FORT WAYNE – Wow! The Senate Democrats really miscalculated their decision to shut down the federal government. It takes quite a bit of incompetence to take a political shellacking when battling an unpopular Congress and a president who confuses his own allies.
They also strain credibility when they try to blame the Republicans and the president for the shutdown. Anybody interested in politics could watch the voting and listen to the endless droning about needing 60 votes in the Senate to move a bill. They know that it is a myth that the Republicans can pass whatever they want.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer compounded his problem and further walked on his own message by repeatedly stating that the Republicans needed Democrat votes to pass the bill. If the Republicans control everything, why are they forced to deal with you? Well, which is it, Chuck?
After years of demanding clean CRs, and months of stressing the needs of the CHIP program, Schumer kept threatening to block funding to keep the government open unless something was done to allow minors, brought to America illegally, to remain here. While most Americans are sympathetic to the plight of the Dreamers, they did not believe that a solution should come at the direct cost to vulnerable children and those helping defend America. No wonder panic set in. Democrats’ preelection dominance margin was cratering.
When Vice President Pence got onto that airplane heading to the Middle East, Sen. Schumer was obviously aware that the Republicans were done negotiating. The Republicans believed they had the upper hand with the general public. President Trump’s silence over the weekend was another clue; no bluster, he had made his points, and his side had the public edge. It bought only three weeks, but in politics under this president three weeks needs to be calculated more like dog years. 
Sen. Joe Donnelly understands what Sen. Schumer did not. Republicans alone cannot keep the government open. However, Republicans alone can determine whether the protection for the Dreamers remains in place. It is one thing for the minority to block something, but a minority cannot pass something.
The Republican congressional majority cannot pass a long-term budget without getting some order in the House, plus either getting 60 votes or switching to straight majority rule in the Senate. While they have become excellent “can-kickers,” battling over a new CR every few weeks is also taking a significant toll on what was already dwindling respect for the institution of Congress. While, in fact, it is the voters who resist compromise, the appearance nonetheless is that the institution is governed by spoiled children. Sometimes one must lead. The Founders created a democratic republic, not a pure democracy, for logical reasons.
Thus, one would think, a compromise is possible. But the balance of power lies clearly with the Republicans. Like it or not, the American people put the Republicans in charge of the House and the Senate, and elected a Republican president. They deliberately rejected leadership by Nancy Pelosi, Schumer and Hillary Clinton. The law protecting the illegal immigrants brought here as children is expiring. To protect them, Congress must pass a law.
Americans are open to a new law, but not without much greater border security.  Multiple times now America, has generously granted people who entered illegally a path to citizenship. Every time it encouraged more to come illegally. Some sort of a wall, plus more border patrol and ICE agents and enforcement support systems – as President Trump has stated from the beginning – will be a fundamental part of any agreement. That is a given, known to both sides (though what type of wall and how many agents is up for negotiation).
Chain migration also needs to be linked to the Dreamers. While the media keeps quoting polls that favor resolving the Dreamer issue, I am 100% certain that the majority does not favor granting legal mercy to the children brought here illegally in the past, only to be stunned when they learn that this version also allowed them to bring in potentially millions of others who previously did not have the right to enter the U.S. In other words, the Republicans need to focus on this now or recognize that this issue may be completely lost.
During these few weeks, all the major Indiana Senate candidates had some successes. Sen. Donnelly solidified his image as someone open to compromise. It is not just an image. Compared to most in Washington, it also happens to be true.
Congressman Messer scored some points among Republicans by publicly supporting the “nuclear” option on budgets that need to be passed. His floor speech was almost fiery. His office supplied the floor footage to local television, plus some explanatory information generated in the House television studio. It was a well-timed and targeted hit on a hot button issue. Coming off a solid if unspectacular win in the straw vote beauty contest, it was a good stretch for Messer.
The straw vote also clarified that it is Messer versus the field, who divide the anti-establishment vote. All the winner needs is a plurality, not a majority. Congressman Rokita has to overcome a Braun drain.
Rokita scored some valuable points as well. His straw vote win in Harrison County was interesting, especially given that it is at the geographical opposite corner from his base. It shows that his statewide victories as secretary of state may matter. Rokita’s video ad coordinated with the most important pro-life week of this cycle, plus gave very personal reasons for his position. It played beneath the radar of the larger public, but to a key core of Republican voters.
And even Mike Braun, in spite of appearing more as an also-ran in the straw vote, recovered with some high profile endorsements in Cass County and a flood of ads featuring substantive issues. His actions were a warning that Messer and Rokita are not going to be able to just focus on themselves. If Congress dawdles on, the congressmen brawl with each other, and Braun continues to pour huge sums of money into this race, it would still be unlikely but not impossible for Braun to emerge victorious.
The Democrats had a bad weekend. But actually all the major Indiana Senate candidates did a decent job of advancing their individual strategies amid the chaos.