Thursday, November 30, 2006

Staying in Canada

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
More Liberal than Nancy Pelosi?

Remember some of those in the seats on the left that threatened to move to Canada if George W. Bush was reelected? David Drucker was one of those, only--unlike most of those who threatened to move to Canada--he actually packed up shop and went north of the border.

Even with the recent Democratic election victories, he says in a recent Los Angeles Times column that he's staying put. It seems that Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party Prime Minister of Canada, is better than Nancy Pelosi. This would doubtless be a surprise to some (most?) Canadians.

Part of living in a democracy is accepting that the majority might not agree with you, and that your side might not win an election. Democracies cannot function without this critical decision by those that lose at the ballot box.

I don't recall hearing many Republicans threatening to move to another country if the Democrats took over control of Congress. I wonder how many will threaten to move if a Democrat wins in 2008.

Maybe the old truism is indeed correct. You learn more about someone or some group in their defeats and hardships than in their victories and triumphs.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You think every Democrat is a closet communist.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You think every Republican is closeted.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Full Speed Ahead for All-Day Kindergarten

Mitch Daniels and Suellen Reed
All day or not all day, that is the question.

The Star and the Courier-Journal have articles today about Mitch Daniels pushing ahead for all-day kindergarten, even in lieu of the recent opposition of some members of his own party in the State Senate.

The push to implement the program, and not merely approve a pilot, is characteristic of Daniels' public style of bold initiatives and damn-the-studies proposals. This time, however, it comes over the opposition not of the Democrats but of his own party.

Interestingly, the cost estimate for the implementation of all-day kindergarten is not that different from the proposed elimination of the sales tax on gasoline as proposed by the Democrats. What is better? All-day kindergarten (even a cafeteria plan that includes it as an option) or a cut in taxes?

Normally, you would expect Republicans to be lined up in favor of tax cuts and the Democrats in favor of expanding education. Now, it seems, the Democrats are lined up in favor of spending more on education and cutting taxes.

Ironic. That's the sort of policy incoherence that got Indiana into a fiscal mess in the first place, to say nothing of what it has done nationally. I thought that the Democrats got elected because they promised to end just this sort of thing.

Hoosier Marine Killed in Iraq

Last Wednesday, Lance Corporal James Davenport of Danville became the seventy-first Hoosier to die in the Middle East since the build-up to the Iraq War in early 2003.

The Indianapolis Star and the Courier-Journal have articles. The Department of Defense website has the press release.

Nothing to pundit, but it's worth taking a moment to reflect on that regardless of your politics or views of the war.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You keep up-to-date from the only unbiased news source around, Fox News.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You keep up-to-date by getting the real story on the news from DailyKos.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Drawing the Battle Lines

Speaker-Elect Pat Bauer
Be Still My Beating Heart

Less than four weeks after the election, political columnists are abuzz with the looming clash between Mitch Daniels and the Republicans on one hand and Pat Bauer and the Democrats on the other. Lesley Stedman Weidenbener has done two columns about it (here and here). The Indianapolis Star has several stories (most notably here) and, not to be left out, David Mann has a column in the News & Tribune (with mention of the podcasts being done by both parties; have to look at those).

It's not exactly fighting it out hand-to-hand atop some wind-swept mountain peak for the fate of the entire world, but--given all of the talk of the coming political struggle--it seems clear that the outcome of the election has done nothing to change either Mitch Daniels or Pat Bauer. It also has done nothing to make them like each other any better.

For Daniels, Bauer is a useful, even critical, foil. For two years, there was no public figure on the Democratic side to serve as a public counter to the governor. The Republicans controlled everything, and thus Daniels' agenda was always passed, even if it seemed rammed down some throats. No more. Now, parliamentary obstructions, legislative deadlock, and Bauer's tirades will serve as a counter to whatever Daniels might want.

The value of this counter, if leveraged properly, is invaluable to the governor, as I have said earlier. The question is whether he will make lemons from lemonade, or not.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

Your father made a bundle as the producer of the Jerry Springer Show.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You finally met your real father as a guest on the Jerry Springer Show.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Democrats Can Have Ideas Too

Mitch Daniels apparently isn't done unveiling his own "big ideas", but the Democrats have now for the first time managed to actually put forth one of their own. The Indianapolis Star and the Courier-Journal both have articles about their scheme to eliminate the sales tax on gasoline. Indiana Democratic Party blog mouthpiece Taking Down Words even had a coordinated post on it.

Color me small "L" libertarian (and I like lower taxes in general and cheaper gas too), but I would hazard a guess that the primary beneficiaries of cutting the state sales tax on gasoline will not be Hoosier drivers, but oil companies and gas station owners. Heaven forbid that Democrats support tax cuts that benefit the oil companies. That might be ironic.

Will eliminating that 6% sales tax cause a matching decline in the price of gasoline attributable to that cut? My guess is no. Have the Democrats got any studies to say that this will not be the case?

It's an oft-cited Republican talking point, to be sure, but Indiana does have its first legitimately-balanced budget in something over eight years. What guarantee is there that the loss in gasoline tax revenue will be made up by an increase in sales tax revenue elsewhere, as implied?

And if you're just shifting about where the taxes come from, and not really cutting the taxes themselves (as the Democrats seem to be implying in their sales pitch), then why bother? Small wonder that the state Democrats not really proposing a tax cut, but instead--by their own description--a tax shuffle.

Again, have there been any studies showing what might happen? What spending will be cut, or future spending postponed, in order to finance a $300 million (Republican estimate) sales tax cut? What sort of the cut will be made up for in sales tax revenues from other consumption, as the Democrats claim?

I'm all for tax cuts, but Indiana Democrats should try to stay away from the rabid and mindless tax cut Kool-Aid that some Congressional Republicans have been drinking in recent years while they were simultaneously creating large new government programs, increasing spending dramatically in other areas, and running up a huge budget deficit.

I'd like to see concrete numbers on the costs, and the consequences, of cutting the sales tax on gasoline before the General Assembly does something like that. It would also be nice if the Democrats could explain how they intend to pay for this tax cut, and what the possible tradeoffs might be.

Three of their party won election to Congress by calling for fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets, and (in at least the case of Baron Hill) a return to the pay-as-you-go rules that balanced the Federal budget. Why not have that same standard for Indiana?

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You thought your college professors were all flaming liberals.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You are a college professor.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

On Thanksgiving, More Abraham Lincoln:

Proclaiming a day of thanksgiving, observed in the United States ever since:

"The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

"It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

"Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth."

- Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863

Got to love those sentences:

"And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union."

Can you imagine any President of the United States in the past fifty years writing something like that, or even using words like "ascriptions"?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Feeling Lucky or Feeling Dirty?

Baron Hill and Mike Sodrel
Now Both a Bit Dirty

A while back, Lesley Stedman Weidenbener had a column espousing an interesting view about the recent 9th District Congressional race. 9th District voters, she said, were lucky because they had a real choice between two viable and intelligent candidates in a competitive race. Most voters, she noted, live in districts that are not competitive and where the incumbent runs unopposed or is not being seriously challenged by the other party.

Weidenbener said that we're lucky. Now, the News & Tribune's David Mann asks whether 9th District voters feel dirty from the amount of mud slung and negative ads aired during the election.

The conventional wisdom is that negative ads work. This is the view that Baron Hill espoused several times in interviews during the election and in the last debate. Even after he won, when he had the luxury of being able to apologize for running a negative campaign (having won using one), Hill maintained that negative ads work. Mike Sodrel, in contrast, steadfastly maintained that he never even ran a negative campaign. Ads citing Hill's record in an unfavorable light were, Sodrel said, contrast ads.

In the wake of the election, do you feel lucky or do you feel dirty?

Every election, it is said, contains a lesson that voters want their elected officials (and both political parties) to learn. Those that learn the lesson, winners or losers, benefit in the next go around. What was the lesson of this campaign? Was it that negative ads work? Was it a rejection of negative ads? Was it something else?

Endless ink has been spilled by pundits and columnists postulating on the lessons of the election. For some, the Republicans strayed from their principles. For others, it was the war in Iraq. Others were fed up with a Congress that, in historical terms, managed to do very little. Some just didn't want one party to run the entire government.

I've read a lot of these election postmortems. With the exception of a few early musings, I haven't written my own. It's hard to view an election in the broader context so close to the event itself. The perspective is limited, and observations are often colored by partisan spin in the wake of the outcome. Better to wait until the luck is gone, and the dirt has settled from the air, before making any real analysis.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

Your dog gets better health care than your gardener.

You know you're a Democrat if...

Regardless of the cost, you support free, unlimited, universal health care including coverage for maternity care, hearing aids, bone marrow transplants, prosthetics, orthodontics, dental floss, teeth whitening, Botox injections, earwax cleaning, abortions, and, oh yeah, pet care too.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pushing for the Mushy Middle

Mitch Daniels, Becky Skillman, and a Turkey
Gratuitous Photo Utterly Unrelated to This Post

I've long held the theory that Mitch Daniels would recover from spending the first two years of his term doing unpopular stuff (some would say making the hard decisions), and would spend the last two years of his term doing more popular stuff. In this way, by appealing to popular and generally bipartisan issues like all-day kindergarten, Daniels would rebuild his popularity and create both a record of reform and popularity (two things that are often politically incompatible) that would help him campaign for a second term.

The fact that he, and the Indiana Republican Party, survived the hardest of those reforms with minimal losses would seem to place him in an excellent position for a coming drive to and up the middle to a second term. Daylight Savings Time was certainly the most unpopular of the decisions of the first two years. It almost certainly cost the Republican seats, while not one Republican was defeated along the toll road due to Major Moves.

Mitch Daniels touched the third rail of Indiana politics and survived, so far. His party was only lightly singed, as it were.

In laying out his agenda for the new year with things like boosts in benefits for veterans, helping the uninsured get health care (and here), and all-day kindergarten, Daniels seems set to push for the mushy middle. Small policy and legislative victories on generally popular issues like the first two, and a big bipartisan win on the last, have great potential.

Their opportunity lies in that, by their passage, they will create a sort of steady record of popular achievement that will leave Daniels very well positioned come the second half of 2008. By triangulating--the Clinton strategy of stealing the issues of the other party, making them your own, and doing one better--Daniels can easily win a second term. Education, health care, and veterans' benefits are traditionally Democratic issues that Daniels is now making a play to make his own.

The only thing that doesn't fit with my nifty theory about the Daniels strategy is this whole Indianapolis toll road bypass proposal (panned by the Indianapolis Star here). Getting drawn into distracting, and likely to be quite consuming, partisan battles over another toll road proposal would swallow up the sort of rolling political momentum from various victories on other more popular issues.

Maybe Daniels doesn't intend to use any sort of broader political strategy at all in determining his upcoming agenda. That would seem foolhardy and, for a state governor, almost incomprehensible. For all of his talk about making hard decisions regardless of political fallout--letting the chips fall where they may, as it were--it seems unlikely that someone as intelligent as Daniels does not have some sort of larger design relative to politics going into such decisions.

Maybe there is another explanation. The answer might be found in Pat Bauer, who is sure to give Daniels a hard time on everything. Matt Tully has wondered how the Governor and the Speaker will get along. What if they don't?

Have Daniels and his team taken Bauer's likely stubborn opposition into account when drawing up their agenda? The whole toll road idea might be a sacrificial proposal. Daniels' push for the mushy middle via a string of triangulated popular victories on other issues would look even better if set against the backdrop of a stubborn, argumentative, and even obstructionist Pat Bauer. Even if Bauer is disagreeing on something else entirely, the toll road and not kindergarten or health care, he can still be made to look this way.

The Democratic Speaker could then be set up as a villain--the Gingrich to Daniels' Clinton (and for Republicans out there, that analogy certainly goes no deeper)--dead set against "Indiana's comeback" and the agenda of the well-meaning moderate (by virtue of victories on veterans, health care, and kindergarten) Daniels. Nevermind that the proposal itself might be controversial; Daniels could win even if the Democrats kill it (as I think is likely).

In such a game of chicken, Daniels would be the winner in the end even if he had to flinch.

Hoosier Democrats to Watch

The National Journal has a nice listing of Democrats to watch. Two of Indiana's new (or renewed) Congressmen even made the listing. I'm not sure that Brad Ellsworth will be very flattered, though since they have minted him as a new best friend to the Republicans:

Republicans' New Best Friends
There's a small group of Democrats who sit on their party's side of the House floor, but on the center aisle. The seating arrangements are symbolically significant, because at any given time some members of this group -- many of them Blue Dogs -- will cross the aisle and vote with the Republicans. A few of them (former Rep. Billy Tauzin, R-La., and Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas) actually bothered to switch parties in years past. You can bet that Republicans will be awfully nice to others they see as potentially friendly.

Take Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss. He has upset Democratic leaders at the start of each Congress by casting his vote for moderate Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., for speaker. When Republicans have attempted to persuade him to change parties in the past, he has said he would consider himself a "prostitute" if he did, and he still believes that Democrats represent working people. Yet Taylor, 53, has voted with the GOP on high-profile issues, including "partial-birth" abortion, the line-item veto, flag-burning, and immigration.

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, might be considered a Republican friend because many Democrats don't like him. Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry appointed him secretary of state in 2000. Cuellar, 51, then had the nerve to challenge Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-Texas -- chairman of the Hispanic Caucus at the time -- in a bitter primary. Cuellar won, and many Democrats haven't forgiven him. He also occasionally votes with the Republicans, including on trade issues.

Meanwhile, several incoming freshmen -- Reps.-elect Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., and Tim Mahoney, D-Fla. -- may look more like Republicans than like traditional Democrats. Ellsworth, 48, is a county sheriff who ousted Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., while Mahoney, 50, succeeds former Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla. Both have signed on with the Blue Dogs, and both oppose abortion (Ellsworth with some exceptions), gun control, and same-sex marriage. On the campaign trail, Ellsworth expressed reservations about having Pelosi as speaker. Mahoney, a former Republican, has ducked questions about supporting her for the job.

Baron Hill is probably relieved at the minor mention:

The Jocks
The Democrats have taken the House and Senate, and now they seem poised to crush the Republicans where it hurts the most -- on the golf course. With the defeat of Rep. Chris Chocola, R-Ind., on Election Day, Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., was poised to become the best golfer in Congress (as ranked by Golf Digest magazine). But come January, Udall will still be in second place, because Rep.-elect John Yarmuth, D-Ky., 59, is a scratch golfer who reviews golf courses for Golf Digest.

Udall, 56, sees the golf course as a great place to foster bipartisanship because "you literally strip off the layers of formality and you get to know people." But bipartisanship goes only so far: Udall says Yarmuth will "bulk up the team" for the annual Democrats versus Republicans congressional golf tourney.

Democrats looking to govern from the center may begin at center court, where Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., is often organizing a bipartisan basketball game. Kind is a former Harvard quarterback and a regular at congressional charity sporting events. He said he got to know Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., through the gym, and Kind is now working with him to write physical-education standards into the No Child Left Behind reauthorization. "There is an incredible amount of distrust across the aisle right now, and the only way you are going to repair that is to build personal relationships member-to-member," Kind said.

The incoming freshman class offers several promising legislator-athletes, including Reps.-elect Baron Hill, D-Ind., 53, a former high school basketball star; Zack Space, D-Ohio, 45, a football standout at tiny Kenyon College; and, of course, Heath Shuler, D-N.C., 35, a former NFL quarterback. Kind says he dreams of recruiting Shuler for the annual charity football game against the U.S. Capitol Police, but Shuler's spokesman warns that the foot injury that ended Shuler's career still limits the amount of heavy grunting he can handle.

The article is fortunately devoid of repetition of Baron's exaggerated athletic record. It is also devoid of, fortunately for Baron, mention that he stretched it and got caught doing so.

Joe "You Beat Chocola!" Donnelly gets no love. He's not even mentioned, though Chris Chocola was (for his apparently exceptional golf handicap).

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You thank God every day for the gifts He bestowed upon you and your family, especially your tax-free inheritance.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You thank God every day for the strength She gives you to fight for truth, justice, and punitive damage awards.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

One Hundred & Forty-Three Years Ago Today

Abraham Lincoln

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate... we cannot consecrate... we cannot hallow... this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us... that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

- Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863, at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Saturday, November 18, 2006

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

You know you're a Republican if...

When you were in college you looked forward to owning your own business.

You know you're a Democrat if...

When you were in college you considered starting a commune that would make hemp rope.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Baron on the Hill

Three men go to Washington.

The first, a former sheriff, gets into a conversation with Secret Service agents while visiting the White House.

The second, also visiting the White House, is identified by the President only as the guy that beat Chris Chocola.

The third goes to a reception at a law firm (probably should read: lobbying firm?) and notes how many more people came to see him this time around than last time:

Hill said he went to a meeting at a law firm Monday where about 50 people turned out to talk with him. When he visited the same firm as a member of the minority party during his first stint as a congressman, about six people showed up, Hill said.

Good to know that my once and future Congressman can remember all of the important details about things that are happening in the nation's capital.

I wonder if Baron Hill will ever be identified by President Bush merely by the distinction, "You beat Mike Sodrel!"

Brad Ellsworth might then have to help those same Secret Service agents he was talking to earlier when they have to restrain Mr. Hill.

Penced Out

Mike Pence
Out-Boehnered

Indiana Congressman Mike Pence has failed rather spectacularly in his bid to become the Republican Minority Leader in the House of Representatives. Pence lost by 168 to 27 against Ohio's John Boehner, the current Majority Leader.

Both Boehner and Pence seem to agree that Republicans left the principles that got them elected in 1994, and this cost them the majority. The Republicans did indeed lose the principles that put them in power then. However, they left those principles long before 2006, and before even 2004.

It took more than that departure from their principles to cost them the majority. It took a perfect storm of their own bumbling (in part by Boehner), ineptitude by the President, the situation in Iraq, and various scandals to end their reign. And that is to say nothing about the Democrats' rare ability to not shoot themselves in the foot long enough to capitalize on those mistakes. It will take a lot more than just returning to the principles of 1994 to get the Republicans back into the majority.

Today's vote was an unclear outcome for the Republicans, but a defeat for Indiana.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You oppose government subsidized transit, but you expect the public works department to fix that pothole on your street... now!

You know you're a Democrat if...

You support spending millions on taxpayer-subsidized mass transit used by a tiny fraction of the populace while thousands of fellow taxpayers are stuck in traffic jams on overcrowded highways wasting vast amounts of gas.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Pence-Shadegg Campaign Videos

From YouTube come three interesting videos, effectively campaign ads urging House Republicans to make Indiana's Mike Pence and Arizona's John Shadegg the new leaders of the Republican caucus. They are incredibly savage on DeLay, Hastert, Boehner, and Blunt. Great stuff, I suppose, though I don't know whether any of the actual voters will ever see them.







Joe Barton has apparently dropped out of the race for Minority Leader. It seems that he was threatened with loss of his committee post by Boehner if he did not do so. That's hardly the sort of strong-arming that is going to win you friends in a secret ballot, or win over Barton's supporters. Tom DeLay might be gone, but his legacy and tactics live on.

And speaking of that secret ballot, the Republicans will vote tomorrow. Ten days after an election seems to be a bit rushed for a leadership election (Republican or Democrat), and each candidate only gets ten minutes to state their case. Of course, in Canada the Liberal Party lost elections in January and they are still trying to select new leadership, so I guess one could take it to the opposite extreme.

Newt Gingrich, who just can't stand to be on the sidelines, armchair strategizes for the House Republicans. His point about a leadership structured for being an effective minority or to regain the majority is well-said (and I wonder just how much thought has been given to that distinction by the Republican leadership). Given the utter impotence of the minority in the House, it is only sensible for them to structure themselves with an eye toward regaining the majority.

The Republicans have already elected Trent Lott, an acknowledged master of the Senate's arcane procedures (along with everything else, positive and negative, that can be said about him), as their Minority Whip. It is in the Senate that the minority can cause endless trouble for the majority, as the Democrats there showed from 2002 to 2006. Objectively, it is in the Senate where one should be concerned about being an effective minority. The minority in the Senate actually matters.

It is a simple and logical line of reasoning to then conclude that the minority in the House, which is largely powerless, can focus on being structured to regain the majority while the Senate can focus on being an effective minority. The Republicans have already have one key piece of such a strategy in place, even unwittingly (I somehow doubt that there is strategic coordination on this between Republicans in both chambers), and getting the proper House team in place would be another.

The question now is who they will elect tomorrow, and whether those they elect will adopt a forward strategy to regain the majority or a reactive strategy to be an effective minority.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You deplore high taxes, but you expect good roads from the city all the way out to your horse farm.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You think the populace should use mass transit to commute to work, but you deplore the terrible roads out to your house in the woods.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Keep an Eye on the Camm Trial

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson
Springboard or Sandbag?

For those of you not either from southern Indiana or obsessed with those criminal expose and lawyer debate shows, let me introduce you to the ongoing courtroom drama that is the trial of one David Camm and the potentially interesting political implications of its outcome.

David Camm was a former Indiana State Trooper who was convicted for murdering his wife and their two children. This verdict was later overturned on appeal, and a new trial was ordered. A second jury found David Camm guilty, and the case is now making its way through the appeals process. A request for a new (third) trial was recently denied, opening the door to the case being heard by the Indiana Supreme Court.

The first Camm trial was botched by Stan Faith, who was then Floyd County's Prosecuting Attorney. Faith, a Democrat, narrowly lost a reelection bid to Republican Keith Henderson in 2002 by just over four hundred votes. Henderson, a 45-year old lawyer (see the News & Tribune election bio), recently won a "thumpin'" reelection by over 6,300 votes. A Republican that can win by that sort of margin given the '06 election environment for the GOP is one to be watched.

The youthful Henderson is articulate and ambitious. He was appointed to serve as prosecutor in Crawford County to clean up election fraud and other government mischief, and was comfortably elected (in terms of Crawford County's small electorate) to that post in his own right in 1998. He is now starting a second term as Floyd County prosecutor.

It is not a stretch to think of Keith Henderson, who could win in both the Democratic bastion of Crawford County and by a landslide in swing Floyd County, as a contender for the Republican nomination to challenge Baron Hill for the 9th District Congressional seat in 2008 (assuming, of course, that Hill runs).

But any thought of Henderson running for Congress depends upon the outcome of one of the very things that has given the Republican prosecutor such relatively good name recognition and significant public profile across southern Indiana (and the entire Louisville media market, given the obsession of news organizations there with the Camm trial). If the guilty verdict for Camm is upheld, then the path becomes much more clear for Henderson to--should he be so inclined--take a shot at running for higher office. If the verdict is overturned, and Camm walks or there is yet another trial, Henderson's chances are all but dashed.

Few in number are those Republicans in the 9th District capable of standing against an incumbent Congressman. Two times in a row, Mike Sodrel was one of the few that could be found. Keith Henderson could be a potent addition to that list, if the Camm trial proves to be a springboard and not a sandbag.

Baron Hill could not surmount a Republican challenge by Sodrel in a presidential election year, and he was elected this year by a relatively narrow margin despite it being such an incredibly Democratic year. Faced with a popular and well-known fresh face (with a proven ability to garner large margins in Floyd County and win in Democratic strongholds like Crawford County) and with a presidential election year in a district heavily tilted to Republicans, Hill might think it better to take his chances against Mitch Daniels than to be turned out by the voters again. That's not political reasoning exclusive to Keith Henderson, but it is a line of thought made even more sharp by someone like him.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You spend considerable amounts of your own time and money on causes you're devoted to... like gun ownership.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You devote considerable time to spending taxpayers' money on causes you support... like gun control.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How the Mighty Fall

The Proud Tower
Demolition of the Control Tower at Indy International

Saw video of this on the news yesterday. It's not political per se, but it's a fitting allegory, I think, for the Republican situation nationally. Maybe the Leaning Tower of Pisa is a better allegory for the state Republicans. Whacked a bit and tilting, but still standing.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You don't pray much yourself, but you zealously defend the idea of prayer in schools.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You fight for the separation of church and state with religious zeal, even though you don't pray much yourself.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Times, They Are A Changing

Congressman Mike Pence
The Contender

Just as speculation comes about the clout of Indiana's congressional delegation being on the wane, Mike Pence has thrown his hat into the ring as a candidate to become Minority Leader, the head of the House Republicans. The official letter of intent is here. Robert Novak has a rather cynical look at the coming Republican leadership race.

It would be nice for Pence to get the position. Heck, it would be nice for Hoosiers to have posts high in the leadership of both parties. Washington needs some of that Midwestern sensibility, and Indiana could use the extra Federal dollars that would inevitably come our way from it. Moreover, Mike Pence is a man of ideas (whether you agree with conservative ideas or not), and this country needs new ideas. This all being said, I don't think that he has much of a chance.

John Boehner, the current Majority Leader, is probably going to hang on. He has not been in the position very long. Joe Barton doesn't inspire much confidence, having voted against extending the Voting Rights Act and having a long laundry list of controversial quotes already handy in his Wikipedia article.

Mike Pence, while known as somebody with new ideas and seen as a fresh face, probably simply just hasn't donated enough money to his fellow Republicans to secure the leadership. Money matters. As I pointed out in the Hostettler political obituary, that's an objective fact; it matters regardless of principles.

I'd give Pence an outside chance to win. He'd certainly be better than Texas' Joe Barton or Ohio's John Boehner, but the smart money seems to be on Boehner. The Republicans would probably stand a better chance of winning back the House in 2008 with fresh ideas from somebody like Pence, but the party is not conservative (in the resistant to change sense) for nothing.

Of course, the smart money was on Roy Blunt to become Majority Leader after Tom DeLay left. John Boehner beat him out, and Roy Blunt stayed as Majority Whip. I suspect that Blunt's number is now up, and someone like Arizona's John Shadegg (who also ran for Majority Leader in that contest and lost) is going to get it.

Boehner, it should be noted, got the Majority Leader post after Shadegg dropped out after the first ballot. Shadegg threw his support behind Boehner, who might now be backing Shadegg to return the favor.

In private balloting like this, where there can be multiple rounds of voting, backroom maneuvering and the ability to call in favors matters beyond all normal weight in normal voting situations. At the same time, the Republicans may be much more willing to vote for change than normal given the defeat they have just suffered. Therein lies Pence's outside chance.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You think government agencies should be run like businesses, with management free to fire employees at will.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You think businesses should be run like government agencies, with workers free to sue their employers at will... if someone tries to fire them.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Political Obituary: John Hostettler, 1994-2006

John Hostettler
Defeat for the Red Army

From the Indianapolis Star comes speculation that John Hostettler may seek a career as a church leader. The eccentric soon-to-be-former Congressman has said that he will not seek public office again, and his future is a big question mark.

For all of his quirks and his fundamentalist ideas (like implying a link between abortion and breast cancer), John Hostettler was a Hoosier (even, dare I say, American) original. He bucked the Washington orthodoxy and defied his own party on things like Iraq.

He refused to take money from political action committees, which (in my opinion) contributed more than anything to his string of close campaigns and his vulnerability this year. In a political system where money has become so important a factor in getting elected and staying in office, refusing PAC money is a serious handicap even if it is one taken entirely out of principle.

John Hostettler voted not with his party, but with his beliefs. When asked why he voted against hate crimes legislation, Hostettler replied, "What crime is motivated out of love?" One of Mike Sodrel's staffers once told me that Hostettler hid behind a statue at a Washington event to avoid having to encounter President George W. Bush.

We'll not see John Hostettler's kind again any time soon. For a lot of people, they won't miss the fundamentalist Christianity or his more shocking behavior (like trying to carry a gun on an airplane), but I can't help but wonder if Indiana won't miss a politician that refused to accept special interest PAC money or that was willing to buck his own party on issues like approval for the Iraq war. Some Hoosier politicians (and non-Hoosier politicians) of the other party weren't willing to vote against approval for the Iraq war.

Will any of this new crop of Democrats be willing to be a maverick, refusing special interest money or defying their own party on any important vote because of their personal convictions? One can hope, but I doubt it.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You have a home aquarium. The big fish kills the little fish. You get another big fish. They fight constantly. "Animals are like that," you think.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You have a home aquarium. The big fish kills the little fish. You hold a funeral for the little fish. You are at a loss for what to do. You give away the big fish. You put the empty aquarium in the attic. "Whew, no more fighting," you think.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Baron Hill for Governor?

Baron Hill on election night.
Already looking ahead?

It took a while, but Baron Hill has finally managed to mention his signature campaign issue for the first time after being reelected. He has finally spoken about his rather interesting ethics committee reform idea in an interview with his hometown paper, the Seymour Tribune.

In it, Hill is interestingly mum on a question about the possibility of a run for governor. He also has interesting ideas about the nature of any reelection campaign he might face:

Hill said he isn't concentrating on the 2008 election right now.

"I haven't even given it any kind of thought," Hill said when asked if he will run for Indiana governor in 2008. "All I wanted to do was get elected to Congress."

Although he hasn't given much thought to an office he might run for, Hill said he would not like to see another negative campaign such as the last two he's endured.

"I'm trying to think, what do I do? I've been through it twice and I've almost won one and survived the second one," Hill said. "Maybe I should just stick to the issues and not respond to it all.

"When somebody hits you on the chin, your reaction naturally is to hit them back and that is what we did this time, but I don't know," he added. "I would like to be able to just ignore it since I have been through it two times and see if I can survive it, if it happens again. Maybe it won't happen at all."

Maybe the next campaign won't be negative at all? If Hill believes that, then I have some ocean-front property in Harrison County for sale.

The 9th District is a battleground. Barring a Goldwater-style landslide for the Democratic nominee, it will go heavily for the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, with a matching trickle-down effect. That sort of tide took Hill down once before, and the Republican National Committee--eager to regain its Congressional majority--is likely to remember a fact like that.

At any rate, I suppose that Hill is a natural and serious contender to run for governor in 2008 against Mitch Daniels, the incumbent and presumptive Republican nominee. The Republican sweep of statewide elections has deprived the Democrats of a natural proving ground for a future gubernatorial candidate.

Pat Bauer is focused elsewhere. Bart Peterson is from Indianapolis which, as a long line of defeated Republican Indy mayors can tell you, comes with a whole host of disadvantages relative to the rest of the state. Pete Visclosky has the usual political baggage from the Northwestern corner of the state. The other incumbent Democratic congressmen are genuine freshmen, unlike Hill.

On the negative side, Baron Hill has run for statewide office before. In 1990, he ran for the Senate against Dan Coats. That didn't go so well; he lost by almost eight percent and over a hundred thousand votes. Granted, that's not a Lugar or Bayh margin, but it's a genuine "thumpin'", as George W. Bush would put it.

But then, that defeat was also sixteen years ago. Hill was young and inexperienced. He has undoubtedly grown since then. His profile is greater, and his party is short of moderate candidates with good name recognition that could have a go at Mitch Daniels.

And given his apparent aversion to negative campaigning--or at least being on the receiving end of one--Baron Hill may find a 2008 campaign against Mitch Daniels a pleasant experience. Certainly more pleasant than having to face the millions the RNC will throw at him in the 9th District on behalf of whoever the Republicans get to run against him, be it Mike Sodrel again or someone else.

If Daniels charges hard on his reform agenda in the coming two years and takes as many (or more) political hits for it as he did in the past two, it could present the ambitious Baron Hill with an opportunity that is not likely to repeat itself. Mayors of Indianapolis have serious natural baggage to overcome in the rest of the state.

If no one else steps up, Baron Hill could find himself as the Democrats' natural alternative to running Bart Peterson.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

There are three people in your household and you own four vehicles, not counting the ATVs.

You know you're a Democrat if...

The three cars you and your wife drive all get good gas mileage.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Doing It All Again

Governor Mitch Daniels
Forging ahead anyway.

Perhaps learning a strange lesson from the slim Democratic victory in the Indiana House and the inability of Democrats to knock off any of the vulnerable "Toll Road Republicans", Mitch Daniels is now proposing to do the same thing in the Republican strongholds in the suburban counties around Indianapolis. Come hell or high water, Daniels is going to press ahead with whatever he wants to do, and deal with the political consequences later.

This is either mightily bold, as Daniels' people like to portray it (here and here), or incredibly politically irrational. I have long predicted that popular things like full-day kindergarten would be the pivot around which Daniels could engineer a drive to and up the middle, and thus orchestrate his reelection as a popular governor.

One aspect of this agenda, the promise that the I-69 extension will be entirely toll-free, is certain to be popular. There is much to be said for the benefit of public works, whether built by the government or in some sort of public-private partnership as Daniels appears to want with this bypass idea. Even so, such an idea will be easy to villainize should the Democrats choose the same course as that they took with Major Moves.

Perhaps Mitch Daniels learned from the poor sales job he did with Major Moves. Republicans should hope so. Every election contains within it lessons for both parties. I do not think that the lesson for Hoosier Republicans of the 2006 election was that there should be more private toll roads. The lesson certainly wasn't that there shouldn't be private toll roads, or those Republicans up north would have been defeated in droves. But those are two very different things.

Maybe Daniels will marry his toll road idea to some of his initiatives--like on health insurance, kindergarten, veterans, and hiking the cigarette tax--more palatable to Democrats, and more desired by them as well. Compromise, after all, means that both sides get what they want.

Winston Churchill once said that there is nothing so exhilarating as to be shot at without result. Having dodged the bullet (or only been lightly grazed) this time, the governor seems eager to attempt the same thing again. Maybe he can pull it off.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

Your car runs on regular unleaded gas, but you buy supreme because you like the extra kick you think it gives.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You own a gas-electric hybrid car with lousy power, but you look down your nose at everyone who is passing you on the highway.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

"Time to Govern"

Pat Bauer
Pat Bauer and Friend in Good Spirits

Moving on from the bitter campaign, along with not a small amount of self-congratulation and even gloating, are now the messages from victorious Democrats.

Pat Bauer, faced with Republican control of the governorship and the upper house of the legislature, has volunteered to do the only thing that he can do, which is to work with Republicans.

In Jeffersonville, Baron Hill outlined his hopes on the first issues to be handled by the next Congress. Curiously missing from that list was his proposal to reform the ethics committee. Perhaps, now that he is back in office, Hill doesn't want to be overseen by people with the experience to know what is going on and why.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes him to propose that reform legislation, if he ever actually does. In the debates, he said it would be the very first thing that he would do if sent back to Washington. I maintain that having former inmates guarding the prison is crazy, but Baron Hill campaigned upon it, so he is now in a position to carry through on proposing his idea. At the very least, it deserves a debate in the new House.

From the Seymour Tribune comes Mr. Hill's more constant theme of harping upon why Mike Sodrel has called not called him to offer congratulations. Given the tone of the campaign and the clear personal animosity that developed during it--in clear contrast to prior campaigns--I find this to be hardly surprising. Sodrel conceded on election night when it was clear he could not win this year. Hill did not offer a timely concession in the face of a close contest in 2004. I suspect that Hill's "competitive streak" compels him to seek the personal satisfaction, and dare I say gloating (even psychological and in his own mind), that would come from a Sodrel congratulatory call.

I am probably not the only one to note the irony, mentioned in the Tribune, about the Iraq War hurting Mike Sodrel. The Republican did not even vote for it--though Mr. Hill did--and the voters punished Sodrel for the president's woeful use of the legal mandate granted him in 2002 by then-election-minded congressmen like Hill, who lacked the spine to stand up back then when it would have made a difference.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

Your car displays a bumper sticker saying, "The Lord giveth and the Democrats taketh away."

You know you're a Democrat if...

Your bumper sticker says, "Don't blame me. I voted for Kerry."

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

More on the Courthouse Mischief

On Tuesday, the Courier-Journal had an article about the pre-election mischief in the Harrison County Courthouse. This week's Corydon Democrat, out today, also has an article. The Democrat also covers the whole kerfuffle about the improper notification of the commissioners' meeting about the issue.

Interesting are the statements of Shawn Donahue about the incident:

In the interview, Donahue said he dropped by the courthouse to use a letter-folding machine on some letters "that we needed folded."

When asked who "we" is, Donahue said the papers were his personal letters.

"I was under the understanding that anybody could use the letter folder, so I used it," he said.

He declined to say who gave him a key to the courthouse.

I am reminded of the Mark Twain quip that only kings and people with tapeworms are entitled to use the editorial "we." Unless he has multiple personalities or parasites or something, Donahue clearly slipped up in his statements to Grace Schneider. Why he, as a lawyer, would speak to a reporter about the incident in the first place is beyond me.

The good news is that further viewing of the surveillance tapes by the State Police and a closer examination of the ballots and election equipment indicate that their integrity was not compromised, meaning that the election will not drag on for further days or weeks (much to the relief of all, I think it can safely be said).

The dispute over the commissioners' meeting over the incident aside, the central issue of access remains unanswered. Rumor still has it that Rena Stepro, then the County Treasurer and now elected as County Assessor, gave Donahue the key to access the office for the purposes of folding and possibly copying something.

The young attorney has refused to say who gave him the key but, as a county employee, his job may hang in the balance if he continues to refuse to provide that information to the commissioners. Moreover, none of this precludes wider legal action for conversion, trespassing, or even theft (if a county photocopier was used). There is also the serious possibility of action against Donahue's license to practice law.

Computerized enhancement of the video footage showing Donahue's two entrances and exits to the Courthouse could shine light on the "we" slip and the truthfulness of his statements with regard to the nature of what he was having folded (or copied). If those "papers" were indeed political materials, then Donahue could face yet further legal peril.

The Democrats, having won handily in the county elections, are now potentially in a position to attempt to push the entire thing under the rug if they so choose. Whether the Courier's Grace Schneider and the reporters for the Corydon Democrat will remain seized of the story will decide much of this, as sunlight will almost certainly force some sort of action.

Shawn Donahue is a life-long Democratic partisan. The good old boys of the county, and not necessarily just all Democrats, may decide to protect him or let him off easy. But others, including many Democrats and many in the prosecutor's office and the courthouse do not care much for him. When he arrived at the Courthouse on election night to watch the returns come in, he was roundly jeered by his fellow Democrats, who asked him for a key to the building or if Donahue could fold things for them.

Some Democrats might just want to push him overboard since now given the chance, and thus be able to move on. The Republican Party chairman received multiple anonymous phone calls on the matter, and the Courthouse is staffed largely by Democrats. There is a good chance that at least one Democrat blew the whistle.

The matter is by no means settled.

National Decision '06: It's the War, Stupid

Democrat Baron Hill
Staying in Washington.

Mike Sodrel and family
Down, but not out?

Republicans John Hostettler and Chris Chocola fell to the Democratic tide early on election night. By 10:25, Mike Sodrel had joined them. Campaign post-mortems were already undoubtedly being conducted by Republicans last night in all three districts, even as the Democrats celebrated.

Julia Carson and Mark Souder weathered the storm, the former persisting in spite of age and the latter easily prevailing despite Democratic hopes. In Kentucky, Geoff Davis held on and the Democratic tide was not powerful enough to sweep away Ron Lewis. Anne Northup was not so lucky, drowning in the wave despite waging a virtually flawless campaign. In politics, you can make no mistakes and still lose. Most Republicans, including some that won, made mistakes. Northup was not one of them.

Other House incumbents easily prevailed, as did Senator Dick Lugar. The senior statesman of Indiana politics did not break the 90% threshold in his campaign for reelection, which was the primary question about the outcome of his race.

Even in the face of voting irregularities in Clark County, possible fraud in Monroe County, and screwy results in Crawford County, Mike Sodrel acknowledged defeat though (notably) he did not concede the race and did not call to congratulate his opponent, saying it would be disingenuous.

Hostettler was shellacked by over thirty thousand votes. Chocola lost by about fifteen thousand votes. Totals for many of the counties in the 9th District have not been reported and others are incomplete. Sodrel looks to lose by between 7,000 and 8,000 votes. Those totals may be impacted by questions in Clark and Monroe counties. The Secretary of State website also shows Schansberg with 1,700 votes in Crawford County and Sodrel with less than 200. That would shock me; it could be backwards.

The Courier-Journal, the News & Tribune, the Corydon Democrat, and the Indianapolis Star all have reporting on the Congressional races. I'll do my own post-mortem (mostly on the 9th District race) sometime later, once the final votes are tallied and lingering questions resolved.

State Decision '06: Democrats Edge In

Brian Bosma, Former Speaker of the Indiana House
"I don't believe it was a repudiation."

By a narrow margin (51 to 49 as of the time of posting; the outcomes of several races are still close), Democrat Pat Bauer and the interesting thing atop his head will be speaker of the Indiana House. Republicans are set to easily retain control of the Indiana Senate and Republicans Rokita, Berry, and Mourdock swept the statewide races.

With the tide running so heavily for Democrats from sea to shining sea, and with key elements of Governor Daniels' agenda (like the lease of the Indiana Toll Road and the establishment of Daylight Savings Time) so unpopular, it is amazing that the Republicans were not set back much further in statewide and house districts. Moreover, the Republicans saved many of their seats along the Toll Road itself that were prime targets for Democratic pick-ups.

If this is the most that Democrats can manage in Indiana with the environment so heavily in their favor, then it bodes well for Mitch Daniels' chances to execute a turn towards more popular and less divisive issues, like all-day kindergarten, and move towards reelection for a second term. It also bodes well for Republican chances to upend Democrats yet again in two years, when the environment is unlikely to be so much in their favor in House races.

Brian Bosma, now the former Republican Speaker of the House, noted optimistically, "I don't believe it was a repudiation." He's right. It wasn't. With all of Daniels' much touted unpopularity and with all of his controversial reforms, it was the national tide that put the Democrats over the top in Indiana.

The Republicans held the Toll Road seats, which would have been the first to go if the victories of the Democrats came from Mitch Daniels and not from George W. Bush. Democratic victories came in districts mostly located where Democrats won in the Congressional races.

The Courier-Journal covers the state races in Southern Indiana. The Indianapolis Star has the change in the House and the Republican sweep of the statewide offices.

County Decision '06: Democrats Sweep; Republicans Shut Out

Republican challenger Steve Priest congratulates Democrat Mike Deatrick
Republican Steve Priest congratulates Democrat Mike Deatrick

Mike Sodrel was the only Republican to carry Harrison County on election night. While there were a handful of close races, 4th District Councilman Ralph Sherman was the only Republican sent back into county government. There were a handful of Republican victories in various township races.

The Democrats will control the Justice Center with its Sheriff and Prosecutor offices and the County offices of assessor, treasurer, and auditor. They will hold a two-to-one majority among the Commissioners, and a five-to-two majority on the County Council.

In what was clearly a Democratic year, the Republicans had a few bright spots. Republican Steve Priest, campaigning against an aging and scandal-plagued Democratic incumbent Mike Deatrick, lost by only 250 or so votes. The auditor's race, between Democratic incumbent Pat Wolfe and Republican former incumbent Karen Shireman Engleman was decided by about five hundred votes. The only other race that was close was between Democrat Leslie Robertson and Republican Bill Watts for the 1st District County Council seat, which was decided by 146 votes.

Harrison County's Republicans drowned in a national tide. 355 more straight Democratic tickets were voted than Republican. In 2004, more people voted straight Republican than Democrat. There were about seventy straight Libertarian tickets even though there were no Libertarians running outside of the Congressional and state races.

Despite often Herculean campaigning efforts, the Republicans could not stop the Democratic national tide, which penetrated even into rural southern Indiana. Turnout was high. At 51%, it was 4% percent above the 47% turnout in the 2002 midterm election. The 47% turnout four years ago was itself abnormally high.

Several of the Republican candidates, like Priest and Watts, performed amazingly well in such a Democratic year. In the small world of county politics, it is entirely possible that they will have a second coming in another two or four years. If not in their current races, then in others.

The Corydon Democrat and the Courier-Journal have more on the Harrison County elections.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You won a midterm election by campaigning in support of a possible war.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You won a midterm election by campaigning on your opposition to that same war, four years later.

Monday, November 6, 2006

More on the Harrison Courthouse Mischief

There were more developments today with regard to the shenanigans in the Harrison County Courthouse discussed earlier.

It now appears that Rena Stepro, the current county treasurer and Democratic candidate for assessor, told various individuals in the Courthouse that she gave her key to Donahue, and this is how he gained access to the Courthouse and restricted areas within it, ostensibly for the purpose of producing a Democratic Party political mailing.

Moreover, Pat Wolfe, the county auditor and Democratic candidate for reelection to that position, may have dropped the ball in the handling of the issue by the Harrison County Commissioners. When the commissioners met in emergency executive session to discuss the Republican Party's open records request, no public notification was posted or given to the local media. This is apparently required under the sunshine law.

Similarly, when the video was provided for viewing by the commissioners to the county clerk and the Republican Party chairman, no public notice was given then either. At the very least, Wolfe (and the commissioners) made a considerable mistake in not giving this required notification so that local media had the opportunity to be present for the viewing of the tapes.

Additionally, the commissioners seem to have refused to allow the tapes for all of the cameras to be viewed, and refused to allow viewing of anything but a limited portion of the recordings of a few select cameras. Because of this, it is difficult to determine where Donahue may have gone within the Courthouse on the evening in question once he had access via Stepro's key. It is also difficult to determine if the two instances shown in the viewed tape footage were the only times he entered the building.

None of these mistakes escaped the notice of the intrepid Ms. Marian Pearcy, a local attorney and head of the Harrison-Crawford Bar Association. Moreover, they do not substantively impact upon the incident itself or the investigation thereof. They just reflect rather poorly upon the county government's handling of this matter.

With an election imminent, all of this casts a serious pall over the upcoming voting. The Indiana State Police are in the process of conducting an investigation involving examination of all of the surveillance tape footage and interviewing Shawn Donahue and others possibly involved in the events of that evening. This investigation, requested on Saturday, did not start until Monday evening. The close timing with the election makes the swift completion of the investigation both critical and (I should think) difficult.

Unless the tapes and the investigation can guarantee the integrity of the ballots and election materials and demonstrate that they were not compromised, this incident opens the door to a whole series of potential challenges after election day.

I do not think that anyone, Republican or Democrat, wants to prolong the election after tomorrow. The implications that this incident could now have for the races in Harrison County--and possibly even the 9th Congressional District--are quite serious.

This story is breaking fast. Reporters for the Corydon Democrat and the Courier-Journal were on the story today. It is my understanding that the Courier is going to carry the story Tuesday morning. This means that it has the potential to impact local races within Harrison County, because several of the individuals involved are standing for election or reelection this year. The Corydon Democrat will not publish another issue until after the election, but they are sure to cover it then.

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

You know you're a Republican if...

You despise huge federal deficits unless a Republican president is in office.

You know you're a Democrat if...

You dislike the huge federal debt unless your favorite social programs are threatened.

Election Mischief in the Harrison County Courthouse

I alluded to this in two earlier posts, but here's the full story, separated into matters of public record and what I've just heard as rumors from various people.

As a matter of public record, the Harrison County Republicans received two or three anonymous phone calls that, on November 1, one Shawn Donahue obtained access to restricted areas of the Harrison County Courthouse.

Shawn Donahue is a Deputy Prosecutor in the office of County Prosecutor Dennis Byrd. He is a Democratic precinct committee chairman in Harrison township and a former intern with then-congressman and current Democratic congressional candidate Baron Hill. He is also (full disclosure) a good friend of mine, with whom I attended high school and college.

The phone calls alleged that Donahue entered the Courthouse on the evening of November 1, entered a restricted and locked area of the courthouse for the purposes of using county equipment to copy and fold a Democratic Party campaign mailing. This, in and of itself, is a significant violation of Indiana state election law. County resources cannot be used for the purposes of campaigns. County copy machines and electronic folding equipment simply cannot be used for political purposes.

Moreover, the restricted area of the Courthouse which Shawn Donahue entered itself had access to ballots and other election equipment. All of these materials could have been compromised when he accessed the area. Donahue is not an authorized election official. This is also a significant no-no.

The Harrison County Republican Party filed a public records request with the Harrison County Commissioners on November 2. The Commissioners met in executive session and approved the request. The surveillance tapes in the courthouse were pulled and examined on November 3. These tapes showed that Donahue entered the Courthouse on two separate occasions on the night of November 1, carrying some sort of materials (assumably campaign materials). Both times, he entered the restricted area and emerged again to depart the courthouse.

Upon the examination of the video surveillance, on November 4 the Harrison County Republican Party filed a request with the Indiana State Police for an official investigation of the matter. In addition to detailing any illegality, the State Police were notified in order to investigate and determine whether any election ballots, equipment, or other materials were compromised.

The above is all now a matter of public record. In addition to this, I have heard various rumors which people can ponder for what they are worth.

Apparently, it seems that the volume of the material that Shawn Donahue entered the courthouse with is not the same as the volume of material he had with him when he left. This might be a part of the folding process, or it might be the result of some deeper mischief.

Moreover, keys to those parts of the courthouse are quite restricted. Only a handful of them exist. The custodians, the clerk, the treasurer, and the auditor have access to these restricted areas. Donahue did not himself have a key. He had to obtain one from one of these people. The clerk (a Republican) probably did not give him one. The custodians, as far as has yet been determined, did not give him one.

This means, by simple virtue of elimination, that he had to have obtained the key to this restricted area from either the auditor or the assessor. Both of these elected officials are Democrats. They should not be giving keys to restricted areas to anyone, nor should they be letting people use their county offices and equipment in them for the purposes of political mailings or any other election shenanigans.

The very process of pulling the videotapes cost the county a thousand dollars or more, as a specialist had to come in from the surveillance company at a significant cost.

So what does all of this mean? First, it means that Shawn Donahue is in a universe of trouble. He potentially violated election laws by entering a restricted area and being in proximity to the ballots and election materials. He appears to have used county equipment and material for political purposes. He is a Democratic partisan, an employee of the county, and a former worker for Baron Hill.

Second, it calls into question the activities of certain Harrison County Democrats. At the very least, their party has used county equipment and resources (folding machines, copiers, toner, possibly paper) for a political mailing. An elected Democratic official, either Pat Wolfe or Rena Stepro, may have given Donahue the key to the restricted area that he entered on the surveillance tapes. On the furthest (and least likely) extreme, there could have been election fraud committed while having access to the ballots, election equipment, and so forth.

There is no guarantee that this is the only such incident with inappropriate access to the courthouse. There could have been other instances that just were not caught or noticed, or were seen by someone not willing to tip anyone off that something improper may have been going on.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Call the Ball: '06 Election Predictions

I've spent the better part of the campaign season offering my observations and opinions on what has been happening. Now, I'm going to do some good old fashioned political prognostication.

Starting with local races in Harrison County and working my way to state and federal races, I am now going to make some election predictions, with brief reasoning behind them. After the election is over, I'll go back and review where I was right, where I was wrong, and why.

An asterisk indicates the incumbent. Outside of county and state races, I am doing predictions only for the competitive House and Senate races.

Harrison County

Sheriff - Steve Priest (R) will defeat Mike Deatrick (D*). The incumbent has had many scandals, there are many pending lawsuits, and Priest has waged a good and positive campaign for change. The county voted against the Republican wave in 2002 when it elected Democrat Deatrick to clean up the mess in the Sheriff's department. He has not done so, and I think that they will buck the Democratic wave in 2006 by voting for Republican Priest.

County Commissioner District 3 - Jim Heitkemper (R*) vs Terry Miller (D) will be too close to call. Miller remains sleazy and a bad taste lingers from his time in office before, but Heitkemper himself is unpopular and is his own worst enemy. If Mike Sodrel carries Harrison County (possible, but depending on GOTV efforts), then Heitkemper will win. Otherwise, look for Miller to win.

Auditor - Karen Shireman Engleman (R) vs Pat Wolfe (D*) will be too close to call. Both are effectively incumbents. Engleman's proven record in the office, and her ability to win the race twice before, must weigh against the Democratic wind blowing in Wolfe's favor. Like the Heitkemper-Miller race, whether Hill or Sodrel carries Harrison County will have a large role in determining who will prevail. Recent incidents in the courthouse could impact this race if made widely public before election day.

Assessor - Rena Stepro (D*) will defeat John Timberlake (R). Timberlake has waged a Herculean campaign, and his family name carries much weight and support in the county. Stepro is unpopular among her own party, and some Democrats have backed Timberlake. This makes an upset a serious possibility, but I think it more likely that the race will merely be close. Recent incidents in the courthouse could impact this race if made widely public before election day.

County Council District 1 - Leslie Robertson (D) will defeat Bill Watts (R). Watts excellent campaign will probably not be enough to surmount the hurdles that he faces in this heavily Democratic area. The Robertson name carries with it much weight and automatic recognition in those parts of Harrison County, but their family is wearing thin. There is an outside chance of an upset.

County Council District 2 - Gary Davis (R*) will defeat Bill Nichols (D). Davis' unpopularity over opposing funding for work on schools in Lanesville in Franklin Township will not be fatal. Nichols has campaigned poorly. Nasty rumors insist that the Democrat is too old and is becoming senile. Recent news in the county--involving a possible community college and the expansion of an auto parts factory in Corydon--reflect well on the Council and the Commissioners, and benefit Davis.

County Council District 3 - Gordon Pendleton (D) will defeat Bruce Fry (R). Pendleton has huge name recognition and much respect in the county, and recent immigrant Fry has not put sufficient effort into his campaign to pull out a victory against such a notable community figure.

County Council District 4 - Ralph Sherman (R*) will defeat Matt Hubler (D). Sherman, a long-time incumbent and popular official, will easily beat the little-known and little-campaigning Hubler.

State & Indiana Congressional

Secretary of State - Todd Rokita (R*) will defeat Joe Pearson (D).

Treasurer of State - Michael Griffin (D) will defeat Richard Mourdock (R).

Auditor of State - Tim Berry (R) will defeat Judy Anderson (D).

State Representative District 70 - Paul Robertson (D*) will narrowly defeat Chris Byrd (R). A great and youthful campaigner, a thin-worn aging incumbent, and good name recognition probably can't put Chris Byrd over the top. Robertson is running in a Democrat year, has outspent his opponent four or five to one, and the state Republican Party has left Byrd on his own to instead pour vast sums into ads for races around Indianapolis. They could have easily cherry-picked this seat for a small fraction of such spending. It is for such reasons that Pat Bauer and his toupee will probably again be Speaker of the House.

United States Senate - Dick Lugar (R*) will prevail with Saddam Hussein or Joseph Stalin like vote margins, having run a positive campaign with no serious opposition.

U.S. Representative District 2 - Joe Donnelly (D) will defeat Chris Chocola (R*). All of the star power devoted to his rescue will not save Chocola, who is running in a lean Democratic district in a Democratic year and under the weight of decisions by a Republican governor unpopular in the district. Chocola deserves no blame for Major Moves, but is getting it anyway.

U.S. Representative District 3 - Mark Souder (R*) will defeat Tom Hayhurst (D). Democratic hopes in the 3rd District are about as close to realization as Republican hopes in District 7. Polling has showed Souder with a comfortable lead despite hoopla over his vulnerability. But Souder will have had to work for it this time, for the first time.

U.S. Representative District 7 - Julia Carson (D*) will defeat Eric Dickerson (R). Carson's faltering health and a recent ad flap aside, the year is too poor and Republican resources too focused elsewhere for Dickerson to be able to capitalize on whatever nominal opportunities he has been presented with in this race.

U.S. Representative District 8 - Brad Ellsworth (D) will defeat John Hostettler (R*). Hostettler's quirky campaign style, despite his very conservative district, is the difference between Johnny Ho and Millionaire Mike. If Hostettler had more money, and ran a more conventional campaign, he would probably be in a tight race. He might even be a lock for the Republicans like Pence or Buyer or Burton. Hostettler has defied all predictions in the past, and his ground operation is probably without equal in Indiana and much of the country. He could prevail in a surprise upset of the leader, but I doubt it.

U.S. Representative District 9 - Mike Sodrel (R*) vs Baron Hill (D) will be too close to call. Sodrel has the momentum, and the polling edge, going into the last days of the race. He also has the backing of a formidable ground machine, even in the face of a $1.2 million DCCC ad buy, itself probably indicative of a last Democratic effort to forestall Sodrel's momentum and save Hill (who is, rumor has it, out of money). They'll manage something for all that money, but I think that the best they can hope for against the Sodrel organization (with its buses, limitless money, bottomless national backing, and Republican GOTV machine) is what they got in 2004, a narrow Sodrel lead going into a recount.

National - Senate

Maryland Senate - Michael Steele (R) will narrowly upset Ben Cardin (D). Steele, a charismatic moderate anti-establishment Republican, has waged one of the best campaigns of the '06 election season. If he carries between 25-30% of the African American vote, he will win. I think that he will. Republican pick-up.

Missouri Senate - Jim Talent (R*) will narrowly upset Claire McCaskill (D). It will take considerable Democratic GOTV (or voter fraud) in Kansas City and Saint Louis to upset the Republican GOTV machine in rural Missouri. Talent has run a good campaign, and will prevail in another MO squeaker despite misleading stem cell ads against him. Republican retention.

Montana Senate - Conrad Burns (R*) will defeat Jon Tester (D). Burns has managed a historic come-from-behind campaign. Trailing by twenty plus points a month ago, he is now in a statistical dead heat with Tester. Visits from the President (still popular in that state), and the Republican GOTV operation, will put Burns over the top, in defiance of even my own expectations a few weeks ago. Republican retention.

New Jersey Senate - Robert Menendez (D*) will defeat Tom Kean Jr. (R). The weight of the Kean name and the stink of corruption in the Garden State will not be enough to get rid of Menendez in a Democratic year. Democratic retention.

Ohio Senate - Sherrod Brown (D) will defeat Mike DeWine (R*). The RNC abandoned DeWine to his fate weeks ago. Bob Taft has run the Republican Party in Ohio into the ground and he will take Mike DeWine and Ken Blackwell, both good men (one a moderate and the other a reformist man of ideas), with him. Democratic pick-up.

Pennsylvania Senate - Bob Casey (D) will defeat Rick Santorum (R*). Despite spinning to the contrary from the Santorum camp claiming a roaring comeback and Casey running a veritable non-campaign, stick a fork in Santorum. He's as done as DeWine. Democratic pick-up.

Rhode Island Senate - Sheldon Whitehouse (D) will narrowly defeat Lincoln Chafee (R*). The RNC intervened in the primary to save Chafee and thus retain some small semblance of a chance to retain the seat. Recent polling shows Chafee even or ahead of Whitehouse. The Chafee name carries with it much weight in Rhode Island and the incumbent is a liberal Republican, but I think that Chafee will go down with the anti-Republican tide regardless. Even so, it would not surprise me for him to manage a narrow win. Democratic pick-up.

Tennessee Senate - Bob Corker (R) will defeat Harold Ford (D). Once close, but close no longer, Bill Frist's seat will go to the former mayor of Chattanooga. The notorious Wilder Effect, and the willingness of the RNC to cater to the baser instincts of some, will hold this seat for the Republicans. Republican retention.

Virginia Senate - Jim Webb (D) will defeat George Allen (R*). Allen ran for the White House, not for his Senate seat, and he will lose his chances for both. Allen's gaffes have been many, and his effort to hit Webb on his novels appears to have backfired. Democratic pick-up.

Net - Democrats plus three. New balance will be Republicans 52, Democrats 47, and Lieberman 1.

National - House

Democrats need 15 seats to gain control of the House of Representatives.

Arizona 8 - Gabrielle Giffords (D) will defeat Randy Graf (R). D +1

Colorado 4 - Marilyn Musgrave (R*) will defeat Angie Paccione (D). No change.

Colorado 7 - Ed Perlmutter (D) will defeat Rick O'Donnell (R). D +2

Connecticut 2 - Rob Simmons (R*) will defeat Joe Courtney (D). No change.

Connecticut 4 - Diane Farrell (D) will defeat Chris Shays (R*). D +3

Connecticut 5 - Chris Murphy (D) will defeat Nancy Johnson (R*). D +4

Florida 13 - Christine Jennings (D) will defeat Vern Buchanan (R). Former Katherine Harris seat. D +5.

Florida 16 - Joe Negron (R) will defeat Tim Mahoney (D). Former Mark Foley seat. No change.

Florida 22 - Ron Klein (D) will defeat Clay Shaw (R*). D +6.

Georgia 8 - Jim Marshall (D*) will defeat Mac Collins (R). No change.

Iowa 1 - Bruce Braley (D) will defeat Mike Whalen (R). D +7.

Illinois 6 - Peter Roskam (R) will defeat Tammy Duckworth (D). Former Henry Hyde seat. No change.

Illinois 8 - Melissa Bean (D*) will defeat Dave McSweeney (R). No change.

Kentucky 3 - Anne Northup (R*) will defeat John Yarmuth (D). No change.

Kentucky 4 - Geoff Davis (R*) will defeat Ken Lucas (D). No change.

Minnesota 1 - Gil Gutknecht (R*) will defeat Tim Walz (D). No change.

Minnesota 6 - Michele Bachmann (R) will defeat Patty Wetterling (D). Former Mark Kennedy (MN Senate candidate; will lose) seat. No Change.

North Carolina 11 - Heath Shuler (D) will defeat Charles Taylor (R*). D +8

New Mexico 1 - Patricia Madrid (D) will defeat Heather Wilson (R*). D +9

New York 24 - Michael Arcuri (D) will defeat Ray Meier (R). D +10

New York 26 - Tom Reynolds (R*) will defeat Jack Davis (D). No change.

Ohio 1 - John Cranley (D) will defeat Steve Chabot (R*). D +11

Ohio 15 - Mary Jo Kilroy (D) will defeat Deborah Pryce (R*). D +12

Ohio 18 - Zack Space (D) will defeat Joy Padgett (R). D +13

Pennsylvania 6 - Lois Murphy (D) will defeat Jim Gerlach (R*). D +14

Pennsylvania 7 - Joe Sestak (D) will defeat Curt Weldon (R*). D +15

Pennsylvania 8 - Mike Fitzpatrick (R*) will defeat Patrick Murphy (D). No change

Pennsylvania 10 - Chris Carney (D) will defeat Don Sherwood (R*). D +16

Texas 22 - Nick Lampson (D) will defeat Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R, write-in). Former Tom DeLay seat. D +17

Virginia 2 - Thelma D. Drake (R*) will defeat Phil Kellam (D). No change.

Washington 8 - Dave Reichert (R*) will defeat Darcy Burner (D). No change.

Wisconsin 8 - Steve Kagen (D) will defeat John Gard (R). D +18

Taken with my prediction of two Democratic pick-ups in Indiana (the 2nd and 8th districts), this gives the Democrats a net pickup of twenty seats, five more than they need for a majority. They may gain surprise pick-ups elsewhere that are not even on this listing. The Republicans, notably, are picking up no seats at all. That would be historic; the Democrats managed to steal a couple of Republican seats in 1994.

Unless Karl Rove has a surprise up his sleeve, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives is a thing of the past.