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“The Political Hodge-Podge of 2020 So Far” – Sunday Political Brunch – January 26, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The year is barely underway, but the political drama is fierce already. Let’s face it, there is a lot at stake right out of the starting gate. The impeachment trial of President Trump is underway, and, so too, is the presidential primary season. It doesn’t necessarily sync up well for some, but may benefit at least one candidate. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“In the Cross-Hairs” – Last week I wrote about the “Perfect Storm” between the Iowa Caucuses and impeachment. Well guess what? Suddenly former Vice-President Joe Biden has surged to the lead in the Iowa polls. After leading early on, he faded to fourth, but in the latest Real Clear Politics composite poll on January 13, Biden is back on top. Biden leads with 21 percent of the vote, to 17.3 for Sen. Bernie Sanders, 16.7 percent for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 16.3 percent. Remember, at some point in time in the past few months, all four of these folks have been the frontrunner.

“Why the Biden Surge?” – Surge may be an overstatement. Quite honestly given the margin of error, these candidates are likely in a four-way tie. But here are two big factors. Senators Sanders, Warren, and Amy Klobuchar are stuck in Washington for the impeachment trial, so their campaign swings in Iowa are stymied. And second, who is the victim of the impeachment allegations? Well, Joe Biden. So, the factors of absence and sympathy may be giving him a bounce. People watching the impeachment may feel that Biden was the aggrieved party, plus he ultimately might be the most qualified Democrat with a realistic chance of beating Trump. This is fascinating.

“Hello, Neighbor!” – I’ve covered the Iowa Caucuses twice. It’s intimate and personal. Being there means a lot. The fact that Biden and Buttigieg can be there in person at the 11th hour, and Sanders and Warren can’t, is a huge setback for the latter two. Retail politics is gold in Iowa. You are far more likely to cast a ballot for a candidate who stood in your living room, shakes your hand and asks for your vote.

“Who Has Momentum?” – In the past two months, polls in New Hampshire have been just as volatile, with each of these four in the lead at some point. In the next two states of Nevada and South Carolina, Biden has been in the consistent lead. As mentioned, he’s now leading in Iowa, but guess what? He’s also now ahead in New Hampshire, at least in some polls. The latest Real Clear Politics composite poll in the Granite State has it, Sanders 21.6, Biden 17.6 (after he briefly was in the lead last week), Buttigieg 14.8 percent and Warren 14 percent. Like Iowa, these four have all been in the lead at one point over the past few months. It’s volatile!

“Trending?” – The results from the polling in the first four states are unequivocal. Biden is back. He is now in the lead - depending on the poll - in all four of the first states. In the average of all polls, he is only second in New Hampshire. Look, he had been fading, but the fact is that all the allegations aimed at President Trump suggest he was specifically targeting Biden, and that is now apparently helping Biden as the first votes near.

“The Timetable” – Right now, the impeachment trial will carry into the week of February 3, the date of the Iowa Caucuses. It may then extend into the week of February 10, with the New Hampshire Primary on Tuesday February 11. In a very backhanded, and unintended way, the impeachment timing helps Biden and really no one else. But make no mistake, Biden must seize on the momentum over the next month. If he wins or is a close second in all four of the first primaries and caucuses, he has the potential to “run the table” on Super Tuesday, March 3rd. On that day 14 states, plus territories overseas will hold primaries.

“On the Other Hand” – As much as the impeachment and primary timing could galvanize Joe Biden as the nominee, it does not guarantee a win in November. Quite the contrary, the controversy of impeachment is more than likely to galvanize President Trump’s supporters in the Republican Party. In short, it will fire-up his base. Unless we see a major smoking gun, the U.S. Senate will come nowhere near the 67 votes needed to remove Trump from office. Assuming the 47-member Democratic Caucus stands firm, it would still need 20 Republican votes for Trump’s ouster. That’s highly unlikely.

“What History Tells Us?” – As I’ve written before, both the Nixon and Clinton impeachments are not comparable since both men had already been elected to their second terms. But the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 has parallels to Trump. Both men were seeking re-election, but Johnson had strong primary challenges within his own party. Trump does not. While Johnson saved himself from removal from office, by one vote, he lost his renomination fight and wasn’t even on the ballot come November. Trump has no serious primary challenge, so this sets him up for a lot of potential “sympathy votes” in November, especially among independents. Trump wanted this. Remember how he taunted Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats to try impeachment, even before the Ukrainian phone call? Don’t underestimate his often successful provocations.

What are your impressions of the Senate impeachment trial so far? 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 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

“The Political Perfect Storm” -- Sunday Political Brunch -- January 19, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – I loved the movie, “The Perfect Storm!” It’s the confluence of Murphy’s Law in which if things can go bad, they will go bad. And when you have a whole bunch of things potentially going south at once, all bets are off. Between the impeachment, the Iowa Caucuses, and the general running of the country, the whole shebang could be on a collision course. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Timing is Everything” – No matter how this impeachment process ends, I think there will always be questions about the timing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The impeachment articles were approved weeks ago on December 18, yet it is only just now that they were delivered to the Senate for trial on January 15, and you get the feeling she wanted to wait even longer. One of the key cornerstones of politics is momentum. In other words, “If you catch a wave, ride the wave fast for as long as you can!” If you mistime it, you miss the wave! Some Democrats have told me privately that they think Pelosi dropped the ball on this for weeks, and that she’s now in a position of weakness, not strength.

“Elements of the Storm” – Here’s the dilemma now. You have an impeachment trial about to begin, with no finite ending. You have a primary season about to begin, with finite deadlines in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina right off the bat. Then you have the sudden swing of unexpected events, such as the drone attack on Iranian General Soleimani. In football, you protect the ball, when you have the ball. Speaker Pelosi had weeks to control the ball, but now possession has shifted to the Senate, Trump, her fellow Democrats running for president, and the unpredictability of world and national events. Her influence may have peaked, and waned. We’ll see.

“The Primary Problem” – While you have candidates who legitimately want to beat Trump at the ballot box (and they have a chance), have some of them now been “handcuffed?” Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Amy Klobuchar will have to be Senate jurors in Trump’s trail. They can’t be hobnobbing in Iowa and New Hampshire, and beyond for a few weeks (except maybe a quick weekend trip). But you can see where this gives a tremendous advantage to former Vice President Joe Biden, and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Retail politics in Iowa and New Hampshire are essential, and these are the only two who can do it full-time.

“Women’s’ March” – There will be another women’s march in Washington, DC, this weekend, which should get significant coverage on Saturday and Sunday, as it has since Trump was elected. It’s very colorful, but it’s also brief. Movements such as this only succeed if people do more than just vent. You need to field a slate of candidates at the local, state, and national level who will run with passion for the cause. This could be empowering for anti-Trump forces (as it was in the 2018 midterms), but it remains to be seen if they can generate significant momentum from this since they are competing with the above-mentioned events for attention.

“USA v. The Enemy” – One of the things that will soon rear its head in this campaign is patriotism (real or perceived). Look, President Trump took what he calls a defensive and aggressive strike against Iranian General Soleimani, and Soleimani is now dead. The fact that Trump threatened to target 52 Iranian sites if there was retaliation should not fall on deaf ears. In 1979 there were 52 Americans who were taken hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, and many Americans are still angry and resentful. For Trump to pick the number 52 is no coincidence. He claims not to be a professional politician, but this is a masterful political play, right out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook. Don’t underestimate the strategic side of Trump.

“The Jurors Speak” – This week I had the opportunity to speak with Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R) West Virginia, who was sworn-in as one of the Senate jurors. She said, “You know most people have already made up their mind here, I think, not Senators so much, but general public. But I think they expect me to do what my constitutional duty is, which is to sit in my chair, be quiet and listen and pay close to the evidence on both sides and then make an informed decision and that’s what I plan to do.” Both of Capito’s Democratic opponents in this year’s re-election bid want President Trump removed from office.

What are your thoughts on the impeachment trial? 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 Political Contributing Writer for “The White House Patch” at www.Patch.com.

© 2020, MarkCurtisMedia, LLC.

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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