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Monday, August 20, 2018
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  • SOUTH BEND – Sen. Joe Donnelly believes in campaigning. The old style of campaigning. What he calls a “grind it out” style. Meeting voters here, there, everywhere, all over the state. That’s why, during the Senate recess, the politically endangered Democrat traveled to every corner of the state and in the middle, too, on a seven-day tour that ended Thursday. Donnelly said in an interview that he found health care the No. 1 issue with Hoosiers, with strong support for the Affordable Care Act provision for insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, especially for children. And of course he reminded voters everywhere, as he did at an event in LaPorte Wednesday night, that he cast a crucial vote to keep Senate Republicans from repealing that provision along with other parts of the health care law.
  • SOUTH BEND - Readers ask why Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the Republican incumbent in Indiana’s 2nd District, agreed to three televised debates with Democratic challenger Mel Hall. She refused televised debates with the prior two Democratic challengers and won big each time. So, why change? No mystery. When refusing to debate became more damaging politically than any damage likely to occur in debates, Walorski wisely decided to “welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues that matter most to Hoosier families.” She declined televised debate in campaigns against the prior two Democratic nominees, Joe Bock in 2014 and Lynn Coleman in 2016, because their challenges were not serious threats. The candidates were serious, of course, and tried hard. But they lacked the resources and organizations to come close. Incumbents with leads, Democrats as well as Republicans, traditionally are advised by their political consultants to avoid debates that give lesser-known challengers enhanced name recognition and a chance to hammer at some telling issue or silly mistake and perhaps catch up. 

  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg should run for president. Here’s why: He would have nothing to lose. He potentially would have a lot to gain. Buttigieg, I think, will run for president. And will not win. Nothing to lose? But won’t win? Is there a conflict in that analysis? No. Buttigieg twice before has won by losing. He could again. In 2010, Buttigieg, then just 28 years old, was the Democratic nominee for state treasurer. He had little name recognition initially even in hometown South Bend. He had scant financing for a statewide race and no chance, losing amid a Republican landslide to Richard Mourdock. Yes, that Richard Mourdock, the guy who went on to self-destruct in a U.S. Senate race against Joe Donnelly. For state treasurer, Mourdock couldn’t lose and Buttigieg couldn’t win in a Republican year in which no Democrat running statewide even came close.Except, Buttigieg won by losing. In running a race that more prominent and experienced Democrats wouldn’t risk, Buttigieg impressed party officials with his intellect and ability to articulate issues.
  • SOUTH BEND – I’ve always liked Dan Coats. And now I’ve been reminded why. Indiana voters liked Coats enough to send him to the Senate in three elections, but he never had widespread approval. Many Democrats bashed him as a right-winger. Many Republican right-wingers criticized him as too much of a nice guy for effective eye-gouging politics. Some just brushed off Coats as “that other Dan,” successful only as a protégé of Dan Quayle, taking offices “inherited” as Quayle moved up the political ladder. Coats always had a very conservative voting record, but he often sought to reach across the aisle for compromise. He once told me in his final Senate term, as he was deciding not to run again, that he was disgusted with the vicious divisiveness preventing compromise for a united approach to problems from the deficit at home to the “wildfires all over the world,” security threats abroad that he saw as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Coats talked straight. Still does.
  • SOUTH BEND  –  A leak in the roof is bad, nobody wants that. The leak to the Indianapolis Star of a report by four women of groping misconduct by Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill at a legislative sine die (final adjournment) party was good, too. Hill didn’t want it, but it could even be good for Hill. If it had not been leaked, legislative leaders apparently would have kept it secret. They reacted initially with horror about the leak, not horror about the allegations by the women. Now, they find the reported conduct so despicable that they call for Hill to resign. The report apparently wasn’t so despicable before it was leaked to the Star. Much of the political speculation is that the damaging report about Hill, a Republican and former Elkhart County prosecutor, was leaked by Republican sources. That’s based on the animosity toward him because of his maneuvering to challenge Gov. Eric Holcomb for the 2020 Republican nomination for governor.
  • SOUTH BEND –  Elections matter. Not all elections. Russia’s vote in March didn’t matter. Reelection of Vladimir Putin was preordained. Who was permitted to run, what could be said in campaigning and what journalists could report about any of it were controlled. It was a foregone conclusion that Putin would win by a landslide and that the election would have no effect on him or his policies. But our elections matter. We can change leaders and the course of the nation. Sometimes we do, other times we stay the course. The 2016 presidential election was one of the most important ever in changing the nation’s course. It was close. Nothing was preordained. And the results mattered. A lot.
       
  • SOUTH BEND – With the nation split, angry and fearful even for safety of kids in their schools, with faith in institutions and the rule of law eroding, with the threat of trade wars and real wars from Korea to Iran and with a president relishing divisiveness as a sign of successful disruption, some Americans ask if these are the worst of times. Oft heard is the question: Have you ever seen it this bad? Yes. Worse. We would not have to go back to the Civil War to find a time when the nation was torn more by internal disagreements and filled with more trepidation. Just go back to 1968. That year is getting a lot of attention in TV documentaries and national publications because it now is the 50th anniversary of events then that shook the nation. The split in 1968 was worse because it involved a terrible war with casualties mounting in Vietnam. Escalation was bringing higher casualty counts rather than the victory promised by the Pentagon. Sentiment was growing that it was a no-win war with useless loss of limbs and lives.
  • SOUTH BEND – In almost any field other than politics, experience is valued. Would people facing surgery choose an experienced surgeon or one who never before operated? Would people facing a day in court choose an experienced attorney or one who never before handled a case? Would people facing a flood in their home choose an experienced plumber or a guy down the street who never had done plumbing work but promised to give it a darn good try? Many American voters these days seem to regard experience in politics and government as something negative in evaluating candidates. Even though seeing the difficulties encountered by newcomers unprepared for handling the tasks of government, often with disastrous results, the concept lingers that ignorance of government is smart, that boasting of not being a politician is a keen qualification for political office and that experience in public service is a disqualification. How this plays out in political campaigns today is shown in the race for U.S. Senate in Indiana. Mike Braun, the Republican nominee, served for three years as a state representative, winning elections to the Indiana House in 2014 and 2016 and resigning near the end of 2017 to make his U.S. Senate run. Does Braun cite this experience as he seeks the Senate seat? No. He hides it, stressing instead that he is a political “outsider,” a businessman, not a politician.
  • SOUTH BEND – President Trump has left town and TV ads by Republican Senate candidates attacking each other have disappeared. Questions remain. Q. Why did Trump fly here for a big rally in Elkhart right after the Indiana primary? A. Joe Donnelly. Q. The president took Air Force One here because he wanted to ridicule Donnelly as “Sleepin’ Joe” and “swamp person” in the Democratic senator’s home area? A. Right. Indiana’s Senate race is targeted by Republicans as crucial to hopes of retaining and even expanding their control of the Senate. They know Donnelly is vulnerable, a Democrat in a Republican-voting state that Trump won by a ton. Q. But why the hurry for Trump to bring his wrath against Donnelly so quickly after the primary election? A. Quick timing was due to those vicious TV attacks against each other by the three Republicans fighting to become the challenger to Donnelly this fall. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence came quickly to seek GOP unity against Donnelly after that primary election fight with Mike Braun, the winner, and Congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer savaging each other. Braun was there to embrace Trump as his inspiration and to pledge foursquare Senate support.
  • SOUTH BEND – Indiana’s 2nd District will be a battleground this fall, certain to be targeted by Democrats nationally in the quest to capture enough Republican-held congressional seats to gain control of the House. Democratic congressional nominee Mel Hall, who won impressively in the primary election Tuesday, now challenges Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, who seeks a fourth term. She won by a ton in 2016 in a district solidly for Donald Trump. She will be difficult to upset. But Hall, a former corporate CEO with a moderate Democratic approach similar to that of Sen. Joe Donnelly, who once represented the district in the House, is an ideal challenger for a Republican-flavored area. He demonstrated fundraising ability and campaign skill in warding off two determined opponents in the primary and winning in all 10 counties of the district. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) is certain now to focus top targeting on the 2nd in its “Red to Blue” effort to flip enough Republican seats to Democratic challengers to gain control of the House. 
  • SOUTH BEND – Mel Hall, front-runner for the Democratic congressional nomination in Indiana’s 2nd District, is taking no chances. He plans to continue an all-out campaign effort, including television appeals hitting the entire district, right up until the May 8 primary election. Smart. The former CEO of Press Ganey, South Bend-based collector of data on patient satisfaction for hospitals nationally, has five opponents for the nomination. Two wage determined campaigns. Although Hall and his campaign strategists exude confidence of winning, they want to take no chances that either Pat Hackett or Yatish Joshi, chief rivals for the nomination, could slip in front of the front-runner. In old-school political theory, however, Hall would be viewed as making a costly mistake. Old-school traditionalists would question why Hall, if he really is a confident front-runner, is “wasting” so much money on the primary election. 
  • SOUTH BEND  – A blue wave is forecast for November. That’s a safe political prediction – kind of like forecasting that it will snow in South Bend in December. But we don’t know for sure the accumulated inches of early-winter December snow. Nor do we know if that Democratic wave will be strong enough to sweep away Republican control of the U.S. House when voters go to the polls in November. Enthusiastic supporters of the three candidates with serious bids for the Democratic congressional nomination in Indiana’s 2nd District talk confidently of a powerful wave, set in motion by an unpopular President Trump, sweeping away Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski. And if Walorski, who won so big in 2016 in the 2nd, a district Trump carried by 20 percentage points, is upset? It would be part of a blue wave nationally likely to bring Democratic control of the House.
  • SOUTH BEND – Todd Young is the other senator from Indiana. NOT the one featured in all those TV ads with contradictory portrayal of either awful or wonderful. Nor is he cited nationally as facing the toughest Senate race in the nation –  costly, close and critical. Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent seeking reelection, gets all that attention. Sen. Todd Young, the Republican who defeated Evan Bayh for the Senate in 2016, has four more years before he again faces the hot lights of election focus. But that doesn’t mean that Young isn’t making a mark in the Senate. He is. Quietly. Working on legislation. Working also on bipartisanship rather than attention-getting partisan bluster to win time on cable news shows. “I’m an independent-minded, center-right conservative Republican,” Young says. “But I went to Washington to get things done. Typically, that requires developing strong relationships with your Democratic colleagues.” He is co-sponsoring a bill with Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
  • SOUTH BEND - When Bobby Kennedy came to South Bend on Dyngus Day 50 years ago, a highlight was his appearance at the packed West Side Democratic & Civic Club in the heart of a large, vote-vital Polish-American area. But that wasn’t the only highlight of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s South Bend campaigning in 1968. Kennedy faced a tough, nationally-watched contest, a must-win test for him. Could he capture the Kennedy “magic,” the charisma of President John F. Kennedy, his slain brother? Could he win in a Midwest state like Indiana? Could he defeat another anti-war candidate, Sen. Gene McCarthy, who had a head start in seeking the presidential nomination? Could he also in a three-candidate race defeat Indiana Gov. Roger Branigin, a stand-in for Hubert Humphrey endorsed by the state Democratic organization and The Indianapolis Star, both then powerful politically? In stories ever since about Dyngus Day, the Monday-after-Easter event that spreads now far beyond Polish-American neighborhoods, accounts focus on Kennedy swaying the crowd at the West Side Club. He spoke greetings in Polish, sang a Polish song, hailed Revolutionary War contributions of Polish patriots and even brought along a genuine Polish prince.
  • SOUTH BEND – Will President Donald Trump bring his rally show to Indiana to insult Sen. Joe Donnelly, coining a belittling nickname and worse, while also ridiculing other Democrats running for House seats? Could he stay away? Would he be wanted by all the Republican nominees? Would he help them? Hurt them? Perhaps do neither? These are questions to ponder as Indiana braces for one of the most expensive Senate races in the nation, with money flowing to TV stations for political ads as fast as those St. Joseph River waters flowed at flood stage. Also, there will be some contested House races potentially important for control of that chamber. Even if the president’s approval ratings remain low nationally during the fall campaign, thus raising the question of whether he would help or hurt candidates for whom he campaigns, it seems unlikely that Trump could stay away from Indiana. Huge race. Huge national media focus. Huge domination of news cycles. Would Trump suddenly shy away from the spotlight?
         
  • SOUTH BEND  – So, you think you know who won those games so far in the NCAA basketball tournament. Some of you, thinking you’re better than Digger Phelps ever was as an analyst, proudly display wins on your tournament brackets. (Not all of us of course have “W” marked all over our pool entries.) At least you know which teams won, right? In many cases you saw the outcome on TV, maybe even in person. Newspaper headlines and stories proclaim the winners. You think you know who won. You could be wrong. Remember, we’re talking about the NCAA. History revisionists in the NCAA could declare that what you saw doesn’t count. 
  • SOUTH BEND – What difference does it make? How that question was answered in 2016 helped to elect President Trump. A decisive number of potential Democratic voters in key states decided it didn’t make much difference whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, each disliked for various reasons, was president. They stayed home on Election Day; Trump went to the White House. What difference does it make? How that question is answered this November could determine whether Democrats win control of the House and whether politically endangered Democratic senators such as Joe Donnelly in Indiana win or lose. Democrats, with a shot at control of the House, are divided still in many places, replaying the Bernie vs. Hillary saga. 
  • SOUTH BEND – The shooting at that Parkland, Fla., high school was a lucky break. It came just in time. Our poor gun industry has been facing tough times, with sales and profits down. The money-making deals between gun merchants, the NRA and Congress were becoming less lucrative for one partner, the gun industry. A New York Times story on the plight of the industry, warns that Remington, one of our oldest and largest gun makers, has been talking of bankruptcy. What is this country coming to? Well, that Florida shooter could have acted just in time to make our gun industry great again. The story on gun industry woes pointed out that sales go up when there is talk of tighter gun regulations and then plummet when the threat seems to disappear.
  • SOUTH BEND – Money isn’t everything. But it sure is something. I have often cited that political truism in analyzing campaign finance reports. Keep it in mind as we look today at money raised, spent and still on hand as reported by candidates for Congress in Indiana’s 2nd District. Most impressive in year-end reports to the Federal Election Commission is the fundraising of Mel Hall, former chief executive officer of South Bend-based Press Ganey. Hall did better in fundraising by far than the other two main candidates for the Democratic nomination. He even raised more in fourth-quarter contributions than Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, the Republican incumbent seeking a fourth term. The nationally influential Cook Political Report noted Hall’s successful fundraising Thursday in moving the 2nd District from “solid Republican” to “likely Republican” in its evaluation. It upgraded Democratic chances also in other districts where a Democratic challenger outraised a Republican incumbent. The other two main candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination are Yatish Joshi, owner of GTA Containers in South Bend, and South Bend attorney Pat Hackett.
  • SOUTH BEND – The endorsement of a candidate by a prominent political figure is kind of like the endorsement of a commercial product by a prominent celebrity. There usually is no solid proof that it was of monumental help, even though it seems to have a positive effect. There sometimes is a situation where it backfires and hurts. Jared Fogle became a celebrity whose endorsement still haunts Subway. There always is a quest by candidates and product marketers for praise in attention-getting endorsements. U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly will be praised and endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden at a fundraising event Friday in Indianapolis. That endorsement, though not with monumental effect, will help Donnelly in two ways. l It will raise money he needs for what will be one of the costliest election contests in the nation this year. In addition to getting the contributions from those attending, the Donnelly campaign also will profit from asking its supporters around the state to donate $20.18 to win a chance to personally meet with Biden. It will link Donnelly with one of the most popular Democratic figures, someone quite acceptable to Hoosier Democrats and not frightening to the independents and Republican moderates Donnelly must sway to his side in order to win in a red state President Donald Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points.
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  • Lawson announces election security awareness campaign

    “In Indiana, the security of our voting systems is of the utmost importance. This public awareness campaign demonstrates to voters that proper precautions are in place to secure their vote. We take great care to prepare our election administrators for each cycle, and in partnership with counties, other states, and the federal government we are developing new answers to security concerns and election policy.” - Secretary of State Connie Lawson, announcing she will launch a public awareness campaign to build understanding of cybersecurity efforts in Indiana and help explain why voters should feel confident their vote is secure. Her Democratic challenger, Valparaiso attorney Jim Harper, believes the Indiana system is vulnerable to assault by foreign actors. Lawson explained that no piece of Indiana’s voting equipment is online. The machines and tabulators are not connected to the internet. In addition, the Secretary of State’s office has a mechanism known as the Voting System Technical Oversight Program hosted by Ball State University that tests all of the election equipment used in Indiana for an added layer of safety and security. Another tool is the Election Infrastructure Information Sharing and Analysis Center, an independent entity that partners with the Department of Homeland Security and allows 24/7 access to security information, threat notifications and security advisories.

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  • What you get with TV stars, sleazebags, billionaires and Mooch
    After reading about the Paul Manafort trial, hearing of Rick Gates testimony and now the “Unhinged” book by Omarosa Manigault Newman, several observations:

    1. The Trump 2016 campaign was, well, sleazy. Not the Indiana part, but all the alleged tax evasion, the embezzlement, backstabbing and conspiracy of Manafort and Gates. Donald Trump apparently had no idea that Manafort was broke, seeking wild bank loans and promising high ranking jobs if they pulled off a miracle (which they did). The campaign vetting process appears to have been non-existent.

    2. Omarosa’s qualifications were … what? That she was a TV star on “The Apprentice”? Or was she there to check off the “African-American” box on the diversity chart? Whatever the reason, this was resume-lite and she had no reason to be in the White House where she secretly recorded her final conversation with CoS John Kelly in the … Situation Room. That sounds like a national security breach to me.

    3. This has evolved into a presidential administration of TV stars, talking heads, billionaires … and Mike Pence. Mooch, we hardly knew ye.

    Sooooo, we shouldn’t really be shocked that the ethic limits are pressed and pushed, while protocols and securities are breached.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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