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Friday, July 3, 2020
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  • SOUTH BEND - Should Joe Biden get out of his basement and start having campaign events like President Trump? No. He should instead follow an established axiom for effective political campaigning. Meanwhile, another proven axiom was ignored by the Trump campaign in its disastrous Tulsa event. These two axioms from Politics 101 are: 1. If your opponent is acting like - and is widely perceived as - a self-destructive performer, let the opponent have the stage. Stay off it. Don’t interrupt the destructive act. 2. Don’t raise expectations too high, including for crowds. Better to have a small place that’s packed than to have a larger arena that’s only a third full. Exact numbers don’t matter, but photos of full or empty rows do. Biden is doing very well with virtual events and in the polls. A fundraiser online with Barack Obama brought in $7.6 million from 175,000 donors last week. He keeps climbing in polls nationally and in key battleground states. Trump is furious even with Fox News for its polls that show the president slipping. He is slipping, and not just on that ramp at West Point.

  • SOUTH BEND – There is a strong possibility that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. That’s NOT a prediction. Just saying it’s a strong possibility. Virtually all the polls, nationwide and in key battleground states, show Biden ahead and gaining strength. President Trump, though keeping his solid base, is faltering with important segments of voters registering disapproval of his response to the pandemic and protests. But I’m certainly not ready to predict that President Trump will lose to Biden this November. I steer away from predictions. The last time I wrote a flat-out political prediction was decades ago. I went out on the limb to predict that “Bob” would be elected mayor of Mishawaka. The nominees were Bob Beutter and Bob Nagle.
  • SOUTH BEND – Can Pat Hackett overcome Donald Trump? Or to put the possibility of a big upset another way, can President Trump drag down Congresswoman Jackie Walorski? Trump’s name will be on the ballot for president, not for Congress in Indiana’s 2nd District, but even as the congressional candidates discuss many issues, Trump will be the elephant in the room. If Trump wins again by a landslide in Indiana, Hackett, who won the Democratic congressional nomination in a landslide of her own on Tuesday, will have little chance. If Trump slips badly, with a significant percentage of his 2016 supporters in the district abandoning him over his handling of the coronavirus, protests and the economy, that could hurt Walorski, his supporter in Congress, and give Hackett a better chance for an upset win. Vote totals provided good news for Hackett in two areas, bad news in another. First the good news. The South Bend attorney in her second quest for the congressional nomination won this time with an impressive show of strength, three to one over Ellen Marks, also an attorney from South Bend, who spent well over a quarter million dollars on the campaign.

  • SOUTH BEND – Let’s consider today the premier political question in the nation. The answer provided by voters in November can determine the presidential election and also decide close legislative races. Q. How is President Trump regarded in his response to the coronavirus pandemic and in seeking a rebound of the economy? A. Well, recent Emerson College polls show Joe Biden ahead of Trump by 30 percentage points in California and by even more in Massachusetts, 34 points. Beyond a landslide. Q. So, Trump will lose? A. Actually, how much Trump loses by in those states has no meaning – none – for the outcome of the presidential election. Trump will lose by large pluralities in big Democratic states such as California, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois. He lost nationwide in the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes in 2016. He could well lose by as many as five million votes this time. And win again.
  • SOUTH BEND – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is emerging as one of the top prospects for the Democratic nomination for vice president, thanks to unintended help from President Trump and gun-toting protesters who stormed the Michigan Capitol building. Trump’s belittling of the governor as “the woman in Michigan” and “Half Whitmer” brought greater national attention and focus on how her handling of the coronavirus gets higher poll approval than the president’s efforts. In his anger toward her as a possible opponent on the Democratic ticket, Trump once ordered the coronavirus task force to decline to talk with her, the governor of a state with the third highest death toll from the virus.
  • SOUTH BEND – If it were not for the coronavirus, Democrat primary voters would have gone to the polls last Tuesday to pick either Pat Hackett or Ellen Marks as their nominee to oppose Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the 2nd District Republican incumbent. The primary election is delayed until June 2. But the question that became so relevant in March remains for the Democratic contenders: How do you campaign for Congress during a pandemic? Not the way they thought they would be campaigning. Instead, no rallies, fundraising events, debates, talks to service clubs, door-to-door campaigning, volunteers at phone banks. No open headquarters. The Democratic contenders make the most of opportunities online and with techniques for visual gatherings. They hope to do more, perhaps TV ads and eventually more contacts with social distancing. The two Democrats seeking the congressional nomination both are attorneys from South Bend.
  • SOUTH BEND – Is that coronavirus a Republican or a Democrat? President Trump, who takes everything so personally, must think the virus is a Democrat. He resents it for ruining the robust economy he was counting on to assure reelection. He fumes about what the virus did to him. Unfair. No sympathy for him from the “fake news” White House reporters or from Democrats promoting a “hoax” about his handling of the pandemic. Wait. Could that virus be a Republican? Look at the way Joe Biden, now virtually sure to be Trump’s Democratic challenger, is forced to do interviews from his basement, with not exactly quality video. He can’t get out for fundraising events to try to catch up with Trump’s huge lead in funds. Bernie and Barrack endorse him, and that GOP coronavirus knocks it out of headline news. Unfair. Affix a political label on the virus? Dr. Anthony Fauci wouldn’t do so. There’s no scientific or medical basis for that. But the virus certainly has become political.
  • SOUTH BEND  — Bernie Sanders still could win the presidential election. For Donald Trump. He did it before. He could do it again. Perhaps by the time you read this, Sanders will have suspended his campaign and endorsed Joe Biden. He should have if he is concerned about Democratic unity to defeat President Trump. Or is it all about Bernie? With the pandemic, it’s also an ethical imperative for Sanders to put ego aside and admit his race for the Democratic nomination has failed, thus allowing more people to stay away from the polls in remaining presidential primaries and reduce risk of coronavirus spread.
  • SOUTH BEND – Super Monday, not Super Tuesday, was when Pete Buttigieg had real impact on the presidential race. Mayor Pete’s eloquent endorsement of Joe Biden on the eve of crucial voting in 14 states was an important factor in helping to build momentum and to clear a winning path for what was indeed a super Tuesday for Biden. The former vice president won in 10 of those states, in some by landslides. And Biden’s highest of praise for Buttigieg on Monday, likening him to Biden’s late son Beau in terms of character, courage and intellect, enabled Buttigieg to end his candidacy in a super rather than disheartening way. That high praise also signaled bright future possibilities; Mayor Pete could become Secretary Pete, holding a key Cabinet post, if Biden wins the presidency. Monday was indeed a super day for Buttigieg as he closed out his improbable but impressive campaign at the right time.

  • SOUTH BEND - Pete Buttigieg ended his improbable but impressive presidential campaign where it began, in South Bend, the city he served as mayor and put on the national political map. Cheers, nor tears, predominated in the crowd at South Bend’s Century Center, when Buttigieg announced Sunday night that he was suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. Cheers were for the man who was highly popular in two terms as mayor and who went on to become a top-tier candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Cheers included: “2024! 2024!” Cheers for the future. Tears were scarce. After all, Buttigieg went farther in the presidential quest than most in the crowd could have imagined when he announced his candidacy in South Bend early last year. He actually won the most delegates in the Iowa caucuses, a monumental achievement obscured by the long tabulation delay that deprived him of the news coverage that should have been his on election night. He came within a small margin of defeating Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary, a small margin that deprived him of an upset of Sanders in a state Sanders was supposed to win easily. But when Buttigieg he did so poorly in South Carolina Saturday, as Joe Biden did so well, it was obvious that he had no momentum and not enough funding to compete effectively in the Super Tuesday contests across the nation. So, in politics, he took the advice that Kenny Rogers sang about in card playing: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.”
  • SOUTH BEND – Many of the Democrats whose No. 1 political goal is defeating President Trump now ponder a dilemma with Bernie Sanders. They fear they cannot win with Bernie. They fear they cannot win without him. If they aren’t part of the Sanders revolution, they fear that the democratic socialist with strident ideological views on sweeping changes, including Medicare for all, would lose in key Middle America battleground states, enabling Trump again to prevail in the Electoral College. They fear Sanders could even drag down Democratic congressional candidates in swing districts, resulting in a Republican-controlled House. What if one of the more moderate candidates wins the nomination to offer voters a bigger tent? Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar? Or even the less ideologically stringent Elizabeth Warren? Would that mean a wider appeal, winning over voters who don’t really approve of Trump but aren’t likely to approve of Sanders’ revolution either? Maybe.
  • SOUTH BEND  — Sputnik calling. Never, a year ago, could I have imagined Russia’s International News Agency Sputnik seeking comment about a contrived conspiracy theory aimed at Mayor Pete. Or that South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg would be the frontrunner in delegates for the Democratic presidential nomination after the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Or that the city’s river lights would be ridiculed in a political attack by former Vice President Joe Biden. Or that I would be interviewed by journalists from six foreign countries. Would have been eight if communications with Australia worked and if I agreed to an interview with Sputnik, a spreader of Kremlin propaganda. Well, a lot that couldn’t have been imagined a year ago has happened as former Mayor Buttigieg, then such a long, long long shot for the Democratic nomination, has become a top contender, within a whisker of knocking off Bernie Sanders in the New Hampshire primary. If the Russians want to promote disinformation about Buttigieg, does that mean that Putin’s spreaders of fake news fear a former mayor of South Bend as a threat to win the presidency? Maybe not. But chances are that they aren’t interested now in promoting conspiracy theories about Andrew Yang.
  • SOUTH BEND  — After impeachment and Iowa, reelection of President Trump is more likely. If the election were held next Tuesday, he would win again in the Electoral College. Impeachment has helped Trump politically. He has climbed in approval ratings amid the proceedings. The latest Gallup poll finds Trump’s approval rating at 49%, highest since he took office in 2017. The debacle in Iowa Democratic caucus tabulating did more than rob former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg of election night momentum that would have come if there had been vote totals then to reveal his spectacular showing. With no totals at all – not that night, not any until partial results dribbled out late in the afternoon on the following day – the famous first-in-the-nation test with voters brought jokes about Democrats not even able to add up vote totals. Laughter at the bungled process replaced serious analysis of the vote count. There was no count to analyze. The debacle enabled Trump to claim that the Democratic process was “rigged” and that Democrats shouldn’t be trusted with health care if they can’t even count caucus goers.
  • SOUTH BEND — Pete was robbed. Not by criminals. Not by conspirators. Not by anyone wishing him harm. But former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was robbed of the momentum that should have come on election night from his impressive showing,  arguably a win, in the Iowa caucuses. Results dribbling in a night later showed that Buttigieg actually led in the first official totals for capturing delegates from Iowa and was battling Sen. Bernie Sanders for the lead in total votes of caucus goers after their two rounds of deliberations. If the same results had been available Monday night, Buttigieg would have been the big story on television coverage of the caucuses. And his spectacular showing in the first test with voters for the presidential candidates would have been in headlines in the papers the following morning. It would have been the big story. Instead the big story was about the debacle of the vote count in Iowa. No vote count was available Monday night. Or Tuesday morning. Nothing until late Tuesday afternoon. Even then, not complete returns.
  • SOUTH BEND - On this Ground Hog Day, whether Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow means nothing in weather forecasting. But whether the Iowa caucuses cast a shadow tomorrow over some Democratic presidential candidate will mean a lot: Whether that candidate has six more weeks of viability or is left in a hole. Where does South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg need to finish in Iowa to move on with bright prospects rather than heading to New Hampshire under a cloud? If Buttigieg wins - unlikely in most projections - it would be a big upset, a big boost, putting him clearly in the top tier of contenders for weeks to come. Because there may well be no clear, undisputed winner in the complicated tabulating of caucus results, a consensus second would also be a plus. Third leaves him at least viable, especially with funds to carry on through Super Tuesday. Fourth place? Kind of cloudy, with little realistic chance to win the nomination. Expectations loom large in projecting winners and losers in Iowa. A poll showing Buttigieg with a big lead in Iowa in November, if it had come out last week instead, would have made him the front-runner, and anything but first would have been viewed as a defeat. But more recent polls, as other campaigns hit with all-out campaigning and funding, show Bernie Sanders as the likely winner and Joe Biden, once written off in Iowa, with momentum.
  • SOUTH BEND - Mayor Pete wasn’t known as a foreign policy expert while serving as South Bend’s mayor. But then Sen. Bernie Sanders never has been known as a foreign policy expert while serving for so long in the Senate. And the current president doesn’t exactly demonstrate expertise in relations with foreign nations, whether they be friends or foes. So, it will be interesting if foreign policy is — as it should be — a major focus of the Democratic presidential debate at 9 p.m. (ET) Tuesday at Drake University in Iowa. It will feature six candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, billionaire executive Tom Steyer and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. It comes as U.S. Sen. Cory Booker withdrew fron the race Monday morning after failing to make the debate stage. The only one of the debating Democratic candidates with real foreign policy expertise is Joe Biden, the former vice president who long was the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee back when it was powerful and prestigious. He knew the world. The world knew him.

  • SOUTH BEND – As the new year dawned 25 years ago, back in 1995, there were two presidential prospects from Indiana. Neither was the mayor of South Bend, a post now a springboard to a top-tier spot in the quest for a presidential nomination. Joe Kernan, the mayor back then, was popular and went on to serve as lieutenant governor and governor. But nobody in 1995 was suggesting that Mayor Joe should launch a presidential campaign from South Bend the way Mayor Pete has done. The two prospects from Indiana back then were both Republicans, both following the more traditional political path to run for president. One was a senator. The other had been a senator and then vice president of the United States. Dick Lugar. Dan Quayle. Neither made it, of course, and for different reasons.
  • SOUTH BEND – This is a tale of two cities. Of two South Bends. And of how the contrast might be portrayed by a guy named Charles Dickens, famous for something. Was it as a legendary county Democratic chairman from long ago? The contrasting descriptions of South Bend do make it seem like two different cities. It was the best of times since Studebaker folded. It was the worst of times for crime and racial turmoil. It was the age of wisdom – smart streets, smart sewers, enlightened leadership by Mayor Pete. It was the age of foolishness – spending on a beautiful downtown and parks, when so many neighborhoods aren’t so pretty. It was the epoch of belief, with so many buying into the rallying cry of Mayor Pete: “South Bend is back!” It was the epoch of incredulity, with critics scoffing at claims of progress and telling of a terrible place. When Mayor Pete Buttigieg began his long, long long-shot campaign for president earlier this year, he was a salesman for the South Bend, telling at every appearance around the country and on national television that the city, described not so long ago as “dying,” had a new optimistic outlook, finally recovering from decades of doldrums after Studebaker, with economic development, more jobs and decent housing and population gain. The Chamber of Commerce couldn’t have afforded such positive publicity.
  • SOUTH BEND – In their frequent emails to me, Mayor Pete comes across as more confident, more hopeful, than Joe Biden. The former vice president, though he predicts ultimate victory, tells me often that he is worried, fearful of falling behind, and really needs help. Just consider some messages their campaigns sent to me as the end of November fund-raising approached. From Buttigieg: “Hey Jack, The more people get to know Pete, the more people understand that he is the leader we need. “We know that in order to keep growing our support, we have to reach as many voters as possible. We will continue to build our teams on the ground  –  and we know that television is still a great way to deliver key information about Pete’s policies to voters in a fast and effective way. “Our latest TV ad is up on the airwaves today. It shows Pete talking about one of the issues we know is most important to voters in 2020, education and affordability.” “Watch our new television ad and chip in . . . ”From Biden: “Judith, a poll from the Des Moines Register shows us tied for third in Iowa. And if we don’t hit our end-of-month goal, we risk not having the resources to persuade more voters to support Joe. So don’t delete this email. Don’t get distracted checking social media. And please chip in $5 right away!” Why does Joe Biden call me “Judith?” Surely, he knows better. And don’t call me Shirley.
  • SOUTH BEND – National politics, usually of little significance in city elections, was an important factor as James Mueller won the mayoral race in South Bend. It was reflected in the totals in these two examples: Mueller, the choice of Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be his successor, won with 63% of the vote, impressive, but short of the 80% by which Mayor Pete won reelection in 2015. Still, Mueller got more votes this time than Mayor Pete did in that reelection landslide. Election night totals showed Mueller, the Democratic nominee, defeating Republican Sean Haas by 9,261 to 5,341. Four years ago, it was Buttigieg over Republican Kelly Jones by 8,515 to 2,074.
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  • Holcomb delays reopening; says COVID 'on the prowl'
    “Nationwide, collectively, cases are at a peak level. We have to accept the fact that this virus is on the prowl and it’s moving, even within our borders. We are living on virus time, so to speak.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, announcing a shift in the reopening of Indiana's economy during the pandemic, which has surged to 52,000 new cases on Wednesday. He said that Indiana has moved to "stage 4.5" after initially signaling a full reopening by July 4. The restrictions remain until at least July 17, just a few weeks from the scheduled reopening of state schools, universities and fall sports, Indiana cases have remained relatively flat compared to 36 other states, but new hotspots in Evansville and the Lafayettes have joined Elkhart County. Holcomb and Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box urged Hoosiers to wear face masks in public, but did not make it mandatory.
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  • Trump answers Hannity question on what he'd do if elected to a 2nd term
    “Well, one of the things that will be really great, you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. It’s a very important meaning. I never did this before - I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington I think 17 times, all of the sudden, I’m the president of the United States. You know the story, I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, ‘This is great.’ But I didn’t know very many people in Washington, it wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York. Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, like you know an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.” - President Trump, answering this question from Fox News' Sean Hannity at a Wisconsin town hall Thursday: “What’s at stake in this election as you compare and contrast, and what are your top priority items for a second term?”
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