Cook: Governors’ Races Unique, More Difficult to Handicap than Federal Races

Cook_CharlieCharlie Cook is editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report and a political analyst for National Journal magazine. Cook is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on American politics, and The New York Times has called him “one of the best political handicappers in the nation.”

Cook will be the keynote speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Dinner on February 9. (Get your tickets now!) I recently spoke with Cook for an evaluation of this very turbulent time in American politics.

Below is my final question (see his other responses about political surprises, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and America’s infatuation with presidential politics) :

Indiana is already gearing up for the 2016 gubernatorial race – a rematch from 2012. Gov. Pence has been under heat on some social issues, and lately for the state’s stance on accepting refugees. John Gregg’s supporters have seen these as benefits to their chances. What do you expect in this race, and do you think Pence could be vulnerable?

Cook: I tend to delegate governors’ races to our senior editor Jennifer Duffy, so I’m not doing deep dives into these races. But I’ll say that Indiana went through a period where Democrats were very competitive and did well – like Evan Bayh, and Obama carried it in 2008.

But in 2012, Indiana wasn’t even in the top 10 to 12 competitive races presidentially. While governors’ races tend to be more independent of national politics and less straight party than Senate and House races, I think Indiana has reverted more to type and back into the pretty Republican column. It doesn’t mean a Republican governor is unbeatable and a race can get relatively close, but for a Democrat to get over the finish line, that’s awfully hard in Indiana.

It’s one thing to cover Senate and House races from Washington, but governors’ races have their own unique sets of issues and rhythms, so it’s hard for anyone from out of state to understand it.

Cook: Politics Full of Surprises, but Obama Win Remains Most Shocking

Cook_CharlieCharlie Cook is editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report and a political analyst for National Journal magazine. Cook is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on American politics, and The New York Times has called him “one of the best political handicappers in the nation.”

Cook will be the keynote speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Dinner on February 9. (Get your tickets now!) I recently spoke with Cook for an evaluation of this very turbulent time in American politics. Here is an excerpt from the conversation.

In 2014, the GOP had a major shake-up when Eric Cantor, a member of leadership, was unseated in the primary. In Indiana, we had a similar shock in 2012 when Richard Lugar was ousted. What are some ongoing lessons for long-standing legislators to take from that? Is that mostly a GOP predicament due to its Tea Party elements, or are do you see any Democrats potentially dealing with primary turbulence in the near future?

Cook: Washington and Congress have never been beloved, and alienation is increasing. But it shows you have to be back in your state and your district, and really keep a tight feel on the pulse back home because it can get out from under you. Cantor was a bright, effective member, but he went on the national stage and became a major force in the national Republican Party. But to do that meant not going home and keeping fences mended as well as he should have.

Sen. Lugar had become this enormously respected figure in terms of international politics and the world scene, and a real statesman. But that came at a cost. And not having a home back in the state became symbolic of something.

So yes, there’s a “Tea Party versus The Establishment” dynamic in the Republican Party, but there’s an older dynamic of “going national” and maybe not tending to things back home quite as attentively as you have to in an era when people are so suspicious of politicians. But there’s certainly more volatility and anger within the GOP right now than there is in the Democratic Party. Although Sanders and the Occupy Wall Street movement shows it does exist in the Democratic Party, it’s more profound in the GOP. We’re not seeing Democratic incumbents knocked off in the primaries at the regularity we see in the GOP.

What shocked you as far as the most surprising election result you’ve seen in the past 20 years?

Cook: I think Obama beating Clinton. There were signs early on that he had a unique appeal with younger voters … but to have someone who had just barely been a member Congress upset one of the biggest names in the Democratic Party, it was one of the biggest shocks I’d ever seen.

In some ways, freshman senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz – although philosophically they’re very different from where Obama was – (remind me of that) but the idea of a first-term senator doing that well was unprecedented. It showed you that a lot of the old rules may not be applying.

Report: ‘Made in the USA’ Movement Reigniting as Companies Return

made in usaAmerican consumers are asking for more American-made products, and businesses are listening, according to a new report from Grace College Online.

After reportedly losing 2.3 million manufacturing jobs between December 2007 and February 2010, the sector has rebounded as more companies bring operations back to the country. And nearly half of Americans have made a special effort to buy products made here.

Although marketing may not be the primary motivation for companies to manufacture products in the United States, the fact that Americans love the “Made in America” label is compelling. It offers companies selling power.

According to Consumer Reports, nearly eight in 10 Americans would rather buy an American-made product than an imported one. More than 60 percent of customers are even willing to pay a 10 percent premium for domestic products. A Gallup Poll found that 45 percent of Americans made a special effort to purchase products made in the country.

In the Gallup Poll, the leading reason for buying American products was to support the country and for patriotic motives (32 percent). Keeping and creating jobs in the country (31 percent) was second, followed by motivations of it being good for the U.S. economy (20 percent). Thirteen percent purchase American-made products for superior quality.

“Patriotism and the pursuit of positive corporate images as standing behind the U.S. economy” are a part of what’s driving companies to bring manufacturing to America, MarketWatch reports. By producing domestically, companies gain customer support.

Cook: America’s Political Infatuation Better than Indifference

Cook_CharlieCharlie Cook is editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report and a political analyst for National Journal magazine. Cook is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on American politics, and The New York Times has called him “one of the best political handicappers in the nation.”

Cook will be the keynote speaker at the Indiana Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Dinner on February 9. (Get your tickets now!) I recently spoke with him for an evaluation of this very turbulent time in American politics.

Below is one of the questions (and stay tuned for more soon):

Perhaps I’m asking the wrong person, but do you think people pay too much attention to politics (compared to policy or other global affairs)? It seems like the presidential primary and election is such a long process in the U.S. – especially compared to Canada – and is always highly covered. Are we at risk of political fatigue in some way?

Cook: This is such an unusual election. Our campaigns are always long, and they’re getting longer. But that’s the nature of our elections. It’s not like a parliamentary system where the prime minister calls an election and five or six weeks later there is an election.

But it’s a combination of two things: 1. It is important who’s President of the United States. Whoever it is, whether we like them or not, we have to live with them for four to eight years; 2. It’s almost like a sporting event with people handicapping it the way they’d talk about a Colts game. I think it’s perfectly healthy. I’d rather people have a curiosity about it for a long time than they think it doesn’t matter. In that sense, some of the fascination with Donald Trump is healthy in that it’s channeling anger and alienation into the process, rather than people just throwing up their hands and giving up.

Now, I don’t think Trump will be the Republican nominee, and if I’m right, the question is: What will happen to those Trump voters who are alienated and angry? In the absence of Trump, will they withdraw from the process? That’s an important question.

Kurt Vonnegut: A Fan Reflects on His Hoosier Legacy

Chris-LaFave-e1442422256223-300x226I had the good fortune of writing an article on a few of Indiana’s notable literary stops for our Jan./Feb. edition of BizVoice (this particular edition will be a legacy project endorsed by the Bicentennial Commission). One such stop was the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in downtown Indianapolis.

While touring the facility, I was told the resident expert on all things Vonnegut was the curator, Chris Lafave. At the time, he was representing the library at a book fair down in Miami (not the worst assignment in mid-November), so I emailed him some questions that were on my mind. I was unable to fit most of his thoughtful answers into my story, so I’ll happily share them here.

About how many visitors does the library get annually?
Chris Lafave: The library draws thousands every year to the actual space, along with public speaking appearances by several staff members. And the organization’s traveling exhibit has been received far and wide, and has even visited the city of Dresden (Germany), where Kurt survived the 1945 bombing (as a prisoner of war). The trauma inspired him to write Slaughterhouse-Five.

It sounds like people visit from all over. What’s the farthest distance away you can recall?
CL: I’d have to say two guys coming in from Australia to do their great American road trip. They flew into Chicago, visited, rented a car and drove to Indianapolis to see the Vonnegut Library. I asked them what else was on their to-do list and they said Memphis and New Orleans, and then home. I was floored.

Do you find it’s not just Vonnegut’s generation, but younger people also becoming fans of his?
CL: The age demographic is all over the place and very hard to even pin down for research’s sake. (Founder and CEO Julia Whitehead) and I speak to an astonishing amount of students about Vonnegut. That’s not shocking in and of itself, but very recently I spoke at a school in Anderson, where a specific high school student requested permission to skip her own class so she could attend my lecture on Slaughterhouse-Five. Students are often engaged by his work, but we also have people well past retirement age spending a lot of time in the library and at our events as well. If you wanted to ask how he ever reached this many people across this large of a spectrum, I’d say he had a way of making people laugh at some of the hard things in life, to see beauty in despair, to see optimism in cynicism. That takes a certain degree of talent, and can sometimes bond people to your art.

It sounds like you’ve read all of his books. What influence do you think his Indianapolis upbringing had on his writing? In what ways is it evident?
CL: I think he saw Indy more through his family, friends and schooling… His family had such influence, his great grandfather founded a popular chain of hardware stores here, his grandfather and father were prominent architects. Can you imagine the pride of looking around your city’s skyline and saying “I’m related to the people who did that?”

He often talked about wealth inequality in his work, which relates to Indy in the sense that his family started out incredibly wealthy and lost a lot of said wealth in the Great Depression. He writes frequently about jazz music, which was incredibly popular in Indianapolis during his upbringing. He discovered the music at a barbecue joint somewhere on Meridian Street near his childhood home at 4401 N. Illinois Street. He wrote often about remembering good things in a hard world, which is a belief that seemed to have been instilled in him by his Uncle Alex, who he was quite fond of. And lastly, he was an avid defender of public schools and libraries — the best example of which would have been Shortridge High School, where he received an excellent education, played the clarinet and served on the school newspaper.

All I know is, while you’ll occasionally hear him take a shot at Indy or Indiana’s politics in an essay, most of the time in both his essays and novels, he seems to refer to Indianapolis in a fond sense, as a place of civility and decency. A city that his family built. My favorite Indianapolis moment is in Sirens of Titan, at the very end. I won’t spoil it for you with the details.

What’s your favorite book of his and why?
CL: Always a tricky question for me. I’ll say Cat’s Cradle, for the reason mentioned above; it has the ability to make you laugh at some of the tough things in life. But honestly, most of his books contain something that blows my mind. Slapstick, for example, is generally regarded by critics to be his worst novel. I disagree. I think it’s a phenomenal novel about the “disease of loneliness” as Kurt referred to it, and also about his desire for common decency. Plus it’s also very funny.

As referenced above, Vonnegut’s harrowing experience as a prisoner of war in an underground slaughterhouse in Dresden, Germany inspired his classic novel, Slaugtherhouse-Five. A letter he wrote following the ordeal was published on Letters of Note and is quite fascinating. 

Indy Reads Books’ Anthology Shows Off Hoosier Writing Prowess

indywritesbook4For our upcoming January/February edition of BizVoice, I have the pleasure of documenting my visits to several literary destinations in Indiana. (The issue will be a Bicentennial Commission-endorsed legacy project, so we’re branching out a little beyond our usual business focus.)

With internationally celebrated names like James Whitcomb Riley, Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Wakefield, Lew Wallace and Gene Stratton-Porter to its credit, the Hoosier state can be proud of its literary legacy.

But the climate in Indiana remains just as hot today. This is evidenced in the publication, Indy Writes Books, published last year by Indy Reads – an incredibly impactful non-profit program in Indianapolis that promotes adult literacy. The book, sold online and at the Indy Reads Books store in downtown Indianapolis, features short stories and other entries by Hoosier authors such as John Green, Wakefield, Cathy Day, gritty fiction writer Frank Bill and even an entry from crossword puzzle maestro for The New York Times (NYT), Will Shortz – a Crawfordsville native.

In the preface, Wakefield relays there was a time (in the late 1940s) when five of the top 10 books on the NYT best-seller list were by authors with connections to Indiana. A truly remarkable feat causing some to speculate there was “something in the water” here.

If you haven’t been to Indy Reads Books in downtown Indianapolis, I suggest you give it a visit. I’m proud to say I serve on an advisory committee for the store and it’s one of my favorite places in the entire city. It offers a relaxed vibe and an enthusiastic cadre of helpful staff and volunteers. And with the Christmas season approaching, there’s no better place to find gifts for the book lovers in your life — and copies of Indy Writes Books are still available!

Here’s a short video from 2014 that includes Indy Reads founder Travis DiNicola and others discussing the book and the store:

Also note that the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indy has a compilation — a journal titled So It Goes — for sale. Its most recent installment features a theme of “social justice” — but next year’s edition will focus on Indiana (stories by Hoosiers or about the Hoosier state). The library will begin taking story submissions in the spring.

New and Improved Legislative Directory App a Hot Commodity for Government Affairs Teams

Print

Want to have up-to-date information about the Indiana legislature, but you don’t want to carry a book around with you? How about using the smartphone or tablet you’re already working on?

The Legislative Directory app, developed by Indiana-based Bluebridge, is more than an electronic version of the long standing Legislative Directory. Here are some of the app benefits:

  • Updated and ready to use on the first day of the legislative session
  • Real time updates to information throughout the session and beyond
  • Less expensive than the book, but contains the same information
  • Legislators’ contact info can be downloaded to your phone

You can order the app online now (order through the Indiana Chamber, not the app stores). The app is days away from being available, at which time you will receive download links for your mobile device. (We’re updating the app throughout December as information comes in from legislators.) Bulk app purchases are now available too; your company contact will receive all of the download links for distribution as needed.

Order online now at www.indianachamber.com/ldapp.

Indiana Chamber, Pete the Planner Partner to Promote Money School

PTP Newsletter BannerThe Indiana Chamber of Commerce is proud to partner with Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete The Planner® in offering his new service, Pete’s Money School, to Indiana businesses.

Pete’s Money School is a financial wellness curriculum delivered via a mobile-friendly e-learning platform. Each course includes videos, quizzes and a downloadable workbook. These tools will help your employees build a realistic path to a healthy financial future. Indiana Chamber member companies will receive 20% off their registration fees for the program.

“The Indiana Chamber has been helping businesses and their employees for nearly 100 years,” Dunn says. “I’m thrilled to be able to help them educate Hoosiers, in regards to their personal finances. Together, we’ll help hard working folks take control of their finances so they can focus on their futures.”

“Financial concerns are one of the leading causes of workplace stress,” adds Jennifer Elkin, Chamber senior vice president of marketing. “Partnering with Pete the Planner is a perfect opportunity to promote financial wellness – benefiting individual employees and enhancing overall productivity.”

A variety of courses, each which can be completed at the users’ own pace, is available.

Simply mention the code INCHAMBER when registering to receive the discount. For pricing and course information or to register, call (317) 762-3240 or visit www.petesmoneyschool.com.

Carter: Biopharmaceutical Industry Supports Tens of Thousands of High Pay, High Skill Jobs for Hoosiers

Our VP Cam Carter recently spoke with We Work for Health (WWFH) about the importance of Indiana’s biopharmaceutical sector. WWFH is a grassroots initiative that shows how biopharmaceutical research and medical innovation work together to create a strong, vibrant economy and a healthier America.