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Tuesday, February 25, 2020
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  • 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.
  • SOUTH BEND – Many Republicans, and some independents and moderate Democrats, could face a real dilemma in the 2020 presidential election. Conservative columnist and commentator David Brooks recently put it this way: “If the general election campaign turns out to be Trump vs. Warren, what the heck are we supposed to do?” Brooks is indeed a conservative but no supporter of President Trump, which makes sense. Trump is no conservative. He is a big-spending, big-government, big deficit (now at $1 trillion) president constantly seeking to expand, not limit, presidential powers. But many conservatives overlook that and his character flaws because of his judicial appointments and stands on social issues. It’s far from certain that it will be President Trump vs. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

  • SOUTH BEND – That ancient document called the Constitution doesn’t seem to mean much anymore to many Americans, including some elected officials who swear to preserve, protect and defend it. Here is a quiz about the Constitution.

    1. The three branches of the federal government are:
    a. Senate, House and FBI.
    b. State, Treasury and Defense.
    c. Executive, legislative and judicial.

    2. Executive powers allow the president to:
    a. Grant pardons, even to Rudy Giuliani.
    b. Shoot somebody in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue.
    c. Declare war.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete Buttigieg is winning high grades from news media analysts for his debate performance last week, primarily for strong articulation of workable approaches to health care, gun controls and use of military abroad. He clashed, however, with other candidates with more aggressive approaches, such as the call of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, emerging frontrunner, on “Medicare for All.” Mayor Pete supports instead “Medicare for All Who Want It,” allowing those preferring to stick with their private health insurance plans to do so. He is running for the Democratic nomination in a more moderate lane than the “revolution” lane of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is accompanied in that most progressive lane by Warren. Clearly, the time had come for Buttigieg to get combative in debate to stake out differences and edge closer to the top tier, former Vice President Joe Biden, Warren and Sanders. Tricky to do. Could he be more combative without destroying his favorable image of being thoughtful, reasonable and intellectual? He seems to have done it. A New York Times analysis was: “Buttigieg’s biggest night yet.” 
  • SOUTH BEND – Note to Democrats: Be careful what you wish for. It just might come true, with unpleasant consequences. Like President Mike Pence. Many Democrats wish that President Trump would go. Quickly. Before the 2020 election. Through impeachment. Well, it appears likely now that the Democratic-controlled House will vote to impeach Trump. But that only sends impeachment charges to the Republican-controlled Senate, where chances that the president would be convicted and removed from office range from highly unlikely to none at all. Still, some Democrats hold out hope - wishing fervently - that Trump could be implicated so deeply in impeachable conduct and become so clearly unhinged that Senate Republicans would join in a two-thirds vote to remove him from the White House. If the unexpected happened, if that Democratic wish came true, Vice President Mike Pence would become president.
  • SOUTH BEND – Why Iowa? Why would Mayor Pete Buttigieg already be opening 20 campaign offices there, with 100 organizers, and with further expansion likely before the Iowa caucuses next Feb. 3? Why, in a state with demographics not typical of the nation’s population, are these caucuses – meetings where a show of hands rather than ballots can determine the count – so darn important? Credit or blame goes to Jimmy Carter. Carter, who began his presidential quest as a former Georgia governor with little national name recognition and seemingly no chance for the White House, spent two years campaigning in Iowa, attracting the attention of the national news media and drawing other contenders into the suddenly important 1976 Iowa caucuses.
  • SOUTH BEND – Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders were separated by only a few feet, but by more than 40 years in age. Mayor Pete, 37, and Sen. Sanders, 78, were situated next to each other at the Democratic presidential debate Thursday night in accord with their standings in the polls. Is one too old? Passé? Is the other too young? Not ready? Is there some other candidate who’s just right, not necessarily with age but with electability? Viewers could draw their conclusions as they watched the performances of the 10 leading candidates for the Democratic nomination. It’s a diverse group. And the different approaches of Buttigieg and Sanders were shown clearly as they stood side by side in the long and tense debate.
  • SOUTH BEND – “It’s the economy, stupid.” That’s the famous admonition to Bill Clinton’s campaign staffers attributed to James Carville, the colorful Clinton strategist in the 1992 upset of President George H.W. Bush. Bush, a very good president, especially in foreign affairs, handling so well the collapse of the old Soviet Union, had “unbeatable” approval ratings a year before. Well, it was the economy, or rather the perception of the economy and what Bush was doing about it, that enabled Clinton to win. Two points of clarification: 1. The headquarters message posted by Carville actually had no “It’s.” It was simply, “The economy, stupid.” 2. The brief recession during Bush’s presidency actually was over, recovery underway before the 1992 campaign started. But Carville was right. Clinton won. The perception of how the economy is doing and what the president is doing about it is a potent political factor in presidential politics.
  • SOUTH BEND – Let’s look at some questions about the top 10 candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination and their competition for the first time all together on the same debate stage. Q. How did it get down to a top 10 appearing on one night? A. After those first two rounds of debates, in which a field of 20 qualifiers was split for two nights of debating in Miami and then Detroit, the Democratic National Committee made qualification harder, including needing to reach at least 2% in four major polls conducted nationwide or in early primary states. Q. Good decision? A. Of course. It’s time to get down to serious competition among candidates with the most realistic chances for the presidential nomination so that voters can focus on them without distraction from some others with no chance at all. Q. Did Mayor Pete have any difficulty qualifying? A. No. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg qualified long ago through both the required number of donors and rankings in many polls. Q. Will Buttigieg have a chance to shine in this debate with all the other top contenders on Sept. 12 in Houston? A. A chance. Probably a limited chance.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete won’t be on the ballot in South Bend this fall. James Mueller will be there as the Democratic nominee for mayor. And Mueller has a problem. How does he run for mayor after he’s already won the election? Mueller, who frequently is asked just that, says he will campaign door-to-door extensively, paying special attention to the two districts in South Bend where he lost in the Democratic primary in May. He trailed significantly in the 2nd and 6th districts on the city’s West Side but won decisively citywide with pluralities in the other four districts. “Some people think I’m mayor already,” Mueller says. At some of the doors where he already has knocked, Mueller hears things like: “What are you doing here? You don’t have to sweat it.”
  • SOUTH BEND  –  Bullets don’t care. Nor do military-style weapons from which they fly. Assault rifles don’t care whether they are used to kill little kids in a school, teens in their high school, worshipers in synagogues and churches, shoppers at that El Paso Walmart or people enjoying a weekend in Dayton’s entertainment district. The shooters care. They want to bring death, grief, terror. They plan for this, hope for this, seek recognition for this. How many elected officials – those who could act to restrict use of uncaring assault weapons spewing uncaring bullets – care enough to act? Care at all? The answer to that is what happened in El Paso and Dayton. We become numb to news of mass shootings. There have been more mass shootings than days of the year so far in 2019. As of Aug. 5, the 217th day of the year, there were 255 mass shootings, incidents with at least four people shot. The Dayton carnage was especially shocking for me. Nine were killed, dozens injured in 32 seconds of rapid fire of uncaring bullets from an uncaring military-style weapon used by a shooter seeking mayhem and martyrdom. This occurred in Dayton’s Oregon District, the city’s entertainment district, with fine restaurants, trendy bars, interesting shops and historic structures. Just the night before in that popular area, my son, Steve, executive producer in TV news there, my daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and my granddaughter, Claire, walked by Ned Peppers, the bar the shooter tried to enter to kill so many more. 
  • SOUTH BEND  – The next round of Democratic debating will be different. The number of presidential candidates participating will be trimmed from the 20 competing in the first two rounds. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg already makes the cut and will be on stage again in the Sept. 12-13 debating in Houston. Questions? Q. Who won in the Wednesday night debate in Detroit? A. Donald Trump. Q. How did Mayor Pete do in the Tuesday night debate? A. Quite well. He wasn’t the winner. Elizabeth Warren came off the best. But Buttigieg stayed above the level of personal attacks against other Democratic candidates that made the Wednesday brawlers look petty. And he actually directed his criticism at Trump policies, not at Democratic policies of the past.
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  • Judy Sheets wins third ballot caucus for Frankfort mayor
    "It’s un-believable! It’s the best day of my life. I love it. It’s something I’ve always wanted and something I’ve always dreamed of. Never thought I was going to get to do it. They can expect me to be out there engaging them in some of these things in the city. I’m going to surround myself with good people and we’re going to move the city forward in a positive way.” - Frankfort Mayor Judy Sheets, who won a third-ballot Republican caucus on Saturday to replace Mayor Chris McBarnes, who resigned last month to take a job in Wyoming. Sheets is the former clerk-treasurer who becomes Frankfort's second female mayor.
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  • Pence, Holcomb, Buttigieg head 2020 HPI Power 50
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY in Indianapolis
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR., 
    in Washington

    As we unveil the 2020 version of the Howey Politics Indiana Power 50 List, Hoosiers appear to be relatively satisfied with their state government, unsure about the federals and specifically President Trump, and are most concerned about health care and the economy.

    These are the latest survey numbers from the We Ask America Poll conducted in early December for the Indiana Manufacturers Association. They accentuate the formulation of our annual Power 50 list headed by Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Eric Holcomb, former South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, and the state’s two Republican senators who will likely sit in judgment (and acquittal) of President Trump in an impeachment trial later this month. 

    As Pence appears to be heading off thinly veiled attempts by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to get him off the 2020 ticket, Hoosiers by 47.4% approve to 47.7% disapprove of President Trump’s job performance. This is consistent with 2019 polling by Ball State University and Morning Consult. On the national right/wrong track, just 37% of registered voters in Indiana feel that the country is headed in the right direction, while a majority, 52%, say that things have gotten off on the wrong track, including 51% of independents and 26% of Republicans. Among female voters, the right/wrong track split is 29%/58%.

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