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  • FORT WAYNE - The road to the stunning pro-life defeat in Kansas did not start yesterday. I was active in the earliest days of the modern pro-life movement. This is my story. In 1971-72, when I was an undergraduate at IPFW, I first learned about details of how babies were born, but in a backward way. The battle over abortion had begun in Fort Wayne and a major referendum was going on in Ohio that was a landmark battle. Pro-lifers in Ohio won a narrow victory led by early right-to-life organizations out of Cincinnati.  At the time, Dr. J.C. (Jack) and Barbara Willkie founded Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati and emerged as national leaders in the organization (Willkie became national President). In Ohio they helped develop some of the most effective communication vehicles for the pro-life movement including the first "Handbook on Abortion" (1.5 million copies sold), the infamous life or death flyer with pictures of how gruesome and primitive abortion is in killing babies as well as the “bucket babies” photo with a pail full of stacked killed babies, and the baby feet pin. These became staples in the United States abortion debate. In the fall of 1972, I joined the Graduate Business School at the University of Notre Dame. My Leo High School and IPFW friend Don Stuckey had started Law School there the year before. The Notre Dame Law School had a group of conservative professors within it, particularly Dr. Charles Rice and Edward Murphy. Dean Clarence Manion had been the Dean of the Law School decades before.
  • FORT WAYNE – Beginning in the summer of 1940, when you attended a fair, political gathering or especially a church supper serving hot biscuits and fried chicken, you likely would spot a snow-white felt hat bobbing through the crowd. The New York Times said it was utilized by Henry Schricker “as a symbol of clean government.” The Indianapolis Star stated: “Indiana’s most unique political trademark is the flashy fedora worn jauntily by Henry Schricker.” Henry Schricker goes down in campaigning history because he cultivated and pounded his theme of a man in the white hat. A “Mr. Smith goes to Indianapolis” sort of vision. Someone honest who stood up for regular people and whose decision could not be purchased. He didn’t have TV ads; He had a white hat.
  • FORT WAYNE – It was a chilly Saturday night in early October 1993 when I arrived at the LaGrange Corn School. It is a week-long festival that began in 1906 in downtown LaGrange, an hour north of our home in Fort Wayne. At this point we were beginning the final month of my campaign to unseat popular incumbent congresswoman Jill Long. The Corn School was beginning to shut down. Steve Mickem, my dedicated county coordinator, had said that I must attend, so here I was at the tail end. As I headed along the dark streets, people would subtly move to the other side of the street to pass by; not because of worry about crime, but given that I didn’t look like a farmer, I could have been a salesman or worse, a politician that they might have to talk to. I turned and saw a booth that had a few people at it, most of whom quickly melted away. After a half to one hour of more booths at which I caused similar scatterings, and lonely sidewalk jaunts, I gave up and drove the hour home pretty discouraged. My family background is German – Souder, Getz, Gerber, Stoller, etc. – so I can say this: German farmers and people can be pretty uncommunicative. When someone would actually engage, when I’d say, “Hi, I’m Mark Souder,” they would say, “Yeah, I’ve heard of you.” But here is the remarkable part of this story: For the next six years or so, after I’d won people would say “I saw you at the Corn School” or “I heard you were at Corn School.”  It is like Richard Ben Cramer wrote in his seminal political book, “What It Takes”: People like politicians who view themselves as one of them, as their servant in office, not a ruler.
  • FORT WAYNE – Dick Prickett caught me by the escalator at L.S. Ayres in Glenbrook Mall soon after Dan Quayle had been elected to Congress. He was very concerned. The Quayles, especially Marilyn, were not big fans of the traditional Republican Party. Now Quayle had gone out and hired a complete unknown, Dan Coats, a political neophyte who had only recently voted in a Republican primary, to run his Fort Wayne office. With tears in his eyes, Dick told me that these guys were going to be the death of the GOP in this region. Prickett was a traditionalist. With the Albion New Era as his base, he became a force in the Indiana Republican Editorial Association. The association was very influential in GOP politics. Both parties were heavily involved in all media. In our recent book, “Television in Fort Wayne 1953-2018,” I showed how the forces of Paul McNutt battled to add television (WANE-TV, later owned by a group headed by Democrat leader Frank McKinney) to their newspaper and radio presence in Fort Wayne. They wanted to counter the influence of Republican Helene Foellinger and her then-dominant newspaper and strong radio presence, as Republican activists initially owned WKJG-TV. This, of course, was before media became “political” as it is today.

  • FORT WAYNE – In the spring of 1968, the political leaders of the Allen County Republican Party gathered at the home of Chairman Orvas Beers to select the GOP convention nominee for secretary of state. Fort Wayne had been slotted for attorney general, but State Sen. Allan Bloom had turned them down. Instead, Lake County chose Ted Sendak. Fort Wayne now drew the slot to complete the current ticket with Secretary of State Edgar Whitcomb of Seymour, who was slotted to be governor. No immediate nominee jumped out to the local brain trust. One of the participants noticed local banker Bill Salin mowing his lawn. “How about Bill Salin?” one of them suggested. Salin was not a local party activist and basically unknown outside northeast Indiana.  Salin did head the trust department at Indiana National Bank in Fort Wayne. Banks, as we shall later note, then played an important part in the spoils system as well. And it should be noted that, while Salin disappeared from politics after being defeated by Larry Conrad in 1970, he went on to found the successful Salin Bank & Trust Company. So how did it come to be that a group of party officials could pick an Indiana secretary of state in such a haphazard reminder?
  • FORT WAYNE – Tuesday, November 2, 2021 was a vote in very blue states (i.e. non-competitive for Republicans) and the bluest of blue cities (e.g. New York, Boston, Minneapolis). The marquee races for the national media were for governor of Virginia and New Jersey. In 2020, Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump in Virginia by 450,000 votes. In 2021, Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin won by around 65,000 votes. In New Jersey in 2020, Trump lost to Biden by 725,000 votes. In 2021, the race for governor was pulled out by incumbent Democrat Phil Murphy by a miniscule margin out of 2.35 million voters. Virginia has gone from red to purple to darker blue. Supposed Democrat base voters are increasing every year; Republican base voter numbers are declining. Virginia was on the verge of becoming a Democrat base state. New Jersey was also becoming more Democrat. Republicans were losing congressional seats and largely irrelevant in statewide elections. If these two stories were the only ones from election night, it would be tempting to just look at the over-arching trends of no Trump and the continuing muddled disaster of the Biden presidency and say it was a referendum on boring Republican candidates minus Trump who rode a wave of anti-Biden. But there were, in fact, other stories as well.
  • FORT WAYNE – The right to vote is so closely connected to protecting the right to having an honest vote that the two subjects cannot be separated. Furthermore, it is always a partisan issue because the Democrats jockey for perceived advantages (which vary by time and place) and so do Republicans. To make claims that one party is more political on the issue merely demonstrates one’s personal partisanship. A policy so potentially critical to political success is hardly conducive to the “moral high ground” that both sides claim. Before plunging further into this “hot” discussion, let me state a couple of what I think are obvious positions, though many Republicans dispute the first and many Democrats dispute the second one.

  • FORT WAYNE – Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner has written a book titled “On the House: A Washington Memoir.”  Here is a simple review of the book: He still doesn’t like Donald Trump. Based upon my 16 years of interaction with him it accurately reflects Boehner’s political career, and – whether written solely by him or with lots of help from a professional writer – it sounds like John Boehner did in personal, small group, or public discourse. I stress those points because as someone who loves to read political history and memoirs, finding a book by someone inside of politics that is both accurate and not full of fake posturing for history is rare. John Boehner has decided to be remembered as John Boehner. Political best-sellers are usually of two types: 1.) Books by famous people that sell well because of the author’s name but are a slog to read. Few people even get to the mid-point. 2.) Books by commentators who get people excited but have never been inside of a room where the decisions are made, and probably couldn’t even get elected to a dogcatcher position by their neighbors. Even political history books these days are dominated by “wokeness,” not history. Because Boehner is fundamentally transparent about the process, it provides some good insight into how leadership works at all levels of government, not unlike private business, educational institutions, and all social organizations.
  • FORT WAYNE – Mary Trausch-Martin faced a dilemma. She was aggressively supporting Congressman Todd Rokita in a three-way Republican primary for U.S. senator. Mary is what would have historically been called a Republican activist, a lead volunteer at the heart of the party. She does nothing moderately. She has strong opinions on  just about everything. Mary was also the vice chairwoman of the 3rd District Republican Committee. When Mike Braun, a candidate competing with Rokita, asked Mary for potential contacts at some meet-and-greet events in DeKalb and Steuben counties for his campaign, and then asked her to basically set them up, she was faced with the dilemma: Should she help him? When parties were dominant, as opposed to candidate organizations, there were differing expectations. The county parties could offer jobs and had quasi-publicly funded resources. Some public funding was direct (e.g., 2% club), some indirect (e.g., license bureaus), and other means were pressure-forced indirect (e.g., pay-to-play contracts). 
  • FORT WAYNE – In the late 1960s, when I began in politics as a teenager, Orvas Beers was the king of the Allen County Republican Party. Keith Bulen of Marion County was sort of the Orvas Beers of central Indiana. He represented a more populated area but had to share more of his power.  Back in the old days of spoils – the gains of patronage, political profits and power – maintaining control of a county political party was easier. The big bosses of the state could gather and make a deal. Back then, the important things in Indiana (tied to jobs or, say, bank deposits) weren’t left to the risks of primaries. Conventions (more later on the modern version, the caucus nomination system) could be controlled by the “bosses” gathering in smoke-filled rooms to pick their favorites, later ratified by delegates. 

  • FORT WAYNE – Every politician – at least those who win elections – understands the power and importance of media in all of its forms. People who try to influence politicians tend to understand it somewhat but often tend to think that money, personal relationships and other methods are dominant. Then they often wonder why their ideas do not prevail. There is an adage that I have believed all my life, in business and politics: Information is power. So where does one get information? If you are trying to influence people to buy what you are selling, whether it is a person, a piece of furniture or an idea, you need to understand where they are getting their information. It is obvious that primary sources of information evolve with technology changes. Political information in America evolved from newsprint to radio to television to today’s news niche chaos. America is a nation of information junkies which new technology has advanced, not reduced. 
  • FORT WAYNE – Censorship of political speech is not new. In fact, in world history freedom of speech is rarer than censorship. In the United States, expanded freedom of speech and freedom of the press (the corollary of free political speech) are among the hallmarks of what makes our nation different. The focus of this is not whether Donald Trump should get his Twitter finger back, though it is certainly a current, visible example of our nation once again re-defining censorship. Traditional media, in every decision, must pick and choose what to cover. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television have space and time constraints. So even does social media, in different ways. One of the biggest constraints is simple; consumers also have time constraints. When Adolph S. Ochs in 1897 put “All the News That’s Fit to Print” on the masthead of the New York Times, he meant it as a statement that stressed the “all” meaning not just partisan newspapers, often owned by candidates, parties and interests jockeying for political control. “Fit to print” is how they sorted themselves from scandal sheets that truly did and still do produce “fake” news, not news called fake by people who disagree with it.

  • FORT WAYNE – Here are the impacts of the second impeachment of former president Donald John Trump: 1.) Chants of “Kill Mike Pence” from large numbers of conservative rioters, at more than one location, was spine-tingling and chilling. Those who watched it in context will likely never forget it. The absurd anger was scary and ugly. This should have been a wake-up call to every Indiana Republican elected official. Mike Pence had been a loyal ally of President Trump until Trump asked him to directly violate the Constitution. “Hang Mike Pence” could easily become any elected official when confronted by a “hang anybody not 100% with us” mob. Indiana Democrats only need to worry when they become politically relevant again. Democrats in other states, however, should also be worried about the increasing willingness of mobs to be incited by exaggerated political rhetoric. Continued out-of-control rhetoric will have escalating consequences. 2.) Vice President Mike Pence was likely the biggest “winner” from the impeachment trial. It is far too early to say whether he will benefit politically. However, in the eyes of history he will become a legend in the story of the only assault on the Capitol of the United States by Americans. The second highest official in the nation. A man betrayed by his president. Eerily close to potential serious bodily harm. Guardian of free elections. A true profile in courage, not a rhetorical one. Even liberals are likely to give him credit because it makes Trump seem worse.
  • FORT WAYNE – The political fallout from the U.S. Capitol riots will continue to emerge for some time, months and possibly years, and vary over the longer haul from the immediate. Here are some guesses on impacts in different areas, but everything is always dependent upon unforeseeable variables as well. 1.) False claims of fraud likely destroyed election reform in the short-run. When President Trump called people to Washington to “persuade” Congress to overturn the electoral vote, and the mob storms the U.S. Capitol Building and terrorizes Congress, they made election reform toxic in the short-term at least. Real concerns that actually need to be discussed so future elections aren’t stolen, not trumped-up allegations about unproven fraud, have been subsumed by false ones. Instead of reform and putting the Democrats on the defensive, reform instead will likely be dismissed by a public increasingly sick of all the fighting as just more Republican unsubstantiated whining about Trump losing. It is also not an investigation when you have announced your conclusion in advance of any evidence. 2.) Republican primary challenges to pro-impeachment voters. Those who voted for the second impeachment of President Trump will likely have primary challenges if they run for reelection. Given that those who voted for impeachment probably were already less than worshipful to Trump, they probably would have had a primary challenger anyway. Perhaps their challengers will be more qualified than expected, but that is still unknown. 

  • FORT WAYNE – These last few weeks have been a particularly tumultuous political brawl in our democratic Republic. Wednesday it changed to sustained violence. Excuses must stop. It is well past time to stop defending and excusing incendiary rhetoric that resulted in such behavior.  It is one thing to raise concerns about potential fraud in voting. There were policies implemented in an attempt to get around the dangers of COVID that were potentially vulnerable to large scale cheating. But “potentially” is not the same as actual fraud. Ballots in the challenged states were counted and recounted. There were 50 some court cases dismissed, without even being viewed as meritorious enough to have a trial. It became increasingly apparent, in legal terms, that the effort was not about proving fraud, but using the courts to convince supporters of President Trump that the election was stolen. No evidence, but because the courts dismissed the cases it was portrayed as de facto proof that the system was protecting itself from Trump. It was a cover-up. Then the states certified the results. Every state. Whether governed by Republicans or Democrats, every single state verified the results. In 2012, Mitt Romney received 47.2% of the popular vote for President. In 2020, Trump received 46.9%. Trump claimed that was because of California, which of course has been part of the count since it became a state in 1850. It is, in fact, the most populous state by far. But it should be noted that election victory comes from winning the Electoral College. This brings us to last night. The cause of the mob riot and attempt to seize our nation’s Capitol Building was the belief – falsely alleged again by Trump just before the riot – that the election was stolen. The constant attacks on the credibility of our government as a swamp, as untrustworthy in all respects, has fueled an anger that just boiled over. 
  • FORT WAYNE – Regardless of what happens next in his life, the last four years have been a remarkable experience for Vice President Mike Pence. There have been 48 vice presidents in U.S. history. Former Vice President Joe Biden will become only the third to be elected to the office since Abraham Lincoln (the other two were Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush). The others first achieved office through the death of a president. In other words, being vice president is not a safe ticket to the presidency. However, Vice President Pence was unique among vice presidents. Most vice presidents had roles similar to the colorful description given the position by former powerful House Speaker James Garner that it “wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.” In other words, even powerful figures on Capitol Hill like Garner and later Lyndon Baines Johnson, watched that power be sapped away by aggressive presidents with clear agendas and a cadre of individuals who understood government and how to utilize its power as a team. President Trump had some potential problems from the very beginning. He was clear on a few things he wanted; for example, a wall along the entire southern border, withdrawal from Afghanistan as part of no more foreign wars, limitations on free trade, and an emphasis on nationalism not internationalism.

  • FORT WAYNE – Important fact number one: Al Gore did not concede to presumed President-elect George Bush until Dec. 13, 2000. The political system survived. Of course, that was Gore’s second concession. He took his first one back until the process went through the courts. Surely the media would not prefer that Donald Trump had conceded and then taken it back after supporters raised issues of fraud? It is important to establish some more basic points. A president-elect is designated after the Electoral College votes and before a president is sworn into office. It is not anointed by the media. By all evidence presented thus far, and likely to be presented, former Vice President Joe Biden is the presumed president-elect. This isn’t a repeat of 2000, one state with an incredibly close count, but a fairly decisive apparent win though with many narrow victories for Biden: Georgia 0.3%, Arizona 0.3%, Wisconsin 0.6%, Pennsylvania 1.2%, Nevada 2.4% and Michigan 2.6%. Given the closeness and the extraordinary changes in voting patterns, an election not primarily determined in private voting booths on Election Day, the apparent losing candidate has a right to pursue legal questions that arise. The fact that the media is demanding an immediate coronation is not professional journalism. Neutrality was lost earlier, but even feigned neutrality – nodding here and there to fairness – has been abandoned for overt cheerleading, complete with tears. Vice President Biden, on the other hand, has remained publicly calm. He has a commanding lead, understands that no proof of significant fraud looms, and has confidence in the legal system.
  • FORT WAYNE – Election day and election night were for much of my life intense experiences of adrenalin rush, excitement and tension. My first thrilling experience was in 1980. I was standing in front a television set, watching Ronald Reagan win the presidency and Republican Senate candidates topple one Democrat legend after another, including our Congressman Dan Quayle upsetting Sen. Birch Bayh. It was a Republican wave. In 1994, I was part of another Republican wave (a tsunami), when I upset Congresswoman Jill Long as part of the Republican Revolution in the U.S. House, when for the first time in 40 years Republicans took control. The Dems had held power for so long, as new Speaker Newt Gingrich said, we found rooms we didn’t know existed in the Capitol Building. The Dems thought they could continue their blue wave of 2018 this year, humiliating President Donald Trump, winning control of the Senate, and advancing to a more stable control of the U.S. House. Instead they ran into a purple wave. Here is how you define a purple wave: You have red areas (definition: Indiana) and blue areas (definition: California), and among them you have a bunch of states that cast millions of votes, yet the next day (e.g. Wisconsin, Michigan) the presidential candidates are separated by less than 1%. 
  • FORT WAYNE – Here are some thoughts on the final days. 1.) The final debate was Trump’s best. It stopped his polling slide, at least temporarily, that had accelerated after his bullying performance in the first debate and the further confusion after he skipped the second. His gains, however, were not large and may have come too late. 2.) The Senate races are interesting, both because of the importance of Senate control but also as indicators of the presidential race. Before the final debate, it seemed as though the Democrats would have seized Senate control had that been election day. Since the debate, the Republicans have gained 2-4 points in key seats, making the Republican maintenance of control riding heavily on two Georgia seats and the North Carolina race. Minnesota has become surprisingly close in some polls and a strong candidate in Michigan is at least competitive. Iowa and Arizona are again basically tied.  3.) Trump has more intensely loyal supporters. So did Goldwater and McGovern. Intense support does not always correlate to representing wider support. Trump, unlike the aforementioned, does have a second group: People who don’t particularly respect him but fear the policies of his opponents. Trump also has a larger core (i.e. the Plains states, Indiana and most of the deep South) than Goldwater and McGovern did. And there are a large number of states that are still competitive in the Great Lakes (including Pennsylvania), Texas and Florida (which are now the second and third largest states), as well as scattered others (e.g. Arizona).
  • GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — Over the years, alliances and issues change, but Indiana Republicans like to battle over differences. The fact is, so do Indiana Democrats. Every state does this. We just do it better. Contentious times on issues lead to divisions within and among parties. So do controversial individuals and internal power struggles. In 2020, we have all those things. Gov. Eric Holcomb has a few huge advantages in his reelection campaign. The biggest is our state’s modern history of stability through all chaos.  The Indiana gubernatorial two-party victory margins were: 1984 (5%), 1988 (6%), 1992 (25%), 1996 (5%), 2000 (15%), 2004 (7%), 2008 (17%), 2012 (3%), and 2016 (6%). Two facts jump out: 1.) the three wide margins (1992, 2000, and 2008) were reelection campaigns of Governors Bayh, O’Bannon and Daniels and 2.) otherwise, for nearly four decades, the two political tribes in Indiana have been fairly evenly matched. The Republicans have won only one race with a margin of more than 7% since the Ronald Reagan sweep year of 1980. However, it takes a ground shift for an Indiana governor to lose a reelection campaign. In fact, no elected governor (Joe Kernan had been elected as lieutenant governor) has EVER been defeated for reelection. 

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  • Brooks excoriates Rokita over child rape case
    "We are confident of Americans’ ability to work through the issue of abortion now that the Supreme Court has returned it to the democratic process. But it’s crucial for law enforcement to stay above the partisan fray. A case in Indiana leaves us deeply concerned on that score. Initially, some doubted news reports that a 10-year- old Ohio rape victim had traveled to Indiana for a legal abortion. There were also unsubstantiated claims that the physician who performed the abortion had failed to report the abuse of a child and the abortion performed on a girl under 16, as Indiana law requires. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita rushed precipitously into this fray. He told Fox News he was investigating the physician and 'was looking at her licensure.' This, after admitting he hadn’t examined evidence that she complied with reporting requirements. Even worse was his inflammatory rhetoric: 'We have this abortion activist acting as a doctor,' he said. Despite the arrest and confession of a defendant in the rape, and news accounts documenting the physician’s timely reporting, Mr. Rokita continues to say publicly that he is investigating her. The justice system’s legitimacy requires that law enforcement be fair, deliberative and ethical. Government investigations should remain confidential unless and until a defendant is charged, with respect for the presumption of innocence and government’s burden of proof. A baseless investigation, if disclosed publicly, causes the target reputational damage, humiliation and loss. We are appalled that, by his own admission, Mr. Rokita announced his investigation before gathering the most basic facts."- Former Indiana congressman and district attorney Susan Brooks and John Tinder, writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
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