By BRIAN A. HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. McDermott headed for reelection

Here are your maiden 2019 power lunch talking points: Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. is preparing to reveal "exciting plan" on Jan. 31, but it will be focused on his city and not a 2020 statewide run. Asked whether he was considering a challenge to Gov. Eric Holcomb or a run for attorney general, McDermott told HPI on New Year’s Day, "I'm not very exciting. Just a normal municipal reelection in the plans for me." The NWI Times reported that McDermott will address the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce at noon Jan. 31. The four-term mayor, the longest-serving in Hammond history, will give a presentation about the state of the city before the crowd of local business leaders, and then take questions from the public. Following the November election, HPI  asked if he was thinking of a statewide run in 2020 in lieu of reelection. “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 John Gregg's challenge to Gov. Mike Pence, who then joined Donald Trump on the ticket, which subsequently swamped Gregg and Indiana Democrats, with Holcomb winning by 7%. 

Gregg actively traveled the state in 2018 and is a frequent presence and Democrat booster on Twitter, but he has not divulged any political plans. Nor has Hale. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is headed for a White House run. Asked by HPI if there was a potential Democratic contender surfacing, McDermott said, “I haven’t heard a single name.”  In 2006, Democrats passed on nominating a challenger to U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, but the party has always had a gubernatorial nominee.

2. Trump to talk with congressional leaders

The federal government has been partially shut down for a dozen days now, the sixth longest in history. President Trump meets with congressional leaders today in the White House Situation Room, where the media (including you, Wolf Blitzer) won't be on hand. The White House is calling it a "briefing" on the wall and not a negotiation. Trump's first shutdown showdown with Democrat Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer was a disaster. He promised to "own the mantle" of the shutdown as Vice President Pence zoned out. Since then he is blaming Democrats, so it's unclear when to believe Trump. Pence's negotiations with Schumer over the holidays were a waste of time as Pence has no relationships with Democrats and lacks Trump's imprimatur. Democrats vow not to fund the border wall, so there is no obvious solution. Who blinks?  Who knows?

3. HPI's 2019 Power 50 next Tuesday

We will publish the 2019 Howey Politics Indiana Power 50 List  next Tuesday, Jan. 8. And we want to hear from you! Send us your suggestions, or do an entire list and send it to us. 

4. Legislators returning

The General Assembly gavels into a biennial budget session at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. There's a new Senate leadership/finance team with President Pro Tem Rod Brayand fiscal leaders Ryan Mishler and Travis Holdman. With House Ways & Means Chairman Tim Brown recovering from critical injuries, Reps. Todd Huston andHolli Sullivan will take on bigger budget roles. Gov. Eric Holcomb's funding priorities will include nearly $300 million for Department of Child Services, Medicaid commitments and biking trails, along with a hate crime law. Holcomb begins the session with considerable super majority strength, as his approval in a Public Opinion Strategies Poll for the Indiana Realtors stands at a lofty 65%, while the state right/wrong track stands at 55/33%. As for the coming hate crimes legislation, 73% support (56% strongly support) and 24% opposed.

5. Romney vows check on Trump

Incoming U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, his party's 2012 presidential nominee, writes in a Washington Post op-ed he is prepared to counter President Trump, who he sayshas not risen to the "mantle of the office."  Romney writes: "The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December.  The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a ‘sucker’ in world affairs all defined his presidency down." Romney added, "On balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions this month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office. To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow 'our better angels.'” Vice President Pence swears in Romney on Thursday, which will make for another interesting optic.

Thanks for reading folks. The coming year should be very, very interesting. It's The Atomic!