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Monday, April 6, 2020
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  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • Pence says U.S. pandemic is 'comparable' to Italy
    “We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point.” - Vice President Pence, to CNN on Wednesday, after he was asked how severe the COVID-19 pandemic will get in the United States. The pandemic has hit Italy the hardest to date.
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  • President Trump, Gov. Holcomb address the pandemic in their own words
    The COVID-19 pandemic is becoming the story of our time. As Sen. Todd Young explained, unlike the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the Oil Shock recession of 1979-82, what we are experiencing today is a double hammer: A pandemic and a severe economic panic. The Hoosier State is poised to go from a historic low 3.1% unemployment rate to double digits in the span of a month. At least one pandemic model says 2,400 Hoosiers will die.

    Tough times shift our attention to leadership. Here are quotes from President Trump and Gov. Eric Holcomb as the pandemic approached the U.S. and then impacted our nation and state.

    President Trump

    Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” – CNBC interview.

    Feb. 10: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” – New Hampshire rally.

    Feb. 24: “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock market starting to look very good to me!” – On Twitter.

    Feb. 25: “China is working very, very hard. I have spoken to President Xi, and they are working very hard. If you know anything about him, I think he will be in pretty good shape. I think that is a problem that is going to go away.”

    Feb. 26: “We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.” – At a White House news conference.
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