Charlie 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.
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!
According 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.
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 Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), the non-partisan political action program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, fought through one of the most challenging primary election cycles in its history with 12 of 14 IBRG-endorsed candidates winning their respective primary elections (including Eric Bassler’s big victory over 20-year incumbent State Sen. John Waterman).
Today, Hoosier voters believe their state government is on the “right track” by margins probably not seen in a generation of polling in the state, while holding nearly mirror opposite views of the federal government. Hoosiers have confidence in where our growing economy is headed and strongly support a variety of reforms that are helping Indiana lead the nation in economic growth.
However, large blocks of Hoosiers also detest the federal government, distrust both political parties, and want someone or something to lash out at. With Republicans in charge of both houses of the General Assembly by strong quorum-proof majorities, if you’re looking for some political payback in Indiana, the Republicans are the ones calling the shots.
In the 2014 primary elections, no Democrat incumbent legislator faced a primary election challenger. There were only two Democratic primaries in the state for “open” (i.e. no incumbent running) legislative seats, both in Lake County. The 2014 primary elections were about the Republicans. It’s important to note that the 2012 primary elections were the first held after redistricting. Twenty-two districts in 2012 did not have an incumbent running, compared to only eight this primary election. If you look at the House, the difference is even more stark – 20 open seats in 2012 and only three in 2014. So, the 2014 primaries had a lot more to do with incumbents.
In 2012, the labor unions were still hopping-mad over right-to-work and running a number of candidates against GOP incumbents and open seat races. They all failed. While the ISTA teachers union and “Lunch Pail Republicans” were back this year, a new and formidable primary challenge came from social and religious conservative candidates and interest groups, working in concert with some Tea Party networks. Their targets — select Republican primary elections.
Highly-motivated by hot-button social and religious issues such as the gay marriage amendment HJR-3, several otherwise conservative Republican legislators found themselves facing tough challenges from the right. In low-turnout elections, highly-energized subgroups of voters – those angry and motivated to vote against someone – can and do turnout to vote and win races.
It’s impossible to have much of a discussion of 2014 Indiana state politics without considering the impact of the hyper-divisive fight over the gay marriage amendment HJR-3. Setting aside the policy debate, clearly it has motivated, energized and radicalized large segments of the population on both sides of the issue. For many, it is a hyper-issue that overrules all others.
In this year’s primary elections, three Republican state representatives who voted against the gay marriage amendment found themselves challenged by significantly more socially conservative primary election challengers. Two of these three were defeated on May 6 and the third won with less than 50% as his two primary election challengers split 50.5% of the protest vote.
However, where issues other than religious and social ones took front and center, the results were very different. Where issues such as jobs, tax cuts, economic growth, right-to-work, education reform, free enterprise, regulatory relief and other economic and reform issues were the focus, incumbents (and non-incumbents) performed very well. In fact, they all won when IBRG was involved!
IBRG success included the highly‐targeted race that defeated a 20‐year Senate Republican incumbent (John Waterman in Senate District 39) strongly backed by the ISTA teachers union, other labor unions and trial lawyers. It included defending key legislators with strong pro‐jobs, pro‐economy records. This report will be updated as additional election results become available and published at
IBRG Endorsed Candidates
House 22 Rebecca Kubacki – Loss
House 25 Don Lehe – Win
House 32 P. Eric Turner – Win
House 39 Jerry Torr – Win
House 59 Milo Smith – Win
House 83 Kathy Heuer – Loss
House 84 Bob Morris – Win
House 85 Casey Cox – Win
House 91 Robert Behning – Win
Senate 31 James Merritt, Jr. – Win
Challengers and Others
Senate 39 Eric Bassler – Win
Senate 47 Erin Houchin – Win
House 63 Mike Braun – Win
Senate 43 Chip Perfect – Win
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.
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.
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).
Ever since college, I've been known by my friends and family as a Bruce Springsteen enthusiast. In fact, I was in attendance when he performed the first concert in Conseco (now Bankers Life) Fieldhouse. (I actually sat behind Pacers Rik Smits and then-rookie Jeff Foster, who were both kind enough to stay seated throughout the show.) So imagine my surprise when I found this article in The Daily Caller asserting that Gov. Chris Christie is technically more popular than "The Boss" in his home state of New Jersey.
However, do note that the poll was conducted by a conservative organization, so I'm betting there was push-polling involved. Frankly, I'm a little inclined to call "bull-feathers" on this, but it makes for interesting blog fodder. But if this sentiment is accurate and spreads nationally, it could bode well for Christie in 2016.
Chris Christie is apparently more popular in the Garden State than his musical idol Bruce Springsteen.
A Conservative Intel poll of 778 likely voters shows 56 percent of New Jerseyans have a favorable impression of their Republican governor, while just 34 percent have an unfavorable view of him. Ten percent said they were not sure how they feel.
Christie bests Bruce Springsteen, a New Jersey icon, by eight points. “The Boss” registers a 48 percent favorability rating in the poll. In contrast to Christie, however, only 22 percent say they have a distinctly unfavorable impression of the “Born to Run” singer. A whopping 29 percent said they were unsure of how they feel about Springsteen.
The poll was conducted over Oct. 13 – 14 and has a 3.5 percent margin of error.
Christie is an unabashed fanatic of Springsteen’s music, claiming to have attended over 130 Springsteen concerts. Christie even admitted that he wept after Springsteen hugged him last November.
The Conservative Intel survey also shows that Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker is likely to win Wednesday’s special Senate election in New Jersey to replace Frank Lautenberg, who passed away in June. According to the poll, Booker holds an 11-percentage point lead over his Republican challenger, Steve Lonegan, 52 percent to 41 percent.