The Race to the Primary Finish Line - Sunday Political Brunch April 8, 2018

Sunday, April 08, 2018
Mark Curtis, GoLocalWorcester Contributor

Mark Curtis
I’ve had a fascinating week as a political reporter. I began in Broward County, Florida – sadly, home of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings. And. I ended the week covering President Trump on tax reform in West Virginia. The diversity of political thought in this nation is a strength – not a weakness – from my experience as a reporter. Let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Trump Tax Cuts” – The President’s roundtable meeting on tax reform on Thursday was odd, in that it has already passed into law, just before Christmas. Usually, you move on to the next topic after a political win, but this is an unconventional President. “Percentage wise, you’re among the greatest gainers in this country. I think it’s great,” Trump said. Several family members and business owners also talked about what they’ve done do with tax cut resources. "We were able to pass along a three-percent across the board pay increase and a two-percent cost of living. That means real positive, more money in their take home pay," said Hugh Hitchcock, of Davis Financial in Elkins.

“But Politics, is About Politics” – There were about 20 people on the panel with President Trump, but who sat right next to him? On the right Rep. Evan Jenkins, (R) West Virginia – District 3; and to the left, State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, (R) West Virginia, both of whom are trying to win the GOP Senate nomination May 8, to face Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia. It may be the biggest, most competitive Senate race in the nation this year. The President made no endorsement. "Good luck. I don't know. You two. You two, good luck. That's going to be a, should we do a little test?" said President Trump, asking the audience to cheer their favorite. This race is one to watch nationally.

“Manchin Weighs In” – Senator Joe Manchin, (D) West Virginia is a fighter and a tough retail politician. He’s one of those guys who somehow remembers everyone’s name and story. He’s a political legend in West Virginia, but the state has clearly turned from a tough, union Democratic state, to a solidly conservative state. Even popular Democrats are being voted out, so Manchin is on the bubble. Manchin who voted against repealing Obamacare said in a press release after the Trump event, “What will the 200,000 West Virginians do when they lose healthcare coverage?”

“The Other Ones to Watch” – Manchin is not the only vulnerable Democrat. Keep your eye on Senator Joe Donnelly (D) Indiana; Senator Heidi Heitkamp, (D) North Dakota, Senator Claire McCaskill, (D) Missouri, Senator Jon Tester, (D) Montana, and Senator Bill Nelson, (D) Florida. The most vulnerable in the GOP is Senator Dean Heller, (R) Nevada. As you can tell, the math in 2018 favors Republicans who are only defending eight seats, compared to 23 Democratic seats up for grabs.

“How Tides Can Quickly Turn” – Nowhere in the United States is President Trump more popular, than in West Virginia – a state he carried by over 40 percentage points. Despite his tough time nationally, the Mountain State just loves him. Because of that you’d think his town hall on tax reform would dominate the day’s headlines. Well it was short lived. Back on Air Force One on his way out of town, the President simply said, “No!” when he was asked by reporters if he knew about the $130,000 payment aimed at keeping stripper Stormy Daniels quiet about her claims of a ten-year-old affair with citizen Trump. Guess what dominated headlines the rest of the day?

“They Did What?” – Among the most jarring news articles I read this week was in The Miami Herald. Accused mass murderer Nikolas Cruz is getting hundreds of “love letters” from teen women, all around the country. “I’m 18-years-old. I’m a senior in high school. When I saw your picture on the television, something attracted me to you,” read one letter from Texas. “Your eyes are beautiful and the freckles on your face make you so handsome,” said one teen girl’s letter, obtained by the newspaper. As sick as it sounds, it’s not without precedent. Convicted serial killers Ted Bundy and Charles Mansion, (both of whom I covered), along with Jeffery Dahmer, all got lots of love letters, too. Why? I just don’t get it. My heart goes out to the victims’ families in a of these cases.

“The Political Winds Turn” – Senator Marco Rubio, (R) Florida has angered people on both sides of the gun debate. He drew praise for departing from the entire Republican Caucus in Congress, by suggesting a ban on certain weapons might be acceptable. Then he drew the ire of gun control advocates who said what Rubio support was not good enough. He’s in a tough spot, but does not face reelection until 2022, so things may subside by then.

“Change Takes Time” – I watched some of the high school classmates on South Florida TV this week and many are clearly frustrated at how slow they perceive the political process to be. But political change takes time. It took decades to get equal rights laws into place. It takes years, if not decades to amend the U.S. Constitution. Technically it’s only been done 17 times since the Constitution was ratified (with the original ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights). We’re talking about a span of almost 240 years. Again, change takes time. Many of these high school students will soon go off to college. Will their political activism grow, or wane? Stay tuned.

“King Remembered” – He was the greatest public speaker in my lifetime. No one else even comes close. I was spell-bound as an eight-year-old child watching the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In our house, we always had the TV news on during dinner in our kitchen. As we ate on April 4, 1968 came the bulletin of King’s assassination. I’ll always remember my mom telling us to get up from the table, and kneel to say a family prayer for King’s family. It seems like just yesterday. Where have 50 years gone?

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