Zaino: Obama lands in Cuba for historic visit; another round of big primaries

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The Political Week Ahead in Numbers

The upcoming week in politics includes a historic trip by President Obama, continuing uncertainty regarding the president’s nominee to the Supreme Court, half a dozen primaries and caucuses, and just a few days left for New Yorkers to register to vote in the primary.

 88 – The number of years it has been since a United States President visited Cuba.

The last sitting president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge who traveled to the island 88 years ago. Coolidge arrived in Havana Harbor on a battleship in January 1928. President Obama took a decidedly different tack, traveling with his family via Air Force. Just before he landed on Sunday, Obama reached out to the Cuban people via a medium Coolidge couldn’t have imagined – twitter. Obama began his post with a traditional Cuban greeting: “¿Que bolá Cuba?” Then added “Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.” The president’s trip marks the culmination of his administrations three-year effort to restore relations with Cuba. The reestablishment of relations was announced by Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014. That historic announcement signaled the end of a Cold-War era rupture between the countries that began in the late 1950s. During his stay on the island Obama will hold talks with Castro, meet with dissidents, address the Cuban people on state-run television, and even take in a baseball game between the Cuban national team and the Tampa Bay Rays. President Obama is scheduled to conclude his three-day trip on Tuesday.

 391 – The longest number of days the Supreme Court has gone with 8 members.

Monday March 21 marks a little over a month since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away. It was only hours after Scalia’s death on February 13 that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate would not hold hearings on a replacement until a new president takes office. Nevertheless, last week President Obama nominated the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, Merrick Garland. This weekend on the Sunday talk shows McConnell reiterated his commitment to delay consideration of any nominee until a new president is sworn in. He even ruled out considering Garland during the Senate’s lame duck session later this year. A tactic that could leave the GOP facing an even more liberal nominee if a Democrat wins in November. The longest time the Court has gone with just eight members since the Civil War period, is 391 days. This occurred in 1969 when, after Abe Fortas resigned President Nixon had two nominees rejected before Harry Blackmun was confirmed. The question now is whether the current Supreme Court will break the record as the longest to serve with just eight members?

6 – The number of primaries and caucuses being held this week.

This week there are contests in six states (plus American Samoa). The biggest prizes in terms of delegates are in Arizona and Utah on Tuesday where a total of 122 delegates are up for grabs on the Democratic side and 98 for the GOP. In addition, there are caucuses being held for Democrats this week in four other states: Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington. The number of delegates at stake in Arizona and Utah on Tuesday explains why Donald Trump and Ted Cruz spent much of the weekend appealing to voters in these states. As usual, much of the focus was on Trump whose large rallies in the states were marred by protest and some violence. Almost all the major candidates (except Bernie Sanders) will be headed to Washington D.C. early this week to address the AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs) policy conference. Sanders absence is notable because he is also the first Jewish politician to ever win a presidential primary.

4 – The number of days New Yorkers have to register to vote in the upcoming primary

On April 19 New York will hold its primary. The primary is expected to be more consequential than usual. Not only are two New Yorkers leading in both parties, but a large number of delegates are at stake – 291on the Democratic side and 95 for the GOP. Given how close the contest is, the candidates are sure to be fighting hard for every one of those delegates. Voters who hope to participate, however, have to send in their registration by later this week. Registration forms must be postmarked by March 25 and received by the Board of Elections by March 30.  http://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingDeadlines.html Anyone thinking of switching their party affiliation, however, is out of luck. Those changes had to be completed by October of last year.

Jeanne Zaino, PhD, is professor of political science and international studies at Iona College and a frequent contributor to WPIX . She can be reached via twitter @JeanneZaino

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