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"The Sunday Political Brunch" - ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis

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“The Sunday Political Brunch” -- June 8, 2014

by ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis 

mcurtis@abc6.com or @markcurtisABC6 on Twitter

(Providence, Rhode Island) – Happy 3rd Birthday to “The Sunday Political Brunch” This has been my weekly venue to talk about national politics, especially in the critical two-year election cycle; while I also have my day-job covering state and local politics in New England. Pretty soon I will start making my quadrennial ventures to New Hampshire to start talking about the 2016 Presidential campaign. But first we need to get through the 2014 midterm elections and what a ride that will be. Election Day is now just five months away!

“What’s at Stake?” – The big prize this year will be control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans are likely to maintain strong control of the U.S. House and the majority of Governorships. But the main battle is for control of the U.S. Senate where Democrats hold a 55 to 45 advantage over Republicans, since two independents caucus with the Democrats. While a ten-seat lead looks impressive, Democrats are defending far more seats this year. All the GOP has to do is turn six seats, and it will have a 51 – 49 majority.

“Four Square” – The most hotly contested races are in four states where Democrats currently hold the Senate seats: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina. Polls indicate all are toss-ups right now. Even if Republicans will all four, they must find two other seats elsewhere. Those two seats are likely in South Dakota and Montana, where Republicans are favored to replace two retiring Democrats.

“The Spoilers” – Don’t count Democrats out just yet. They are going be to competitive to two solid red states - Georgia and Kentucky. In Georgia, former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn’s daughter has a real shot at winning a Republican seat that has opened due to retirement. And perhaps the marquee race in the nation is in Kentucky, where Democrats have a competitive shot at ousting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. If Democrats win just one of these seats, they are likely staying in power.

“The Outliers” – Sometimes an unforeseen issue pops ups from out of the blue and creates an unexpected advantage for one side. Such may be the case with President Obama’s controversial trade of five Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo, for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan. Many in Congress – including a lot of Democrats – are angry at the President. As Democrats, they are forced to run on his record, not just their own. As one longtime Democratic Congressman told me during the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998, “I’ve got to defend this? [the Lewinsky scandal]. It’s not my problem; it’s not my fault; it’s so unfair,” he said. Just ask all the Republican Members of Congress who lost their seats after Watergate! The bottom line – the President may have created a big political problem for his own party. It’s called the “reverse coattail effect.”

“Here Comes the Gov!” – My two favorite Governor’s races – and I think the two to watch – are in my former home states of Wisconsin and Florida. In Wisconsin controversial Republican Governor Scott Walker is seeking a second term, after beating back a recall effort two years ago. If Walker wins, he immediately becomes a mid-tier GOP Presidential hopeful. If he loses, his political career is likely over. In Florida, it’s more of a curiosity. Can Republican-turned-independent-turned Democrat Charlie Crist regain the job he gave up to run for U.S. Senate? And can a Democrat win a Senate seat if a Florida Republican is the Presidential nominee? (meaning Former Governor Jeb Bush or Senator Marco Rubio). Again the Cheese State and the Sunshine State are the ones to watch!

“ZZZZZzzzzzzzz” – The U.S. House may be just plain dull this year. University of Virginia Political Scientist Larry Sabato is charting just nine House races (out of 435) as “toss ups” this year. He ranks another 33 as either “leans Democrat” or “leans Republican.” The bottom line, without a significant number of competitive races this year, the Democrats have little, if any, chance at winning back the House or even closing the GOP majority by much.

“The Ones to Watch” – As always, some people with famous family names are running this year. Democrat Gwen Graham – daughter of former U.S Senator and GovU.S.or Bob Graham (D-FL) - is running for a Congressional seat from Tallahassee. In Georgia, Jason Carter – grandson of President Jimmy Carter – is running for Governor against incumbent Republican Nathan Deal. Even another Bush is on the ballot as George P. Bush – Jeb’s son – is running for Texas Land Commissioner. If nothing else, politicians make for fun people watching!

What’s the hot race in your state? Just drop me a line by clicking the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

© 2014, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: ABCNews.com
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