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Wednesday, November 25, 2020
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  • SOUTH BEND – Blue wave? Not in Indiana. It’s still Trumpiana. There was a purple tide, with just enough touch of blue, in the key Great Lakes states, the battlegrounds of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, to turn them away from President Donald Trump and to President-elect Joe Biden. Indiana, with such a decisive outcome that it was the first state declared by TV networks for Trump, didn’t matter. Well, except that it mattered for dispirited and far outnumbered Hoosier Democrats. They had talked about, dreamed about and looked for a blue wave, not seriously expecting the state to register Democratic in the Electoral College, but with hope at least to win some other races and be relevant. The wave swept through Indiana. It was red. Bright red. President Trump won Indiana again by a landslide, rivaling his 2016 blowout victory.
  • 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they had instead voted for Clinton, an environmentalist who wouldn’t have dropped out of the Paris climate accord and repealed environmental regulations.
  • SOUTH BEND — Let’s look at election prospects in Indiana, Michigan and the rest of the nation after a chaotic first presidential debate, the superspreader in the Rose Garden, that spread even to President Trump and the vice-presidential debate. Q. Who’s ahead? A. Joe Biden. All the polls show it. Biden stretched his lead after Trump’s unhinged debate performance and again when the president, who scoffed at masks and the seriousness of the coronavirus, wound up hospitalized with the virus. On Thursday, Nate Silver, the guru of presidential forecasting, moved Biden’s chances of winning up to 85%. Q. With the election so close, is Biden certain to win? A. No. Q. What could happen? A. A lot. More surprises no doubt lie ahead. As president, Trump can and undoubtedly will spring surprises. Something totally unexpected could sway opinions. Remember how the FBI director’s surprise announcement of allegedly new Hillary Clinton emails was devastating at campaign close in 2016. Also, consider what that 85% chance of winning means.
  • SOUTH BEND — So often in a political debate, it’s not something said on issues, the actual words, that has the most impact with voters. It’s how a candidate looks and acts while saying it. Thus it was that the first presidential debate, although ridiculed as a train wreck, a miserable mess, and justifiably so, was a campaign event with potential impact on the presidential election. While analysts focus now on what President Trump said about the Proud Boys and what former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t say about expanding the Supreme Court, most of the millions viewing the debate focused on neither. Most never had heard of the Proud Boys and didn’t hear the reference amid the chaotic exchanges of three people talking at the same time. Most weren’t waiting anxiously to hear about the number of justices. Trump lost an opportunity to gain support he desperately needs to catch up when he looked so angry, so red-faced, as he acted in such a bullying way, shouting over efforts of Biden and moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News to be heard. It wasn’t what he said  that was rambling, hard for viewers to follow. It was how he said it as he raged at Biden and Wallace.
  • SOUTH BEND — South Bend always is in the national news as home of a top contender for president or Supreme Court justice. Always? Well, just think of them all in national headlines over the decades before now. Before former Mayor Pete Buttigieg won the Iowa caucuses, becoming a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and Amy Coney Barrett, appeals court judge and Notre Dame law school professor, becoming a top contender and then final choice of President Trump for nomination to the Supreme Court. Those others? There was Schuyler Colfax, House speaker and vice president in the days of Lincoln and Grant. Then a bit of a gap. OK, South Bend, though home over the decades for outstanding people in many fields, hasn’t been thought of as the cradle of the nationally prominent for the highest political or judicial posts in the land. Not really a stepping stone.
  • SOUTH BEND — Rodney Dangerfield got more respect than Democratic candidates for statewide office in Indiana receive. Dangerfield, the late comedian who constantly quipped that he got no respect, actually was a winner in the entertainment field. The Indiana Democratic candidates all have been losers in recent elections. Republicans currently hold all six Statehouse executive offices and both U.S. Senate seats, everything elected statewide. One Democratic candidate for statewide office this time has a chance. Just one. It’s a chance only if there’s ticket-splitting by enough of the majority of Hoosiers who are expected vote for Republicans at the top of the ticket, President Donald Trump and Gov. Eric Holcomb. The one Democrat with a chance is former Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, the party’s nominee for attorney general, an office a Democrat hasn’t won since 1996.
  • 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. 
  • SOUTH BEND —  Our class will be on line today. Still too many positive tests around here to meet in person for this quiz on the presidential election.

    1. Which convention brought a big bounce in the polls?
         a. Democratic Convention for Biden.
         b. Republican Convention for Trump.
         c. No big bounce from either.

    2. Which network drew by far the most viewers during the Democratic Convention?

         a. Fox News.
         b. MSNBC.
         c. CBS.
  • SOUTH BEND — Hi Q, I’m Jack. You don’t know me. And I guess you probably wouldn’t like me. I’m a journalist. But I know you. Well, not really, because your identity is mysterious. I know, however, that you, whoever you are, promote the widely spreading QAnon conspiracy theories. That’s some wild stuff, Q. The world is run by a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles operating a child-trafficking ring? Hillary Clinton is involved in abuse of kids in the basement of a Washington pizza restaurant? Pizzagate? So, Q, how did you come up with this stuff? Did you get mushrooms instead of the pepperoni you ordered for your pizza at that place? Is it all pepperoni revenge? Why do you claim that cabal leaders not only molest kids but even kill and cannibalize their victims? Is this because those leaders, the ones you cite, like Oprah Winfrey, Pope Francis, Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, also got some lousy pizza?
  • SOUTH BEND — Never before was a state delegation’s vote cast from South Bend. It was when former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, the recent presidential nomination candidate, announced: “Here in South Bend, we once feared our best days were behind us. But then we reimagined our economy.” The city’s economy wasn’t the only thing reimagined. The whole Democratic National Convention was. Buttigieg announced the delegation’s overwhelming support for Joe Biden as the unprecedented roll call of the states took place from sites in the states, not as was traditional in a packed convention hall. Now, this week on TV, “The Trump Show.” The Republican National Convention also will be a virtual event, reimagined, but with a far different message. It will be all about praise for President Donald J. Trump, who controls everything at this convention. It’s his show. His party.
  • SOUTH BEND — In sports, a lot depends on the way the ball bounces. In presidential politics, a lot depends – or at least it often has – on the way the convention bounces. Traditionally, a presidential nominee gets a bounce upward in the polls after the nominee’s national political convention. Since I’ve had the good fortune in the past to cover 20 national conventions, 10 Republican, 10 Democratic, I’ve written a lot about the bounces, about the expectations of the delegates in the convention hall, about the projections of the pundits and about the actual bounce or lack thereof in the polls after delegates and pundits depart the convention site. The conventions this month will be different. Very different. No packed convention hall. No wild demonstrations of support for the presidential nominee. No balloon drop as the convention reaches a finale, with enthusiasm up as thousands of balloons come down. The conventions, still needed to officially name nominees and set a tone for the party, this time will be virtual, not traditional in a packed hall, because of the pandemic that has grown worse in this country.
  • SOUTH BEND – The email update came with this subject line: “Still a ‘former Republican.’” It came from former Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, elected and reelected to that office as a Republican. He also was a top assistant to Dan Quayle, when Quayle was a senator from Indiana and then vice president. Zoeller for decades was an unwavering conservative Hoosier Republican. Then, in his view, the Republican Party at the federal level wavered away from him. During an interview a month after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Zoeller, leaving office after his second term as attorney general, described himself as “a former Republican.” In his email update, Zoeller said: “Now, a few years later, it’s abundantly clear that the GOP is not likely to return to the party I joined anytime soon.” With further email exchanges and a long phone conversation, Zoeller explained why he is a “former Republican” when it comes to the presidential election but still a Republican in state and local politics. He will vote for Joe Biden. Why? Zoeller said that President Trump doesn’t fit his definition of a conservative Republican. Not with expanding rather than limiting federal government, sharply increasing the national debt, rejecting past Republican concerns for Free World alliances and fair trade and displaying a divisive demeanor, the exact opposite of the approach of past Hoosier Republican leaders such as Sen. Dick Lugar.
  • SOUTH BEND - Joe Kernan always celebrated his “Shoot Down Day.” Every May 7. On May 7, 1972, his Navy plane was shot down while on a reconnaissance flight over North Vietnam. Kernan ejected before the plane crashed. He survived without critical injury, though unconscious on the way down. He was captured, beaten and then held as a prisoner of war for 11 months, much of this in the notorious “Hanoi Hilton” prison. Why celebrate the anniversary of when he was shot down rather than the anniversary of when he was freed? Kernan once told me it was because the date of the day when freedom was taken away reminded him of the freedom he could now enjoy. Freedom on that date to do exactly what he wanted. He always celebrated with pizza and cold beer at Rocco’s, free from enduring myriad meals of only hated pumpkin soup in Vietnam. “I never forget the 7th of May,” he said. “As often as not I forget about the anniversary of the day I came home.” With Kernan’s death, his accomplishments after he came home are recalled by governmental leaders from around the state and also by folks around South Bend who knew him personally. He was elected three times as mayor, the governmental job he said he enjoyed the most. He was elected twice as lieutenant governor and became governor with the death of Gov. Frank O’Bannon.
  • SOUTH BEND – President Trump’s speeches are fascinating. I watched all of his speech at that Tulsa rally, all one hour and 40 minutes of it. Fascinating speech. On the July 4th weekend, I watched all of the president’s Mount Rushmore speech, this one short by his standards, only 40 minutes, but long on his declaration of a cultural war against teachers, journalists and corporate executives promoting “a new far-left fascism that demands absolute allegiance.” Fascinating speech. Some family members and friends to whom I send text messages to alert them of a Trump oration in progress say they can’t stand to listen to him. I can. It’s fascinating. You don’t have to agree with all, many or any of the things said in order to be intensely interested in hearing and analyzing the content and likely reaction of the nation to pronouncements by the president of the United States. I recall hearing from people who said they couldn’t stand to listen to another president, Barack Obama. That made no sense. Neither does refusing to listen to the current president.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mike Schmuhl, campaign manager for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential bid, answers questions here about that surprising race from nowhere to top-tier candidacy. Q. Mike, when you and Pete began planning the campaign in that tiny office downtown, with only a couple of helpers, little funding and no standing in the polls, what chance did you think he had for the nomination? A. You’re right. Back then we didn’t have much. At the same time, we didn’t have that much to lose. The nominating process is such a long slog. I would say at the beginning we were thinking more in terms of week-to-week and month-to-month to build our effort. We felt as though Pete’s profile matched the moment, and that Democrats would take a good look at a candidate with different experiences and a futuristic vision of a more united America. And, many people did. Q. The organization really grew. How big? A. In South Bend, we had about 165 team members on two floors of the KeyBank building downtown. Across the country, we topped out at 575 full-time team members right before the Iowa caucuses.
  • 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.
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  • 65% of Hoosiers voted in November election
    “We continue to see that candidates and issues drive turnout. Presidential elections tend to have higher turnout rates. That held true this year with 65% of Hoosiers turning out to vote, the highest percentage we’ve seen since 1992.” - Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, releasing totals for the Nov. 3 election which saw 4.7 million Hoosiers vote. In 2016 and 2012, voter turnout was at 58%. In 2008, 62% of registered Hoosiers voted in the General Election. Hamilton and Wells Counties had the highest turnout in the state with 75% turnout, followed by Greene, Hancock, Whitley at 74%.
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  • Trump and Biden priorities

    With American pandemic deaths crossing the 250,000 threshold, President Trump made calls to Michigan local election officials and is inviting legislators to the White House, while President-elect Joe Biden was talking to stressed out front line medical workers. That explains their priorities. Trump is attempting to undermine the American election system, with a Reuters/Ipsos Poll showing that 68% of Republicans now believing the election was "rigged."

    There are Republicans beginning to speak up (though none from Indiana). “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election," said Sen. Mitt Romney. "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.” And Sen. Ben Sasse said, "President Trump lost Michigan by more than 100,000 votes, and the campaign and its allies have lost in or withdrawn from all five lawsuits in Michigan for being unable to produce any evidence. Wild press conferences erode public trust. We are a nation of laws, not tweets.” The damage to our most precious American cornerstone is stunning, disgusting and sad, and the whole world is watching. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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