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Saturday, December 03, 2016
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  • SOUTH BEND - With Thanksgiving here, it’s time to present the annual Turkey of the Year Awards. Recipients may cry fowl. But even if they haven’t been turkeys all year, each winner has done something to merit this prestigious recognition. The awards for 2016: For campaign strategy, the Turkey of the Year Award goes to Hillary Clinton for a rejected plea of “love trumps hate.” Voters instead were deciding that Twitter trumps email as they heard of messages the candidates sent. A turkey for inadequate preparation for a sudden surge in website traffic goes to Canada. It’s website for immigration crashed election night. In the last laugh category, Hoosier Democrats who laughed that Mike Pence was ending his political career by joining the Trump ticket get the award.
  • SOUTH BEND – When pigs flew over my car as I drove home on election night, the sight neither startled nor surprised me. Hey! The Cubs won the World Series. Donald Trump won the presidency. So why would aerodynamically skilled porkers be a surprise. Actually, the Cubs were expected to win this time. Trump wasn’t. Not long ago, as Hillary Clinton won the debates and Trump was losing it in a tweeting rage, speculation grew about a political tsunami sweeping away the Republican presidential nominee and helpless Republican candidates all around the nation, bringing a Democratic Senate for sure and maybe – just maybe – even a Democratic House. Could Clinton, surprisingly close back then in an Indiana poll, even carry the Hoosier state the way President Obama did in 2008? Tsunami there was. In Indiana, the waves swept away helpless candidates, just as predicted when a tsunami hits. But some of those mid-October election forecasts were like a South Bend weather forecast in winter that goes wrong as shifting winds off the lake bring something far different than predicted. Tsunami waves hit a different place, a different party.
  • SOUTH BEND – Two things seemed certain last summer as folks around South Bend looked ahead to the fall sports of football and politics: Notre Dame would beat underdog Duke easily in football and Jackie Walorski would beat some guy named Coleman easily for Congress. You could bet on it. Some did, on the football game. What though the odds, Duke won over defenseless Notre Dame. Now, how about that political certainty? That certainty of reelection of Congresswoman Walorski, much better funded, much better known and much better situated in a Republican-flavored district in which she carried nine of the 10 counties last time? Walorski isn’t defenseless, not with all the money she has for TV. She has begun hitting Democratic challenger Lynn Coleman with negative TV ads, no longer acting as though he isn’t there. Coleman, a former South Bend police officer and mayoral assistant, has gained name recognition and more support than might have been expected last summer. But Coleman can’t win. Not on his own. Just as Duke needed help from a bizarre Notre Dame defense, Coleman needs help from a bizarre Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump. And Trump is helping. Enough?
  • SOUTH BEND –  Lynn Coleman’s seemingly long-shot candidacy for Congress is “emerging,” described that way by the most important national evaluator of his 2nd District race against Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. The evaluation comes from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC has played a key role in determining the fate of Democratic challengers in the district, going back to when it didn’t give a cent to Sen. Joe Donnelly when he first challenged then-Congressman Chris Chocola – Chocola won big – but then poured resources into the district as Donnelly trounced Chocola on a second try. The attention of the DCCC, while not yet guaranteeing big resources, was a factor in the Cook Political Report’s change of its rating of the district from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican,” meaning that the nationally regarded report now regards the race as competitive, not a sure thing for Walorski. “We can win this election,” Coleman says, confident now that he will have funding to keep running TV spots until election day and that Democrats will have a far superior get-out-the-vote effort.
  • SOUTH BEND – President Lyndon B. Johnson was a big man, 6-foot-4 and heavy-set, very heavy. I know. He once stepped on my foot. Accidental. Not because of anything I wrote. Happened as he toured devastation in Elkhart County from the 1965 Palm Sunday tornadoes. Secret service agents kept pushing me along right beside the president, either because he wanted the interview or because I provided a nice shield. LBJ was a big man also in presidential accomplishments, especially in civil rights, although he was diminished in stature by the war in Vietnam, one he couldn’t win but couldn’t figure out how to escape without being branded a loser. He didn’t escape and was branded a loser, leaving office with such low voter approval that he declined to seek another term. Last weekend, while in Austin, Texas, for a football game, exciting but featuring a seemingly defenseless Notre Dame team, I toured the LBJ Presidential Library and the nearby LBJ ranch, now a national park. While his foibles and problems with Vietnam weren’t neglected in the presentations, it was the focus on the persuasive power of Johnson to get things done in Congress, including passage of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, that was of special interest to me.
  • SOUTH BEND – The spring edition of debates over debates is history, distinguished by deliberations over such issues as the size of Donald Trump’s hands, whether to discuss “your damn emails” and which candidates would have to sit at the children’s table rather than be in the big event. Now come debates over debates, fall edition. Locally, there’s the question of whether Congresswoman Jackie Walorski will consent to debate her Democratic opponent, Lynn Coleman, somewhere, anywhere, in a televised format or any format resembling a debate. Nationally, there’s speculation over whether Trump really will appear at all three of the scheduled presidential debates. He already has complained about the timing. And he’s sure to raise questions about whether the events are “rigged.” The vice presidential nominees will debate once, even though most of the nation isn’t paying attention to either of them.
  • SOUTH BEND - Gov. Mike Pence will not be governor of Indiana next year. Nor will Pence be vice president, unless there are monumental events to avert the looming defeat of Donald Trump in the presidential race. Q. So, where would that leave Pence? A. Perhaps closer to his goal than he would have been if he had declined the vice presidential nomination and had run instead for re-election as governor. Q. Really? Losing for vice president, maybe with the GOP ticket trounced, could leave Pence still viable for his goal of president? A. Quite possibly. In fact, it could be argued that the worse the trouncing for Trump, the better politically for Pence. Q. Won’t Pence share blame if the Trump-Pence ticket is demolished? A. No. Pence would get no blame. It wouldn’t be his fault. Pence would get credit from Republican leaders for trying to hold the party together and save Republicans in governor, senator and House races. They would think of how much worse things would have been if Pence wasn’t there to clean up after Trump’s messes. Many Republicans now lament that it’s not Pence leading the ticket. And that’s his goal - someday, preferably in 2020, to lead the ticket, to be the presidential nominee and win.
  • SOUTH BEND - Do you wake up at night frightened that Hillary is coming to take your guns? Do you break out in a cold sweat when you see a Muslim woman wearing a hijab, even if allegedly a Gold Star mother? Are you often depressed, frequently angry and unable now to envision what once was your American dream? You may be suffering from Hillaryitis Aggrevitis, known as H.A. Don’t suffer any longer from H.A. Trump Elixir can make you feel great again. So great. Believe us. Trump Elixir is a cure discovered by Dr. D.J. Trump. Only he knows the formula. Only Dr. Trump can make you feel great again. Rigged medical advertising regulations, enforced by dishonest establishment bureaucrats, require disclosure that Dr. Trump is not a medical doctor. But he knows so much more than those doctors. They’re losers. If they know so much, why didn’t THEY make America feel great again? Such losers. Believe us. Trump Elixir stops those Hillary nightmares. Gives you courage to push that Muslim woman off the street before she detonates a bomb. Restores your faith in the American dream. Believe us.
  • SOUTH BEND – Todd Young had it won. Until . . . Young, a Republican congressman from Bloomington, trounced another GOP congressman, Marlin Stutzman, the Tea Party favorite, in the May primary, capturing the party’s nomination for the open U.S. Senate seat at stake in Indiana. Baron Hill, the Democratic nominee, with little name recognition, little funding and little chance, was written off by Democratic fundraisers and political analysts in Indiana and around the nation. Young had that seat won. Until . . .  Until Hill dropped out in July, replaced by Evan Bayh. Young now faces a candidate with high name recognition from Bayh’s two terms as governor and two terms in the Senate, mostly favorable recognition. Young’s fundraising advantage is gone. Bayh has $9.3 million in funds from past campaigning. Analysts now see the race as a “toss-up,” maybe even with advantage to Bayh.
  • SOUTH BEND - Eric Holcomb presents a different and potentially more difficult target for John Gregg in Indiana’s race for governor. If Gregg, the Democratic nominee, is able, however, to convince voters that Holcomb, the new Republican nominee, really isn’t much different than the old target, difficulty lessens and victory prospects brighten. The old target for Gregg was Gov. Mike Pence. Polls showed that Pence was vulnerable, an inviting target with a sagging job approval rating and high negative poll percentages lingering from the dispute over intent of a religious freedom bill and education issues. When Pence became the Republican nominee for vice president, abandoning his quest for reelection as governor, Gregg lost an opponent with high negative ratings. Republicans selected Holcomb, who had been running for lieutenant governor, as their new nominee for governor.
  • SOUTH BEND – The Democratic National Convention is over. Just as at the conclusion of the rival Republican event a week earlier, questions remain. Q. Was the Democratic convention a success for Hillary Clinton? A. Success is in the bounce of the beholders. The beholders who count are the voters. Despite the critics that found the Republican convention too negative, too dark and gloomy, too disorganized and too divisive, Donald Trump got a significant bounce in the polls, not just catching up but pulling ahead in some samplings of American opinion. Negative works. Whether the optimistic view of America in the Democratic convention worked for Clinton will be shown now in new polls. Did she bounce back? Big? Barely? Or not at all? Q. How was Clinton’s acceptance speech? A.  Good, especially in drawing a contrast with Trump in qualifications for commander in chief and leader of the free world. But, as was to be expected, she didn’t approach the soaring oratory of convention speakers on the night before. She also seemed to be concerned more with appealing to the sometimes hostile portion of Bernie Sanders supporters in the hall than to the wider audience on television, perhaps losing a chance to sway more of the wavering Republicans and independents watching on TV.
  • SOUTH BEND – The Republican National Convention is over. Questions remain. Q. Was the convention a success for Donald Trump? A. There were ups and downs for Trump. No matter what the TV pundits say, the verdict that counts is being delivered this weekend in the polls of Americans showing whether Trump got a convention bounce in support and, if so, whether he has caught up in the presidential race. Q. The most important event was Trump’s acceptance speech. Did he hit a home run or strike out in seeking to convince voters that he is presidential, not a buffoon; a steady leader, not a loose cannon? A. No home run. His speech lacked the cadence of stirring oratory and dragged on at times, no doubt losing viewers in many homes around the nation as he spoke for over an hour and a quarter. But he didn’t strike out. Trump touched all the areas of fear and anger that won decisive support in the primaries. He didn’t let down those primary supporters. Nor did he go off script with some controversial insult. Let’s say he hit a double, getting halfway there. Now he needs to move to third base and home in the debates and campaigning in order to score the winning run. Q. How did Indiana Gov. Mike Pence do in his speech accepting the nomination for vice president? A. Great. Pence spoke clearly and confidently about conservative principles.
  • SOUTH BEND – Voters don’t always vote in their own self-interest. Sometimes, in anger or ignorance or a combination thereof, they vote to rescind their nose to spite their face. So it was in Britain, where a majority of voters chose to leave the European Union. Now, already, buyer’s remorse settles in as Britons see their stock market crash and the value of their pound and their investments plummet. A prior forecast for growth is replaced by fears of lost jobs and recession. The nation’s credit ranking tanks. Trade deals must be renegotiated from a position of weakness. There is concern over whether Scotland and Northern Ireland will remain in the United Kingdom. Then England loses to Iceland 2-1 in the European Soccer Championships. Iceland? Iceland! Little Iceland? Little Iceland! Blame it on the Brexit voters? They are blamed for everything else. Rightly so, in most cases. So, maybe they even made their national team colder than Iceland.
  • LaPORTE – When Blair Milo, elected mayor of LaPorte at age 28, won a second term last fall, with Democrats choosing not even to oppose her, she was viewed as a potential Indiana Republican superstar, likely to run for higher office. Milo is running. For sure. But not for higher office. At least not yet. Nor is she running a political course in accord with current Hoosier GOP political wisdom. She doesn’t endorse Donald Trump. She does support a wheel tax, saying it’s vital to fix crumbling streets in her city. Milo is running. The course she ran in May was in “toughman” competition, running a half marathon, 13.1 miles, biking 56 miles and swimming 1.2 miles. “My two goals were to finish and not die,” Milo laughs. She achieved both goals. She is used to challenges – a couple of marathons and in more serious matters in five and a half years of active duty in the Navy, including stationing on a vital Iraqi oil platform protected by the Navy and being sent to a dangerous part of Pakistan in “what was not my favorite time in the Navy.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Donald Trump had only nice things to say about Hoosiers when he wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination in Indiana, vanquishing his last challenger in the state’s May 3 primary election. Now, his “racist” attack on a native Hoosier threatens to diminish the value of that nomination. The description of his tirade against Gonzalo Curiel as racist comes from Republicans such as House Speaker Paul Ryan as well as from Democrats. Republicans are the ones most worried about the ramifications. If their presidential nominee blusters on with insults of myriad groups and individuals, he could bring defeat to more Republicans than just himself. Democrats are pleased with those prospects. Instead of focusing on presidential issues, national and international, Trump relentlessly pursued a grudge from his business dealings with a personal attack on Curiel, the federal judge in one of the lawsuits alleging fraud and a scam in past operations of the defunct “Trump University.” Trump showed, as columnist George Will writes, “eagerness to plumb new depths of destructiveness.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Many readers say they just don’t understand what’s happening politically these days, especially how the GOP became the GOT. Yep, from Grand Old Party to Garden of Trump. So, it’s my responsibility to answer their questions and explain clearly the politics of 2016. Q. Will the Republican National Convention in Cleveland really be staged like a party honoring Donald Trump? A. Yes. Trump, with all the delegate support he needs for the presidential nomination, will orchestrate the convention as an event in his honor. Huge. Q. Is it true that a lot of prominent Republicans – governors, members of the House and Senate and former presidents – won’t attend? A. Yes. Seems that many have conflicts that won’t permit them to attend, such things as need to rearrange sock drawers. That’s important. Think of the political damage to a senator appearing in public with socks that don’t match. Q. Well, they must be like Marco Rubio, who called Trump a con artist, a liar and a threat to the republic and made jokes about “small hands.” He’d never endorse Trump, right?
  • SOUTH BEND – If the election is a referendum on Gov. Mike Pence, he will lose. That’s why the governor needs to shift the focus away from him and get voters to look critically at Democratic challenger John Gregg. But Gregg seeks to keep the focus right where it is, on Pence and the controversies during the Pence administration. Polls show trouble for Indiana’s Republican governor as he seeks a second term, dangerously high disapproval percentages and many voters, especially women voters, saying they would prefer a new governor. Those controversies, particularly over education and the religious objections law that Pence signed, have taken a toll. “He cannot run on his record,” Gregg said as he talked about his rematch with Pence during a South Bend stop to introduce his running mate for lieutenant governor, State Rep. Christina Hale. “He will have to take the focus off his record,” Gregg said.
  • SOUTH BEND -  A New York television crew was at Notre Dame recently for interviews about campus reaction to the university’s invitation to a nationally known Catholic, a political figure publicly criticized by some bishops for not fighting against “choice” on abortion. No, not Vice President Joe Biden. Biden was at Notre Dame commencement Sunday to receive, along with former House Speaker John Boehner, the Laetare Medal, described as “the oldest and most prestigious honor accorded to American Catholics.” The New York television station was looking farther back, nearly 32 years ago, when the late Mario Cuomo, a Catholic then New York governor and widely regarded as a future Democratic presidential nominee, spoke at Notre Dame, explaining where and why he drew a line between faith and law on abortion. Cuomo’s views then were similar to Biden’s now. Similar views brought similar reaction, similar debate among Catholics, at Notre Dame and elsewhere: Should a Catholic political figure go beyond personal opposition to abortion and push for governmental action to ban all abortion?
  • SOUTH BEND – Indiana’s primary election, often too late in presidential nomination selection to count, was billed as having real meaning this time. It did. So, what does it mean nationally for president and for races in Indiana for governor and the U.S. Senate? Republican presidential nomination: Indiana decided it. Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. Just as billed, it was a “must win” primary for Ted Cruz and the stop-Trump effort. When Cruz was trounced, with Trump sweeping up Indiana delegate commitments for the first ballot at the Republican National Convention, the path to forcing a second ballot and then nominating somebody other than Trump was closed. Cruz, with no path to travel, gave up. Nomination decided. What happens now in remaining states with primaries doesn’t matter. Democratic presidential nomination: Hillary Clinton, though actually with a surer path to nomination than Trump had on the Republican side before Cruz bowed out, failed to knock Bernie Sanders out of the way. She really didn’t try very hard in Indiana, already pivoting toward a general election battle with Trump. Clinton didn’t spend a cent on TV in Indiana (compared to nearly $2 million spent by Sanders) and didn’t spend much time campaigning here either.
  • SOUTH BEND – “The Most Important Primary Is . . . Wait. Indiana?” That headline on a New York Times “Upshot” political analysis reflects both the significance of Indiana’s May 3 presidential primary and the surprise, nationally and in the state, that the Indiana vote, usually coming too late to matter, now is so important. The importance was underlined by Donald Trump’s decision to fly to Indianapolis for his first campaign rally after his landslide victory in New York. In the Times analysis, factoring in expectations of big wins by Trump in northeast states next week as well as a New York triumph, writer Nate Cohn cites later states where stop-Trump efforts could work. He concludes that Indiana, a tossup, could hold the key to whether Trump wins the 1,237 delegate total for a first-ballot victory at the Republican National Convention in July in Cleveland. The “most important” tag was affixed to the Republican primary.
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  • Daniels calls on Trump to tackle the $14 trillion in national debt
    “It is an enormous impediment to long-term growth in this country. The president-elect didn’t cause this problem, but I think he is that president for whom it will not wait another four years. I’ve said in at least two presidential election cycles, this country cannot wait out another presidency without getting serious about this problem. I’m pretty sure I’m right this time.” - Purdue President Mitch Daniels, calling on President-elect Donald Trump to tackle the $14 trillion national debt. Daniels made his comments as one of three co-chairs of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group. In 2011 as the former White House budget director positioned for the 2012 presidential race, Daniels cited the "great red menace" of national debt in a speech to CPAC, then wrote about the topic in his book "Keeping The Republic."
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