Howey Political Report
Mourdock's office and campaign in the shadows PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 14 March 2012 20:03

by Brian Howey
The strangest thing happened to me this week.
A political campaign sent an email to newspaper editors around the state that publish this column. Jim Holden, who manages Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock's U.S. Senate campaign, made a preemptive strike at a column I had yet to decide whether I will even write. I had made inquiries into the Wireless 911 Fund that the treasurer is associated with. Holden supplied the editors with the questions I had asked, along with my request to interview the candidate.
“As you can see from the email below, Brian Howey approached an inquiry to Richard Mourdock’s office with an accusation, and it is clear from his use of the term ‘slush fund’ that he already has his story written before he gathers the facts,” Holden wrote.
Which is untrue. As a journalist, I had received a tip from a Republican Statehouse source about this fund, and Treasurer Mourdock's association with the Indiana Bond Bank. I had yet to ask Mourdock's office about the latter.
The irony of this is that this week the third part of the trident Richard Mourdock intends to draw at U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar - the National Rifle Association - held the incumbent to task over what it perceives as aggrieved votes.
As any challenger candidate to a Congressional incumbent would, it’s fair game for Mourdock to make any Lugar vote an issue.
But when it comes to Mourdock's own conduct in the Treasurer's office, he has refused to sit down with this writer and other reporters to explain what his increasingly obscure office actually does.
As a journalist, my interest was heightened by 2007 remarks Mourdock made to the Wabash Conservative Union at Wabash College. Asked to define his duties, he responded, “Simultaneously very narrow, which is to say, in the constitution the only description of this office, is that the State Treasurer shall serve as the state’s chief financial officer.
“The only constitutional duty I have is to make sure we earn the highest possible grade of interest on the funds of the State of Indiana. I believe that I have the greatest job in all of Indiana government because I have huge responsibilities, which I like, I have tremendous latitude, I get to be creative, and I don’t think any newspaper reporter knows we exist. It can’t get any better than that.”
Seasoned officeholders know that when a complex situation arises, they will gather the media in an either "on" or "off the record" briefings. While Mourdock describes himself as "Indiana's chief financial officer,” what I have learned is that the treasurer's duties are contracting. There are wide swathes of the Indiana financial world he has nothing to do with. For instance, the state's two largest pension funds (public employees and teachers) are no longer part of the Treasurer's portfolio.
And much of the portfolio the treasurer does have is managed by private investment firms. It’s not easy to determine where the buck actually stops.
In taking Lugar to task for his record, Mourdock has raised a relatively paltry sum of $1.3 million to run a statewide campaign that, if serious, would cost $600,000 a week to reach a statewide TV audience.
What is happening is that a triumvirate of outsiders - the NRA, Club for Growth, and FreedomWorks - are funding the Mourdock campaign. They can do this because of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United, which allows unions and outside advocacy groups to pour as much money into a campaign as they can without attributing from where and who that money comes from. These "Super PACs" can talk to each other, but by law, they cannot coordinate with a political campaign, such as Mourdock's.
So while Mourdock is castigating Lugar for living in Virginia and spending so much time traveling the world to reduce and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, the fate of his own campaign relies on outside Washington-based groups.
In the next eight weeks, you will get to see all of this play out on your TV set, computer screen and mailbox. FreedomWorks is coordinating and paying for ground game materials. Club for Growth is bundling money - most from outside the state - to finance TV on behalf of Mourdock. The NRA will be providing direct mail and communicate "every way possible" the message against Lugar.
In the face of negative ads against him, Mourdock has alleged that his opponents and the press are out to "destroy" him. Anyone who has read this column since I began writing it in 1985 knows I have no track record of "destroying" anyone. It's not my nature. I try to explain things. That's what journalists should be doing. We just elected a secretary of state who has been convicted of felonies and was kicked out of office.
All of this calls into question Mourdock's temperament. He's an emotional guy. He weeps on the stump - literally - when he professes his love for America. And I believe him. But when it comes to his conduct in office and on the campaign trail, what we find is opaqueness. The transparency is lacking. Mourdock is making a compelling case for some quarters against Senator Lugar, yet his own office and campaign are cloaked in the shadows.
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com Contact Howey at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

The strangest thing happened to me this week.

A political campaign sent an email to newspaper editors around the state that publish this column. Jim Holden, who manages Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock's U.S. Senate campaign, made a preemptive strike at a column I had yet to decide whether I will even write. I had made inquiries into the Wireless 911 Fund that the treasurer is associated with. Holden supplied the editors with the questions I had asked, along with my request to interview the candidate.

“As you can see from the email below, Brian Howey approached an inquiry to Richard Mourdock’s office with an accusation, and it is clear from his use of the term ‘slush fund’ that he already has his story written before he gathers the facts,” Holden wrote.

Which is untrue. As a journalist, I had received a tip from a Republican Statehouse source about this fund, and Treasurer Mourdock's association with the Indiana Bond Bank. I had yet to ask Mourdock's office about the latter.

 
Is the governor's race a slam dunk for Pence? PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 07 March 2012 21:37

by Brian Howey
INDIANAPOLIS - And then there were three, for what Politico may have prematurely described as a “slam dunk” election of U.S. Rep. Mike Pence to the Indiana governorship.
The Indiana Election Commission voted to keep Republican Jim Wallace off the ballot by a 3-to-1 vote on February 24 after more than an hour of testimony. The move against Wallace means that only Pence, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham will pursue the governorship.
When Wallace came up short in the 7th CD, the Pence campaign seemed ambivalent about him staying on the ballot. But then Daniels’ ally Mitch Roob filed the challenge and in a heartbeat, he was bounced.
The Pence candidacy shows signs of hitting on all cylinders, whether it’s the record $5 million raised in 2011 to the robust crowds the congressman has been drawing throughout the state, including 400 that turned out for the Miami County Lincoln Day Dinner at Peru. The fly in that ointment is the title “congressman” and the millstone it could carry with Gallup showing congressional approval at 10 percent.
Politico cited the post-Right to Work comments by Gregg and his strange appeal for recall funds against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in its February review as evidence that the race is over before it begins. But the Gregg campaign is retooling, bringing on Tim Jeffers as deputy campaign manager.
The campaign pointed to the Cass County Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Logansport that brought out 200. “We thought 150 would be a great success, so we’re absolutely blown away by the turnout,” Democratic Chairman Paul Ulerich told the Logansport Pharos-Tribune. The chairman credited the Republican romp in the local 2011 general election as the reason for so much involvement. It resulted in the Right to Work legislation Democrats hope will stir the base.
“People are angry,” he said. “Sometimes, it takes a little bit of a kick in the seat of the pants to realize you got to get involved. Everybody can be concerned, but you actually have to step up and get involved. You’ve got to show up, and that’s been kind of a tagline for this dinner. It’s time to show up.”
“I am excited when you come to a county and you see 200 people. I can’t tell you what that means,” Gregg told the crowd to thunderous applause. “And we’re seeing this everywhere.”
Where does this race stand? Pence certainly is a heavy favorite. Going into three of the last four gubernatorial campaigns, the conventional wisdom also favored Mitch Daniels in 2004, David McIntosh against Gov. Frank O’Bannon who was drawing flak from his own party in 2000, and Stephen Goldsmith in 1996. Only Daniels prevailed.
The Pence strengths are his obvious allure with his conservative, evangelical base and his ability as an effective communicator. But there are glaring weaknesses that make us think the Politico “slam dunk” is way too early. Congress is less popular than Nixon was during Watergate or Wall Street during TARP.
Mitt Romney will have problems with the evangelicals and Tea Party in Indiana, and Rick Santorum’s recent rhetoric is a complete turnoff for independents. President Obama’s standing is improving, though that is gauged nationally and not here in Indiana to date.
Because of his assaults against Planned Parenthood, Pence has his work cut out to attract female and independent voters, which in the past have been a vital part of putting together a winning coalition beyond the GOP base.
Pence has revealed nothing about his policy agenda other than he will be seeking new jobs. But even the Daniels’ record on jobs is under attack – with WTHR-TV’s investigative report last night on Indiana Economic Development Corporation jobs that never materialized. There is also that nine percent jobless rate that doesn’t jell with the Daniels’ narrative.
And within the GOP, we hear persistent concern about Pence’s overt theology. It comes from a variety of economic conservative quarters, and fairly high up the Republican food chain. Often, the concerns are expressed without prompting and from party stalwarts. As he did with his campaign kickoff in Columbus last June, a Pence political event takes on heavy religious overtones that some in the GOP outside the evangelical orbit are uncomfortable with. Many Hoosier United Methodists, for instance, were raised to lead a Christian life, but not wear it on the sleeve.
When push comes to shove, most of these Republicans will be in the Republican column. And Pence may need every one of them. There’s a decent chance that he will emerge next fall with a wide lead that will put him on the path to victory.
But without a single independent media poll gauging the Pence-Gregg matchup, the “slam dunk” rhetoric is premature.
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS - And then there were three, for what Politico may have prematurely described as a “slam dunk” election of U.S. Rep. Mike Pence to the Indiana governorship.

The Indiana Election Commission voted to keep Republican Jim Wallace off the ballot by a 3-to-1 vote on February 24 after more than an hour of testimony. The move against Wallace means that only Pence, Democrat John Gregg and Libertarian Rupert Boneham will pursue the governorship.

When Wallace came up short in the 7th CD, the Pence campaign seemed ambivalent about him staying on the ballot. But then Daniels’ ally Mitch Roob filed the challenge and in a heartbeat, he was bounced.

 
Mourdock, Lugar, Chocola and earmarks PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 19:33

Mourdock, Lugar, Chocola and earmarks
by Brian Howey
INDIANAPOLIS - A cornerstone to Richard Mourdock's Republican primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar has been his vociferous opposition to Congressional earmarks.
“Sen. Lugar has become so out of touch with Hoosier voters he doesn’t understand the need to end a practice that lends itself to abuse and corruption at taxpayers’ expense and which continues to add to our national debt," Mourdock says in a TV ad. “Dick Lugar won’t vote to end wasteful spending and earmarks. I will.”
On Feb. 14, the Club for Growth, headed by former Indiana congressman Chris Chocola, endorsed Mourdock in large part because Lugar was one of 13 Republican senators who refused to support a permanent earmark ban. In an op-ed article for the National Review, Chocola reasoned, “‘Earmarks,' also known as pork-barrel spending, are considered a ‘gateway drug’ to corruption and bigger government in Washington."
And Lugar's stance: ceding Congressional earmarks to the executive branch is simply populist showboating. When I asked him about it on Monday, he called it a “bogus issue,” explaining that it won’t save a penny. “The money will still be there. The bureaucrats are going to spend the money.”
"Instead of surrendering Constitutional authority to Washington bureaucrats and the Obama Administration, Congress should focus on reducing spending on both entitlement and discretionary spending programs,” Lugar said in 2010.
Here's the reality of earmarks: If Congress eliminated 100 percent of them in fiscal year 2010, it would have cut the federal budget by less than 0.5 percent. U.S. Treasury statistics revealed in 2010 the federal government spent $3.46 trillion while running a deficit of $1.29 trillion. The Office of Management and Budget reported that earmarks accounted for $11.1 billion.
Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent observed in his Plumline column, "Conservatives target earmarks because, in isolation, they're often hard to defend, and they're an easy symbol of Washington greed to rail against. The problem is that while they are frequent fodder for political rhetoric, they account for less than one percent of the federal budget."
Now, is Lugar a typical incumbent who can't pull the trigger on spending cuts?
No.
He and U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman introduced the Rural Economic Farm and Ranch Sustainability and Hunger Act (REFRESH) which would cut $40 billion from federal spending. Specifically, it would reform farm programs, cutting $16 billion, a 24.5 percent reduction. Conservation programs would be updated and streamlined for a savings of $11.3 billion, a 17.6 percent reduction. Nutrition program eligibility loopholes would be closed saving $13.9 billion, only a two percent reduction. Roughly two-thirds of the savings would come from farm and conservation programs, and a third from nutrition programs, which represent three-fourths of the USDA budget.
“This bill provides good farm and nutrition policy and saves $40 billion," Lugar said. "Farm Bill politics has long frustrated reform efforts by myself and others. The current urgency to meet our deficit reduction targets gives us the chance to make smart changes."
U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, like Mourdock and the Club for Growth, have pressed for the end of earmarks. It's interesting, however, that Pence's 6th Congressional District ranked 42nd out of 435 districts in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2010, receiving $1.24 billion, according to the Environmental Working Group. Of Indiana’s nine districts, eight ranked in the top 100.
Now, what was Chocola - a born again deficit hawk - doing during his two terms in Congress from 2003 to 2007? In May 2006, he voted to extend the Bush tax cuts which helped push the Clinton era budget surpluses to a $400 billion deficit. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Medicare prescription drug plan passed in 2004, the Great Recession of 2008-09 and the various federal bailouts ended the Bush presidency with a $1.4 trillion deficit.
As Congressman Chocola, he was an earmark aficionado, coming at a time when the federal deficits were exploding. In an Aug. 24, 2006 South Bend Tribune article on earmarks for Notre Dame University, Chocola said, "I'm happy to defend anything that I would request.”
On Feb. 19, 2004, Chocola also personally delivered a $1 million check for the Hoosier Heartland Highway at Logansport and cited the benefits of a safer interchange.
And in 2006, Chocola said in BizVoice Magazine,  “If they are taken out, they will really not reduce spending. That money will be spent anyway, and it will be spent in an arbitrary formula or by some bureaucrat either in Indianapolis or in Washington, D.C.”
Chocola refused my interview requests. Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller told me, "Chris Chocola isn’t on the ballot in Indiana, Senator Lugar is."
While Mourdock is an ardent purist on an earmark ban that will have negligible impact on the deficits, his key patron - Chocola - who will fund much of his race against Lugar with bundled SuperPAC money from donors whose identity will be shielded from voters - appears to prescribe to the theory of "do as I say, not as I do."
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact Howey at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS - A cornerstone to Richard Mourdock's Republican primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar has been his vociferous opposition to Congressional earmarks.

“Sen. Lugar has become so out of touch with Hoosier voters he doesn’t understand the need to end a practice that lends itself to abuse and corruption at taxpayers’ expense and which continues to add to our national debt," Mourdock says in a TV ad. “Dick Lugar won’t vote to end wasteful spending and earmarks. I will.”

 
House Democrats exodus is a crisis for the party PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 15:46

by Brian Howey
GREENCASTLE, Ind. - The magnitude of seismic Republican Statehouse gains that have Indiana Democrats careening from disaster to catastrophe came into clearer focus on Feb. 10 when 12 House Democrats with a combined tenure of 236 years did not file for reelection.
The looming retirements make the Republican super majority of 67 seats - needing a pickup of seven - a distinct possibility. A Howey Politics Indiana analysis of House races shows that of the ten open seats due to redistricting, Republicans are in the driver’s seat in just about all of them. A 70-seat majority is not beyond the scope.
State Reps. Chet Dobis, Nancy Dembowski and Craig Fry did not file for reelection last Friday, joining Dale Grubb, Dan Stevenson, William Crawford, John Day, Jeb Bardon, Dave Cheatham, Scott Reske, Mary Ann Sullivan, and Dennis Tyler in the biggest House exodus in modern Hoosier history. Two consecutive years of bitter fighting over the Right to Work, education reform and abortion restriction legislation and a distinct minority of 40 seats left a number of House Democrats questioning the civility of the process. Grubb quit as caucus chair in January after divisions surfaced within the caucus over the walkout. Cheatham announced he wouldn’t seek another term, citing the contentious atmosphere in the House.
Democrats controlled the redistricting in 1991 and 2001, and the exodus following those revamps did not approach this level. In February 2002 after House Democrats drew the new maps, only three Republicans, then in a 53-47 minority, retired, along with four Democrats.
The new districts and exodus of veterans is already prompting some Democrats to think about dumping Minority Leader B. Patrick Bauer. It comes after other veterans such as Bill Cochran, Bob Bischoff, Dennis Avery, Paul Robertson and Ron Herrell either retired or were defeated over the past two cycles.
The biggest surprise was with Dobis, who was elected to the House in 1970. He was drawn into a district with State Rep. Vernon Smith, then bought a home in Schererville. But when the filing dust settled, Republican Lake County Council member Rick Niemeyer of Lowell had filed and he emerges as a favorite for at least one GOP pickup.
Dobis had battled Bauer, calling him “paranoid” in recent years, and lost his leadership position when he and Bauer sparred over the Illiana Expressway bill. In 2011, House Speaker Brian Bosma appointed the Democrat to a committee chairmanship, an unprecedented move aimed at power sharing, but seen by Bauer as an invasion of his caucus power circle.
The Dobis bug out is indicative of the treacherous path Bauer has led House Democrats and the realities of the new GOP-drawn maps.
“We wanted a bigger name to fill that spot for us,” said Lake County Democratic Chair Thomas McDermott, Jr., “but with the makeup of the district, it was hard to convince them it was a winnable seat.”
That’s the reality of the new districts. With the maps the Democrats forged in 1991 and 2001, the districts were gerrymandered in such a way that if Republicans carried as much as 55 percent of the total House vote, they could still wind up with only 48 or 49 seats.
In addition to the ten new districts without an incumbent, Democrats could lose the seats being vacated by Fry, Sullivan and Cheatham in Southern Indiana, where the party is seeing its base dramatically erode after the 2010 debacle. With Bauer calling the shots on the House campaigns, the party veered away from a cogent central message (“Our party saved the auto industry in Indiana”) to seamy mailers personally attacking the character of opposing Republicans. It was political porn.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mitch Daniels, speaking to Hamilton County Republicans, said of Bauer, “We have been blessed by our opposition. My heart is full of gratitude, really.”
McDermott told me in a series of text messages he did not designate as “off the record” that a leadership challenge to Bauer is inevitable. “One way or another he gets challenged,” McDermott said.
That comment came after I had asked him about the party’s vulnerability in competing in the House. Republicans already have a super majority in the Senate. A House super majority of 67 along with a “Gov. Mike Pence” means the GOP would be able to conduct business without a single Democrat reporting for a quorum. They could spend the entire session in Illinois and it wouldn’t stop a single bill.
McDermott seemed to backtrack on his Bauer comments, posting on his Facebook page that his “stupid” words were causing “many who read those comments to squirm (myself included). I don't deny making the comments, I just should have realized it wasn't my place to comment on the things that I commented on."
McDermott obviously was getting heat from Bauer and other Democrats who want to keep the status quo, but his remarks were hardly "stupid" and Democrats who feel the same way should encourage the mayor and others to continue to speak out.
With this exodus of veterans, the Indiana Democratic Party is facing a catastrophe this fall. It has long prioritized keeping a House majority along with gubernatorial and Congressional campaigns. The party's track record is increasingly futile on all fronts.
Democrats should be doing some soul searching on whether current leadership is up to the extreme circumstances the party faces.
(The columnist publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact Howey at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

GREENCASTLE, Ind. - The magnitude of seismic Republican Statehouse gains that have Indiana Democrats careening from disaster to catastrophe came into clearer focus on Feb. 10 when 12 House Democrats with a combined tenure of 236 years did not file for reelection.

The looming retirements make the Republican super majority of 67 seats - needing a pickup of seven - a distinct possibility. A Howey Politics Indiana analysis of House races shows that of the ten open seats due to redistricting, Republicans are in the driver’s seat in just about all of them. A 70-seat majority is not beyond the scope.

State Reps. Chet Dobis, Nancy Dembowski and Craig Fry did not file for reelection last Friday, joining Dale Grubb, Dan Stevenson, William Crawford, John Day, Jeb Bardon, Dave Cheatham, Scott Reske, Mary Ann Sullivan, and Dennis Tyler in the biggest House exodus in modern Hoosier history. Two consecutive years of bitter fighting over the Right to Work, education reform and abortion restriction legislation and a distinct minority of 40 seats left a number of House Democrats questioning the civility of the process. Grubb quit as caucus chair in January after divisions surfaced within the caucus over the walkout. Cheatham announced he wouldn’t seek another term, citing the contentious atmosphere in the House.

 
Why is Obama opening an office in Indiana? Autos PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 February 2012 14:12

by Brian Howey
INDIANAPOLIS - On Thursday, the Obama for America campaign opened up a campaign office in Indiana, a state with a century-old love affair with the internal combustion engine. It is a state that any Republican will tell you is certain to return to the "red" Electoral College column next autumn.
There is credence to that line of thought, with a Public Opinion Strategies Poll in December showing President Obama's approval in Indiana stood at 42 percent, and disapproval at 55 percent; wicked numbers for any incumbent.
So why is the Obama campaign investing assets in a state they have no chance of winning?
Because some believe Indiana isn't a lost cause. An internal poll for U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly's Democratic Senate campaign showed that Obama trailed probable (er, possible) Republican nominee Mitt Romney by just four percent. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll in January revealed that 37 percent of Americans were more optimistic about the economy - the highest level in more than a year and a seven percent jump from December. Democratic pollster Peter Hart explained, "The psychology about the economic conditions has switched. The old saying is ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ - then clearly - this economic optimism has clearly lifted Obama’s ratings.”
In January during President Obama's State of the Union address, he hit on one subject that has everything to do with Indiana: the American auto industry. “On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse,” Obama said. “Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure.”
“Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number-one automaker,” Obama said. “Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.”
Obama continued, “We bet on American workers. We bet on American ingenuity. And tonight, the American auto industry is back.”
And it is. General Motors has regained its position as the world's top automaker and its plants are humming in Fort Wayne, Marion and Bedford. Chrysler is hiring off the street in Kokomo.
While there is great Tea Party angst about all the bailouts, a fact worth noting is that the domestic auto bailout from the TARP fund occurred under Republican President George W. Bush.
In December of 2008, I attended a hearing in Indianapolis where economists from the Brookings Institute predicted that a collapse of GM and Chrysler could cost the state 150,000 jobs. Not just at GM and Chrysler, but companies like Cummins and hundreds of auto supplier companies scattered in small towns and large across the state.
The multiplier impact from such a collapse could have been devastating. Not only would toolmakers, engineers, assemblers and molders be jobless, but thousands of restaurants and service businesses would have been devastated. Even foreign automakers in the state such as Honda, Toyota and Subaru would have been negatively impacted, because they draw on the same suppliers as GM, Ford and Chrysler. While Indiana has a troublesome and persistent nine percent jobless rate today, a collapse of GM and Chrysler would have brought a second Great Depression to Indiana. We easily could have seen the jobless rate double or more.
Indiana Republicans were conspicuous in their indifference. Gov. Mitch Daniels warned of the U.S. government throwing "good money after bad" and said the domestics should emulate the Japanese companies. He later castigated the U.S. Supreme Court for the way it acted on Obama's forced expedited bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler. Treasurer Richard Mourdock, with Daniels cheering him on, tried to thwart the Chrysler merger with Fiat. Republican candidates up and down the food chain derided the Bush bailout.
When Joe Donnelly showed up at the Chrysler Transmission Plant II gate to campaign just before the 2010 election, many workers whose jobs were saved by the expedited bankruptcy told him they were going to vote Republican because of issues such as guns and federal debt.
Indiana Democrats in the 2010 cycle never raised the auto industry issue and were mauled in the process. President Obama and Vice President Biden came to Kokomo - three weeks after the 2010 elections - to revel in the restructuring and opportunity to come. I asked Donnelly why Democrats didn't mount a defense, and he could only smile wistfully and say, "That's a good question. I don't know."
That probably won't happen this year. Donnelly will challenge either Sen. Dick Lugar or Mourdock in the Senate race. He is sure to bring it up. He is sure to remind Hoosiers of their distinct auto heritage, and who was there when the industry was on the verge of collapse.
This is why the Obama campaign is opening up an office in Indiana. It's still far below the dozens of offices the campaign had across Indiana in 2008 and winning Indiana will be a long shot, just like it was in 2008. But it will lay the groundwork in case the auto industry issue resonates with Hoosiers.
And it should, unless you like Depression.
(The columnist  publishes at www.howeypolitics.com. Contact Howey at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

by Brian Howey

INDIANAPOLIS - On Thursday, the Obama for America campaign opened up a campaign office in Indiana, a state with a century-old love affair with the internal combustion engine. It is a state that any Republican will tell you is certain to return to the "red" Electoral College column next autumn.

There is credence to that line of thought, with a Public Opinion Strategies Poll in December showing President Obama's approval in Indiana stood at 42 percent, and disapproval at 55 percent; wicked numbers for any incumbent.

So why is the Obama campaign investing assets in a state they have no chance of winning?

 
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