By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis 

1. Trump/Pence on down playing pandemic

Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: That Feb. 7 phone conversation between President Trump and author Bob Woodward suggests what the journalist calls a “coverup.” In that call, Trump acknowledged, “You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed, and so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu. This is deadly stuff.” On March 19, Trump told Woodward he was understating the threat on purpose. “I wanted to always play it down,” he said, adding, “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”

On Feb. 26, Trump told the public, "But when I mentioned the flu, I said — actually, I asked the various doctors. I said, ‘Is this just like flu?’ Because people die from the flu. And this is very unusual. And it is a little bit different, but in some ways it’s easier and in some ways it’s a little bit tougher.” On Thursday, Trump held a rally in Freeland, Mich., where there was virtually no social distancing and few wore masks.

Vice President Mike Pence in Harrisburg on Thursday: “President Trump never downplayed the coronavirus to any of us. He never downplayed the coronavirus to any of us he tasked with marshaling a national response.”

2. COVID comparisons

President Trump cited the "great" handling of the pandemic at Thursday's press conference as well as a spike in European union deaths. The U.S. had 1,090 deaths on Thursday. In Europe, the UK had 14 deaths, Germany 9, Spain 71 and Italy 10. Canada had eight deaths.

3. A shock(ingly bad) poll

One of our competitors published what has since been branded a "shock poll" by a firm called "Change Research." It had Gov. Eric Holcomb's lead over Democrat Woody Myers down to 36-30%. Even more implausible, it had Libertarian Donald Rainwater at 24%. This comes as the IBJ  reported that Myers had spent just $750 on Facebook, and zero on TV, compared the Holcomb campaign which has spent "seven figures" on two statewide TV ads. Rainwater has had no paid media presence. An INGOP internal poll earlier this summer had Rainwater at about 4.5%, which is where a Libertarian candidate normally is, and Holcomb leading in landslide fashion. This "shock poll" flunks the our smell test.

4. The apolitical superintendent

When "Republican" Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick begged off reelection this year, she said in October 2018, "I will always be here for kids, I will not waver from that and I won't play politics." But after flirting with a Democratic lieutenant governor nomination on a potential ticket with State Sen. Eddie Melton last year, she endorsed Democratic attorney general nominee Jonathan Weinzapfel on Thursday. "This isn't about politics," McCormick said. "This is about who has the experience, the integrity and the vision to best represent all Hoosiers, especially our children." For a public official who keeps saying she's tired of politics encroaching on education, McCormick continues to exhibit a curious propensity to do the opposite.

5. Vote divides

A new Washington Post poll reveals that 71% of Republicans prefer to vote in person, while Democrats are split. Politico: Democrats are amassing an enormous lead in early voting, alarming Republicans who worry they’ll need to orchestrate a huge Election Day turnout during a deadly coronavirus outbreak to answer the surge. In Florida — a must-win for President Trump — the Democratic lead stands at more than 700,000 ballot requests, while the party also leads in New Hampshire, Ohio and Iowa. 

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