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Monday, October 22, 2018
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Monday, October 22, 2018 11:08 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. 2016 haunts, confuses pundits

Here are your Monday morning power lunch talking points: To watch the Sunday morning talking heads is to find confusion. Their errant 2016 prognostications haunt them, as almost everyone missed Donald Trump’s epic upset. The NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll released on Sunday is full of curiosities that fuel the current confusion. Democrats lead the congressional generic 48-41, down from a 12% lead in September. But among likely voters, that lead is 50-51%, the first time that it’s ever been better than registered voters. Women favor a Democratic controlled Congress by a huge 25% margin. But President Trump’s approval/disapprove is 47/49%, up from 44/52% in September. Yet, among likely voters (which is what we focus on), he stands at 45/52%. And turnout will be huge, above 50% as all demographics are energized.

Control for the Senate is playing out in states Trump won. Yet Politico, Howey Politics, Cook Political, Inside Elections and FiveThirtyEight give Donnelly a nominal edge, though HPI  still classifies it as a “tossup.” Politico: “Donnelly’s moderate brand, strong fundraising and willingness to work with President Donald Trump gave the Democrat an edge in the race.” FiveThirtyEight gives Donnelly an 80.9% chance of winning, up from 77.1% last week. Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric (“The caravan is coming!”) and an absurd promise to pass new tax cuts before Election Day are aimed at turning out his rural and small town base. But in doing so, he risks further alienating suburban women and moderates.

How’s this all going to turn out in the next two weeks? The safest predictions  are that Indiana Republicans will maintain healthy majorities of the General Assembly, win the three constitutional Statehouse offices, and that there will be jaw-dropping upsets  and story lines when it’s all over. But where those occur, well … stay tuned.

2. GOP INSen narrowing money advantage

Democrats hold a $27 million to $24 million lead  over spending in the INSen race, according to Advertising Analytics, but the GOP has booked $9 million in ads through Nov. 6, compared to $7 million for Democrats. The GOP’s problem with playing catchup is that it’s been wall-to-wall Senate race ads since September, and folks we know are tuning out. All the Mexico Joe and China Mike stuff are blurring together into a slurry of negativity.

3. The Kavanaugh effect revisited

Politico reports that Mike Braun told supporters in Jasper that his polling shows him ahead  and says the impact of the Brett Kavanaughallegations and hearings are responsible. Want more from the mixed signal front? NBC/WSJ Poll shows 34% view Kavanaugh positively, and 40% negative. But asked in a different way, and 40% of registered voters (not likely) support his confirmation, and 36% oppose. The partisan divide is sharp: 80% of Republicans backed his confirmation, while only 7% of Democrats support.

4. Trump to sign opioid bill Wednesday

President Trump is expected to sign sweeping opioid legislation on Wednesday, part of his Phase II on that war front. This is the legislation Sen. Donnelly referred to in his debate against Braun on Oct. 15. A week ago, Donnelly said he expects Trump to sign the bill which includes Donnelly provisions that would allow for telemedicine options for rural counties and speed up the research by Eli Lilly and other pharma companies on non-addictive painkillers, saying that “it could change everything.” Asked about the delay eight days ago, Donnelly said, “I trust the president. I think he’ll make sure it moves forward. It’s on his desk and actually I hope it happens this week.” Well, it looks like it will this week.
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  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND - Opposition research enables Congresswoman Jackie Walorski to portray challenger Mel Hall in a far different way than he was defining himself all summer with his TV spots about youth on a Hoosier farm, service as a minister and experience as a successful South Bend business executive. “Oppo research,” as political consultants call it, is the search for something negative that can be used against an opponent, especially in the TV ads that seek to inflict a negative image. The search for useful information about Hall found that he had for a time lived in Washington and was an advisor on health care there for a large global law firm that does lobbying for some clients. Thus, in TV ads and debates, Walorski, the Republican incumbent in Indiana’s 2nd District, portrays the Democratic challenger as a lobbyist, a liar and a “Washington insider.”

  • By LINDA CHEZEM
    MARTINSVILLE – With all the various sexual harassment stories popping up in the news, one is reminded of the old walnut shell game. Wondering which shell hides a kernel of corn is fun for a child, but for adults hunting for kernels of truth in the name of fairness, the political shell game is troubling. What factors hide the truth when public officials are charged with sexual harassment or other objectionable conduct? Universally, there are unwritten codes of conduct to not be a tattletale. Additionally, when an elected official holds perceived power over staff or other office holders, then support or silence may be seen as a critical political survival tactic. If the conduct and the threat of public knowledge are serious enough, an accused officeholder may make a payment or a settlement that includes a provision that the settlement or payment cannot be disclosed. This kind of agreement is known as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and has historically withheld the kernel of truth from public scrutiny. Such agreements or settlement are rumored to be fairly common. Who knows whether Indiana has legislators who have paid for such agreements? There are no requirements for public disclosure about sexual harassment claim payments and Indiana officeholders.
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND – Sen. Joe Donnelly is seeking to turn Mike Braun’s blue shirt inside out, seeking to make the Republican challenger look funny, phony. Braun’s trademark blue shirt was positive attire for him in defeating two formidable Republican congressmen in the GOP primary. He contrasted his open-collar look with cardboard cutouts of the congressmen, each with coat and tie, Washington lookalikes. His TV ads on that theme, blue-shirt outsider from the business world vs. Washington suits, were acclaimed as best in the Indiana primary, key to his victory. Blue shirt giveth. Could blue shirt taketh away? The Democratic Senate Majority PAC, supporting Donnelly, has countered Braun’s claim as an open-collar-blue-shirt kind of guy, mocking him in a series of TV ads as really a millionaire businessman mistreating workers and falsely denying selling “Made in China” stuff.
  • By RICH JAMES
    MERRILLVILLE – Maybe, just maybe, this casino thing will work out for Gary when all is said and done. Former state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, was the driving force that launched the casino industry in Indiana. She thought the casinos would do two things for Gary – make a drastic cut in unemployment and provide a huge revenue source for the city. Neither, unfortunately, happened. With the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond and the Ameristar Casino in East Chicago capturing the bulk of the traffic from Chicago, the Majestic Star Casino in Gary has remained at the bottom of the revenue stream. Initially, both the Majestic Star and Trump casinos were in Gary. When Trump bailed out, the two casinos both came under the Majestic Star name. A year after opening, I remember a Trump official saying they thought they could get enough Chicagoans south on Cline Avenue to make things work in Gary. It never happened.
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS – Allow me to put a few numbers before you to illustrate the problem with facts. I’m not referring to “fake facts” which is what real facts are called by the ideologically unbalanced. Some of these people are on the light-weight left and even more are on the degenerate right. The latest figures from the IRS based on income tax returns are for 2016.  In 2004, a dozen years earlier, the United States had 133 million individuals and households filing the 1040 income tax return. In 2016 that figure was up to nearly 150 million, a 12.6% increase. But it is money, not the number of returns, that counts and the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) entered on those forms rose by 51%. As we look closer into the data, we find that returns showing AGI of $200,000 or more rose by 125% in numbers and 109% in dollars between 2004 and 2016. The $200,000+ bracket accounted for 2.3% of all returns in ’04 and 25% of AGI. It’s a lot of money for a small minority.
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  • Sanders, Watson lead backers to early voting site
    By JACOB CURRY

    BLOOMINGTON – Before an excited crowd of supporters young and old, and a few voices of opposition proudly waving signs, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders railed against familiar targets late Friday morning. A fairly large crowd had gathered outside before a small stage set up for the rally at Indiana University’s Dunn Meadow. The former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination was visiting Indiana University’s campus for the first time since his stop in the 2016 Indiana primary, this time to make an impassioned endorsement of 9th CD nominee Liz Watson, seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

  • Horse Race: Late money flows to Sen. Ford, Reps. Devon, Olthoff, Kirchhofer
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - Late outside money is rapidly flowing into the reelection bid of State Sen. Jon Ford, R-Terre Haute, who is facing an intense challenge from Democrat Chris Gambill. Another $15,000 flowed in on Thursday, including $8,000 from the Insurance PAC, $2,000 from State Sen. Phil Boots and $5,000 from Sen. Ron Alting. As of Friday, $78,500 of outside funding had flowed in Ford’s campaign. Indiana Democrats gave $9,552 to Derek Camp in his challenge to State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis.

  • Atomic! Joe's Axe; Senate sideline money; trucks sans tolls
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Joe’s Axe: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week, coming to you from beautiful Brown County: Sen. Joe Donnelly comes up with a new TV ad, “Axe.” As the senator splits wood in his backyard (something I’ll be doing this afternoon), the lumber jack incumbent says, “For the most part I’m an easy going guy, but not when Mike Braun keeps lying about my record.” Donnelly stays in theme: “I split with my own party to support funding for President Trump’s border wall. The liberal left wants to chop defense funding. No way. Mike Braun, he shifts jobs to China. We’ve got to cut that out.”

  • HPI Analysis: Donnelly still in INSen driver's seat
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    and JACOB CURRY


    INDIANAPOLIS – We are three weeks out and not much has changed in the Indiana U.S. Senate race. FiveThirtyEight’s data forecasting gives Sen. Joe Donnelly a 77% chance of winning reelection, with a projected vote share of 51.3%, Republican Mike Braun at 46.2% and Libertarian Lucy Brenton at 2.4%. A Gravis Research Poll released by Real Clear Politics on Wednesday showed Donnelly with a 44-40% lead over Braun with Brenton at 7%. The margin of error is 5.1%. It’s close enought we still label it a “tossup.” Braun has pumped another $2.4 million of his own money into his campaign. He posted $5.6 million for the third quarter after enduring some criticism from GOP operatives that he was “coasting” last month. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly raised $3 million in the third quarter and enters the final three weeks with $4.5 million cash, compared to $1.9 million for Braun.
  • Horse Race: After year of leadership change, all eyes on Bosma, Lanane
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  – For the past dozen years, leadership of the Indiana General Assembly has been remarkably stable. Senate Pro Tem David Long, House Speaker Brian Bosma and their finance teams firmly entrenched through the three Republican governorships of Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence and now Eric Holcomb. Bosma lost the speakership when Democrats took control of the House between 2007 and 2011, but he’s emerged to become one of the most powerful speakers in Hoosier history, using his influence to guide ambitious and sometimes transformative legislative agendas. Bosma is, literally, the second most powerful leader in the state. But 2017-18 began a gradual breakup of this power structure, first with the departure of Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, then Tax & Fiscal Policy Chairman Brandt Hershman, and finally with Long’s forthcoming retirement. For House Democrats, Minority Leader Scott Pelath has passed the torch to Terry Goodin. On the eve of this year’s mid-terms, there may be a significant amount of uncertainty for the first time in a generation in the leadership of the General Assembly. 
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  • Trump wanted to shut down U.S. border with Mexico
    “Close the whole thing!” - President Trump in a stormy Oval Office meeting about immigration. The Washington Post reported that aides talked Trump out of shutting down the U.S.-Mexican border, telling him it would curtail $600 billion in annual trade. Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton reportedly had a “profane” argument that prompted Kelly to storm out of the White House. Meanwhile, an immigrant caravan coursing through Mexico is becoming a late mid-term campaign issue. Trump said in rally in Mesa, Arizona Friday night, "Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs."
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  • It's Oct. 20 and it's weirdly green in Brown County
    In another year of Category 4 hurricanes ravaging the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, wildfires devouring hundreds of thousands of acres in the American west, and a landmark United Nations report painting dire consequences of climate change coming as early as 2040, this has been a strange, strange autumn down here in Brown County.

    It’s Oct. 20, and it’s still green. There is very little color here in what should be the heart of what locals call “leaf looker” season. The golds, yellows and reds are mostly missing. And most of the leaves are still on the trees (though today’s high winds will change that a bit). Looks like peak color will come next weekend. No matter the color, c'mon down! 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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