Monday, January 29, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Period Of Adjustment

As the political calendar goes into February,  a certain
period of ticket adjustment takes place prior to the
November mid-term elections. This adjustment will
continue to a decreasing degree until April and May
when many filing deadlines for state and federal offices
will have been passed. This cycle, it will be followed
by some key and possibly serious primary contests.

Most incumbents who will be retiring or will run for
other offices have already publicly stated their intentions,
but some in potentially critical races have not. Most
challengers in likely competitive races have already
declared their candidacies, but others have held out until

Races for the U.S. house and senate usually require more
lead-time because these races, when competitive, require
substantial fundraising.

A case in point recently took place in Minnesota where
unexpectedly Democratic Senator Al Franken resigned,
and his appointed successor will be required to run for
election this cycle instead of 2020. This seat could become
a competitive race, but state Republicans lacked few
“name” figures  who could credibly raise in a relatively
short period the tens of millions of dollars required for
such a contest. One such figure, former governor and
presidential candidate, Tim Pawlenty, was immediately
sought after by local and national Republicans to run in
this race. But Pawlenty had been known to be considering
a comeback (he had retired in 2010 after two terms) as
governor. His senate decision would have to be made in
weeks instead of the months he could wait before a
gubernatorial announcement, and, despite assurances
probably made to him by the national GOP senate
campaign committee and others, necessary fundraising
in a year with so many other GOP challengers in
vulnerable Democratic senate races would have been
problematic. Pawlenty chose to pass on a  difficult
senate race, but remains considering the gubernatorial
race where so far announced GOP candidates have not
produced a clear frontrunner.

Another case in point is Ohio where GOP State Treasurer
Josh Mandel had, more or less, cleared the field for his
party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Democratic
Senator Sherrod Brown who had been considered
vulnerable in 2018. Unexpectedly, with only abut a month
before the filing deadline, Mr. Mandel announced his
withdrawal from the race because of a serious family
health crisis. Ohio Republicans have not yet been able to
recruit a “name” figure, and a  key “pick-up” opportunity
might be lost.

In Arizona, where incumbent GOP Senator Jeff Flake is
retiring after open conflict with President Trump, it was
thought the race to fill his seat might be a replay of the
recent GOP loss in Alabama (where an off-the-wall GOP
nominee lost a special election). But now, Congresswoman
Martha McSally, a respected conservative, has entered the
race, and if she survives the primary, could salvage the
seat for the GOP.

In contrast, senior GOP Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah
waited until very late to announce his retirement, but
former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was
always available in this heavily Republican state, and is
now running (as a heavy favorite) for the seat.

It has been widely noted that an unusual number of
senior  conservative U.S. house committee chairs
have announced their retirements so far this cycle.
This is partly an intended outcome inasmuch as the
GOP term-limits committee chairs who usually have to
wait many years to achieve top committee positions,
and then have an inducement to retire after their
chair terms are up. Unlike previous eras when most
chairs held their positions for decades and remained
in Congress in their 80s and 90s, this brings in a new
generation of members in a much more timely manner
(although it can, in some cases, result in unexpected
competitive contests in a given cycle.)

As I have suggested in recent weeks, any predictions of
a “blue” or “red” electoral wave in 2018, are premature,
especially with so many tickets in key races not yet
determined, and the state of the economy next
November not yet clear.

But after the period of political fine-tuning now taking
place, the paths to the political outcomes of 2018 will
become clearer.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


To their credit, Democrats in the U.S. senate have kept
routinely a solid front for most of the past decade, both
when they had a majority and when they were in the
minority, as they are now.

The architect of this solid front was former Senator Harry
Reid of Nevada who often applied Draconian methods to
senate rules and procedures. He was succeeded as party
senate leader by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who
in the minority has faced new challenges as Democrats
attempt to recover from their shocking upset defeat in the
2016 presidential election --- and in the prospect of
defending many more vulnerable senate seats than
the Republicans will in this year’s mid-term elections.

That solid front more or less collapsed recently when the
Democrats abandoned a brief government funding
shutdown. Realizing that the  party held responsible for a
shutdown invariably takes a big hit in public opinion,
almost all the vulnerable liberal senators, and many not
even running this year for re-election, voted to pass a
continuing funding resolution. It will be necessary to vote
again in February, but it seems clear that the Democrats
now realize that shutting down the government is not a
winning strategy.

Minority Leader Schumer is now a man in the middle of
two opposite directions pulling his party apart. On the one
hand, the Democratic Party’s left wing, led by Senators
Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of
Massachusetts, as well as more radical groups want to
insist on policies and programs which cannot now become
law. On the other hand, the mainstream Democrats, who
range from former vice president Joe Biden to Senator Joe
Manchin of West Virginia, want to appeal to moderate
and independent voters with a message that might compete
successfully with the one now advocated by President Donald
Trump and his party.

There is a lot at political stake in the 2018 mid-term elections.
Democrats have recently been optimistic that a “blue wave”
will bring them back control of the U.S. house and keep most
of their vulnerable senate seats.

But the brief government shutdown, forced by senate
Democrats, highlights how fragile this optimism might be.
Faced with a challenge to their political survival, most of the
vulnerable liberal senators chose prudence over a “solid
front.” Senator Manchin now has also declared that he
agrees with President Trump about building a wall. Another
shutdown confrontation is unlikely.

Like his fellow New Yorker, President Trump, Senator
Schumer is someone who can make a deal. Beginning with
the tax cut legislation at the end of the year, Mr. Trump has
begun to unite his party in Congress behind his programs.
Mr. Schumer must now do the same for his party, but the
presidential ambitions of some of his senate colleagues,
and the pull to the left by groups and individuals in the
party’s radical base, has loosed a "conflict genie" into the
Democratic political conversation, and made his job much
more difficult.

Liberals and their media friends chuckled and smiled
when  conservatives broke into factions (as the GOP has
done so often in recent years). Now division has broken out
in their own camp, and no one is laughing.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 22, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Schumer's Shutdown Delayed?

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer is
well-schooled in public relations tactics, and the first
thing he did when negotiations failed to keep funding the
government was to call it the “Trump Shutdown.”

A clever try, but it is obvious to everyone not part of the
ongoing partisan game in the nation’s Capitol that it is
Senator Schumer’s party. led by himself, that precipitated
and insisted on partially closing government activity in this

As long as the senior New York senator is putting labels on
it, he should admit the truth, that is, it was really “Schumer’s

That didn’t make it inherently wrong, but Mr. Schumer
knows well that if public opinion blamed him, it could have
been a political disaster. In fact, when Republicans were
perceived as responsible for the government shutdown in
1995-96, it was such a public relations “black-eye” for the
conservatives that it was brought quickly to an end.

This time, the Republicans are in charge of both houses of
Congress and the White House, but the law requires a
a super-majority of  60 votes to pass s continuing funding
bill. There are only 51 GOP senators, so, in reality,
Democrats control the situation for the time being.

Republicans felt that they had legitimate reasons in
1995-96 to shut the government down, and Democrats, in
their continuing quest to thwart President Trump and his
program for an economic recovery, have what they feel are
good reasons to do so now.

But it is the shadowy contest for public opinion, and not
political expediencies, where this outcome will be
determined. Senator Schumer wants it both ways --- to
shut the government down and blame the other side.
But he will have to win this contest with the shutdown
in his own name.

After only a weekend “flash” shutdown, the U.S. senate
has now agreed to temporary funding to keep the federal
government open until February when the confrontation
will reappear.

Vulnerable Democratic senators facing their electorates in
November clearly want to avoid another shutdown, and
noticeably played a role in keeping the “flash” shutdown

Let’s see what happens in the next round.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Surprising Minnesota

I continue to write about Minnesota politics not only
because I live there, but also because it provides such an
interesting variety of political characters and electoral

In its early days, it was reliably Republican. Between the
world wars. it went in at populist direction. After W.W. II
it became a liberal bastion led by Hubert Humphrey, and
later Walter Mondale, each of whom were elected U.S. vice
president and subsequently were unsuccessful Democratic
presidential nominees.

In 1978, Republicans staged a surprise comeback winning
the governorship and two U.S senate seats.

Since that time, the state has gone back and forth between
the “red’ and the “blue.”

Then in 1998, centrist populist Jesse Ventura won an upset
race for governor as an independent.

After Ventura retired in 2002, the Republicans won back a
U.S. senate seat and the governorship. A few years later,
the Democrats (here called the Democratic-Farmer-Labor
or DFL) hold both U.S. senate seats and the governorship.
In recent years, the DFL and GOP have divided the eight
U.S. house seats, with the DFL usually having a slight edge.

In presidential elections since 1976, the state has voted for
the Democratic nominee. This enhanced  Minnesota’s
national image as a blue state, but in 2016, state voters
almost gave the state’s electors to Donald Trump in a very
close election in which outstate Minnesotans voted heavily
for the surprise GOP candidate.

Today, the state seems evenly divided. The GOP controls
the legislature. There is a DFL governor who is retiring at
the low point of his popularity. DFL senior Senator Amy
Klobuchar seems headed for re-election, but the sudden
and controversial resignation of DFL junior Senator Al
Franken has put a second senate election on the 2018

The incumbent 1st district DFL Congressman Tim Walz
is retiring from Congress to run for governor. He is widely
considered the early favorite in a large DFL field. The race
almost certainly will go to an August primary. Walz’s house
seat might well be one of the few GOP pick-ups nationally.

The DFL’s best hopes for a pick up are in the 2nd district
where a first-term Republican is running for re-election. He
barely won in this swing district in 2016 when a third party
liberal candidate diluted the DFL vote. Both the 3rd district
(Republican incumbent), and the 8th district (DFL
incumbent) could become competitive. Interestingly, Hillary
Clinton carried the 3rd by a clear margin, and Donald
Trump carried the 8th district by a big margin.

If there is a wave election, either party could make
dramatic changes in this state. So far, the Minnesota
electorate is severely divided along rural-urban lines, with
President Trump, polls indicate, holding on to his outstate
base that almost swept him to victory here in 2016.

Appointed DFL Senator Tina Smith has been an experienced
behind-the-scenes organizer, but this will be her first real
test as a candidate. Other DFLers wanted the appointment,
but the governor clearly wanted to reward his trusted aide.
A primary contest is not likely, but might be a problem for
Mrs. Smith if a prominent liberal decided to run against her.

On the GOP side, the big recent news was the decision by
former GOP governor and presidential candidate Tim
Pawlenty. not to run for the suddenly available Franken
seat. Mr. Pawlenty had been strongly urged to do so by
prominent Republicans in the state and Washington, DC.
Already in the race is Karin Housely, a two-term state
senator, former TV producer, and married to a hockey
legend, Former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann has
expressed interest in the race, but she remains too
controversial to be competitive in November. The GOP’s
strongest candidate likely would be Tom Emmer, the 6th
district congressman, who after barely losing the
governorship in 2010, has made an impressive comeback
in Congress. He now has a safe seat, and many think he
will pass on the senate contest, but many consider that he
would be the most formidable opponent to Senator Smith
in November.

Nor has GOP heavyweight Tim Pawlenty removed himself
for the 2018 campaign. The senate option only appeared
unexpectedly and briefly, but Pawlenty has been mulling
over another run for governor for some time, and should he
run, would quickly be the favorite for his party nomination
and the strongest Republican in November against
whomever the DFL nominates. Unlike a U.S. senate race,
Pawlenty would not have to worry about raising twenty-plus
million dollars for the campaign. Since none of the already
announced GOP gubernatorial candidates have “taken off”
in their campaigns, the much better-known former governor
can wait until March or April to announce his intentions.
After eight years of a very liberal DFL governor, state
conservatives might be eager to choose a likely winner as
their standard-bearer in 2018, especially if his victory would
almost certainly insure that Republicans would continue to
control the state legislature.

Without a strong top-of-the-ticket figure in November, the
Republican prospects dim significantly. The DFL has long
had the superior GOTV organization, and the GOP default
in the liberal Twin Cities (and thus over-dependence on their
majorities outstate) would then seem to give the “blue” party
the advantage in 2018, even if there is a “red” wave elsewhere
in the nation.

Voters in Minnesota are more complicated than stereotypical
labels. They like to split their tickets, and they like to do the

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


[NOTE: Nothing in this article should be interpreted as
a recommendation to buy or sell any individual stock, or
to invest or disinvest in the stock market or any speculative

I have been “playing” the stock market since I was a young
teenager. I invested in common stocks and used techniques
such as puts and calls. At one point, and relatively briefly,
I was in commodities, I had an excellent technical economic
education in the time I attended the Wharton School of
Finance and Commerce. But please believe me, I am not an

I did learn a few things over the years. One was the value of
being a “contrarian” --- that is, the general technique of
doing the opposite of what most others are doing. It’s not
infallible, but it’s a very useful tool in investing --- and in
political commentary, as I have learned. In fact, it’s an
important insight into human behavior in general.

We are now in a very “bull” (upward) moment in many of
the major stock markets. Those who think a “bear”
(downward) market is imminent are issuing dire warnings
of either a major downward “correction” or an apocalyptic
market collapse. Whom are you to believe?

Let me go back to my very first class in finance at the
Wharton School many years ago. The professor opened
that first class with the statement:

“You will learn a lot at Wharton about the details of
economics, but I want you to remember this simple rule:
The price of a stock is the anticipation of future earnings,”

Since those days in the 1960s, public investing has become
very complicated with various new market techniques such
as derivatives, cryptocurrencies (e.g., bitcoin), new
commodities, etc. There were no computers, no cell or
“smart” phones, no cable TV programs. But my Wharton
professor’s simple rule still holds as a fundamental truth
in free market investing.

Over the years, I have also learned that stock markets
almost always over-react in the short term on both the
upside and the downside. I remember speaking with my
savvy stockbroker on the afternoon of Friday, November 22,
1963 after the market had been prematurely closed and had
taken an enormous tumble. “Buy on Monday morning,” he
told me. I was too shocked by Dallas, and too young, to do
anything, but sure enough the market quickly recovered on

On the other hand, stock markets in the intermediate term
(six to nine months) are often good predictors (barring
shocking events) of the general economy. The problem is,
of course, that we live in a time of frequent shocking events.

When Donald Trump stunned the nation’s pundits, and the
world, in November, 2016, the markets went briefly down.
But when the stock markets realized that President Trump
and the Republican Congress were likely to provide relief to
the economy and unemployment, the market recovered.

Until the tax bill was passed and became law, the market
hesitated. Once this legislation was in place, the market
has been soaring. The sum of investors now had concrete
evidence to believe that future earnings would go up.
Numerous companies promptly gave out bonuses to
employees. Corporate earnings held abroad (to avoid U.S.
tax penalties) began to return, There are expectations
that most U.S. employees will be soon receiving larger
paychecks. Unemployment continues to go down.

Does this mean the stock markets will continue to go up?

The markets now await new corporate quarterly earnings
reports. If those reports show increased earnings, barring
the unforeseen, bullish individual stocks will likely go up
(and stocks that do not show increased earnings will go
down). It’s a game of expectations. Corporate earnings
might go up, but if they are less than analysts and the
companies themselves predict, the stock might go down.
Earnings for the current quarter might be as good or even
better than expected, but these days, corporations also
make public predictions about future quarters (based on
sales or other projections), and if those are not what is
expected, a stock might actually go down despite the
short-term good news. Some industries or sectors also are
more or less favored by many investors, and multiples of
earnings per share can very widely for those stocks or
other investments which reap the attention of speculative
favor or disfavor. Some high-tech stocks have higher
earnings-per-share multiples because investors see higher
earning coming likely later, while some other stocks have
lower multiples because notable growth is not expected.

Peter Drucker, the wizard of management, wrote a book in
1976 called The Unseen Revolution in which he was among
the first to recognize the growing impact of pension funds
on the economy. He argued that the total investment of
workers’ pension funds in the stock market was so large
that it represented a kind of socialism, but he did not fully
take into account the distinction between stock ownership
and corporate control. Nor did he then know about the
immense  growth of personal IRA and 401-K funds that
would make up a major part of most individuals’ net worth.
Corporate pension funds have since declined. Government
and public sector worker pension funds, in many cases, have
became alarmingly underfunded. It is a very serious and
ongoing crisis. But the IRA and 401-K funds continue to be
the basis for most Americans' net worth.

The stock markets have not only an economic impact.
they have a political impact as well. Major advances in the
stock market create economic and political confidence
through increased individual net worth; major declines
disrupt that confidence.

There are many other critical factors is the movements of
markets. Supply and demand, inflation, emotions, stock
buy-backs, net asset value, impact of taxes and regulations
are among them. But the fundamental factor remains investor
anticipation of what the investment will earn.

For the moment, most investor sentiment is generally
positive. But, as we know from economic history, that can
change, and if investors think future earnings will go down,
the impact on the stock market could be dramatic.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


I think it might be a good time to take a brief break
from the politics which will soon enough again fill our
news venues with heated headlines and speculation.

Perhaps a good alternative, and a topic always of some
interest, are the places we go to dine out.

Many years ago, I published a local newspaper in the
Twin Cities. I put my best efforts in reporting about local
politics and in writing serious editorials about the issues
of the day. One afternoon, after having written occasional
articles about food and local restaurants. I received a
phone call from one of the local daily papers inquiring if
I would become their regular food critic. Initially flattered,
I gave it some thought, but concluded that if I were to write
about dining, I should do it for my own publication. My
restaurant column turned out to be much more popular
than my editorials.

I thus began a decades-long pen name pastime of writing
about food.

Today, the restaurant industry is a major part of
American commercial and cultural life. No longer limited
to the cities of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami,
Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco,
serious dining out in the U.S. now reaches every city and
even many small towns.

The dining out “boom” of recent years, however, is now
going in new directions. Non-professionals often have a
romantic view of opening and running a restaurant, and
many did just that --- only to discover that preparing and
serving food to the public is a very tough and demanding
occupation. Even restaurants run by great chefs and savvy
food professionals usually have a limited life span. Most of
the great dining rooms of the recent past no longer exist.

I noticed just in the past year or so, several new Twin Cities
dining establishments opened --- and closed --- within a few
months. The demand for fresh and high quality meat and
produce has kept food costs very high, and the old model of
restaurant employment has often become untenable as
mandatory minimum wage, paid leave and other employee
benefits have exceeded the capability for many restaurateurs'
ability to make a profit.

So now many new restaurants now opt for large spaces,
communal seating, and counter food ordering with a reduced
wait staff delivering counter-ordered (and paid-for) food items
to the table. These are mostly relatively high-end restaurants,
not of the fast-food variety. Very high-end new restaurants
which attempt to maintain the traditional hospitality
amenities and services simply have to charge very high prices,
but their audience is limited to expense accounts, special
occasion diners and the very affluent. 

In addition to large spaces serving many diners at the same
time, an additional economic solution is to make a restaurant
more than just a site for a meal but also a destination for
a variety of food experiences.

This variety is usually idiosyncratic --- as is the case of three
Twin Cities restaurants, two in Minneapolis and one in St.
Paul that I will discuss as emblematic of contemporary
restaurant innovation.

In Minneapolis, LYNHALL recently opened as the vision of
attorney Anne Spaeth on a main thoroughfare in a southside
neighborhood where many other new popular bistros have
appeared in recent years. It also is very much a residential
area with many younger tenants and homeowners who are
likely to go out to eat with some frequency, and who live at
walking distance. Lynhall has a very large space with lots of
communal tables. It serves breakfast , lunch and dinner with
counter service only. Ms.Spaeth has hired top local chefs for
her kitchen. Lynhall has its own bar, bakery and coffeehouse,
and serves well-made imaginative breakfasts, soups, salads,
appetizers, sandwiches, entrees, side orders and lavish
desserts. It does much takeout business.  Uniquely, Lynhall
has its own state-of-the-art video recording studio with
tables and seating that can be leased by chefs, groups and
companies for presentations, videos, food training and
private parties. The quality of food preparation at Lynhall is
quite good, with prices slightly on the high side, but it has
its own parking lot, on-street parking is plentiful, staff are
friendly, and no special taxes are added (as they are in
downtown and other near-downtown areas). Most of the
food items, including a variety of rotisserie meats, are
displayed, and portions are generous. The result is often a
friendly, delicious, affordable and original dining experience.

Across the river from downtown Minneapolis, chef-owner
Alex Roberts has created his own version of the new dining
destination at Restaurant/Cafe/Hotel ALMA in a university
residential area. Chef Roberts is a James Beard award-winner
for his outstanding culinary work at Restaurant Alma, a prix
fixe dinner-only kitchen featuring innovative local fresh foods
and fine wines. It has been consistently rated one of the top
dining rooms in the state and the region. It is also predictably
expensive --- a dinner for two with drinks, multiple courses,
wine, desserts. taxes and tip will likely cost more than $200.
Chef Roberts  is also an entrepreneur who wanted his kitchen
to be more than fine dining for a few, so he took over his whole
corner building --- converting the second floor to a charming
boutique hotel with seven rooms, and replaced a local
coffeehouse on the corner by converting it to an adjoining
cafe serving breakfast, lunch and dinner at more affordable
prices. The Cafe Alma menu is not large, but all the items  on
its menu are distinctive and have the touch of a James Beard
chef. Prices, as they are at Lynhall, are slightly on the high
side, but significantly less than in the main dining room
Service at Alma is among the best in the Twin Cities, with
the wait staff and baristas always welcoming and
well-informed. The hotel is the perfect spot for visitors
with a car who want to avoid the traffic, hassle and expense
of downtown, Room rates come with a delightful breakfast
from the Cafe. The location is central to all the Twin Cities
sights, and the pro sports stadiums are nearby. Excellent
municipal buses service stops in front of the Alma building.

In St. Paul, Italian food impresario Dave Cossetta took his
grandfather’s tiny Italian grocery and transformed it over
time to a near-downtown location --- and one of the largest
food destinations in the state, featuring a popular Italian
cafeteria, its own Italian bakery, the most lavish pasticceria
between New York and San Francisco (and rivaling ones in
Rome, Milan and Florence), a high-end sophisticated
Italian steakhouse, and the largest Italian deli in the area.
A third-floor open air patio is a busy summer watering
hole. Nearly all the foods are prepared in-house, often from
recipes of well-known chefs brought over from Italy to train
COSSETTA’S kitchen staff. The restaurant has its own large
parking lot. Cossetta’s is a very memorable experience.

These are three very original versions of the new restaurant
as destination. What isn’t new about them is the high quality
of the food preparation and service. Changing economic
conditions and food trends demand new ideas in dining out,
but great food well-served is still the very bottom line.

[NOTE: In full disclosure, one of the three restaurateurs
above is a total stranger, one a neighbor acquaintance, and
one someone I’ve known for many years.]

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Opening For Oprah?

The media swoon over the possibility that TV megastar
Oprah Winfrey might run for president in 2020 will pass,
but it should not deter us from making some valuable
observations about the now unfolding U.S. political
environment of 2018 and immediately beyond.

First, the Democrats have no credible leadership “bench”
(a term from competitive sports) ahead --- other than
some aging men and women now in their early to late 70s.

Second, Republicans and conservatives need not throw up
their arms in feigned shock. Donald Trump was no less a
TV celebrity in 2015 --- and far less popular than Ms.
Winfrey is now. The Donald did have a successful business
career as well, but so does the celebrated Oprah who rose
from poverty to become a major media tycoon in her own

Third, Ms. Winfrey is apparently mainstream liberal, and
has already been denounced by the Bernie Sanders wing of
her party as not radical enough to lead the 2020 ticket.
Should she indeed run, it would likely not be an easy
coronation, but instead it would likely be a down-and-dirty
primary state-by-primary state battle for control of her
party and its presidential ticket.

Fourth, we don’t yet know where Ms. Winfrey stands on
many if not most of the controversial issues of the day.
Her liberal social views might be known, but most of her
economic and foreign policy views have yet to be aired.

Fifth, if the 2016 campaign taught us anything, it is not to
dismiss prematurely a celebrity candidacy, especially such
a well-known, well-liked personality as Oprah Winfrey.

On the other hand, should she take the current media
swoon to the next level, Ms. Winfrey has to make some very
hard choices. As I have said, she could not win her party’s
nomination without a likely bitter fight that would
microscopically examine her personal and business life.
At some point, once she made a decision, she would have
to remove herself from her entertainment business on the
air. Once a candidate, she would have to submit herself to a
punishing schedule of travel and appearances. Most of all,
she would have to transform her show business acumen into
smart political strategy and choices --- while at the same
time surrounding herself with savvy advisors.

It can be done. It has been done. It would be a fascinating
match-up in 2020.

But for now, it is more of a revelation about the political
leadership vulnerability of the Democratic Party.

Let’s see where the inevitable political second-thoughts
take this story.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: In Only One Week.....

To give us perspective on the rapidly changing U.S. political
landscape, we need only look at the past few weeks, and
especially, this first week of the new year.

Just weeks before, few if any expected that dean of the
U.S. senate, Utah’s Orrin Hatch, was actually going to retire
to make way for Mitt Romney; that a Democrat would win
the Alabama special senate election; that the chairman of the
senate foreign relations committee, Republican Bob Corker
of Tennessee, would decide not to run for re-election; and
that “rising star” Minnesota Senator Al Franken would be
forced to retire from office by his own party. Tax reform
legislation remained bottled up by GOP intraparty conflict
in both houses of Congress, and was seemingly going
nowhere before an end of the year deadline. Obamacare
repeal had failed, and the key coverage mandate remained in
place. Powerful Republican congressional committee chairs
and members seemed headed for re-election. Insurgent GOP
strategist Steve Bannon had acquired mythic status in the
media, and threatened to bring down several incumbent
senators of his own party. Hollywood was riding high both at
the box office and in politics. Media bias was rampant.

So much for conventional thinking.

Just the few surprises and reversals mentioned above have
significantly altered 2018 politics, presenting unexpected
opportunities for both Democrats and Republicans. But many
retirement and primary challenge decisions remain, and the
impact of the historic tax cuts is not yet known.

The dramatic recent changes are not limited to individual
and political party prospects. Profound new cultural standards
are being forged, and the lavish and excessive win streak of
the iconic Hollywood, media and pro football industries are
faltering by the missteps of some of their own in conduct and
public opinion.

We are only in the first week of the year. There are 44 weeks
until election day, 2018.

Surprises will keep on coming.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Barry Casselman. All right reserved.