Tuesday, October 31, 2006

South Harrison Community School Board

The Courier-Journal also covers the school board race in Harrison County, for the South Harrison Community School Corporation. This is one home county race about which I can't opine much. I simply haven't been following it, and fully intend to delve into it more fully (even if not on my blog) if only to be able to cast an educated vote on election day.

Popular community opinion has it that the existing school board is dominated by supine yes-persons that bow to the requests (some say commands) of the superintendent. I don't know whether this is the case or not. I'd like to think not, but I hear a lot of rumors about the relationships that various school board members have with the superintendent. One of the candidates, for example, is a doctor and reportedly employs the superintendent's wife in his office.

I don't know if that's true or not, but members of the school board should be independent, and popular view in the community seems to hold that they are too much in thrall to those they are supposed to oversee.

The whole thing definitely merits more attention.

Daily Roundup

The Courier-Journal covers White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's visit to Jeffersonville in support of Mike Sodrel. "We're going to sprint to the finish" seems to be some sort of common theme for high-ranking national Republicans; the President said the same thing. I heard elsewhere that Snow was an hour and a half late to the event because of flight delays. It doesn't seem to have dampened the enthusiasm of those present.

Citizens for Truth has been forced to take down a sign in Seymour that advertised an unspecified attack on Baron Hill. I have yet to see one of these signs. Someone told me yesterday that they saw one along the highway near Campbellsburg while on their way to an IU football game over the weekend, but that the words were too small to read while driving.

The News & Tribune looks back at the candidates' positions on the Iraq War when they first ran against each other, six years ago. Again, David Mann wrongly says the Republican Sodrel favors an indefinite stay, and doesn't give any indication that Bush is already doing what Hill suggests (and it isn't working). Interesting that Baron Hill's claims about being bullied into voting for the war were not mentioned back then like he mentions them now.

The News & Tribune also has an interesting article about preparation paying off for Bush's recent visit. Preparing for such an event is not easy, and they did well. As I said earlier, I think that it was the best organized Presidential event that I have ever attended.

The same professors that had a model predicting a Hostettler victory are discussed in a column by Lesley Stedman Weidenbener in the Courier-Journal. I find it ironic that they predicted a Hill victory in 2004, were wrong, and now predict a Sodrel victory.

And, lastly, the Indianapolis Star looks at the record spending in this year's election cycle.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

In protest, you avoid using an Apple, the computer of liberals.

You know you're a Democrat if...

In protest, you remove the letter "W" from your iMac's keyboard.

Monday, October 30, 2006

President Bush in Sellersburg, Part III

Last post in this series. Mostly photos with a few observations.

Sodrel introduces the President

The introduction was brief. Sodrel was clearly enjoying the event, and with good reason. The crowd was in a frenzy. Several national reporters noted that it was the most excited crowd they had seen in this election cycle, regardless of party. The President gave a star performance stump. Bush is clearly enjoying his last campaign, even with such poor odds. I thought 2004 was his last campaign, but this certainly qualifies. Maybe 2008, when he will doubtless stump again for candidates and for his party's nominee, will also get that label.

Wonder what they're saying

Bush reacts to the crowd cheering his wife

Bush can't go wrong when he references his wife. I can't recall Clinton doing this, but I know that both Bushes have done so. I suppose it says something about them that their wives are often more popular than they are. Laura Bush has been campaigning more than her husband, and even Barbara Bush came to the 9th District.

"They're taking your vote for granted"

Whatever else could be said about the crowd, they liked George W. Bush and they hated the Democrats.

"In 2004, they were picking out new offices in the West Wing"

Nothing got a bigger response from them than Bush mocking and making attacks on the Democrats.

"We've got a record to run on"

Bush's listing of Republican achievements defied the conventional wisdom, and I didn't expect him to campaign on it. When most people think of this administration's achievements, they think of Iraq and perhaps Katrina. They don't think of Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, or the energy bill. When they do think of those things, it tends to be in response to Democratic attacks.

"America is better off because John Roberts and Sam Alito are serving on the Supreme Court"

As I have said many times, nothing motivates the conservatives (and the Republicans, which are not always the same thing) in the 9th District like wedge social issues. Bush hit hard on those. The recent New Jersey court decision on gay marriage was just one more club upon which to pound upon the Democrats.

These things are Hill's weakness and the thing against which he has had to defend himself during the entire campaign. Every other Democrat nationwide has managed to go on the offensive.

"November 7th is going to be a great day for the Republican Party"

If the mission of this whole visit was to motivate the party faithful to make the Sodrel ground game and get-out-the-vote efforts effective, then I think that it succeeded. I don't know whether that alone will be sufficient; much depends on what happens in the next week nationally. I expect an early November un-surprise.

"The member from California... the Minority Leader... who wants to be the Speaker..."

The average American may not know who Nancy Pelosi is, but everyone in that gym sure did. They'll probably like Baron Hill even less given that she gave him fourteen thousand dollars.

"The Democrats are going to raise your taxes"

Taxes and terrorism were the themes of the day. Bush hit them hard, and he hit the Democrats on them in every other sentence. For not being a numbers or a details person, Bush went into detail rattling off tax cuts that the Democrats have said that they want to repeal. The per-child tax credit one is probably politically the most dangerous of those.

"What's the Democratic answer? Just say no."

"Just say no" was the big line in the stump speech, and the one that most of the national press picked up on. It also, with booing Democrats and hammering social issues, got the most response out of the crowd. It is a simple and powerful theme, probably because it is exactly what the Democrats have been doing. The party in the minority in a democratic system cannot do much else.

"Do you want your government to do whatever it takes to bring justice to the terrorists?"

Yes and no. No and yes. Black and white. White and black. With us or with the terrorists. Simple stuff, but politically effective with the soundbite-driven American electorate. If Bush had been hitting on this stuff six months ago, the Republicans would not be nearly so in peril as they are right now. What luck for the Democrats that he was indolent and lazy for so long.

"We will defeat the enemy in Iraq"

I have recently been surprised at how relatively well the Iraq War polls in the 9th District. Voters here are quite hawkish, as evidenced by the "turn it into a parking lot" comment overheard by a member of the national press. In this part of Indiana, and probably in a lot of the more Republican portions of the country, opposition to the war stems not from the war itself but from the feeling that the war policy is not aggressive or brutal enough.

Those sorts of voters aren't going to vote Democrat. Some might not vote at all, but they're not going to vote Democratic.

"They will leave before the job is done. And we will not let them."

The above all being the case, Bush had whipped the crowd to such a fever pitch by the time he got to talking about Iraq that they probably were going to applaud almost anything he had to say about the subject. I am reminded of the line from George C. Scott in the movie Patton:

Men, all this stuff you've heard about America not wanting to fight, wanting to stay out of the war is a lot of horse dung. Americans, traditionally, love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.

When you were kids you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, big league ball player, the toughest boxer. Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans.

In Indiana's 9th District, the thought of losing is very much still hateful. Baron Hill will probably do well to remember that.

"No doubt in my mind, with your help, we will win"

As Bush began to wrap up his speech, I made my way to the rear of the gym and took several wider shot photos of the platform. I wasn't close enough to shake his hand when he worked the crowd, and I didn't want to have to sit in traffic (both human within the building and vehicle outside) afterwards.

Someone else from Corydon later told me that one of the event staff followed me out, apparently concerned that I might be feeling ill from the heat. I didn't notice them at the time and wasn't feeling ill. The temperature in the hallway was maybe twenty or more degrees cooler than the gym itself, and you could feel the heat radiating out the doors.

I left soon after. The event staff did not seal the building when the speech finished. Normally, guests at such rallies are prevented from leaving the building until after the President has himself left and his motorcade departed. They sealed the building not long after I got outside.

On my way to my car, I saw the presidential limo--flags and all--pull out of a side lot to head around to the far side of the high school to pick up the President. Unfortunately, I had by that time put my camera away. For being an armored tank-limousine and operating a crowded parking lot, the presidential vehicle moved very quickly, and I wasn't able to get my camera out in time.

All in all, I found the event to be quite impressive. I have seen President Bush four times, and this was far and away the most efficient such event that I have been to in terms of the scheduling, getting people inside, security, seating, traffic control, pre-show speeches, and so forth. Only the heat in the gym--probably unavoidable--was a negative mark.

If the people fired up in that gym go out on the ground, as Sodrel and the RNC doubtless hope, then the entire event will have been worth it for the Republicans. Regardless of whether he can win or not, Mike Sodrel certainly can't win without his ground game. Bush's visit put that into high gear.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You've never seen a government social services program that was worth increasing your taxes for.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You've never seen a social program that you weren't willing to spend other taxpayers' money on.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

President Bush in Sellersburg, Part II

Anything any president does and anywhere they go, they get a lot of press. President George W. Bush's visit to Sellersburg yesterday was no exception. Coverage came from local newspapers and television outlets to national newspapers and cable news networks. Here is some of what they had to say, separated by some photos that I took of the rally and some of my own observations. See my Flickr page for the full set of photos.

One of Sodrel's grandchildren sings "God Bless America"

From David Mann at the News & Tribune came a local coverage story.

Darned Democrats? I doubt those were the words Bush would have used to describe them, in public or private. Harping? If Bush was harping, what have Democrats been doing for the past two years. Border misspelled? Does no one proofread this stuff?

Stay the course? Nowhere does that phrase appear in the transcript. Staying indefinitely? Bush wants to stay until things are won; I suppose that could be indefinitely if some sort of titular victory is impossible. Sodrel, meanwhile, has said only that he looks forward to "a day when our flag flies only over our embassy in Iraq." Whatever else that might be (like vague and fluffy), it is not indefinite.

I'm not sure how what Baron Hill wants to do--put pressure on various groups within Iraq so that we can bring troops home--is all that different from what we are doing now. Mr. Hill should have some sort of idea about what to do in Iraq. He voted to give the President authorization to put us in this position.

It's supposed to be a news column, which requires avoiding the use of loaded words, false statements, and incorrect comparisons. Whew. /rant

Another Sodrel grandkid says the Pledge of Allegiance

Also from the News & Tribune, Lincoln Dodd had (as usual) a clever and humorous take on the presidential visit, giving advice on a guided tour for the Commander in Chief.

Some of the 4,000+ at the rally

Lesley Stedman Weidenbener had two (similar) pieces about the Bush-Sodrel rally.

Sellersburg was decked out in flags and Sodrel signs for Bush's visit

Afterwards, the President went to a nearby bed and breakfast--secretly screened in advance by the Secret Service--to relax.

Not everyone in Sellersburg welcomed the "President" (zoom in for detail)

Democratic challenger Baron Hill and other Democrats staged a rally nearby, as covered in the Courier-Journal. I passed them on my drive to Silver Creek High School; it didn't look to me like there were a hundred people present. Probably thirty or forty. A similar number was present later, when I drove out and was able (thanks to crawling traffic) to take a picture. They had by that time split into three or so groups standing at different points along the street; Hill had apparently left them by that time. I took photos of these other groups, but they didn't turn out well.

Different sorts of signs and flags welcome Bush to town

The Indianapolis Star has two articles, both by AP writers, on the Bush visit to Sellersburg. I particularly noted this ending quote:

Bush's speech was disrupted several times by audience members calling for the troops to come home, but Sodrel supporters countered with chants of "U.S.A."

"You're a pilgrim in an unholy land if you're a Republican in Sellersburg," said David Hoback, a 41-year-old mechanic and Sodrel supporter from Sellersburg, with a laugh.

From inside, those disruptions were hard to hear. There were not many involved with them. The heat was a far greater irritation. It was generated by cramming over four thousand people into a room with a seating capacity for 3,305 (according to the signs on the wall; they had about a thousand standing on the basketball court and along the railings around the second level) and by the powerful lights that they were using to illuminate the stage for the TV cameras. I found out after the rally that at least half a dozen people fainted during it and had to be taken out into the adjoining hallways to cool off.

Sellersburg being "an unholy land" for Republicans is sort of ironic; the city council is occupied entirely by the GOP. This is in large parts due to once-dominant Democrats having become incredibly corrupt and incompetent, and thus having been shut out of office. There's a lesson there, I think.

In past visits by Cheney and others to Jeffersonville, Democrats on that city's council pushed for Sodrel to pay the bill for the extra security that had to be provided by city police. That, I somehow think, will not be an issue in Sellersburg.

More of the crowd at the rally

The Caucus, one of the New York Times politics blogs, notes the frenzied reception Bush got in Sellersburg. I suspect that a lot of people in that room shared the "Turn it into a parking lot!" comment that was apparently overheard from someone in the audience. I heard a number of shouts of "Give 'em hell, George!", "Go get 'em, George!", and other similar variations.

The contrast between the reception Bush got in Sellersburg and the one he got at a military base in South Carolina is quite marked and noteworthy.

A lonely podium, but not for long

The crowd went wild when a guy from the White House advance team came out to affix the Presidential seal to the podium. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera ready in time to catch it, and when I did, the red, white, and blue pom-pom things that they had given out to the crowd obscured the podium and the pictures came out poorly.

Yet another crowd photo

The New York Times proper also has a column on the Bush visit to Sellersburg. I didn't hear "the wear of the campaign season" that was supposedly showing in his voice. But then, I don't hear the President every day up close much, so I don't have much to judge that by.

The crowd several times engaged in the same sort of collective foot-stomping chorus common during basketball games and indoor sporting events in Indiana (and I suppose elsewhere, too). It was very audible on the sort of folding bleachers so common to high school gyms. Bush seemed surprised when he heard it; he may have never heard something quite like it before.

George & Mike; I bet you thought I would never get to them

The Washington Times has an article.

It cites a double-digit lead in "the latest poll" for Hill. I haven't seen such a poll, and find it curious to be referenced in a partisan right-wing paper like the Times. Hill hasn't had a double-digit lead since the spring, if then. Meanwhile, it says that Hostettler is only behind by seven. If anything, he is behind by double digits. Could be a mix-up, ignorance on the races, or the Times playing up conservative maverick Hostettler. Given the paper, it is hard to say.

Peeking through the irritating pom-poms

The better (and ideologically opposing) D.C. paper, the Washington Post, also had a story about the President's visit.

That concludes the news roundup on the Bush visit. I thought about going on to look at the cable news sites, but I'll settle for the newspapers, which tend to provide more detailed coverage.

I still have additional thoughts about Bush's speech (and photos of it), so I'll probably post some more tomorrow.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You think Florida election officials are fair and unbiased.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You think "fair Florida elections" is a contradiction in terms.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

President Bush in Sellersburg, Part I

Your humble correspondent was in Sellersburg today to see President George W. Bush speak at a campaign rally for Republican Congressman Mike Sodrel. I'll have pictures from the rally tomorrow, a roundup of news coverage, and some of my own thoughts and observations.

In the meantime, the White House has the transcript of the President's remarks at the rally. It was the usual sort of stump speech you would expect from Bush in the 2002 or 2004 campaigns, with added barbs for this election year aimed at hopeful Democrats.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You philosophically oppose government welfare plans, but you cash your Social Security checks religiously.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You're philosophically appalled by corporate America's emphasis on profits, but you're sure happy your pension fund is booming.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Focus on the Family Focusing on Baron Hill

James Dobson
Focusing on Baron.

I don't subscribe to their mailing list or even listen to their program, but a relative that does forwarded me an email sent out by Focus on the Family Action, the advocacy and lobbying arm of Focus on the Family, an socially-conservative evangelical Christian organization. The emphases are those of the email.

An Important Message from Dr. James Dobson

Dear Indiana Friend,

I hope you'll take a few moments to read this important and very timely update ... and then forward it to friends, family and fellow church members.

In just a few days, Indiana voters will be going to the polls to elect new leaders, and I have reason to be both very concerned and very hopeful about where your candidates for U.S. House stand on the biggest moral issues of our day—life and marriage.

Let me be specific: One of your candidates—former Rep. Baron Hill—has taken conflicting and frequently disturbing positions on these key issues. One Internet writer commented on Hill's changing positions that, "Baron Hill wants to have a debate, but he could have a debate all by himself."

Take the issue of abortion, for instance. Baron Hill used to fashion himself as "pro-life," but now that would be a gross misrepresentation of his record. While he has occasionally cast a pro-life vote, much of his record is clearly pro-abortion.

For example, he voted to allow taxpayer funding of abortions overseas, taxpayer funding of abortions in federal health plans and taxpayer funding for chemically induced abortions. In short, if there is a vote to make you, the taxpayer, pay for abortions, Baron Hill almost invariably supports it.

But what about Rep. Hill's stance on marriage? The answer to that question depends on whether you believe his words or his actions. He says he believes in traditional marriage, but he hasn't lifted a finger to protect it. In fact, he has done just the opposite by opposing the one measure that would truly defend this institution against the attacks of gay radicals and activist judges. In 2004, he had the chance to demonstrate his commitment to traditional marriage, but instead he chose to vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Fortunately, your other U.S. House candidate, current Congressman Mike Sodrel, has a very different track record, particularly on the sanctity of human life and marriage.

When it comes to life, there's no guessing where Rep. Sodrel stands. Not only does Mike Sodrel say he's pro-life, but he backs up his talk with a consistent pro-life voting record in the U.S. House. On every vote scored by the National Right to Life Committee, Mike Sodrel has voted to protect life. And, unlike Hill, he has voted every time to protect taxpayers from having to fund abortions. Equally important, his commitment to defending marriage from redefinition has been strong and backed up by action. This summer Rep. Sodrel voted in favor of the federal amendment that would protect marriage.

With this information in mind, what can you do?

First, please contact both candidates and let them know how you feel about the sanctity of life and the protection of traditional marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Specifically, encourage Mike Sodrel to continue his strong support for life and marriage. And please urge Baron Hill to renounce his disturbing and contradictory positions on abortion and homosexual marriage.

Second, if you have friends, family or fellow church members who feel as you do and who may benefit from this information, please forward this e-mail to them.

Don't let the abortion industry and advocates of homosexual marriage have their way in Indiana. Make your voice heard!


James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Founder and Chairman

P.S. In addition to contacting the candidates about their positions, please do everything within your power to vote. There is so much riding on this election, you cannot afford to sit this one out!


Another blow to Baron Hill's campaign to build up his conservative values cred, albeit a stealth one operating under the radar of at least one of the campaigns. I am beginning to wonder why he bothered in the first place. Hill cannot win on values issues. In even trying, he is fighting entirely upon ground of his opponent's choosing, which is always a strategic no-no.

The anti-Republican character of the year could save Hill from his own misguided campaign focus. Even if it does, which is by no means certain, I am not sure it can save him in two years.

News Roundup

Governor Mitch Daniels
Up, up, and away.

Mitch Daniels was in Jeffersonville today, talking up an upturn in the state's economy (and particularly the southern part of the state). The Courier-Journal has a story on it, as does the News & Tribune.

Gov. Mitch Daniels told a breakfast gathering in Jeffersonville Friday morning that his economic development programs have attracted record levels of new investment to the state.

"These are the best days you can have in this job," he said, "when you see hope and growth and many new jobs on their way here that will keep the best and brightest in Indiana."

As predicted, the Courier-Journal has endorsed Baron Hill. I doubt that Hill endorsed that photo of him used in the article, though. The Courier also notes that Mike Sodrel has more cash on hand than Baron Hill going into the final days before the election.

And, for his visit to Sellersburg, President Bush will fly into Clark Regional Airport, not Louisville International. Maybe that has something to do with the atrocious condition of the Kennedy Bridge, though I didn't know that the runway at Clark was reinforced or long enough to land a 747 like Air Force One.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You think White House interns should serve the president loyally.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You think White House interns should service the president royally.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It's a Ding-Dong Battle Back and Forth

SurveyUSA's recent poll showed a four-point race. A new poll by Research 2000, done for WISH TV in Indianapolis and out today, shows a two-point race, with Democratic challenger Baron Hill two points ahead of Republican incumbent Mike Sodrel, 47% to 45%. Schansberg, notably, was not present in the poll.

The race remains a statistical dead heat. In the last Research 2000 poll, Hill had a six-point lead. While Sodrel has never led (though in his defense it is worth observing that he never led in 2004 either), Hill no longer has the once-commanding leads he held at the start of September and in even earlier polling.

Unfortunately, little can be gleaned from the internals of the poll, as WISH doesn't provide them. The responses for various districts are merged in demographics, making related analysis of the internals impossible.

This being said, I do not think that it is a coincidence that the 9th District polls the best for Republicans on their weaknesses and that Sodrel's chances are now viewed to be the best of the endangered Hoosier GOP trio. Ninth District voters are in a statistical dead heat over whether invading Iraq was worth it. They are hawkish: a large majority wants more or the same number of troops in Iraq and plurality thinks that the war in Iraq has made America more safe.

Ninth District voters want more Republicans elected to Congress, not less (8th District is close in this respect). They want Republicans to control the Indiana legislature (ditto the 8th). A good majority thinks that Indiana is headed in the right direction (ditto 8th again).

Voters in the 8th and 9th Districts are forgiving about the Foley scandal. They disapprove of how the leadership handled it, similar to other districts. However, that feeling does not transfer to the Republican Party; they are split over the Republican response in the aftermath. They are divided over whether there was a cover-up.

Only 13% or 14% indicate that the Foley scandal would impact how they would vote, a wash between both parties in both the 8th and 9th Districts. Since no Foley ads were run in the 8th District, such numbers would seem to indicate that Baron Hill's ads about the Foley scandal have accomplished nothing and were a waste of resources.

More in the 8th and 9th Districts favor military action against North Korea than oppose it. When asked about what sort of military action, sizable majorities in both favor at least using air strikes. They are equally divided about whether Iraq makes Bush more or less trustworthy in taking action against North Korea; the other districts do not give him even this benefit of the doubt, as it were.

Women and Democrats back Hill. Republicans and men back Sodrel. Independents favor Hill, 54% to 38%. This isn't much different than what was seen in the SurveyUSA poll a few days ago. The differences could well entirely be attributable to the lack of a Schansberg option.

News Roundup

At the pumpkin patch.
Almost as orange as Baron Hill in his first campaign ad.

The Seymour Tribune provides an article about Laura Bush's visit, and the earlier-sought photo of Mrs. Bush and Mike Sodrel with a pumpkin on their front page.

Baron Hill, meanwhile, is campaigning with Evan Bayh and Lee Hamilton (also here). Maybe, just maybe, Hill can peek out once in a while from Bayh's shadow. Maybe he'll even not fall on his face while trying to fill Hamilton's shoes. Failing that, there is always the New Jersey tactic of replacing Baron Hill on the ballot at the last minute and putting Lee Hamilton in his place.

Tickets have run out for the President's visit to Sellersburg to campaign for Mike Sodrel. They went quickly. Not sure that means that Bush is hugely popular in the 9th District, but it sure gives that perception (which was probably intended).

A federal judge has upheld Attorney General Steve Carter's lawsuit blocking automated political phone calls. The decision will apply both to the pro-Republican Economic Freedom Fund and pro-Democrat American Family Voices groups.

A statistical model done by some political science professors at ISU indicates that John Hostettler should easily win reelection. This, of course, in direct contradiction of a poll done by some women's studies and sociology professors at the same university. I suspect that, if the quirky and quixotic John Hostettler wasn't the one running, then any other Republican would easily win reelection in the seat.

The New York Times reports on a strategy by leftist bloggers to "Google-bomb" Republican candidates in close races. Searches for Mike Sodrel, John Hostettler, and Chris Chocola turned up nothing indicative of this as of this posting. Anne Northup wasn't so lucky, and Baron Hill was linked to British aristocrats and golf courses.

Welcome, Great Pumpkin

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You think a president's spouse should stand by her man through thick and thin.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You think a president's spouse should stand by her man until he's out of office and she can run for it herself.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Sodrel & Hill on Indiana Insiders

Baron HillMike Sodrel
From the left, Baron Hill. From the Right, Mike Sodrel.

WTHR's Indiana Insiders political show hosted Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel last weekend. Both candidates were present for the taping, though they were on in separate segments of the show. Thanks to the miracle of TiVo and YouTube, those of us not in Indianapolis can now see their interviews.

First, Mike Sodrel:

Sodrel surprised me in focusing on his achievements in office. We haven't heard a lot about those in this campaign; both candidates have focused on destroying each other and praising themselves with vague platitudes. The talk about money for roads and the recent job announcements is new to Sodrel's usual interview stump, and a positive addition in terms of campaigning.

Matt Tully, however, quickly corrected that focus back to the negative campaigning aspect. Sodrel returned to his "contrast ads" and "product A and product B" themes. It is a well-made point; his attacks on Hill have not been anywhere near as negative as some of the stuff that is being thrown at other candidates (Democrats and Republicans) in other races nationwide. Saying Hill is liberal, worked for a lobbying firm, and quoting his opponent's voting record is not negative per se, even though the Hill campaign likes to say that it is.

When asked about the recent wave of NRCC video game and explicit content "Baron Hill is X-Rated" ads, Sodrel wisely deflected, returning instead to voting records, and the difference between procedural votes--"Christmas trees with all kinds of ornaments hanging on it"--and "good clean votes". He carefully does not say that the violent and sexually-explicit content vote was (if my memory serves) a procedural vote (about which his campaign has not run ads themselves), but hits hard on the gay marriage and flag-burning votes (which are, and about which his campaign has run ads).

His response to the "Millionaire Mike is Making the Mess in Congress Worse" ad was pretty reasonable. The juxtaposition between Sodrel being a millionaire and him being influenced by a mere forty-five thousand dollars is a cutting and effective one. I am surprised that it has not been made sooner. The comment about receiving no corporate contributions should also have been made sooner. The return to the truck driver "consumer of oil" thing is a good one, and Sodrel's citation of specific statistics on the price of fuel is new and pretty effective. Such numbers add earnestness and believability.

The Foley discussion is nothing new. The presumption of innocence argument is all well and good, but it is better to avoid the whole thing than to have to speak about it in length. When asked about the impact of the Foley scandal, Sodrel would have done well to observe that polls show he has not been harmed by it at all, in addition to speaking about not knowing or dealing with Foley.

The discussion on immigration was nothing new. I think that the answer on being close to Bush works well enough, given the political environment. "When I disagree with him, I've got enough backbone to tell him I disagree with him, and have done that... I've been married to my wife for thirty-eight years, and we don't agree all the time either... I disagree with him when I need to."

And then Baron Hill:

Usual Democratic campaign boilerplate. Wrong direction, need for change, new course. You'd get tipsy fast if you played a drinking game based upon Hill saying any one of those phrases. But when he got off of the campaign themes, Hill got into trouble fast and made several gaffes.

Are things as bad as they were six months ago? "I don't think things are bad." Then the return to the usual weak "I've campaigned everywhere and heard [insert gripe here]." Specifics, specifics, always specifics. Names, places, details. Hill can manage none of this. He never can. At least Sodrel can usually come up with statistics and specifics in support of his statements.

And what do Democrats do about the economy? What sorts of policies that will impact people's lives directly? "In the final analysis, as it relates to the economy, it's got to be the marketplace." Hill isn't a socialist, at least. Sodrel has now lost the ability to call him that in the future. Baron fumbled for a bit. After reiterating the same achievements (Cummins, Honda, and so forth) that Sodrel had touted as his own in the earlier segment, he hit upon the deficit, though he gave no solutions to it.

On Nancy Pelosi, he wisely deflected, saying that he was "not convinced of that platform", though he stopped short of promising (as Ellsworth has) that he will not vote for Pelosi for Speaker of the House.

And then the big mistakes. Isn't it kind of a stretch to link Mike Sodrel to Mark Foley? "I think... Yeah, it is a bit of a stretch..." There's a video-perfect soundbite or videobite for a campaign ad if I have ever seen one. Hill then tried to save himself, reverting to the money and then to the "mess in Washington" theme.

In response to the NRCC blue X-Rated ad: "I'm shocked by it." Noting that everyone voted against that bill was good, though calling it censorship probably wasn't. Mothers don't want to hear that prohibiting violent or sexually-explicit content is censorship.

More broadly about negative ads in general? "I'm tired of them... Unfortunately they work." Tully then asked, if you're tired of them, then why not stop running them? Can't you say enough? "I've tried." Brief mention of the clean campaign pledge, followed by saying that calling him a lobbyist is breaking the pledge.

This was a mistake. Better to have said that Sodrel broke it, without returning to the weak excuse for saying that he did. Then another gaffe: "I took a poll, I saw that my lead was dropping like a lead balloon. I had to do something... Negative ads work."

Then a series of millionaire gaffes. Tully: What's wrong with [Mike Sodrel] being a millionaire, even a self-made millionaire? "I don't think he's a self-made millionaire... [is that assertion even true?] He is a millionaire, and... uh... I'm not distorting the facts, he is a millionaire."

Tully: But what's wrong with that though? "Not a thing wrong with that." Tully: Why do you guys use it? "Well... uh... [strange smile here; probably thinking of his campaign's then upcoming Millionaire Mike cartoon ad] We want people to know he's a millionaire."

On immigration, Hill continued his line that the entire problem is with employers. No mention at all about a fence or other mechanisms for enforcement, he absolves people for wanting to come here illegally. It is apparently all the fault of small businesses and other employers.

How have you changed since you were voted out two years ago? "It's made me more humble, more appreciative of Southern Indiana... I'm looking after their interests, not the special interests in Washington..." I'm not sure how this squares with working for a lobbying firm or staying in Washington after he lost the election. Did shouting at people at that church (as appears to have indeed been the case) make him more humble? Is that how he became more appreciative of Southern Indiana? By berating an American Legion color guard outside a church?

And then a BIG gaffe. The war? "I regret that vote but, under the circumstances, if I'd known then what I know now, I'd have voted the same way, because I was lied to." What the heck? This is a very strange misstatement of Baron's usual "I was snookered" line about his vote for the Iraq War. I wonder very much if Baron Hill was ever actually called to the Pentagon, shown such evidence, and bullied by Rumsfeld and the generals. It would be interesting to know if the Pentagon visitor lists show him ever actually going there for that purpose in the run up to his vote for the war.

I give Sodrel the edge in the interviews to Sodrel. He handled himself well, and the questions were not easy. Hill, however, stumbled several times when faced with similarly tough questions. He made a number of gaffes and misstatements as a result.

Laura Bush Stumps for Sodrel

Mike Sodrel and Laura Bush
Dubya's Better Half

The Indianapolis Star and the Courier-Journal both have pieces today about Laura Bush's visit to hold a campaign rally for Mike Sodrel. I would have liked to see a photo of her at this pumpkin patch.

The News & Tribune has an article about the upcoming Presidential visit to Sellersburg. The Seymour Tribune also covers it.

David Mann reports on the use of wedge issues by both the Hill and Sodrel campaigns. Somehow, I doubt that the Foley scandal fits into the category of a wedge issue in the same way that more traditional wedges like gay marriage, abortion, and gun control do.

Hill and Sodrel held a radio debate on Tuesday, though this is the first that I have heard of it. The Courier-Journal has a brief story on it. It will be replayed. If I can catch it, I'll post some commentary later on.

I suspect that it was more focused and less verbose and boring with Schansberg absent than previous debates between the candidates, which drag because the Libertarian lectures on economics and a three-person format simply does not move at a decent pace at all.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You think public education is broken and doesn't deserve more money, and you send your children to an expensive private school.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You think public education is the backbone of America and needs more money, and you send your children to an expensive private school.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Harrison County Sheriff's Race

Mike DeatrickSteve Priest
"Stay the Course" or "Time for a Change"

The Courier-Journal has continued its series of pieces about elections in Harrison County with an article about the race for county sheriff, and the responses of the candidates to a Q & A survey. The Corydon Democrat had a piece about it several weeks ago.

Republican challenger Steve Priest, a trooper with the Indiana State Police, is facing off against Democratic incumbent Mike Deatrick. In 2002, Deatrick prevailed over Republican C. Wendell Smith (who had never been elected and assumed the office upon the unfortunate and unexpected death of the elected sheriff, also a Republican).

Deatrick won on a platform of cleaning house, as Smith was widely attacked for the many problems at the county jail and the many lawsuits filed against the office. The problem is that these troublesome problems have only intensified since Deatrick assumed the position of sheriff.

Far from cleaning house, things appear to have worsened considerably. A number of members of the force have been dismissed or resigned. There are at least four lawsuits pending against the sheriff's office involving what the CJ calls "job-related legal actions". This is a polite way of referencing sexual harassment and discrimination.

There have also been questions about a shoot-out on I-64 earlier in the year in which Deatrick's deputies shot and injured a suspect who had fled from the police after shoplifting at a grocery store in Louisville.

Under normal circumstances, Deatrick would face an uphill battle for reelection. Since there has been no polling, it is hard to confirm that. Anecdotal evidence, from just talking to people in the county, would seem to match that reasoning.

However, the Democrat has some things in his favor. First, he prevailed with a majority in his party's primary against some five challengers. Second, his police chief, Gary Gilley, is very popular in the county. Third, Harrison County voters have shown a dislike to state troopers running for sheriff, because several elected in the past have been disappointments.

Priest has many things also going for him. He is respected and fairly well known in the community, and has a mountain of State Police experience behind him. Deatrick's scandal-ridden jail certainly helps (it can't hurt), even if the Republican has not hammered or pushed hard on it. The last campaign for sheriff was very dirty. Another one would provoke a backlash on whoever started it. This mutually-assured destruction has kept both sides from going negative.

The incumbent has disadvantages, many linked closely with his advantages. The Democratic Party primary was decisive, but divisive. On primary night, several candidates and their supporters almost came to blows outside of the courthouse when results started coming in that were favoring Deatrick. The Republican primary was a civil affair in contrast, even though Priest won an easy plurality and not a majority.

A growing rumor has it that Deatrick intends to sack the popular Gilley after the election--this in spite of statements to the contrary during the campaign--and replace him with someone else. Many other nasty rumors swirl around the sheriff's department and around Deatrick himself. The lawsuits hang heavily over him; they had not yet been filed and were only allegations and rumors themselves at the time of the primary.

Deatrick hired his wife as his jail matron, something that has caused people in the county to quietly shake their heads in disapproval. It was a particularly cutting and witty barb by Steve Priest in his Corydon Democrat profile when he said that his wife would not be his jail matron. Such comments are about the extent of swiping at the other side taken in the entire race.

Deatrick's officers have also refused to use the county motor pool gas pumps, claiming that there is something in the gasoline that causes problems with the engines of their police cruisers. They have instead had the county pay for more expensive consumer-rate gasoline at several locally-owned stations.

A chemical analysis of the gasolines from this station and from the motor pool pumps was conducted. It found no difference in the two gasolines. This led to rumors that the gas was being bought at the station to repay political favors. More flashy rumors had it that officers were buying gas there to repay other sorts of favors from female station attendants.

A look at the answers given by the candidates to the CJ survey gives some idea of the measure of the race. Deatrick's answers were defensive and reactive. Asked about a recent outsourcing of medical treatment for inmates, he defended his decision. Priest floated the idea of opening the bidding on that contract to medical providers within the county itself (an excellent idea, I think, given that a new hospital is being built in the county not far from the jail).

In response to another question, Deatrick threw up his hands and predicted that crime would increase dramatically if he had to cut his force by ten patrolmen. Priest went through a series of steps he would take to minimize just that possibility if such cuts had to be made, a technical but very practical and experienced response.

Mike Deatrick may yet weather the storm clouds that hang over his time in the sheriff's office, but a strong wind of change is blowing. If Deatrick survives, it will either be by the proverbial skin of his teeth or because of the incredibly bad year for Republicans.

I don't put a lot of stock in the latter. 2002 was an incredibly Republican year and the GOP lost the sheriff's office in Harrison County anyway. I think that the county may well go against the trend and the Republicans win the sheriff's office this time when the opposite is the case.

Bush to Campaign for Sodrel in Sellersburg

October Surprise
October Surprise

In defiance of pretty much all conventional wisdom about the President's national polling numbers, George W. Bush will be in Sellersburg on October 28 for a campaign rally for Republican incumbent Mike Sodrel. The Courier-Journal, the News & Tribune, and the Seymour Tribune have reporting on the announcement of the visit.

President Bush will hold a public rally in Sellersburg Saturday to benefit incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Sodrel, a Republican in a tough battle against a former Democratic congressman.

Bush will speak in the Silver Creek High School gymnasium at about 1 p.m., said Sodrel's campaign manager Cam Savage.

Tickets are free and will be distributed through the Sodrel campaign and county Republican parties throughout the 9th Congressional District.

It will be the first presidential visit to the district since Lyndon Johnson visited Clark County in 1964, said Savage.

"It's a great opportunity right before the election to energize the base," Savage said. "People are going to hear directly from the president about how important this election is, how important keeping control of Congress is to win the war on terror, keep taxes low, and keep the economy moving in the right direction."

Sodrel is battling for a second term against Democrat Baron Hill, who held the seat for six years before losing to the Republican in 2004. Libertarian Eric Schansberg is also running.

Political pundits say the race is too close to call.

Mike O'Connor, an advisor to Hill's campaign, said Republicans are "making one last push and will pull out all the stops to keep change from occurring."

"It's not unexpected," O'Connor said. "I don't want to underestimate the power of the commander in chief, but people want change and we think they'll support change
in the people they’re sending to Washington D.C."

I must say that, despite hearing that a big event was being planned by the Sodrel campaign for the last weekend in October, I am surprised that they have asked the President to come. His approval rating polling in the 9th District--in the low forties--is above his national average but still a far cry from what it was in 2002 or 2004. But then, Bush is visiting some forty Congressional districts as a part of this campaign push, so he must not be toxic.

It is true that a president has not come to the 9th District since 1964, so this is a big deal in that respect. Bush will rally the faithful, but preaching to the choir will not win for Sodrel this election. Certainly, the NRCC, the RNC, and the Sodrel campaign will have done polling in advance of a visit to determine whether it will help or not, so one must assume that they have seen something in the polling to make them think that the conventional wisdom is wrong.

From the beginning, the Sodrel campaign has believed two things. First, that this is naturally a conservative (and thus Republican district); this is confirmed by routinely conservatives outnumbering liberals in polling samples by at least two to one. Second, that they can win on social wedge issues by hammering Baron Hill on his voting record and by sinking him with the anchor of the entire rest of the Democratic Party.

Mike Sodrel's campaign has rested upon motivating and turning out the base. This is the Karl Rove strategy that won the last two elections for the Republicans. Were the national environment for Republicans not so poor, this strategy would probably easily work again in the 9th District. It could still yet conceivably do so.

All polling is predicated on traditional midterm turnout, which in 2002 was 38%. In 2004, presidential election year turnout was 58% (56% in 2004). I would guess that the Sodrel campaign's strategy is a simple one. The Republicans have a phenomenal ground game, both here and nationwide. Whatever contested seats they do win on November 7 will be attributable entirely to efforts on the ground. If Sodrel can push up turnout among conservative voters to be higher (in a statistically-significant way) than the normal midterm average, he will win.

That's where the Bush visit must come into play. Bush can energize the faithful and conservatives in general. In particular, he can motivate the sorts of volunteers that will be vital to make the Republican ground game a success. The play is to solidify the volunteers, and thus pump up the volunteers to turn out the base.

We'll see if that can work. I am going to try to be at the rally in Sellersburg on Saturday. I'll hopefully take some pictures and post on it afterwards.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You don't think public buildings need to be wheelchair accessible, but you believe public lands should be open to anyone with an oil rig or an ATV.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You think every building, even the top of the Washington Monument, should be accessible to anyone using a wheelchair or a Seeing Eye dog, but public lands should be wilderness areas open only to those who can hike five miles in and out.

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Poll: Schansberg Spoiler Speculation

Center Stage
Taking center stage.

SurveyUSA is out with another poll done on behalf of WHAS11 on the 9th District race. It continues to show a right race largely within the margin of error, with challenger Baron Hill leading by four points over incumbent Mike Sodrel.

Yet as Hill's lead has widened, his own standing within the polling declined from the last SurveyUSA poll, taken twelve days ago. Hill lost one point, Sodrel three. Schansberg gained three, up from two. SurveyUSA concludes from this that Schansberg is stealing votes from Sodrel. I am not sure that this is the entirely the case. Some of the internals on the poll are different from the last one, and that likely explains some of the movement. More on that later.

Schansberg has had a good week. As much of a good week as could be had by a Libertarian third-party candidate in one of the most hotly-contested Congressional races in the country, at least. The News & Tribune did a flattering column about him over the weekend. Notable are his website and campaign blog.

I suspect that the five percent number for the Libertarian is a statistical blip. It hasn't been reflected in any other poll (all of which have shown a narrowing and now close race between Hill and Sodrel consistent with the rest of this poll). If presented with a well-articulated message about the national importance of the race, I find it unlikely that many conservatives will bleed from Sodrel to Schansberg on election day.

The sorts of conservative voters that could vote Libertarian as a protest tend to be more educated, and thus more understanding that such votes could have consequences--like Democrats running Congress--that they most certainly do not want. Sodrel is hardly Lincoln Chafee; it is difficult for him to get much of a revolt on his right given that doing so could result in something even worse from the ideological perspective of such voters.

Many Republicans, and some Democrats, will vote Libertarian as a protest vote against Senator Dick Lugar. But that is a place were such a vote sends a clear message without shooting yourself in the foot. Conservatives voting for Schansberg to punish Sodrel are cutting off their nose to spite their face. It would be no different with liberals voting for Baron Hill if there was a Green candidate in the race.

Now on to the poll, and a look at how and where the numbers differ from last time.

Women remain largely unchanged. There is some erosion from Sodrel to Schansberg among men, but there is also erosion from Sodrel to Hill among men. It is among men that this poll is differing from the prior one. Women appear to have made up their minds. It will be interesting to see if the NRCC's recent set of anti-Hill sex and violent video game ads will have an impact on mothers in the 9th District.

A statistically-significant smaller number of people in the 18 to 34 age group were polled in this poll than last time. Sodrel carried this group big last time. This time, he loses it to Hill, and Schansberg makes big gains. That movement to Schansberg, however, is of six people when you look at the numerical response counts instead of the percentage counts. This is probably a blip.

Sodrel holds the 35 to 49 demo, but it appears that he has lost voters to Schansberg while gaining them from Hill. Sodrel holds steady in the 50 to 64 demo, with Hill losing to Schansberg. The senior demo holds steady for everyone. Movement to Schansberg from Hill is illogical, if the conservative desertion thesis of Tom Wolf (in the News & Tribune article) is true.

Sodrel lost five points among self-described Republicans. But those voters didn't go to Schansberg, who pretty much held steady. They became undecided; could be lingering anger over Foley or general base irritation. Minor variation among Democrats (Sodrel up to 13% from 11%, Hill down from 83% to 82%, Schansberg up 1%) are probably a statistical blip. I retain my question from the prior poll about party affiliation in the 9th District. Sodrel has bled independents to Schansberg. The former dropped 8%, and the latter gained 11%. This fits with my own thesis that conservative Republicans are unlikely to desert Sodrel given the importance of the race, though independents could.

The conservative and moderate identification numbers have flipped since the last poll, though this is probably anomalous. Sodrel lost 3% of Conservatives (three people in the actual respondent count); 2% went to Schansberg and 1% became undecided. Sodrel lost 7% in moderates. Hill gained 3% and Schansberg gained the rest. Baron Hill lost 3% of liberals to Schansberg, and Sodrel gained 2%. This last result does not follow from the Wolf thesis, and I think indicates something slightly wonky at the margins of the polling.

Sodrel lost 3% to Schansberg among those with no college education. He lost 8% among those with some college; 6% went to Schansberg and 2% became undecided. Sodrel lost 2% among those with college education. Baron Hill lost 6%. Six percent of those went to Schansberg, 2% became undecided. Six percent of grad school voters moved from Sodrel to Schansberg.

This one is surprising. Among those making less than forty thousand a year, Sodrel has lost 2%. Baron Hill, however, lost 7%. They pretty much all went to Schansberg. The Libertarian's rhetoric about the working poor must really be helping. Either that or the poll is genuinely screwy. Three percent in the 40K to 80K demo moved from Sodrel to Schansberg. Sodrel lost six percent among those making more than 80K; they split between Schansberg and the undecideds.

Bush Job Approval
Schansberg, again, makes gains. Four percent of those approving of Bush moved from Sodrel to Schansberg. Two percent of those disapproving of Bush moved from Hill to Schansberg. Quite curious.

As noted before, fewer Gen Y voters were polled in this poll than in the prior one. Indeed, that entire demographic flipped entirely from Sodrel to Hill, with nominal gains for Schansberg. That makes no sense. Are the NRCC ads attacking Hill over violent video games upsetting those that actually play violent video games, or is the smaller sampling of this demographic distorting the results? I suspect the latter.

Sodrel has erosion in Gen X to both Hill and Schansberg. The so-called Jones generation has flipped; Hill lost 15%, Sodrel gained 6%, and Schansberg picked up the rest. Sodrel lost 4% to 5% of the Baby Boomers to Schansberg. The mature demo remains unchanged.

Concluding Thoughts
It is worth bearing in mind that the internals of the poll can be swayed by a handful of respondents. The margins of error within the internals of the polling are actually greater than the rest of the poll itself, because the samples of each demographic are correspondingly smaller. For example, the Gen Y sample in the current poll was only 44 individuals. That's a very large margin of error. This explains a lot of the wonky results, like the flip-flop of twenty-somethings.

There is movement overall to Schansberg from Sodrel within the poll. The question is whether this is an actual phenomenon, or whether it is a result of wonkiness in the polling. The latter is a serious possibility, when you consider some of the illogical areas where Schansberg was making gains, such as in middle-aged voters from Hill to Schansberg.

I split the difference. I think that Schansberg has made some gains, and those gains came mostly at the expense of Sodrel and are a virtue of his recent (unsustainable because of limited funding) barrage of radio ads. I think that other elements of the Schansberg gain in this poll are in the margin of error. The next SurveyUSA poll will tell whether this is an enduring trend or a blip, or a mixture of the two.

"Citizens" 527 Strikes Back

Citizens for Truth, the 527 artist formerly known as Where is Baron, has made their first jab at Democratic challenger Baron Hill in the 9th District's Congressional race:

Witnesses to berserk Baron Hill
October 17, 2006

Congressman Baron Hill went berserk after he lost his re-election bid in 2004, and went to churches in Seymour, Indiana and screamed at an American Legion color guard and church attending families.

As evidence to support this allegation of Baron's quick temper, they cite a letter to the editor in the Seymour Tribune from November 11, 2004 (sent right after the incident), and videotaped testimonials from witnesses.

They provide the letter in PDF form on their website, and I found the same letter with a quick search at the Tribune's website. The video accounts of witnesses are available on YouTube:

I have long heard whispers from members of both parties about Baron Hill's sometimes volcanic temper. I have also heard rumors about a series of incidents involving that same temper in Seymour after the election. I never gave them much further thought.

Temperamental politicians are nothing new. Heck, temperamental politicians in public are nothing new; just look at Bill Clinton's recent interview on Fox News Sunday. That Baron Hill yelled at staffers or shouted at people while jogging doesn't surprise me one bit.

The testimonials in the video are solid, but rather lackluster and lacking in brief soundbites. I can't see them in a television ad, for example. Assuming that the incident did take place as alleged, it's an embarrassment to Baron Hill. It will probably provoke his temper yet again.

This being said, unless it makes it out of a few hundred views on YouTube and however many hits the Citizens for Truth website get, I don't think it will have much of an impact on the campaign itself. It only gains wider significance if they run an ad about it, or if Baron Hill's campaign (or the candidate himself) react somehow.

These sorts of allegations won't fit on a billboard, CFT's primary medium of choice in the past. I am not sure that the group has the resources necessary to run TV or radio ads to spread this sort of thing.

Assuming that they do, I still don't see the significance of it unless there are further witnesses that can contribute more to what happened in this incident. If Baron Hill lost his temper with some American Legion members and some churchgoers, he should apologize and be done with it.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You buy a big gas-guzzling SUV, thus sending American dollars to Middle Eastern countries where everyone hates America.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You buy a big gas-guzzling SUV, thus sending American dollars to Middle Eastern countries where everyone hates America.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Frisco Perspective

The San Francisco Chronicle provides an interesting (if sometimes inaccurate) look at Indiana's three hotly-contested Congressional races. The title is misleading, "Indiana GOP's 'safe' seats up for grabs." None of those three districts have been considered safe in the same way that most of the other Republican seats in the state are. They are not even close.

"No one would have put them on the map" of battleground seats if Republicans weren't in such trouble, said Amy Walter, House race analyst for the Cook Political Report, a Washington-based political insiders' newsletter.

This is demonstrably wrong. Of the these three districts, every single one of them was a battleground and has been expected to be a battleground.

The Second was drawn as a Democratic district; at a very fundamental level Chocola is a high-water Republican (one who can win in Republican years but not neutral or Democratic years). In presidential election years, when Republicans have coattails in Indiana, Republicans have an advantage in the 2nd District. In heavily Republican years, like in 2002, the Republicans have an advantage. At any other time, let alone a Democratic year, the seat is competitive by virtue of how it was created.

The Eighth has always been competitive largely by virtue of John Hostettler's character, and his spurning of conventional political tactics of fundraising and advertising. It is not called "the Bloody Eighth" because it is a safe Republican seat that never registers on the national map of battleground seats.

The Ninth, while conservative, was drawn largely as a toss-up district. It has been a battleground in the past two elections. It will be a battleground in 2008, regardless of who wins this November. Mike Sodrel did not start holding fundraisers early in 2005 (not long after taking office) because he expected his seat to be safe.

And, of course, no article by a paper in San Francisco would be complete without talking about the implications of San Francisco's congresswoman on the three races:

The three Democratic challengers would hardly be recognizable to Bay Area liberal Democrats. All three are anti-abortion rights, pro-gun rights and, while critical of the war in Iraq, stop way short of calling for a U.S. troop withdrawal. All that hasn't stopped their opponents or national Republicans from trying to tie them to Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the "San Francisco liberal" who would become speaker if Democrats take the House.


National politicians have waded into the state's roiling waters. The national party campaign committees are purchasing advertising for and against the candidates. Pelosi, drawing from her campaign funds or her political action committee, has donated $2,500 to Donnelly, $14,000 to Hill and $12,000 to Ellsworth.

The $14,000 figure makes her one of Hill's top contributors, according to campaign finance reports.

Pelosi's support for the three Democrats is a constant issue for the Republicans, who say her stands for gay rights, abortion rights, gun control and her opposition to Bush's tax cuts put her out of touch with Indiana values.

"She's an issue, and she should be even more of an issue," said Cam Savage of Sodrel's campaign.

"Hill has refused to bring her here because he knows she's out of touch with this area. But he'll take her money and consult with her," Savage said.

McDowell of Indiana State said the Republicans, by featuring Pelosi in attack ads, have made sure Indianans "know who she is now. She's a liberal grandmother from San Francisco who's going to raise your taxes and take away your Bible. It's making some impact."

Indianans. That's a hoot. Would sophisticates in San Francisco not understand the term Hoosier?

Anyway, I've not seen a lot of advertising in the 9th District about Pelosi. Sodrel has apparently made reference to shifting control of the House from "the heartland" to "the coasts", and has termed that a big and dangerous shift. That's probably easier for most average voters in the 9th District to understand than some sort of complex flow chart of the likely structure of the House under the Democrats.

The Stealth Secretary of State Campaign

Weidenbener's weekly column in the Courier-Journal covers the race for Indiana's next Secretary of State. Most of it centers around Todd Rokita's little-reported idea for reforming the state's election commission:

Incumbent Secretary of State Todd Rokita, a Republican, says if re-elected he wants to change the bipartisan structure of the Indiana Election Division, a unit of his office that manages election administration and staffs the Indiana Election Commission.

He also wants the secretary of state to have the tie-breaking vote on the election commission, which currently has two members from each party and sometimes deadlocks when trying to make decisions.

I don't know why partisan advantage should be given with an election commission, even if it comes from an election. It is unclear to me why anyone would want to upset that careful balance. Given that both parties would sooner or later control the position, any decision made will have consequences when the shoe is on the other foot.

A Democratic secretary of state voting against the Republicans in the commission will cause the Republicans to return the favor down the line. The existing system maintains a balance that prevents this sort of partisanship. Prevention at the cost of paralysis, of course, but that is still better than a partisan election commission.

You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

You know you're a Republican if...

You're afraid of the IRS.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You're afraid of the FBI.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

More on the 7th District Poll

Here are the questions and breakdowns on that poll that showed Dickerson ahead of Carson. Curious stuff.

Do 57% of people in Marion County approve of Mitch Daniels? That's either a heck of a turnaround or something is wonky with the poll. Almost matching numbers for right track / wrong track for the state, too. There's also the whole problem with using listed phone numbers in urban and minority areas. Curiouser and curiouser.

I don't trust the poll. It is either an outlier poll with results benefiting Dickerson at the fringes of the margin of error or the methodology won't reflect election day realities in Indianapolis; maybe both. Carson has had close polling in the past that turned into much more substantive victories. I think that this poll reflects that.

Carl Brizzi probably shouldn't be popping the champagne corks just yet either.


I haven't posted much about endorsements save those by the VFW's PAC of Hill and the National Right-to-Life Committee's PAC of Sodrel, but a number of newer endorsements have been made in the 9th District's race since then that deserve note. The breakdown of notable endorsements, four for each candidate, with limited commentary:

Baron Hill, Democrat

  • Veterans of Foreign Wars PAC - A big endorsement, but no big change from 2004. Unusual, given that Sodrel wore the uniform in the National Guard and the only uniform Hill wore was one while he was playing basketball. The American Legion, the other big veterans' group, doesn't give endorsements. That fact traditionally makes that of the VFW more important, though it changes nothing in the race from the last go around.
  • Alliance for Retired Americans - It's not AARP, but a Democratic group for retired union members. Not as significant as the Hill campaign has implied, though noteworthy.
  • League of Conservation Voters - Another repeat from 2004. Could have merit among green advocates in Bloomington, but those voters were not going to vote for Sodrel anyway.
  • Indiana State Retired Teachers Association & National Education Association - These are not endorsements in so much as "recommendations." Notable by virtue of the size of those organizations, and their ability to send out mailings and such in advocacy of their recommended candidates.

    I also expect Baron Hill to get the endorsement of the Louisville Courier-Journal, assuming that they endorse anyone at all in the Indiana 9th District race.

    Mike Sodrel, Republican

  • National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund - This is a big one. The NRA backed Hill in 2002, and sat it out in 2004. In a district that is fundamentally conservative and in many characteristics southern, the endorsement carries significant weight. I am surprised that the Sodrel campaign has not touted it more.
  • Right to Life PAC - Another big one, for many of the same reasons. Probably the most important endorsement (bigger than the VFW or the NRA) given in the entire race thus far (and probably in total). If, by whatever machination, Hill had swung this endorsement, it would have given him significant credibility in his Hoosier values defense. This deprives him of that, and gives yet another club to the Republican to beat upon Hill.
  • Indianapolis Star - Notable, but probably not significant. The Courier-Journal's endorsement probably isn't that important, and the location of the 9th District makes that of the Star relatively less by simple comparison. The endorsement was very harsh on Baron Hill, though. I certainly think that Julia Carson could do without such a backhanded endorsement.
  • Indiana Farm Bureau (PDF warning, and here) - This one hasn't gotten much press, but it is notable. Farmers will be swayed by it, though it is questionable how many of those same farmers (generally being rural and conservative) would not be swayed by the other endorsements already.

    The most significant endorsements are those that actually give something to a candidate beyond mere words. Because it lacks a large central urban area, the 9th District is not impacted much by newspaper endorsements. Those papers with large readership like the Star and the Courier-Journal are located outside of the district and do not have wide readership across its entire geographic area. Smaller local papers may give endorsements, but they are not as influential.

    The Right to Life PAC endorsement hurts Hill in terms of his effort to defend himself on conservative values issues. The same is true of the NRA endorsement. They reinforce Sodrel's conservative base and deal setbacks to Hill's efforts to make inroads there that could be critical to the outcome of the race.

    The VFW, teacher groups, and Farm Bureau endorsements are significant for both candidates because they have the potential to swing voters that would normally not be as swayed without them. The VFW and teacher groups endorsements are a net wash for Baron Hill; they gain him nothing that he did not have in 2004. The Farm Bureau endorsement is a big win for Sodrel (and something, like the NRA endorsement, that he didn't have before), though his campaign has not made as much of it as they probably should or could.

  • You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

    You know you're a Republican if...

    You want to increase the U.S. military budget, especially for the base in your congressional district.

    You know you're a Democrat if...

    You want to slash the U.S. military budget, as long as they don't touch the base in your congressional district.

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Laura Bush to Stump for Sodrel

    The Courier-Journal reports that Laura Bush will be in Columbus on Wednesday for a campaign rally for the supporters of Republican incumbent Congressman Mike Sodrel. Surprisingly, this is a rally and not a fundraiser. When Baron Hill has to split fifty thousand dollars with two other candidates from a fundraiser by Democratic rising star Barack Obama, Sodrel's campaign must think that they need to rally the faithful more than they need more money.

    I still think that Sodrel would benefit greatly from campaign visits (fundraisers or rallies) or even taped ads by popular Republicans like John McCain or Rudy Giuliani. Rudy even has a familiar-looking section about Sodrel on his website. Tony Snow is nice, but having a popular (and moderate) heavyweight going to bat for you is unquestionably better.

    Baron Hill would likewise benefit from moderate Democratic heavyweights, though he has already trotted out Bill Clinton (not overwhelmingly popular in conservative southern Indiana) and the aging Birch Bayh (the younger Bayh, too).

    Unexpectedly Endangered?

    A new poll, conducted on behalf of WTHR in Indianapolis, has Congresswoman Julia Carson behind Republican challenger Eric Dickerson, 42 to 45. All the harping on Carson's health issues and various infirmities by Dickerson seems to have had an impact.

    The pollster, Selzer & Co., isn't a partisan firm to my knowledge, so the result is notable. Given the cash disparities, I do not think that Dickerson can survive a last-minute push by Carson's campaign. I also do not think that the undecideds will break for him given the decidedly anti-Republican character of this election year, meaning that his being ahead is probably misleading.

    The character of the year is the crux of Dickerson's problem, I think. If this were a neutral or Republican year, he would have a much better chance. But this is not, and the Republicans--while laden with vast arsenal of cash and extensive files of opposition research--have more pressing races to focus upon. The GOP probably simply does not have the ability to focus on Carson to take advantage of her weakness like they would in any other election year, regardless of their financial advantages.

    Dickerson does not have the turnout operation in place that Carson does, and that is important in urban and heavily-Democratic (and minority) areas of Indianapolis. The GOP is already on the verge of abandoning Hostettler (if they haven't already, as I predicted a month ago), and is focusing on Chocola and Sodrel.

    Of the endangered Republican Hoosier trio, Sodrel is in the best shape and the best chance to prevail on election night. It would be a great irony if Dickerson was in better shape than Hostettler and Chocola to prevail, but was given no help to win so that the GOP could try to save the longer-shot incumbents instead.

    You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

    You know you're a Republican if...

    You write to your congressman to suggest an income tax deduction for vacation homes.

    You know you're a Democrat if...

    You write to your congressman to suggest a $1 tax return checkoff for endangered jellyfish.

    Thursday, October 19, 2006

    Another Close Race in Harrison County

    Earlier, I had a post about the District 70 House race. Like that race, the race for Harrison County's District 3 Commissioner's seat will likely be a close one. And, like the 9th District Congressional race, it will be a rematch. The margin for the winner in 2002 was also close, at just over a hundred votes.

    The Courier-Journal has an article on it, and rather unenlightening surveys from the two candidates. Both favor reducing property taxes. There's a shocker. At least Heitkemper has more concrete ideas with what other things need to be done going forward.

    The remarks by Terry Miller about roads are rather disingenuous. Most (though by no means all) of the roads in Harrison County were paved in the first few years that the riverboat was open. A lot of highway work has gone into improving the existing roads. Curvy and windy rural lanes have been straightened, for example, and made to be wider and safer for two vehicles to pass easily (not always possible on many rural roads in the past).

    The Commissioners did a study of the most dangerous (and in some cases deadly) sections of road in the county, and began budgeting road money to fix them. Sometimes, this involved straightening the road, or removing dips and rises. Other times, it involved extensive work to eliminate sudden sharp turns. That seems, to me, to be good county government. I don't know why Heitkemper doesn't mention it.

    Most county governments (and most governments in general), given a windfall from riverboat gaming revenue, would likely go wild with abandon in spending. The primary concern of the county government in Harrison County has been to not squander the benefit or spend it unwisely. In this respect, the county has been exceptionally well-governed in recent years.

    How will that impact a tight commissioner's race? No telling. On the one hand, good policy and good government tend (particularly in local races) to make for good politics. Miller got a lot of people mad at him last time around, though he only lost narrowly. Heitkemper has similarly managed to anger some, though he has not been surrounded by the same ethical cloud as Miller. Probably going to be a close one on election night.

    You Know You're a Republican/Democrat If...

    You know you're a Republican if...

    You give a beggar your business card, invite him to come apply for a job, and walk away feeling smug.

    You know you're a Democrat if...

    You give a beggar a dollar bill and walk away worrying he will spend it on booze.

    Wednesday, October 18, 2006

    Political Potpourri IV

    Debbie Harbeson mocks Baron Hill's calls for Mike Sodrel to give back campaign contributions from the Republican Congressional leadership:

    If there's one place where equal opportunity works, it's with politics itself. Nearly every time one political party enjoys a period of power and control in a branch of our government, we end up with a scandal full of deception, cover-ups, and of course, sex. It's simply the Republican's turn.

    Of course, the 9th District candidate in the other major political party is now attempting to take advantage of the scandal. It's simply the Democrat's turn.

    The candidate says he thinks his Republican opponent should give money back that he received from the party's various campaign committees because those funds are hopelessly intertwined with money given by people involved in the scandal.

    It's not surprising that this was his only idea on how to handle this as a campaign issue. Seasoned politicians are used to talking about what other people should do with their money. But I still find it odd that he responded this way because anyone who’s even just halfway paying attention can connect some dots and see he surely has money in his campaign that's intertwined with people associated with scandals involving deception, cover-ups and of course, sex.

    Can you imagine the difficulty candidates must have in raising money for political campaigns that is not mixed in with people of questionable morality?

    Jack Cable mocks the Republicans:

    If we cannot look to the Republican party, "The Party of Morality," as our moral compass - what will we do?

    Tim McDonald, reasonably, thinks that looking to politicians for morality is a foolhardy enterprise:

    As Machiavelli noted more than 500 years ago, politics have no relation to morality. We do look to politicians however, to initiate legislation that is in the best interest of the citizens of the country. But looking to politicians as a moral compass is an oxymoron.


    Should political parties be responsible morally? Yes. The problem is politics is a life of duplicity. Politicians are placed in positions of serving several masters; their constituents at home, the pressure of lobbyists, pleasing the party leadership. Not exactly the best playing field for morality. Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin said of politics "There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel."

    There are noble and honorable politicians in our past and currently serving, former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton and current U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar, a Republican, are two examples. Both of these men have served the public free of scandal and served the state well.

    Look to higher places for moral example and guidance and allow the human politicians to strive, fail and learn.

    The Seymour Tribune reports that Baron Hill is complaining about the deficit, but gives no information about his twelve-point plan to reduce it. His website is likewise does not detail this plan. I wonder if it involves raising taxes (for which he would be attacked by his Republican challenger) or cutting programs (for which he has already attacked his Republican challenger), or just fuzzy math and vague ideas.

    Father Todd Goodson writes about Baron Hill's visit to St. Ambrose Catholic Church and School, noting:

    We are happy to have candidates come speak to us about issues that are important and help teach our children about the political process of the country they live in. That does not mean that we endorse their political opinions or their party.

    That's a nice way of slapping Hill in the face. A political event at a church? That's a no-no. I doubt that a Catholic Church wants to be that close to a Democrat anyway.

    The Jackson County Banner, with the usual tongue-in-cheek humor of the Hoosier Harangue, wonders if doing away with the Congressional page program would be such a bad thing.

    In the full House, pages gain knowledge they could never get from textbooks or classroom discussions. They learn the ins and outs of filibustering, the crafty ways to write legislative language to cause confusion in the implementation. They pick up tips on how to discredit opponents of some legislation or candidates from another party for elected office.

    Where else will they learn which lobbyists have the most money and thus deserve the most special attention? Only in Congress can a page see the effects of special interest groups and discover ways to accept their donations.

    Karen Stone asks questions of Mike Sodrel that should be directed at both candidates:

    Why don't they promote their candidate? Why not emphasize the product they're selling? Indeed, isn't a political campaign organized to sell a candidate's qualifications and ability to govern?

    The most obvious question for me is, what does a society gain by insults and perversions? By attempting to destroy someone, isn't the conspicuous casualty fact and authentic civilized debate?

    Jim Young wants to know what is so wrong with being a millionaire:

    By providing for his customer's needs Congressman Sodrel made a lot of money and helped a lot of Hoosiers. In an honest business the amount of money made is a measurement of the good done, services or products provided.

    A quick walk around my house turned up one item that could have been there without business, a piece of driftwood my father turned into a walking stick. It would however have required a long walk because he used his car, provided by business, to bring it back from Kentucky Lake.

    A recent letter to the editor was titled "Who wants to vote for a millionaire?" Business is important to all of us and having a very successful businessman in a party that respects business representing Indiana in Washington is a good thing.

    If you ask me, the only problem Democrats have with Sodrel being a millionaire is that he is a Republican millionaire, instead of a Democratic millionaire like Ted Kennedy or Jon Corzine. But then, if Hill was a millionaire and Sodrel not, the GOP would be attacking "Millionaire Baron."

    Speaking of millionaires, an article in the Indianapolis Star looks at the wealth of Indiana's Congressional delegation:

    [Al] Hubbard, an Indiana businessman who is a top economic adviser to the White House, has assets worth at least $11.7 million. Bush's assets, on the other hand, are worth a minimum of $9.1 million.

    Among the 535 House and Senate members, Chocola is the 22nd wealthiest, with assets worth at least $12.2 million.

    Sodrel ranks 45th with assets of at least $6.6 million.

    The next richest Hoosier lawmaker is Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, whose $2.85 million minimum assets rank him 79th.

    Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., is the poorest in the delegation, ranking 519th with assets worth at least $37,995. (Assets do not include a lawmaker's primary residence.)

    It is that wealth that is at the crux of Sylvia Smith's piece in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about how a lot can happen before Election Day:

    So, while three Hoosier Republican incumbents are endangered, I think it's a mistake to write them off. Yes, Reps. Chris Chocola, Mike Sodrel and John Hostettler are trailing in the polls and are Republicans in a state that thinks Bush is doing a bad job and their governor is doing worse.

    But Chocola is independently wealthy (worth $12 million to $36 million) and could pour a lot of money into his campaign in the next three weeks; voters fired Sodrel's opponent two years ago (and Sodrel is a gazillionaire, too, worth $7 million to $28 million); and Hostettler - well, Hostettler's base never seems affected by anything other than its cultlike devotion to him.

    I bet that Chocola, Hostettler, and Sodrel all hope that a lot can happen before Election Day.