Political Talk Here, There and Everywhere

American politics

This column by Indiana Chamber Director of Publications and Social Media Matt Ottinger originally appeared in the Inside INdiana Business newsletter, Inside Edge

At a recent event I attended, the conversation among my tablemates turned to politics – namely the late September Republican presidential debate on CNN. Most of my fellow attendees casually mentioned their disdain for the spectacle. When it was my turn to comment, I simply stated, “I love it. I’m not proud of that, but I do.”

Whether it’s Donald Trump’s bombast and “Mean Girls”-style insults, Chris Christie’s bluster and scolding or Rand Paul’s visible contempt for having to be part of the charade, I can’t get enough. For me, it’s like I’m swimming in a barrel of Tropical Skittles next to a keg of Mr. Pibb during a binge watching session of “House of Cards” – an overdose of disgusting, shameful goodness, and I’m simply helpless to its siren song.

It’s been intriguing watching our Midwestern neighbor and former Congressional budget hawk John Kasich strike the moderate chord, while projected frontrunner Jeb Bush struggles to meet lofty expectations. And then there’s Scott Walker. Poor, poor Scott Walker, who disappeared from the race faster than a cheese curd at a mouse convention in Milwaukee.

Granted, politics can devolve into a game at times, but it mustn’t be forgotten that the political world greatly impacts the business community. That’s why our political action committee, Indiana Business for Responsive Government, always has boots on the ground impacting statewide races. It’s also why the Indiana Chamber takes an increasing number of business leaders to Washington, D.C. annually during our D.C. Fly-in. We’re grateful to Indiana’s Congressional delegation for meeting with our members and guests to discuss the issues critical to their businesses and economic growth in our state.

Furthermore, due to my personal affinity for the craft, it was quite a pleasure speaking with famed politicos James Carville and Karl Rove for our most recent edition of BizVoice magazine. The Q&A serves as a preview to the duo’s upcoming appearance as keynote speakers at the Indiana Chamber’s 26th Annual Awards Dinner on Nov. 4.

During the conversations (which took place in mid-July), I asked their perspectives about the opposition’s outlook on the 2016 presidential race:

Rove on if Sen. Bernie Sanders actually has a chance to win the Democratic Party’s nomination: “There’s substance, but the problem is that while you have a very liberal turnout in the Iowa caucuses, and New Hampshire is a more liberal state, there aren’t a lot of Burlingtons and Benningtons and Berkeleys and San Franciscos. There are a lot more Indianapolises and Evansvilles. While he runs well with the hard left, if you’re not very liberal, he’s not your cup of tea. (Clinton) will be the nominee, but it won’t be as easy as people think.”

Carville on if the attention to Trump’s bellicosity is a danger to the Republican brand (at the time of the interview, Trump had recently made statements about Mexicans crossing the border and raping women): “Yes I do. The reason is there are a considerable number of Republicans who agree with him. It’s exposing there are people out there who believe that. That’s a part of that party that is not going to go away with time. When he goes away, somebody will pick it up again.”

Trump, however, still leads national polling, so he continues to resonate with a portion of the country, although prognosticators are predicting his impending demise.

If pressed to make a prediction this early (and it’s so early I’ll likely regret it), I’d forecast a Marco Rubio vs. Hillary Clinton showdown next fall.

In early November, Carville and Rove will offer their expert opinions on the presidential race and politics. A few tickets still remain for the event and can be purchased online.

It will be a great evening of banter, insights and celebration of the business community; we hope to see you there!

IBRG’s Brantley: Election a ‘Mini-Mandate’ in Indiana to Stay on Course

UOur friends at Inside INdiana Business interviewed Jeff Brantley, the Indiana Chamber’s VP of Political Affairs and our PAC, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), about Tuesday’s election (the link includes an audio clip about the federal elections as well). Here’s the synopsis (edited for accuracy):

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s vice president of political affairs believes Hoosier voters in yesterday’s mid-term elections delivered a “mini-mandate” to legislators to continue focusing on job growth and the business community. All Indiana Congressional incumbents won re-election and Republicans swept the contests for secretary of state, state auditor and state treasurer. Jeff Brantley says voter turnout appears to be higher than anticipated and believes results in Indiana General Assembly races demonstrate Hoosiers like the direction policy makers are going.

Only one U.S. Congressional race, the 7th District between Representative Andre Carson and challenger Catherine Ping, was within 15 points. The winners are:

Peter Visclosky (D-1)
Jackie Walorski (R-2)
Marlin Stutzman (R-3)
Todd Rokita (R-4)
Susan Brooks (R-5)
Luke Messer (R-6)
Andre’ Carson (D-7)
Larry Bucshon (R-8)
Todd Young (R-9)

Statewide office winners were Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R), Suzanne Crouch (R) for State Treasurer and Kelly Mitchell (R) for State Auditor.

Jeff Brantley says, with only one exception, all candidates the organization endorsed were victorious.

Some incumbents in the Indiana General Assembly were unseated. They include Sen. Richard Young (D-47), who was beaten by Republican Erin Houchin, and Senator Tim Skinner (D-38), who lost to Republican Jon Ford. Incumbent Reps. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-12) and Shelli VanDenburgh (D-19) also fell.

Kansas Independent Could Be Wild Card in Senate (Or Not, We’ll See)

AAccording to Huffington Post polling, there’s a 79% chance the GOP takes control of the U.S. Senate today (and The Washington Post contends there’s a whopping 98% chance). No surprise it’s likely to happen if you’ve been following along.

But, perhaps most interesting, is that HuffPo also calculates a 9% chance that Greg Orman, an independent in an extremely tight race against Republican three-term Senator Pat Roberts, could determine which party rules based on where he decides to caucus (should he win his race).

Read this Politico piece to find out why Republicans think he’ll actually caucus with Democrats, and what that could mean going forward. (And this may shock you, but Vice President Biden reportedly let the ol’ cat out of the bag on this matter earlier today.)

At any rate, Orman’s campaign is making for interesting theater during this mid-term election season.

Elephant Race: Analyst Ranks ’16 GOP Candidates

AGreg Valliere of the Potomac Research Group recently ranked the likelihood of 10 Republican hopefuls for the 2016 candidacy for President. Business Insider offers a summary for each candidate, but here’s the list. (And you’ll notice our governor made the list — and some in the media speculate he has a much better shot than that.):

10. Mike Pence
9. Scott Walker
8. Rick Santorum
7. Paul Ryan
6. Chris Christie
5. Mitt Romney
4. Ted Cruz
3. Rand Paul
2. Marco Rubio
1. Jeb Bush

Numbers to Ponder

rThree totally unrelated, but intriguing, numbers courtesy of Governing magazine:

  • 33%: Americans with past-due debt that’s been turned over to a collection agency
  • 15%: Proportion of voting-age residents who cast ballots in the 25 states that held primaries in the first six months of this year. In 15 of those states, turnout was the lowest ever. (Indiana’s primary turnout was slightly below the 15% average)
  • 146: Number of U.S. counties that account for half of the country’s 316 million people. The rest of the population is distributed across the remaining 2,998 counties. Indiana’s largest and smallest counties, respectively, are Marion with 928,281 people (54th largest in the country) and Ohio with 5,994 people (ranked 2,758 nationally)

BizVoice: Social Media Changes Landscape of Hoosier Politics

Longtime WTHR-TV political reporter Kevin Rader says he picks up “ripples” on Twitter or Facebook about posts that are gaining steam, getting retweets and likes, that make him take notice to a certain policy or official’s statement. “It’s almost like an immediate Nielsen Report that comes to your desk every day that you can look at and say, ‘Oh, this is interesting … or this is interesting,’ ” he notes.

John Zody, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, believes social media is “big” for candidates and officeholders – and not just in a reactionary sense. “You have to think about how people are receiving news. It’s not just one way (traditional media) or the other (social media). You’ve got to have the proactivity to get out there and make sure it’s communicated every single way and exhaust every possible resource.”

His counterpart for the Republican Party, Tim Berry, says “The advantage of social media is that you can talk directly to your constituents. You’re not taking through Kevin or the Indianapolis Star. You’re talking directly to your constituents and then that is shared – your perspective is shared. And that’s what people sometimes miss through the use of social media – the opportunity to talk directly to your intended target.”

But there does need to be caution with social media usage, according to Andrew Downs, IPFW political science professor and director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics.

“It has got to be part of an overall strategy. You can’t ignore it; you’ve got to be present. But if you let it dominate, which it’s easy to do, you will lose. It doesn’t play that big of a role yet,” he asserts.

Rader offers another example of how Twitter, for example, has changed his job.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been frustrated by people who have now realized, ‘Look, I don’t have to make a statement to the media. All I have to do is Tweet a little something out and I don’t have to answer a question.’ You find yourself thinking, ‘Oh boy, so are we really serving the people sitting at home?’ You don’t get any follow-up, anything in-depth and it’s become acceptable now.”

But what can the media do? It has little choice but to cover it. And as Downs quips, “Yes, you don’t have to answer questions. That’s the beauty of social media (for candidates).”

Read much more from this group in the September-October edition of BizVoice magazine, where they discuss the climate in the state and what to look for on Election Day. A related article in the same issue focuses on the use of “digital first” technology to reach voters.

Indiana Chamber Endorses Four Members of Congress for Re-Election

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is endorsing four members of the state’s congressional delegation from Central Indiana:

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN, 4th District);
U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN, 5th District);
U.S. Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN, 6th District); and
U.S. Rep. Todd Young (R-IN, 9th District).

“Good public service deserves to be recognized. These members of Congress continue to demonstrate sound fiscal policy and prudent decision-making on issues that are vital to jobs and economic growth,” says Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar.

The Indiana Chamber’s nonpartisan congressional PAC determined the endorsements.

At both the state and federal levels, Indiana Chamber support is driven by vote scores on pro-jobs, pro-economy issues. For state endorsements, the Indiana Chamber relies on its Legislative Vote Analysis report. Congressional support is based on the vote tally conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Representatives of the U.S. Chamber, which also is supporting these candidates for re-election, joined the Indiana Chamber in downtown Indianapolis for today’s press conference.

The Indiana Chamber has been the state’s leading business organization for more than 90 years, representing over 800,000 Hoosier workers through nearly 5,000 member companies across Indiana.

The Personal Side of Politics

My seven year-old daughter recently got excited about the memory of walking in a parade in last year’s campaigns. We were there on a weekend afternoon with a candidate backed by the Indiana Chamber’s non-partisan political action program.

“Daddy, we talked to the governor, the senator and played with their dog …” I remember all the complaining about how her feet hurt and carrying her half the parade route, but I smiled that she remembered a “political” experience warmly.

It’s a darn shame so few in our society ever really get to have a positive and personal relationship with the people who run for office and represent them. It’s hard to hate someone who you’ve looked in the eye, made a personal contact with and shared something with – even just a pleasant greeting.

The airwaves are filled with vitriolic rhetoric, conspiracy theories, and anger on both sides. The incentives in politics are all out of whack, as activists and media are driven to conflict and division. At times it seems the only time politicians are portrayed as personal or human is when they screw up.

I didn’t come from a political family. However, I still remember being not much older than my daughter one fall morning when my congressman knelt down to shake my hand and say a kind word. I respected that man for a decade to follow, even when I worked tirelessly to defeat him later as a young adult in the political business.

It’s a shame more of our children and adults don’t get the chance or care to make a personal connection with political leaders.

The Crazy Things Candidates Say

Over the years, we’ve met, interviewed and evaluated hundreds of candidates for the Indiana Chamber’s non-partisan political action program, Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG). The vast majority are thoughtful people, but sometimes they say the most outrageous things.

  • “My wife is really mad that I’m running. She’s moved out and says she’ll move back when I lose.” Is this campaign a win-win or a lose-lose scenario for you?
  • “No, I’ve never met anyone there or asked for their campaign support.” We knew for a fact he had just left their office an hour before.
  • “There was this thing where I got accused by this teenage girl a couple years ago, but no one will know about it.” OK, I think we’ve heard enough about your campaign.
  • “We need to raise taxes on corporations and ban coal in this state!” Do you know what a chamber of commerce is?
  • <Intense stare>“I have this power. I can look at people and know what they are thinking.” Sorry, I didn’t really mean what I just thought.
  • “A friend of mine has photos of my opponent in bed with a man who isn’t her husband.” That could make for an interesting direct mailing.
  • “I worked for the CIA, but I don’t want to tell anyone.” So did I, but let’s keep it to ourselves.
  • “I love to go to Vegas a couple of times a year, not to gamble but for the girls. You’ll have to come with me sometime.” My wife will want to talk to your wife first.
  • “Yes, I lost the last three campaigns, but you’re not going to hold that against me are you?” No, I’m sure you’ve gotten the losing out of your system.
  • “I heard your interviews are really intense, but you’re not the mean <beep> I thought you were.” I’ll try harder to live up to my reputation.

Way Too Early for 2016 Hype, But…

It’s way too early for this, but I can’t help myself. Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie appear to be favorites as nominees for the 2016 election, and NBC News reports on a recent poll showing Clinton had the edge thus far. She also appears to benefit from more cohesive support from her party than Christie, as Tea Partiers don’t seem to be enthusiastic about the Springsteen-loving East Coaster.

Christie vs. Clinton

Christie’s challenges extend beyond his own party: The poll finds Clinton getting the support of 44 percent of all adults in a hypothetical match up against the New Jersey governor, who gets 34 percent. The rest of respondents either preferred another candidate, said they would not vote, or were undecided.

And while Election Day 2016 is still more than 1,000 days away, the survey shows Clinton benefiting from the same demographic trends that helped propel President Barack Obama to win the election in 2008 and re-election in 2012.

Clinton leads Christie among African Americans (83 percent to 4 percent), respondents ages 18 to 29 (45 percent to 31 percent) and Latinos (44 percent to 33 percent).

Clinton also holds the advantage with residents from the Northeast (52 percent to 35 percent), West (43 percent to 30 percent), the South (43 percent to 35 percent) and Midwest (41 percent to 37 percent). And she has a narrow edge among independents (39 percent to 35 percent).

Christie, meanwhile, leads among whites (41 percent to 37 percent), seniors (44 percent to 41 percent) and respondents with an annual income of $75,000 or more (46 percent to 34 percent).