UPDATED:
September 17, 2018
By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. Kavanaugh allegation & denial

Here are your Monday power lunch talking points: Our first reaction to the anonymous high school era accusations leveled at Judge Brett Kavanaughwas akin to an assertion by former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert and the notion of “youthful indiscretions”  providing a scandal shelf life. Lord help many of us if we had to answer various prep and collegiate behaviors in a by-gone era as society has evolved. Over the weekend the accusation, with all three principle characters allegedly wasted at the time or keeping the allegations silent for four decades, seemed difficult to validate. But withChristine Blasey Ford stepping forward and describing the assault and willing to testify at Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, this case may take as extreme of a twist as we saw with the Hastert legacy (he served 13 months for a sexually related bank fraud conviction dating back to when he was a high school wrestling coach and then a blackmail attempt).

In a Washington Post interview, Ford alleged that in a summer house party in the 1980s, with Kavanaugh and a friend “stumbling drunk,” while his friend watched, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth. So the drama plays out in wild fashion, with a Judiciary Committee vote on Kavanaugh scheduled for Thursday. Kavanaugh said this morning he was willing to testify on the matter, adding: “This is a completely false allegation. I have never done anything like what the accuser describes — to her or to anyone. Because this never happened, I had no idea who was making this accusation until she identified herself yesterday." So this has the makings of a Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill showdown, possibly this week. 

All eyes are on Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, seen as the most likely dissenters on Kavanaugh due to Roe v. Wade, and out-going mavericks Jeff Flake (who called for Ford’s testimony to be heard), along with Bob Corker, who called for a delay of the committee vote. Collins said she was “very surprised" by the accusation, but, "I don't know enough to create the judgment at this point.”

2. Jam the Kavanaugh nod through

There was speculation this morning that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has spent his leadership career hoping to steer SCOTUS to the right, will jam the Kavanaugh confirmation through no matter what. That’s our bet (and we can guess Merrick Garland would probably agree). But it could come at a political cost as Senate Republicans are watching female suburban voters flee the party. Fox and NBC/Marist polls have the Indiana Senate race as a pure tossup, while new CBS Polls in Missouri and Montana, once likely GOP pickups, as tossups. Could the Kavanaugh allegations, on top of President Trump’s horndog behavior and the immigrant border separations become another bridge way, way too far for that vital voting bloc?

3. Donnelly’s Jacob Sexton ad

Sen. Joe Donnelly’s campaign is airing an ad on his authoring the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act. It’s a move designed to further sway that female bloc of voters. The ad features Sexton’s parents, Jeff and Barb Sexton of Farmland, who lost their son, Army Spec. Jacob Sexton, in 2009 when he shot himself in a Muncie movie theater during a 15-day leave from his Indiana National Guard unit in Afghanistan. Sexton’s father talks in the ad about his son’s death and praises Donnelly for the legislation that requires the U.S. military to keep mental health records of soldiers. Barb Sexton can be seen saying that she wears her Gold Star “above the heart.” 

4. President Trump’s legal peril grows

When Paul Manafort copped a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday, President Trump is finding many of his top friends and allies all flippers  these days. That tends to happen when “loyalty” is simply a one-way street. It’s a big deal, according to a number of legal experts ranging from Kenneth Starr and Alan Dershowitz (a Trump ally) to Norman Eisen. Manafort  joins a flipper list that includes former attorney/fixerMichael Cohen, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, and publisher David Pecker. Starr called it a “very significant breakthrough”  on ABC’sThis Week. Dershowitz was on Meet the Press  and called it a “big win”  and a “big get” for Mueller. Eisen, a former Obama administration ethics counsel, flatly predicted that President Trump wouldn't "survive" Manafort's testimony.

5. Task Force 1’s 100 rescues

With at least 17 dead in the Carolinas due to Hurricane Florence, Indiana’s famed Task Force 1 has made over 100 water rescues  in New Hanover County, N.C. WIBC  reports the force’s spokesman Mike Pruitt saying, "It was one of the scariest sites I have seen in my 35 years in public safety. Hoosiers should be extremely proud of this team as they approached the flooding with great professionalism and skill and went back into the flooded neighborhoods time after time, pulling the elderly, children, parents, dogs and cats from a very grave situation.” Yes, Hoosiers are proud  of this special task force.

Have a great week, folks. It’s The Atomic! 
  • HPI Analysis: Trump, loathing and fear
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    MICHIGAN CITY – Believe me, Hoosier Trumpers, I hear you. I understand. You voted for Donald J. Trump because you wanted him to shake up Washington. And if there was any place on earth that needed to be shook, stirred, kicked, turned inside out and placed in a Waring blender, it was The District. I keep waiting for President Trump to grow into the job, like Truman, Kennedy and Clinton did after entering the White House as novices or discovering blind-siding events. There are worthy aspects of the first two years of the Trump presidency. Some of the onerous EPA regs have been pared back, much to the relief of my many business friends. After eight years of President Obama, he is adding conservative jurists to the courts, which brings balance. Justice Neil Gorsuch and Judge Brett Kavanaugh are more than credible and deserve to be on the high court, though withholding 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh documents is puzzling. The economy is going gangbusters, even with the tariffs. Trump’s willingness to meet with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un was a vastly better approach than the sabre rattling of 2017. That’s the kind of president I want to write about. And then, there were these past 10 days or so, beginning with the death of U.S. Sen. John McCain. As I traveled across Indiana over Labor Day weekend, it was subtly striking to see American flags lowered to half staff from Peru, to Michigan City, Long Beach, Hesston, The Pines, Porter and Chesterton. The folks who lowered the flags didn’t need an edict from the president or governor. They knew a patriot when they saw one, and John McCain fit the bill: A Navy pilot, POW, congressman, senator, contrarian and the 2008 Republican nominee for president. Underscore Republican.
  • HPI Interview: 3rd CD Democrat Tritch defies the 'liberal' label
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – If there ever was an uphill political battle, Democrat Courtney Tritch is seeking to climb that mountain in her 3rd CD challenge to freshman Rep. Jim Banks. It hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in nearly quarter a century. It’s a +18 Republican on the Cook Partisan IndexThe last time a Democrat even crested 40% came in the 2006 Democratic wave election year when Republican Rep. Mark Souder defeated Fort Wayne Councilman Thomas Hayhurts 54-45%. Tritch hasn’t attracted the “red to blue” support from the DCCC, but she has out-raised Banks in the last two FEC quarters. From April 19 to June 30, Tritch raised $168,786.39, with 97% coming from the 3rd CD, while Banks reported $165,849.00 in contributions.
  • Atomic! Treason & deep esophagus; Pence & lodestar; reveal & resign
    By BRIAN A.HOWEY, in Indianapolis

    1. 'Treason' comes to the White House: Here are your final power lunch talking points for a strange, strange week channeling the rock band Supertramp: “Now they’re planning the crime of the century … well, what will it be? Read all about their schemes and adventuring … It's well worth a fee … Who are these men of lust, greed, and glory? Rip off the masks and let see.”  Tweeted President Trump: “TREASON?” That was his response to the anonymous publishing of a a New York Times op-ed on Tuesday.  So the specter of “treason,” once consigned to Vice President Aaron Burr, the Rosenbergs and spooks like Aldrich Ames, comes to the White House. The White House. “Does the so-called ‘Senior Administration Official’ really exist, or is it just the Failing New York Times with another phony source?” Trump asks. “If the GUTLESS anonymous person does indeed exist, the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!”

  • Horse Race: Ford, Gambill begin TV ad campaigns
    By BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS – SD29 Democrat J.D. Ford began his TV ad campaign on Wednesday, going up a month earlier than he did during his 2014 challenge to State Sen. Mike Delph. The ad is titled “Bright Future” and features Ford’s bio. “Growing up, my parents taught me that you can’t expect results if you don’t work hard for them,” says Ford in the ad, which examines JD Ford’s working family background, his focus on the community, and his vision for District 29.

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DEADLINE for county election board to mail absentee ballots to voters who have already filed an application with circuit court clerk.
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