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INDIANAPOLIS – To win this fall’s election, President Trump will want you to feel unsafe from urban strife. Think of downtown Indianapolis last spring at the apex of the George Floyd protests that killed one person and shattered dozens of massive glass panes.

For Democrat Joe Biden to win the presidency, he must convince enough voters in key states that COVID-19 and the corresponding economic collapse present a far greater danger.

While many observers believed the die was cast in May and June as the United States struggled with the pandemic and economic fallout, this campaign’s vital contours are being shaped as we speak as Trump and Biden seek to steer these differing narratives. How this race evolves (or de-evolves) over the next two weeks will have profound implications for the next decade. And just after this sequence, early voting begins, much of it by mail.

The protests that have transpired in Minneapolis, Portland and now Kenosha – which has become Ground Zero for the Trump-Biden showdown – are creating the blaring headlines this past week, with Biden going there today. But the real reckoning may still harken back to the 1992 campaign that saw the last incumbent president lose. Bill Clinton campaign’s unofficial slogan (“It’s the economy, stupid”) should not be filed away and forgotten.

On the urban strife front, Vice President Mike Pence made it “perfectly clear” at his Republican National Convention acceptance speech last week that the chief American threat was anarchy and disorder. “Joe Biden said America is systemically racist,” Pence said. “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America. Under President Trump ... we’re not going to defund the police, not now, not ever. We will have law and order on the streets of this country.”

Speaker after speaker at the RNC attempted to portray America in the dystopian flare of Trump’s own “American carnage” inaugural address from January 2017. U.S. Rep, Steve Scalise errantly claimed that Biden “embraced the insane mission to defund the police” while Rep. Matt Gaetz warned Republicans that Biden and the Democrats would “disarm you, empty the prisons, lock you in your home, and invite MS-13 to live next door.”

Trump mentioned Biden 41 times (Biden never named Trump the prior week), saying the former vice president is a “destroyer of American greatness”; that he advocates “the most extreme set of proposals ever put forward by a major-party nominee”;  is “a Trojan horse for socialism,” who will “demolish the suburbs” while he will “confiscate your guns.”

Departing White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway told Fox & Friends, ”The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order.”

Trump made similar declarations a week ago at his White House acceptance speech celebration, continuing through his Tuesday morning departure for Kenosha from Joint Base Andrews: “I think a lot of people are looking at what’s happening in these Democrat-run cities and they’re disgusted. They see what’s going on and they can’t believe this is taking place in our country. I can’t believe it either. One of the reasons I’m making a trip today and going to Wisconsin is we’ve had such a big success in shutting down what would be … a city that would have been burned to the ground by now.”

Biden’s response was delayed but forceful and he and his wife Jill will head to Kenosha today. Speaking Monday from Pittsburgh, the Democratic nominee noted that during the Obama administration, violent crime decreased 15%. He said, “This president long ago forfeited any moral leadership in this country. He can’t stop the violence, because for years he has fomented it. He may believe mouthing the words law and order makes him strong, but his failure to call on his own supporters to stop acting as an armed militia in this country shows you how weak he is. The violence we’re seeing is in Donald Trump’s America. These are not images of some imagined Joe Biden America in the future, these are images of Donald Trump’s America today.”

“Does anyone believe there will be less violence in America if Donald Trump is reelected?” Biden asked. “We need justice in America. And we need safety in America. We are facing multiple crises – crises that, under Donald Trump, keep multiplying. Covid. Economic devastation. Unwarranted police violence. Emboldened white nationalists. A reckoning on race. Declining faith in a bright American future. The common thread? An incumbent president who makes things worse, not better. An incumbent president who sows chaos rather than providing order.”

Which brings us to the economy.

On Monday, National Federation of Independent Businesses’s Barbara Quandt sounded new alarms, saying that 21% of Indiana’s small businesses will shut down in the next six months, and another 19% within a year.

“The unprecedented and devastating crisis isn’t going away. Many small businesses here in Indiana are still suffering,” said Quandt, the NFIB’s Indiana director. “While some small businesses have been able to get back to work, there are other industries still stuck at a standstill and likely will be for months to come. For every small family business that is coming back to life, there’s one that is circling the drain. We need to help those small business owners and we need to do it now. Many can’t hold on much longer. They need money to keep their doors open and support their employees and their families.”

Quandt reported that 84% of Hoosier businesses which received PPP loans have exhausted that resource, up from 71% in July. If eligible, 44% of small business owners would apply or re-apply for a second PPP loan. Another 31% would consider applying for one. Sales levels remain at 50% or less than they were pre-COVID sales levels for about one in five employers.

But Congress and the dealmaker-in-chief are at loggerheads on a further rescue.

There are other ominous signs coming before Friday’s monthly jobs report, the first of two that will surface before the Nov. 3 election. Just over 1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, a sign that the coronavirus outbreak continues to threaten jobs even as the housing market, auto sales and other segments of the economy rebound from a springtime collapse. “Layoffs are ongoing reflecting interruptions to activity from virus containment that are likely resulting in permanent closures and job losses,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research report.

On Monday, Bloomberg News reported that a tidal wave of apartment evictions and mortgage foreclosures is at hand and will play out in hundreds of thousands of neighborhoods and apartment complexes over the next two months. About 30 million Americans are “at risk” of being evicted in coming months because they can’t pay rent, according to a review of the Census survey data by the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program and the Covid-19 Eviction Defense Project. On Aug. 8, President Trump signed an executive order pledging to “take all lawful measures to prevent residential evictions and foreclosures resulting from financial hardships caused by Covid-19.” But that measure didn’t authorize any specific action and is drawing fire from house advocates (see Page 19).

In Indiana, the eviction and utility shutoff moratoriums expired at the end of July. The City of Indianapolis offered rental assistance last month to more than 3,000 units, with more than 10,000 seeking help before it suspended the effort.

While Trump and the RNC painted a picture of racial strife, it glossed over the administration’s tortured pandemic response. Economic advisor Larry Kudlow talked about it in past tense, while about 1,000 Americans were dying each day. The death toll stood at 185,000 at this writing, and will crest 200,000 by the October campaign homestretch.

A new Trump health advisor, Scott Atlas, had reportedly advocated a “herd immunity” strategy which medical experts say could kill up to 2 million Americans. White House communications director Alyssa Farah said there is no change in the White House’s approach toward combating the pandemic. “President Trump is fully focused on defeating the virus through therapeutics and ultimately a vaccine. There is no discussion about changing our strategy,” she said in a statement. “We have initiated an unprecedented effort under Operation Warp Speed to safely bring a vaccine to market in record time. Ending this virus through medicine is our top focus.”

The Atlas story came three days after Indiana reported 1,140 COVID infections on Saturday, though the death toll increased by eight that day to a total of 3,066. The University of Washington’s health metrics website is forecasting 6,414 Indiana deaths by Dec. 1 with the number of daily deaths matching the April 30 apex (48) by Nov. 1 if Gov. Eric Holcomb’s mask mandate is eased. Holcomb has extended it through September.

An ABC-Ipsos poll published Sunday revealed why the Trump/Pence campaign is seeking to shift the campaign focus to law and order: 63% disapprove of their handling of the pandemic. Trump’s approval rating stood at 31%. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released during the RNC found that 58% of Americans view the economy as on the wrong track, and for the first time this year, the poll showed Trump with net negative approval numbers on the economy, down from an approval margin of 14 points in late March.

Every day the Trump campaing shifts the narrative from COVID to crime, the better position he is in for another November upset.

Blue wall revisited

The Trump/Pence campaign appears to be revisiting the Blue Wall (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) with Minnesota thrown in for good measure. The national NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls have interviewed 215 voters who said they backed either Johnson or Stein in 2016, and Biden holds a 2-to-1 advantage among them: 47% say they’re voting for Biden, 20% are supporting Trump, and 33% are unsure or say they’re backing another candidate. NBC’s “Meet The Press Daily” reported: In 2016, Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, while the combined Johnson/Stein vote was 223,599. (So Biden getting 47% of that third-party vote to Trump’s 20% easily overturns that ’16 margin.) In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes, while there were 196,656 Johnson/Stein voters. And in 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by 22,748 votes, and the combined Johnson/Stein total was 137,746.

“Set aside the national popular vote, which Democrats are likely to win because Trump has mobilized Democrats in cobalt-blue states as never before,” said former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, now an ABC News analyst. “The outcome of this election hinges on a handful of swing states. In Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, white working-class citizens constituted 67%, 62%, and 62% of nonvoters in the 2016 election, by one estimate some 4.8 million voters. That is the core threat Democrats now face. It means that the pool of potential new Trump voters is very deep.”

In Morning Consult post-convention sequence swing state polling released Tuesday, Biden led Trump in Wisconsin 52-43%, in Michigan (ditto 52-43%), and Pennsylvania 49-45%, which is the same margin of a Monmouth Poll on Tuesday. The best news for Trump comes from Ohio, where he led 50-45%. But Trump is having to defend red states like Texas (where he leads 48-47%), Georgia (Biden up 49-46%) and Arizona (Biden leads there 51-42%).

A USC/Dornsife Poll shows Trump losing 9% of people who voted for him in 2016. The poll that really caught our eye was from the Military Times: Biden leads Trump among active duty U.S. service members 43.1% to 37.4%. Some 49.9% of respondents had an unfavorable view of their commander-in-chief. “You can’t lose 9% or 10% of the people who voted for you last time” and still win, said Bob Shrum, the director of USC Center for the Political Future, which co-sponsors the poll, and a veteran Democratic strategist. “If that holds, it would be catastrophic for him.”

Bellwether Reseach pollster Christine Matthews observed via tweet on Monday, “No consensus – yet – in polls about impact of violent clashes and protests or whether Trump is making inroads in suburbs (doubtful) or if race is, actually, tightening or if Biden’s favs are up or down. Also, no new evidence for shy Trump vote.”

Susan B. Glasser, writing in the New Yorker, observed: “Perhaps the most quoted line from Trump’s 2016 speech was a memorable expression of his aspirational authoritarianism: ‘I alone can fix it.’ That, it turned out, was not a throwaway line or an odd exaggeration by a narcissistic political novice; it was a precursor and a prelude to the radical reimagining of the presidency as a one-man show.”

The next two weeks will likely determine whether the Trump show goes on, or whether it will be cancelled by voters sending the message: “You’re fired.” Horse Race Status: Leans Biden.

From Vigo County, presidential bellwether

Vigo County has a stellar track record in voting for the next president of the United States. Since 1892, Vigo County has backed the winner in all but two races, and since 1952 has gone 16-0. On Wednesday, the Terre Haute Tribune-Star’s online poll asked: Did Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden effectively present an alternative to President Donald Trump during the party’s national convention? Out of a total of 542 votes (as of 3:30 p.m. Wednesday) 51% said yes and 49% said no.

Quinnipiac has Biden up 10%

On the heels of back-to-back political party conventions and a climate of growing unrest in the country, likely voters support Biden over President Trump 52-42% in a Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday. This is the first survey of likely voters in the 2020 presidential election race by the Quinnipiac University Poll, and cannot be compared to results of earlier surveys of registered voters. Democrats go to Biden 93-6%, Republicans go to Trump 90-8%, and independents back Biden 50-40%. Likely voters say 58-38% that the country is worse off than it was in 2016. Republicans say 84-15% the country is better off, Democrats say 95-4% it is worse off, and independents say 60-36% it is worse off. “With six in ten likely voters feeling the country has lost ground, the president stares down a big gap to make up in a short time,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.

Biden leads key states in Fox News polling

Democrat Biden is ahead in three key states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, according to new Fox News statewide surveys of Arizona, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, which was taken after the Kenosha story. 

Biden tops Trump by 8% among Wisconsin likely voters, 50-42%. That’s just outside the survey’s margin of sampling error. Two percent back Jorgensen and 5% are undecided. Women make all the difference in the Badger State. They favor Biden by 17%, while men are about evenly divided (Trump +1).  Plus, more Democrats (95%) support Biden than Republicans (86%) back Trump. 

Biden is preferred over Trump by 49-40% among likely voters in Arizona. That 9% lead is outside the margin of error.  The Libertarian ticket headed by Jo Jorgensen receives 3 percent and 6 percent are undecided.

In North Carolina, Biden holds a narrow 4% margin among likely voters (within error margin). He receives 50% to Trump’s 46%, while 1% go for Jorgensen and 2% are undecided. Here’s why the race is tight: Whites back Trump by 23%, while Blacks support Biden by 83%. Men go for Trump by a 2-point margin, while women prefer Biden by 10%.  

Biden posts $365M in August

Biden and the Democratic National Committee reported raising a record $365 million in August, surprising even seasoned party fundraisers and putting to rest fears that President Trump would drown him in campaign spending (Politico). The staggering cash coincides with Biden naming Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate before the convention. It more than doubles Trump’s $165 million record, set in July, and eclipses the $193 million raised by Barack Obama in September 2008. Trump has not yet announced his August numbers. “In August, together, we raised $364.5 million. That figure blows me away,” Biden said in a written statement. “And we raised it the right way, from people across the country stepping up to own a piece of this campaign.” 
  • Brian Howey: The grind of scandal will take its toll
    INDIANAPOLIS — A week ago Monday I began writing the “Double dog impeachment dare” story that headlined the Sept. 19 edition of HPI as a cautionary primer for why going down that rabbit hole would be dangerous for our nation because the consequences are often unintended and the ramifications impossible to gauge. 

    By the time I published it a week ago, the emerging scandal of the DNI whistleblower’s urgent complaint involving President Trump and Ukraine President Zelensky had blown up like a mushroom cloud, as fast as Hurricane Rita did in 2005.

    It is a disconcerting circumstance. And I am disturbed by what appears to be another round of scandal and hyper media, allegations and denial, talking heads churning out conspiracies and illogical defenses.

    Our nation faces huge challenges. Our entitlements are on an assured crisis course, probably by the end of the next presidency. We are now running trillion dollar deficits with a good economy. We have no idea how bad that will get in a recession, or a severe recession. We have climate scenarios that are daunting in an immigration/refugee and humantarian sense, and we must begin preparing now. We don’t have a grasp on how artificial intelligence is going to impact the workforce as a whole, and the vital middle class specifically.

    Scandals, probes and hearings are grinding us down at a time when we should be preparing our great nation for the generations of our children and grandchildren.

    If you’ve read the previous nine pages involving Mike Pence and Dan Coats, there are some important tell tales that are cautionary.

    Dan Coats became emotional at the end of his Economic Club speech when he urged us to appreciate the great nation we have and prepare ourselves to hand it off in the “sweep of history” to our children. I’ve heard a lot of great speeches, but that one was truly moving.

    Coats reminded us of the importance of the truth. 

    Or getting captured in a slogan (“build that wall”), which can be 20 feet high and topped by a 21-foot ladder or 21-foot deep tunnel.

    Coats tells us that technology is accelerating at an unimaginable pace. Dictators like President Xi or Kim Jong Un have an advantage: They can make split decisions, while our presidents and Congress must go through processes. This could put us at an incredible disadvantage  without wise leaders who work with each other, have a viable trust, and don’t get swallowed into the rabbit holes.

    In Tom LoBianco’s profile of Mike Pence, a man I once had a working relationship with, we learn that his boss, President Trump, cannot be trusted. His word means nothing, as we learned on the July 12-15, 2016, sequence that brought Pence onto the GOP ticket. We learn that Mike and Karen Pence rely on Biblical scripture to reconcile their exchange of principle for power.

    Vice President Pence has cut off an array of relationships out of fear of stoking the paranoia of his boss, and that will not serve him well in the long run.

    In President Trump, we find a leader who dodged what he calls a “witch hunt” after he sought, as a private citizen, help to power from a foreign adversary. The Republicans in our congressional delegation claim he was exonerated, but the only reason Trump wasn’t indicted was because of a Deparment of Justice rule stating that a sitting president cannot face charges.

    Even more disturbing is what we’re learning now, which is the day after the Russian collusion threat seemed to pass on July 24, he engaged in the same behavior. This time as president, appearing to extort dirt from a foreign leader in exchange for congressionally approved military aid. It is an astonishing development.

    As Trump opponents try to paint him as a wannabe authoritarian, we’re finding a handful of states cancelling presidential primaries so that Trump’s Republican challengers — William Weld, Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh — can’t get on a ballot. That not only reveals a lack of confidence in the political potency of the incumbent, but it reinforces what Trump himself called a “rigged system.”

    This past week, I’ve pressed several members of our delegation to weigh in on just one component of the Ukraine story, since at this time we don’t have the DNI inspector general’s report, haven’t heard from the acting DNI Joseph Maguire, the whistleblower, or Dan Coats, other than what he said Tuesday, which was greatly constrained due to the classified nature of his knowledge.

    It’s a simple question: Is it OK for American political candidates to seek anything of value from foreign sources? There has been no response. So let me help them out with what should be P101: No, it’s not OK. Or as U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse said, “It’s really, really bad.”

    There are laws that prohibit campaign funding to come from foreign sources, as well as anything of value. There is a sprawling history of presidential races where foreign powers don’t endorse our nominees.  

    The last time foreign money came into an American presidential race, with President Clinton in 1996, there was widespread criticism and offenders faced legal consequences.

    Our challenges and dilemmas grow and multiply, while our courage and logic pool dissipates like a shallow puddle in a heat wave. 

    So much for my cautionary primers. 

  • INDIANAPOLIS – It took nine months after South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg kicked off his long-shot Democratic presidential campaign before he landed his first spate of Indiana endorsements. Ten Hoosier mayors – Tom McDermott of Hammond, Dave Kitchell of Logansport, Brent Bascom of Rising Sun, Gay Ann Harney of Rockport, Ron Meer of Michigan City, John Hamilton of Bloomington, Gabriel Greer of Peru, Greg Goodnight of Kokomo, Ted Ellis of Bluffton and Hugh Wirth of Oakland City – were part of a group of more than 50 mayors to endorse this upstart presidential campaign. Beyond his fellow mayors, Buttigieg hasn’t picked up much support from the Democratic Indiana political establishment. U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and André Carson aren’t on board, nor is former senator Joe Donnelly, who attended Buttigieg’s campaign kickoff last April. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett was also there, but didn’t endorse this past week, presumably concentrating on his own reelection bid.

  • Merriam-Webster: Aberrant (n) 1: a group, individual, or structure that is not normal or typical: an aberrant group, individual, or structure; 2: a person whose behavior departs substantially from the standard. Synonyms:(Adjective)  aberrated, abnormal, anomalous, atypical, especial, exceeding, exceptional, extraordinaire, extraordinary, freak, odd, peculiar ....


    NASHVILLE, Ind. - On July 27, 2016, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made his infamous "Russia, if you're listening ..." appeal for dirt on Hillary Clinton. It commenced a two-year jigsaw puzzle type investigation that became President Trump's nightmare. It all seemed to end last July 24, when Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified before Congress that he could not indict Trump for obstruction of justice because of a Department of Justice rule that a sitting president can't be charged. Mueller distinctly said, “The President was not exculpated for the acts that he allegedly committed.”  July 25 should have been a new day, a new era for President Trump, the proverbial sigh of relief. The House could impeach, but there was no way the 55-seat Senate Republican majority would convict. So what does President Trump do?  According to a rough transcript released by the White House, the president essentially attempted to extort dirt on potential rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, from the rookie President Zelensky of Ukraine, a former comedian. It is the same Ukraine that gave up its nuclear weapons under the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, went through a revolution in 2014, then saw Russian President Putin annex the Crimea before launching a low-grade war on the eastern part of the country that has since claimed 13,000 lives. This summer, President Trump inexplicably held up close to $400 million in U.S. military aid from this new president, pulled Vice President Pence away from attending Zelensky's inauguration last May, and then subtly put the screws on him on July 25.
  • CARMEL – Police stop a driver westbound on 96th Street in Hamilton County. They find less than an ounce of marijuana and this driver in arrested, complete with a stay in the county jail, facing thousands of dollars of legal bills, court costs, fines and a criminal record. Police stop an eastbound driver on 96th Street in Marion County. They find a doobie on the console. He is not arrested, faces no charges, legal bills, court costs or fines. That is the evolving state of marijuana prohibition in Indiana. It's like swiss cheese, with a big hole in the middle and others likely to form in college and border cities. Acting prosecutor Marion County Ryan Mears, then an unelected official, abruptly announced that his office will no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases of under one ounce, which was quickly reinforced by Sheriff Kerry Forestal. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Bryan Roach said his force would still make marijuana arrests. But after Mears dismissed nearly 150 possession cases, it's only a matter of time before the arrests stop. The cops I know aren't big fans of doing the paperwork, only to watch an offender go free.

  • Brian Howey: Wrap your mind around the notion of 'President Pence'

    NASHVILLE, Ind. - There have been three presidents with vivid Indiana ties.  William Henry Harrison won the battle of Tippecanoe and served as a territorial governor. Abraham Lincoln moved to Spencer County as a boy within days of statehood in 1816 and became a man on the prairie, as poet Carl Sandberg writing that he gained his gait, demeanor and sense of spiritual place, particularly after he journeyed from the Ohio River to New Orleans and witnessed his first impressions of slavery.

    Benjamin Harrison, grandson of the aforementioned ninth president, was born in Ohio, moved to Indianapolis in 1854, and after serving as a general in the Civil War, used a law career to enter the U.S. Senate before reaching the White House 1888. 

    There have been six Hoosiers who have served as vice president - Schuyler Colfax, Thomas Hendricks, Charles Fairbanks, Thomas R. Marshall, Dan Quayle and Mike Pence - the literal heartbeat away. Of this group, Marshall came closest to ascending to the presidency after President Woodrow Wilson suffered two strokes a century ago, though the First Lady hid the president's condition from the former Indiana governor.

    I recount this history so you might begin to wrap your mind around the prospect of "President Michael R. Pence." Conventional wisdom would have been that this might not occur until 2025. But on Tuesday of this past week, Ambassador William B. Taylor. Jr., a West Point graduate, war veteran and career diplomat selected by President Trump last June as chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, gave bombshell testimony before three House committees.

    In essence, Taylor confirmed what President Trump had been denying, though his acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney blatantly confirmed a week ago, the so-called "quid pro quo" between $400 million in stalled U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for political dirt on Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President Joe Biden and a Long Beach, Ind., homeowner.

    In an explosive 15-page opening statement, Taylor described communications with European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland: "During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election," Taylor explained. "Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations — in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, 'everything' was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy 'in a public box' by making a public statement about ordering such investigations."

    Trump would respond to Taylor's testimony on Twitter, calling him a "never Trumper Republican" and "human scum."

    Why did this apparent extortion matter? Because the Ukraine is a vulnerable U.S. ally, attempting to fend off an invasion and occupation by Russian President Putin. It’s waged a war that has cost 13,000 lives. 

    Last June, Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he was open to foreign assistance in his reelection campaign, to which Federal Election Commission Chairman Ellen Weintraub responded: “Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election.“ 

    So why should we ponder the sooner than later prospect of "President Pence?" Because impeachment has been established in the U.S. Constitution, but it is a political mechanism to remove a public servant who has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors." That is deliberately vague, to be determined by the House for impeachment, and then the Senate for a trial, with Chief Justice John Roberts (ironically a Long Beach native) presiding.

    Public opinion has everything to do with this. When the U.S Supreme Court ordered the release of the so-called "smoking gun" tape during President Nixon's Watergate scandal in 1974, his public support in the polls collapsed, and so did his Republican backing in the U.S. Senate. Nixon resigned within hours.

    Polling in support of the Trump impeachment inquiry and removal is far ahead of where it was for Presidents Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1999.  Trump's approval has been mired in the low 40% range for most of his presidency, and on Wednesday a Quinnipiac Poll revealed 55% approve the impeachment inquiry. 

    When the Daily Caller gauged the 55 Republican senators, only seven said they wouldn't vote to convict Trump. Republican Sens. Mitt Romney and Lindsey Graham told Axios they will weigh impeachment if a crime was committed.

    U.S. Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun were not among that group of seven. Both have been ardent supporters of Trump, and both are laying low. Young co-sponsored a resolution against the impeachment inquiry with Sen. Lindsey Graham this past week. But the Hoosier senators are different than there 53 GOP colleagues, in that if Trump were to resign or be convicted, they would have a Hoosier president in Mike Pence.

    Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote this past week, the situation is “fluid.” President Trump still has his core supporters, but many others inclined to support him are exhausted by the constant, self-inflicted drama. At some point, President Mike Pence might seem like a safe harbor for Republicans.

    The columnist is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at Find Howey on Facebook and Twitter @hwypol.
  •  INDIANAPOLIS - Three years ago, Curtis Hill was a Republican rising star, capturing the nomination for attorney general in a spirited convention floor fight, then leading the ticket that November in votes. He became a rare African-American Republican, working in a building where the rest of his party of white. Hill gave a racial component to Republican politics that had seen females win the constitutional offices, save governor, when Holcomb edged out U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks for the nomination following Gov. Mike Pence leaving his nomination to join Donald Trump’s presidential ticket. But this past week, Hill was fighting for his political career and his law license. His reputation has taken a beating. He faced a Supreme Court disciplinary hearing over allegations of sexual harassment and groping at a 2018 sine die party. The ensuing headlines were a politician’s nightmare. There was a parade of 26 witnesses, including Democrat State Rep. Mara Candaleria Reardon, four Republican legislative staffers, and an Elkhart County employee of Hill’s when he was prosecutor there, who testified under oath that her boss sought sex, saying, “We need to ---- because it would be hot.” Hill was described as a “creeper” who was “grabbing butt” and sliding his hands down Reardon’s backless dress. The “Me too” era passed the Indiana Statehouse over the past couple of years with no official taking a fall. That Hill’s alleged conduct came after movie moguls, media anchors and U.S. senators had been swept from power was an indicator of being tone deaf.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – The spook’s eyes at the Londonskaya Hotel bar burned holes in me. Every time I glanced in his direction, they were trained on me. I had entered Odessa, Ukraine as part of the last hurrah of Sen. Richard Lugar’s old Republican internationalist order in this pre-partitioned nation. 

    It was 2007. Vladimir Putin held only shadow power in the old Soviet remnants. His fractured standing belied a reeling nation, the former Soviet Union, in steep demographic decline. High rates of alcoholism, suicide and plunging birth rates defined this former empire. Donald Trump was a gadfly, wannabe presidential aspirant who owned a couple of Gary riverboat casinos and a New York real estate empire.

    It would have been impossible to foresee how this churn of events would play out a dozen years later in Moscow, Kiev, Washington and even Indianapolis. The old Republican internationalist order that once thrived in Indiana has ended, begging the question in the emergent era of the Trump cult of personality, so what if it has?

    The Indiana aspect of this story can be told through the hyper-supplicant Pences, with the vice president accepting full ownership of that cult; and Indiana’s two Republican senators, Mike Braun, who owes his station to Trump, and Todd Young, a former Lugar staffer who, had he taken a different career path, might have found himself briefing the Senate in a manner similar to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. Last week Vindman, former Ukrainian ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and State Department Ukrainian expert Dr. Fiona Hill testified before Congress of a disinformation campaign echoing Putin’s Kremlin that it was the Ukrainians, not the Russians, who meddled in the 2016 US elections. The Republican senators received a briefing on the Ukrainian fiction as multiple sources discredited the story. In the wake of the sensational impeachment testimony which appears not to have swayed public opinion, the question for Hoosier voters remains, does it matter? Do people care? I don’t think they do. Hoosier voters appear to be giving President Trump the benefit of the doubt, preferring to decide his future at the ballot box next year. Two recent polls in Indiana, the Old National/Ball State and Bowen Center poll, put Trump’s approval at 52%, while a Morning Consult poll had Trump’s Indiana approval at 50%.

  • INDIANAPOLIS - Last Sept. 19 in my publication Howey Politics Indiana, I wrote the cover story "Double Dog Impeachment Dare."  It came just as the whistleblower had surfaced, flagging President Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky. There were 146 Democrats (including Indiana's Andre Carson) and one former Republican backing the impeachment of Trump at that time. I acknowledged a sinking feeling about this Ukraine story. Just a day before his “perfect” July 25 phone call with Zelensky , Trump seemed to have dodged the Robert Mueller threat. But last June 16, Trump was asked by ABC's George Stephanopoulos if he would accept foreign intel heading into his 2020 reelection. "I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening," Trump answered. "If somebody called from a country, Norway, ‘we have information on your opponent' – oh, I think I'd want to hear it."  Federal Election Commission Chair Ellen Weintraub quickly released a statement on Twitter to make it "100% clear to the American public" that accepting such an offer is illegal. "This is not a novel concept," Weintraub said. "Electoral intervention from foreign governments has been unacceptable since the beginnings of our nation."
  • INDIANAPOLIS -  Since House Democrats impeached President Trump on a mostly party line vote late last month, I’ve been pretty outspoken that his future should be determined by the voters at the ballot box in November. A historic first censure of a president should become a viable option. Having stated that, we appear to be in for a Senate impeachment trial, though Speaker Nancy Pelosi is refusing to send the two articles to the Senate until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows witnesses. Specifically, Democrats maintain that White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House counsel Don McGahn, former nation security adviser John Bolton, and several Office of Management and Budget officials should testify. President Trump wants Joe and Hunter Biden to swear an oath and talk before these Senate jurors. Since polarized Washington has foisted this debacle on to the American people, then it's only fitting to have a real trial, with real witnesses. If Trump wants us to believe there was no transgression, he should allow senior aides to testify.

  • INDIANAPOLIS — With closing arguments completed and Senate jurors in Q&A mode in President Trump’s impeachment trial, we find this a cleaved nation, with the We Ask America Poll in Indiana perfectly framing the situation: 47.4% of Hoosiers approve of the president, 47.7% disapprove. A Fox News Poll released Monday has 50% supporting Trump’s impeachment and removal, while 44% oppose. There is little that can be said from the well of the Senate that will change the opinion of these masses, or of the two major political parties, or perhaps even you, dear reader. The Senate is poised to acquit President Trump. The risks facing Republican senators are the recent revelations from Lev Parnas and now former national security advisor John Bolton. Will that give them pause prior to their potentially premature verdict? As U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the House impeachment managers “put together a broad, comprehensive case” but he characterized it as “circumstantial in nature.” And then came this nugget when moderator Chuck Todd took a Rex Early axiom (“I don’t have to slam my hand in the car door twice to know that it hurts”) and pressed the freshman Hoosier senator: “This president, as you know, he’s going to take acquittal and think, ‘I can keep doing this.’” Braun responded: “No, I don’t think that. Hopefully it’ll be instructive. I think he’ll put two and two together. In this case, he was taken to the carpet.”
  • INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court faces a “political” decision that will be known in the next three weeks: What to do about Attorney General Curtis Hill? Former justice Myra Selby determined a 60-day suspension in light of his 2018 sine die party horndogging, in which he was accused of groping a Democratic legislator and three staffers. She also recommended no automatic return to office. Indiana law requires the AG to be “duly licensed to practice law in Indiana.”  In Selby’s words, “By seeking and accepting the responsibilities of the office of Indiana attorney general, (Hill) undertook to conduct himself both officially and personally in accordance with the highest standards that the citizens of the state of Indiana can expect.” So if the Supremes accept Selby’s recommendation, Hill “likely would be forced to immediately vacate his office because he no longer could practice law,” according to NWI Times reporter Dan Carden. This has never happened since the 1851 Indiana Constitution became the law of the land. And it begs all sorts of questions. Is the alleged behavior by Hill that kind for which any other lawyer in Indiana would be disciplined?
  • HPI Interview: Dr. Myers says next 2-3 days crucial in warding off 'catastrophe'

    INDIANAPOLIS - With 12 confirmed coronavirus cases and no deaths, Gov. Eric Holcomb declared earlier this week that Indiana is “remarkably prepared.” Yet as of Friday morning, the Indiana State Department of Health has conducted only 73 tests for the virus. Dr. Woody Myers, the presumptive Democrat challenger to Holcomb, told Howey Politics Indiana  that he sees a “potential catastrophe” unfolding in the state. “The next two or three days are more important than the next two or three weeks,” said Myers, a former Indiana health commissioner under Govs. Robert Orr and Evan Bayh. “In the next two or three days, the priority needs to be testing, testing, testing. The only way we can know where we are is to confirm where the virus is in the bodies of potential patients. That is the only way we can use what we call contact tracing.”

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