Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hoosier House Dems Love Being in the Minority

Must be so; Lesley Stedman Weidenbenner has done two columns in the past three weeks about how the Indiana House Democrats have learned to love being in the minority.

Two weeks ago, we were told about how Pat Bauer loves being the underdog:

Just a couple of weeks before the start of the 2011 session of the General Assembly, I talked to Democratic leader Pat Bauer — the South Bend Democrat who had been speaker until the November election — and found him almost jolly.

You'd think given his new position as minority leader, he might be a little down.

But there's something about being in the minority that Bauer seems to relish a bit, especially after several years with the exhausting job of trying to hold together a diverse and often fractious caucus so Democrats could act as a majority.

For a change, I think Bauer will like the political challenge he's facing — trying to matter, even just be heard, in a chamber controlled 60-40 by Republicans. It's something he's pretty good at.

You could see that on Wednesday, shortly after the House convened the 2011 session, when Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, handed down a list of bills to be introduced.

This is a routine part of the legislative process. I'm starting my 16th regular session and I can tell you that in all those years, bills have been introduced in the House in mass as part of a big list that gets sent across the clerk's desk and, voila, bills are assigned to committees.

But Bauer's Democrats found a wrinkle. In the rules is a section that allows members to object to the introduction of a bill and essentially requires a vote on that objection. So on Wednesday, that's just what Democrats tried to do in an attempt to block two so-called right-to-work bills, which would allow any employee to opt out of the dues and the union that represents them.

I'm not even going to try to get into all the maneuvering that went on Wednesday as Democrats tested this rule and Republicans tried to block their efforts. I don't think I'd get it all right, and I think you'd get pretty bored.

However, I can assure you that it was frustrating for Republicans, caused hours of arguing over something that normally takes minutes, and let Democrats get in their first big digs about legislation they dislike but fear they will be unable to stop.

Ultimately, Republicans were successful introducing the bills. The GOP members — including 19 freshmen — backed up their speaker on the rules challenges and got quite a lesson in the partisan bickering that gives the Indiana House so much personality.

But it was a sign that these Democrats — however weakened they may be after an election in which they got pummeled — aren't going away quietly.

Bauer has lots of fight in him, as do many of the Democratic members still angry about their new minority position. Plus, they spent years trying to fight back GOP attempts to assert the so-called rights of the minority.

It was seven years ago when Democrats controlled the chamber and Republicans pulled an arcane rule out of the books to try to use what was then called a “blast motion” to force a vote on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Bauer called the motion an “act of war” and refused to even recognize lawmakers to offer the motion. So for days, Republicans denied the quorum necessary to conduct business in the House.

Their boycott killed dozens of bills, and they never were successful with their blast motion. Eventually, the session moved on.

I mention the story only as a reminder that the minority caucus — at least any healthy minority caucus — will always test the majority, will always be looking for ways to matter, to get their voices heard.

It's often seen as bickering or partisanship and it can be frustrating, whether you're participating in the process or just watching. But it's not new and it's not going away and it will certainly be a part of this session.

Knowing that, it could be interesting to see how Bauer does flexing his minority muscle and fun to watch how Bosma's fairly green majority handles the fight.

An alternative title to this column could have been, "Dr. Strangehair: How Pat Bauer Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being Irrelevant."

Pat Bauer knows the House rules, and he's surrounded by a staff that has successfully used those rules to govern the Indiana House with an iron fist for years. And there are things that the minority, even a minority like Bauer's, can do to gum up the works for the majority.

But the Indiana House is not the United States Senate and Pat Bauer is no Mitch McConnell. Bauer's forty votes will be far less effective in stopping a Republican agenda for Indiana than McConnell's forty votes were in stopping the Democratic agenda for America.

There are limits to what Bauer can do, not least because many items on the Republican agenda are things that some members of his caucus support.

And, of course, now we're told this week about how the Democrats are putting forward all sorts of votes that they hope to be able to use to attack Republicans in the 2012 election, presumably to help them regain the majority.

Not that, you know, the House Republicans might also just happen to be clever enough to force Democrats to make similar votes.

The 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly has started quickly, and there's been no doubt that Republicans are in charge.

With their new control of the House and extended majority in the Senate, the GOP is pushing big changes in unemployment benefits, in teachers' collective bargaining rights and in an expansion of so-called charter schools, which are free from many state regulations.

Democrats, meanwhile, are frustrated — but they are collecting votes they think can help them in the next election.

Take last week's House debate on amendments to legislation meant to fix the state's bankrupt unemployment system. The bill forces businesses to pay more into the system and cuts benefits for future out-of-work Hoosiers.

Democrats worked to eliminate those benefit cuts, offering a series of amendments that would have helped out-of-work Hoosiers but harmed the overall goal of making the system solvent by 2013 and paying back more than $2 billion in loans by 2020.

Republicans rejected those proposed changes easily. With a 60-40 majority in the chamber, they are confident of passing the bill as they desire it.

But the Democrats' amendments were about more than just trying to change the bill. They were looking forward to the next election as well.

Democrats offered amendments aimed at helping specific groups of people — such as construction workers or employees who believe they'll use family leave. Every time Republicans voted no — regardless of their reasons — the vote got recorded on roll calls that can be used against them in the future by Democrats and the groups that support them.

It didn't take long.

A day after the unemployment debate, I received a news release criticizing the votes of new Republican Rep. Steve Davisson of Salem. It came from Kristin Self, the finance director for the Indiana House Democratic campaign committee, although it did not identify the caucus as the sponsor of the e-mail.

“Rep. Davisson voted no on over a dozen amendments presented by House Democrats,” the release said. “Every no vote was another blow to families, workers, and small businesses and may force Indiana into a ‘double dip' recession.”

It's a sign that — only a few months after the November election — Democrats already are planning to try to win back House District 73, which had been represented by Democrats for years before Davisson won last year.

And it shows they're already gathering votes to mount that fight.

Republicans, of course, could have the weapon of accomplishments. They should be able to tout fixing the unemployment system and whatever other achievements they have.

More importantly, though, Republicans will get to redraw district maps this year, a once-in-a-decade process that happens after the decennial census, which took place last year.

That means Davisson's District 73 probably won't look like it does now. In fact, many of the districts are likely to change, often in a way that helps Republicans. That's something Democrats could struggle to overcome, no matter how many votes they collect.

Ultimately, Weidenbenner is correct; redistricting is going to have a far greater say over the outcome of the 2012 election than any procedural vote minority Democrats "force" upon Republican freshmen that they hope to be vulnerable in the next election.

It's good that Pat Bauer and the Democrats love being in the minority so much; they're apt to be there for a very long time.

Chamber to Begin Right-to-Work Push Monday


20 Year Old to Run for Mayor of Jeffersonville

What were you doing when you were 20 years old? Chances are you probably weren't running for mayor of a city of 30,000 people.

Admittedly, seeking the GOP mayoral nod in Jeff isn't exactly a sure thing. Assuming a primary win (GOP primaries in Clark County are rare, it must be said), the city is heavily Democratic and hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1991 (and the last Republican mayor before him was in 1951).

The Courier-Journal article:

Matthew Owen, a sophomore at Indiana University Southeast, has declared his candidacy in the Republican Primary for Mayor of Jeffersonville.

“Since early in high school I’ve been wanting to go into some kind of public service,” said Owen, who is 20 and a political science major.

Around Thanksgiving, Owen said, he started thinking about running for the Jeffersonville City Council, whose operations he observed for about two years as videographer for Jeffersonville High School’s cable television station, which broadcasts council meetings.

Ultimately, Owen said, he decided to run for mayor because he believes he can do more for the community in that position.

“I really think our city needs a fresh way to look at how to do things,” Owen said. In his view, Owen said, the current approach to governance “is tax and spend, tax and spend.”

That includes a tripling in sewer rates over five years that was approved by the city council in late 2009.

He also believes communication between city government and the public can be much better, Owen said.

To prepare for his campaign, said Owen, who also is an officer of the IUS student senate, he has cut his class hours to 12 from last semester’s 15 and his work hours from up to 60 for the United Parcel Service and the Adrienne & Co. bakery and cafĂ© in Jeffersonville to about 30 for Adrienne.

John Montgomery, who was a member of the Clark County Board of Elections for about 20 years, said he believes someone about Owen’s age talked about running for Mayor of Jeffersonville in the 1960’s, but he doesn’t remember if he ran.

For at least the last 40 years, Montgomery said, he doesn’t believe anyone Owen’s age has run for mayor.

Jamey Noel, Chairman of the Clark County Republican Party, said he’s thrilled Owen is running.

“Matt’s bringing youth and the energy that comes with it” to the party, Noel said. He believes several older Republicans also are considering the race, Noel said.

Will the Pharaoh Follow the Shah?

Fouad Ajami writes in the pages of the Wall Street Journal about the current unrest in Egypt:

Rebellion in the Land of the Pharaohs
A man who places himself at the helm for three decades inevitably becomes the target of all the realm's discontents.

'When Ramses II was over eighty he celebrated his rejuvenation at the feast of Set, repeating it yearly until he was ninety and more, and displaying his power of rejuvenation to the Gods above in the Obelisks he regularly erected as a memorial, which the aged Pharaoh decorated with electrum at the top so that their brightness should pour over lands of Egypt when the sun was mirrored in them."

This is from a classic account of this ancient and ordered land, "The Nile in Egypt," by Emil Ludwig (1937). Hosni Mubarak, the military officer who became Pharaoh in his own right, is well over 80. His is the third-longest reign since Ramses, who ruled for 67 years. The second-longest had belonged to a remarkable soldier of fortune, Muhammad Ali, an Albanian by birth and the creator of modern Egypt, who conquered the country in the opening years of the 19th century and ruled for five decades. His dynasty was to govern Egypt until the middle years of the 20th century.

In the received image of it, Egypt is the most stable of nations, a place of continuity on the banks of a sanguine river. Egyptians, the chronicles tell us, never killed their pharaohs. Anwar al-Sadat had been the first. But this received image conceals a good deal of tumult. The submission to the will of Gods and rulers has been punctured by ferocious rebellions.

From Ludwig again: "Once the fellahin (the peasants) and the workers of Egypt revolted against their masters; once their resentment burst out: a revolution dispossessed the rich men and the priests of Egypt of their power." One such revolution at the end of the Old Kingdom raged intermittently for two centuries (2350 B.C. to 2150 B.C.).

In more recent times, in 1952, the Egyptians rose in rebellion and set much of modern Cairo to the torch, which would lead to the fall of the monarchy. The agile Sadat faced a big revolt of his own in 1977 when he attempted to reduce the subsidies on bread and sugar and cooking gas. It is said that he had been ready to quit this country in the face of that upheaval.

It is hard to know with precision when Hosni Mubarak, the son of middle peasantry, lost the warrant of his people. It had started out well for this most cautious of men. He had been there on the reviewing stand on Oct. 6, 1981 when a small band of young men from the army struck down Sadat as the flamboyant ruler was reviewing his troops and celebrating the eighth anniversary of the October War of 1973.

The new man had risen by grace of his predecessor's will. He had had no political past. The people of Egypt had not known of him. He was the antidote to two great and ambitious figures—Nasser and Sadat. His promise was modesty. He would tranquilize the realm after three decades of tumult and wars and heartbreaking bids to re-make the country.

A deceased friend of mine, an army general of Mr. Mubarak's class and generation, spoke of the man with familiarity: He was a civil servant with the rank of president, he said of his fellow officer. Mr. Mubarak put the word out that he would serve two six-year terms and be gone. But the appetite grew with the eating. The humble officer would undergo a transformation. A presidency-for-life announced itself. And in an astounding change, where Nasser and Sadat feared the will and the changing moods of their countrymen, Mr. Mubarak grew imperious and dismissive.

Egypt bent to his will. A country with a vibrant parliamentary tradition in the 1920s and 1930s became a sterile tyranny. A land that had opened onto Europe in the course of the 19th century, that had given rise to professional syndicates and associations, to an independent judiciary, was brought low.

There has always been an Egyptian pride in their country—even as Egypt tried and failed to modernize, even as its Sisyphean struggle broke its heart and engendered a deep sense of disappointment—and Mr. Mubarak came to offend that sense of national pride.

In the annals of Muslim dynasties and kingdoms, wives and children have figured prominently in the undoing of rulers. An ambitious wife, Suzanne, with haughty manners, and a taste for wealth and power (a variation on the hairdresser Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the deposed Tunisian dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali) and a favored son who, by all indications, was preparing to inherit his father's power, deepened the estrangement between Mr. Mubarak and his people.

Egypt had been the trendsetter in Arab politics, in its self-image the place where all things modern in Arab life—the cinema, radio, women's emancipation, parliamentary life, mass politics, forced industrialization—had begun. The sight of Tunisians, hitherto a marginal people in the Arab consciousness, taking to the streets and deposing their tyrant, both shamed and emboldened the Egyptians. They had wearied of the large prison that Mr. Mubarak had constructed for them. A man who places himself at the helm for three decades inevitably, and justly, becomes the target of all the discontents in the realm.

Revolts of this kind are always a gamble on the unknown. At bottom, they are an attempt at self-purification, a society wishes to be done with the stain of submission to a dictator's transgressions. Amid the tumult, what is so clear today is the hatred felt for the ruler and his immediate family. Reigns like Mr. Mubarak's devour the green and the dry, as a favored Arab expression has it. The sycophants come to the fore and steal what they can. Those with heart and character and pride are hauled off to prison, or banished to the outer margins of public life.

Mr. Mubarak has been merciless with his critics. For this isolated, aging man of the barracks, dissent is always treason. There remains, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood. It was in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood was born in the late 1920s. The Brotherhood has been the alibi and the bogeyman with which Hosni Mubarak frightened the middle class at home and the donors abroad in Washington and Europe, who prop his regime out of fear that Egypt would come apart and the zealots would triumph.

In one of the novels by the late Egyptian novelist and Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz, a pharaoh is told by his lovely mistress Rabudis of rumors of pending rebellion, of popular disaffection. "And they say the priests are a powerful group with control over the hearts and the minds of the people." But he smiles and answers. "But I am the stronger." "What of the anger of the people my lord," she asks? "It will calm down when they see me on my chariot." We shall see if and how this modern-day pharaoh copes with a people determined to be rid of him.

There's been a lot of talk about how the US needs to do more to support the protesters. Mubarak is a despotic tyrant, but so was the Shah of Iran. There's no telling that what will replace him will be better for the Egyptian people (or for us) than what was there before.

In late January and early February of 1979, popular uprisings in the street led to the overthrow of the shah of Iran. The Shah's regime was initially replaced by a group of secular pro-democracy moderates. They did not hold power for long.

Within weeks, the most organized force in the country, the Islamists of the Ayatollah Khomeini, had replaced the moderates. By the end of the year, their control of the government (in the form of a new constitution) was complete. The most organized force in Egypt today outside of Mubarak's regime is the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

History may be repeating itself.

The Role of American Unions in Egyptian Unrest

Red State has an interesting look at the role that American labor unions may have had in fomenting the current wave of unrest in Egypt (and Tunisia, before that).

Another Indiana Gerrymander Map

The lefty Swing State project gives us another possible Republican gerrymander of Indiana.

It's an unlikely map with deformed and strangely-shaped districts. I'm not thinking we'll be seeing anything like that come out of the legislature.

Folks over at SSP have mused about Republican gerrymanders of Indiana before. I've blogged about their hypothetical maps here and here.

Redistricting in Florida

Talk about rigging the game:

A left-leaning blogger with the Florida Progressive Coalition points out that the Sunshine State has one of the latest deadlines in the country for completing redistricting.

The June 18, 2012, drop-dead date is a "Republican protection racket," argues Kenneth Quinnell:

With an August primary, this is nothing more than an incumbent (and Republican) protection racket, since it makes it almost impossible for challengers or underfunded candidates to know what their district is in time to mount a significant campaign for the 2012 elections.

This isn’t a coincidence and it’s part of a bigger problem and part of the explanation as to why Republicans win so much in Florida — they stack the rules in their favor.
Whenever anyone bemoans the maps Republicans are about to draw in Indiana, just look at how they draw the maps in Florida.

Internet Pets

Mike Pence

The Courier Journal's Sunday edition has a great profile of Mike Pence. For many less-political (or less conservative) Hoosiers in this part of the state, it may well be their first introduction to the man that is likely to be Indiana's next governor.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friendly Reminder

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(New posts will appear below this.)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mike Pence Decision Reaction Rundown

Everybody and their brother has a reaction to Mike Pence's decision not to run for president.

That's interesting in and of itself, if you think about it. Do you think that there would be a similar reaction if some other member of Congress decided not to run? I doubt it. That alone should tell you something about the size of the opportunity that Mike Pence is walking away from.

The Indianapolis Star broke the story minutes before Pence sent out his statement. Their article is here.

John Hood, at National Review:

I met Mike Pence two decades ago at a gathering of state think-tank leaders. Back then, he worked with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Talk-radio fame and Congress were still in his future. Still, it was obvious to his fellow activists that Pence would be playing a key role in the national conservative movement. He has, and will.

His announcement today that he wouldn’t be seeking the GOP presidential nomination also seemed to be a quasi-announcement of his intention to run for governor of Indiana in 2012. I’m not sure Hoosiers could do any better than Pence as a worthy successor to Mitch Daniels. Given what I also considered the long odds against Pence winning the presidential contest, I think he has made the right call. As Daniels, Chris Christie, and others are in the midst of demonstrating, the post of governor is an excellent place to showcase the promise and importance of conservative governance — and to hone the leadership and management skills that future chief executives need to be effective.

Almost all of my favorite presidents were once governors: Polk, Jackson (appointed), Cleveland, Coolidge, Reagan. There’s still plenty of time for Pence to join that list…

Michelle Malkin:

Whatever Mike Pence decides to do, he will do movement conservatives proud. He's far more than a "rock star." He's a ROCK.

Jim Geraghty, of The Campaign Spot:

I find this disappointing, as he struck me as the candidate with perhaps the best chance of uniting the, for lack of better terms, Tea Party and Establishment wings of the Republican Party. Pence is a thoroughly consistent conservative. But he doesn’t snarl, he’s rarely negative, and I can’t recall too many off-the-wall statements from him. A couple folks tried to persuade me he was boring, but I saw him address the NRA Convention last year, and he blew the doors off the place.


Mike Pence announced Thursday night that he won’t run for the White House, leaving conservatives looking for someone new to serve them tea.

Pence’s decision not to seek national office in favor of a likely run for governor of Indiana is a major blow to conservative activists and tea party leaders, who saw Pence as someone who could unite the traditional GOP base—evangelical and social conservatives—with the tea party’s fiscal hawks.

And it’s left a major opening for someone in a heavily crowded GOP presidential field: At the Value Voters Summit last year, Pence won the straw poll for both president and vice president, beating better-known candidates like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin.

“I am selfishly disappointed,” said Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center and longtime conservative activist who was among a group of Washington conservatives urging Pence to run for president—and whose support is now up for grabs. “I don’t have a number two. I had a number one and a whole bunch of people are running for number two. It’s a crowded dance floor and it’s time for the people there to start strutting their stuff and see who’s got the next booty.”

His likely gubernatorial campaign is a victory for the Republican Governor’s Association, which mounted an intense lobbying effort to urge Pence to run for governor.

“I am encouraged by Congressman Mike Pence’s decision to explore how he can best serve the people of Indiana and advance the conservative cause closer to home,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the RGA chairman, said in a Thursday statement. “While the Republican presidential field lost a strong voice today, I am confident the people of Indiana will benefit from Mike’s decision.”

Pence was Perry’s first recruitment call after he became chairman, a source with knowledge of the call told POLITICO, and Pence met in Washington on Wednesday with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, the RGA’s vice chairman, and RGA executive director Phil Cox.

Pence’s decision is a “major coup” for the RGA, said one Republican aide.

Erick Erickson of Red State:

As many of you are hearing, Mike Pence will not be running for President. Many conservatives across the spectrum from fiscal to social had been rallying hoping for Pence to run. I was one of them.

While Indiana Republicans can rejoice at a stellar candidate with a clear field for Governor, conservatives looking for inspiration in the 2012 Presidential field will have to keep looking.

It is disappointing, but not unexpected. The field is now wide open for a candidate to shine with conservatives. I would only say that 2012 is not like 2008 and I think before settling conservatives are going to have to take a serious look at some of the fresh faces who might enter.

As for me, I am going to sit on the sidelines and do as I have always done — publicly weighing both the pros and cons of the field, no doubt making everyone mad along the way.

Just this morning, before the news came out, conservative wise men Richard Viguerie and Ralph Benko had an op-ed in Politico urging Pence to run for president. By the time it went out, it appears that his mind was already made up.

Kathryn Jean Lopez, also at National Review (emphases mine):

Someone familiar with the effort to encourage Mike Pence to run for president comments about the news from Indiana: “Sad to say, but at a time when we need someone with guts like Reagan in 1976 challenging an incumbent president of his own party or Rubio staying in the Florida Senate race when he was 40 points down to Crist, we get political calculation, and personal ambition.”

So now what? The same person says: “Unless something miraculous happens and we get an unexpected gift candidate, I guess true believing conservatives will have to stop bad things from happening and see what emerges.”

I’d give Congressman Pence much more credit than that. He can be a good governor. Good governors are powerful. And it takes a certain humility to say no when people are enthusiastically insisting you can and should be president of the United States. I wish him well.

And it actually is a big country of talented people …. some of whom could prove to be national leaders yet!

UPDATE: Another person close to the Pence-mentum movement: “he just passed on the opportunity of a lifetime.”

K-Lo went on to note:

...His path to governor is as sure a bet as any political race ever is. The politico I was chatting with earlier thinks we probably won’t be talking about him in a presidential context again, even though he’ll have more executive experience after a term as governor. “If he’s running for Governor, it’s the end of time on the national stage, sorry to say.” He’s following a very successful reform conservative governor. If he swooping in to save a state victimized by liberalism, it might be a different story.

And that pretty much sums up my own reaction. It's much too early to tell, obviously, but I think that Mike Pence's odds of winning an election for executive office just went through the roof. His odds of ever being President of the United States just fell through the floor.

Yesterday, Mike Pence would have been just about the lone true conservative running for president. In four or eight years, he will be just one of a crowd. And that crowd will include conservatives that have had to salvage the wreckage of states run into the ground by liberalism, as opposed to conservatives that have inherited a well-run state currently being administered with fiscal prudence and conservatism. It seems unlikely to me that anything Mike Pence does in Indiana will distinguish himself from the conservatives engaged in rebuilding states in far worse situations than Indiana.

Mike Pence's chances are unfortunately probably not going to get better in four or eight years compared to where they are right now (and I would love to be proven wrong on this point).

In raw political terms, the benefit he gets from having "executive experience" does not outweigh the benefit he currently has in terms of being a standout in a field of nonentities. That likely won't be the case next time, or the time after.

Today, the conservative bench is shallow. In four years (and probably in eight), it will be broad and deep. That is of great comfort to conservatives and should be a cause of immeasurable hope for the future of our country. It should not be a great comfort to Mike Pence, at least if he someday hopes to be president.

But, of course, for Hoosier conservatives, Mike Pence running for governor is also a great comfort as well.

America's loss is Indiana's gain.

I'm just not as comfortable with that as Mike Pence apparently is.

Mike Pence's Sherman Statement

He's not running for president, he says.

Left unsaid is that he's almost certainly running for governor.

However, Indiana campaign finance laws do not allow candidates for statewide office to raise money while the General Assembly is in session, so Mike Pence probably won't officially be a candidate for governor until sometime in late April or even May.

In the meantime, his Federal campaign committee can continue rolling on.

The statement, which was sent via email:


Anderson, IN- U.S. Congressman Mike Pence issued the following letter to friends and supporters today:

Friends and Supporters,

Over the past few months, my family and I have been grateful for the encouragement we have received to consider other opportunities to serve our state and our nation in the years ahead.

We have been especially humbled by the confidence and support of those who believe we should pursue the presidency, but after much deliberation and prayer, we believe our calling is closer to home.

The highest office I will ever hold is husband and father. As a family, we feel led to devote this time in our lives to continuing to serve the people of Indiana in some way.

In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana. We will not seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

In every major decision in my life, I have learned to follow my heart, and my heart is in Indiana. Karen and I love this state: the highways and byways, the small towns and courthouse squares, the big cities and corn fields. We love the strong and good people of this state and feel a debt of gratitude to those who have sustained our work with their steadfast support and prayers.

After years of falling behind, Indiana is on the verge of an era of growth and opportunity like no other time in my life. Those of us who serve Indiana in Congress and in the Statehouse have a unique opportunity to advance the interests of Hoosiers. As Governor Daniels has rightly observed, there is important work to be done in Indianapolis and Washington, and it's time to focus on the task at hand.

In the months ahead, as we attend to our duties in Congress, we will also be traveling across the state to listen and learn about how Hoosiers think we might best contribute in the years ahead. After taking time to listen to Hoosiers, we will make a decision later this year about what role we will seek to play.

Public service requires humility, patience and discipline to pursue what matters most. To save this nation, men and women of integrity and insistent conservative vision must step forward and serve where they can make the most difference. While we may have been able to seek the presidency, we believe our best opportunity to continue to serve the conservative values that brought us to public life is right here in Indiana.

For now, permit us to simply say "thank you." In the wake of such encouragement, we have often thought to ask, "who am I, Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?"

Thanks to all those who took time to offer earnest counsel and advice.
Thanks to all who took time to express encouragement from across the state and across the country. And thank you for the prayers of so many faithful friends.

Indiana can lead the nation back to fiscal responsibility, reform and strong families. As we achieve an even better Indiana for our children and grandchildren, we will continue to be a model for a better and stronger America.

Mike Pence

This Day in History

In 1945, 66 years ago today, Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz. January 27 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Hat tip: In the Agora.

State of the Union: Stalingrad on the Potomac

The disconnect between Obama's speech ("let's spend even more money on this and that") with the reality ("there is no money to spend") is so large that it's unsurprising that even lefties are coming up empty in finding anything positive to say about Obama's speech on Tuesday evening.

From Ricochet:

More than anything, I was struck last night by the generational aspect of the President's address. Sorry, young people: galvanizing the under-30 set makes great campaign material, but now it's all about helping the aged. You heard it in the feel-your-pain reference to the bygone era of local factory jobs. You heard it in the human-interest stories of heroically repurposed near-retirement-age businessfolk. Above all, you heard it in the surrealistically repurposed Sputnik Moment, which became in Obama's hands a way to get older Americans to imagine that the reliable, stable world of their past was actually a cavalcade of personal reinvention and societal reeducation.

Young Americans? To the extent that we heard anything, we heard that our future is cut and dried: science and math education, because that's what they do in China; a career as a scientist, an engineer, or a science and math teacher, because in South Korea those people are celebrated as "nation builders;" a lifetime of work spent in an economy propped up by spending, subsidies, and a perpetual partnership between big government and big business.

Cheer up, kids. You're the ones you've been waiting for. Remember?

Which generation's Sputnik moment is this, again? If we're fated to work with metaphors from the middle of the twentieth century, let's at least choose one that resonates with people who are coming of age in the twenty-first.

Say, perhaps, the Hitler Finds Out metaphor. From the vantage of the young, for the President -- and, indeed, virtually the entire leadership class of the United States of America -- this is their Stalingrad moment: the moment at which the vast armies they continue to maneuver around the gigantic battle map turn out to be gone, destroyed, never to return again. The bold challenges, the arbitrary and random numerical goalposts (80% more of these, 100,000 more of those) -- it all gave off the disconnected feel of denial-driven fantasy. It's not that the emperor has no clothes. It's that he has no divisions.

Young Americans already face a future defined by an inescapable reckoning. They already tend to look at our grand entitlements as phantoms, as dead entitlements walking. They already know the problem isn't that we have too few college graduates, but that we -- like Tunisia and (gasp!) China, to mention a few -- have too many for the market to absorb. And they already know that all the science and math in the world can't serve to nourish our personal and cultural convictions about the purpose and character of American life in transformed times.

When will Obama's generation reckon with that?

Horrifying New Draft Mitch Ad Running in Iowa

Geraghty snarks, "Bubbly Blondes in Low-Cut Tops for Mitch 2012!"

I'm sure it's well intentioned, but it just doesn't compare at all to Mitch's real ads.

Like this one:

Or the sequel:

Or the Mitch's final ad (where he promised he'd never run for anything ever again):

Quote of the Day: Chris Christie Strikes Again

Policeman: “My salary went up 2%. And after the increase in my healthcare costs went in, do you know how much my check went up Sir? $4. How am I supposed to live on that?”

Gov. Christie: “Here’s the difference. You’re getting a paycheck. And there are 9% of the people in the state of NJ who are not.”
Video here.

“I Don't Like the Evidence-Gathering Part of Journalism”

The video is funny, sadly, because it's so true.

"Why is Rush Limbaugh hate speech," the conservative asks.

"Because I hate it," the liberal responds.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

They're Not Done Yet

The Courier-Journal's Dave Moss looks at the Clark County Tea Party.

Like so many tea party groups across the country, they're confronting an important question in the wake of the 2010 elections: What now?

And it's not a question they're afraid to explore; they're not going anywhere, and they're not done yet.

If other tea party groups in Indiana, and across the country, stay as active and dedicated to their cause as the one in Clark County (and, from what I have seen, many have), then the past may well have been prologue. An engaged and active conservative citizenry will have a dramatic impact upon our politics.

Kelly Khuri understandably was curious, if not concerned. How many would attend?

Would members assume to no longer be needed after the recent election?

A large room at Silver Creek Middle School filled slowly, but it filled. By the time co-founder Khuri led at least 100 in the Pledge of Allegiance, the Clark County Tea Party Patriots seemed still to be a force, not a fad. Its first meeting this year pulsed with determination like had those last year.

“That’s the first phase, this previous election,” said member Bill Crace, of Charlestown. Last year “was just a first step.”

These tea partiers said they are not lacking for hot buttons, despite only city-and-town elections around the corner. They pledge to keep learning, keep questioning and keep tabs on elected officials. “We’ve got to stay on guys’ backs, to watch them every day,” Crace said. “Trust and verify, I believe that.”

They also believe their might mattered a lot last Election Day and beyond. Crace feels the tea party boosted local Republicans to historic victories. Ron Smith of Jeffersonville stood to tell the group, “Never have I been so proud of so few accomplishing so much.”

Smith mentioned Clark County’s rejection of a wheel tax.

Khuri, who lives near Jeffersonville, joined chiefly Lisa Morris and Teresa Ballew this time last year to make sure their area took part in the tea party movement. The women set out to fuel change with their frustration, to give voice to others who were also feeling left out.

The Clark County Tea Party Patriots conduct no loyalty oaths and declare openness, I am told. Just behave, its founders ask. “We want to maintain a professional appearance,” said Morris, of Sellersburg.

Attendance grew through 2010 and peaked pre-election with a crowd almost of 200. Most members are older, Khuri said, but parents sometimes bring children. They are said to be from all walks of life and from the spectrum of political persuasion. “Not that we ask,” Morris said. “They volunteer.”

Members report on what’s happening in Washington and in Indianapolis — and in the local courthouse. They are urged to attend public meetings, and they urge public officials to attend tea party meetings.

“They were grilled – I mean grilled,” Morris said of 2010 candidates who visited. “They were told, ‘Don’t come, give us fluff and walk out.’ ”

Group leaders said candidates are not endorsed.

The meeting I visited included a report from Morris on the meaning of the Indiana state flag and a presentation by businessmen opposed to Ohio River bridge tolls. Khuri quoted both Thomas Jefferson and new House Speaker John Boehner. Members offered opinions on gasoline prices, congressional earmarks and rules, health-care reform and on the even-handedness of Google, the internet search engine.

If founders were worried the Clark County Tea Party Patriots would return to the background, this 2011 kickoff provided evidence otherwise.

“Really the hard work begins now,” said Ballew, of Clarksville. “We can’t let people become complacent. We have to keep them involved.”

“Our mantra is, ‘We’re just getting started,’ ” Morris said.

The Imperial Senate

No, I'm not referring to some body from Star Wars, but instead to an entire line of thinking about the role that members of the United States Senate play and the deference that we, the People, apparently are supposed to accord them.

From Ace of Spades:

There are two parts of our special form of self-rule: the Democratic part and the Republic part. True, we elect officials to make decisions on our behalf (that's the Republic part) but they do so with consent of the governed and knowing they either must vote the way their constituents prefer or face the wrath of the voters. That's the Democratic part. All those pining for some sort of Philosopher-Kings perfectly insulated from public opinion, those whining about how unjust a Democratic Republic can be for including some Democracy, seem to think the nation is just a Republic, or, perhaps, some other form of government. An aristocracy, perhaps, where the Common Folks are governed by their Social and Cultural Betters.

That won't do. That entire attitude needs to go.

First of all, it's not true that when we elect Senators or anyone else we are giving them a term-limited Divine Right to rule us only as their judgment and conscience see fit. We've never conceived of these posts in that manner. We've long had public assemblies and insisted upon our right to write to, and maybe hear back from, our representatives. We've never fully conceded all governing authority to them -- the very idea of petitioning representatives and meeting in town halls to give them some lip is completely at odds with the idea that once they're in office they're entirely free to vote however they like without our input. Town halls and assemblies are expressly a way to give them our input -- and we expect them to listen.

We never have lived in this Golden Age where we just took the wisdom of Senators as gospel without challenging it. Never. That wouldn't even be America. In what kind of America do we just decide that Person X is our superior in all ways and so we should defer to him in all things? That's so non-American I can't imagine how a Senator could think of the country in that manner.

We elect our representatives to exercise our will. Period. Yes, we let them make all sorts of decisions on things that are highly technical or which we care little about. The day to day functioning of government, the details of taxation and spending.

But the fact that we cede, temporarily, and qualifiedly, power to representatives to vote as their judgment suggests on the little things does not mean we've given up the right to exercise our right, as citizens in a democracy, to demand our wishes be obeyed on the big things, the things we've bothered to learn about and form an opinion about.

Specter, Lugar, and the rest of the Imperial Senators seem to think that we Americans have delegated our thinking to them, all of it, as if we were the Betas and Deltas in Brave New World, an intellectually-stunted sub-species, and they are the Double Plus Alphas, an intellectually-enhanced overlord species.

A Vote for a Democrat Is a Vote for Nancy Pelosi, Says... Democratic Campaign Chief

Nancy PelosiGo ahead... make her day.

Well, this is something that conservatives and Republicans have been saying for years.

A vote for a Democratic member of Congress is a vote for Nancy Pelosi. I'd even go so far as to say that a vote for a Democrat at any level of government is a vote for Nancy Pelosi and (more broadly) Barack Obama.

But you'd expect to hear those sorts of things from conservatives and Republicans.

But from the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee?


House Democrats' goal is to make Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) the Speaker of the House again, their campaign chairman said Wednesday evening.

Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), set his goal as nothing short of winning back control of the House in the 2012 elections.

"We're all trying to win it back," Israel said on MSNBC when asked if it was Democrats' goal of winning back enough seats to make Pelosi, the former Speaker and new minority leader, the next Speaker.

Democrats lost 63 seats in the 2010 congressional elections, which delivered to Republicans control of the House. Democrats would need to win 25 seats now held by Republicans to flip control of the House back in their favor.

Republicans, going into the 2010 contests, had been coy about naming the number of seats they thought they would gain, or, until the end of the campaign, outright predicting that they would win back the majority.

Israel's confidence could shift over the next two years — in an optimistic or pessimistic way — as political events unfold between now and 2012.

"Look, I'm focused on gaining 25 seats back so that we can regain the majority and continue to protect the middle class — not vote against the middle class, which is what the Republicans did just 20 minutes ago on the floor of the House," Israel said, referencing one of the first House votes on Wednesday afternoon.
As I noted earlier, these are people that will vote against something because it is politically expedient (and their votes were not needed to pass it), but they will not vote to undo and repeal the thing they supposedly opposed. Why should they be trusted on or believed about anything?

Right-to-Work FAQ

Red State has a nice rundown of facts and statistics about right-to-work legislation, something currently being considered by the Indiana General Assembly. It's a good read.

Meet Draft Pence

Over at The Campaign Spot, Jim Geraghty has an interesting interview with Ralph Benko, who started the website to draft Mike Pence to run for president.

More New Tone: Democratic Congressman Compares Mike Pence to Joseph Goebbels

The More You See, The More You'll Like

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mourdock Polling Possible Lugar Primary Challenge: “It Is Winnable. Oh Yeah.”

Hidden in the Indy Star's article on the tea party confab this past Saturday was this interesting tidbit, sure to cause concern among Indy establishment types that have already written Richard Mourdock out of any possible primary challenge and are professing Dick Lugar's invincibility:

At least two Republicans frequently have been mentioned as possibilities: State Treasurer Richard Mourdock and state Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel.

Neither will attend today's event. Candidates, Mourdock said, weren't invited.

Delph said he's staying focused for now on the legislature, and he denies any involvement in the new "draft Delph" website that's been anonymously created.

Mourdock, though, confirmed he is "very, very seriously considering" challenging Lugar and expects to make a decision "sooner rather than later."

He's paid for a poll, which he wouldn't disclose, and had "a lot of discussions" with Republicans, including Gov. Mitch Daniels, and tea party activists.

Daniels, at least, told him he'd be backing Lugar -- the man who gave Daniels his start in politics. But the net sum of his polling and other conversations led Mourdock to one conclusion.

"It is winnable," he said, then added with a laugh: "Oh, yeah. Yeah."

Now, he said, he is weighing whether he wants to be a senator and, perhaps most important, whether he could raise enough cash to compete.
That Mourdock would poll a possible challenge before making a decision isn't surprising; he's a very thorough guy. However, that he would conduct a poll implies a level of seriousness about running that we've not seen before from Mourdock, or anyone else for that matter.

Moreover, the polling doesn't appear to have dissuaded him from running in the least; it may have encouraged him, given what he told the Star. He's doing everything you'd expect a serious potential primary challenger to be doing, and he's going about it with the same sort of thorough and methodical approach you'd expect from a guy that is a geologist by training.

It's also unsurprising that Mitch Daniels has basically declared to Mourdock that he will push hard for Lugar and go to bat for his old boss. That's classic Indianapolis, and classic Mitch Daniels: they know best; everyone else should just sit down and shut up.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

As Hoosier Tea Parties Gather to Oust Him, Lugar Gets Award from Amnesty Group

I'd be interested to know who on Lugar's staff thought that the optics of him getting an award for supporting amnesty legislation on the same day that Indiana tea party groups gathered for the first time, with the object of defeating him, was a good idea.

From the Indy Star:

About 180 tea party activists gathered in a Tipton County church this morning to work on a strategy to unseat U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar in 2012.

The group signed a letter to Lugar, whom the activist group considers too liberal to represent Indiana Republicans, thanking him for his service and urging him not to run in next year's primary.

Organizers of the event at the Heartland Family Life Center in Sharpsville also resolved to coalesce around a single challenger to Lugar rather than split their support among multiple candidates in the Republican primary.

At the same time as the meeting to unseat Lugar was taking place in Tipton, more than 50 people gathered in Indianapolis to honor and praise Lugar for his support of the Dream Act. The Act, which Tea Party activists oppose, is meant to help the children of illegal immigrants.

La Plaza, an Indianapolis-based civic organization focused on the Hispanic and Latino communities, along with other organizations, honored Lugar and presented him with a plaque this morning. The organization isn't endorsing him or any other candidates, but rather wanted to thank him for his work.

As he accepted the plaque, Lugar smiled and told the crowd, "I should point out that other Hoosiers are proceeding to Tipton County to plot my political end."

Lugar said the 2012 elections could be the most challenging elections he has faced due to that opposition, but he still believes he has great support. During a fundraiser Friday night in Carmel, Lugar raised $390,000 from the 420 attendees, he said. He has also gotten more than 8,000 signatures in support of his re-election run.
The optics of one of Lugar's few recent visits to Indiana being focused around the twin pillars of a fundraiser in Carmel and getting an award from a Latino group for supporting amnesty legislation probably does more to harm Lugar than anything accomplished at the tea party meeting on Saturday morning.

This being said, some (like Indy establishment buddy Abdul Hakim-Shabazz) have pooh-poohed the tea party meeting as disorganized and the task ahead of them as somehow hopeless.

That's misunderstanding the lay of the land, I think. Most of these tea party groups have never gathered together before, even during the 2010 election. For most of them, this is the first time that their representatives have ever met with representatives of another tea party group. In that sense, regardless of how "disorganized" it might have been, it's a notable event (historic, if you're of a mind to apply grandiose language to it, I guess).

As notable as it is that they have gathered for the first time, it's far more important that the tea parties have recognized the importance of unifying behind a single candidate if Lugar is to be beaten. But all of this will be for naught if there isn't a capable candidate willing to run (and it will be just as naught if there are two that decide to take the leap). Nothing will unify them more, and see them more organized, than a candidate worth unifying behind.

That, in the end, matters more than anything that happened on Saturday morning in Tipton.

Additional stories from the Indianapolis Star about the Tipton gathering:

Tea party is making battle plans: Activists sign letter asking Lugar to retire and plan June caucus to settle on a 2012 challenger

Tea party formulates strategy to unseat Lugar: About 200 activists meeting today think veteran Republican senator is too liberal

Lugar Runs Away from Assault Weapons Ban

Will Rogers once said that there are three kinds of men. One learns by reading. A few learn by observing. The rest have to piss on the electric fence themselves.

Count Dick Lugar in the last group:

Sen. Richard Lugar said Tuesday he's not pushing to renew a ban on assault weapons as was reported last week after he told an interviewer the ban should be reinstated.

"I was innocently trying to say that I voted for this in the past and probably would do so again," the Indiana Republican said. "But there was absolutely no chance, zero, that we're going to have such debate."

Lugar, who faces a potential primary challenge in his 2012 re-election bid, was reacting to a headline in Politico saying: "Lugar pushes to renew assault weapons ban." The story said Lugar was the first GOP senator to call for increased gun control after the mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz.

The story was based on an interview Lugar did with Bloomberg Television on Friday in which he was asked about the ban on certain semiautomatic firearms that Congress approved in 1994. The ban expired in 2004.

Lugar was asked whether the ban should be reinstated to prevent people from buying guns such as the Glock 19 with a 30-bullet magazine that was used in the Tucson shooting.

"I believe it should be (reinstated), but I recognize the fact that the politics domestically in our country with regard to this are on a different track altogether," Lugar told Bloomberg.

Lugar told a group of reporters Tuesday he was trying to point out that, because the ban likely won't be reinstated, talking about it could be counterproductive by encouraging people to stock up on weapons.
I'm thinking that talking about it could be counterproductive to the political careers of incumbent Republican Senators, too.

That being said, I'm not sure what's worse; that Lugar supports the assault weapons ban and said as much, or that he didn't recognize before he said it that openly saying his true position would be politically harmful to him in a primary fight.

In my initial blog post about Lugar's remarks, I noted his attempt at making the minor distinction of "I'm for this, but it will never happen" (a distinction that Politico completely ignored, it seems). The problem for Lugar in the eyes of conservatives and Republican primary voters is that he's for the assault weapons ban in the first place; the odds of it happening don't factor in when they cast their primary vote.

Indeed, it would be logical to say that the odds of it happening would be reduced even further if Lugar was replaced by someone opposed to the assault weapons ban from the start. After all, six years is a long time. Six years ago, Republicans held the White House and both chambers of Congress. Who knows what might happen in the next six years.

Lugar Confirms, Again, That He'll Seek Reelection

I didn't think this was news.

Despite a potential challenge within his own party, Republican Sen. Richard Lugar plans a "vigorous" campagn in 2012, an aide said.

Lugar spokesman Mark Helmke said today that Lugar is committed to winning a seventh term representing Indiana in the Senate.

Lugar made it clear in August he intended to run again.

That effort has already begun. Lugar [returned] to Indiana on Friday for a major fundraiser in Carmel, outside of Indianapolis.
It used to be something of a game for conservative and Republican bloggers to track Evan Bayh's scarce trips "home" to Indiana. A similar game could well be played with Lugar's trips back home; he may have made even fewer than Bayh.

It would be interesting to see some statistics on his time spent back "home" in the past few years. This being said, I am not thinking that spending an evening with wealthy Carmelites to raise campaign cash counts for much of a trip "home."

General Assembly Republicans Not Likely to Rubber Stamp Mitch's Legislative Agenda

Ed Feigenbaum explains the surprise in store for anyone in the Governor's office that thought they'd be getting everything they wanted after November 2.

Mitch may be on the verge of becoming a lame duck a lot faster than he intended.

With the gloss worn off the governor’s State of the State address and committee hearings beginning in earnest, one phenomenon we cautioned you about is starting to play out: Assorted issues advanced by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels are confronting political pushback—from his Republican legislative majority.

While he never expected the new GOP majority in the General Assembly to advance his legislative agenda without question or modification, Gov. Daniels may be surprised to see some of the more vociferous opposition come from both legislative veterans and the freshman bloc.
Read the entire thing.

In Tuscon, a Preview of 2012?

Legal Insurrection thinks that, when it comes to the media's treatment of conservatives, we ain't seen nothin' yet:

The ruthless efficiency with which the left-wing blogosphere tied Palin to the shooting, and the success of their efforts in equating Palin with mass murder, is a lesson we should not forget.

The Democrats and their mainstream media supporters were put back on their heels in 2010, and are regrouping. And if regrouping requires falsely accusing a major Republican figure of complicity in mass murder, and then amplifying that false accusation for several days in the face of contrary evidence until a substantial portion of the population believes it, they will do it.

But it did not stop with the accusation. When Palin tried to defend herself she was savaged again in the mainstream media.

Palin supposedly didn't issue a statement soon enough or she issued it too soon; she was accused of using the term "blood libel" improperly by people who had used the term themselves in less dire circumstances; she was making it all about her; her tone was not right; she didn't really feel what she was saying, and so on and so on.

Having created a false narrative of Palin's responsibility for the shooting, the mainstream media tried to deprive Palin of the ability to defend herself against the charges. And unfortunately, some who supposedly are on our side have jumped on that bandwagon.

And all the while, Barack Obama stood back for days and let his supporters in the media rip Palin apart, much as he left it to his supporters to go after the Clintons during the primary, only then to proclaim that we don't really know why Jared Loughner did what he did. And the media narrative was how wonderful Obama was, how he helped heal the nation.

Any Republican or conservative or Tea Party supporter who dumps on Palin in any way over the Tucson shooting or her defense of herself should just stop talking now.

It does not matter whether you support Palin for President, whether you think she is electable, or even whether you like her. This is not about Palin, it is about the mainstream media's desire to have Barack Obama re-elected at any cost and to take down any Republican candidate who stands in the way...

In the vile attempt to tie Palin to the Tucson shooting we have witnessed the test run for how the left-wing blogosphere will target Republican candidates and propel false narratives into the mainstream media, and how the mainstream media will take those narratives and run with them.

If Palin is taken down politically over the Tucson shooting, there is not a single Republican candidate who can survive the coming onslaught...

If this is the standard by which we choose candidates, then the time has come to put thoughts of Republicans winning in 2012 to rest.
I have serious doubts about Sarah Palin as a candidate for president in 2012, but the point above is nevertheless well said; conservatives and Republicans are ill-prepared for opponents willing to engage in this sort of mendacity.

Ball State University Study: High Gas Prices Hurt Economy, Lead to Higher Unemployment

Who knew?

This, of course, is surely yet another reason why the Obama administration's moratorium on oil drilling is such a great idea...

Quote of the Day: Lower the Spending Floor

Red State:

When you can’t pay the heat bill, you empty the pool. When you can’t buy groceries, you stop going to restaurants. When you can’t afford the gas, you sell the yacht. You don’t pay off your credit card by taking out another credit card. Here in Tea Party America, we get it.

Here in the hinterlands, we know one way to raise the [debt] ceiling is to lower the [spending] floor.

What's My Line: Walt Disney

Bit of TV Americana:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

When Mitch Met Mike

WCSI in Columbus tells us about a meeting earlier this week between Governor Mitch Daniels (often spoken of as a potential presidential candidate) and Congressman Mike Pence (often spoken of as a potential presidential or gubernatorial candidate).

Boy, I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that meeting.

Sixth district Congressman Mike Pence says the conservative activists publicly lobbying him to run for President have already done so privately. Pence says former Reagan administration attorney Ralph Benko advised him on the speech he delivered to the Detroit Economic Club after Thanksgiving, an address widely viewed as testing the waters for a White House bid. Former Kansas Congressman Jim Ryun served with Pence in the House for six years before Ryun's defeat in the 2006 election. Benko and Ryun are the only publicly named backers of the America's President Committee, which on Monday launched an online petition drive aimed at gathering "tens of thousands" of signatures to urge Pence to run for President. Pence has been weighing whether to run for President or Governor, and says he intends to make a decision within the next couple of weeks. He isn't ruling out running for reelection to his House seat.

The six-term Republican says he's been consulting people nationally for the last several months about his next political move, and characterizes the public nudge from Benko and Ryun as one more element of that process. He says he'll base his decision on what's right for his family and where he believes he is most needed. Governor Mitch Daniels, who's barred from seeking a third term, has also been delaying a decision on whether he'll run for President. Pence says he met privately with the Governor Tuesday morning, and describes him as both a friend and "America's best Governor." Pence says he suspects he and Daniels are assessing their political plans in similar ways. Even if they end up facing off against each other in a Republican Presidential Primary, Pence says he believes it won't damage their relationship.

Shades of the Past and Future of Southern Indiana Politics in New Albany Mayor Race

The Courier-Journal has an interesting article about the decision by Doug England, the iron-fisted mayor of New Albany, to not seek reelection and to instead support Irving Stumler. It's the usual sort of article you'd expect to see anywhere in the state when an incumbent mayor steps aside and endorses a potential successor.

But there are a couple of key differences. After all, this is southern Indiana; it's not like the rest of Indiana.

The first difference:

England and Stumler’s joint announcement gave the appearance of an uncontested passing of the party baton, especially with Floyd County Democratic Party Chairman John Wilcox on hand sporting a Stumler sticker.

But Stumler will face competition from retired Indiana Department of Transportation worker Paul Etheridge, who also filed Wednesday to run for mayor in the Democrat primary.
There was a time in southern Indiana, as there was a time in most of the South more broadly, when the Democratic Party primary was the only election that mattered. The Democratic primary was a seriously contested affair with many candidates, and the Republicans often didn't have any primaries at all (assuming they had any candidates file and didn't have to appoint to fill the ballot vacancies later).

That's no longer the case. Increasingly, I've noticed that Democrats in many (though certainly not all) counties in southern Indiana are starting to not have seriously contested primaries anymore. Oh, they might have a primary in name only, as New Albany appears set to have this coming May, but the primary is not a serious contest and the establishment powers that be line everything up in advance in favor of some chosen candidate.

The days of genuinely competitive Democratic Party primaries are fading fast. And as those serious competitions fade, the incentive to vote Democrat in the spring (and thus call yourself a Democrat and lean Democrat in the fall) is starting to wane also. It's a hole in the dike that started appearing years ago. The dike was overcome by a tsunami in 2010, but the hole is getting bigger and may not ever be patched. That makes draining away the water that got over the dike in 2010 that much harder.

The second difference:

But the path to England’s endorsement was not a straight one for Stumler, who acknowleged having talked with local GOP leaders about running for mayor as a Republican. “It was a possibility. I didn’t file anything,” he said. “We just talked.”

Floyd County GOP Chairman Dave Matthews said, “Irv looked to me to be like an individual who cared about the conservative principals that we share as a Republican party and looked like a fairly good candidate to lead that ticket. … Why he chose to run as a Democrat, I’ll let you make your own assumption.”

Said Stumler: “When the mayor heard that I was serious (about considering a run as a Republican), he came to me and asked me if I would for sure run (as a Democrat) to replace him. So I decided that was a good move and the thing that we should do for the best of New Albany.”
Stumler was seriously looking at running as a Republican. Why? I doubt that principles had much to do with him seeking out Dave Matthews. It's more because the establishment wouldn't have given him a fair primary in the spring against England. He is now the establishment's candidate and no longer has that problem.

That a candidate would so openly flirt with switching parties and have to be wooed back by the incumbent mayor not running and thus anointing him as his successor is something that would have been unthinkable not so long ago in southern Indiana. Potential or actual party switchers like Stumler would have been ruthlessly crushed in November, not begged to come back.

In the past, Stumler (and, indeed, New Albany voters at large) could have expected a more competitive primary where he might have had a chance, not a dog and pony show more resembling a national political convention than a serious exercise in democratic (small "d") competition.

It will be interesting to see how rank-and-file Democrats take to Stumler, regardless of what their party leaders think of getting him to run as a Democrat when he was seeking permission from the Floyd County GOP Chairman to run as a Republican.

Reading Tea Leaves

Abdul doesn't think that Richard Mourdock will be running in the Republican primary against Dick Lugar. While I don't have an inside track on that, I think that the reasoning he's using to come to that conclusion is rather dubious.

Tea party activists are slated to get together this weekend near Tipton to try to decide on a challenger to Richard Lugar in the 2012 primary. If they were hoping to snag Richard Mourdock, they might want to think again. I’m told Mourdock, while very flattered at the prospect, may be having some serious second thoughts about running against the man who is expected to have major party support next year. Also, Mourdock will not be in attendance at the convention. He will spend the weekend in Evansville. In addition, in the 2010 primary Dan Coats got about 40 percent of the vote, while “tea party” candidate Richard Behney only received 4 percent.
To put it bluntly, anyone that thinks that Dick Lugar will have "major party support next year" hasn't talked to a lot of people within the Republican Party outside of 465.

I wouldn't read too much into Mourdock not being at the upcoming tea party confab on Saturday; they didn't invite any candidates from what I'm told, and the event was explicitly stated to participants that this would not be a meeting to pick a candidate but instead to begin what will likely be a lengthy (and perhaps at times sharp and pointy) process to avoid repeating what happened in 2010, when conservatives split their vote among four primary challengers and allowed Dan Coats to be elected.

Which brings me to the final point of this. What's illuminating about the 2010 primary is not that Richard Behney, who described himself as the "Tea Party candidate" got 4% of the vote. What's illuminating is that Dan Coats got only 40% and the conservative opposition to Coats split 60% of the vote between them.

And Dan Coats was more conservative than Dick Lugar when in office (though many would contend that he was the least conservative person in the 2010 field), and he has already shown himself to be more conservative than Dick Lugar since having been elected. The logic there assumes that Lugar, more liberal than Coats (or more moderate, whatever language you seek to use), will get more conservative votes than Coats did.

I don't think that's likely.

I also think that Dick Lugar is unlikely to be lucky enough to face multiple potentially serious opponents next year, as Dan Coats was in facing Marlin Stutzman and John Hostettler.

Random Thought

There are thirteen Democrats in the House that voted against Obamacare and survived the 2010 elections. Ten of them voted on Wednesday against repealing the law whose implementation they opposed.

What changed? The three Democrats (Boren of Oklahoma, Ross of Arkansas, and McIntyre of North Carolina) that opposed Obamacare then and now deserve kudos. The rest deserve nothing but scorn. They are hypocrites of the first rank.

Geraghty (emphasis his):

Very few Democratic representatives genuinely oppose Obamacare. If you opposed Obamacare in March, as 13 current Democrats did, why would you now reverse course and support the legislation — especially after an intervening election that didn’t go so well for your party? It’s hard to imagine what motivation could lead to such a decision, yet ten of the 13 Democrats who had previously, somewhat bravely opposed Obamacare decided this time around to cast their votes in support of its continuation. American voters who had been on the fence about sending a Democrat, even one who had voted against Obamacare, back to Congress were surely taking notice.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quote of the Day: “Pull It Out By the Roots”

“Our guaranteed rights that come in our Constitution are diminished by the federal government deciding what health care we will have, what health insurance policies we’ll be able to buy, and what tests we’ll be able to take, and which doctors we’ll be able to go to... It’s a cancer that eats away at us, and we’ve got to repeal it completely, pull it out by the roots so it doesn’t grow back again.”
- Congressman Steve King, (R, Iowa) during the House vote on Wednesday to repeal Obamacare.

New Tone: Democratic Congressman Compares Republicans to Nazis on House Floor

From ABC News:

The newfound civility didn’t last long. Political rhetoric in Congress doesn’t get much nastier than the words of one House Democrat during the debate on repealing the health care law.

In an extraordinary outburst on the House floor, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) invoked the Holocaust to attack Republicans on health care and compared rhetoric on the issue to the work of infamous Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.

“They say it's a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like Goebbels," Cohen said. "You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That's the same kind of thing. And Congressman Cohen didn’t stop there.

“The Germans said enough about the Jews and people believed it--believed it and you have the Holocaust. We heard on this floor, government takeover of health care. Politifact said the biggest lie of 2010 was a government takeover of health care because there is no government takeover," Cohen said.

Lost in Translation

Look on the bright side. Outside of Chinese dictator Hu Jintao's hilarious claim that he couldn't answer a question about human rights because it was "lost in translation," we're going to get to have pandas at our zoos for another five years, and we're going to establish a "Center for Excellence" to teach the Chinese all about nuclear security, nuclear technology, and nuclear power plants. These would be the same nuclear power plants that Obama and the Democrats won't let us build here in the United States, the same nuclear technology that China has been stealing from us, and the same nuclear security that they are flagrantly disregarding by selling nuclear technology to countries like Iran.

Look at Obama smirk while Hu Jintao, the Chinese tyrant, claims that the question about human rights was lost in translation. Later, Hu claims that his country is all for human rights.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Conservatives Want Pence for President, Pence Wants to Speak at Indiana Lincoln Day Dinners

The Star is reporting today about an effort by conservatives to draft Mike Pence, called "The Conservative Champion", to run for president.

There's a website and everything.

Pence's actions and schedule, however, continue to be telling a different story. Sure, he's taken a trip or two to various early presidential primary states (keeping his toe in the water, I suppose you might say).

But the sparse trips to early primary states pale in comparison to the aggressive Lincoln Day speaking schedule here in Indiana that Pence is rolling out.

Last year, the Congressman spoke at very few Lincoln Day Dinners outside of his home 6th District. This year, he is everywhere. Floyd County. Grant County. Hendricks County. Howard County. Lake County. Saint Joseph County. Tippecanoe County. Vanderburgh County.

This is all nothing new; I noted weeks ago that Pence was scheduling a lot of Lincoln Day dinners. But the scheduling has, if anything, become more aggressive since then.

Pence is already scheduled for at least eight (and those are just the ones that I could find listed in a few minutes on Google; there are probably even more than that), and every single one is in a heavily-populated county outside of his home 6th District.

The folks seeking to draft Mike Pence to run for President seem to have an uphill climb ahead of them; his scheduler back home in Indiana is running him hard in the opposite direction a presidential campaign would take him.

The Indy Star article:

Lugar: It Will Never Happen, But I'm Still for Reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban

He's right, in the sense that more gun control is a dead letter so long as the House remains in Republican hands (and more conservative hands than his own, it would seem). And so in that sense it's a practical observation to note that there won't be a restoration of the assault weapons ban regardless of his own views on the matter.

But, given all of that, why stick your neck out on an issue that inflames conservative primary voters back home?

Seriously? Why? I don't get it. I understand wanting to stand on principle and so forth. I also understand that Lugar, like many big-city mayors of both parties (see Giuliani, Rudolph or Bloomberg, Michael), has an affinity for gun control that stems from their perspectives on urban law and order, but at what point does somebody recognize that standing on principle shouldn't be accompanied by antagonizing the base of your own party?

One of the most potent voting constituencies that could be mobilized in favor of a primary challenger to Lugar are gun owners, and the NRA will almost certainly not only endorse a primary opponent but perhaps also make independent expenditures to defeat Lugar.

The key exchange comes about five minutes into the video clip and lasts for about a minute or so.

Hat tip: Hot Air.

Reince Priebus' Inherited Mess

National Review's Jim Geraghty has an excellent column on the current state of the Republican National Committee in the wake of Friday's election of a new chairman.

For going on two years, I have refused to give a dime to the Republican National Committee because I believed that any money I gave would never help candidates and would be spent unwisely by Michael Steele.

I'm willing to give Mr. Priebus a chance--Reagan said to trust, but verify--but I want to see some concrete steps in the next few months to get the RNC's ship righted and turned in the right direction before I send them anything (if even then).

Don't Tread on Me, Coming Soon to a Car Near You

Part of me thinks the notion of a "Don't Treat on Me" license plate is a great idea. But part of me also wonders why it won't be a "vanity" plate like so many others, but will instead be available at no additional cost, similar to the regular blue and white plate.

Indy Star:

Indiana drivers may have a new option for license plates if a bill to create a "Don't Tread on Me" plate clears the General Assembly.

Republican Sen. Mike Delph of Carmel introduced the bill to create a license plate with a picture of a coiled snake and the words "Don't Tread on Me." The "Don't Tread on Me" flag was used during the American Revolution and has become a favorite of many tea party groups. Delph said some of his constituents asked for the plate so he introduced the bill.

Under the proposal, the license plate wouldn't cost any more than traditional Indiana license plates.

Dubya Approved Stuxnet Virus That Has Crippled Iranian Nuke Program

The facts, apparently, were hiding in plain sight.

Random Thought on Violent Rhetoric in Politics

Over at The Atlantic, they're wondering if it's even possible to avoid martial analogies and warlike rhetoric in politics.

I would guess not. The linkage isn't new. The Prussian military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz wrote about it in the early 1800s. His best-known quote remains famous:

We see, therefore, that war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.
Which, of course, has been more commonly translated, "War is the continuation of politics by other means."

We live in a visual age, where words are frequently used as rhetorical flourishes to evoke emotion and imagery in the mind of the listener or observer. Accordingly, it's unfortunate but perhaps unsurprising that something as boring as politics, consumed with debate and procedure, would substitute its own terminology for more visual metaphors.

Back in the Tube

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Case Study on Truces?

FiveThirtyEight looks at the consequences of liberals and the Democratic Party's ceding of the issue of gun control to conservatives since the 1990s.

The short analysis is that the absence of liberals arguing in defense of their position--a de facto truce on the issue--while conservatives and the NRA continued to advocate for their position has resulted in significant movement of public opinion away from gun control and in favor of Second Amendment rights.

Ideas and principles, if not defended, are helpless against contrary ideas and principles that the other side is willing to defend.

Does anyone seriously think that liberals would cease to advocate for their positions on social issues if conservatives and Republicans paused in advocating their own? Certainly not any more than the NRA or conservatives ceased to advocate for the Second Amendment when Democrats paused in advocating for gun control.

Experience and history, it seems, find Mitch Daniels' idea of a Republican "truce" on social issues to be a very bad idea.

It is perhaps not surprising, then, that support for gun control measures has declined in recent years, with one of the parties essentially having surrendered on the issue. Somewhere along the line — perhaps between 2000 and 2004, when the rhetoric in their platform changed significantly — Democrats concluded that the issue was a political loser for them and they stopped fighting back.

Perhaps Democrats ultimately made the right political calculation. But they might also have made the outcome of the debate over gun control something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since with exceptionally sharp and cagey groups like the National Rifle Association as their adversaries, the Democrats certainly weren’t going to win any arguments that they were tentative about engaging in.

Lugar Now Expects Primary Challenge

He certainly won't be caught unawares, that's for sure. But this has never been a matter of Dick Lugar being caught with his pants down. Instead, it's more a matter of him knowing that many in the base of his own party are upset with him and yet still not caring.

The Hill:

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said he anticipates a Tea Party challenger in his 2012 reelection effort.

Lugar, a senior Republican senator who serves as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is counting on a primary race against a Tea Party-backed candidate, he said Friday.

"I anticipate that there will be a candidate or candidates running in the Republican primary against me," Lugar said on an episode of Bloomberg TV's "Political Capital" to air this weekend. "This is why we have taken a very early campaign stance of vigorous fundraising, vigorous campaigning, anticipating that that kind of a campaign might occur. It's not one that I welcome, but nevertheless, this is a democracy."

Lugar's been one of the few Republicans willing to work occasionally with President Obama to help shepherd legislation through the Senate. This has meant, at times, breaking with GOP leaders and risking the enmity of Tea Party voters.

Despite this, Lugar has given every indication he'll seek another term in 2012.

Tea Party candidates took an active role in the 2010 elections by launching primary campaigns against establishment Republicans whom they viewed as insufficiently conservative.

"People are free to express views that they want to," the Indiana Republican said. "But likewise, I'm free to as vigorously as possible point out the things that I think are very important for our country."