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Sunday, May 24, 2020
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First CD Democrat Frank Mrvan campaigns with a face mask; Mayor McDermott makes an appeal for vote by mail, and 5th CD Republican Kelly Mitchell.
First CD Democrat Frank Mrvan campaigns with a face mask; Mayor McDermott makes an appeal for vote by mail, and 5th CD Republican Kelly Mitchell.
Sunday, May 24, 2020 10:16 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS —  Beth Henderson has been campaigning in the 5th CD with her two Belgian draft horses, driving into neighborhoods to show them off. Kelly Mitchell had a Zoom fundraiser with former Indianapolis mayor Greg Ballard. In three batches last week, the two dozen 5th CD candidates appeared on a TownHall.org virtual meeting. Up in the 1st CD, Frank Mrvan is using Facebook showing U.S. Rep Pete Visclosky endorsing him, while Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr., posted video of Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez delivering campaign yard signs on his behalf.

This is the stark, blunt reality of COVID pandemic era politics. If you were counting on an extensive door-to-door campaign and leaving literature on a doorknob for the past two months, the plans you settled on during that January kitchen table meeting with your consultant have gone askew.

“There’s no ground game, which normally helps you gauge perceptions,” explained Democratic media consultant Dave Galvin, CEO of Colfax Communications. “Campaigns have to be more creative and it makes it more expensive. There’s a lot more that has to happen behind the scenes for a candidate to interact with the public and it’s not easy.”

With the primary delayed to June 2 and both the Indiana Democratic and Republican conventions opting for a virtual format, it will be at least mid-summer and more likely after the November election before we know if and how the coronavirus pandemic will change American politics in a permanent way. Not only has door-to-door campaigning screeched to a halt, the mingling campaign fundraising has been suspended, and more Hoosiers will vote by mail since Gov. Eric Holcomb, Secretary of State Connie Lawson and Indiana Republicans and Democrats opted for an expanded mail-by-vote system. The GOP attorney general race will be conducted via a delegate vote-by-mail format.
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  • By CHRIS SAUTTER
    WASHINGTON —  Shelli Yoder, Indiana State Senate candidate and former Monroe County Council member, is a charismatic campaigner who has the ability to both energize a crowd and connect at one-on-one interaction. Her style and personality are perfect for old-fashioned retail politics. “But this pandemic has forced all of us to re-think what is and is not vital,” Yoder said in an e-mail exchange about her current Indiana Senate campaign. “Though we’ve cancelled all in-person activities, our campaign has continued to work hard to have meaningful interaction in Monroe County. We’ve shifted to phone banks, Zoom rallies, Facebook Live town halls with local leaders and letter writing.” COVID-19 is changing how political campaigns and voting are being conducted, casting aside the traditional methods of voter contact while making way for newer techniques. The days of knocking on doors and delivering a message directly to voters or physically helping voters get to the polls are on hold in these times of social distancing. Instead, it has forced campaigns to rely almost totally on digital means of communication and organization, some more creative than others.
  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    NASHVILLE, Ind. — One of the most arduous jobs in America these days is being a governor of one of 50 states. The Trump administration has essentially kicked the response to the coronavirus pandemic to the states, and so Gov. Eric Holcomb and his 49 cohorts have had to make unprecedented decisions that have impacted millions of people. Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer began getting calls after Holcomb's mid-March decision to shut the state down. "I used the line ‘The easy decisions were made about three days ago,'" Hupfer said. "They are all hard now. There are no easy decisions. So now every decision is between two bad things. There just aren’t good options left. It’s been that way through the whole thing.” Since that decision, deaths and jobless statistics have mounted at a startling rate. At this writing there have been 1,764 deaths, 29,936 total cases, and 202,995 tests. All of these health stats are significantly below what experts say the real numbers are. Nearly 650,000 Hoosiers have filed for unemployment compensation and many of the state's 500,000 small businesses are vulnerable, causing the state jobless rate to skyrocket from 3.2% in February to 16.9% in April, a truly jaw dropping and historic number. These statistics form the basis for the policy tug-o-war Holcomb and other governors face.

  • By PETE SEAT
    INDIANAPOLIS  — Joe Biden has an age problem. No, not that one. In March, Democrats “sound[ed] the alarm on Joe Biden’s young voter problem,” NBC News reported. By April, shortly after a group of seven progressive youth organizations issued Biden a list of “aggressive demands” in exchange for their support, the Wall Street Journal said “young voters could be Biden’s Achilles’ heel.” And by May it was all but forgotten when the backseat drivers of 2020 put the generational challenge in the rearview mirror as they began to agitate over the pandemic-induced geographical obstacle facing Biden. As the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty puts it, “The party is in a state of high anxiety over the fact that its nominee-in-waiting appears trapped at home, like so many of the rest of us are during the COVID-19 pandemic.” And this, my friends, is where the handwringers and the bedwetters and the hair puller-outers and the teeth gnashers miss the point. Being trapped in his basement is Joe Biden’s youth outreach strategy! Yes, I willingly used an exclamation mark to demonstrably illustrate the seriousness of my declarative sentence. This! Is! His! (Intentional or Not) Strategy! And it’s time to lean in (h/t Sheryl Sandberg).  Typically, a candidate would be out kissing hands and shaking babies. But Joe Biden is not a typical candidate in the Populist Era. His unconventional shelter-in-place strategy, full of digital forums and “please be viral” social media posts, is a necessity when his name is not Bernie Sanders, a candidate who roused the passions of America’s 18-38 demographic with his “damn the torpedoes” governing philosophy.
  • By MICHAEL HICKS
    MUNCIE  — If the media buzz is true, the Trump Administration will use the solemn occasion of Memorial Day weekend to further expand the disastrous trade war with China. This time, he will use the global pandemic as an excuse to restrict imports of medicine and medical devices. This is a bad policy that will raise health care costs on Americans while doing nothing to boost U.S. jobs. It is nothing more than a cynical ploy to divert attention from an erratic and unfocused response to this pandemic. Before explaining why this is such an imprudent turn of events, I must report some truths about China’s government that the Trump administration is unwilling to say out loud. The People’s Republic of China is a deeply evil enterprise. Right now, they have more people in concentration camps than did Hitler at the height of his powers. Their government scoffs at the value of the individual, and they export a malicious presence across Asia and Africa. If we lived in a moderately just world, tens of thousands of Chinese government officials would face Nuremburg-type trials for crimes against humanity. 
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON – We’ve seen plenty of evidence lately of the deep polarization in this country. Even in the midst of this crisis, national politicians, the political parties, and their adherents are finding plenty to fight over; even as, for the most part, ordinary Americans have been remarkably united and many governors and mayors have worked hard to handle the coronavirus pandemic competently and guided by expert advice. The question as we look ahead is whether the trends we’d been seeing before the pandemic will reassert themselves, or instead there will be some sort of reset. Because those earlier trends are extremely worrisome. For years now, it’s been common for politicians to label their rivals as unpatriotic and illegitimate. The deep freeze in cross-aisle relations in Congress had made progress there extremely difficult, though the crisis has given congressional leaders and members of the Trump administration no choice but to keep bargaining until they hammer out agreements. Other trends are equally problematic.
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  • Holcomb asks SBA for 15% cuts for FY2021

    Howey Politics Indiana

    INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Eric Holcomb announced 15% agency cuts due to the pandemic for Fiscal Year 2021 as the state's jobless toll hit nearly 17%. “This is the first of what is likely to be a number of steps we’ll take to rein in state spending while we continue to provide critical government services to Hoosiers without interruption," Holcomb said on Friday. "It will be imperative that we effectively manage our resources. During the last economic downturn, the state’s general fund revenues were nearly $3 billion less than forecasted. SBA estimates we could face an even greater loss of general fund revenue in the final 14 months of this biennium. By taking immediate action to tighten our belts across state government, we will maintain maximum flexibility to navigate a still very uncertain economic picture. All options are on the table, and as we approach tax filing deadlines and better understand all of the federal funds available to Indiana, we will make more precise adjustments ahead of crafting a budget for next biennium.” 

  • HPI Analysis: Rokita sets off remote AG battle
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  – The worst kept secret in Indiana politics finally came out Wednesday: Todd Rokita is running for attorney general. “I can bring certainty in uncertain times,” Rokita said after he filed on the final day to qualify for the virtual convention that will occur in WISH-TV studios on June 18 and broadcast statewide. That comes the day after Attorney General Curtis Hill returns from his 30-day suspension over sexual harassment allegations. Rokita said he waited “out of respect” for the incumbent, but the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision to suspend Hill for 30 days brought him into the race. “I’m the only one in this race that has won twice statewide. I’m tested,” Rokita said. “The others have to promise what they’re going to do in office. I have a record.”

  • Horse Race: Poll shows Spartz leading, with high name ID
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    CARMEL – Club For Growth released a 5th CD poll showing its endorsed candidate, State Sen. Victoria Spartz, with a double-digit lead. The survey, with 409 respondents, had Spartz with 32%, Carl Brizzi at 14%, Beth Henderson at 13%, Micah Beckwith at 8%, Kelly Mitchell at 5% and Chuck Dietzen at 3%. The undecideds were at 21%, and 10% were supporting another candidate. What makes the veracity of this poll doubtful is the name ID showing Spartz with 76% name recognition, Brizzi at 74% and Henderson at 57%. Brizzi at 74% is believable because he served as Marion County prosecutor for eight years. But Spartz, who won her state Senate seat via caucus and has yet to be on a primary ballot, hasn’t spent nearly the kind of money to buy enough TV gross rating points to attain 76% name ID, even with a significant social media presence.
  • Supreme Court denies Gov. Holcomb's request to intervene in Hill suspension
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana Supreme Court denied Gov. Eric Holcomb's request to clarify and intervene in Attorney General Hill's suspension which began today. It means that Hill will be able to return to office on June 17, the day before the Indiana Republican Party's virtual convention. It will be Hoosier Republican delegates who will decide Hill's immediate political future. He faces a convention challenge from Decatur County Prosecutor Nathan Harter, Zionsville attorney John Westercamp and possibly former congressman Todd Rokita. The party announced that nomination will be decided in a vote-by-mail manner, with results revealed on July 10.

  • HPI Interview: Chairman Hupfer at the nexus of pandemic era politics
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  – Kyle Hupfer continues find himself in the thick of pandemic era politics. The day before this Howey Politics Indiana Interview, the state Republican chairman announced the Indiana Republican Convention would move to a virtual format on June 18. As Gov. Eric Holcomb’s campaign manager, he described the nexus of a sitting governor seeking reelection in the midst of a pandemic. And he observed the controversy surrounding the Indiana Supreme Court suspension of Attorney General Curtis Hill and the decision facing GOP delegates next month. “The delegates are going to be met with a tough choice,” Hupfer noted. “He has been an attorney general who has built relationships. They like that aspect. But they are also being faced with the reality that this is a now extremely flawed candidate who will have difficulty winning an election in November.”
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  • Trump declares churches 'essential'; Indiana had eased restrictions
    “Today I’m identifying houses of worship—churches, synagogues and mosques—as essential places that provide essential services. Governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend.” - President Trump on Friday. He said he would "override" governors who don't abide by his request. Gov. Eric Holcomb eased up restrictions on Indiana churches in early May. Holcomb said officials will be able to learn from places of worship depending on what happens over the next 14 to 21 days as in-person services resume. “We just thought a good place to start, or have a controlled group, would be places of worship …” he said. “But I did say we needed those church leaders to be responsible for their congregation. We can prove we can do this and I think we’ll see just that.” A study by Imperial College London revealed Indiana is one of 24 states where COVID is still spreading.
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  • President Trump, Gov. Holcomb address the pandemic in their own words
    The COVID-19 pandemic is becoming the story of our time. As Sen. Todd Young explained, unlike the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the Oil Shock recession of 1979-82, what we are experiencing today is a double hammer: A pandemic and a severe economic panic. The Hoosier State is poised to go from a historic low 3.1% unemployment rate to double digits in the span of a month. At least one pandemic model says 2,400 Hoosiers will die.

    Tough times shift our attention to leadership. Here are quotes from President Trump and Gov. Eric Holcomb as the pandemic approached the U.S. and then impacted our nation and state.

    President Trump

    Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” – CNBC interview.

    Feb. 10: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” – New Hampshire rally.

    Feb. 24: “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock market starting to look very good to me!” – On Twitter.

    Feb. 25: “China is working very, very hard. I have spoken to President Xi, and they are working very hard. If you know anything about him, I think he will be in pretty good shape. I think that is a problem that is going to go away.”

    Feb. 26: “We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.” – At a White House news conference.
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