Craig Dunn: What a difference a month makes
Friday, June 03, 2016 9:25 AM
KOKOMO – What a difference a month makes! One month ago, Republicans in Indiana were drawing battle lines in the rarest of rarities, a primary that actually meant something. In a ham-handed deal, John Kasich and Ted Cruz worked up a “deal” in an effort to derail Donald Trump’s express train to the Republican presidential nomination. Kasich cleared the field and Cruz crowed that without the distraction of a third candidate, he would put the Donald in his place.
One month ago, liberal and conservative pundits predicted that the Republican presidential race would come down to a contested convention that would destroy the Republican Party.
One month ago, Hillary Clinton led Donald Trump in national polls by nearly 20 percent.
One month ago, with the elite of the Indiana Democrats backing her, Hillary Clinton looked to win the Indiana primary and close out the Democratic presidential race.
One month ago, John Gregg was shopping for a big old comfortable chair for his future digs in the governor’s office, while counting his big labor donations to his gubernatorial campaign.
This immediately brings to mind a song by the great songstress, Dinah Washington, “What a Difference a Day Makes.” Make that a month and, well, you get the point. Things have changed.
In the past month Donald Trump absolutely destroyed Ted Cruz in the Indiana primary and, with his victory, any chance to stop Trump from becoming the presumptive Republican nominee for president. Okay, Craig, take a deep breath, count to 10 and repeat after me, “Donald Trump will make a great president. Donald Trump will make a great president.”
Most talking head pundits, and I now number myself amongst their muddled and befuddled ranks, got it absolutely wrong by predicting a contested Republican National Convention. We’ve learned in the past 30 days just exactly how angry the voters are. They are fed up and not going to take it any longer. I guess the media literati and those of us who sit in the ivy-covered palaces of the Republican establishment elite were just clueless as to the pent up anger raging in the American public. Now we are not.
With the smashing Trump victory in Indiana, the myth of a disintegrating Republican Party being destroyed by a contested convention got smashed in the process. What looked to be a mixed martial arts slugfest at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, now promises to be a patriotic, telegenic lovefest of delegates singing “Kumbaya” and waving the Trump flag. Oh sure, there will be some heartburn from a four-day diet of eating crow, but it will be a far cry from fistfights in the aisles projected by the gleeful national media.
Hillary Clinton has seen her head-to-head national poll numbers sink quicker than the Lusitania over the past month. From a staggering, insurmountable lead over Donald Trump to a neck-to-neck polling status, lingering questions over Clinton’s trustworthiness, honesty and competence have returned her to the land of reality.
Indiana played a big role in Clinton’s descending poll dance. The openly avowed socialist in the stealthy Socialist Democrat Party, Bernie Sanders, gave Hillary a good old-fashioned Hoosier whoopin’ and guaranteed that she cannot act more conservative until well after the California primary in June.
Democratic presidential candidates have long used the strategy of running along the left wing of their party until the nomination is closed out and then, with the nomination safely in hand, moving to the right in an effort to capture those swing voters in the center. This strategy relies on low-information voters, a compliant national media and a totally unscrupulous candidate. While this sounds like a situation tailor-made for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders has Hillary’s tootsies held firmly to the fire and she is forced to act in public like she really doesn’t have a hot line to Goldman Sachs.
This brings us to Democrat gubernatorial candidate John Gregg. There was a time in the post-RFRA afterglow when Gregg must have felt that his path to the governor’s office had been cleared by the gods of fate. With an alliance of angry teachers and the GLBT community to sustain him, Gregg toured the Hoosier State beating the RFRA dog to death. While persevering on his limited message, a funny thing happened along the way. Gov. Mike Pence began piling up a big string of economic development victories across Indiana.
Polling has informed us that the voter problems associated with the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act have largely faded and have been replaced by heightened voter attention to job growth and economic opportunity. This has played directly into Gov. Pence’s hand and bodes well for his eventual reelection in November.
The brief glimmer of hope that Gregg may have experienced over a fractured Republican Party has been replaced by the realization that with Donald Trump on the Republican ballot, an army of voters who, by a two-to-one margin, declare the economy to be their number one concern, will flock to the polls. No one can dispute that Gov. Pence and Indiana have been on a long streak of economic development and jobs victories. Leading the Midwest in job growth because of Republican policies and priorities has put Gov. Pence in prime position to win a race that once looked very much in doubt. As Democratic strategist and media gadfly James Carville likes to say, “It’s the economy, stupid.” The economy is where Pence holds all of the cards.
Prospective voters are now learning that John Gregg has largely been an empty suit when it comes to providing a vision for Indiana. Gregg has ridden the GLBT pony into the dust and much of the teacher angst has been alleviated by the elimination of the ISTEP exam. To the average Hoosier, when it comes to either creating good-paying jobs or allowing transsexuals to pick the restroom of their choice, jobs will win every time.
What a month it was! Assumptions shattered. Trends reversed. Sacred cows sacrificed. We now know how quickly the world can spin and the political world be turned on its head. Just imagine what changes the next five months will bring as the 2016 elections unfold.
Dunn is chairman of the Howard County Republican Party.