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Tuesday, April 24, 2018
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Tuesday, April 24, 2018 10:40 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Debate does little to change INSen dynamic

Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: With a huge undecided vote in play and a low turnout election likely less than two weeks away, last night’s Allen County GOP INSen debate didn’t seem to change the dynamic much. Viewership was expected to be light and Todd Rokita, Luke Messerand Mike Braun used the opportunity to burnish their long-stated talking points and get in some digs. Braun attempted to refute he was a tax-raisin’ “Harvard Democrat.” Messer gigged Rokita for the President Trump’s reelection campaign dig over yard sign endorsements. “Mr. Rokita runs around the state in a MAGA hat on and the Trump campaign has asked him to take his yard signs down,” Messer said.

Rokita brought up Messer’s two 20-something DUIs. At one point, Rokita said, “Luke Messer likes to say ‘I am who I say I am.’ But he’s not who he says he is. He lives in Virginia. He’s for a pathway for citizenship. Luke Messer was on the Clinton News Network, CNN.” Messer’s retort: “So many attacks andso little time.”

So who wins on May 8? HPI lists this as a tossup. The $5 million Braun has loaned his campaign, along with his gross ratings points suggests he’s in the best position to pull this off. A highly informed and reliable 3rd CD source tells HPI that Braun had a lead in polling  in State Sen. Travis Holdman’s SD19. The source added, “I’ve got to think that’s indicative of the 3rd District.” And, remember, Braun has spent on 8,043 gross rating points in the Fort Wayne broadcast market, compared to 1,905 for Messer and 1,824 for Rokita as of last week. Braun has also spent $74,185 on Fort Wayne radio compared to $26,565 for Rokita and $4,375 for Messer.

2. Rokita, Messer separate in Lugar Bipartisan Index

U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, once virtual mirror images of each other when it comes to votes, have parted ways, according to the new Lugar Center Bipartisan Index. In past Congresses, Messer and Rokita have tracked pretty close to one another. But in 2017 Messer jumped from 309 in the House to 137, earning a score above 0.00 (which is considered to be bipartisan). Rokita, meanwhile, fell from 278 to 350. Sen. Joe Donnelly ranks fourth. His score is similar to last time, but a couple of Republicans jumped over him. Sen. Todd Young ranked ninth in the Senate. In the House, he had scored slightly above 0.00 and ranked 120th, so this is quite a leap up the ladder for him. This makes the Indiana delegation one of the most bipartisan in the Senate.

3. Redlining Diego Morales

A PAC mailer is taking aim at 4th CD Republican candidate Diego Morales, with a portrayal some would see as an “illegal immigrant.” Except that Morales emigrated from Guatemala legally. The Citizens for a Strong America PAC shows a photo of Morales reading a map, with the headline reading, “Diego Morales needs directions to our district.” It claims he lives in “a house on the other side of Indianapolis.” The irony there is that Steve Braun, thought to be the source of the information, also lives outside the 4th CD  in Zionsville. So maps for all! Sent to the press has been paperwork emanating from Secretary of State Todd Rokita’s office in 2008-09 and Secretary of State Charlie White in 2011 revealing disciplinary action for Morales, citing “performance deficiencies” and letters of “disciplinary action” that resulted in Morales departing twice. So the 4th CD GOP campaign has gotten . . .ugly
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    FORT WAYNE – On Sunday evening, all three GOP Senate hopefuls accomplished the first goal of a successful candidate: Don’t say something stupid that makes the debate relevant. Debates are something the media likes, not the candidates. WISH-TV has a long and distinguished news history in this state. WANE-TV in Fort Wayne has been a junior partner with WISH since it became WANE in the early 1950s, and has remained so, even as Nexstar and Sinclair take over the television world. There are some big differences between WANE and WISH however, starting with the fact that WANE is a CBS affiliate. WANE is and has been the dominant station in our market.  The chosen time for the debate didn’t matter much to WISH, but it preempted “60 Minutes” in Fort Wayne (not that I care but obviously some people do). What did astound me, given that decision, was the choice of moderators.  WANE-TV has at least six people who would have been superior panelists to those selected. Heather Herron, Brett Thomas, Terra Brantley, Alyssa Ivanson, Rod Hissong, and Pat Hoffman each do great work, and yet not one was utilized.  Who made such a decision?
    INDIANAPOLIS – Vice President Mike Pence returns to Indianapolis on April 26 to tout President Trump and the Republican tax reforms. But this visit comes as his boss heads into what will likely be one of the most turbulent periods of his life. President Trump appears to be heading into the homestretch of Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is investigating payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and another Playmate from his attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, whose office was recently raided by the FBI. Investigators have recovered a trove of recorded conversations that seem to involve the President’s closest friends and advisers, prompting Trump to insist that “client/attorney privilege is dead.” And on top of all that drama, Trump is also poised to meet with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un in a summit with truly scary nuclear ramifications. Folks, this is epic stuff. An additional subplot arose over the weekend: For the first time in their fascinating relationship, Pence found himself sideways with his boss, who has a penchant for firing subordinates via Twitter.
    BLOOMINGTON – Resolving the conflicts dividing our country will require a devotion to facts, dialogue and compromise. In a world riven by tension, there’s one skill that stands above all others: The ability to resolve conflict. It is the paramount challenge of our time. There are so many divisions that fracture our communities, states and nations that the ability to create common ground — to bring people together rather than drive them apart — has become an indispensable political need. I’ve seen first-hand its importance in Congress as part of a legislative process that, at least at the time, was mostly focused on resolving differences; and as co-chair of two key national committees that were constituted along partisan lines, the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group. Here’s what I’ve learned: First, to resolve conflict you have to be committed to doing just that. When the 9/11 Commission met — at a time when many people just wanted to assign blame for the attacks on our country — we were often encouraged to take a confrontational approach by issuing hundreds of subpoenas that would force officials to testify and to turn over documents.
    SOUTH BEND – Todd Young is the other senator from Indiana. NOT the one featured in all those TV ads with contradictory portrayal of either awful or wonderful. Nor is he cited nationally as facing the toughest Senate race in the nation –  costly, close and critical. Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent seeking reelection, gets all that attention. Sen. Todd Young, the Republican who defeated Evan Bayh for the Senate in 2016, has four more years before he again faces the hot lights of election focus. But that doesn’t mean that Young isn’t making a mark in the Senate. He is. Quietly. Working on legislation. Working also on bipartisanship rather than attention-getting partisan bluster to win time on cable news shows. “I’m an independent-minded, center-right conservative Republican,” Young says. “But I went to Washington to get things done. Typically, that requires developing strong relationships with your Democratic colleagues.” He is co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
    INDIANAPOLIS – Several readers contend this column expresses negativism about Indiana. They tell me to find something good to say about the state. That’s easy: Indiana’s borders have been Sanforized; they show no signs of shrinking. A different group of complaining readers chide me for using too many numbers. Somehow these readers never learned numbers represent people and their activities, real people. TV news (and too many newspaper articles) feature storybook people whose lives are supposed to make it possible for us to understand complex problems. This approach assumes we can’t grasp the human context without individuals as stand-ins for vast numbers of diverse people. Governments do a fine job spinning the news using carefully selected facts. One would believe Indiana is carpeted with blue and yellow spring flowers, fortuitously the state colors. Lately, however, the state has been covered with potholes.
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  • Republicans used penultimate debate to burnish messages

    INDIANAPOLIS  - The three Republican U.S. Senate candidates used the penultimate debate Monday night before the Allen County Republican Lincoln Dinner to burnish their campaign themes and credentials, and offer retorts to rival criticism. On the policy front, Todd Rokita, Luke Messer and Mike Braun kept to familiar scripts. The candidates lined up neatly on the issues. All supported President Trump’s tariffs, the tax reforms, ending the Senate filibuster and all supported local needle exchange options to combat the opioid/heroin crisis. The backed arming school teachers while improving building security and all remained steadfast in their devotion to the 2nd Amendment. All support President Trump’s building of a wall on the border with Mexico. All said they emphatically support President Trump, though Braun said later in the debate, “Of my two opponents, one was a never Trumper. He was for someone else until it was inevitable. The other called him vulgar and not presidential. I’m doing this because I was fed up. That’s why I ran for the Senate.”

  • Atomic! Braun loans $5M; Rokita cash & tape; Pence bankruptcies
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Southport

    1. Rokita, Braun poles apart on money: Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: With Todd Rokita posting an underwhelming $425,532 in the first quarter, and Mike Braun’sreport showing $5.449 million in loans he made to his Republican U.S. Senate campaign, it’s clear what is driving the final TV in this race: Money and personal wealth. Luke Messer raised just $389,000 for the quarter and as they did on prior FEC reports, Messer and Rokita headed into the final five weeks with close to the same amount of cash, $1.865 million for Rokita and $1.86 million for Messer. GOP sources tell us that more than 10% of the Rokita and Messer cash won’t be available to the fall campaign, if they survive. Braun reported $2.42 million cash on hand, but he is part of the “green wave” of self-funders running in Indiana this cycle. We figured he was awaiting the Rokita and Messer hauls before upgrading modest TV buys in the final weeks. And there is still plenty of gross rating points to buy.

  • Atomic! Special session proclaimed; Messer's mess; 4 & 20
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Fort Wayne

    1. Holcomb calls the circus back: Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a proclamation  this morning calling a special session of the 120th Indiana General Assembly Monday, May 14. “I’m calling lawmakers back to take action on the critical issues of school safety and federal tax conformity,” Holcomb proclaimed. “And, with sharp focus, I’m confident they can finish this work in a single day.” The governor’s to-do items include the final versions of the following bills: SB 242, HB 1230, HB 1315 and HB 1316. He will seek $5 million for school safety, allow $500,000 funding advances for school safety, $12 million for Muncie schools, and seek federal tax conformance.
  • Horse Race: Rokita teeters as Messer makes Indy TV push

    INDIANAPOLIS – It was a tough week for the perceived Republican U.S. Senate race “frontrunner” Todd Rokita. He has been rebuked by the reelection campaign of President Trump for suggesting an endorsement on yard signs. He reversed himself on participating in the April 30 Indiana Debate Commission event. He is getting out-gunned in the final two weeks of the TV air war by big margins with an obvious money problem. And while he was more than competent on the WISH-TV debate on Sunday night, the Associated Press story of his getting sideways with Trump undercuts the main footer of his campaign with the Trumpian “defeat the elite” sloganeering. Rokita isn’t alone on the bad news front. The IndyStar reports today that Luke Messer had two DUIs prior to replacing State Rep. Roland Stine, who was killed by a drunk driver.

  • Horse Race: The 'green wave' of self-funders is here

    INDIANAPOLIS –  There’s been much talk about the “pink wave” in the congressional elections, both nationally and here in Indiana. But there is also a “green wave,” represented by rich candidates who are mostly self-funding their campaigns. Democrats Mel Hall and Yatish Joshi in the 2nd CD, Republicans Steve Braun and State Rep. Jim Baird in the 4th CD, Jonathan Lamb in the 6th CD, and, of course, U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth in the 9th CD all have campaigns that have received six-figure loans from the candidate or family. “Money is driving everything,” said former congressman Mark Souder. “If (Mike) Braun wins, following up on (Rep. Trey) Hollingsworth’s win, wealthy candidates are likely to become even more dominant in Indiana.  Also true if Pence gets upset.”
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  • Former Sen. Coburn endorses Mike Braun
    "I am pleased to support and endorse Mike Braun, Indiana Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. Like myself, Mike is a social & fiscal conservative who supports term limits. As a successful businessman, Mike brings the very knowledge and background that is badly needed in our U.S. Senate today. Mike's opposition to deficit spending and pork barrel projects together with his proven leadership abilities will make him a highly effective U.S. Senator." - Former Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, endorsing Mike Braun for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination. Braun said, "I'm beyond honored to have earned the support of one of my idols in the U.S. Senate, Tom Coburn.”
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  • A changing tide on medicinal marijuana
    CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has changed his mind on medical marijuana. He writes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a hardliner against pot, saying, “I feel obligated to share the results of my five-year-long investigation into the medical benefits of the cannabis plant. Before I started this worldwide, in-depth investigation, I was not particularly impressed by the results of medical marijuana research, but a few years later, as I started to dedicate time with patients and scientists in various countries, I came to a different conclusion.”

    And that conclusion? “Not only can cannabis work for a variety of conditions such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and pain, sometimes, it is the only thing that works. I changed my mind, and I am certain you can, as well. It is time for safe and regulated medical marijuana to be made available nationally. I realize this is an unconventional way to reach you, but your office declined numerous requests for an interview, and as a journalist, a doctor and a citizen, I felt it imperative to make sure you had access to our findings.”

    Gupta’s special report on “Weed 4: Pot vs. Pill” airs at 8 p.m. Sunday. It comes as James Higdon writes about “Legal Marijuana’s Big Moment” coming when former Republican House Speaker John Boehner “flipped” on the topic and became an adviser to a medicinal marijuana group. As the late John Lennon might have put it, strange days, indeed. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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