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Monday, September 21, 2020
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Saturday, September 19, 2020 11:15 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Crawfordsville

1. Judge Barrett front runner to replace RBG

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Friday, we present a special Saturday Atomic! For the second consecutive election cycle, the death of a Supreme Court justice has thrown a wicked curve ball to the American political scene, this time 45 days before the election. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly told Howey Politics Indiana the 2018 SCOTUS opening and his vote against Justice Brett Kavanaugh played a huge role in his loss to Mike Braun. Expect 7th Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett ("ACB") to emerge as the frontrunner for the nomination, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying, "President Trump's nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate." 

President Trump
 tweeted late Saturday morning: "We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices. We have this obligation, without delay!" Joe Biden:"The voters should pick a President, and that President should select a successor to Justice Ginsburg. This was the position that the Republican Senate took in 2016, when there were nearly nine months before the election. That is the position the United States Senate must take now, when the election is less than two months away. We are talking about the Constitution and the Supreme Court. That institution should not be subject to politics."

IF "ACB" is nominated and confirmed, she would become the second current SCOTUS justice with Indiana roots. She is a former Notre Dame Law prof and lives in South Bend. Chief Justice John Roberts is a Long Beach native.

2. McConnell reverses stance

Sen. McConnell famously delayed a replacement of Justice Antonin Scalia following his 2016 death nine months before the election, saying it should be selected by the next president. On Friday night, he reversed that stance, saying, "Over the coming days, we are all going to come under tremendous pressure from the press to announce how we will handle the coming nomination. For those of you who are unsure how to answer, or for those inclined to oppose giving a nominee a vote, I urge you all to keep your powder dr. This is not the time to prematurely lock yourselves into a position you may later regret." Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Grahamsaid in 2016 that the delay in an election year would be "the new rule" and added, "I want you to use my words against me." Other GOP senators to watch include Sens. Susan Collins, Mitt Romney and Cory Gardner. Collins, Gardner and Graham are all in tough reelection bids. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski is on record saying the vacancy should be filled by who wins in November.

3. Young, Braun mum

U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun, both Republicans, have not said how they will proceed. Young: “As Americans mourn the loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we remember her extraordinary life. Justice Ginsburg was a trailblazer in the legal profession, rising to become the second female to serve on the nation's highest court and earning a special place in our nation's history." U.S. Rep. Jim Banks: "I hope the President will nominate Amy Coney Barrett and the Senate confirms her before the end of the year."

4. ACB's resume

President Trump was described this morning as "salivating" to nominate Judge Barrett. Trump said after the Kavanaugh nomination that he was "saving" ACB for "Ginsburg." Barrett clerked for Justice Scalia. IndyStar: She has written that Supreme Court precedents are not sacrosanct, which liberals have interpreted as a threat to the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide. A former member of Notre Dame’s “Faculty for Life,” Barrett signed a 2015 letter to Catholic bishops that affirmed the “teachings of the Church as truth.” Among those teachings: the “value of human life from conception to natural death” and marriage-family values “founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.”

5. Pence reacts to Troye

Vice President Mike Pence
 reacted to former coronavirus task force aide Olivia Troye's defection to Joe Biden: “It reads to me like one more disgruntled employee who has left the White House and now has decided to play politics during an election year. While some may want to play politics and say different things once they leave here than while they’re here, we’re going to stay focused.” 

Enjoy your weekend. It's The Atomic!
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    INDIANAPOLIS – Having adjourned with just days to spare before a national emergency was declared in March, Indiana’s General Assembly avoided a prolonged pandemic hibernation. But now their luck has run out. As if the guys and gals who make Indiana’s laws don’t have enough on their plate with the once-in-a-decade combination of writing a biennial budget and redrawing legislative and congressional districts, they now have to contend with a once-in-a-century pandemic that is already shifting where session takes place, could shift when it takes place and will certainly have a considerable impact on what takes place. To address the changes to daily life that came after last session, House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Rodric Bray in May announced the formation of a bipartisan Legislative Continuity Committee tasked with preparing legislators for the inevitability of social distancing while also laying the groundwork for adjusting to potential future emergency situations. But what they have yet to consider is the most obvious solution to all their problems: Taking a page from the playbook of sports.
    INDIANAPOLIS – Big Ten football made a stunning comeback on Wednesday. It announced it would revive its postponed season on Oct. 23-24. But the crowds won’t go crazy. The pandemic will keep stadiums mostly empty. This coincides with the University of Washington’s Health Metrics projected spike in COVID infections in Indiana beginning in late October. If Gov. Eric Holcomb’s mask mandates are discontinued or widely ignored (and there is ample evidence of this around the state), the projections are for increased deaths and hospital resource use that will surpass those of late April and early May during what was thought to be the first wave of the pandemic. If there is a clear winner in this beyond the highly ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, it is President Trump, who called Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren two weeks ago, urging him to reconsider the decision to postpone the season until the winter or spring of 2021. Through the prism of Trump’s shaky reelection bid, anything resembling a return to normal is to his advantage.
    SOUTH BEND — We don’t know what will happen on the night of Nov. 3 as TV networks color states red or blue, declaring winners one by one in the Electoral College, where the presidency is decided. Or on Nov. 4? Or Nov. 5? Or in weeks or even months thereafter? Well, we can be pretty sure of some things. Indiana, as often in the past, is likely to be the first state declared and colored red, Republican. That’s because Indiana polls close early, and the first substantial returns could show it is again clearly in the Republican column. Not as decisively as the nearly 20% margin for President Trump in 2016, but still for Trump. Michigan is likely in early returns to look red as well. But the networks won’t quickly declare a winner there. That’s because of the massive number of absentee votes still being tabulated. Mail-ins are likely to be more Democratic than the votes cast in person at polling places. Trumpsters and anti-Trumpsters agree on that. When all the tabulating is done, Michigan is likely to be colored blue. 
    ANDERSON – A lot of people will vote to give Donald J. Trump another term as president. It won’t matter what some anonymous sources might claim he said about our nation’s veterans or about the men and women who gave their lives for our country. Heck, it wouldn’t matter even if the president’s supporters could hear the words come out of his own mouth. It didn’t matter when they heard him say what he said about John McCain. It didn’t matter when they heard him bragging about sexual assault in that infamous “Access Hollywood” tape or when they saw him with their own eyes poking fun at a handicapped reporter. It won’t even matter now that they can hear him, on tape, confirming that he knew what he was telling us about COVID-19 was a lie, that he knew this virus was five times more dangerous than the common flu even as he assured the American people they had nothing to worry about.
    MUNCIE  — The economic statistics that aid us in understanding the current state of the economy are in the midst of an unusual, if not unprecedented, upheaval. Combined with the equally unparalleled oscillations of the economy through the early months of COVID, economy watchers are naturally confused. Add to this the tendency towards dissembling that accompanies elections, and we are poised for a couple of months of economic confusion. This column is aimed at relieving some of that confusion. The staff of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Economic Analysis and Census survey teams are responsible for compiling and reporting data on employment, GDP and other economic data. They are, by far, the best economic statistical services ever devised. Governments have been at this for more than a millennium, and the work done today is first rate and thus far immune from political shenanigans. Americans should be pleased with the economists, statisticians and data scientists doing this work. They are not perfect. 
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  • Atomic! A Pence defection; Troye, Stern on Trump's disgust; Twisted Sister sounds off; Lucas parts with Holcomb
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. A Pence defection: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Olivia Troye is a Republican, who got her first job working for the Republican National Committee and ended up as Vice President Mike Pence's lead staffer on the White House Coronavirus Task Force. She's not only voting for Joe Biden, she becomes the first COVID task force member to break ranks with President Trump, cutting a TV ad for Republican Voters Against Trump. “It was shocking to see the President saying that the virus was a hoax, saying that everything was OK when it was not,” Troye says in a video released Thursday. "What I’m really concerned about is if they rush this vaccine and pressure people and get something out because they want to save the election. At some points I would come home at night, I would look myself in the mirror and say, 'Are you really making a difference?' Because no matter how hard you work or what you do, the president is going to do something detrimental to keeping Americans safe.” The most damaging thing Troye says came when she described a task force meeting when the president expressed disdain for his own supporters, saying, “Maybe this COVID thing’s a good thing. I don’t like shaking hands with people. I don’t have to shake hands with these disgusting people.” Where have we heard this before? President Trump's buddy, shock jock Howard Stern, said in May, “The oddity in all of this is the people Trump despises most, love him the most. The people who are voting for Trump, for the most part … He wouldn’t even let them in a f*cking hotel. He’d be disgusted by them. Go to Mar-a-Lago, see if there’s any people who look like you. I’m talking to you in the audience.”

  • HPI Interview: Secretary Lawson sees 'no evidence' of fraud or 'rigged' election


    INDIANAPOLIS – An edgy America has been warned by its president that the coming election will be “rigged” and “fraudulent.” U.S. intelligence and congressional sources say that nefarious foreign sources are seeking a redux of the 2016 interference. And there has been widespread media speculation that a winner in the presidential race may not be known for days, or even weeks after the Nov. 3 election. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson tells Howey Politics Indiana  that she has confidence in the process, both in Indiana and nationally. She said in response to written questions from HPI that foreign actors have “scanned” the state’s election systems but likened it to a “burglar rattling doorknobs.” Lawson says there is “no evidence” of any widespread voting fraud and says that the state’s long-time absentee voting system remains “safe and secure.”

  • Horse Race: AG race eclipses INGov in funds

    INDIANAPOLIS – Unlike every cycle in modern Indiana election history, the attorney general race is generating more late money flow than the race for governor. Since Democrat Jonathan Weinzapfel and Republican Todd Rokita secured their party attorney general nominations, about a half million dollars has been spilling into this race, with Rokita holding about a 4-to-1 advantage. Democrats and unions appear to be investing in Weinzapfel as opposed to gubernatorial nominee Woody Myers. His campaign has not reported any supplemental donations since mid-July. While the campaign told Howey Politics Indiana it was spending on its digital campaign, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported that the Myers campaign has spent $750 on Facebook. Rokita received $405,000 from the Republican Attorney General Action Fund between July 13 and Aug. 27, when $250,000 was reported.
  • Atomic! Democracy goes Caputo; COVID updates; Braun rejects state relief
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Caputo & democracy: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: The next 48 hours will be a crucial sequence in the 2020 election cycle, if not in American democracy. Last April, the White House installed Michael Caputo as assistant secretary of Health & Human Services for public affairs. Talk around DC was that Caputo, who authored the book"The Ukraine Hoax," was sent in as a Trump loyalist to the sprawling HHS to keep a tight leash on HHS Sec. Alex Azar. On Sunday, Caputo posted a Facebook video (since removed) in which he accused CDC scientists of "sedition" while elements of that agency have become a "resistance unit" against President Trump. "You understand that they’re going to have to kill me, and unfortunately, I think that’s where this is going,” Caputo said in the video in which he describes long shadows growing on his ceiling. “And when Donald Trump refuses to stand down at the inauguration, the shooting will begin. The drills that you’ve seen are nothing. If you carry guns, buy ammunition, ladies and gentlemen, because it’s going to be hard to get.”  To put this in context: If the head of Indiana's FSSA under Gov. Mitch Daniels had posted such a video, I can guarantee you that a deputy chief of staff named Eric Holcomb would have been at his/her door seeking a resignation by EOB. HHS put out this statement on Monday: “Mr. Caputo is a critical, integral part of the president’s coronavirus response, leading on public messaging as Americans need public health information to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic.” If Caputo is still employed at HHS on Wednesday, all bets are off on the 2020 election and the revered peaceful transition of power.
  • Atomic! Maskless MAGA; Big Ten grid vote today; Pfizer CEO predicts vaccine in 2020
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. Do as I say: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: President Trump told author Bob Woodward, “I wanted to always play [the coronavirus] down. I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic.” On Sunday night, President Trump held an indoor MAGA rally in Nevada, a state that has prohibited public gatherings over over 50 people. "Tell your governor to open up your state," Trump told the mostly maskless crowd. Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak called the rally as “reckless” and “selfish," adding, “The president appears to have forgotten that this country is still in the middle of a global pandemic." And the public's opinion of such flagrant disregard for public health? An ABC News/Ipsos  poll found 65% disapprove of the president’s management of the COVID-19 crisis.

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  • Coats calls for bipartisan election oversight commission
    "The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond. The most important part of an effective response is to finally, at long last, forge a genuinely bipartisan effort to save our democracy, rejecting the vicious partisanship that has disabled and destabilized government for too long. If we cannot find common ground now, on this core issue at the very heart of our endangered system, we never will. Our key goal should be reassurance. We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted. I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election." - Former national intelligence director and Indiana senator Dan Coats, in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday morning. 
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  • Woodward on why Coats didn't speak out on Trump
    Bob Woodward, the author of the new book “Rage” discussed the way in which President Trump diminished former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former DNI Dan Coats and why he thinks Mattis and Coats have not publicly spoken about the president. “It’s almost a book in itself,” Woodward said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday. “This was a man who was a senator from Indiana. He was retiring and he was offered this job from Mike Pence, and felt he could not say no. He went in with these Republican values and was stunned, shocked and, in a way, just ground down from Trump’s refusal to accept reality.” Woodward said that at one point Mattis and Coats talked after a National Security Council meeting. “Mattis says that Trump has no moral compass. And Coats says, ‘Donald Trump,’ their leader, ‘does not know the difference between a lie and the truth.’ They were in the latter phase of their lives. (Trump) pulled all of these stunts in a way that led them to the point where, in Coats’s case, his wife Marsha said to him, ‘Look, Dan, God put you in this job. You’re not just failing the country, yourself and your family, but God and you need to get organized.’ Trump expelled him when it did not serve Trump’s purposes.”  - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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