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Good Bye Election 2018, Hello Campaign 2020 - Sunday Political Brunch - December 2, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Let’s wrap up the 2018 election and put a bow on it! At the same time, let’s say ‘good morning’ to the first days of the 2020 campaign. Yes, it never ends, but that’s the reality of how I make my living. In this heated political climate, it’s job security for political analysts like me. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Mississippi” – Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) defeated former Agriculture Secretary and Rep. Mike Espy (D-MS) in the final race for a U.S. Senate seat. That leaves the GOP with a 53 to 47 margin over Democrats in the upper chamber of Congress. Hyde-Smith, who had to defend (or apologize) for some racially-tinged remarks, wound up in a much closer race than it should have been. She beat Espy 54 to 46 percent, in one of the most “red” states in the country.

“Final House” – Right now it is 234 Democrats to 200 Republicans. The only race left is in the 21st District of California, where the Democrat holds a slight lead over the Republican. No matter how it ends up, Democrats have solid control of the House for the first time in eight years. But a mere swing of 18 votes in 2020 could give it back to Republicans. In this volatile political climate, all bets are off.

“Pelosi Returns” – It appears Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will be returning as Speaker of the House, after an eight-year absence. But at age 78, some of her fellow Democrats believe it’s time for Pelosi to move on and hand the mantle of leadership to the next generation. Before anyone accuses me of ageism, I remind you that former Speaker Tip O’Neill (D-MA) served until he was 75. Pelosi did not help her cause by saying in October that she would be a “transitional” leader. Some younger Democrats want her to be specific and set a date for a transition of power. Pelosi does not want to do that, because declaring an exact end-date to her reign would make her a “lame duck” Speaker (and greatly reduce her power and leverage from the get-go). It will be hard for Pelosi to be President Trump’s critic-in-chief if she’s on the way out anyway.

“New Hampshire on My Mind” – My headline was not a joke. The race for the White House in 2020 is already underway. Just look at the list of potential candidates visiting the home of the “First in the Nation Primary” in October and November 2018: Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Rep. Jon Delaney (D-MD), former Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I-NY), Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA), former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA), Sen Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), former Secretary of State Jason Kander (D-MO), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), former Rep. Julian Castro (D-TX), Sen. Jeff Markley (D-OR), and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ). Folks, Campaign 2020 is on! I’m not kidding!

“Democrats Turn at Clown Car!” – There were lots of laughs in 2016, with 17 Republicans seeking the party’s presidential nomination. People said it was like the proverbial clown-car at the circus with an endless number of clowns exiting a Volkswagen Beetle. Well, 2020 could be a similar gaggle for the Democrats. Here’s a list of potential candidates for the blue, donkey party: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom (D-CA), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton (D-NY), former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro (D-TX), his twin Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), former First Lady Michelle Obama, and the already-declared State Sen. Richard Ojeda (D-WV). But wait, there’s more! Stay tuned!

“Government Shutdown, Again?” – Okay, here we go again! If a temporary government spending bill is not approved soon, there will be a partial federal government shutdown on December 7. This never favors the party in power in Congress. During the last four government shutdowns, Republicans were in control of Congress. On three of those occasions there was a Democrat in the White House, and on one the president was a Republican. So why does Congress always get blamed? Well the public is a lot more sympathetic to one person sitting in the Oval Office, compared to the chaos of 535 people down the street in Congress. Is that fair? Maybe not, but it’s a reflection of human nature.

“Tears for Tear Gas” – There was a lot of outrage this week when U.S. Immigration and Customs agents lobbed tear gas at immigrants attempting to enter the U.S. at the Mexico border. The anger at the Trump administration seemed to dissipate when video surfaced of similar tear gas launches during the Obama administration. Anger over illegal immigration is probably the main reason President Trump was elected. He promised to be tough against violations, and he promised to build a wall. As distasteful as some people may find the use of tear gas, it’s been done before and will likely be done again, regardless of who lives in the White House. I know people think I’m crazy, but I predict the divided Congress will pass some (but not all) immigrations reforms and President Trump will sign them before the 2020 election.

What big issues are on your radar screen for 2019 and 2020? Just click the comment button on this page or the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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

© 2018, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Stuffing the Political Turkey this Thanksgiving - Sunday Political Brunch November 25, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – More than two weeks after the midterm election on November 6th, and we are still tabulating results and assessing the consequences. Let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“Senate Update” -- Things are getting clearer in the upper chamber. Gov. Rick Scott (R-Florida) is now U.S. Senator-elect, after defeating Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida). That leaves the Senate margin at 52 Republicans to 47 Democrats. The lone remaining race is in Mississippi where Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) is in the fight of her life against former Rep. Mike Espy (D-Mississippi), who also served nearly two years as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The runoff election is this Tuesday, November 27.

“House Update” – The latest count is 233 Democrats to 201 Republicans, with one race yet to be decided. As of now, that’s a net gain of 38 Democratic seats. I know Democrats are buoyed by that, but remember Republicans basically surrendered 40 seats through retirement, resignation or pursuit of other offices. Had the GOP not had to defend so many seats, they might still hold the House. On average, incumbents win 96 percent of the time. Giving up seats, just erases that advantage.

“State House Update” – It’s now 27 GOP to 23 Dems in the governors’ mansions, but a net gain of seven for the Democrats. In New Hampshire, New York, Colorado, Connecticut and Maine, Democrats took control of the state Senate. They took control of the state Houses in Minnesota and New Hampshire. To be sure, Republicans still control 30 Legislatures, but a net loss of seven chambers is significant. Remember, “all politics is local” and nowhere is that more evident than in choosing ones local House and state Senate members, as well as in individual Congressional districts. The politics closest to you is the politics that matters most.

“Dissecting the Details” – One of the most closely watched races in the nation this year was for the U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is one of the most popular politicians in West Virginia history. Since 2000, he has won a race for Secretary of State, two terms as Governor, and two races for the U.S. Senate. In all cases he won with a large majority, exceeding 50 percent of the vote every time. Yet, in his 2018 Senate reelection bid he won with 49.5 percent of the vote to Atty. Gen. Patrick Morrisey (R-WV) at 46.3 percent. It’s probably a sign that long-time office holders nationwide need to tread carefully in 2020. A lot of incumbents retired or were beat in 2018, so no one should assume the office they now hold is theirs to keep forever.

“So, Who’s Popular and Who’s Not?” -- I think there is a growing sentiment out there that President Trump will be a one-term commander in chief. I think that is an unwise assumption. Democrats (and most fellow Republican candidates) underestimated him in 2016, yet he won. Yes, he’s controversial but he has developed a strong core constituency. A recent poll in Real Clear Politics might be instructive. It ranked the favorability ratings for U.S. leaders. The results: President Trump 41 percent; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 28.5 percent; Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) 21.8 percent; and, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) 29 percent.

“Advantage 2020?” – For the past year I spoke of the huge advantage Senate Republicans held in the 2018 cycle, and my prediction that they would gain seats, which they did. It was because Democrats were defending 26 seats, to just nine for Republicans. Those are tough odds. Well, fast forward to 2020 and almost the opposite happens. The GOP will be defending 21 Senate seats, and the Democrats only 12. And as always, a lot will hinge on coattails (or lack of them) in the presidential race.

What do you think this year’s political results mean for 2020? Just comment here or click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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

© 2018, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo Courtesy: Mark Curtis Media

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