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Wednesday, December 12, 2018
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Thursday, July 11, 2013 1:28 PM
ANGOLA, Ind. – These past few weeks, we’ve seen yet another example of sclerosis in Washington, this time with the farm bill. On a topic that begged for compromise, everyone dug in, and there was celebration in some quarters even as they were spitting the ashes out of their mouths.
Next up comes the immigration package, with House Republicans overwhelmingly balking Wednesday at the Senate passed bill despite warnings from Speaker John Boehner about the political consequences.
Later this year, we’ll get another debt limit faux crisis.
It is a city of gangs who can’t shoot straight, of rhetoric akin to methane gas seeping out of a melting tundra. Gallup has congressional approval at 10 percent, yet another historic low.
LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo’s column on page 1 hits a number of points that are resonating. And it underscores a recent piece by conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on what he calls the “power inversion,” the rise of city states and regional governments that fill the void left by the partisan polarization in Washington.
  • ZIONSVILLE - History fascinates me because it is often a juxtaposition of irony. Man claims to build an unsinkable ship and the Titanic cascades to the Atlantic floor on its maiden voyage. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both die on July 4, 1826 on the 50th anniversary of the publication of the Declaration of Independence, with the former's last words: "Thomas Jefferson survives" (in fact, he had been dead for five hours). Americans witnessed a fascinating contrast this week with the death of President George H.W. Bush at age 94. His final rites came on Thursday in Texas. On Friday, we are likely to wake up to tectonic grind of scandal, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia collusion probe reaches what some are describing as the "endgame" that has the potential to render President Trump into the same historic designation of Bush41, that of a one-term president, though for very different reasons. Earlier this week, Mueller filed a sentencing statement on former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, recommending no prison time because his cooperation stands to impact three criminal cases in formulation. A second such filing is expected on Friday for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. In tandem, they are precursors as to what lurks in the future of this presidency. It would be impossible not to see these stories as a sign of our times.

  • LEBANON, Ind. – Indiana has become, from a functional standpoint, a one-party state. The most conspicuous stats with U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s defeat is Republicans control 9 of 11 congressional seats, have super majorities in the General Assembly and all of the Statehouse constitutional offices. But mine down further is to discover how abjectly out of power Democrats are beyond the big cities of Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend, Gary, Hammond, Kokomo, Bloomington and Lafayette. On the city front, Democrats control 54 out of 117 city halls. At the county level, the impotence is striking. Of 1,399 county posts (these are prior to the Nov. 6 election) - assessor, auditor, clerk, commissioners, councilmembers, recorder, and treasurer - Democrats control just 268 offices, or an anemic 20 percent. Republicans control 1,130. Out of 242 commissioner seats, Democrats have a mere 34. Of 523 council seats Democrats control just 139. They hold just 22 assessor seats, 18 auditors, 20 clerks, 18 recorders and 17 treasurers. The list doesn’t include sheriffs, prosecutors and coroners, but my bet is those offices would present a similar trend. If you see a Democrat official at a county courthouse, quickly grab your phone and take a photo. Like glaciers and American-made sedans, they are disappearing relics.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind.  – Indiana Republicans are at their historic apex. They control 107 out of 150 General Assembly seats (and almost all of the rural seats), nine out of 11 congressional offices, and all of the Statehouse constitutional positions. The maps drawn in 2011 make Democratic gains (only four seats in the General Assembly) virtually impossible as we saw in this wave election year when Democrats picked up at least 38 U.S. House seats. Beyond the big cities, Republicans hold a majority of city and county offices across the state. With Vice President Mike Pence in office, Hoosiers such as National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, Medicaid/Medicare’s Seema Verma, Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar, and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, Ted McKinney and Anne Hazlett at the Department of Agriculture control wide swaths of the federal government (Verma and Azar in tandem control 26 percent of the federal budget). At the political level, freshman U.S. Sen. Todd Young was just selected to head the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which funds campaigns across the nation. President Trump, though in somewhat mocking fashion the day after the election, asked Pence if he would stay on the GOP ticket in 2020 (Pence agreed).

  • OMAHA, Neb.  – There was a “pink wave” in Indiana. When the gavels drop on Organization Day next week, there will be 30 women in the General Assembly out of 57 who filed for primary races. Nationally, a record 110 women (at this writing, with four races still undecided), will be joining Congress, making up 20 percent of its ranks. There were 200 women who filed for congressional primaries, with 94 winning crowded primaries. According to Forbes Magazine, previously, the most women who had advanced were 167 in 2016, according to records kept by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. A record 19 women won Senate primaries and 13 women were nominated for gubernatorial races. The “pink wave”  was fueled by several issues, including the way President Trump treats women (verbally, as well as his brief relationship with porn star Stormy Daniels and others), and issues such as the immigrant family separations. Many Republicans and evangelicals no longer seem to care about the president’s extramarital conduct with women, but many Hoosier and American women do, prompting them to run. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS – President Trump conducted a sprawling 90 minute presser Wednesday afternoon, basking his his victories, even though he lost the House. “The election’s over,” Trump said. “Now everybody is in love.” Well, everyone except CNN’s Jim Acosta and NBC’s Peter Alexander who the president assailed and then revoked the former’s credentials. President Trump talked of a “a beautiful bipartisan-type situation” as i Nancy Pelosi was the new Kim Jong-Un. “Now we have a much easier path because the Democrats will come to us with a plan for infrastructure, a plan for health care, a plan for whatever they’re looking at, and we’ll negotiate,” Trump said, adding, “From a dealmaking standpoint, we are all much better off the way it turned out” than if the GOP House majority had held. When pressed on potential Democratic House investigations, Trump suggested that if those were to pop up, he would respond with a “warlike posture.” Asked if there were any cabinet shakeups in the works with Attorney General Jeff Sessions sitting on a speculation bubble, Trump deflected. Less than two hours later, Trump tweeted: We are pleased to announce that Matthew G. Whitaker, Chief of Staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions at the Department of Justice, will become our new Acting Attorney General of the United States. He will serve our Country well....”
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - Through all the Mexico Joe and China Mike antics, the food fights, splittin’ firewood, through the blur of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of TV ads, the Indiana U.S. Senate race is in its final days. Hoosiers are turning out in record numbers (292,726 ballots cast over the first 14  days of early voting) to decide whether to send Democrat Joe Donnelly back for another six years, or to replace him with Republican Mike Braun. So where do things stand here in the homestretch? First, with Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp likely to lose in North Dakota, the Donnelly/Braun showdown will not determine which party controls the Senate. Democrats had to protect all of their seats to do that. Second, Howey Politics Indiana commentator Chris Sautter writes this week that most “wave elections” take shape in the final days. There are some like the LBJ landslide of 1964 or the Watergate debacle for Republicans that you could see coming. But others like the 1980 Reagan revolution or the Democrat wave of 2006 developed late. Campaigning in Southport Friday night with President Trump and Braun, Vice President Mike Pence said, “We Keep hearing about this blue wave. But I think that blue wave is going to hit a red wall.”
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. - Growing up, my parents and my teachers in Michigan City and Peru taught me about our great presidents. The first one, George Washington, would never tell a lie. Perhaps the greatest, Abraham Lincoln, urged his war torn nation to bind up its wounds with “malice toward none and charity toward all.” There was Franklin D. Roosevelt who reassured a shaken nation during the Great Depression and the rise of facism that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And there was John F. Kennedy, who told us to “ask not” what our country could do for you; “ask what you can do for your country.” If I were to choose a soundtrack for this, it would be the classic Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song: “Teach Your Children.”  As our nation recoiled in assassination, race riots and war in 1970, they told us that we “must have a code, which you can live by.” As a parent of successful sons and daughter, I conveyed their father’s hell, fed them my dreams, urged them to seek the truth, and I constantly expressed my love for them. On Wednesday, two former American presidents - Barack Obama and Bill Clinton - a former presidential nominee, a former vice president, a former attorney general, two Members of Congress, an Oscar-winning actor, two U.S. senators and a cable TV network were to receive pipe bombs, except they were intercepted by the Secret Service and in the case of Robert DeNiro, by an attentive employee. On Friday, we watched the arrest of Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old Florida man. Authorities confiscated his van, which was covered with bumper stickers and decals of President Trump.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – When Vice President Mike Pence strides into the J.W. Marriott Friday night for the Republican Fall Dinner, and then the Saturday GOP “Right Track Barnstorm Tour” kickoff, he finds himself at the apex of Trump World. The president’s approval popped up to 41% in CNN tracking. Unemployment is the lowest in 50 years. Trump achieved his remake of NAFTA, and that has bought him some time with Hoosier farmers and manufacturers still nervously awaiting some resolution to the shotgun $200 billion tariffs aimed at China. Most Hoosier farmers are sticking with the president even as their bottom lines take a hit. On that front, Pence thrust himself fully into the China fray this past week by warning the emerging Pacific powerhouse that it mustn’t meddle or assault our elections, and it had better keep away from our ships, that latter notice coming after a close call with the USS Decatur and a Chinese interceptor ship. “The United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence said at the Hudson Institute. “We will not be intimidated; we will not stand down.”

  • WEST LAFAYETTE – From the auto assembly lines in Fort Wayne and Kokomo, to the RV belt in Elkhart and Goshen, to the rows of soybeans across the Hoosier state, there’s been much organizational angst over President Trump’s trade strategy and tariffs.  But if there was a hold-the-line mentality, it came from individual farmers, union workers and the assortment of President Trump’s 2016 voters. Even though candidate or President Trump has never so much as stepped on to a Hoosier farm, in many of Indiana’s agriculture counties, Trump had pluralities in the 65 to 70% range. Through dozens of press accounts and TV interviews we hear this: Trump gets the big picture. There was a method to the madness that seemed to defy conventional wisdom. And last Sunday night as the farm bill stalled in Congress, the word was that through ultimatum and insult, Trump had forged a deal with Canada and the president’s whipping boy, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. What emerged was the final part of a trilateral agreement with one of our staunchest allies. NAFTA would be replaced with the United States, Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).


  • Brian Howey: That race between 'Mexico Joe' & 'China Mike'

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - In past U.S. Senate races in Indiana, the emphasis in the campaign homestretch is mostly concentrated on domestic or foreign policy. We’ve watched the debate in races going back to 2010 center on issues like deficits and debt, Obamacare, our alliance with Israel, military strength, or tax reform. The battle between U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and Republican Mike Braun this time has strangely focused on their personal business interests, with most of the dirty work coming from super PACs which operate independently and are cloaked from the actual campaigns. If you’ve watched any TV lately, you’ve heard about “Mexico Joe” shipping jobs south of the border and Braun, whose company is selling auto parts imported from China.
  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – If you envision a career in Congress, there are several aspects of the job you have to accept: You work 15 to 20 hour days and weekends, you have to raise big bucks, and, once upon a time, you had to meet with your constituents. Even when they’re angry, fearful or contrarian. There used to be another part of the job description in the TV age of politics: You should be willing to debate your opponent, and show up to various forums sponsored by civic groups like the League of Women Voters, schools, or the Rotary Club. But here in the 2018 mid-terms, we find a number of Republican incumbents or nominees ducking the debates. Democratic 8th Congressional District nominee William Tanoos became the latest to find an incumbent Republican congressmen unwilling to match ideas and wit on a public stage, in front of TV cameras and radio mics. He joins 3rd CD nominee Courtney Tritch, 6th CD nominee Jeannine Lee Lake and 9th CD nominee Liz Watson in alleging that U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon and Trey Hollingsworth won’t debate along with 6th CD nominee Greg Pence. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – For months now we’ve scanned the horizon for the so-called “blue wave,” a response from voters in November’s mid-term elections for what President Trump has vowed to make a referendum on himself. Speaking with Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Banks a couple weeks ago, he called such a wave political event “fictitious,” believing that the GOP majorities will hold in Congress and across the state. There were precursors to such a tsunami. In an era where some two dozen women had made sexual harassment allegations against the president, the wrenching immigrant child separations from their parents at the border, the prospect of the overturning of Roe. v. Wade where an NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll showed 70% supporting (including 52 percent of Republicans), we watched 57 women file for Indiana General Assembly seats.  Now with the release of the NBC/Marist Poll in the U.S. Senate race, we’ve learned that U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly has a 44-41 percent lead over Republican Mike Braun, with Libertarian Lucy Brenton coming in at 8 percent. For a historical perspective, in Donnelly’s race against Republican Richard Mourdock in 2012, a Sept. 27 Howey Politics/DePauw Poll had Donnelly up 40-38 percent in a race in which many perceived him as a distinct underdog. 
  • MICHIGAN CITY - A decade ago Indiana was a battleground for control of Congress. Between 2004 and 2010, there were six U.S. House seats that flipped. We weren’t “flyover country” when it came to Capitol Hill. Indiana was often ground zero. The flipping began in 2004 when Republican trucking executive Mike Sodrel upset Democratic U.S. Rep. Baron HIll 49.4 to 49 percent. Two years later, with the Iraq War dissolving into an insurgency that would claim more than 5,000 American lives and more than 100 Hoosier soldiers, Hill returned with a 50-45 percent victory in a rematch, while Democrats Brad Ellsworth and Joe Donnelly upset U.S. Reps. John Hostettler and Chris Chocola, the latter by a 53-46 percent margin. In 2010, two more seats changed parties, with Republican Todd Young upsetting Hill 52-42 percent. Dr. Larry Bucshon won the 8th CD by defeating State Rep. Trent Van Haaften 57-37 percent in a seat Democrat Rep. Ellsworth abandoned to replace Sen. Evan Bayh after he stunned the political world with his retirement. Compare that to this year’s mid-term elections, where the website FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats at 74 percent chance of retaking the U.S. House, but in Indiana’s nine districts, well, there’s hardly a race to be found. Reps. Pete Visclosky, Jim Banks, Susan Brooks, Andre Carson and Larry Bucshon all had a 99 percent chance of winning and so do new nominees Jim Baird and Greg Pence.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – When Attorney General Curtis Hill left the Indiana Republican Convention in Evansville last June, social conservatives were whispering in his ear about a potential 2020 primary challenge to Gov. Eric Holcomb after he help bat down a marriage platform plank change. Next week, when President Trump comes to Evansville to campaign for Republican Senate nominee Mike Braun, Hill won’t be there. On July 2, we learned that a female state legislator and three General Assembly staffers had made sexual harassment allegations against Hill, which are now being investigated by the state’s inspector general and a special prosecutor.  Three days later, Gov. Holcomb, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Republican legislative leaders and Braun began cascading and coordinated calls for Hill to resign, citing “zero tolerance” for sexual harassment. Holcomb explained the allegations ”are disturbing and, at a minimum, show a violation of the state’s zero tolerance sexual harassment policy." Crouch explained, “The governor believes the women who came forward. Those actions violate the state's zero-tolerance policy.”  So at 7 p.m. CT next Thursday at the Ford Center, a fascinating juxtaposition will be there for all to see. Braun will rally with President Trump, who has been accused by upwards of 20 women of sexual harassment or assault. Some of these women – models, porn stars, journalists, an “Apprentice” contestant and even a Miss Utah –  have gone on the record, speaking to the Palm Beach Post, NBC’s Today with Megyn Kelly, the Washington PostUSA Today, BuzzFeed, Huffpo  and the New York Times

  • INDIANAPOLIS – It was just two years ago that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence entered the Trumpian twilight zone. Those close to him saw it as a deal with the devil. Others believed it would be his clearest path to the presidency that he had coveted since his childhood. What commenced in Indianapolis, Westfield, New York and then Cleveland in July 2016 has been Vice President Pence’s odyssey, with the final chapters of how this ends unwritten, unknowable, and perhaps, unfathomable. In the Pence worldview of ambition, he was climbing into the shoes of Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush, turning the “heartbeat away” office as entry into the pantheon of 45. Or, he could be consigned to Vice President John Nance Garner’s “warm bucket” of “spit” occupied by Hubert H. Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Al Gore who aspired and fell short. On July 24, 2016, in Cleveland, we heard Pence cut through the myriad of controversies surrounding the GOP nominee. “Donald Trump gets it,” Pence said in his half-hour speech in primetime. “He’s a doer in a game usually reserved for talkers. He doesn’t tiptoe around a thousand new rules of political correctness."
  • Brian Howey: 24 years of real news from Howey Politics

    INDIANAPOLIS – With today’s edition, Howey Politics Indiana begins its 24th year of publishing. We do so across four platforms, reaching more than a half million Hoosiers per week. This benchmark comes in uncertain times. President Trump has labeled American news reporters, editors and photographers as “enemies of the people.” This has become the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts” as Americans have fled the First Amendment Tower of Babel into ideological silos. The divisions among us go beyond gender, race and creed and into who we voted for and what cable channel or social media platform we glean our information from. It also comes as American media finds its fiscal platform splintering. According to Pew Research, newsroom employment declined 23% between 2008 and 2017. In 2008, about 114,000 newsroom employees – reporters, editors, photographers and videographers – worked in five industries that produce news: Newspaper, radio, broadcast television, cable and “other information services” (the best match for digital-native news publishers). By 2017, that number declined to about 88,000, a loss of about 27,000 jobs.

  • NASHVILLE, Ind. – We are heading into that stretch of the election cycle where distinct trend lines begin to take shape. It was August 1994, 2006 and 2010 when the contours of those wave elections became more recognizable in polling. While voter intensity in polls has been more meaningful up to this point, the congressional generics begin to carry more heft in August and September. The anomaly was the historic 2016 election when many pollsters, pundits and, yes, even Republican nominee Donald Trump himself, were convinced that Hillary Clinton would be the next president. That all changed around 9 on Election Night when the epic Trump upset came into focus. This cycle, President Trump absolutely dominates all things politics. This election will essentially be a referendum on his first two years.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – What did President Trump and Russian President Putin talk about for two hours and 10 minutes when they were alone at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki Monday while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Ambassador Jon Huntsman, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and Chief of Staff John Kelly nervously waited outside? It’s something we may never know. Or, perhaps, we will in snippets as Putin sees fit. Asked whether the Russians recorded the Trump/Putin meeting sans aides (but, perhaps with a mic in Putin’s cufflinks), former CIA Director John O. Brennan said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “In some manner, yes.” Did the Americans? “I have no idea,” Brennan responded. “I think whatever Mr. Trump said in that meeting with Mr. Putin is now memorialized on Russian tape and it will be used when necessary by Mr. Putin against Mr. Trump. I am sure he was told that. Whether he accepts what he is told by the men of the CIA and intelligence community, I don’t know.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS - Attorney General Curtis Hill is innocent until proven guilty on allegations that he sexually harassed at least three General Assembly employees and State Rep. Mara Candeleria Reardon at a late night March 15 sine die party. But when it comes to Politics 101 and the chapter of how an elected public official handles him or herself in in the public sphere, Hill is flunking out. The allegations that surfaced on July 2 in a leaked General Assembly investigation memo has prompted the Republican establishment - Gov. Eric Holcomb,  Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, House Speaker Bosma, Senate President David Long, Secretary of State Connie Lawson,  U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks and U.S. Senate nominee Mike Braun - to call for Hill to resign. That, folks, is a catastrophic collapse of political support from the most influential people in the state.

  • FREMONT, Ind. - Friday became the day when the reckoning begins. That’s the day President Trump’s first wave of tariffs kick in, hitting China with $34 billion of new taxation on imports. Hundreds of billions more are just over the horizon. China will respond, taking aim at American pork, poultry, soybeans and corn. So if you’re a Hoosier soybean farmer, and an overwhelming majority of these sturdy folks voted for Trump in 2016, this presents a dilemma. The guy you sent to Washington to drain the swamp, tell it like it is, and shake things up, is now fiddlin’ with your bottom line. The American Soybean Association is putting President Trump’s tariffs into perspective: Soybeans are the No. 1 U.S. agricultural export, with sales of $27 billion last year according to the Foreign Agricultural Service. Of those $27 billion in soy exports, $14 billion worth of soy and soy products were sold to China, which has stated it will retaliate in-kind to the Administration's Section 301 tariffs, with a 25 percent tariff falling on U.S. soybeans. According to a study conducted by Purdue University, it is projected that China's soybean imports from the U.S. would fall by 65 percent and total U.S. soy exports would drop by 37 percent. 

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  • Lugar, Bayh warn Senate about emerging scandals
    "As former members of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security. We are on the eve of the conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and the House’s commencement of investigations of the president and his administration. The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability. It is a time, like other critical junctures in our history, when our nation must engage at every level with strategic precision and the hand of both the president and the Senate. We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld. Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest." - 44 former U.S. Senators, including Richard Lugar and Evan Bayh from Indiana, writing a Washington Post op-ed article warning current senators about the emerging scandals involving President Trump.
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  • Weird scenes inside the White House
    The Nick Ayres saga fallout continues to be just ... weird. Vanity Fair's  Gabriel Sherman reports that last Friday, President Trump met with Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence, and out-going Chief of Staff John Kelly to finalize the CoS transition. A press release announcing Ayers’s hiring was reportedly drafted and ready to go for when Trump planned to announce Kelly’s departure on Monday. But Kelly was pressing for top aide Zachary Fuentes to get the job, Trump got pissed and leaked the story on Saturday. Ayres began getting calls from the press about his net worth estimated to be between $12 million and $54 million.

    Ayres then insisted he only wanted the job for several months. Sherman: “Trump was pissed, he was caught off guard,” a former West Wing official briefed on the talks said. By Sunday, Ayres not only bolted the Trump gig, but the Pence job, too, deciding to head back to Georgia. So by year's end, Trump and Pence will both be on their third chief in less than two years.

    This all comes amid rampant speculation that with scandal, House Democrat investigations and a tariff-bruised economy all looming over the horizon, who would want to work for a guy like Trump, where loyalty is a one-way street, allies get thrown under the bus, and careers can be tainted forever after folks wallow in Watergate or get the Kremlin Kramps. Trump and Pence had lunch on Monday. Wonder what was on the menu? Crow, perhaps?
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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