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“The Sunday Political Brunch”—August 14, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016


We are on the road again this week, with a visit to my old stomping grounds in New England, plus a stop in the hotly contested state of Pennsylvania on the way. We’ve talked a lot about the Presidential race here of late, but the other big political story of 2016 is for control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans currently have a 54-46 majority, but a lot of toss-up races could swing it back to the Democrats. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Ohio” -- Incumbent Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) is in a tough battle against former Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH). Strickland also served 12 years in the U.S House. The most recent Public Policy Poll has Portman up by five points, 43 to 38 percent. But that leaves 19 percent undecided. If Hillary Clinton swamps Donald Trump in Ohio, this seat could switch. If the Trump-Clinton race is close – and one poll has her up by 1.8 percent - the GOP may hold the seat, even if Trump loses Ohio. Tight!

“Pennsylvania” – Incumbent Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) – a Rhode Island native – is in a tough reelection fight. The first-term Senator is facing Democrat Katie McGinty, a former aide to Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and former Governor Ed Rendell (D-PA). In the latest Susquehanna Poll, she leads 42 to 40 percent. Donald Trump is down eight points in the Keystone State, and a poor Presidential showing there could swing the Senate seat to the Democrats. Toomey’s campaign hit McGinty hard with radio ads during the DNC in Philadelphia, but that seems to have had little effect.

“Florida” – Incumbent Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he would not run for reelection this year as he sought the Republican nomination for President. But his Presidential hopes were crushed, and Rubio did an about-face and announced he would seek Senate reelection after all. A couple of prominent Republicans who were seeking to replace him had to duck and cover and go back to their House races.

“Wisconsin” – My home state of Wisconsin has a real donnybrook going on in a Senate rematch, between Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and the man he defeated six years ago, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI). Senator Johnson – you may recall – was the one who provoked Hillary Clinton during the Benghazi hearings over the deaths of four Americans at the outpost. “What difference – at this point, what difference does it make?” Clinton shouted angrily during the hearing. You can expect to see that sound bite to be in many campaign ads this fall. Still, the battleground Badger State is polling with Clinton up 6 points, so that may have an impact on this Senate race.

“New Hampshire” – The only thing certain here is the next U.S. Senator from New Hampshire will be a woman. Incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) is in a tough battle against current Governor Maggie Hassan (D-NH). This race is all over the map. One recent poll had Hassan up by 10 points, and another had Ayotte up by 9 points. But Hillary Clinton is polling well ahead of Donald Trump in this key, battleground state, so the coattail effect could be in play.

“Missouri” – U.S. Senator Roy Blount (R-MO) is seeking a second Senate term, after serving 14 years in the House. He is opposed by Secretary of State Jason Kander (D-MO). A Recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch Poll had Blount up by a margin of 44 to 39 percent. Missouri is a battleground, swing state in the Presidential election. It has gone Republican for the past 20 years, so that could be good for Blount.

“History” – The last time a Presidential winner’s coattails mattered was in 1980, when Ronald Reagan shocked President Jimmy Carter in a landslide upset victory. Reagan’s coattails were so strong he carried the GOP into cocould be that kind of year. Trump likely wins only in a very closntrol of the U.S. Senate for the first time since 1956. Thise race, whereas Hillary Clinton could win in an electoral blowout based on recent poll trends. If she wins big, she likely carries the Senate back into Democratic control.

“Why All of This Matters” – The next generation of the U.S. Supreme Court rests on this Presidential election, like no other in modern times. First of all, there is still one vacancy already existing from the death of Antonin Scalia. Then you have Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, age 83; Anthony Kennedy, age 80; and, Stephen Breyer, age 77, all poised for possible retirement. That’s four possible appointments, even if the next President only serves one term. Wow!

What are your thoughts about the future of the U.S. Senate and the Supreme Court? Please let us know by clicking the comment button atwww.MarkCurtisMedia.com.


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