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Sunday, September 20, 2020
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  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • Coats calls for bipartisan election oversight commission
    "The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond. The most important part of an effective response is to finally, at long last, forge a genuinely bipartisan effort to save our democracy, rejecting the vicious partisanship that has disabled and destabilized government for too long. If we cannot find common ground now, on this core issue at the very heart of our endangered system, we never will. Our key goal should be reassurance. We must firmly, unambiguously reassure all Americans that their vote will be counted, that it will matter, that the people’s will expressed through their votes will not be questioned and will be respected and accepted. I propose that Congress creates a new mechanism to help accomplish this purpose. It should create a supremely high-level bipartisan and nonpartisan commission to oversee the election." - Former national intelligence director and Indiana senator Dan Coats, in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday morning. 
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  • Woodward on why Coats didn't speak out on Trump
    Bob Woodward, the author of the new book “Rage” discussed the way in which President Trump diminished former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former DNI Dan Coats and why he thinks Mattis and Coats have not publicly spoken about the president. “It’s almost a book in itself,” Woodward said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday. “This was a man who was a senator from Indiana. He was retiring and he was offered this job from Mike Pence, and felt he could not say no. He went in with these Republican values and was stunned, shocked and, in a way, just ground down from Trump’s refusal to accept reality.” Woodward said that at one point Mattis and Coats talked after a National Security Council meeting. “Mattis says that Trump has no moral compass. And Coats says, ‘Donald Trump,’ their leader, ‘does not know the difference between a lie and the truth.’ They were in the latter phase of their lives. (Trump) pulled all of these stunts in a way that led them to the point where, in Coats’s case, his wife Marsha said to him, ‘Look, Dan, God put you in this job. You’re not just failing the country, yourself and your family, but God and you need to get organized.’ Trump expelled him when it did not serve Trump’s purposes.”  - Brian A. Howey, publisher
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