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Friday, October 23, 2020
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Thursday, October 22, 2020 9:22 AM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

SHELBURN, Ind. – Nine months ago, Gov. Eric Holcomb was sitting on an $8 million campaign war chest, a 3.2% jobless rate and a $60 billion road funding plan. His main Democratic challenger had just posted $14,000 on his year-end campaign finance report.

And then came the pandemic which forced the governor to impose an unprecedented economic shutdown. The pandemic has since killed 3,700 Hoosiers, forced schools to close, put half a million small businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, and the jobless rate estimated to hit 17% by May.

Last Saturday on what became a rare 2020 campaign swing through southwestern Indiana, this writer passed a COVID-19 test, donned a face mask and joined Holcomb, Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer and GOP communications director Jake Oakman, a day that yielded more than two hours of interview time. Holcomb told Howey Politics Indiana that the state’s top priority during this third COVID-19 wave rattling the state is “to maintain our posture in our ability and capacity to care for those who are in need.”

It came a day before epidemiologist Michael Osterholm told NBC’s Meet The Press that the nation was entering its darkest three months, with COVID cases surging to 55,000 a day nationally. On Saturday, Indiana set an all-time high of 2,521 COVID cases, followed by 1,629 cases on Sunday, capping a streak of nine out of 10 days when infections topped 1,000 cases. Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box announced three days earlier she and two family members had COVID.

Democrat nominee Woody Myers accused Holcomb of “freezing” while Libertarian nominee Donald Rainwater maintained that Holcomb had gone too far, encroaching on civil liberties. The press was questioning whether he had abandoned his “data driven” approach that marked the state’s first two waves and resulted in his declaring “Stage 5” in late September.

Holcomb said that with the shutdown he ordered last March, “We had to get our footing because of the scale and pace this virus was moving, we had to make sure we had that capacity to care for those in need and to get those resources out for our front lines to deal with all the incoming.” On Saturday, there were still 36.3% of ICU beds and 79.6% of ventilators available.

Holcomb said that should the surge of infections continue, the state will have the ability to add ICU capacity. “We have a long way to go,” Holcomb said. 
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  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    INDIANAPOLIS – About two hours before Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly pandemic press conference Wednesday, Indiana University Prof. Aaron Carroll took part in a “Keeping IU Healthy” webinar. He was asked about the 1,700 COVID-19 cases the state reported earlier in the day: “Will the state hover around that or get worse?” Dr. Carroll, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, responded, “I think it will get worse over the next few weeks and then after the election I hope we start ratcheting things back. We can, as we have in the past, limit the spread of disease and make it safer. That will require governments to act and they often act slowly. “Even in the bad second wave, Arizona, Florida, Texas they got hold of it. They had to take action. They had to do some unpopular things, but they were able to ratchet it back to achieve a better level of success,” Dr. Carroll continued. “It will take Indiana taking action. I believe they will, it just may be a couple weeks off because the election, frankly, makes it harder to do a lot of stuff. Without laying blame or casting aspersions, ask me again in two weeks.” Gov. Holcomb was asked by the press about a possible reinstitution of lower stages. The governor became animated, saying, “Stage 5 has zero, nothing to do with any campaign. This has got to do with safely getting back to school, getting this economy reopened safely.”
  • By JACK COLWELL
    SOUTH BEND — Four years ago, at this point before the presidential election, a columnist wrote of a widely popular sentiment, an oft-heard response to a campaign that drove down approval ratings of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The widespread sentiment was this: “I’ll be so happy when this election is over.”  But the columnist warned, “Don’t bet on that.” That columnist was me. So, despite what’s suggested in kind, thoughtful emails from militia types and conspiracy advocates, I sometimes can get something right. When the 2016 election was over, joy wasn’t ubiquitous among all who said they would then be “so happy.” A majority of voters was not happy at all. The majority, by a margin of nearly 3 million votes, selected Clinton, but the unhappy reality for them was that Trump carried key states and won in the Electoral College, where it counts. Some who didn’t vote for either Clinton or Trump also were not “so happy.” Some had voted for the Green Party nominee, who had no chance except as a spoiler, and then realized they could have been decisive in some of those key states if they had instead voted for Clinton, an environmentalist who wouldn’t have dropped out of the Paris climate accord and repealed environmental regulations.
  • By LEE HAMILTON
    BLOOMINGTON – As the Senate held hearings and debated the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, attention understandably focused on the policy implications of a sixth conservative vote. What got less notice was an important political fact: If she’s confirmed as expected, it will mean a majority of the Court will have been put there by senators representing a minority of the American people. Four justices on the Court already  – Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh – were confirmed by a Senate “majority” put in office by fewer voters than the senators who opposed them. Barrett will be the fifth. In fact, the ideal of “majority rule” in the U.S. is mostly window-dressing these days. The people in power as we head toward the November general election increasingly do not represent the will of the American people.
  • By MORTON J. MARCUS
    INDIANAPOLIS  — How bad the job loss was in the United States depends on your starting and ending points. If we take March 2020 as the last “normal” or pre-covid month, with August as our latest data point, then national job losses just exceeded 10 million. Yet, just three states (California, New York, and Texas) account for one third of that 10 million. Indiana is among the 38 states in the bottom third of that distribution. Indiana accounted for 91,100 (2.9%) of that 10 million job loss. While 10 million jobs nationally represented a 6.6% drop in wage and salary jobs from March, Indiana’s 91,100 loss was only 2.9% of our March jobs. That’s the basis for the Hoosier Happy Hour at the Statehouse; Indiana ranked 47th behind Hawaii in percent of jobs lost due to the virus. Only Utah, Mississippi and Idaho were more fortunate than we.
  • By BRIAN A. HOWEY



    CARMEL – There’s a political reason that, should he be reelected, Gov. Eric Holcomb will appoint a superintendent of public instruction. Look no further than the nationally watched 5th Congressional District, where former Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction. Suellen Reed endorsed Democrat Christina Hale on Wednesday in her race against Republican Victoria Spartz. Appearing in a TV ad with her husband, Phil, the Reeds introduced themselves as “lifelong Republicans.” Supt. Reed then says, “Cooperation, collaboration and compromise, that’s the way we get things get done.” Later, Reed adds, “She seeks common ground. That’s how democracy works. We’re voting Republican ... and for Christina Hale.” Reed’s endorsement makes it two out of the last three Republican superintendents to back Hale, who has been endorsed by current Supt. Jennifer McCormick. Former superintendent Tony Bennett has not weighed in. Governors of both parties have long salivated over the opportunity that likely faces Holcomb after the election. Reed was the Republican who served with Democratic Govs. Evan Bayh, Frank O’Bannon and Joe Kernan. Gov. Mike Pence served his four years with Democrat Supt. Glenda Ritz.

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  • Horse Race: INGov debate not likely to alter dynamic; legislative money updates
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – If anything, Tuesday’s unremarkable gubernatorial debate provided a vivid contrast to that jarring presidential debate in Cleveland. It was civil. But after an hour, the dynamics of this race which is headed for a GOP landslide didn’t change. Gov. Eric Holcomb took in-coming from both Democrat Woody Myers and Libertarian Donald Rainwater over his pandemic response. “This is an extraordinary time and we’ve had to take extraordinary measures,” Holcomb said. “So we do have a state-mandated mask requirement throughout the state; it’s a strong statement that says this works.” Myers responded that Holcomb’s mandate was just a “mask suggestion.” Rainwater insisted, “Nowhere in constitution does it say that individual rights can be suspended.” And, the Libertarian added, science hasn’t proved people are at risk. Rainwater added later that “It’s not government’s job to create jobs, but to protect individual rights.”
  • Atomic! Unremarkable INGov debate; Shiny supt; Klain to be Biden CoS?
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. A civil, unremarkable debate: Here are your hump day power lunch talking points: If anything, Tuesday's unremarkable gubernatorial debate provided a vivid contrast to that jarring presidential debate in Cleveland. But after an hour, the dynamics of this race which are headed for a GOP landslide didn't change. Gov. Eric Holcomb took on-coming from both Democrat Woody Myers and Libertarian Donald Rainwater over his pandemic response. "This is an extraordinary time and we've had to take extraordinary measures," Holcomb said. "So we do have a state-mandated mask requirement throughout the state; it's a strong statement that says this works."

  • Atomic! INGov debates seldom impactful; Pence to campaign in Indiana; 6.2% jobless rate

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. INGov debates seldom impactful: Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: Tonight's 7 p.m. (E.T.) debate between Gov. Eric Holcomb, Libertarian Donald Rainwater and Democrat Woody Myers is another cycle staple. But I can't remember a debate that actually shifted an election outcome, perhaps due to the relatively miniscule viewership. In 2000, Gov. Frank O'Bannon and GOP challenger David McIntosh mixed it up over graduation rates and the incumbent's "mismanagement." Gov. O’Bannon responded, “You’re right; the buck does stop here. Every now and then, we get an employee that steps off the wrong way and we get rid of them.” O’Bannon went after McIntosh, saying, “I’ll stand on my record. I’ve cut taxes $1.5 billion.” In 2004, Mitch Daniels lashed out at Gov. Joe Kernan in New Albany: “Governor, you called me in your ads greedy, you've called me untrustworthy, you said I don't know the difference between right and wrong. It makes me want me to say, 'Say it ain't so, Joe.'" And in 2012 at Notre Dame, Democrat John Gregg called Rep. Mike Pence a "tea partier" and an "extremist," adding that Pence was a Capitol Hill "show horse" who would become a "one-trick pony" governor, prompting a peeved Pence to respond, "That's not true, John." Pence won, but barely, becoming the only modern governor not to attain 50%. These exchanges didn't alter the race trajectories, but burnished existing talking points.

  • Atomic! Holcomb eyes COVID 'capacity'; WH task force turmoil; Trump up 8%; 'Scrambled' nothingburger
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Shelburn, Ind.

    1. Holcomb eyes managed COVID capacity; Gov. Eric Holcomb told Howey Politics Indiana that the state's top priority during this third COVDID-19 wave rattling the state is "to maintain our posture in our ability and capacity to care for those who are in need." In an exclusive interview on Saturday, Holcomb said that with the shut down he ordered last March, "We had to get our footing because of the scale and pace this virus was moving, we had to make sure we had that capacity to care for those in need and to get those resources out for our front lines to deal with all the incoming."  With cases surging above 1,000 cases a day for nine out of the last 10 (on Sunday with 1,629 new infections) there were still 36.3% of ICU beds and 79.6% of ventilators available. Holcomb said that should the surge of infections continue, the state will have the capacity to add ICU beds, as it did last spring. As of Sunday, the state had issued 2.5 million tests, with 147,582 positive cases and a 7-day positivity rate of 11.4%. There have been 3,704 deaths.

  • HPI Analysis: Barrett, Pence duck the 'peaceful transfer of power' questions
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – Two Hoosiers were on conspicuous national stages this month when they were asked what in just about any other era would be perceived as Chicago-style softball questions. Vice President Mike Pence was asked by debate moderator Susan Page, “President Trump has several times refused to commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power after the election. If Vice President Biden is declared the winner and President Trump refuses to accept a peaceful transfer of power, what would be your role and responsibility as vice president? What would you personally do?” And U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein at Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, “Does the Constitution give the president of the United States the authority to unilaterally delay a general election under any circumstances? Does federal law?” That these two questions would even have to be asked is a troubling sign of our times. Why? Because President Trump has stoked the body politick into believing that he might not accept the results of the Nov. 3 election. Trump said he would “see what happens” when pressed about a peaceful transition of power during a Sept. 23 news conference. “There won’t be a transfer, frankly, there’ll be a continuation.”

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  • Myers 'cringes' at daily COVID report
    “Every day at noon I cringe when I see how many Hoosiers have died because the governor isn’t sending serious public health signals - like a true mask mandate with consequences, like capacity reductions at bars and restaurants - to communicate to Hoosiers that this virus will kill you.” - Democrat gubernatorial nominee Woody Myers, reacting to the spike in COVID-19 cases in Indiana. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry was joined by Allen County commissioners Wednesday, expressing "alarm" about the COVID spike there, with the mayor saying "This is not a hoax. People in our city and our county are dying. This is not over.”
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  • Trump nominates Judge Barrett for SCOTUS
    "The flag of the United States is still flying at half-staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to mark the end of a great American life. Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them. Justices Scalia and Ginsburg disagreed fiercely in print without rancor in person. In both my personal and professional relationships, I strive to meet that standard. Judges are not policy makers and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold." - 7th Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, on the friendly relationship between the late Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who she hopes to replace. President Trump said, "She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution." The South Bend resident and former Notre Dame Law professor will appear in the Senate for her first confirmation hearing on Oct. 12. Republicans hope to have her confirmed prior to the Nov. 3 election. If confirmed, she would become the second Hoosier to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, joining Associate Justice Sherman Minton, who served from 1949 to 1956. Chief Justice John G. Roberts is a native of Long Beach.
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