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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR.

    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

  • Weigh in on 2021 HPI Power 50
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS –  When the 2020 HPI Power 50 List was published on Jan. 7, the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning to create a stir in China. Vice President Pence was at the apex of his power. Health Commissioner Kristina Box was cited for her coming contributions to the “story of our lifetime” (the opioid crisis). South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg was an out-sized presidential dreamer. Come January, Indiana will have two new members of Congress (1st CD Democrat Frank Mrvan and 5th CD Republican Victoria Spartz). This will be a biennial budget and reapportionment year in the General Assembly, so Dr. Tim Brown and Chairman Timothy Wesco will rise on the 2020 list. There will be new gubernatorial contenders, at least one new state party chair. Will there be a Libertarian to crack the list for the first time since we began this publishing exercise in 1999, now that gubernatorial nominee Donald Rainwater made it into double digits in the Nov. 3, election. The HPI Power 50 list is designed to illustrate who stands to make the greatest impacts in the coming year. We invite our readers to make nominations or complete your own full list. This year’s list will be published in the Jan. 7, 2021, edition of Howey Politics Indiana.
  • Trump and Biden priorities

    With American pandemic deaths crossing the 250,000 threshold, President Trump made calls to Michigan local election officials and is inviting legislators to the White House, while President-elect Joe Biden was talking to stressed out front line medical workers. That explains their priorities. Trump is attempting to undermine the American election system, with a Reuters/Ipsos Poll showing that 68% of Republicans now believing the election was "rigged."

    There are Republicans beginning to speak up (though none from Indiana). “Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election," said Sen. Mitt Romney. "It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.” And Sen. Ben Sasse said, "President Trump lost Michigan by more than 100,000 votes, and the campaign and its allies have lost in or withdrawn from all five lawsuits in Michigan for being unable to produce any evidence. Wild press conferences erode public trust. We are a nation of laws, not tweets.” The damage to our most precious American cornerstone is stunning, disgusting and sad, and the whole world is watching. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

  • Beau Bayh makes campaign debut
    “The first home I went home to in Indianapolis was the Governor’s Mansion, which is proof that Democrats can win in Indiana.” - Beau Bayh, campaigning on behalf of Democrat gubernatorial nominee Woody Myers. He is the son of former governor and senator Evan Bayh. In October 1984, a young Evan Bayh barnstormed the state with underdog gubernatorial hopeful Wayne Townsend ("Go get 'em, Wayne"). When the pair appeared at the Elkhart Truth, reporter (and future Bayh) staffer Phil Schermerhorn asked Bayh, "Evan, what are you running for?"). In 1986, Evan Bayh won the secretary of state's office, then ended the GOP's 20-year gubernatorial dynasty two years later. With Hoosier Democrats barely above the Libertarians in the party pecking order (Donald Rainwater is running TV and radio ads; Myers isn't), the young Bayh's appearance will stoke up speculation that it may take a third-generation Bayh to restore Indiana Democrats to major party status.
  • Trump nominates Judge Barrett for SCOTUS
    "The flag of the United States is still flying at half-staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to mark the end of a great American life. Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them. Justices Scalia and Ginsburg disagreed fiercely in print without rancor in person. In both my personal and professional relationships, I strive to meet that standard. Judges are not policy makers and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold." - 7th Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee, on the friendly relationship between the late Associate Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who she hopes to replace. President Trump said, "She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution." The South Bend resident and former Notre Dame Law professor will appear in the Senate for her first confirmation hearing on Oct. 12. Republicans hope to have her confirmed prior to the Nov. 3 election. If confirmed, she would become the second Hoosier to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, joining Associate Justice Sherman Minton, who served from 1949 to 1956. Chief Justice John G. Roberts is a native of Long Beach.
  • Woodward on why Coats didn't speak out on Trump
    Bob Woodward, the author of the new book “Rage” discussed the way in which President Trump diminished former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and former DNI Dan Coats and why he thinks Mattis and Coats have not publicly spoken about the president. “It’s almost a book in itself,” Woodward said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Wednesday. “This was a man who was a senator from Indiana. He was retiring and he was offered this job from Mike Pence, and felt he could not say no. He went in with these Republican values and was stunned, shocked and, in a way, just ground down from Trump’s refusal to accept reality.” Woodward said that at one point Mattis and Coats talked after a National Security Council meeting. “Mattis says that Trump has no moral compass. And Coats says, ‘Donald Trump,’ their leader, ‘does not know the difference between a lie and the truth.’ They were in the latter phase of their lives. (Trump) pulled all of these stunts in a way that led them to the point where, in Coats’s case, his wife Marsha said to him, ‘Look, Dan, God put you in this job. You’re not just failing the country, yourself and your family, but God and you need to get organized.’ Trump expelled him when it did not serve Trump’s purposes.”  - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • The 'apolitical' superintendent
    For a public official who keeps saying she's tired of politics encroaching on education, "Republican" Supt. Jennifer McCormick has exhibited a curious propensity to do the opposite, as was the case with her endorsement of Jonathan Weinzapfel in the attorney general's race. A Democratic operative noted my "snarky" observation on this. My suspicion, given the ongoing under-performance of Woody Myers' gubernatorial campaign, is that the McCormick nod is going to be a highlight of what is a historic missed opportunity this fall for the Indiana Democratic Party. The party does not appear to be poised to make many meaningful gains in its super minority General Assembly caucuses. Its best chance for a significant pickup appears to be Christina Hale's 5th CD campaign, if she can overcome the anemic Myers campaign and induce some serious ticket splitting. - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • Andrew Sullivan: 'The Trap The Democrats Walked Right Into'
    "Let’s be frank about this and call this by its name: This is very Weimar. The center has collapsed. Armed street gangs of far right and far left are at war on the streets. Tribalism is intensifying in every nook and cranny of the culture. The establishment right and mainstream left tolerate their respective extremes because they hate each other so much. The pattern is textbook, if you learn anything from history: An economic crisis resulting in mass unemployment; the pent-up psychological disorders a long period of lockdown can and will unleash; a failure of nerve on the part of liberals to defend the values and institutions of liberal democracy, and of conservatives to keep their own ranks free of raw demagogues and bigots." - Andrew Sullivan, writing "The Trap the Democrats Walked Right Into: If law and order are what this election is about, they will lose it."
  • Trump speech continues pandemic mixed messaging
    On a day when Indiana recorded 1,164 COVID cases, President Trump accepted his Republican nomination before a mostly maskless, unspaced audience on the White House South Lawn. It once again sends a conflicting message apart from Gov. Holcomb, Dr. Box, and Presidents Daniels, McRobbie and Jenkins who are struggling to keep a lid on the pandemic in their state and on their campuses. Trump and the RNC presented an alternative universe with alternative facts, with economic adviser Larry Kudlow talking about the pandemic in past-tense despite the fact that 1,000 Americans are dying of this virus every day and CDC officials are talking in ominous terms of this fall and winter. History may look at this as Exhibit A in President Trump's tragic assertion that this virus will simply and miraculously "go away." - Brian A. Howey
     
  • Obama delivers scathing critique of Trump
    “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously. This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter. That’s how they win.” - Former President Barack Obama, speaking speaking Wednesday night to the virtual Democratic National Convention from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. Democratic nominee Joe Biden delivers his acceptance speech tonight.
  • Coats says there's no 'cold war' with China
    "The Cold War was fought and won pretty much exclusively on military and cultural terms. The economic side was relevant only because the Soviets' doomed model inhibited any real competition. We were neither competitors nor partners in the economic space. A new Cold War between the United States and China would be something else entirely. It is difficult to see how it could be fought effectively, not to mention successfully. This is by no means to question the need to respond to increasingly aggressive behavior by China. But the U.S. response must be coherent, disciplined and sophisticated. It must balance capabilities and objectives. Reverting to a Cold War mentality will drive us toward belligerent posturing that has little or no chance of changing Chinese behavior and could, on the contrary, provoke overreactions and dangerous miscalculations on both sides. Above all, we must create a deliberate strategy that is aimed at managing this great-power conflict rather than vanquishing a foe. This is very hard work, requiring patience, conviction and broad political support. It also requires the full participation of our allies, both in the region and elsewhere. We must undertake these efforts with the imperative of preventing a downward spiral toward armed conflict." - Former director of National Intelligence and Indiana U.S. senator Dan Coats, in a Washington Post op-ed titled "There is No Cold War with China - and if There Were, We Couldn't Win."

  • IU President McRobbie to retire in 2021
    "I am immensely proud of all that has been accomplished over the period I have been president. All the change and effort has, I believe, consolidated and elevated IU's position as one of America's premier and leading research universities. But all these accomplishments -- and many more -- are not a one-person show. They are the collective product of the hard and unremitting work of IU's outstanding senior leaders, the strong support of superb faculty who have embraced change, engaged and talented students who have and will continue to go on to become leaders in their chosen fields, and exceptional staff whose professionalism and dedication have been the linchpin of so many of our successes." - Indiana University President Michael McRobbie, who announced on Friday he will retire in June 2021. McRobbie came to IU in 1997 from his native Australia as its first vice president for information technology and chief information officer. Now a U.S. citizen, he was appointed vice president for research in 2003 and named interim provost and vice president for academic affairs for IU Bloomington in 2006. He became IU's 18th president on July 1, 2007, making him one of the longest-serving university presidents in the country.
     
  • Trump answers Hannity question on what he'd do if elected to a 2nd term
    “Well, one of the things that will be really great, you know, the word experience is still good. I always say talent is more important than experience. I’ve always said that. But the word experience is a very important word. It’s a very important meaning. I never did this before - I never slept over in Washington. I was in Washington I think 17 times, all of the sudden, I’m the president of the United States. You know the story, I’m riding down Pennsylvania Avenue with our first lady and I say, ‘This is great.’ But I didn’t know very many people in Washington, it wasn’t my thing. I was from Manhattan, from New York. Now I know everybody. And I have great people in the administration. You make some mistakes, like you know an idiot like Bolton, all he wanted to do is drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to drop bombs on everybody. You don’t have to kill people.” - President Trump, answering this question from Fox News' Sean Hannity at a Wisconsin town hall Thursday: “What’s at stake in this election as you compare and contrast, and what are your top priority items for a second term?”
  • President Trump, Gov. Holcomb address the pandemic in their own words
    The COVID-19 pandemic is becoming the story of our time. As Sen. Todd Young explained, unlike the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the Oil Shock recession of 1979-82, what we are experiencing today is a double hammer: A pandemic and a severe economic panic. The Hoosier State is poised to go from a historic low 3.1% unemployment rate to double digits in the span of a month. At least one pandemic model says 2,400 Hoosiers will die.

    Tough times shift our attention to leadership. Here are quotes from President Trump and Gov. Eric Holcomb as the pandemic approached the U.S. and then impacted our nation and state.

    President Trump

    Jan. 22: “We have it totally under control. It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control. It’s going to be just fine.” – CNBC interview.

    Feb. 10: “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” – New Hampshire rally.

    Feb. 24: “The coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. … Stock market starting to look very good to me!” – On Twitter.

    Feb. 25: “China is working very, very hard. I have spoken to President Xi, and they are working very hard. If you know anything about him, I think he will be in pretty good shape. I think that is a problem that is going to go away.”

    Feb. 26: “We’re going to be pretty soon at only five people. And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time. So we’ve had very good luck.” – At a White House news conference.
  • Pence, Holcomb, Buttigieg head 2020 HPI Power 50
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY in Indianapolis
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR., 
    in Washington

    As we unveil the 2020 version of the Howey Politics Indiana Power 50 List, Hoosiers appear to be relatively satisfied with their state government, unsure about the federals and specifically President Trump, and are most concerned about health care and the economy.

    These are the latest survey numbers from the We Ask America Poll conducted in early December for the Indiana Manufacturers Association. They accentuate the formulation of our annual Power 50 list headed by Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Eric Holcomb, former South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg, and the state’s two Republican senators who will likely sit in judgment (and acquittal) of President Trump in an impeachment trial later this month. 

    As Pence appears to be heading off thinly veiled attempts by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to get him off the 2020 ticket, Hoosiers by 47.4% approve to 47.7% disapprove of President Trump’s job performance. This is consistent with 2019 polling by Ball State University and Morning Consult. On the national right/wrong track, just 37% of registered voters in Indiana feel that the country is headed in the right direction, while a majority, 52%, say that things have gotten off on the wrong track, including 51% of independents and 26% of Republicans. Among female voters, the right/wrong track split is 29%/58%.

  • HPI Power 50: Another year of transition as we head into 2020
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS  — As we experienced last year with the change in Indiana Senate leadership, the 2020 Howey Politics Indiana Power 50 list is in for some significant revamping. It’s our annual exercise of rating the who’s who in our movers and shakers HPI invites its influential readership to weigh in. Some of you submit full lists. Others will nominate a specific person and reasons for inclusion. We invite both.

    Not only has there been the Indiana House speaker transition from Brian Bosma to Todd Huston, U.S. Reps. Pete Visclosky and Susan Brooks are retiring, there is South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg's rise to national prominence, and Gov. Eric Holcomb’s fiscal team has changed. There are close to 20 new mayors. There is also change in the administration’s opioid crisis team, as well as the Alex Azar/Seema Verma drama within the Trump administration.

    In the coming year, will Vice President Mike Pence remain on the ticket with President Trump and will he play a decisive role to bring Republicans home as he did down the 2016 homestretch? Will Christina Hale turn the once ruby red 5th CD blue? Will Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., get the job switch he has long coveted by winning the 1st CD Democratic nomination.

    Send me your thoughts, or an entire list. We’ll publish our 2020 list on Tuesday, Jan. 7, kicking off what should be a fascinating election year of the best political coverage in Indiana.

  • The tossup 2020 presidential race
    Can President Trump be reelected in 2020? His Real Clear Politics approve/disapprove composite is 43.9%/53.5%, which is 9.6% under water. In Indiana, politicians hovering in the low 40th percentile (i.e. Sens. Richard Lugar in 2012 Republican primary and Joe Donnelly in 2016 general election) lose.

    But in the state polls like the Marquette Law School Poll in Wisconsin, only Joe Biden (47-46%) had an edge over the president in one of the so-called Blue Wall States. Trump tops Bernie Sanders (47-45), Elizabeth Warren (45-44%) and Pete Buttigieg (44-43%).

    When you look at 2020 state-by-state, this looks like a tossup race. Throw in the House impeachment folly (and certain Senate acquittal), and you now understand why President Trump is holding MAGA rallies in places like Hershey, PA, and Grand Rapids, Mich.

    If Democrats veer left and put Sanders or Warren atop the ticket, and leave off someone like Sen. Amy Klobachar, 2020 could find history repeating itself. - Brian A. Howey, publisher.
  • Into the impeachment vortex ...
    Here we go. Where America ends up in early 2020 after the fourth presidential impeachment that got underway this week is anyone's guess. 

    When I wrote the Sept. 19 HPI cover story - "The Double Dog Impeachment Dare"  - the Ukraine quid pro quo scenario was just beginning, becoming a full congressional/media vortex suck. Regular Hoosiers I know aren't paying much attention and are polarized by President Trump.

    We'll restate past thoughts on these alleged high crimes and misdemeanors: 1. Impeachments are messy and unpredictable. 2. Impeachment is an American tragedy. 3. Impeachment will result in unintended consequences. 4. Hoosiers are prepared to render a verdict on President Trump at the ballot box next November. 5. If we get into a mode where we're impeaching an American president every 20 years, the fragile American experiment will be doomed. 
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher
  • The Foreign Involvement in Elections Act

    Calling on Sens. Young & Braun, and Rep. Banks to author the Foreign Involvement in Elections Act, which would legalize foreign sources to fund and influence American elections. If this is the new norm, if this is OK, then legalize it.

    Fox News analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explained, "The proof is largely undisputed, except by the president himself. It consists of admissions, testimony and documents, which show that President Trump sought to induce the government of Ukraine to become involved in the 2020 presidential election. Specifically, Trump held up $391 million in American military hardware and financial aid to Ukraine until Ukrainian prosecutors commenced a criminal investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. That is a mouthful of facts to swallow in one bite, but the legal implications are straightforward and profound."

    Conservative legal scholar Cass Sunstein laid out a similar narrative a few weeks ago. So with the House passing an official impeachment inquiry on a virtual party line vote, the question for Senate Republicans and the American people is whether their fidelity to the once GOP pillar of the "rule of law" stands, or whether it is consumed by a cult of personality presidency which will profoundly change American politics; where foreign influence will be invited into future elections. It's the ultimate slippery slope for the republic. Will we keep it?  - Brian A. Howey, publisher

     
  • Gen. Votel on what Kurd fighters did for the U.S.
    “Over four years, the SDF freed tens of thousands of square miles and millions of people from the grip of ISIS. Throughout the fight, it sustained nearly 11,000 casualties. By comparison, six U.S. service members, as well as two civilians, have been killed in the anti-ISIS campaign.” - U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who served as commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, on the role the Syrian Democratic Forces, made up mostly of Kurdish fighters. The United States has abandoned the SDF, which is now under an ethnic cleansing assault from Turkey after President Trump gave the green light for the incursion on Sunday.
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  • Holcomb vetoes emergency powers bill
    “I firmly believe a central part of this bill is unconstitutional. The legislation impermissibly attempts to give the General Assembly the ability to call itself into a special session, thereby usurping a power given exclusively to the governor. Avoidable legal challenges during a state of emergency will only serve to be disruptive to our state.” - Gov. Eric Holcomb, vetoing a bill that would have allowed the Indiana General Assembly to call itself into special session during a public emergency. The bill had passed by wide margins in the Republica super majority-controlled House and Senate earlier this week.  Legislators are expected to override Holcomb's veto with simple majorities in the House and Senate, before Indiana courts rule on the constitutionality of the bill.
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  • HPI Power 50: Crisis shapes 2021 list

    By BRIAN A. HOWEY
    and MARK SCHOEFF JR.

    INDIANAPOLIS – After two decades of publishing Power 50 lists in the first week of January, this one comes in a true crisis atmosphere. As we watched in horror the U.S. Capitol being overrun by supporters of President Trump on Wednesday, the COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 8,000 Hoosiers and 350,000 Americans, shutting down our state and nation for nearly two months last spring. While vaccines are coming, there will be a distinct BC (Before COVID) and AC delineations as this epic story comes to a close. It gripped like a vise key figures, from Gov. Eric Holcomb to Vice President Pence. It delayed an election, closed schools and restaurants, reordered the way we do business and buy things, and will set in motion ramifications that we can’t truly understand (like the virus itself) at this point in time. There’s another crisis at hand. It’s our society’s civics deficit, fueled by apathy that transcends our schools and societal engagement, and allowed to fester by a news media in atrophy. That three members of the Indiana congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Mike Braun and Reps. Jim Banks and Jackie Walorski – signed on to a protest this week, induced by losing President Donald Trump to “investigate” widespread vote fraud that doesn’t exist, is another indicator of the risks a polarized and undisciplined political spectrum brings to the fragile American democratic experience.

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