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Thursday, September 29, 2016
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  • FORT WAYNE – The major shift in the WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll taken this week from earlier polls is crystal clear: Todd Young has closed the wide margin that Evan Bayh once had in the Senate race. The Gregg-Holcomb race for governor remains extremely close.  Donald Trump, as other polls have shown, has a large lead in Indiana. Two months ago, when Evan Bayh first announced that he was going to run for the Senate, the first poll had him up 54-33%. Since that time he has been under heavy criticism for his Washington D.C. residency and lobbying ties in all forms of media. A Monmouth poll had Bayh’s margin down to 48-41%. The WTHR/Howey Politics Indiana Poll shows it has now fallen to 44-40%. However, the underneath numbers suggest more serious problems ahead for Bayh.
  • FORT WAYNE – The challenge of this year’s gubernatorial election is different. Contrary to feelings inside most campaign bubbles, almost no one is paying attention and few voters care about the race. This helps both Eric Holcomb and John Gregg because both begin as relative unknowns to most but party loyalists. Name identification is not the same as having an image attached to it. It helps Holcomb because attempts by Gregg to connect him to Mike Pence don’t work except to appeal to hard-core Democrats. The obsession with all things Trump, and secondarily with all things Hillary, means that voters at this point connect Pence with Trump. While Trump/Pence could lose in Indiana, it certainly doesn’t appear so and my guess is that Indiana would be one of the last states to go even in a Democrat tsunami. So why would you tie Holcomb to Pence. What could matter, if Holcomb capitalizes upon it, are his even closer ties to Mitch Daniels. Daniels is a popular and respected figure, possibly more in memory than at the time. It would make Gregg appear to be running against both Pence and Daniels.  On the other hand, Gregg has a different problem than Holcomb. For someone who served in his first elective office 42 years ago and was Indiana House speaker in the last century, he also remains a relative blank slate.
  • FORT WAYNE - Of course it is important to remember that we aren’t even half-way through August in this seemingly interminable election cycle.  Normally we’d say that people are on vacation, voters don’t focus until after Labor Day and many not until October, many have little or no knowledge about the candidates, blah blah. However, nothing about this election year is normal. About the only things left to know about the Clintons are: 1.) what groceries they bought the second week of July in, say, 1977; 2.) how unfaithful has Bill Clinton continued to be; and 3.) what did Hillary delete from her e-mails. We know more personal things, true and alleged, about the Clintons than about any two people in American political history.  As for Donald Trump, he’s like Elvis, bigger than life and heavily mythical. Trump’s conned people his life. In everything. He’s the loud-mouthed guy almost everyone knows, who got financially lucky or was crooked but not caught, and then flaunts his wealth obscenely.  Everything he owns, wears, says and even marries says: “Hey, look at me. I’m insecure.” Bullying and blaming others are just other manifestations of insecurity. What we don’t do is make such people President of the United States. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is learning that even nominating such a person potentially has implications beyond just losing the Presidency. Trump is like a virus that can permanently weaken the whole party.
  • FORT WAYNE – The Democrats have given us deja vu all over again, to quote Yogi Berra in this time warp. Clinton.  Bayh. Gregg. Even the Russians are back. This year Indiana and national Democrat Party have chosen to offer voters a full slate of retread tires. Hillary Clinton, defeated by Barack Obama eight years ago, has re-emerged. She was impatiently tapping the table, chair and floor waiting for the Obama interlude to end so we could bring back the glorious days of the Clinton Era. At least Hillary offers the historic chance for America to establish that failure is not because you are a woman or a man. Failure in governing is not because one is white, black or brown. She has already proven that women can use unfair methods to get nominated. Now Hillary wants the opportunity that liberal ideas are the problem, not gender or race.  But this is an undeniable fact. No one should underestimate the inspiration she is far beyond just grown women. The fact is that little girls across this nation feel differently about their potentials this week. That isn’t just Democrat hyperbole.  In Indiana, the Democrat retreads offer no such breakthroughs. They are just old tires. Bayh has launched his campaign with an attack ad on Todd Young’s supposed desire to destroy Social Security.

  • FORT WAYNE – In yet another bold move, the Indiana Democrats have announced that former Gov. Henry Schricker will be pulled out of deep retirement to replace John Gregg as their 2016 candidate for governor. Polling was clearly showing that Gregg’s previous campaign stressing his moustache had been working better than his current ads.  “Many of us thought John had lost his creative edge and just turned into a complainer,” said one disgruntled Democrat. “We needed somebody wearing a white hat.”   Some snarky Republicans pointed out the fact that Schricker is dead and couldn’t even vote for himself. Democrats quickly countered that they consider Starke County, Schricker’s current residence, part of the Region where such things don’t matter. They also noted that Hoosier voters seem to be more focused on name identification than any other variable this year. The Schricker strategy to bail out the gubernatorial race was a by-product of the amazing initial excitement generated among Democrats of Evan Bayh’s return from the politically dead to force Baron Hill out of the Senate race.
  • FORT WAYNE – The next step in this presidential campaign – at least the next logical step though both likely presidential nominees regularly slip in missteps that rather overwhelm normal progression – is the selection of vice presidential running mates. There isn’t a lot of worldwide precedent for vice president with a king or queen. With Trump or Hillary occupying the throne, one conjures up a vision of a graying Prince Charles with great-grandchildren bouncing on his knee when he isn’t opening up a home and garden show somewhere. On the other hand, this is the first time in my lifetime when the presumptive presidential nominee of both parties could blow up before they even become eligible for impeachment. Voters might actually think more about the back-up plan more than normal. I will focus on the Republicans, where accepting the veep slot entails far more risk. With no inside information at all, if Trump has an “inside” even in his own head, and assuming political logic (risky), here is my order of likelihood for Trump’s veep: 1) Who knows, 2) Pence, 3) Fallin, 4) Gingrich, 5) somebody who already said “no” like Kasich, or 6) Christie.
  • FORT WAYNE – While I am more of a beer guy, or bourbon, Donald Trump has driven me to whine. If I’m not careful, between now and the fall election I could become sort of a political alcoholic filled with constant whine, whine, whine. But the only way to avoid the addiction is to totally abstain from politics, or at least have long dry stretches of Trump withdrawal while focusing on baseball.  Some days Trump makes me angry, as do Hillary and the President, but in today’s context of everyone being angry, mine hardly reaches that threshold anymore. When I raise my voice, my face slightly reddened, and make declarations, it sounds like Trump when he’s in a good mood. Or Hillary, when she’s whispering. At least the President just smirks. To be considered angry today, you really have to haul out some big verbal guns. Or threaten to use a real gun. Speaking of liberal hysteria, they holler at Trump (correctly) for turning terrorism by an Arab American into an “I told you so,” yet every shooting becomes the same for liberals. Primarily another notch on their gun control ban advocacy belt. 
  • FORT WAYNE – In some ways Trump’s campaign is mirroring James Blaine’s famous “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion” campaign of 1884.  Blaine didn’t actually say the phrase, Dr. Samuel D. Burchard did while addressing the Religious Bureau of the Republican National Committee. The actual quote was: “We are Republicans, and don’t propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion. We are loyal to our flag.”  In other words, “Hold your nose, vote for Blaine, and let’s make America great again.”  It is fascinating that a “Religious Bureau” of the RNC even existed in 1884. “Rum” of course was part of the battle over prohibition, particularly about the immigrants from Germany and the Irish who drank too much. It was a “code word” with multiple signals. “Romanism” was the hot-button word for the waves of Catholic immigrants. The immigrants were less educated, poorer, took their jobs at much lower wages, and wouldn’t speak English.  
  • FORT WAYNE  – Politics this year has been truly amazing to watch. Both major parties seem poised to nominate candidates for president so unpopular that President Obama is beginning to look better every week to many Americans. The President’s approval rating in the latest Gallup poll is the highest it has been since May, 2013. A common complaint has been that all the choices were bad.  “Can’t we do better than this?” is often asked. The clear answer should be, “No. Your expectations are totally out of whack with reality.” The Democrat choices may have lacked charisma, but even tail-enders Martin O’Malley and Jim Webb had decent records of public service. Webb represented the right flank of the former Democrat Party, and O’Malley was once a hope of the liberal branch (moderates in the current party). The only thing missing from the Democrat options were African-Americans and Hispanics. But the Democrats did offer lots of diversity among whites. Hillary Clinton is one of the last remnants of the neo-liberal Democrat Party who were led by Southern governors such as Jimmy Carter and her husband Bill Clinton.
  • FORT WAYNE – In one of the few seriously contested drawn out primary campaigns, we Hoosiers decided the Republican nomination. It would have been a great distinction if it hadn’t been Trump. But what’s done, is done. Kind of. Actually, we are going to have to live with this for at least the rest of this political cycle. What impact will Indiana’s gift to the American political system have going forward? While Donald Trump seems capable of filling any news cycle all by himself, political junkies and people who care about how our governments work will be carefully studying how the Donald impacts other races.  Here are a few opening thoughts for Indiana. Gov. Mike Pence: Conventional wisdom decided that the drop-off from the Republican presidential ballots to governor was bad news for Gov. Pence, and was because of his refusal to buckle to the demands of those who disagreed over the LGBT rights issue. It was a large drop-off, but the reasons why cannot be determined with such certitude. I tested my theory that Trump voters were often Democrats who crossed over, saw no contest, so the only way to show they weren’t for Pence was to skip voting for governor.  Exhibit A in my case is Lake County. In the contested primary of 2008 Lake had 130,000 Democrat voters versus 11,000 Republicans.  In 2016 there were 76,000 versus 44,000. The ratio which was more than 11:1 in 2008 but less than 2:1 in 2016.  There clearly was crossover voting in an area where one would assume Trump appeal to Democrats.
  • FORT WAYNE – From the time Ted Cruz launched his campaign at the legendary gym in Knightstown where the movie “Hoosiers” was filmed, and referred to the “rim” as a “ring,” one had a feeling that our moment in the sun might not go well. Based upon Donald Trump’s strategy, you’d think all of us were still dribbling basketballs everywhere. IU’s Bobby “Night” was trotted out to declare that Trump was the most prepared man ever to be president.  Purdue’s Gene Keady played along.  Notre Dame’s Digger Phelps called Trump “one of the great coaches of this country,” though he did not endorse Trump University as an alternative to Notre Dame. Notre Dame’s embarrassment deepened further when football coach Lou Holtz joined in.  As a Notre Dame alum, I admit that Lou Holtz is at least a nominal friend and hero of mine. But his statement supporting Trump illustrated the silliness of everything that is going on. Holtz: “The main reason I’m endorsing him: I’ve played his golf course, I’ve stayed in his hotel. He does nothing but go first class in everything.  He wants this country to be first class as well.”
  • FORT WAYNE – In this absurdist comedy named the “Republican Farce,” which is being directed and controlled by Donald Trump, nothing is as it seems. Ben Carson is on the ballot, still, but gets some concessions from Trump in return for his support. Classic deal-maker Chris Christie, still on the ballot, becomes “inactive” (i.e. cancels appearances, doesn’t campaign) in return for who knows what. Will Christie be attorney general in a fantasy Trump Presidency?  The Donald knows how to cut deals. You do it in private. As he eloquently states, what you say in public is not what you say in a room of 10 people when you are cutting the deal. The Cruz-Kasich “deal” –  which Trump calls corrupt, collusion, weak, pathetic, and people would go to jail for in the non-government world (all 100% false) – is very public and not collusion. Christie and Carson, who actually made “deals” and did not release specifics (Carson appears to have wanted access and allies given access; Christie likely has a tacitly acknowledged real deal which would be illegal if it was binding), colluded with Trump.  Kasich and Cruz merely agreed to focus on where they were strongest. But the Donald out-maneuvered them once again. Somehow, using the media effectively again, Trump has managed to convince people that Kasich/Cruz cut a private deal while it was Trump who actually did so multiple times. In other words, Trump again is by far the most political while insisting that he is not.
  • FORT WAYNE – It is March 30, 1987, all over again. The clock is winding down. The Hoosiers trail Syracuse by a point. Keith Smart launches a shot from the corner that gives Indiana a one-point victory and the national championship. Indiana is on top of the world. My son Nathan won’t forget. He was seven. I was working on Capitol Hill for then Congressman Dan Coats. Doc Bowen was secretary of HHS at the time. He brought Coach Bobby Knight and the team to the HHS auditorium where we Hoosiers could have a private celebration. I sped out to west Fairfax, pulled Nathan out of school and we attended the small gathering together. Getting out of school, unplanned, because of a basketball thing was probably what he remembered most. It was a big thing for Dan too. He kept the videotape. When you visited his house, you got to watch Keith Smart do it over and over.  Perhaps he still does. “The Shot” was actually “The Shot #2.” In 1986, one of the greatest movies of all time had been released. “Hoosiers” was a movie version of the original “The Shot,” where small town Bobby Plump defeated the powerful Muncie Central with a last-second winning basket.
  • JAMESTOWN, N.Y. – I am writing this column on beautiful Chautauqua Lake. It begins what is called the “Southern Tier,” the area of New York that abuts Pennsylvania. Its mountains are scenic, but for the most part, it is America that has been left behind. In 1874 two Methodists established the Chautauqua Movement here. It promoted Sunday School initially and then moved to all adult education through tent meetings, retreats and communities in general. The movement died out years ago. I grew up in a furniture retailing family. Jamestown, with its New York hardwoods, was once the second largest producer of furniture in America until time finally passed it by, hammered first by the non-union South and then by foreign imports. So it’s gone. Lucille Ball is from here, and the Luci-Desi Museum is its primary tourist draw.  Of course, not too many people walk around saying “I love Lucy” anymore. 
  • FORT WAYNE – In northeast Indiana, a significant number of Democrats often vote in the Republican primary in order to influence local elections, since seldom do Democrats have seriously contested primaries. When they do so, our region’s numbers look significantly different. For example, in 2008 I received 40,161 votes in the primary out of 52,000 Republican congressional votes cast. My Democrat opponent received 76,428.  The presidential contest between President Obama and Hillary, not to mention the hot gubernatorial battle, certainly influenced the Democrat primary vote.  In the 2010 primary, an off-year race, I was targeted by many conservatives and the Democrats saw an opportunity. The Democrat congressional primary vote was only 11,000, an incredible drop from 76,000. My primary vote remained roughly the same (38,441) but the total GOP congressional vote increased to over 80,000.  These points are suddenly salient again as the Trump train heads our way. Will the Sanders and Clinton races keep Dems busy as in 2008?
  • FORT WAYNE – All victorious candidates for public office believe that success was due to their own hard work, thousands of volunteers, and brilliant strategy. Losses, of course, are due to other factors.  Few in election night victory speeches confess they won because of their party label, strong candidates on the ticket that helped pull them through, the economy, the failures of their opponent, or the fact they had more money. I was not one of the few.  For all the negative talk about worthless political parties, the fact is that a strong team helps pull along the group as a whole. Parts of the team hopefully pull friends, ideological allies, a demographic cluster, or attract fundraising that helps build the vote base of the party ticket.  
  • FORT WAYNE – People have long considered the Republicans as the more conservative party, in style and substance. Republicans have long considered the Constitution a historic model for the world, something with fixed principles that are adjusted over time but within the general context, not some moldable piece of parchment that can be re-shaped every election.  With the rise of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, the conservative movement built an ever-expanding network of what the Clintons called the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” The eastern liberal establishment was vanquished. Yet in just a few months an eastern establishment billionaire insider, who funded the very liberal leaders whom conservatives have fought, has seemingly laid waste to 50 years of conservative network building. Donald Trump has mocked, demeaned and embarrassed almost all the traditional conservative publications, taken on and smeared leading talk radio hosts and Fox News personalities, and has not demonstrated that he’s ever read a single conservative book. Trump has slandered senators, governors and congressmen whom the movement had elected to defeat the liberals. He has peddled the message that they sold out. To whom? Him? He is the epitome of the establishment.
  • FORT WAYNE – The one thing the voters have clearly communicated thus far in this primary season is that they are sick of politicians trying to gain power by manipulating the system. Yet trying to remove opponents who already have been ruled by election boards as eligible has become a strategy of Trump, Stutzman, and Indiana Democrats. Historically, the goal has been to be ballot inclusive, not knocking off the ballot legally certified candidates because one is afraid of losing or because a candidate desires a coronation. Donald Trump has become rather experienced at this approach to politics, beginning with his fueling the “birther” accusations about President Barack Obama. As a presidential candidate, when Trump felt the political pressure from Ted Cruz, Trump questioned whether Cruz should be on the ballot.  Now Trump feels pressure from Marco Rubio, so he raised questions as to whether Rubio should be on the ballot. In the Indiana U.S. Senate race, it was clear why the Democrats wanted to prohibit the Republican Party from nominating Todd Young. They realized that with Eric Holcomb now joined with Gov. Mike Pence in the gubernatorial race, Young was likely going to win the GOP nomination.
  • FORT WAYNE – If there is one thing the voters have communicated thus far in this primary season, it is that they are sick of politicians trying to gain power by manipulating the system. Yet once again in Indiana that is precisely what is attempting to be done in the United States Senate race. After Eric Holcomb withdrew from the Senate race, the Democrats were in a panic. They had hoped the Republican divide would result in the nomination of the candidate they perceived to be the weakest. Then they realized they had a way to assure Baron Hill’s best chance by guaranteeing the nomination of Marlin Stutzman: Knock Todd Young off the ballot. While that was unlikely, they could at least weaken Young’s campaign a bit. I’m sure they were stunned that Stutzman joined the national Democrat effort. Or, based upon other impulsive moves by him, maybe not.
  • FORT WAYNE – Last Tuesday was to be a day of political clarification. Nationally, the polling for political upstart Donald Trump was to again prove to be an inflated bubble and the campaigning Clintons would once again resurrect enough leftover magic to at least pull Hillary within 10 percentage points. Normalcy would be restored, with Sen. Marco Rubio on a momentum track for the nomination and the Hillary machine would steamroller upstart Bernie Sanders. Obviously Tuesday offered some serious bumps in the road. In 2016 there are no drivers steering the cars to easily overcome such bumps. And there are warning signs of serious, continuous curves ahead. We Republicans really, really need the Democrats to continue their implosion. Anger at the “establishment” is not just a conservative phenomenon. In fact, Sanders tied Clinton in Iowa and crushed her – just crushed her – in New Hampshire. Unlike Sanders, while Trump scored a very impressive win in New Hampshire, he also has a hardened super-majority opposing him.
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  • Trump's Fox News double down on beauty queen's weight gain
    "She was the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible. She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem. Hillary went back into the years and she found this girl — this was many years ago — and found the girl and talked about her like she was Mother Teresa. And it wasn't quite that way. But that's okay. Hillary has to do what she has to do." - Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, talking about 1996 Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado, on Fox News Tuesday morning. Hillary Clinton cited Machado during Monday’s debate, saying that Trump called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” for gaining weight after winning her crown.
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Lugar undecided in presidential race
Former U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar tells Fox59 he's undecided in the presidential race.

Hillary Clinton's "Mirrors" TV ad
The Clinton campaign highlights Donald Trump quotes on women.

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Trump taxes

Should Donald Trump release recent tax returns, like every major party nominee has done over the past 40 years?


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