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Monday, October 22, 2018
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  • SOUTH BEND - Opposition research enables Congresswoman Jackie Walorski to portray challenger Mel Hall in a far different way than he was defining himself all summer with his TV spots about youth on a Hoosier farm, service as a minister and experience as a successful South Bend business executive. “Oppo research,” as political consultants call it, is the search for something negative that can be used against an opponent, especially in the TV ads that seek to inflict a negative image. The search for useful information about Hall found that he had for a time lived in Washington and was an advisor on health care there for a large global law firm that does lobbying for some clients. Thus, in TV ads and debates, Walorski, the Republican incumbent in Indiana’s 2nd District, portrays the Democratic challenger as a lobbyist, a liar and a “Washington insider.”

  • SOUTH BEND – Sen. Joe Donnelly is seeking to turn Mike Braun’s blue shirt inside out, seeking to make the Republican challenger look funny, phony. Braun’s trademark blue shirt was positive attire for him in defeating two formidable Republican congressmen in the GOP primary. He contrasted his open-collar look with cardboard cutouts of the congressmen, each with coat and tie, Washington lookalikes. His TV ads on that theme, blue-shirt outsider from the business world vs. Washington suits, were acclaimed as best in the Indiana primary, key to his victory. Blue shirt giveth. Could blue shirt taketh away? The Democratic Senate Majority PAC, supporting Donnelly, has countered Braun’s claim as an open-collar-blue-shirt kind of guy, mocking him in a series of TV ads as really a millionaire businessman mistreating workers and falsely denying selling “Made in China” stuff.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete Buttigieg says a Democrat running against President Trump should avoid making the campaign all about Trump. But he isn’t ready to say whether he will seek to be that Democrat, the presidential nominee, or perhaps seek a third term as mayor of South Bend. Or do something else. In an interview in his political headquarters near the County-City Building, Buttigieg set this timetable: Until Nov. 6, he will concentrate politically on helping Democrats win, traveling on weekends for speaking engagements and hosting fundraisers. He expects this week to announce recipients of contributions from his political action committee. Help will go primarily to young congressional candidates (average age, just under 38) with a chance in Republican and swing districts. Then he will “settle on a personal direction by about Thanksgiving and be ready to make that public pretty soon after that.” By then, he said, “I’ll need to tell the community whether I’m seeking a third term as mayor.” He has ample funds and high popularity for reelection. A third term certainly is his if he wants it. If he decides not to run for reelection, he wouldn’t simultaneously announce a presidential bid or other future endeavor. “Whatever I have to say about South Bend will stand on its own, and then we’ll take things from there,” he said.
  • SOUTH BEND  – Very close. That’s what the polls tell us about the race for the U.S. Senate in Indiana: Republican challenger Mike Braun vs. Sen. Joe Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent. Very important. That’s how the race is viewed nationally, as the once seemingly impossible chance for Democrats to win control of the Senate as well as the House seems at least possible. Very expensive. That’s obvious to anyone seeing myriad ads bought by the candidates and groups seeking to support or to destroy one or the other. Polls showing a close race aren’t surprising. They just confirm what long was expected, that Donnelly, popular in the state even with many Republicans because of his moderate approach, would have a fighting chance to win, even though President Trump carried Indiana by 19 percentage points.
  • SOUTH BEND – Congresswoman Jackie Walorski predicts that national TV will focus first on Indiana’s 2nd District on election night. “We’re a bellwether for the country,” Walorski told supporters at the grand opening of her campaign headquarters in Mishawaka last week. The Republican incumbent, seeking a fourth term, said that results in her race with Democratic challenger Mel Hall “will dictate what happens the rest of the night. And they’ll dictate that Republicans have swept. There was no Democratic wave.” Her enthusiastic supporters cheered those predictions. One of the predictions wouldn’t be disputed by Hall. He also sees the district as a bellwether. With Indiana results in early – we are often the first state declared by the networks in presidential elections – it’s likely that the 2nd District will be in national focus soon after the polls close.
  • SOUTH BEND – Maybe the Weekly World News (WWN) stopped publishing too soon. Wouldn’t that once flourishing supermarket tabloid be popular today, what with such widespread belief in fake conspiracies and pontificated falsehoods? The WWN was a weakly weekly, in terms of journalism. In fact, it wasn’t journalism at all. It wasn’t news at all. It was fiction, strictly fiction, portrayed as news, with sensational headlines that attracted shoppers glancing at the array of supermarket tabloids at check-out lanes. It ceased publishing 11 years ago, although it and its famous covers still can be found on-line. The WWN hit 1.2 million readership in the 1980s. There were so many memorable headlines: “Elvis Is Alive”; “Severed Leg Hops to Hospital”; “Saddam and Osama Adopt Shaved Ape Baby.” My favorite was the cover story about the demise of a woman with a mink coat who was bitten to death when the animals came back to life and did her in. There was a photo. Photographic proof.
  • SOUTH BEND – In a recent speech prior to Sen. John McCain’s death, Sen. Joe Donnelly described the drama in the chamber as McCain gave his famous thumbs down on the effort of Senate Republican leaders and President Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Ironically, with ACA provisions now becoming more popular and health care a top issue in upcoming elections, McCain’s vote now can be seen as saving Republicans from even higher health costs during the Trump administration. But most of the Senate Republicans, denouncing the ACA as “Obamacare” and wanting to be rid of it, didn’t at that time see anything positive about McCain’s negative vote. Nor did the president. His anger over McCain’s vote simmered on, seen in his reluctance even to lower White House flags to half staff after McCain’s death. The thumbs-down vote on repeal came in the early morning hours of July 28, 2017. Donnelly and the 47 other senators on the Democratic side of the aisle were voting “no” on repeal.
  • Jack Colwell: Indiana and the 1968 DNC in Chicago

    CHICAGO - “You killed the party,” the McCarthy kids chanted as Humphrey delegates entered the embattled Conrad Hilton Hotel during the early morning hours. And back in the 20th floor suite at the Executive House, some key Indiana Democrats were wondering if the kids were right. There was gloom at both sites. That’s what I wrote on Aug. 29, 1968, in covering the chaotic Democratic National Convention in Chicago. What happened in the streets, especially along South Michigan Avenue in front of the Hilton and in Grant Park across the way, was as significant as Vice President Hubert Humphrey winning the presidential nomination at the International Amphitheater on the southwest side. Maybe more significant. Humphrey had far more than enough delegates to defeat Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who carried the hopes of opponents of the war in Vietnam. No surprise then that Humphrey won big on the first ballot. Startling, however, was the bloody battling in the streets as well as the rancor and disorder in the convention hall, all televised to the nation.

  • 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.
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  • Trump wanted to shut down U.S. border with Mexico
    “Close the whole thing!” - President Trump in a stormy Oval Office meeting about immigration. The Washington Post reported that aides talked Trump out of shutting down the U.S.-Mexican border, telling him it would curtail $600 billion in annual trade. Chief of Staff John Kelly and national security adviser John Bolton reportedly had a “profane” argument that prompted Kelly to storm out of the White House. Meanwhile, an immigrant caravan coursing through Mexico is becoming a late mid-term campaign issue. Trump said in rally in Mesa, Arizona Friday night, "Democrats produce mobs, Republicans produce jobs."
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  • It's Oct. 20 and it's weirdly green in Brown County
    In another year of Category 4 hurricanes ravaging the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, wildfires devouring hundreds of thousands of acres in the American west, and a landmark United Nations report painting dire consequences of climate change coming as early as 2040, this has been a strange, strange autumn down here in Brown County.

    It’s Oct. 20, and it’s still green. There is very little color here in what should be the heart of what locals call “leaf looker” season. The golds, yellows and reds are mostly missing. And most of the leaves are still on the trees (though today’s high winds will change that a bit). Looks like peak color will come next weekend. No matter the color, c'mon down! 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
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