By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS – Ever since White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels dined with Howey Politics Indiana at the Willard Hotel in 2002, this much is known: In MitchWorld, if there’s a rhyme, there’s a reason.

Why would the OMB director meet with a Hoosier reporter? What followed was the Phoenix Group takeover of the GOP, the posting of the Frugal Hoosiers website, Daniels’ resignation to President George W. Bush, and then, voila! My Man Mitch for Governor! in 2003. He even utilized President Bush’s nickname that he coined at an Indiana State Fairgrounds appearance in May 2003.

To me as a registered Mitchologist, Tuesday provided proof that if there’s a political itch, there’s a responding scratch. We learned that Christine Hurst and Ben Ledo are spearheading the Frugal Hoosiers for Mitch in 2024 PAC as chairperson and treasurer. According to the Capital Chronicle, the organization, in its filing, simply says, “We are encouraging Mitch Daniels to run for governor in 2024.”

Capital Chronicle traced the links: Hurst, Daniels’ former communications director, previously worked at Angie’s List before becoming the vice president of marketing at MakeMyMove, an Indianapolis-based relocation firm, according to her LinkedIn. Ledo, the vice president of enterprise sales at MakeMyMove, also worked for Angie’s List and held positions for nearly five years in various capacities in the Daniels’ administration. During Daniels’ initial campaign, Ledo drove Daniels around the state to various events in his signature-laden RV. Ledo is also a board member for the Mitch Daniels Leadership Foundation.

“I cherished the time I worked for him; he really inspired me,” Ledo told the Capital Chronicle. “(The committee is) a conversation starter; We are encouraging him to consider it. Who knows if he will.”

Hurst and Ledo are working with Bill Oesterle at MakeMyMove. It was Oesterle, Daniels’ first campaign manager, who over a cup of coffee in June mentioned the notion of a potential Daniels comeback.

When HPI met with Daniels at Hovde Hall in late June, the obvious question was asked: Run, Mitch, Run redux?

“I don’t have anything to add,” Daniels said. “I’m leaving that for later. We’ll see. I always said I was the worst career planner on the planet. Every so often the phone will ring and there’s something interesting to do: What? Eli Lilly? What? OMB? It will quit ringing at some point. We’ll see. I’ve got some big plates spinning right now. Something will work out. I’m under no pressure to do anything.”

Are you concerned about freezing the field?
“I’m not freezing any of those folks,” Daniels said. “If they’re determined to run, they’ll run.”

This is beyond reading the tea leaves. This is the tea bags bathing in sunlight in a big glass jar.

A competitor asks, “Could Daniels clear the field?” In 2003, Murray Clark and David McIntosh exited the field after Daniels announced for governor; with only Eric Miller remaining, losing by more than 50% in the primary.

As the national Republican Party lurches toward another Donald Trump presidential run, a Reagan-style Republican is stirring in West Lafayette.

U.S. Senate

Young stresses gas prices in Lafayette

Indiana Sen. Todd Young surprised many of his Lafayette constituents Friday afternoon when he stopped by a gas station to help pump people’s gas and talk about issues in Indiana (Lafayette Journal & Courier). Young stopped by the Marathon gas station along Twyckenham Boulevard, as part of the conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity’s “True Cost of Washington” gas rollback event. For a two-hour period, customers were met with a temporary price of $2.38 a gallon when they drove up to the pump. Americans for Prosperity wanted to highlight the prices of gas currently compared to when President Joe Biden first came into office. A sign leads a row of vehicles behind the Marathon gas station on 96 Twyckenham, in Lafayette, on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. The sign says, “$2.38 gas line starts here.” “I want the people of Lafayette and really throughout Indiana to know that I’m attentive to the gas price challenges that people are experiencing. $2.38 was the price of gas when President Biden and Kamala Harris came into office, it’s now almost 4 dollars, $3.88, is the average here in the state of Indiana,” said Young.

McDermott seeks debates

Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Thomas McDermott Jr. tweeted: “It has been 4 months since I challenged @ToddYoungIN to 9 debates, I’m still waiting on a response. When I visited #Indianapolis, I stopped by his office to try & get some answers about a #debate. In an unshocking turn of events, he was not at his office, the doors were locked.”

AFT endorses McDermott

McDermott for Indiana: “I am proud to receive the endorsement of the @AFTunion. We must do more to support #publiceducation, including parents, teachers, & students. That starts by keeping schools open and giving parents & local school boards power.”

McDermott closes basketball courts

A man was shot to death in Hammond’s Dr. Martin Luther King Park on Saturday night, the second shooting that occurred there in three nights. Mayor McDermott  has instructed the Hammond parks department to shut down all three basketball courts at MLK Park indefinitely (DeVore, NWI Times). “This park is named after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a champion of peace. I cannot sit by and watch this beautiful park be a haven for violence. The stupid acts of a few, if left unchecked, will ruin this park for the vast majority of law abiding and peaceful families, residents and users of the park,” McDermott wrote in a statement to The Times.

NRSC cancels ads in 3 battlegrounds
 
As midterm election campaigns heat up in the Senate’s top battlegrounds, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is canceling millions of dollars of ad spending, sending GOP campaigns and operatives into a panic and upending the committee’s initial spending plan (Politico). The cuts – totaling roughly $13.5 million since Aug. 1 – come as the Republicans’ Senate campaign committee is being forced to “stretch every dollar we can,” said a person familiar with the NRSC’s deliberations. Republican nominees in critical states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina – places the GOP must defend this fall – have failed to raise enough money to get on air themselves, requiring the NRSC to make cuts elsewhere to accommodate. Since Aug. 1, the NRSC has cut ad buys in the battleground states of Pennsylvania ($7.5 million), Arizona ($3.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.5 million) and Nevada ($1.5 million), according to the ad tracking service AdImpact. Separately, a Democratic source tracking advertising buys estimated roughly $10.5 million in cuts by the NRSC since the first of the month. “People are asking, ‘What the hell is going on?’” said one Republican strategist working on Senate races. “Why are we cutting in August? I’ve never seen it like this before.”

Congress

1st CD: Abortion debate arrives

Republican nominee Jennifer-Ruth Green describes herself on her campaign website as “unashamedly and unapologetically pro-life” and a person who believes “life begins at conception” and “a child in the womb is a distinct, developing, whole human being.” 

Asked by The Times for her reaction to the new abortion restrictions approved last week by Indiana’s Republican-controlled General Assembly, which prohibit all abortions from the moment of conception with limited exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest, or to prevent permanent physical impairment or the death of a pregnant woman, Green’s campaign expressed support for the statute. 

“Jennifer-Ruth is pro-life and believes there is an acceptable middle ground, compassionate toward both women and unborn children. In order to save as many lives as possible, she will always support exceptions to save the mother’s life, and would support exceptions for rape and incest to advance federal legislation to stop brutal late-term abortions when babies can feel pain, prohibit taxpayer-funding for abortions, and stop abortions for underage daughters without parental consent,” said Ashleigh Presnar, Green’s campaign manager. Green personally said, “Good people can disagree on this issue, but most Americans recognize that abortion isn’t a good thing. It’s a symptom of bigger problems in our society, and it’s a tragedy.” “The vast majority of women who have abortions — especially black and Hispanic women — do so for economic reasons. They feel like they have no other choice. Women deserve better. As a country, we need to provide a stronger safety net for moms so they can choose life, and if they can’t raise a child, make it easier to put their child up for adoption by a loving family,” Green said.

Mrvan committed to abortion rights

U.S. Rep. Frank J. Mrvan, D-Highland, said if he wins a second two-year term representing Lake, Porter and northwest LaPorte counties in Congress, he’s committed to legislatively restoring the abortion rights of American women as they were before June 24 when a conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court repealed the high court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision (NWI Times). “I support the precedent of Roe v. Wade and have voted for legislation that protects the right to abortion services. I also have voted for legislation that establishes a statutory right for individuals to obtain contraceptives. Make no mistake, in the upcoming election, the Republican nominee will advocate to implement a federal ban on women’s freedom to access safe reproductive care, while I will advocate to codify Roe v. Wade for all women of this nation, including my two daughters,” he added.

3rd CD: Snyder wants debates

Democrat Gary Snyder issued a challenge of two debates to Jim Banks while he is visiting the 3rd District for a high end fundraiser. “Jim Banks got up this morning in his $1,000,000 Virginia home, flew into the Fort Wayne International Airport, which is currently undergoing a $14,000,000 renovation thanks to President Joe Biden and the bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act (Jim Banks voted NO), to hold a swanky high end fundraiser featuring a who’s who of election deniers and conspiracy theorists,” said Snyder. “So while Jim is paying a rare visit to the 3rd District, I would like to take the opportunity to call on Jim to honor his challenge to debate me and issue a counter challenge to him to participate in two debates before the election.”

General Assembly

House GOP mum on SEA1

There was no torrent of news releases from Indiana House Republicans after the late-night Aug. 5 passage of the state’s new abortion restrictions, despite the hours of public testimony and debate that went into the legislation (Muniz, Capital Chronicle). While at least 17 of the Indiana Senate’s 39 Republicans released public comments day-of (44%), just two of the House’s 71 (3%) have news releases posted on the caucus’ website: House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, and Rep. Joanna King, R-Middlebury. That’s compared to the 49 House Republicans (69%) who posted statements online when the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade through Dobbs v. Jackson. In his statement on Aug. 5, Huston called the ban a “giant step toward improving protections for Hoosier women and the unborn” and a “thoughtful way forward that shows compassion for both mothers and babies.” In an Aug. 12 statement, King said the special session was a “historic moment for our families and for the preservation of life” and highlighted a provision moving abortions from independent clinics to hospitals. House Republicans Communications Director Erin Wittern noted in an email that the Senate’s final action came “well after the House adjourned.” The House last voted about 2 p.m., while the Senate concurred with its amendments at 10 p.m. But it’s been more than a week and the caucus hasn’t sent news releases touting the bill – instead responding to individual requests of local media outlets.

HD32: Glynn dropped abortion reference

Less than a day after the passage of Indiana’s near-total abortion ban, Democrats called out an Indiana Republican candidate in one of the most competitive districts in the state for making a change to his website. Fred Glynn removed a line stating that he believed life begins at conception (Lange, IndyStar). “I will always support this type of legislation,” he wrote on the now deleted section on his website. He’s running against Democrat Victoria Garcia Wilburn in the general election. Glynn, who told IndyStar he would have voted for the abortion bill, brushed off the change as part of a wider attempt to update his website as he transitions his focus to the general election, but it was the only change to his “Issues” page since April. Whatever the reason for the change, it’s a sign even Republicans know the General Assembly’s abortion vote could put candidates in tight races at risk, and a sign that Democrats are prepping to capitalize on it.

Presidential 2024

Pence to keynote Allen Bean Dinner

Former Vice President Mike Pence will stop in Fort Wayne for a fundraiser this fall, Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine announced Monday (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Pence will be the keynote speaker at the party’s annual Reagan Bean Dinner on Oct. 12. “I couldn’t be more pleased than to announce that Vice President Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Allen County GOP’s ‘mega’ event … which will no doubt bring hundreds of Republicans from Allen County and across the state to attend this year’s fall dinner,” Shine said in a statement.

Pence to consider Jan. 6 testimony

Mike Pence said Wednesday he would give “due consideration” to any formal invitation to testify before the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, while hinting at potential executive privilege issues. Pence made the remarks during a Q&A after a speech here at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics’ “Politics & Eggs” breakfast, a common stop for candidates considering a run for office. “If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it,” Pence said, after calling January 6 a tragic day for all Americans. “But, you heard me mention the Constitution a few times this morning. Under the Constitution, we have three co-equal branches of government, and any invitation to be directed to me, I would have to reflect on the unique role I was serving in as vice president. It would be unprecedented in history for a vice president to be summoned to testify on Capitol Hill. But, as I said, I don’t want to pre-judge, so if there’s ever any formal invitation rendered to us, we would give it due consideration.”

Biden signs Inflation Relief Act

President Biden on Tuesday signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, an ambitious measure that aims to tamp down on inflation, lower prescription drug prices, tackle climate change, reduce the deficit and impose a minimum tax on profits of the largest corporations (Washington Post).  “Let me say from the start: With this law, the American people won and the special interests lost,” Biden said. His administration had begun amid “a dark time in America,” Biden added, citing the coronavirus pandemic, joblessness and threats to democracy. “And yet we’ve not wavered, we’ve not flinched and we’ve not given in,” Biden said. “Instead, we’re delivering results for the American people. We didn’t tear down. We built up. We didn’t look back. We look forward. And today — today offers further proof that the soul of America is vibrant, the future of America is bright, and the promise of America is real.”

INDems laud Inflation Relief Act

The Indiana Democratic Party celebrated how President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) already has support from Hoosiers across the state. Just days before André Carson and Frank Mrvan helped pass the IRA, the Southern Indiana chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby voiced their full support for the legislation. Why? The IRA is providing the largest investment to fight climate change in our nation’s history. Hoosiers will see new jobs create solar and wind farms across Indiana which will help the nation achieve a 40% decrease in greenhouse admissions by the end of the decade. The Inflation Reduction Act will deliver a brighter future for Hoosiers, and it was Indiana Democrats who helped get it done. Todd Young – said “NO” to this brighter future.