• HPI Analysis: The decimation of Indiana Democrats

    INDIANAPOLIS – It was October 1984 and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wayne Townsend dropped by the Elkhart Truth editorial board to make his pitch for his challenge to Gov. Robert Orr. Along for the ride was a young, handsome Evan Bayh. Fellow reporter Phil Schermerhorn looked at Bayh and asked, “Evan, what are you running for?” The rest is history.

    After managing his father’s losing U.S. Senate race in 1980, Bayh got his law degree from the University of Virginia, then he and IU classmate Joe Hogsett systematically plotted a takeover of the Indiana Democratic Party. The senator’s son would win the 1986 secretary of state race, defeat Sen. Frank O’Bannon and then place him on the ticket for a 1988 gubernatorial run, defeat Lt. Gov. John Mutz for governor, and that commenced a four-cycle, Second Floor winning streak that would finally end at the brainpan of one Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. 16 years later.

    Today, with the defeat of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and tiny Democratic gains against the GOP super-majorities in the Indiana General Assembly, the party is abjectly irrelevant. Mike Braun’s upset has rendered Indiana a one-party state.

    Unlike 1984, when Evan Bayh was the savvy young heir-apparent, there is no such dominating figure on the horizon. His twin sons, Beau and Nick, have just mustered into the Marine Corps and Army from Indiana, so it would be at least three cycles before they would have a chance to move back, trade their Pacer and ISU t-shirts worn during the father’s final (and losing) 2016 Senate campaign to establish residency, find a trade and build a political base.

    Back in the Democratic desert days of the 1980s, there were ambitious Sens. Townsend and O’Bannon. Today, there is none. In the House, there is ousted Minority Leader Terry Goodin, the only Democrat representing a rural district. And, really, no one else who has hinted at running for governor.

    Democratic State Chairman John Zody intends to stay on, even though he has won very little in two cycles and it’s been three cycles since a Democrat won statewide. The party picked up three House seats and one in the Senate, but Republicans retain super majorities (67-33 in the House, 40-10 in the Senate). “I will stay here as long as I feel like I can make a positive impact on that. This job is not about me; this is about moving the party forward,” Zody said. It will be interesting to learn how Democrats define “forward” in a party that holds only two federal seats and remains in a super minority swamp at the Statehouse, with no constitutional offices. 

    House Democrats jettisoned Goodin Wednesday less than a year after taking the helm from Scott Pelath, selected State Rep. Phil GiaQuinta. “I am pleased that our caucus was able to pick up seats in Tuesday’s election, but I feel that we can do more to ensure that all Hoosiers are given a voice in their state government,” he said. “We have a growing number of diverse voices in the House Democratic Caucus, and I intend to use their skills to provide a vision of how government can work for the people of Indiana. We will begin to articulate that vision in the 2019 legislative session. We need to have a fairly aggressive agenda that will benefit Hoosiers. Once we are through session, it begins anew with recruiting solid candidates. We had some great people run but ran out of funds to get them over the line.”

    The rising star mayor, South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg, wants to leap frog into the 2020 presidential race and, perhaps, a shot at Vice President Mike Pence if he rounded out a Democratic ticket.

    Indiana Democrats have a decent mayoral bench behind Buttigieg. That would include Hammond’s Thomas McDermott, Kokomo’s Greg Goodnight, Fort Wayne’s Tom Henry and, of course, Joe Hogsett. But beyond Richard Lugar, Indianapolis mayors don’t do well statewide, as Bill Hudnut discovered in his 1990 secretary of state loss to Hogsett and Stephen Goldsmith learned in his 1996 loss to Lt. Gov. O’Bannon.

    Then there is 2016 LG nominee Christina Hale, who had been eyeing an open gubernatorial seat in 2024, assuming Gov. Eric Holcomb wins reelection in two years. She told HPI earlier this fall she would reassess after this midterm, but amidst the Donnelly wreckage and the three-seat gain in the General Assembly, there is only a ripple to ride, not a wave.

    McDermott told HPI on Wednesday morning that he is being urged to challenge Attorney General Curtis Hill in 2020, and would consider a gubernatorial run. If Donnelly opted to challenge Gov. Holcomb, which some Democrats are now pondering, McDermott would back him. 

    “Running for statewide office takes a year or a year and a half of your life,” McDermott said. “If you don’t have a fair chance, do you want to give up a year of your life? What did John Gregg and Christina Hale do wrong in 2016? Nothing. Circumstances in Washington, which are beyond your control, can doom you.”

    That was in reference to Donald Trump nominating Gov. Mike Pence for vice president, salvaging him from an uphill reelection bid against Gregg, who had learned from his 2012 run and had put together a credible campaign in 2016 that was crushed by the Trump/Pence wave.

    “If I were to run statewide, I would be down the middle,” said the three-term Hammond mayor, who is a Navy veteran and a Notre Dame graduate.  “Our party focuses on too many extreme left issues. It alienates union workers. I see Democrats winning in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois and we’re getting beat. That tells me we’re doing something wrong. We’ve got to appeal to Republicans. If we don’t, we alienate 50% of the voters.”

    Hale said she thinks voter turnout was the problem. “Democrats didn’t do as well as we should have… we have more people engaged than we have in recent years, but we still have far too many that are willing to sit on the sidelines,” she told the IBJ. “More than anything, you gotta get out and vote.” 

    Hale said the polls made people feel like Donnelly wasn’t in trouble. “I think we made a critical error in listening to this polling. So many people sat on the bench and sat this one out. If we continue to do the same thing and expect a different result, that’s crazy. I think that we have reached a point of significant low self-esteem as a party. There are many people that are going to want to refresh the way we do business.”

    In 2011, Bayh declined to seek a third, non-consecutive term for governor, citing the GOP super-majorities and a lack of party support in either chamber. The irony there is had Bayh opted for that race in 2012, as opposed to pushing aside Baron Hill for the U.S. Senate race where he ended up in the Mitch McConnell/Todd Young buzz saw, it might be Gov. Bayh on this very day. When Bayh was governor, he had long coattails, but that was before river country flipped Repubican.

    Two-time nominee John Gregg has been the most conspicuous Democrat acting like a prospective candidate, appearing on Twitter with party candidates across the state. Hale has done the J-J Dinner circuit, speaks for Democrats in the media, while McDermott showed up for SD31 nominee Derek Camp in his unsuccessful challenge to Sen. Jim Merritt, but there has been no systematic Rotary Club, VFW or J-J circuit riding that would capture the imagination of Democrats searching for another Bayh – or Moses.

    The 2020 gubernatorial race is not a topic familiar names are conspicuously addressing. The hospitality suites at the IDEA convention at French Lick last August were few and far between. At this point, there is no Bayh-like heir. The boo-yahs are reserved for young Nick and Beau on their respective military bases. 

    Welcome to Indiana, a one-party state until further notice. 
  • Atomic! Legislative leadership set; Dems reboot; pot island
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. General Assembly power leadership set

    Here are your final election week power lunch talking points:  With the General Assembly’s 121st session less than two months away, leadership is set, with two of the four caucuses sporting a new helmsman. As expected, Senate Republicans elected Rodrick Bray as president prom tempore (as well as chair of Rules Committee). He was initially selected last March in the waning days of the last session, and three new senators - Linda Rogers(replacing Joe Zakas), Chris Garten (Jim Smith) and Mike Gaskill (Doug Eckerty) - didn’t alter the outcome.  Bray has appointed Mark Messmer as majority floor leader, and Jim Merritt was elected majority caucus chair. Other new Senate committee chairs include Sen. Jeff Raatzfor Education, Chip Perfect for Commerce and Technology, Messmer for Environment, Eric Bassler for Insurance & Financial Institutions as well as Joint Rules, and Jim Tomes for Veterans. “My fellow caucus members and I are well-positioned to take on the challenges  before our state,” Bray said. “Much of the heavy lifting is done at the committee level, and I am confident that these individuals will lead with knowledge, integrity and hard work.”

    In the House, Speaker Brian Bosma was elected to a “historic” sixth term, Rep. Greg Steuerwald is the majority caucus chair, and Matt Lehmanwill return as majority floor leader. The caucus had an uplifting moment  when critically-injured Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown made an appearance, entering on a walker. His broken jaw is still wired, and it may take a year for his brain injuries to heal. Reps. Todd Huston and Holli Sullivan will be taking on more of Dr. Brown’s work load  for this biennial budget session. But we are thrilled that Brown is making this epic comeback.

    2. House Dem caucus shakeup

    With House Democrats gaining only three seats, with Rep. Ed Soliday defeating Frank Szczepanski 54-46% while Lisa Beck defeated Republican Rep. Julie Olthoff now that Porter County results are in, Democrats dumped Terry Goodin and selected Rep. Phil GiaQuinta as minority leader. Goodin edged out GiaQuinta last winter after Scott Pelath stepped aside. It appears GiaQuinta cut a deal with the Black Caucus  to get over the top this time. House Democrats were grossly out-raised, as the lion’s share of the party’s meager resources went to a few races and most to defeated Sen. Joe Donnelly. GiaQuinta and Rep. Terri Austin were the most active caucus members, dishing off campaign money to the handful of competitive races.

    3. Chairman Zody intends to stay on

    Democratic State Chairman John Zody intends to stay on, even though he has won very little in two cycles and it’s been three cycles since a Democrat won statewide. “I will stay here as long as I feel like I can make a positive impact on that. This job is not about me; this is about moving the party forward,” Zody said. It will be interesting to learn how Democrats define “forward” in a party that holds only two federal seats and remains in a super minority swamp at the Statehouse, with no constitutional offices. Yes, they’ve faced the Donald Trump/Mike Pence buzz saw and will likely again in 2020 as Trump’s hold on wide swathes of Indiana looks strong for the foreseeable future.

    4. An island in the marijuana sea

    Michigan voters approved recreational marijuana, joining neighboring Canada and along with the West Coast states, Colorado, Maine and even North Dakota. It’s only a matter of time before Illinois joins the party. The Chicago Tribune  reports that incoming Democrat Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker favors legalization and Democrats in both chambers predict it will easily pass. “I suspect it’s a done deal,” said Pat Brady, former chairman of the Illinois Republican Party. “People see it as a new source of revenue. The true battle will be over who gets their cut of it taxwise.” Ohio voters rejected a referendum in 2016, but will vote on the issue in November 2019, so Indiana is poised to be the middle finger of pot prohibition, expending funds on enforcement instead of reaping a tax windfall. One thing that strikes us is with Michigan voters approving it with 56%, that matches referendums in Washington, Oregon and Colorado, and the Howey Politics/WTHR Poll from 2016 showed about 56% of Hoosiers favored medicinal marijuana

    5. Final thoughts after a big week

    First, congrats to Mike Braun on his Senate victory Tuesday. He has the experience and demeanor to be an outstanding senator and we hope he can convince Republicans to build on the Obamacare components that work and use business principles to fix what isn’t. There’s a lot of work to do on that front. Second, the Porter County vote fiasco is a disgrace. We hope the county and state learn what went awry and comes up with solutions. Third, Indiana’s voting system is aging and the state should explore and then executive a comprehensive update. Fourth, we hope President Trumpseriously considers Chris Christieto be the next attorney general. We would have great confidence in the former DA and governor at the helm of the embattled DOJ. Finally, we agree with Congressman Banks, that the Mueller probe must be completed, and a full report should be presented to the American people

    Have a great weekend, folks, and thanks for reading. It’s The Atomic!

    INDIANAPOLIS  – While two House races remain incomplete due to a lack of totals from Porter County, it appears Indiana Democrats gained only one seat in the Indiana Senate and just three in the Indiana House. The GOP super majories are intact as of this writing. Absentee ballots put Rep. Joe Taylor over the top after it appeared he lost on Election Night,

    Republican State Rep. Julie Olthoff trails Democrat Lisa Beck by by 504 votes in HD19 with 61 of 65 precincts reporting. There have been no totals reported from HD4, where State Rep. Ed Soliday was challenged by Democrat Frank Szczepanski. Indiana Democratic Chairman John Zody said Thursday morning he was confident Beck would win after Porter County results come in. He called it "unacceptable" that no results were in for HD4 two days after the election, calling the Porter election a "miscarriage of election administration."

    Democrats picked up two other seats with Chris Chyung defeating State Rep. Hal Slager by 86 votes in HD15, while Chris Campbell defeated Republican State Rep. Sally Siegrist 57-43%. In two off the radar races, Rep. Joe Taylor defeated Republican Troy Dillon, 11,265 to 10,550. And in HD35, State Rep. Melanie Wright staved off Republican Ben Fisher by just 339 votes. Both were heavy union districts and reveal that many union members are still in the camp of President Trump and Republicans.

    Democrats held on to the open HD71, where Dr. Rita Fleming defeated Matt Owen. Fleming garnered 13,214 votes (or 55.6%) over Republican Owen’s 10,010 (42.4%). “I am surprised,” Fleming told the News & Tribune Tuesday night. “But I will tell you I worked really hard and I truly wanted to not just work hard administratively, but I wanted to talk to people. I wanted to talk face to face, I wanted to shake their hand, and I think that makes a difference.” 

    In the Senate, Democrat J.D. Ford won a rematch against State Sen. Mike Delph by 4,733 votes as of this morning. “I just want to pause for a second to appreciate the historical significance that has happened tonight,” Ford said at the Hyatt in Downtown Indianapolis in what was one of the only bright spots for Indiana Democrats. “Tonight, I become Indiana’s first openly gay lawmaker. Ladies and gentlemen, we just made history and no one can take that from us. Every marginalized group — people of color, women, Muslims, Jewish Hoosiers, seniors, LGBTQ+ Hoosiers, just to name a few — you now have a voice in the Indiana General Assembly. And I only intend to amplify it.”

    Senate Republicans easily cruised to victory in SD38 where Sen. Jon Ford turned back Democrat Chris Gambill 56-44%. “It’s exciting to know that my constituents want to give me a second term to continue the work that I’ve been doing and I look forward to getting busy,” Ford told the Tribune-Star. “We put together a solid plan [for the campaign],” he said. “We stuck to that plan and executed it. I think people wanted me to continue to do the work I’ve been doing for the Wabash Valley and it came through.” 

    In the open SD45, Republican Chris Garten defeated Jeffersonville Councilman John Perkins, 62-34%. “We had a great strategy in place early on and I think we executed it with perfection,” Garten told the News & Tribune. “The thing that’s most humbling about this entire experience is that I believe our campaign inspired voters to come out and support us. That’s critical in any election, for any office. As a veteran, that’s important to me.”

    Sen. Ron Grooms was defeating Democrat Anna Murray 54-45%. In the open SD26, Madison County Councilman Mike Gaskill was defeating Anderson Fire Chief Dave Cravens, 57-39% with 90% reporting. In another open seat, Republican Linda Rogers downed Democrat Ed Liptrap 64-36%.

    Sen. Jim Merritt defeated Democrat Derek Camp 52-47% (though absentees are still being counted), setting up a probable challenge to Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, who has not announced whether he will seek a second term.

    Leadership survived challenges in both chambers. Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane defeated Republican Zaki Ali 52-44%, while House Speaker Brian Bosma turned back Democrat Poonam Gill, 56-43%. “It was a hard-fought campaign,” Lanane said. “Zaki put in a great effort. It was definitely a tough race. We had local candidates that I thought could win. The Republican Party got their base out.”

    In other House races, Rep. Dale Devon was turning back a challenge from Dr. Donald Westerhausen, 51-49%. State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer was leading John Barnes 52-47% with absentees still coming in. Democrat Tonya Pfaff won an open seat in HD43, defeating Republican Darrell Felling. Republican Ryan Lauer won the open HD59, defeating Dale Nowlin 57-41%.

    House Dems switch Goodin with GiaQuinta

    House Democrats replaced Rep. Terry Goodin as minority leader with Rep. Phil GiaQuinta. It came after the caucus picked up just three seats on Tuesday. If Democrats pick up HD4 held by State Rep. Ed Soliday, they could break the GOP super majority. GiaQuinta had challenged Goodin for the post after Scott Pelath stepped down last winter.

    Bosma elected to 6th speaker term

    Indiana House Republicans reelected Speaker Brian C. Bosma to his historic sixth term at the helm. “This session, House Republicans are focused on fueling Indiana’s economic momentum and delivering another structurally balanced state budget while funding our state’s critical priorities,” Bosma said. “I look forward to working alongside strong leaders in the House and Senate, and Governor Holcomb as we keep our state moving in the right direction.” State Rep. Greg Steuerwald (R-Avon) was elected Majority Caucus chair, his first term in the position, and State Rep. Matt Lehman (R-Berne) was reelected to serve as majority floor leader. 
  • HPI Analysis: Trump, Kavanaugh effect bury Donnelly

    INDIANAPOLIS – It would be easy to consign Mike Braun’s epic, not-even-close upset of U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly to a Democratic blunder on Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

    Donnelly, along with U.S. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill all voted against Kavanaugh and lost emphatically. West Virginia Democrat U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin supported Kavanaugh and won easily.

    Until the allegations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford surfaced in mid-September, Donnelly had narrow poll advantages and Democratic voter intensity far outpaced Republicans. He was a plausible and probable yea vote on Kavanaugh, which had that occurred, might have left this race on more parochial footing.

    After the sensational Ford/Kavanaugh showdown, and Donnelly’s decision to vote against Kavanaugh, the Republican base was ignited in a race now nationalized. 

    In the weeks leading up to Tuesday, around 300,000 Hoosiers voted early, vastly outpacing the 2014 mid-term and even the 2016 presidential race. On Election Day, a plethora of media outlets reported record mid-term voting as long lines wrapped around voting centers nationwide.

    “I think the Kavanaugh effect was real,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who campaigned with Braun at the Allen County Republican Bean Dinner and in Mishawaka last week. “I have never seen anything unite like Republicans did since then.” Graham added that Braun and other Senate Republicans won due to “Kavanaugh, caravan and a good economy.”

    Democrat decimation

    The Donnelly loss – by 152,693 votes with 93% reporting this morning – which completes the modern decimation of the Indiana Democratic Party after an eight-year slide, came due to the party’s severe under-performance in its remaining bastions – Lake and Marion counties, and the university cities – and its virtual unilateral withdrawal from rural Indiana where only ousted House Minority Leader Terry Goodin represents a mostly agrarian district. 

    Donnelly had a mere 50,000 vote plurality out of Lake County and just a 52,000 vote edge out of Marion County (though 30,000 absentees remain to be counted today). In his home St. Joseph County, he carried just 54%, winning by just under 9,000 votes. He won Tippecanoe County by just 7%, or a little less than 4,000 votes, and Monroe County with 60%, or by a little under 7,000 votes. Donnelly and Braun were in a virtual tie in bellwether Vigo County, separated by a mere 20 votes, while Donnelly carried Vanderburgh by less than 400 votes. There are still absentee ballots to be counted in Indy and 22,000 to be counted in St. Joseph and a significant number in Vanderburgh, so some of these pluralities will change over the next few days.

    In 2012, Donnelly won Lake County by 74,000 votes, Indianapolis by 120,000 votes, Monroe County by 12,000, St. Joseph by 15,000 votes, and Vigo by 8,000.

    If you’re an Indiana Democrat, you have to be asking why the now two current titular heads, U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and Andre Carson, weren’t more active in the two remaining blue congressional districts that wildly under-performed for Donnelly this time, with epic stakes for the state party on the line.

    To show how the Indiana Democratic Party has eroded, the contrasts with Evan Bayh’s 1998 U.S. Senate win over Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke are jarring. Bayh won Lake County by 59,000 votes and Marion County by 47,000 votes. In St. Joseph, Bayh won by 26,000 votes and Monroe by just under 8,000 votes. To take that contrast further, Bayh won Elkhart with 52% of the vote, and carried river counties Gibson (73%), Floyd (68%), Crawford (70%), Clark (72%), Posey (74%), Vigo (76%) and Sullivan (79%). All of those counties went Republican this time, many in the 60th percentile.

    Braun won Hamilton County by 11,000 votes, by 10,000 in Hancock, just under 5,000 in Boone, just under 14,000 in Hendricks, and by 15,000 votes in Johnson. Total, Braun won by the doughnut counties by about 50,000, off-setting Marion.

    But in outer Indiana, Braun rolled up big pluralities across what Vice President Mike Pence has long called the “amber waves of grain,” winning Gibson County with 64%, Jackson County with 65%, Jasper with 66%, Jennings with 65%, Kosciusko with 70%, 66% in Lawrence, 67% in Montgomery, 70% in Morgan, 66% in Putnam, 73% in Ripley, 73% in Dearborn, 69% in Decatur, 75% in Daviess, 65% in Shelby, 72% in Wells, 67% in Whitley, 68% in LaGrange, 63% in Harrison, and with 58% in Elkhart, by 10,000 votes there. Spread out across the 80 or so rural counties, Braun rolled up much of his 152,000 plurality. For Donnelly, it was death by 80 localized cuts.

    It isn’t as if President Trump’s policies have gone without serious consequence. Decatur, Tippecanoe and Gibson counties are home to sprawling Japanese auto plants that have been hit by Trump’s tariffs. The rest are prime farm counties, where soybean farmers have seen the president’s tariffs ransack commodity prices. Trump was able to engineer a $12 billion bailout for this year, and many of these farmers (79% in a national poll published by Hoosier Ag Today) are sticking with the president, believing he has a long-term vision. Many soybean farmers are switching to corn for the 2019 planting season.

    A staple of Donnelly’s reelection narrative was that he had visited all 92 counties every year. Donnelly put an earnest to jovial face on his version of the Democratic brand, but in rural Indiana it just didn’t compete with the straight-talking, no-nonsense Braun who promised to take his executive prowess to Washington to solve the health care problems in the same fashion he did for his company, Meyer Distributing.

    A nationalized race with Trump

    Braun, with the assistance of President Trump, nationalized the race. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence rallied to Braun’s side two days after the primary in Elkhart. In late August, an Evansville MAGA rally supplied Braun and national Super PACs with video and audio bytes that served as the thrust of his homestretch advertising campaign.

    Then Trump came back to Indiana three times in the final two weeks (including the Future Farmers of America convention), where he burnished the fears of a migrant caravan that made it to Mexico City by Election Day. He vowed to put 15,000 U.S. troops on the border and threatened to close it down. Trump branded “Sleepy Joe” as resisting Kavanaugh and opposing his tax cuts (which polls show are not popular here in Indiana nor nationally). He also warned his supporters that Democrats would raise taxes and open the borders to breeders, rapists, thieves and M-13 gang members. Hoosier voters responded to the dog whistles.

    “There’s only one way to stop this Democat-led assault on America’s sovereignty. You have to vote Republican tomorrow,” Trump told more than 10,000 people at the Fort Wayne Coliseum. “This election is about safety, and this election is about jobs. For years, you watched as we let foreign countries plunder our wealth, shutter our factories and steal our jobs. But those days are over. And in case you haven’t noticed our country is respected again.”

    At these MAGA rallies – more than 20,000 turned out in Fort Wayne and Southport in the final four days of the campaign – Hoosier voters lapped up the rhetoric. Braun embraced Trump. He stuck to his strict talking points, avoided the press after debates, and, unlike 2012 GOP nominee Richard Mourdock, didn’t make a mistake. His media strategy wasn’t nearly as good during the general campaign as it was in the primary when he triumphed over U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita by designating them as cardboard cutout “twins.” When the dust settled on Tuesday night, he had retired three sitting members of Congress. U.S. Sen. Todd Young was with him on stage at the J.W. Marriott Tuesday night, himself defeating four former members (Mike Sodrel, Baron Hill, Marlin Stutzman and Evan Bayh). The new Hoosier Senate tandem has been a status quo wrecking crew on Capitol Hill.

    Donnelly tried to make a case for Obamacare, though he mostly touted his support for legal protections for those with “pre-existing conditions” that Trump and Braun would take away. He tried to find cover on his Kavanaugh rejection by reminding voters he voted for Justice Neil Gorsuch. But Hoosier voters believed that Kavanaugh got screwed by ancient, prep-day allegations that could never be proved. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein ended up doing as much damage to Donnelly as President Trump did.

    While state and national polls put concerns over health care far above immigration (41% to 23% in an NBC exit poll), Hoosiers voted for Trump on his self-proclaimed “referendum on me” campaign, with Braun the most conspicuous benefactor.

    “What we need to do is to take to Washington what works in the real world. What works in Jasper, Indiana, or Warsaw, Indiana,” the victorious Braun told jubilant Republicans at the J.W. Marriott, adding that he wanted to bring people to “fix things in a dysfunctional system. That’s my goal.”

    Braun described four limo rides with President Trump. “Trump unplugged on four rides,” Braun said with wonderment as the crowd hooted. “He asked, ‘Do you think we ought to bring Bobby Knight in your campaign?’ Promises made, promises kept.” And the crowd went wild. Last Friday, Braun found himself on stage with Trump, Pence and Coach Knight for the Southport rally.

    Donnelly addressed somber Democrats around 9:25 p.m., telling supporters that he “had the unbelievable opportunity to serve the people.” He applauded his staff, told them he would always be there for them, and added, “I’ve been filled up so much by you. We love this country so much. We need to make sure we bring this country together rather than divide it. We’re all in the same boat together. We’re all American.”

    Trump redefines the GOP

    The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, a Notre Dame graduate, put it in a national context: “Trump has fundamentally redefined the modern Republican Party, lurching a historically free-trade institution toward protectionism on trade and infusing its appeals with racially charged conspiracy theories, rampant demagoguery and proud declarations that he is ‘absolutely a nationalist.’” 

    Mike Braun was an eager adherent.

    Costa continued: “Those cracks, however, have mostly been papered over as conservatives have relished their influence inside the White House and Republican majorities in both congressional chambers, beaming behind Trump in the Rose Garden and Oval Office as he has scribbled his signature on their bills. They have celebrated his role in revamping the federal judiciary, passing a sweeping tax cut and significantly increasing funding for the U.S. military.”

    The irony there is that on a few of those Donnelly bills, President Trump’s scribbled signature was used to make a case that the Democrat backed the president “62% of the time.” 

    A majority of Hoosier voters were looking for a 100%.
  • Braun upsets Donnelly as GOP surges to apex of power

    INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Republicans waited six years for the moment they that came on election night: Joe Donnelly's unlikely tenure as the Democratic Senator from the Hoosier State ended with an emphatic victory by his opponent Mike Braun. The GOP regained Richard Lugar's former Senate seat with a no-nonsense Jasper businessman leading the charge. With 70% of precincts reporting, he held a 54-42% lead over Donnelly with Libertarian Lucy Brenton at 4%.

    Speaking in the JW Marriott's White River Ballroom, before a crowd of jubilant supporters, Senator-elect Mike Braun came to the stage to chants of "Mike! Mike! Mike!" Braun started his speech with the same words he started his primary victory speech with: "What a journey this has been." Beside the smiling pair of Gov. Eric Holcomb and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, Braun began by talking about how he had come to know Hoosiers across the state and promised them "I will not let you down."

    Braun’s victory going away capped a stunning election in Vice President Pence’s home state. Braun credited President Trump’s willingness to campaign for him four times. “It was a huge impact,” Braun said. “Hoosiers like the fact that there’s a new agenda in D.C.”  With Donnelly’s defeat, only Democrat U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and Andre Carson will hold federal seats, and the party failed to make inroads into Republican super majorities in the General Assembly. It was swept in the Statehouse constitutional races. Republicans carried seven out of nine congressional districts, including a victory in the 6th CD by Greg Pence, brother of the vice president. He was joined by 4th CD Republican Jim Baird after his upset primary victory over Braun’s brother.

    The Democratic party has returned to its abject status that it shed in 1986 with the emergence of Evan Bayh. The future governor and senator led Indiana to four consecutive Democratic gubernatorial terms at the Statehouse, and the party regularly competed for the Indiana House and several congressional seats. But Bayh’s abrupt retirement from the U.S. Senate in 2010 began a cascading encroachment of Republicans in dozens of legacy Democratic districts.

    Braun told electrified Republicans, “I haven’t stayed in a motel or hotel but only four or five times. People put me up. That’s the way a campaign should be. I will not let you down, I promise you.” 

    Braun said, “Sen. Donnelly called me about 15 minutes ago. Yep. Like any competition, you fight hard, you want to win. It’s gotten way too nasty on both sides. It should be about ideas, about what you bring to the table. Both sides and their families have had to carry that burden and weight.

    “What we need to do is to take to Washington what works in the real world. What works in Jasper, Indiana, or Warsaw, Indiana,” Braun said, adding that he wanted to bring people to “fix things in a dysfunctional system. That’s my goal.”

    Braun described four limo rides with President Trump, who invested heavily in his campaign beginning two days after his primary win. “Trump unplugged on four rides,” Braun said with wonderment as the crowd hooted. “He asked, ‘Do you think we ought to bring Bobby Knight in your campaign?’ Promises made, promises kept.”

    And the crowd went wild. Last Friday, Braun found himself on stage with Trump, Pence and Coach Knight for the Southport rally.

    Donnelly addressed somber Democrats around 9:25 p.m., telling supporters that he “had the unbelievable opportunity to serve the people.” He applauded his staff, told them he would always be there for them, and added, “I’ve been filled up so much by you. We love this country so much. We need to make sure we bring this country together rather than divide it. We’re all in the same boat together. We’re all American.”

    Donnelly opposed the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after allegations of sexual misconduct while in high school. Donnelly’s decision was a turning point in this race as it energized previously lethargic Republicans. Their growing voter intensity resulted in a surge of early voting and long lines today.

    The networks reported President Trump was giddy over Donnelly’s upset, calling friends and allies. Trump made four MAGA rally appearances with Braun, including two this past week with the final coming on Election Eve in Fort Wayne. All true thousands of supporters. Vice President Pence also appeared with Braun at Southport last Friday. Trump posed the mid-terms as a “referendum” on his presidency and Braun’s upset will be seen as his opening rebuke that eventually resulted in a renewed GOP majority. Hoosiers had backed Trump with a 53% primary victory in 2016 before he carried the state by 19% over Hillary Clinton.

    “I think the Kavanaugh effect was real,” said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who campaigned with Braun at the Allen County Republican bean dinner and Mishawaka last week, citing Donnelly’s decision to oppose the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “I have never seen anything unite like Republicans did since then.” Graham added that Braun and other Senate Republicans won due to “Kavanaugh, caravan and a good economy.”

    Donnelly and Braun raised and had spent on their behalf $91 million, with Braun taking a narrow money lead down the final stretch. Polls showed Braun leading in late October, but two network polls showed Donnelly back in front, by 7% in a Fox News Poll.

    Braun, the blue-shirted Jasper business executive and tree farmer, has now defeated three members of Congress, a feat nearly matching that of U.S. Sen. Todd Young (who has defeated four). He ended the congressional careers of U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, spending more than $6 million of his own fortune to win with 41%, more than 10% more than the “twin” congressmen.

    Democrats were on the way of J.D. Ford defeating State Sen. Mike Delph. The party also retook the majority of the U.S. House.

    Developing . . . .
  • Atomic! Death of polls; a Brauny bet; follow the $$; Ollie ditched
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. The death of political polling

    Here are your final pre-election power lunch talking points: We may be looking at the demise of political polling as we’ve known it. We’ve already seen Gallup pull out of the head-to-head business. Other pollsters we’ve worked with no longer want to participate in the media circus. Today, CNN  had the Democrats leading the congressional generic by 12%, ABC/Washington Post  at 7%, NBC/Wall Street Journal  at 6%, Politico had it at 3%. Who do you believe?  NBC/WSJ  pollster Peter Hart: “It is a political kaleidoscope. You turn the poll one way, and it looks [good for Democrats]. You can see how the GOP squeaks through.” NBC’s  Chuck Todd also admitted he doesn’t believe in the polls.

    FiveThirtyEight’s  Nate Silver was in complete equivocation mode. "So in the House we have Democrats with about a 4 in 5 chance of winning," Silver told ABC's "This Week." But, he said, ”polls aren't always right. The range of outcomes in the House is really wide. Our range which covers 80% of outcomes goes from, on the low end, about 15 Democratic pickups, all the way to low to mid 50s, 52 or 53. Most of those are under 23, which is how many seats they would need to win to take the House. But no one should be surprised if they only win 19 seats  and no one should be surprised if they win 51 seats. Those are both extremely possible, based on how accurate polls are in the real world." So polling confidence is out the window.

    A couple of Rexisms  are in order here when it comes to President Trump’s sway in this state: 1.) “I don’t have to slam my hand in the car door twiceto learn that it hurts”; and (we’re paraphrasing here) 2.) “Being chairman of the party of the governor and one that doesn’t is the difference between shit and ice cream.” So in the Hoosier State, we cannot discount the impact of Trump/Pence, and the GOP has vastly more money. Braun ended up with a money lead over Donnelly. Democrats have put most of their money in Joe Donnelly. President Trump is back in Fort Wayne tonight for a final pitch. It’s designed to stoke up the base; it could motivate the Dem vote, but 2016 is fresh in our minds.

    2. Final INSen forecast

    So we can’t base our final INSen forecasts on polling. A lot of it is follow the money and gut. Nate Silver’sFiveThirtyEight gives Sen. Joe Donnelly a 70.8% chance of winning this morning, down from 80% last week, but up from 68% last week. But what kind of cred does he have, given his DUI-style dialogue on his own forecasting model this past weekend? He might as well quoted HPI (i.e. “Anything can happen.”) We view the Senate race as a tossup.  We’re watching heavy turnout in Indy, but also across red Indiana. Mike Braun was in a tossup race in the primary, and won going away, by 10%. If we had to put a money bet on it, Braun pulls it out, but we’re NOT making a money bet. Former congressman and HPI analyst Mark Souder: “I believe that Braun will narrowly win because Republicans have been steadily activated in Indiana. Sen. Donnelly has run a better campaign, and will run ahead of the congressional Democrats in seven of the nine districts as well as their statewide candidates and their state legislative candidates, who are struggling to win 1/3 of the respective bodies. Donnelly will win crossover votes but not enough. Not only did President Trump push Republicans together, but President Obama's appearance - trying to boost turnout in Democrat areas - further served to remind Republicans that there is no middle party. In the Senate and House you are either a Republican or a Democrat. Indiana is an overwhelmingly Republican at the present time.”

    3. Final CD, Statewide and legislative forecasts

    The GOP will easily carry the three statewide races. Reps. Jackie Walorski and Trey Hollingsworth look like comfortable winners. Democrats will pick up three to four House seats (most vulnerable will be Reps. Sally Siegrist, Julie Olthoff, Dale Devon and Martin Carbaugh on the bubble), and three Senate seats (with Republican Sens. Mike Delph, Jon Ford and Ron Grooms the most vulnerable). The Indiana Business for Responsive Government put $20,000 in Grooms late last week and Republicans were accusing Democrat Anna Murray of hiding a late contribution, so they’re worried about that one. The House Republican Campaign Committee put in $27,500 to Carbaugh on Nov. 1. Indiana BankPAC and IBRG put in a combined $9,000 for Devon. HRCC pumped in $24,000 to Siegrist on Halloween. Democrats put in $20,000 in Chris Gambill’s challenge to Sen. Jon Ford, who received $8,000 from the Republican State Committee. So we’re following the late money  as indicators of where the real races are.

    4. If Donnelly loses …

    If Sen. Donnelly loses, we are looking at the destruction of the Indiana Democratic Party as we know it. It will be in even worse shape than the early 1980s when it could still pull off congressional upsets on occasion. The only survivors of this eight-year demise since the Bayh Dominoes sequence of 2010 which turned Democratic river counties into GOP bastions and Trump Country would be blue seat Reps. Pete Visclosky and Andre Carson, both showing up for President Obama’s rally in Gary on Sunday, but both mostly absent in stumping for Donnelly and down-ballot Dems  this year. Democrats have some big city mayors (Joe Hogsett, Tom Henry, Tom McDermott, Pete Buttigieg, Greg Goodnight and Tony Roswarski) but only Hogsett is remotely positioned for a 2020 gubernatorial run and Indy mayors don’t translate to “outer Indiana.” John Gregg is the only Democrat acting like a prospective challenger to Gov. Eric Holcomb. If Donnelly loses, Indiana becomes a true one-party state.

    5. The NRA/Noblesville blunder

    The Indiana GOP announced NRA President Ollie North would do the Right Track rally in Noblesville. It was abruptly scrapped when someone realizedthere was a school shooting at West Middle School  in that city last May. Duoh! And the 13-year-old shooter was due on court Monday morning. Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer acknowledged there wasn’t a “scheduling conflict” as the GOP indicated on Sunday. It was "the wrong place and wrong time,"  Hupfer said. It will be interesting to see if there’s a political impact. There could have been a big one if North had actually made the date.

    Tuesday’s weather forecast in Indianapolis is high of 54, no rain and windy. At Hammond, high of 51, cloudy and windy. In South Bend it will be a high of 49, a morning shower and windy. In New Albany, breaking clouds, high of 64 and windy. And at Evansville, high of 62, breaking clouds and breezy. Go vote, folks, if you haven’t already done so. It’s The Atomic!
  • Obama urges Hoosiers to 'Choose hope over fear'

    GARY - Former President Barack Obama headlined a Democratic Party GOTV rally in Gary on Sunday, urging Hoosiers to turnout for U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly who is facing an intense challenge from Republican Mike Braun, saying, “Choose hope over fear.”

    Obama’s Gary appearance came two days after President Trump campaigned for Braun at Southport, and a day before Trump returns for an Election Eve rally at the Fort Wayne Coliseum.

    While several Indiana Democrats were present, the main focus fell on U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, whom Obama strongly endorsed, as the contentious Senate campaign draws to a close.

    Obama talked about the working relationship he had with Donnelly while he was in office. He said he knew that Donnelly wasn't always going to agree with him simply by virtue of party loyalty, but that Donnelly was "always focused on Hoosiers." He doesn't yes-man, Obama said. Before a sold-out Genesis Convention Center, and on the 10th anniversary of his victory in the 2008 presidential election, Obama returned to old themes: Hope and change.

    Hitting on key issues in this election (health care, the migrant caravan, the deficit and tax reforms), he made a clear contrast between the two parties. Obama assailed Republicans for using fear and deception to win the election. He and the Democrats prefer "fact-based campaigning" and "reality-based governance," Obama said. 
  • Brian Howey: The Senate race and your valuable vote

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - Through all the Mexico Joe and China Mike antics, the food fights, splittin’ firewood, through the blur of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of TV ads, the Indiana U.S. Senate race is in its final days.

    Hoosiers are turning out in record numbers (292,726 ballots cast over the first 14  days of early voting) to decide whether to send Democrat Joe Donnelly back for another six years, or to replace him with Republican Mike Braun. So where do things stand here in the homestretch?

    First, with Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp likely to lose in North Dakota, the Donnelly/Braun showdown will not determine which party controls the Senate. Democrats had to protect all of their seats to do that.

    Second, Howey Politics Indiana commentator Chris Sautter writes this week that most “wave elections” take shape in the final days. There are some like the LBJ landslide of 1964 or the Watergate debacle for Republicans that you could see coming. But others like the 1980 Reagan revolution or the Democrat wave of 2006 developed late. Campaigning in Southport Friday night with President Trump and Braun, Vice President Mike Pence said, “We Keep hearing about this blue wave. But I think that blue wave is going to hit a red wall.”

    Last week, I really thought Braun was pulling away. He had small leads in a series of four polls. A Ball State Hoosier Poll showed President Trump’s approve/disapprove numbers at 53/39 percent, the best he’s been since the 2016 election when he carried Indiana by 19 percent.

    Then came the classic twists: The Cesar Sayoc bomb spree targeting 14 Trump critics, and the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. President Trump lashed out at victims of the bomber, tweeted about it in “scare quotes,” complained that it was robbing the GOP of momentum, and on the same day of the Pittsburgh atrocity, told Future Farmers of America conventioneers in Indianapolis that he was having a “bad hair day.”

    On Monday, Gallup Tracking showed his approval had declined 4 percent, to 40 percent. When Presidents Clinton and Obama had approval at 45 percent, their parties ended up with a mid-term bloodbath, losing dozens upon dozens of congressional seats. 

    Then came two polls on Wednesday. Fox News gave Donnelly a 45-38 percent lead, which was truly an outlier. It put Trump’s approve/disapprove at 50/48 percent. An NBC/Marist Poll had Donnelly up 48-46 percent. When Libertarian Lucy Brenton was added, Donnelly was up 3 percent.

    Both of those polls revealed great fluidity, with 14 percent in the NBC/Marist Poll saying they were “persuadable,” that is, they could change their votes, while the Fox Poll put it at 19 percent. Lkely voters asked how interested they are in the Senate race in the Fox Poll, 44% of Democrats said they were "extremely" interested, compared to 37% for Republicans and 16% for independents. On the ideological spectrum, 45% of liberals, 37% of conservatives, 31% of moderates and 37% of evangelicals described themselves as "extremely" interested. 

    So there is still great volatility here. Before these last two polls came out, I had the race “tossup” with Braun having a slight advantage. He was in a tossup primary race against Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rolita where there was a huge pool of undecideds, and he won by 10 percent.

    After those two polls, I still list the race as a tossup, but with a slight Donnelly edge. The metric website FiveThirtyEight gave Donnelly an 80 percent chance of winning last week, declining to 67.1 percent on Wednesday, then rebounding to 71.3% on Thursday and 68.3% on Saturday morning.

    In the midst of all this polling frenzy, we find the big guns coming in. On Friday, President Trump and Vice President Pence came to Southport for a rally for Braun, and then return to Fort Wayne on Election Eve. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be on stage with the president of the United States, the vice president and Bobby Knight," Braun said. "Only in America. Only in Indiana." 

    Trump boasted about the economy in Southport. “How were those jobs numbers today?” he asked the crowd of more than 8,500 Hoosiers. “In just four days the people of Indiana are going to send Mike Braun to the United States Senate so we can keep making America great again. This election will decide whether we build on the extraordinary progress we’ve made or whether we let the Democrats take a giant wrecking ball to our economy. In the last month alone, we added another 250,000 jobs and another 600,000 Americans returned to the workforce. The unemployment fell to the lowest level in 50 years and more Americans are working today than ever before.”

    Former congressman Mark Souder writes in his Howey Politics Indiana column this week that normally it would be the vice president returning to his home state to rally the troops. “So here, in the days before Election Day, it is Donald Trump riding in to rescue Mike Braun and defeat the incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly, in a state where Donnelly – if he wasn’t Joe Donnelly – could be losing by 30 points.”

    Souder believes Braun will win. President Trump must be seeing internal polling showing a vivid path to victory for the Republican. If Donnelly survives after two late Trump visits, well, that would be embarrassing for the guy who values winning over anything else.

    The Trump visits could also spur more women to show up and vote for Donnelly. Trump’s rhetoric about women, minorities, the immigrant child separations and the “caravan” scare tactics could backfire.

    Trump is using the full powers of his office to help Republicans like Braun, vowing to put 15,000 troops on the Mexican border. But even some conservatives see it as pure fear-mongering. Trump had tweeted, “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” And at Southport, he said, “The Democrats want to invite caravan after caravan, and you see we have more caravans forming, don't you? I think they overplayed their hand on this one folks. Between Justice (Brett) Kavanaugh and the caravans, you people are energized." 

    But Fox News anchor Shep Smith observed on Monday: “There is no invasion. No one’s coming to get you. There’s nothing at all to worry about. Tomorrow the migrants, according to Fox News reporting, are more than two months away — if any of them actually come here. But tomorrow is one week before the midterm election, which is what all of this is about.”

    So, Hoosier folk, the $100 million Senate race draws to a close. Sanity will soon return to your TV sets. My parting words are simply this: Go vote. You live in a democracy. It thrives on citizen participation. Make a choice between Mike Braun or Joe Donnelly.

    The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.
  • HPI Horse Race: Only a handful of House races in play

    INDIANAPOLIS – The battle for the Indiana House is conforming to some of our earliest forecasting, in that there are only a handful of seats that appear to be in play in the final days of the campaign.

    Howey Politics Indiana has Democratic challenges to Republican State Reps. Julie Olthoff, Dale Devon, Sally Siegrist and Martin Carbaugh in its “Tossup” category, while the open HD71 being vacated by Democratic State Rep. Steve Stemler looks to be a pickup opportunity for Republicans. Chris Campbell's challenge to Rep. Siegrist heated up significantly as Democrats dropped a mailer linking her to the defense of House Speaker Brian Bosma and allegations of a relationship with an intern, according to Dave Bangert of the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

    Our “Leans” category includes only one race, that of State Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, who faces a rematch with Democrat John Barnes.

    So, the “blue wave” doesn’t appear to have materialized in an election crucial for Indiana Democrats who languish in super-minority status in the 70-30 split Indiana House. The party’s best-case scenario now appears to be a 66-34 House, which hardly positions Democrats for the crucial 2021 reapportionment. It could also hamper the party in its search for a viable challenger for Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2020.

    Both caucus leaders, Bosma and Democrat Terry Goodin, are included in this forecast. Both appear to be in good shape, although now faces a formal ethics complaint from  an intern from an incident two decades ago. Bosma began TV advertising this week. Some observers attempted to link that to IndyStar reporting on $40,000 in legal expenditures from his campaign fund, but an informed and reliable GOP source told HPI on Tuesday, “The speaker’s numbers are pretty strong. But we figured that every day that goes by you lose, so we decided to be proactive.” The TV ad “spreads a very positive message on what Republican leadership has done in Indiana. We also wanted to prevent a surprise attack.”

    The Olthoff, Devon, Siegrist, Carbaugh and open HD71 seat being fought by Democrat Dr. Rita Fleming and Matt Owen all fit the “suburban” designation that has been the topic of much political reporting both here and across the nation. That storyline is that President Trump’s history with women and minorities, as well as the immigrant child separations, are motivating suburban women to vote in droves. “It’s definitely out there,” the GOP source said. “Our numbers with women are not where they’ve been in previous cycles. At the same time, we’re doing very well with independent men.”

    That could be some of the fallout over the Justice Brett Kavanaugh allegations and sensational testimony in early October. Many men HPI have talked with believe that raising uncorroborated high school or college-era behavior was unfair. “Interest levels are up very strongly for independent and Republican men,” the GOP source said. “The union vote coming out early is going our way as well.” That could be bad news for U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, who needs not only suburban women, but also the union vote that President Trump won over in 2016.

    In September, we had Dr. Fleming as a “likely” winner in the open HD71. “The Stemler seat environment improved quite a bit since early September polling,” our GOP source said.

    Thus, we see at this point a potential four-seat Democratic pickup in the House, but only if they run the table. President Trump will campaign Friday in Southport, which should help Rep. Kirchhofer, and in Fort Wayne on Election Eve, which should benefit Rep. Carbaugh. So, “running the table” for Democrats could be a real reach. Sources tell HPI that Democrats had an initial edge in absentee ballots, but Republicans have been early voting at a vigorous pace.

    Included in this forecast are 20 House races. The other 80 seats are considered “Safe” for the incumbent parties.

    HD4: Republican: Rep. Ed Soliday. Democrat: Frank Szczepanski. 2016 Results: Soliday 17,272, Fish (D) 14,311. Analysis: Soliday posted $105,040 in contributions after beginning the cycle with $47,385, spending $112,041 and had an ending balance of $40,383. Szczepanski raised only $20,152, spent $19,162 and had $2,103 ending balance. While this district fits the “suburban” definition that was supposedly in play this cycle, our sense is that Soliday survives this challenge. The lack of late money is indicative of that. Horse Race Status: Likely Soliday.

    HD5: Republican: Rep. Dale DeVon. Democrat: Donald R. Westerhausen. 2016 Results: DeVon 19,177. Analysis: Devon reported a beginning balance of $7,481, contributions of $213,036, expenditures of $212,051 and an ending balance of $1,126. Devon has received late contributions of $75,000 from the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC), a key indicator that this seat is truly at risk. Democrat Donald Westerhausen reported a beginning balance of $18,628, contributions of $120,459, expenditures of $112,176 and an ending balance of $26,911. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD11: Republican: Rep. Michael Aylesworth. Democrat: Delano Scaife. 2016 results: Aylesworth 18,163, Metro (D) 11,852. Analysis: Rep. Aylesworth has raised $27,642, has spent $29,774 and had an ending balance of $212. But he received $8,000 in late money from HRCC. Scaife has raised just $1,937. Not much of a race. Horse Race Status: Safe Aylesworth.

    HD15: Republican: Rep. Hal Slager. Democrat: Chris Chying. 2016 Results: Slager 16,152, O’Donnell 13,581. Analysis: For a race supposedly in play, this one hasn’t drawn big money. Slager began the cycle with $13,932, raised $45,045, spent $40,553 and had an ending balance of $18,424. We could not access a finance report for Chying. Horse Race Status: Likely Slager.

    HD19: Republican: Rep. Julie Olthoff. Democrat: Lisa Beck. 2016 results: Olthoff 15,236, VanDenburgh (D) 14,895, Demaree (L) 1,288. Analysis: Rep. Olthoff began the cycle with $11,828, raised $131,975, spent $135,435 and had an ending balance of $8,368. She has received late contributions of $50,000 from HRCC, $10,000 from the Indiana Business for Responsive Government PAC, and $5,000 from the National Federation of Businesses. Beck began the cycle with $9,677, raised $98,001 and had spent $47,106 at the Oct. 19 reporting deadline. She reported an ending balance of $60,571 but had four large contributions, including about $9,000 from I-PACE, $1,000 from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainsmen, and $5,000 from the Lawyers Political Action Committee of Indiana. President Trump is still popular with many union members and this is a real race. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD24: Republican: State Rep. Donna Schaibley. Democrat: Naomi Bechtold. Libertarian: Donald Rainwater III. 2016 result: Schaibley (R) 29,297, Cetinok (L) 6,450. Analysis: This seat fits inside SD29 where State Sen. Mike Delph is in a tossup race against Democrat J.D. Ford. Schaibley has raised $42,771, spent $38,654 and reported $22,042 cash on hand. She received a late contribution of $1,000 from the Indiana Realtors PAC. Bechtold has raised $93,823, spent $68,968 and had an ending balance of $30,135, but she’s received only $1,000 in late money, which tells us that Schaibley looks to be in good shape down the homestretch in this Indy suburban district. Horse Race Status: Likely Schaibley.

    HD26: Republican: Rep. Sally Siegrist. Democrat: Chris Campbell. 2016 Results: Siegrist 11,067, Woeste (D) 9,980. Analysis: In one of the key showdown races, Siegrist has raised $141,561, spent $165,278 and had $4,174 cash on hand. HRCC pumped $20,000 into her campaign on Oct. 26 and Indiana Business for Responsive Government put in $10,000. Campbell was slated in June, has raised $78,952, spent $66,023 and had $12,928 ending balance. She is getting late money from Lawyers PAC of Indiana ($2,500), the House Democratic Caucus ($37,000), $5,000 from Rep. Terri Austin, $1,000 from Pierce for State Rep. With money spilling in from both parties, this looks to be a pure tossup. The gloves came off on No. 3 on that list Thursday, when mailers designed to cut into Rep. Sally Siegrist landed in mailboxes (Bangert, Lafayette Journal & Courier). On the front of the glossy mailer, a woman hides her face in her hands. The text: “Intimidation. Coercion. Strong-arming. Politics at its worst.” On the back, was a picture of Siegrist and a copy of the statement she signed in Bosma’s defense. The mailer’s accusation of Siegrist: “Bad for Women. Bad for Indiana.” Siegrist, asked earlier in the week about her opponents’ plans to raise questions about her support of Bosma, declined to answer questions from the J&C. On Thursday, once mailers went out, she did not immediately respond to follow-up questions. Campbell said she knew the flier, paid for by the Indiana Democratic State Central Committee, was coming out. “For her to not stand by another woman,” Campbell said, “I find it pretty appalling.” “I found it quite appalling that he would spend $40,000 to basically harass a former intern,” Campbell said. “With the MeToo movement, women are trying to speak out and fight back and say, basically, we’re not going to accept this kind of behavior. We’re going to make men accountable for their actions. … Sally Siegrist should have, too.”
    It is a district that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD33: Open (Rep. Greg Beumer (R) is retiring). Republican: John Prescott. Democrat: Winchester Mayor Shon Byrum. Libertarian: Dale Arnett. 2016 results: Beumer (R) 21,446. Analysis: Democrats think this race is in play, saying that Joe Donnelly carried the district in 2012. Prescott has raised $53,396, spent $41,172 and had $16,762 ending balance. Mayor Byrum had raised $28,759, spent $25,599 and had an ending balance of $8,226. Byrum lost to Rep. Beumer in 2014 with the incumbent getting 60%. We believe this stays in the GOP column.  Horse Race Status: Likely Prescott.

    Republican: Rep. Alan Morrison. Democrat: Evelyn Brown. 2016 Results: Morrison 14,901, Skinner (D) 11,434. Analysis: Morrison benefited from the Donald Trump wave, defeating former state senator Timothy Skinner in a race that many believed would go down to the wire. This is heavy Trump country and Morrison’s early polling looks good for his reelect. Morrison has raised $50,198, spent $29,082 and had an ending balance of $23,966. He is not receiving late contributions. Brown has raised $54,868, spent $37,753 and had an ending balance of $17,115, but is not receiving late money. Horse Race Status: Likely Morrison.

    HD43: Open (Rep. Clyde Kersey (D) retiring). Republican: Darrell Felling. Democrat: Tonya Pfaff. 2016 results: Kersey 16,454. Analysis: This is a Democratic-leaning open seat. Pfaff is the daughter of Fred Nation, former press secretary to Gov. Evan Bayh and a former Terre Haute mayoral nominee. She has raised $24,083, spent $18,839 and had $21,165 ending balance. Felling, the Terre Haute city attorney, has raised under $5,000 and had an ending balance of $5,998. Looks like this one will stay in the D column. Horse Race Status: Safe Pfaff. 

    HD45: Republican: Rep. Bruce Borders. Democrat: Jim Exline. 2016 results: Borders 19,193. Analysis: This seat has flipped back and forth and could be competitive if Exline, who publishes the Sullivan Times, proves to be a strong first-time legislative candidate. Borders has raised just $19,250 after reporting a beginning balance of $14,536, has spent $16,392 and reported an ending balance of $17,394. He is not receiving late contributions. Exline has raised $37,980, spent $20,958 and had an ending balance of $20,288. He received $2,500 from I-PACE on Oct. 22. Republicans seem confident that “Elvis” will hold this House district where President Trump is very popular. “They love the president,” our GOP source said. Horse Race Status: Likely Borders.

    HD59: Open (Rep. Milo Smith (R) retiring). Republican: Ryan Lauer. Democrat: Dale Nowlin. Libertarian: Clyde Myers. 2016 results: Smith 16,118, Pitman (D) 10,205. Analysis: Lauer is the former Bartholomew County Council president who challenged and lost to Rep. Smith in 2016. He won a six-way primary, topping Indiana Chamber-backed JoAnne Flohr, who raised a decent amount of late money. Lauer has raised $42,280 on top of a beginning balance of $11,754, has spent $25,892 and reported an ending balance of $18,142. Nowlin is a Columbus North HS teacher who defeated community activist Mary Kohen and has raised $30,647, spent $27,335 and reported $4,298 ending balance. This is a Republican district, the home of Vice President Mike Pence, and should hold in the GOP column. Horse Race Status: Likely Lauer.

    HD62: Republican: Rep. Jeff Ellington. Democrat: Amy Swain. 2016 Results: Ellington 16,724, Lindsey (D) 11,589. Analysis: While John Gregg and Joe Donnelly have carried this district, Republicans believe that Ellington will keep it in the GOP column with strong support from western Monroe County and in Greene County where President Trump remains popular. Swain is a former Indian Creek Township official who voted to establish fire protection and EMT services and her husband is the Monroe County sheriff. She has raised $50,530, spent $21,910 and had an ending balance of $28,419. Ellington has raised $34,172, spent $31,693 and had an ending balance of $2,903. There has been no late money coming into this race. Horse Race Status: Likely Ellington.

    HD66: Democrat: House Minority Leader Terry Goodin. Republican: Mike Bowling. 2016 Results: Goodin 10,822, Shadday (R) 7,566. Analysis: This is a district that is trending Republican and President Trump won this district with 65%. Bowling is with the Clark County Sheriff Department and Republicans have placed a field manager in the district. The Goodin name is a popular political brand in this Scott and Jackson county district and Goodin’s brother is running for Scott County sheriff, which should help him. Goodin has raised $107,636 on top of a beginning balance of $27,237. He has spent $92,853 and had an ending balance of $42,020. Goodin received late money from I-PAC ($1,500), Eli Lilly PAC ($1,000), Wine & Spirits Distributors of Indiana PAC ($1,500), and AFSCME ($1,500). Bowling has raised just $5,795, spent $3,196 and had an ending balance of $2,598. He has not received late funding. Horse Race Status: Safe Goodin.

    HD71: Open (Rep. Steve Stemler (D) is retiring). Republican: Matt Owen. Democrat: Dr. Rita Fleming. Libertarian: Thomas Keister. 2016 results: Stemler 18,728, Keister (L) 4,578. Analysis: Fleming has raised $65,528, spent $44,844 and had an ending balance of $27,684. She received $133,000 from the House Democrat Caucus, $1,000 from the Lawyers PAC, $6,000 from Rep. Austin, and $5,000 from Rep. Phil GiaQuinta. Owen won the primary with $50,000 from the Indiana GOP and has raised $76,842, spent $83,343 and had an ending balance of $4,402. HRCC pumped in $17,000 on Oct. 29, so Republicans still believe this could be a pickup.  Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    HD81: Republican: Rep. Martin Carbaugh. Democrat: Kyle R. Miller. 2016 results: Carbaugh 13,925, Haddadd (D) 8,938. Analysis: This is a potential Democratic pickup. Carbaugh started the cycle with $44,029, raised $166,699, spent $163,212 and had an ending balance of $47,515. HRCC has put in $28,354, another $10,000 from Indiana Business for Responsive Government, $3,404 from Cherry Communications, $1,000 from Selective Insurance, and $2,599 from the Northeast PAC for Better Government. Miller has raised just $22,301, spent $20,090 and had an ending balance of $2,331. Republicans are pouring a lot of late money into this race, so they are seeing some real vulnerability with Miller. President Trump campaigning in Fort Wayne on Election Eve should help Carbaugh.  Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    Republican: Speaker Brian Bosma. Democrat: Poonam Gill. 2016 Results: Bosma 24,550, Black (D) 13,059. Analysis: Bosma now faces a formal ethics complaint from a former House intern, the IndyStar is reporting today (See Page 21). Bosma began running ads Monday on broadcast TV. “We’ve balanced your budget and lowered your taxes,” Bosma says in the spot, adding that he helped raise education funding and “we’ve even built a long-term transportation plan.” Bosma is facing Democrat Poonam Gill. The House Republican Campaign Committee began funneling more than $20,000 in funds last week. Reports over the weekend are that HRCC was polling in HD88, though our sources there say Bosma’s numbers are good. Pre-general election campaign finance reports show that Bosma had an ending balance of $1.53 million. In contrast, Gill has raised $129,389 and had an ending balance of $74,914.  Horse Race Status: Likely Bosma.

    HD89: Republican: Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer. Democrat: John F. Barnes. 2016 Results: Kirchhofer 13,683, Burke (D) 11,367. Analysis: This is a rematch from 2010 when Kirchhofer upset Barnes, a social studies teacher. In 2012, Barnes unsuccessfully sought SD32. This Marion County district is competitive but is trending Democratic and Barnes has high name ID. Kirchhofer began running network TV ads in early October (debuting on “Survivor”). Kirchhofer raised $156,8711, has spent $194,445 and had an ending balance of $14,281. HRCC has pumped in more than $35,000 and Kirchhofer has received $4,000 from various health-related PACs. Barnes has raised $55,435, spent $31,413 and had an ending balance of $38,281, which suggests he will be advertising late. I-PACE has pumped in almost $14,000 for Barnes in late funds. This has the potential of being a Democratic pickup. But President Trump’s MAGA rally in Southport should help Kirchhofer. Horse Race Status: Leans Kirchhofer.

    HD90: Republican: Rep. Mike Speedy. Democrat: Tim Jeffers. 2016 results: Speedy 19,019, Hollings (D) 9,515, McNaughton (L) 1,348. Analysis: This seat is a Republican stronghold, and Jeffers, who was the 1994 Democratic nominee for secretary of state, is Speedy’s first credible general election challenger. Speedy has raised $14,250, spent $23,233 and had an ending balance of $13,000 while receiving $2,600 in late funding. Jeffers has raised $33,276, spent $17,857 and had $15,418 ending balance. We included this race as a “blue wave” outlier, but the lack of late money tells us Speedy is racing toward another term. Horse Race Status: Likely Speedy.
  • Atomic! INSen intensity & persuasion; Legislative races heat up
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. INSen intensity and persuasion

    Here are your final Friday pre-election power lunch talking points: With President Trump and Vice President Pence winging into Southport this evening, we’ve mined down into the two late network polls  that gave U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly leads over Mike Braun. In the Fox News Poll  that had Donnelly up by a surprising 45-38% margin, the crosstabs revealed Democrats are maintaining a voter intensity edge. Likely voters were asked how interested they are in the Senate race, 44% of Democrats said they were “extremely” interested, compared to 37% for Republicans and 16% for independents. On the ideological spectrum, 45% of liberals, 37% of conservatives, 31% of moderates and 37% of evangelicals described themselves that way. As for location, 42% of suburbanites fit that category, compared to 37% of urban voters and 33% of rural voters. In the head-to-head question, Braun was carrying 78% of Republican voters, compared to 84% of Democrats who support Donnelly. Donnelly had a 30-18% lead among independent voters, while 18% of those were backing Libertarian Lucy Brenton. That poll showed that 19% could change their mind, including 14% of Democrats and 19% of Republicans.

    The NBC/Marist Poll  that had Donnelly up by 3%, some 14% of likely voters called themselves “persuadable.” Among those voters, Trump’s approval rating is 42%, compared to 50% for likely voters. So the Trump visits to Southport and Fort Wayne on Monday will help solidify Braun with the Trump base, but may not help him much with independents, suburban women and moderates. With Sen. Heidi Heitkamp likely to lose in North Dakota, ending Democrat hopes for a majority, that could keep some Republicans in the Donnelly camp  if Senate control is no longer on the table.  Donnelly’s fav/unfav is 27/25% (+2), versus Braun’s fav/unfav at 14/35% (-21). And congressional preference is even among these voters (when it was R+7 among all likely voters). NBC’s Meet The Press Daily  bottom line: These persuadable voters in Indiana seem like true swing voters, and they’re more negative on Braun than on Donnelly.

    2. Legislative races heating up

    General Assembly races typically intensify in the final week. HPI  was your only source tracking finance data in 20 of the more competitive House races and 10 in the Senate. The Speaker Brian Bosma/intern story heated up this week with the intern filing an ethics complaint. In the tossup HD26, Democrat Chris Campbell sent out a mailer assailing Rep. Sally Siegrist for joining some 60 other Republicans in defending Bosma. The text: “Intimidation. Coercion. Strong-arming. Politics at its worst.” On the back, was a picture of Siegrist and a copy of the statement she signed in Bosma’s defense. The mailer’s accusation of Siegrist: “Bad for Women. Bad for Indiana.” Campbell: “For her to not stand by another woman I find it pretty appalling. I found it quite appalling that he would spend $40,000 to basically harass a former intern.” Siegrist wouldn’t comment. That tactic could possibly surface in HD19, where Rep. Julie Olthoff, who also signed the letter, is facing Democrat Lisa Beck in another tossup race.

    3. Indiana Senate flare-ups

    In SD25, Republican Anderson attorney Zaki Ali sent out a mailer referring to Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane as “Liberal Lanane” and “career politician.” Lanane express disappointment, telling the Muncie Star Press  Ali had told him he “would not engage in negative politics.” Ali: "My promise to Sen. Lanane was that I would not make any personal attacks against him. Never once did I say I would not discuss his record. And that is exactly what I'm doing.” In SD46, where Democrat Anna Murray is challenging, Sen. Ron Grooms, nervous Republicans are alleging that Murray failed to report a $30,000 late contribution on time. Both parties rushed in $30,000 late donations, which is why HPI  moved this race from “Leans” Grooms to “Tossup.”

    4. IndyChamber backing Ford over Delph

    In another high-profile race, the Indianapolis Chamber is backing Democrat challenger J.D. Ford against State Sen. Mike Delph. "We like Ford's openness and willingness to listen to all sides and to bring no entrenched ideological positions to the process of legislating," said Chief Policy OfficerMark Fisher. Money is pouring into that race, with Ford posting $347,760 for the cycle while Delph has raised $368,938. Ford has received $53,000 in late money from Senate Democrats and $60,586 from the cash-strapped Indiana Democrat Party. Delph has received $38,887 from the Republican State Committee and a little over $40,000 from the Senate Majority Campaign Committee. That’s a tossup race, too, folks.

    5. SD26 cash and probe

    Another big money race is the open SD26 of retiring Sen. Doug Eckerty. Republican Madison County Councilman Mike Gaskill has raised $180,640 while Anderson Fire Chief Dave Cravens posted $153,077 on top of a beginning balance of $75,000. The placement of an outdated political ad in theAnderson Herald Bulletin last week has led to an investigation by the Indiana State Police, according to veteran reporter Ken da la Bastide. “A number of people called (saying) that they didn’t authorize their names being used in the endorsement ad,” said Madison County Prosecutor Rodney Cummings. “The State Police are trying to determine who is responsible for paying and placing the ad.” The ad was a reprint of a 2012 ad listing 175 Madison County public safety employees opposed to the election of Gaskill and county Councilman Mike Phipps. That sounds like a dirty trick!

    Have a great weekend folks. Rake, blow leaves, rally with Trump or Obama and vote. It’s The Atomic!

  • Horse Race: Four tossups, two leaners in Senate races

    INDIANAPOLIS – While the nine Indiana Senate Democrats had hoped that a “blue wave” would allow them to grow their tiny caucus, our analysis shows only four “Tossup” races and only two in the “Leans” category. Any Democrat gains will be very modest. Our tossup races include the J.D. Ford rematch with Sen. Mike Delph, Sen. Jon Ford’s efforts to turn back Democrat Chris Gambill, the open SD26 in the Delaware/Madison county area, and Anna Murray’s challenge to Sen. Ron Grooms in the suburban Louisville area.

    The “Kavanaugh effect” has probably helped several other potentially vulnerable Republicans, but it could be backfiring in a couple of Indianapolis suburban races involving Delph and Sen. Jim Merritt. Of those two, Merritt appears to be on safer ground than Delph, who is in a true dogfight. Republican sources are telling HPI that while the Kavanaugh issue has motivated suburban women voters, which could hurt Delph, Merritt and Grooms, it has also heightened interest from independent and Republican male voters who believe Justice Brett Kavanaugh was on the receiving end of unfair allegations coming from his high school days. Sources also tell HPI that President Trump is extremely unpopular in Merritt’s district. And that could be a factor in the Louisville suburb races, though Republican sources seem less animated about losing those seats than the two Indianapolis/Carmel seats.

    Senate Republicans have a 41-9 super majority. At this writing, we believe Democrats have an opportunity to pick up between three, maybe four seats, if they run the table. President Trump is conducting MAGA rallies in Fort Wayne and Indianapolis and those will help energize the GOP base, but could also spark a counter reaction from women concerned about Trump’s attitude toward women, immigrant family separations, and his incendiary rhetoric, which some have connected to Cesar Sayoc’s mail bomb spree and the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. 

    So here is our third forecast for the Indiana Senate. These include races in the “Likely” to “Tossup” range. All others are deemed “Safe” for the incumbent.

    SD11: Republican: Linda Rogers. Democrat: Ed Liptrap. Analysis: Rogers upset State Sen. Joe Zakas 66-33% on May 8. In 2014, Zakas ran unopposed, carrying 19,924 votes. Rogers began with a $34,272 balance, raised $214,104, spent $185,050 and had an ending balance of $63,326. Late money has been spilling into her campaign, including $48,700 from the Indiana Republican Party. Liptrap has raised only $28,044, spent that amount and had no cash end balance. This was supposed to be a lock for the GOP, so it was curious to see funds coming in from the state GOP. But we believe this will stay in the GOP column. Horse Race Status: Likely Rogers.

    SD17: Republican: Sen. Andy Zay. Democrat: Gary Snyder. Analysis: Republican State Sen. Jim Banks ran unopposed in 2014 with 20,013 votes in what is a very Republican district. Zay began the cycle with $50,000, raised $115,082, spent $80,892 and had an ending balance of $84,254. Snyder raised $9,910, spent $8,176 and had an ending balance of $2,300. He is drawing no late funds. Without an emphatic Democratic wave, there is virtually no chance this seat will flip and even if there is such a wave, the Republican nature of this district should hold for the majority caucus. Horse Race Status: Safe Zay.

    SD22: Republican: Sen. Ron Alting. Democrat: Sheryl Shipley. Analysis:  This district made our forecast cut because it fit the suburban designation that was theoretically in play this cycle. Sen. Alting began the cycle with $342,154, raised $205,729, has spent $116,934 and had an ending balance of $430,949. He received a large contribution from the Cold Beer PAC of $2,500. Cheers! Shipley, who began this cycle as a 4th CD candidate before opting for what some believed to be a competitive race, began the cycle with $1,999, raised $34,835, spent $30,982 and reported an ending balance of $5,852. While there has been heavy early voting in Tippecanoe County which might be to Shipley’s benefit, Alting appears to be in good shape for reelection, otherwise we’d be seeing Senate Majority Campaign Committee funds coming into this race. Horse Race Status: Likely Alting. 

    SD25: Democrat: Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane. Republican: Zaki Ali. Analysis: Lanane began the cycle with $78,095, raised $152,295, spent $125,195 and had an ending balance of $105,195. Lanane has received only a few late donations, including $2,500 from the Cold Beer PAC and $4,500 from I-PACE. Ali has raised $88,700, spent $57,103 and had an ending balance of $31,597. He received a late contribution from the Indiana Republican Party at $6,025. There have been rumblings that Lanane has gotten sideways with African-Americans on the west side of Anderson after defeating Anderson Councilwoman Tami Dixon-Tatum with 65% in the primary, including 64% in the city of Anderson. There have been an array of local issues impacting this race, including an Anderson City Council budget showdown and a DUI for Mayor Broderick’s son, who resigned as an employee under Lanane’s direction. Ali brings some name ID into this race with past advertising for his law practice. This is a Democratic district, but Lanane faces a more prominent Republican. Our sense is that while this race tightened, Lanane will survive. If he was truly in trouble, we’d be seeing more Senate Democrat and state party funds spilling into this race. Horse Race Status: Leans Lanane.

    SD26: Open (Sen. Doug Eckerty retiring). Republican: Madison County Councilman Mike Gaskill. Democrat: Anderson Fire Chief Dave Cravens. Analysis: Cravens reported a beginning balance of $75,007, had $153,077 in contributions, spent $186,882 and reported an ending balance of $41,202. Mike Gaskill reported $180,640 in contributions, $152,195 in expenditures and had an ending balance of $28,446. The key question is whether Gaskill will get support from the Madison County GOP. It’s been a somewhat tortured relationship, with Gaskill appointed to the county council in 2014, only to be defeated that November. He returned to the council in the 2016 election. There’s been a long-running feud between Gaskill and Republican Chairman Russ Willis, who backed Owens in the primary. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    SD29: Republican: Sen. Mike Delph. Democrat: J.D. Ford. Analysis:  Delph has spent more than $463,311 in his reelection bid and posted an ending balance of $113,050. Delph started the year with $207,388, but spent much of that during his primary. He has raised $368,938. Delph has had two fundraisers during the fall campaign as he seeks to thwart a vigorous rematch challenge from Democrat J.D. Ford, who has raised $347,760 for the cycle after beginning the year with $63,040. Ford has spent $271,631 and posted an ending balance of $139,168. Delph received $2,000 in late money from Todd Rokita, $38,887 from the Republican State Committee, a little over $40,000 from the SMCC, and $2,000 from Dana Dumezich. Ford is also receiving late money, including $53,000 from Senate Democrats, $2,500 from LAWPAC, $60,586 from the Indiana Democrat Party, and a little over $5,000 from ACTBLUE. Delph seems to be the most vulnerable Republican, with a Democratic poll last month showing Ford up by 9%. Delph acknowledged in September he is in a tossup race, but has been advertising heavily on cable. Ford, too, has been running TV. This is a district where the so-called “Kavanaugh effect” is actually helping Democrats, as suburban females are motivated to vote. Delph won this match-up in 2014 by 15,140 to 12,744. He won a bruising primary battle with Corrie Meyer, 58-42%. Delph withstood more than $200,000 in an advertising blitz that included $100,000 in late money from some heavy-hitting individual donors and business groups, as well as an array of influential district mayors and former officeholders conspicuously backing Meyer. This is the lone Republican-held district that Hillary Clinton carried over Donald Trump in 2016 and Delph said that both President Trump and Senate nominee Mike Braun are underperforming in his district. Delph has a wide grassroots network and he hasn’t lost a race since the 2002 convention floor secretary of state race. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    SD31: Republican: State Sen. Jim Merritt. Democrat: Derek Camp. Analysis: Merritt began the cycle with $60,482, raised $274,973, spent $288,077 and had an ending balance of $47,378. He is getting late money from Senate colleagues, including $3,000 from Ryan Mishler, $10,000 from Mark Messner and $5,000 from Hershman for Senate, while the Senate Majority Campaign put in $11,000, Indiana Business for Responsive Government $15,000, another $5,770 from the Republican State Committee, $2,500 from KRG Finance and $1,500 from Catalyst Public Affairs Group PAC. Camp has raised $48,473, spent $31,151 and had an ending balance of $17,322. Senate Democrats gave him $3,500 while the Indiana Democratic Party gave $37,101 for mailers. This is a district where Republicans must be concerned about the suburban female vote. As in SD29, the so-called “Kavanaugh effect” may be working in reverse, and President Trump is sideways, so Sen. Merritt is not likely to benefit from the MAGA rally in Southport on Friday. This is a Democratic county, and this is a district where a Democratic wave and angry suburban female voters could turn out. Camp is campaigning on reforming legislative maps to prevent gerrymandering and creating living wages for workers. Merritt is Marion County Republican chairman and is preparing a 2019 Indianapolis mayoral run against Mayor Joe Hogsett, so Democrats have incentive to turn out and, potentially, defend Hogsett from his most credible challenger. Hogsett has yet to declare for reelection, but we are not detecting other Democrats preparing campaigns in his absence. Horse Race Status: Leans Merritt.

    SD38: Republican: State Sen. Jon Ford. Democrat: Chris Gambill. Analysis: This is a pure tossup race with a lot of late money. Sen. Ford had $115,124 beginning, total contributions of $358,838 and an ending balance of $230,209. Gambill raised $260,791, spent $212,551 and had an ending balance of $48,239. The Senate Majority Committee pumped $45,000 into this race on Monday, while the Republican State Committee put in $63,329 on the same day. Sen. Mark Messmer put in $10,000, Sen. Ryan Mishler put in $3,000, $2,500 from the Indiana Manufacturers PAC, $1,500 from the Wine & Spirits Distributors of Indiana PAC. Gambill has received $54,428 from the Indiana Democratic Party, $75,977 from Senate Democrats, $5,000 from the Lawyers PAC. Sen. Ford pulled off one of the big upsets in 2014, defeating Sen. Timothy Skinner 13,585 to 12,580. This one looks like it’s going down to the wire. Horse Race Status: Tossup.

    SD45: Republican: Chris Garten. Democrat: Jeffersonville Councilman John Perkins. Analysis: This is an open seat, vacated by the retiring State Sen. Jim Smith, who defeated Democrat Julie Berry 19,827 to 16,994. Garten began the year with $37,208, he raised $132,052, spent $50,077 and had $119,182 ending balance. Late contributions have come in from the Republican State Party ($13,170), Indiana Business for Responsive Government ($4,000), and Indiana Multi-Family Housing ($1,000). Perkins has raised just $14,520, spent $6,971 and had an ending balance of $7,548. Garten is a Scott County native from Lexington, a former Marine who did two combat tours in Iraq, enlisting in December 2001 after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Garten is a small businessman. Perkins is a retired teacher and served 20 years on the Jeffersonville City Council prior to being appointed to fill the Clark County Commissioners seat vacated by Mike Moore after Moore became Jeffersonville mayor in 2012. The lack of money coming into this race is a telltale it will stay in the GOP column. Horse Race Status: Leans Garten.

    SD46: Republican: Sen. Ron Grooms. Democrat: Anna Murray. Analysis: Sen. Grooms won reelection in 2014 with a 16,950 to 13,168 win over Chuck Freiberger in a rematch. Murray is a Jeffersonville attorney running for office for the first time. She is running on workforce and infrastructure issues. Sen. Grooms is a pharmacist with a degree from Butler University and has served two stints on the Jeffersonville City Council between 1984 and 2010, the year he was first elected to the Senate. Sen. Grooms began the cycle with $41,978, raised $106,798, has spent $110,902 and had an ending balance of $37,874. The Republican State Party made a $31,411 contribution on Tuesday. Murray has raised $71,920 after a beginning balance of $3,620, has spent $47,216 and had an ending balance of $28,693. Late money is coming in for her, including $31,500 from Senate Democrats, $2,000 from the candidate, and $1,000 from the Indiana 9th CD Committee. This district fits the suburban profile we’ve written so much about. Republicans seem to be matching the late money coming in for Murray.  Horse Race Status: Tossup. 
  • Horse Race: Dems losing CD races due to 2011 maps

    INDIANAPOLIS  – The crucial days for the 2018 midterms actually occurred seven years ago. Those were the days of reapportionment, when House and Senate Republicans and then-Gov. Mitch Daniels developed and approved congressional and General Assembly district maps.

    Now four campaign cycles in, those maps which were disguised as the antithesis of gerrymandering for their compact shapes and respect for county lines and “communities of interest” have created a scenario where there are just eight tossup legislative races and no such congressional races.

    On the congressional front, we’ve watched Democrats Mel Hall in the 2nd CD, Courtney Tritch in the 3rd CD,  and Liz Watson in the 9th CD all raise handsome amounts of money in their challenges to U.S. Reps. Jackie Walorski, Jim Banks and Trey Hollingsworth. We rate Banks as "Safe" on next Tuesday, while Walorski and Hollingsworth are "Likely" winners. There is nothing that has a whiff of a tossup.

    CNN election analyst Harry Enten agrees, projecting Walorski will defeat Hall by 10% and Hollingsworth will dispatch Watson by 9%. There are similar projections and ratings by Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Cook Political Report and Inside Elections by Nathan Gonzalez.

    These projections are backed up by the fact that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is not rushing resources – money or talent – into the Watson and Hall campaigns. We’re not seeing high-profile Democrats making campaign stops in South Bend, and while U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigned for Watson at Indiana University in Bloomington, the Vermont socialist is not likely to bring Watson a groundswell of support beyond ol’ B-town.

    Our original analysis in 2011 was that of the seven CDs that were held by Republicans, the 9th might come into play by this cycle as a migration of more moderate to liberal voters filtered out of Louisville and Indianapolis into the Floyd, Clark and Johnson county suburbs. But all three counties are still cherry red, perhaps even redder than they were seven years ago.

    Mitch Daniels, he noted in a 2017 Ian Rolland address in Fort Wayne that the uncompetitive districts are creating a new dimension of tribalism across Indiana and America, and suggested that the forged maps of 2021 might need to look like “salamanders” once again.
  • Sec. Hagel, Sexton parents endorse Donnelly

    INDIANAPOLIS – Former Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel endorsed U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly at the Fort Harrison Veterans Center Wedbesday. They were joined Jeff and Barb Sexton, the parents of Jacob Sexton, for whom Donnelly’s Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act, enacted in 2013, was named.

    Before introducing Secretary Hagel, Donnelly spoke about the importance of bipartisanship when tackling and respecting veterans’ issues. “There’s no Republican, there’s no Democrat on veterans. There’s no Republicans or Democrats when it comes to America. There’s no red or blue, it’s about the red, white, and blue. That’s what this nation is about,” the senator said.

    The particular issue on Donnelly’s mind was mental health. He spoke proudly of his work on the Military Suicide Prevention Act and the Veterans Choice Act, and also touted the arrival of new veterans’ health centers in several locations across the state. But Donnelly didn’t take all the credit. He finished his remarks with an address to the gathered group of veterans, telling them it’s “because of you” that these feats were accomplished.

    Hagel, who had also served as a Republican senator from Nebraska from 1997 to 2009, lamented a “record lack of civility” in politics, something he said undermines the “glue which holds society together.” Hagel said he didn’t see that lack of civility in Donnelly. “We need to keep people in office who put a premium on civility, decency, respect for others, listening to others. I don’t know a senator who does it better than Joe Donnelly.” Indeed, Hagel gave a glowing endorsement of Donnelly as both a senator and a person. Relating what he considered the three “indispensable requisites in life” – character, courage and judgment – the former secretary said he saw all of them displayed in Donnelly.

    Speaking briefly, an emotional Jeff Sexton praised Sen. Donnelly’s work. He told the story of how the questions at the hearing prompted him to get in touch with the senator’s office to see what he could do to advance the issue and related his surprise at receiving a personal call from Donnelly later that day. Sexton said he had previously had little success with congressional offices in the four years prior. “That’s the way Sen. Donnelly has been working every day. He works for the military, he works for veterans. He takes care of all of us.” 
  • HPI Analysis: Donnelly faces full brunt of Trump

    INDIANAPOLIS – After a flurry of late polls from obscure firms like Mason and Cygnal, and a few surveys from Republican partisans, the growing perception at the end of last week was that Republican Mike Braun was gaining late momentum in his race to unseat U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly.
    But on Wednesday, Fox News had Donnelly up 45-38%, which represents a true outlier, while NBC/Marist had Donnelly with a 48-46% lead over Braun, with 2% for “other” and 7% undecided. Donnelly had a 63-47% lead among people who had already voted and he had a 48-32% lead among independents. President Trump’s approval stood at 48/40 approve/disapprove. A CBS News survey released Sunday had Braun leading 46-43%. 

    In the Fox Poll, the race shifted since September when Braun was up by 2%.  In early October, Donnelly was up by 2%. Donnelly’s edge comes in large part from greater party loyalty and higher interest in the election among Democrats.  Fully 88% of Democrats back him vs. 80% of Republicans for Braun. In addition, nearly 1 in 10 Republicans go for Donnelly. Independents are about twice as likely to support the incumbent. But 19% said they could change their mind.

    The FiveThirtyEight metrics were also slipping, with Donnelly going from an 80% chance of winning last week, to 67.1% on Wednesday and then 71.3% this morning. It projected a Donnelly win with 50.5% of the vote, Braun at 47.0% and Libertarian Lucy Brenton at 2.5%, which is well below how she’s been polling. The Real Clear Politics polling composite today gives Donnelly a 0.8% lead. While Braun has released internal American Viewpoint polls showing 4% leads, Donnelly said Tuesday night that his internals showed him with the advantage.
    As of Oct. 17, Donnelly had raised $9.692 million in individual contributions (65% of all such contributions to the major-party candidates); Braun had raised $5.288 million (35%).
    But this is the era of President Donald J. Trump, where anything can happen and it almost always does. In the final weeks of his epic 2016 upset, Trump settled down, aides kept him away from Twitter, and running mate Mike Pence made the clarion call for Republicans to “come home.” And they did.

    Steve Kornacki said on MSNBC said that the Pittsburgh massacre and the bombs may be moving the numbers toward Donnelly and other Democrats. “Donnelly has consistently had a slight edge. There is a scenario that Donnelly hangs on there,” Kornacki said this morning. 

    Trump’s response to those acts of violence could “potentially” be changing the dynamic. The Fox News Poll shows Trump’s approve at 50% while 48% disapprove. “In 2016 he put it together in the closing days. I think what we forget in 2016, Trump was a disciplined candidate,” Kornacki said. “He was not on Twitter. He was not getting distracted. That lasted for about 10 days. Those reluctant Republicans who found him distastful but didn’t want to vote Democratic. They came home again.” But the Trump of 2016 has been replaced by President Trump this week who is flailing away about the caravan and making controversial comments in the wake of bombers and shooters.
    In the final homestretch of 2018, President Trump is unchained and bellowing as events churn around him. Those include the 14 bombs sent to Trump critics by Cesar Sayoc, with video surfacing of the bomber under a “CNN Sucks” sign at a Florida MAGA rally in 2016. There was yet another massacre, this time at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday. A few hours later, Trump landed in Indianapolis and told Future Farmers of America conventioneers that he was having a “bad hair day.” 
    On Tuesday, he told Axios he could essentially end by presidential order the Constitution’s 14th Amendment which allows birthright citizenship. “It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don’t,” Trump said. Critics, including George Conway (husband of Kellyanne) bluntly reacted, saying, “Such a move would be unconstitutional and would certainly be challenged. And the challengers would undoubtedly win.” (See more of that column on Page 20).
    President Trump also announced he was sending 15,000 American troops (up from 5,200) to the Mexican border to thwart the migrant “caravan” still a thousand miles away, tweeting, “This is an invasion of our Country and our Military is waiting for you!” That story, hyped often by Fox News, was tamped down by network anchor Shep Smith, who said on Monday, “There is no invasion. No one’s coming to get you. There’s nothing at all to worry about. Tomorrow the migrants, according to Fox News reporting, are more than two months away — if any of them actually come here. But tomorrow is one week before the midterm election, which is what all of this is about.”
    Trump lashed out at targets of the bombings, CNN, and even a World Series pitching change. While Trump allies and insiders like Pence bristled at commentary that Trump’s “dog whistles” encouraged isolated, white, male bombers and shooters into deadly action, CNN unearthed an April 2016 interview of candidate Trump with Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who asked him if he needed to tame the rage in the GOP. Trump responded, “Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I’m not saying that’s an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have.” 
    Trump is now preparing to land on Mike Braun’s doorstep, with rallies scheduled for Southport on Friday and Fort Wayne on Monday. Braun will appear with him twice. His base, particularly in rural and small town Indiana, is already invigorated by the “Kavanaugh effect.” The Trump base is voting early. But Trump with Braun could stir the suburban and female voter Donnelly absolutely needs to hold onto his seat.

    Debate and policy
    During the final debate between Braun and Donnelly Tuesday night, Trump rarely came up. It was peculiar, since Trump has literally asked voters to make this midterm election a referendum on his first two years in office. Braun did praise him for acting on border security issues and added, “We’ve now regained strength in the world. We draw a red line and stick with it. I do support his leadership.”
    But when the birthright citizenship proposal came up, Donnelly said the issue should be “handled by Congress.” Braun praised Trump as “a leader in the White House doing something about it. There will be legislation on it.”

    HPI asked Donnelly how he will react to the full brunt of Trumpism aimed directly at him. “The president’s always welcome to come to Indiana,” Donnelly said. “We’re proud of our state and the president is always welcome to come.” Pushed further, Donnelly reminded reporters that, “I’ve voted with President Trump 62% of the time.”

    Asked if marquee Democrats like Joe Biden or President Obama would come to his aid, Donnelly said, “I’d keep my ears open.” On Wednesday, Donnelly appeared with former Republican senator and Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel. On the same day, the Donnelly campaign announced that Obama will appear at a Sunday rally in Gary with the senator.
    Donnelly and Braun sparred on what has become a predominant issue (beyond Mexico Joe and China Mike), health care and preexisting conditions. As he did during the first debate, Donnelly came out swinging, citing the Texas v. United States lawsuit that would end those Obamacare protections. In his opening statement, Donnelly said of Braun, “He supports a lawsuit that takes away your coverage of preexisting conditions. Mike’s after your health care, your Social Security and Medicare. That’s what this election is about.”
    Braun said later in the debate that “Joe was for the Affordable Care Act. It’s the unaffordable care act. I would never be for any replacement that doesn’t cover preexisting conditions.” Once again, Braun did not disavow the Texas v. United States lawsuit.
    Donnelly retorted, “Here’s what Mike knows: Mike supports a lawsuit that would end the ACA and end preexisting conditions. If you have someone in your family with diabetes, asthma … their coverage goes away. Those are the facts and he can’t deny that.”
    Braun added that he solved health care issues at his company, Meyer Distributing. “My policy costs one-fourth of what Obamacare costs,” he said. Donnelly shot back, saying that Meyer employees “don’t get an aspirin” until their deductible hits $10,000. Braun responded saying that his employees pay a premium of only $70 a month.
    In the post-debate press conferences, that Braun once again skipped, Donnelly kept up his assault. “It is really clear what’s going on here. On the stage that we were just on, Mike Braun denied that he was in favor of the lawsuit that takes away coverage on preexisting conditions. He denied it on stage,” he charged. “He’s probably done interviews with many of you in which he said he was for it. He said he was for it time after time after time. He’s for the Senate legislation that would have taken health care away. He’s for the House bill that would have taken health care away. You cannot trust what Mike Braun says.”
    Donnelly then brought up Social Security and Medicare, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is blaming for the skyrocketing federal budget deficits (and not the recently passed tax reforms). “Mike Braun has refused to say he won’t touch Social Security and Medicare,” Donnelly charged. “I’ve said from the start I will protect Social Security and Medicare. Mike Braun is an errand boy for Mitch McConnell.”
    The sparks flew on the abortion issue, with Braun asserting that he had the endorsement of Indiana and national Right to Life groups as well as the Susan B. Anthony Fund, with the nationals giving Donnelly an “F” grade. Had Richard Mourdock stuck to those talking points in the final 2012 debate with Donnelly, he would have won the debate and, perhaps, the election. Donnelly’s gambit here is that Braun already has the overwhelming majority of the anti-abortion vote. The incumbent needs females, Millennials, union voters (which Republican sources tell HPI are still significantly backing Braun). 
    Donnelly called Braun “more radical” on abortion than Mourdock. “Even Richard Mourdock believed in an exception for the life of the mother,” Donnelly said. “I have no role in that and Mike Braun believes he should enforce and tell that family what to do. It takes your breath away, the presumption being made there. If that’s what he thinks the role of a U.S. senator is, he’s way off.”
    HPI penultimate forecast

    We still classify this race as a “Tossup” even with the last two polls showing Donnelly up. Twenty-four hours ago we were giving Braun a very slight advantage. Then came the new Fox and NBC/Marist polls. Donnelly’s 7% lead in the Fox Poll is an outlier at this point, but overlaid with Trump’s decline in the Gallup tracking and this could be a new trend. The biggest factor in the final five days is President Trump, who remains very popular in Indiana even as he slips nationally. Gallup on Monday reported Trump slipped from 44% to 40% in its weekly tracking, which corresponded with his rhetoric on the Sayoc bombs and the Pittsburgh atrocity. Presidents Clinton and Obama lost more than 40 House seats when their approval stood at 45%. The Ball State Bowen Center’s Hoosier Survey had Trump’s approval at 53% with 39% who disapproved. “These survey results add to the evidence that the president’s approval is beginning to rebound, just in time for the midterm elections,” said Chad Kinsella, a political science professor and survey analyst. 

    Trump will get comprehensive statewide MAGA rally media coverage on Friday and again on Election Eve with his Southport and Fort Wayne rallies, which will likely have a greater impact than President Obama’s rally in Gary on Sunday for Donnelly. 

    In the primary, Braun overperformed perceptions, winning a “tossup” race against Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer with 41%, more than 10% ahead of the two congressmen. The general perception is that Braun’s fall campaign has been lackluster, and his optics and TV ads haven’t been nearly as good as his primary triumph.

    Some have questioned Braun’s ground game. But in HPI talks with Republican legislative campaign operatives, they describe a greatly enhanced Republican State Party voter drive. “We’ve never seen that kind of effort in Indiana like we are this year,” our House Republican Campaign Committee source said on Tuesday. “HRCC used to have to get our own people out. In the old days we were it. This effort is awesome.” 

    In an HPI Interview earlier this year, Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer had vowed to run a state-of-the-art GOTV effort. HRCC and U.S. Rep. Jim Banks are now saying they are seeing this effort on the ground and in real time. It’s something the Braun campaign did not have to create on its own.

    Donnelly faced towering disadvantages. The fact that he’s even within the margin of error (with the exception of the Fox Poll) – and leads in the credible FiveThirtyEight metrics – speaks to his dogged campaign style.
    Having said that, this is the era of President Trump, where, you know, anything can happen. Republicans we know were taken aback by his pronouncement on birthright citizenship. Many are skeptical of the “caravan” but see it as a brazen campaign ploy likely to work. Trump deftly read the politics and made shrewd moves that gave him the most stunning upset in presidential history.
    History is replete with victorious leaders who succumb to hubris after making Shakespearean miscalculations. Is President Trump capable of such an act? If such a churn of events comes in the next five days, our forecast could change. Check back with us on Monday.

    Horse Race Status: Tossup. 
  • NBC/Marist, Fox have Donnelly leading Braun


    INDIANAPOLIS - Two new polls show U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly leading Republican Mike Braun, with Fox News showing the incumbent Democrat up 45-38%, while NBC/Marist has Donnelly up 48-47% with 2% favoring “other” and 7% undecided. The real news is that it shows that 14% of voters in the NBC/Marist survey are “persuadable.” With President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence planning rallies in Southport and Fort Wayne on Friday and Monday to boost Braun, and former President Obama coming to Gary on Sunday for a rally for Donnelly, this race remains extremely fluid.

    When the NBC/Marist ballot expands to include Libertarian Lucy Brenton, Donnelly leads Braun 45-42%, with Brenton receiving 7%. “Although Donnelly has a numeric 3-point edge over Braun, the proportion of persuadable voters is nearly five times greater than the margin that separates the candidates,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, which conducted this survey.

    In the Fox Poll, Donnelly's edge comes with 10% of Republicans going for Donnelly while independents are twice as likely to back the incumbent. That poll has 9% undecided while Libertarian Lucy Brenton gets 5%.

    FiveThirtyEight’s metrics still gives Donnelly an advantage, with a 67.1% chance of winning, but that’s down from 80% last week.

    As for the celebrity impacts, the NBC/Marist Poll puts President Trump’s approval at 48% with 40% disapproving. That’s down from a Ball State Bowen Center Poll that showed Trump’s approval at 53% with 39% disapproving last week.

    That President Trump is coming to Indiana twice, instead of sending Pence solo, shows that Republican strategists believe Braun can pull this race out. If Donnelly wins, it would be extremely embarrassing for Trump, who is trying to shake history, where most first-term presidents take severe mid-term losses in Congress.

    Watch for full analysis in Thursday’s weekly HPI.

    Developing . . . .

  • Braun, Donnelly use final debate sparring on pre-existing conditions

    INDIANAPOLIS - U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and Republican nominee Mike Braun sparred on health care issues in their final showdown, coming just a week before Hoosier voters will render a verdict on their public roles.

    Donnelly and Democrats nationally have been campaigning on the issue of pre-existing conditions, often citing the Texas v. United States lawsuit that would end those Obamacare protections. In his opening statement, Donnelly said of Braun, “He supports a lawsuit that takes away your coverage of pre-existing conditions. Mike’s after your health care, your Social Security and Medicare. That’s what this election is about.”

    Braun said later in the debate that “Joe was for the Affordable Care Act. It’s the unaffordable care act. I would never be for any replacement that doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions.” But Braun did not disavow the Texas v. United States lawsuit.

    Donnelly retorted, “Here’s what Mike knows: Mike supports a lawsuit that would end the ACA and end pre-existing conditions. If you have someone in your family with diabetes, asthma …. their coverage goes away. Those are the facts and he can’t deny that.”

    Braun added that he solved health care issues at his company, Meyer Distributing. “My policy costs one-fourth of what Obamacare costs.”

    Donnelly shot back, saying that Meyer employees “don’t get an aspirin” until their deductible hits $10,000. Braun responded saying that his employees pay a premium of only $70 a month.

    When the candidates were asked about the opioid crisis hitting Indiana, Braun said, “The first think I’ll do is to lower the cost of health care. You’re not going to get it out of people who do big health care with big government. I’ll take that to the Senate and you’ll see real results.”

    Donnelly pointed to legislation he helped author and was signed last week by President Trump that would allow pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly to develop non-opioid medications.

    Earlier in the day, President Trump vowed to end birth right citizenship for children born in the United States, saying he could do it by executive order. Donnelly said the issue should be “handled by Congress.”

    Braun praised Trump as “a leader in the White House doing something about it. There will be legislation on it.”

    Pressed on whether he support Trump on the order, Braun said, “I will wait and see. It’s something I will take a look at.

    Developing . . . .
  • Atomic! Bosma on TV; Delph dogfight; Trump approval plunge
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. Bosma on air; Delph dogfight

    Here are your Tuesday power lunch talking points: House Speaker Brian Bosma began running TV ads Monday on broadcast TV. “We’ve balanced your budget and lowered your taxes,” Bosma says in the spot, adding that he helped raise education funding and “we’ve even built a long-term transportation plan.” Bosma is facing Democrat Poonam Gill. The House Republican Campaign Committee began funneling more than $20,000 in funds last week. Reports from over the weekend is that HRCC was polling in HD88, though are sources there say Bosma’s numbers are good. Pre-general election campaign finance reports show that Bosma had an ending balance of $1.53 million. In contrast, Gill has raised $129,389  and had an ending balance of $74,914. 

    In nearby SD29, State Sen. Mike Delph has spent more than $463,311 in his reelection bid and posted an ending balance of $113,050. Delph started the year with $207,388, but spent much of that during his primary victory over Corrie Meyer. He has raised $368,938. Delph has had two fundraisers during the fall campaign as he seeks to thwart a vigorous rematch challenge from Democrat J.D. Ford, who has raised $347,760  for the cycle after beginning the year with $63,040. Ford has spent $271,631 and posted an ending balance of $139,168HPI’s  Horse Race lists HD88 as “Likely Bosma” and SD29 “Tossup.”

    2. Now comes the ‘hey wait a minute’ moment

    Monday’s Atomic!  noted that the INSen momentum appeared to be swinging toward Mike Braun, who had forged small, within the MOE leads in the last several polls. But these were taken before the Cesar Sayoc bomb spree and the Pittsburg synagogue massacre. Since, we’ve seen President Trump tweet about the bombings in scare quotes, complaining it was robbing the GOP of momentum. In the wake of the synagogue massacre, Trump complained before the FFA in Indianapolis that he was having a bad hair day  and critics, even within the GOP, describe him as tone deaf while perpetrating caustic rhetoric. Gallup tracking on Monday revealed Trump approval falling 4% to 40%  between Oct. 22 and Sunday, with 54% disapproving. Today, we find President Trump going to Pittsburgh to, as press secretary Sarah Sanders explained, to “express the support of the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community.” But Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said the president should wait. “If the president is looking to come to Pittsburgh, I would ask that he not do so while we are burying the dead.” Peduto said the city does not have enough public safety officials to provide funeral protection and presidential security support. With Trump planning MAGA rallies in Southport on Friday, and in Fort Wayne on Nov. 5, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly heads into tonight’s final debate facing the full brunt of Trumpism. 

    3. Trump and rage

    Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore released video of bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc at a Trump MAGA rally in Florida. CNN also unearthed an April 2016 interview of Donald Trump with Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, who asked him if he needed to tame the rage  in the GOP. Trump responded, "Yes, yes, but I bring that out in people. I do. I’m not saying that’s an asset or a liability, but I do bring that out. I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have." Woodward on Monday: "He's clearly proud of it. We now know, as president, that is part of the strategy of, blame the news media, get the environment roiled up as much as you can. And in some ways, it's worked. And so, he's embracing rage. And of course, rage is fury, uncontrolled anger. They are all designed to raise the boiling point, raise the temperature. He has probably more power  than any president I've reported on, going back to Nixon.”

    4. Sullenberger’s warning

    One of Purdue’s most celebrated graduates is hero airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who landed the “miracle on the Hudson” in 2009 saving 154 souls. Sullenberger writes in a Washington Post op-ed: "To navigate complex challenges, all leaders must take responsibility and have a moral compass grounded in competence, integrity and concern for the greater good. Tragically, people in positions in power today are not projecting their best. Many are cowardly, complicit enablers, acting against the interests of the United States, our allies and democracy; encouraging extremists at home and emboldening our adversaries abroad; and threatening the livability of our planet. Many do not respect the offices they hold; they lack — or disregard — a basic knowledge of history, science and leadership; and they act impulsively, worsening a toxic political environment.”

    5. Trump and birthright citizenship

    President Trump told Axios  he plans to sign an executive order that would remove the right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens born on U.S. soil. "It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't," Trump said, declaring he can do it “by executive order.” So Trump is reaching into his immigration quiver  for as many arrows as he can, from the caravan, to the 5,200 U.S. troops heading to the border, and now this. Note the content of today’s Atomic! It’s all about TrumpJoe Donnelly and Mike Braun are just bit role players in the"President Trump Reality Show."

    Have a great day, folks. It’s The Atomic!

  • Atomic! Braun's late mo; final INSen pitches; Tuesday debate
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.

    1. The final INSen homestretch

    Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: Republican Senate nominee Mike Braun appears to have the late momentum  in his challenge toU.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly. A CBS Poll released this weekend had Braun up 46-43%, and that the third of the last five surveys (including a partisan one from Braun’s campaign) that had him leading, but all are within the margin of error. FiveThirtyEight is now giving Donnelly a 67.6% chance of winning, but that’s down from 80.9% a week ago. What we don’t know is whether an influx of angry suburban female voters (the likes who fueled upsets in Alabama and Virginia this past year) will be enough to off-set President Trump’s base fearful of the caravan and angered by Donnelly’s vote onJustice Brett Kavanaugh.

    President Trump will campaign for Braun in Southport on Friday at the local high school gym, and has scheduled an election eve rally in Fort Wayne on Nov. 5 to make his final pitch for the Republican. The president has scheduled 11 such rallies between now and Election Day, all in deep red congressional districts in states with tough Senate races. The 3rd CD is a +18 Republican district according to the Cook Partisan Index. According to Kantar Media/CMAG and USA Today analysis, some $36.4 million in advertising is spilling into the race in the last month. Indiana Democrats sent out a mailer that compares Braun and Libertarian Lucy Brenton on tax issues (but doesn’t mention Donnelly). That’s an obvious attempt to steer some Braun votes to the Libertarian. Braun began airing his “closing” ad today, in which he says, “Career politicians like Joe Donnelly will say anything to keep their jobs. The truth is Donnelly voted against Judge Kavanaugh, for the Iran nuclear deal, and even backed Hillary Clinton for President. We deserve better. I spent my career in the real world: creating jobs and getting things done. In Washington, I'll fight to bring back good-paying jobs and fix our health care.”

    2. Final InSen debate Tuesday

    Sen. Donnelly, Mike Braun and Lucy Brenton meet for their final debate at 7 p.m. Tuesday at WFYI-TV in Indianapolis, giving them one more chance to make their case before a statewide audience. Normally these debates don’t snare a big audience, but this one might be different as early voting is surging. Both parties are highly motivated, so undecideds, who tend to break for the challenger, will get one more chance to compare. The subsequent media cycle coverage will also be important. The 2012 final debate between Donnelly and Republican Richard Mourdock lives in political history as clinching that race for the Democrat after the Republican botched a question on abortion. Donnelly and Braun have been disciplined, using their first debate to burnish well-worn talking points. Expect Justice Kavanaugh, the caravan, pre-existing conditions and the recent bombings and massacres to be debate flashpoints.

    3. Braun and pre-existing conditions

    Axios  reached out to Mike Braun and other “vulnerable” Republicans and asked: "You say in your campaign that you're committed to protecting insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions; what do you make of the fact that the Trump Justice Department is currently arguing in court to strike down the law forcing insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions?" Axios  reported that Braun and the others all said they want to mandate coverage of folks with pre-existing conditions, but only Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado said he opposed the Justice Department’s Texas v. United States lawsuit. Donnelly confronted Braun on that issue  at the Oct. 15 Westville debate, challenging Braun to denounce that suit. Braun didn’t. Expect those coals to be turned over Tuesday night.

    4. Pence defends Trump rhetoric

    Some Republicans and President Trump’s allies fret about his incendiary rhetoric in the wake of the Cesar Sayoc bombings and the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford said on Face The Nation, "I think the president needs to be more clear in his rhetoric, and doesn't need to be as caustic in his rhetoric." Former Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci said on CNN’s State of the Union, "I think in general, we've got to tone down. He's the President of the United States. He controls the news cycle and the bully pulpit, and he could do it.” Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump, telling NBC, “Everyone has their own style. Frankly, people on both sides of the aisle use strong language about our political differences. But I just don’t think you can connect it to threats or acts of violence.”

    5. Congrats to Adam Vinatieri

    A future Indianapolis Colt Hall of Famer, kicker Adam Vinatieri, set the all-time NFL scoring mark with a 25-yard field goal against the Raiders, breaking the record of former Ben Davis HS kicker Morten Andersen who had 2,544 points. Vinatieri, who finished the day with 2,550 points said, “Over 23 years I’ve had a lot of great teammates. And that’s probably the thing I’m most proud of with it, because you can’t get to 2,500 and some-odd points without starting at one.” In the Indianapolis era, WR Marvin Harrison, RB Eric Dickerson, RB Marshall Faulk, DE Richard Dent, GM Bill Polianand coach Tony Dungy have been inducted into the hall. QB Peyton Manning and wide receiver Reggie Wayne are future locks, and C Jeff Saturday, RB Edgerrin James, Ray Donaldson, Chris Hinton and Cornelius Bennett are all eligible this year. Vinatieri is a cinch five years after he retires, which looks to be sometime in the next decade or two.

    Have a great week, folks. It’s The Atomic!
  • Atomic! Caravan & bomb split screen; bomber arrest; Lugar warns
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Nashville, Ind.
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR. in Washington, D.C.

    1. Two potent split screen optics

    Here are your final power lunch talking points for week: Americans are watching another day of jarring split screen optics. There’s the NYPD bomb truck carrying pipe bombs that were targeting Sen. Cory Booker, former national intel director James Clapper, and CNN. The networks are reporting that a man has been arrested in Plantation, Fla., Police were seen towing a white van covered with Trump stickersAttorney General Jeff Sessionswill give a briefing at 2:30. A dozen have now been intercepted, all aimed at critics of President Trump. And there’s the immigrant caravan about a thousand miles south of the U.S./Mexican border. Both have the potential of profoundly reshaping the mid-term elections. The President Trump and his administration are prioritizing the caravan, a move to stoke up the base. Trump wants to close the southern border to immigrants and deploy 800 U.S. troops. Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen M. Nielsen traveled to the border on Thursday, will be in California today and told Fox News, “We do not have any intention right now to shoot at people, but they will be apprehended.” Trump tweeted Thursday, “To those in the Caravan, turnaround, we are not letting people into the United States illegally. Go back to your Country  and if you want, apply for citizenship like millions of others are doing!”

    The pipe bombs, none of which have detonated, have also targeted Presidents Obama and Clinton, Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Biden, former AG Eric Holder, CNN, Robert DeNiro, George Soros, and former CIA director John Brennan. It’s an unprecedented assault on American leadership that has migrated to the loyal opposition. Trump lashed out, saying in a 3 a.m. tweet, “Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs  and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’” Clapper said, “This is definitely domestic terrorism, no doubt about it in my mind. This is not going to silence the administration’s critics."

    The political impacts on Nov. 6? Stay tuned.

    2. Lugar warns of treaty abrogation

    Former Sen. Richard Lugar criticized President Trump Thursday for his decision to pull the United States out of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia. "Withdrawing will not make us safer, it will rob us of leverage essential to our own security and power," Lugar said. "It will foolishly play into the hands of Russian propagandists  by focusing global attention on our rejection of the treaty instead of Russian violations. And it will make the world a more dangerous place." Lugar added that Trump and some of his top aides "seem to be driven by the false belief that all international treaties are bad for the United States and that we always end up the loser." The reality, he said, is that the INF Treaty, ratified during the Reagan administration, has strengthened global security and stability.

    3. Chairman Brown recuperating at home

    House Speaker Brian Bosma announced that Ways & Means Chairman Time Brown is now recuperating in Crawfordsville. “Tim is now recovering at home with his wife, Jane, and going through therapy,” Bosma said Thursday. “His condition continues to improve  and he’s impressed his doctors with his progress. Tim’s family sincerely appreciates all of the support and prayers, and ask for continued respect of their privacy while Doc focuses on his recovery.” Brown  was critically injured in a motorcycle accident near the Mackinaw Bridge in Michigan on Sept. 12. Bosma did not say if Brownwould be ready for the biennial budget session  which begins in January.

    4. Trump Indiana approval up

    Ball State Bowen Center’s annual Hoosier Survey is out and President Trump has a 53% job approval, while 39% disapprove. Trump will be in Indianapolis Saturday afternoon to address the Future Farmers of America at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. “These survey results add to the evidence that the president’s approval is beginning to rebound, just in time for the midterm elections,” said Chad Kinsella, a political science professor and survey analyst. “Trump’s approval has rebounded significantly since the 2017 Hoosier Survey, which put him underwater with only 41% approval.” U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly had a 35% approval (14% disapprove), while U.S. Sen. Todd Young had 31% approving. FiveThirtyEight gives Donnelly a 71% chance of reelection today.

    5. Bosma up on TV

    Howey Politics  is the only source watching late money in General Assembly races. House Speaker Brian Bosma has received $21,000 in late contributions in the last few days, mostly from business-related PACs. He is seeking to fend off a challenge from Democrat Poonam Gill and the speaker has made two TV ad purchases this week. An HRCC source tells HPI that Bosma’s tracking is “fine.”  So while Democrats see a potential upset brewing, Republicans see this as insurance.

    Have a great weekend, folks. The color has returned to our beautiful trees, down here yonder in Brown County. C’mon down! It’s The Atomic!
    and BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – With their debates finished and Election Day now less than two weeks away, the 2nd CD  campaigns are in full swing, having released a flurry of recent ads. This week, both the Mel Hall and Rep. Jackie Walorski campaigns put out two new ads, each opting for one positive message and one aggressive message. Their tone and direction reveal what the campaigns are focusing on in these final days, health care and character.

    In one, Rep. Walorski brings on Julie Graham, the widow of Dr. Todd Graham, whose murder by a patient upset about withheld opioid medications provided the impetus for a provision added to a congressional bill to fight opioid addiction. Graham praises the representative’s work as effective and an honor to her late husband. Walorski introduced the act in the spring and has made it a major point on her resume for this fall. Along with her work on dealing with sexual assault in the military and with veteran’s affairs, the bill has formed the basis of Walorski’s health care messaging, an area which has gained a great deal of attention this election.

    Walorski has come under fire from Hall for her votes to take away coverage for pre-existing conditions throughout the campaign. Walorski has defended herself, saying in debates and ads that she has always supported such coverage. Recently, however, the South Bend Tribune reported that “Mary,” a friend whom Walorski claims is the reason for her long-time support, is not at risk to lose coverage under the Republican healthcare plan because she is a public official with a guaranteed plan. The Hall campaign seized on the opportunity, calling Walorski “tricky” in one new ad. The ad title “Not Always” ends with an eyebrow-raising message: “Jackie Walorski: Voting against health care and then using a cancer patient to lie to us about it.” That’s pretty antagonistic language.

    For his part, Hall has touted his background in health care to contrast himself with Walorski. In the ad “Truth,” Hall raises his time at Press Ganey and as a healthcare advisor to depict himself as someone who can move things forward on the issue. He also responds to accusations that he’s not really a 2nd District Hoosier, saying that South Bend is his home and a place where he has created jobs as a healthcare executive. The South Bend Tribune makes another appearance in this ad, citing recent articles to say that the paper “rejects Walorski’s attacks” on his Hoosier qualifications.

    The Tribune yet again plays a role in another new ad, this time from Rep. Walorski. In “Residency,” the congresswoman’s campaign repeats many of the accusations they’ve thrown at Hall over his time living in D.C., citing a Tribune article from Oct. 15 that found discrepancies between the candidate’s claims and his property and voting records. The ad also makes an unsourced claim that Hall took illegal tax breaks during this period.  Like Hall’s “Not Always,” this Walorski ad questions the opponent’s character. It ends simply: “You can’t trust Mel Hall.” 

    Hall, Walorski receive endorsements

    The race for Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District continues to heat up as both candidates receive national endorsements and awards less than three weeks before the Nov. 6 election (Straw, Elkhart Truth). Following Tuesday evening’s debate, Hall was endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee as one of its “Red to Blue” campaigns, which focus on highly competitive campaigns across the nation. Walorski was at local retailer Stephenson’s of Elkhart on Wednesday morning to receive the 2018 “Hero of Main Street” Award from the National Retail Federation for her support local small businesses and retailers. The South Bend Tribune endorsed Hall in his race against Rep. Walorski: “When the Editorial Board asked Jackie Walorski what the top issue is as she campaigns for reelection, she pointed to the federal tax cuts enacted last year. The 2nd District congresswoman described her vote on those tax cuts as “the most important vote I’ve cast” because of their impact on the economy, and for allowing people to keep extra money in their paychecks. When we asked Hall the same question, he pointed to health care, specifically, the fear of not having affordable health coverage. We believe Hall is right. And we believe he has hit the right notes on health care.”

    Walorski, Hall can’t agree on format

    Walorski and Democrat Hall initially had agreed to three live televised debates, the first time Walorski had ever agreed to such a challenge from a Democratic opponent, but the campaigns reportedly have been unable to agree on a format for the third event (Parrott, South Bend Tribune). Walorski has proposed a third debate under the same format and rules as the first two — live, televised, in a studio with only the candidates and moderators present, but Hall has instead pushed for the third debate to occur before a live, in-person audience. Horse Race Status: Likely Walorski.

    9th CD: Hollingsworth endorsements

    Hollingsworth for Congress campaign announced that the candidate has been endorsed by the Indiana Manufacturers Association. The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, a non-partisan group representing over one million supporters dedicated to eliminating government waste and inefficiencies, also has endorsed Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth was one of only three individuals to receive this endorsement in Indiana, joined by Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski. Horse Race Status: Likely Hollingsworth.

    U.S. Senate

    Braun launches ‘Blowin’ in the wind’ ad

    Braun launched his “Blowin’ in the Wind” ad aimed at Donnelly this morning. “Sen. Donnelly will tell Hoosiers anything, but he stands for nothing: he’s just blowin’ in the wind,” Braun said. “You can’t say you’re with President Trump when you’re standing with the extreme left on Justice Kavanaugh, Hillary Clinton & the Iran deal, and you can’t keep fooling Hoosiers when you’re the least effective Democrat Senator and shipped jobs to Mexico.”

    Donnelly’s ‘Axe’ ad a copy

    Donnelly aired his TV ad, “Axe.” As the senator splits wood in his backyard (something I’ll be doing this afternoon), the lumberjack incumbent says, “For the most part I’m an easy going guy, but not when Mike Braun keeps lying about my record.” Donnelly stays in theme: “I split with my own party to support funding for President Trump’s border wall. The liberal left wants to chop defense funding. No way. Mike Braun, he shifts jobs to China. We’ve got to cut that out.” The Braun campaign cried foul, saying the idea was “stolen straight from a parody ad in HBO’s Veep.” (Psssst, in advertising and politics, stealing a good idea, mimicking a great ad happens all the time.) The Braun campaign adds, “As if ripping off a political ad from a parody of bad political ads wasn’t enough, Mexico Joe is proudly wielding a product made in the country where Donnelly profited from outsourcing American jobs: Mexico.” It’s a Truper Steel Michigan Axe. It’s also one of the best ads of the general cycle. 

    Credit unions back Donnelly

    The Credit Union National Association has launched its first round of independent expenditures Donnelly, who was an early supporter of the bipartisan regulatory overhaul bill enacted this Congress. 

    Holcomb to stump for Braun

    Gov. Eric Holcomb, U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun and Indiana’s statewide Republican team will be making stops across Northwest and Southern Indiana this weekend as part of the Indiana Republican Party’s Right Track Results Tour, according to a news release. The tour, which includes meet-and-greets and rallies, will visit LaPorte and Valparaiso on Friday with Braun and Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Auditor Tera Klutz and Treasurer Kelly Mitchell. Holcomb will then join the tour on Saturday with stops in Plainfield, Jeffersonville, Evansville and Washington. The tour, which runs through Election Day, showcases that Indiana Republicans – from the Courthouse, Statehouse and White House – are delivering results for Hoosiers. Through Republicans’ work balancing budgets, growing the state’s workforce and helping companies create jobs, Indiana is on the right track and America is getting back on the right track, the release stated. Horse Race Status: Tossup.
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