A CNN exit poll in New Hampshire said that 30 percent of voters believed she won the Friday debate and that made them pull the lever for Klobuchar. As my friend and colleague, Professor Valerie Endress at Rhode Island College tweeted from New Hampshire, (Klobuchar showed that) "debates can matter!”

“The Blowback” – It’s fascinating, but I have had some criticism from my “Klobuchar obsession.” I keep suggesting in my columns and on social media that she is the obvious vice-presidential nominee, who would pair well with many of the front-runners. “You say Vice President, but why not President?” inquired one reader. Look, I call it a possibility, not a probability, in terms of whether Klobuchar could top the ticket. Clearly, she is qualified, as a three-term Senator, a two-term county prosecutor, and as a well-educated corporate lawyer. I consider her my “Darkhorse” for the top of the ticket since the current leaders clearly have the edge of fundraising and organization that Klobuchar has yet to come close to matching. But I do not rule her out for the top spot.

“What’s Ahead?” – The Nevada Caucuses are next Saturday February 22, and the South Carolina Primary is the following Saturday, February 29. The Real Clear Politics composite polls have these a Biden-Sanders race, with upstart businessman Tom Steyer in third. Biden needs a big comeback vote in both states, or he could be done. Michael Bloomberg is now polling third nationally (though I keep saying national pools don’t matter), but he has a bottomless wallet. If Sanders wins either of these, or even polls a strong second, he must be considered the frontrunner by performing at, or near the top, in the first four states.

“Super Tuesday Surprise?” – Super Tuesday has been a dud for decades and did not have the relevance it once did. This year that is likely to change in a big way. 14 states and a few U.S. territories vote on March 3rd, with fully one-third of the convention delegates to be selected. This will be a make or break momentum day for many candidates. California and Texas are the big prizes, and Bernie Sanders leads both by solid margins. But Bloomberg and Steyer and their money are out there and could be spoilers, or at least devise, or decisive factors.

“Who to Watch on Super Tuesday?” – Aside from Texas and California the following states are voting: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Democrats Abroad, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar all have “home state” primaries that each must win. If Biden wins in South Carolina on the heels of the African American vote, can that same strategy carry him to victory in Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia? More than anyone he needs a BIG day on Super Tuesday, or he’s likely toast.

Have your allegiances switched after Iowa and New Hampshire? Will you consider a sudden Bloomberg or Steyer surge? 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 MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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