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Where’s the “Blue Wave?” – Sunday Political Brunch May 27, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – For the third straight week, we had four Tuesday state primaries across the nation. Are we seeing any trends yet? Voters went to the polls in Kentucky, Georgia, Texas, and Arkansas. Let’s “brunch” on that that this week.

“Kentucky” – There were a couple of interesting races in Kentucky. First-time Democratic candidate Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, defeated Lexington’s openly gay Mayor, (and the party-backed candidate) Jim Gray. McGrath is the military-moderate to Gray’s progressive wing. This is a marginal district. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) has held the 6th district seat for three terms, but it was held by a Democrat the decade before that. It’s the kind of swing district national Democrats may funnel a lot of money into, trying to it win back.

“A Teachable Moment” – The other fascinating race in Kentucky was when teacher, Travis Brenda, defeated the State House Majority Leader, Jonathon Shell (R-KY). Kentucky is one of several states that followed West Virginia’s lead this year in calling a teacher’s strike. Teachers nationwide feel very emboldened and empowered right now, after their success in the Mountain State. Teachers unions can put “boots on the ground,” and it paid off in Kentucky. Watch for this as a trend in other states in 2018. Yes, it’s only a race for State Representative, but as I often say here, political movements are built from the ground up, not the top down.

“Texas” -- It’s one of the reddest of the red states, but there is one intriguing Congressional race here. Despite being in Congress for nine terms, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) is vulnerable. In fact, the respected Cook Political Report lists his seventh district race as the only Republican toss-up in the Lone Star State.

“Georgia” – The Democratic nomination of Stacey Abrams in Georgia is making headlines, because if elected, she would be the nation’s first African-American female governor. But it’s interesting for a more notable trend. In many of the 2018 primaries, Democrats in a variety of states have picked the liberal/progressive candidate instead of the more mainstream moderate choice. The theory is that it’s a strong appeal to poor and minority voters who may feel disenfranchised by the 2016 elections. That may be a tough sell in November. The two big wins for Democrats in 2017-18 were a House seat in Pennsylvania, and a Senate seat in Alabama, both taken by moderate-to-conservative Democrats.

“Arkansas” – A blue state that turned suddenly red after the election of native son President Bill Clinton offered few surprises Tuesday night. It remains decidedly red. Rep. French Hill (R-AR) expects a competitive challenge from Democratic nominee Clarke Tucker, but the Cook Political Report still lists this race as “Leans Republican.”

“Trump Factor?” – The Associated Press had a fascinating story this week about whether Republican midterm candidates wanted President Trump to campaign with them this fall. Dan David, a Republican candidate in a right-leaning GOP district in Pennsylvania, said bluntly, “I would like the president to do his job and I will do mine.” That’s a polite way of saying, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Trump on Top?” -- On the other hand, here in West Virginia, where Trump is extremely popular, GOP Senate nominee Patrick Morrisey is likely to host President Trump several times in his bid to unseat Sen. Joe Manchin, (D-WV). Trump is also likely to campaign in Indiana, where Republicans have a good shot to knock off Sen. Joe Donnelly, (D-IN). But Trump may stay away from Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) is trying to unseat long-time Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). In short, Trump goes where he can help; stays away from where he might hinder.

“North Korea and the Economy” – The two most important factors in an election are peace and prosperity. If President Trump eventually has a successful summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un (the June 12th meeting was cancelled), and nuclear tensions ease, that will help Republican candidates across the ballot. If the economy remains hot, with unemployment low, and wages and benefits rising, that’s also a plus for Mr. Trump and his party. When former President Bill Clinton was making the case for his wife in 2008 and 2016, his mantra was, “What didn’t you like about the 90s, the peace or the prosperity?” His eight years saw a big economic uptick, and few troubles abroad. It certainly worked for his re-election, but he couldn’t transfer the resume to his wife’s fortune.

“Blue Wave?” – I hear the term tossed out a lot like it is somehow based in fact instead of wishful thinking. In addition to being a reporter, I am also a social scientist. I crunch and interpret poll numbers, and try to spot trends and significant changes in the electoral leanings. People talk about the “blue wave” as if it is a certainty, a fate accompli. There is no doubt the Democrats have a legitimate opportunity to take back the House and/or the Senate in November. But right now, the odds are challenging at best, especially in the Senate where Democrats are defending far more seats. So, to conclude in May, what will happen in November, smacks of over-confidence, the same malady that defeated Hillary Clinton and her “done deal” in 2016.

“Memorial Day” – God bless all those who served us and died in defense of this country. If there’s a Memorial Day parade, or a military cemetery ceremony near you, please go if you can. We stand on the shoulders of these heroes who built and saved our nation many times.

What are your predictions (educated guesses) for what will happen in November? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author. He now serves as Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving the state of West Virginia.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

The Policy of Speak Softly May be Dead -- Sunday Political Brunch-- May 20, 2018

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Political discourse is loud these days, as witnessed by all the negative, campaign attack ads for the past few months in the 2018 primary election states. President Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy was, “Speak softly, and carry a big stick.” But over 100 years later, I wonder if his approach is now antiquated. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Speak Softy? NOT!” – President Trump is not Teddy Roosevelt by any stretch. Maybe Trump’s slogan should be: “Speak boorishly, and crudely, and carry a big stick!” I’m not making a negative judgement here, but rather am wondering if it’s a good approach in the modern age. During the campaign and first year of the Trump administration, I thought that the excessive and provocative tweeting should stop. It didn’t and it appears here to stay. Maybe we just need to recognize a new era in diplomacy, whether we like it or not, just as we recognize new ways to communicate that we don’t like.

“Jerusalem” – Consistency from campaign promises, to electoral success is something that voters like. If you ran on a policy, don’t change your mind once in office. We’ve seen “bait and switch” too many times in our lifetimes. Whether you like President Trump, or not, you’ve got to concede that for the most part he’s trying to hold true to campaign promises. He said he’d recognize Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and move the U.S embassy there, and he did. Yes, there was ensuing violence; but, campaign promise made, promise fulfilled.

“Iran” – The same campaign-to-office consistency that applies to Jerusalem, also applies to Iran. Candidate Trump said he would pull the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal – and now President Trump has followed through. Again, you may think it’s a bad decision, but he gets points for sticking to what he pledged.

“Rigidity vs. Flexibility” – On the other hand, it’s one thing to be consistent, but what if on further reflection you change your mind? In 1988 Vice President George H. W. Bush ran on a pledge of, “Read my lips. No new taxes!” and he won the White House. By 1991, facing a recession, he in fact raised some taxes and it cost him reelection. Is it okay to change your mind? I ask, because in at least the North Korean instance, President Trump has.

“North Korea” – While he held his ground on Iran and Jerusalem, President Trump has done an about-face on North Korea. While the North lobbed wayward missiles, Trump essentially said he’d blow the nation off the map if the threats continued. Somehow, somewhere (I suspect China) Kim Jong Un has agreed to meet President Trump on June 12 in Singapore, and may give up his nuclear arms program (although turmoil in recent days suggests it may not happen). Either way, I mention it because clearly Trump has shown diplomatic flexibility.

“Where’s the Wall?” -- Another area where promises may not equal performance is on the southern border wall with Mexico. Yes, the President has directed the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to expand existing border walls and fences, this is by no means the start-to-finish border wall he promised. Of course, the answer lies in the funding. Unless Congress approves the entire budget to build the wall, it probably won’t happen. In a midterm election year, many marginal Republican House members and Senators probably want to steer clear of this until after November. That’s the reality of politics.

“Hey Joe, Speak Softly!” – The “speak softly and carry a big stick” line has had some humorous modern takes. Then Vice President Joe Biden tried to use this line to show President Obama’s toughness on foreign policy. What was meant to be a compliment, went viral and became an internet hoot! Judge for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrmbsKW0d7c

“Primary Colors” – Four the second straight week four states held primary elections: Pennsylvania, Idaho, Nebraska, and Oregon. There were no surprises in the latter three, but Pennsylvania remains intriguing. The state was under a Congressional redistricting plan that could lead to several Democrats taking currently Republican held seats in November. Right now, it’s hard to tell in a state Trump won in perhaps the biggest upset of 2016. Nationwide Democrats need to gain 25 seats to win back the House in 2018. In Pennsylvania, as many as six Republicans seats may be up for grabs, and it’s interesting to note that progressive (liberal) candidates beat moderates in many primary races.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known political reporter, analyst and author. He is currently the Chief Political Report for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, five surrounding states and Washington, D.C.

What do you think of President Trump’s foreign policy so far? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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