Sunday Political Brunch - May 7, 2017: Sorting Out Winners and Losers

Sunday, May 07, 2017


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Mark Curtis

Dr. Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations in West Virginia, and a Political Analyst for “The Brian Copeland Show” on KGO Radio 810-AM San Francisco.

Success in the political world often relies on momentum. It today’s techie parlance the term often used is “trending.” It’s a good comparison. But sustaining momentum – like sustaining a trend – can sometimes fall victim to counter forces, and tidal waves can move in the opposite direction. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“When a Win, is a Win!” – The House vote to repeal and replace Obamacare was a significant victory for the Trump White House. I don’t say that from a policy advocacy standpoint; I say it from a political momentum standpoint. A picture is worth a thousand words - sometimes many more. The photo of President Trump standing with House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Members of Congress in the White House Rose Garden (shown above) is a powerful moment. He needs to show that he can work with Congress and get things done. Not every Presidential action can be through Executive Order.

“When a Win, is Not a Win” – If the Atlanta Falcons are leading the Super Bowl at halftime, they have momentum and the advantage, but they don’t have a victory. (Just ask the New England Patriots). My point is that President Trump has an advantage, and he has momentum, but he doesn’t have victory. Getting the Obamacare repeal and replacement through the Senate will be a mighty task. And it may get amended in the upper chamber and sent back to the House. Given its razor-thin margin in the House last week, there’s no guarantee that Senate tinkering will get rubber-stamped at the other end of the Capitol.

“Why Teamwork Matters” – On the playground at recess, it matters that the kids can get along. Politics is no different. As mentioned, the photo of Trump says, “I can work with Congress; the members are my equal partners.” For much too long in his first 100 days, the White House message was, “I’m going it alone.” That almost always fails.

“Why Teammates Cut and Run” – The strategy going forward gets tricky. All 435 members of the House of Representatives are up for reelection as are 33 members of the Senate. One name not on the ballot is Trump, yet it is a referendum on his first two years. Over the next year you may see many of these Republicans widen the distance between themselves and the President. Call it the “Ten Foot Pole” phenomenon. If the Obamacare fight drags on and bounces back and forth between the House and the Senate, it could see an erosion of votes – and it won’t take but a few departures to kill it. They must get it done by October 1, 2017, or it may get shelved. That would be a huge defeat and fuel many Democratic challengers.

“The Odds” – Oddly enough, the odds favor Republicans in 2018. Of the 33 Senate seats ups, 21 are occupied by Democrats, and 10 of those are in states Trump carried in 2016. The irony is that the party in the White House usually loses seats in the midterm elections. Right now, Republicans have a 52-48 Senate advantage. I bet they pick up at least four seats. In the House, they could lose a dozen seats, but probably not lose their majority. However, if there is a major Trump agenda policy meltdown, then watch out. Few saw the Republican tidal wave coming in 1994. Republicans gained 54 House seats and 9 in the Senate to take the majority in both chambers.

“Where the Rubber Meets the Road” – Politics and policy intersect; you can’t avoid it. Here’s a real-world example. If coverage of pre-existing medical conditions is reduced, studies show the state that would be hardest hit is West Virginia. The Mountain State has the highest per capita rate of people with pre-existing condition. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, and aligns with Republicans on key issues. They may need his vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, but he’s also facing a tough reelection bid next year. So how does he vote? Stay tuned!

“An Immigration Olive Branch” – One strategy that might be useful in the still early days of this administration, is the old-school idea of “extending the olive branch.” President Trump wants to build a border wall and defund sanctuary cities, but he has also talked about embracing some pro-immigration ideas such as the “Dream Act.” It would protect and eventually give legal status to children who were brought here illegally by their parents or others. Many of those children are now educated, working adults. The Dream Act would grant them a path to citizenship, and at the same time show Mr. Trump’s flexibility on immigration issues. The President would be wise to show he can work across the aisle at times.

What are your thoughts? Can the Republicans be a party of unity or divisions? Just click the comments button at


Related Slideshow: Trump’s Win - What Does it Mean for Rhode Island?

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Jennifer Duffy

Cook Report

"We don't really know what a Trump presidency means for the nation, never mind the smallest state.  One of the unintended consequences of last night's results is that Sen. Jack Reed won't be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Chalk that up as a loss for RI."

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Pam Gencarella

Head of Ocean State Taxpayers' Association

"Trump’s win means that his signature issue, illegal immigration, could have a big impact on RI, hopefully reversing our course as a sanctuary state and saving the state taxpayer millions of dollars.  While we agree with his 'repeal and replace' Obamacare stance, we have no idea what that means to the RI debacle known as UHIP.  It is not a stretch to believe that federal funding for this kind of system will be off the table so, will RI be stuck with this massively expensive system that still doesn’t work and that is expected to cost another $124 million to fix?  

Trump's belief that there is significant fraud in the Food Stamp program and the policies that may come from that belief could have a negative impact on RI's local economy since there are businesses in certain cities that rely heavily on this program, fraud and all. On the upside, we may be able to ditch the UHIP program if there is significantly less need for processing welfare program requests (ie. Medicaid and food stamps) resulting from fewer illegal immigrants and less fraud.  While we are ambivalent about his touted child care policies, if enacted, it may force our legislators to revisit the ever growing state cost of subsidies in this area and possibly reduce the fraud and abuse in this system." 

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Kay Israel

Professor at Rhode Island College

"With a Republican President and Congress, Rhode Island will probably be excluded from the 'fruits of victory."  

The congressional delegation will be able to vocally make their presence felt, but in the long term it's more symbolic than substantive.  

For Rhode Island it's a matter of holding on and waiting until '18 or '20 and a surge in Democratic influence."

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Jennifer Lawless

Professor at American University

"The RI congressional delegation just became even less powerful than it was. With unified government, Trump doesn’t need to quell Democrats’ concerns or acquiesce because he’s worried about a Democratically-controlled Senate.

His appointments will reflect that. His executive orders will affect that. And the conservative policy agenda he puts forward will affect that."

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Len Lardaro

Professor at University of Rhode Island

"Well there's a few things -- because there's not going to be gridlock, that's a big difference if it had been Hillary and a GOP Congress, in which nothing would got done. We'll at least get a half a billion in infrastructure that's going to pass which will have an impact.

I think you'll see there will be reduced reliance on government nationally -- and that's where we'll stick out like sore thumb. We've relied way too much on government -- and our government is highly inefficient and ineffective.  Maybe, just maybe, in this who cycle of things we might be forced to be small and more efficient for once.

A couple of other things -- interest rates jumped. The one to follow is the ten year government bond rate -- which is tied to mortgages. It went from 1.7% to 2.05% in one day. The point is -- if the ten year stays high, mortgage rates will start going higher -- and in the short time people will run to re-finance. 

That's the short term impact -- but then if rates stay hight, that will make mortgages more out of reach. And we just passed a bond issue to limit open space -- housing has limited upside here.
The next thing -- the Fed Reserve will go ahead with tightening next month. A strong dollar will hurt manufacturing. When the dollar is strong our exports become more expensive overseas. 

Our goods production sector -- manufacturing and construction -- in the near term will do a little better, but as time goes on will be more limited. But something you won't hear, is there are lags in fiscal policy, of six months to year. So we won't really see the effects until the third our fourth quarter of 2017, going into 2018."

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Mike Stenhouse

RI Center for Freedon and Prosperity

"As the unbelievable turned into reality this morning, it struck me that the presidential election was not really all about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It was about a fed-up people, revolting against a corrupt system - the "beast" - that relentlessly favors insiders. Hillary personified the beast, while Donald personified the slayer.

Sadly, based on election results in our state, Rhode Island's version of the beast lives on. I fear our political class has not learned the lessons from the Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump movements - and will continue with their government-centric, anti-family, anti-business status quo."

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Kristina Contreras Fox

VP of Young Democrats of America

"A Trump Presidency means the validation of the ugliest part of America. In RI, as with the rest of the country, the hammer of his hatred will fall hardest on minority communities. Being a blue state doesn't make us immune from this danger.

Trump won over 35% (39.5) of the vote here! We need to look in the mirror, and not lie about what the reflection shows us. No more hiding underneath a blue blanket. I expect those who claim Democratic values to be true to those values. The gulf between words and actions have turned into fertile ground for Trump's message to grow here in RI. If you call yourself a Democrat, if you claim to stand in opposition to Trump, now is the time to prove it. Show up and fight back."


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