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Friday, January 20, 2017
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Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump during the inaugural on Friday.
Vice President Mike Pence and President Donald Trump during the inaugural on Friday.
Friday, January 20, 2017 12:26 PM

INDIANAPOLIS – From the Hoosier perspective, here in the 2016 Center of the Political Universe, the notion that Vice President Mike Pence is now just a heartbeat away from the American presidency is not surprising. For a political generation, Pence has presented remarkable ambition. At noon today, he reached the penultimate goal of his life.

Indiana has produced other ambitious modern men like Birch and Evan Bayh, Dan Quayle, Richard Lugar and Mitch Daniels, all possessing the 1600 fever at some point. With Sen. Birch Bayh, Quayle, Lugar and Daniels, there were significant to epic policy achievements that lent to the narrative that the White House was a logical final step. Birch Bayh wrote two constitutional amendments and Title IX. Quayle developed into a defense and national security stalwart. Lugar authored the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Reduction Act, convinced President Reagan to oppose apartheid, and helped end the rule of a Philippine despot. Daniels became the innovative governor.

Evan Bayh and Pence used the Indiana governorship to burnish their resumes primed for a national ticket. The policy decisions they made over the 12 years in office always seem to come through the political prism. In Congress, Pence rose rapidly to leadership. He was a spokesman for the conservative and evangelical cause. He was always in loyal opposition, even under President George W. Bush. He was the sunny bomb thrower, ready to pick a fight or draw the red line.  And in 12 years, he never sponsored a bill that got that Bush or Obama signature.

The Indiana perspective on Gov. Pence is one where he inherited the robust Daniels mantle and became the classic caretaker. His greatest policy achievement was built on the Healthy Indiana Plan that Pence evolved in the era of Obamacare into HIP 2.0. Daniels created the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Pence used it to make dozens of jobs and investment announcements. Daniels created Major Moves and Pence presided over the next generation of ribbon cuttings.

So there were some silent head shaking and eye rolling when Pence anted up for the Trump ticket, while dozens of other Republicans took a pass. When the nomination flickered on July 14, Pence boldly secured the nod. When Trump picked fights and created Twitter flares, Pence interpreted and made it all seem better. When his party establishment doubted, Pence exhorted them to “come home.” While Trump won an Electoral College victory, he lost the popular vote by 3 million. Trump and Pence believe they have a “mandate.”

The notion that Pence is now the “heartbeat away” prompts “who’d a thunk it” responses throughout Indiana today. This politician played his cards right and has arrived. But the circumstances are far, far different than when George H.W. Bush brought on Dan Quayle. Bush41 was as seasoned as anyone could be for the presidency, having the perfect credentials.

And President Trump? Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks observed on Inauguration Day, “We’ve never had a major national leader as professionally unprepared, intellectually ill informed, morally compromised and temperamentally unfit as the man taking the oath on Friday.
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    KOKOMO – When my text alert dinged on Election Day, at 11 a.m., I was surprised by the message, something to the effect of, “I will be at the Cone Palace at 12:30 if you want to join me. Invite our Howard County friends.”  With that simple text, on the biggest day of his political life, Eric Holcomb signaled that he was going to be a different kind of governor. On a day when most candidates would be preening and posturing for television cameras in a big media market, a casually dressed Eric and Janet Holcomb drove up to Kokomo to dine on Coney dogs and corn dogs with his friends. The food was great and the conversation was relaxed and decidedly unpolitical in nature. I just wish that I could have been as relaxed that day. Our new governor has demonstrated all over the state of Indiana that he is a confident, personable and focused man. He piles up friends the way Indianapolis Colts’ opponents pile up rushing yards. During Holcomb’s entire political career he has been as interested in friend-raising as he has fundraising. He intuitively knows that money comes and goes, but friends are with you forever. That maxim has served our new governor very well. I’ve been around a few governors in my 40-plus years of political involvement and I’ve made watching them sort of a hobby. For some, it was somewhat akin to watching guards playing for Bobby Knight at IU. When they went up for a jump shot, you had a feeling that they had one eye on the coach, seeking his approval. We all know that that doesn’t work very well over the long run. The same is true for governors. It is hard to hit a jump shot when you have your eye on something else.
    FORT WAYNE – When I proposed to Diane back in 1974, I told her that life with me would not be boring. That it was not. (I also said I wouldn’t run for political office but I failed in a few other things as well.) When Mitch Daniels first discussed with me that he was going to run for governor, I raised some political concerns about his big city slicker and corporate background. His response was that he was going to “out small town me.” You know, he said, I come from a small town too. I asked how big. He said something over 10,000 people. I snorted, “That’s a big city.” Of course, Mitch (the populist first name), went RV’ing to every burg in the state, lost all his suits and ties, and even used populist green as his color as opposed to the ubiquitous Republican red, white and blue. I was impressed. My hometown of Grabill had under 500 residents and couldn’t grow much because it was surrounded by Old Order Amish farms (not the liberal Amish with a top on their buggy).  A friend unfairly described the church I grew up in as being founded by a group of men who gathered together, made a list of everything fun in life, wrote “NO” across the top, and then said “now we have the foundation for our church.” When Mitch Daniels was elected governor, Indiana government was rather antiquated.  License bureau jokes have disappeared from our lexicons.
    SOUTH BEND –  Are the odds great or small that South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg will become the Democratic national chairman? Let’s consider some questions about that.
    Q. Is Buttigieg almost sure to be Demo chair, as some politicians already jockeying to replace him as mayor seem to think?
    A. No. Nothing is certain. It’s not even certain that the candidate with the most votes will win. There’s nothing like the Electoral College to trump the candidate with the most votes in this contest. But there could be multiple ballots of the 447 Democratic National Committee members in late February. If the top vote getter on the initial ballot doesn’t have a clear majority, that person could lose out in maneuvering in additional balloting.
    Q. But does Pete have a chance?
    A. Yes. He wouldn’t be a candidate if he had no chance of being competitive.  He is, however, not regarded as a frontrunner.
    GARY – The annual Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast in Gary is more than just a tribute to the great civil rights leader. It also is one of the biggest political events held in the Steel City. For Gary politicians, the breakfast is an opportunity shore up support within the city. For the outsiders, it is an opportunity to reach out for the backing of Gary’s heavily Democratic vote. Some of those attending the Jan.14 event said it may have been the first time they have seen long-time suburban Democrat James L. Wieser in attendance. Wieser is a Schererville attorney. He has worn a number of political hats during his 40-year political career in Lake County. He has served on the Highland Town Council and the county council.
    INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana General Assembly has a wonderfully easy-to-use site for the citizen who wants to know about bills introduced by subject or author. I don’t know who is responsible for this site, but hats off to him, her, and them. Today I found 43 bills on the subject of drugs. There may be many others if I searched more diligently. Imagine that: Indiana, A State in Denial, is concerned about drugs, a well-known scourge, and the primary cause of many safety, economic, education, and health problems. State Sen. Jim Merritt has authored 14 of the 43 bills. Naturally, I find the most compelling to be SB 244 which mandates a fiscal impact study of drugs and drug addiction. Normally, a fiscal impact study concerns the revenues and expenditures of government. But SB 244 goes further. It calls for an economic impact study which includes work force concerns and private expenditures on prevention and remediation. 

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  • How HPI covered the departing Clinton, Bush43 presidencies
    INDIANAPOLIS – In the 22 years that Howey Politics Indiana has been publishing, we’ve covered the end of two presidencies: Bill Clinton in 2001 and George W. Bush in 2009. Now for just the second time in history, we are witnessing the third consecutive two-term president leave office with the departure of President Barack Hussein Obama, following Clinton and Bush43. It is the first time there have been three two-termers in a row since Presidents Thomas Jefferson in 1809, James Madison in 1817 and James Monroe in 1825. Here is how HPI covered the departing Clinton and Bush43 administrations:

  • HPI Analysis: President Obama's Indiana legacy
    INDIANAPOLIS – On Feb. 9, 2009, President Barack Obama came to Elkhart, a city where he had campaigned several times during his 2008 campaign. While he didn’t carry Elkhart County, losing 55-44%, he won Indiana’s 11 Electoral College votes. The jobless rate in Elkhart had gone from 4.7% in 2008 to 15% as the Great Recession took aim at the recreational vehicle and domestic auto industries. Noting the 3.6 million jobs lost since September 2008, and 600,000 during the month he was sworn in, Obama said at Concord High School, “We’re talking about people in the audience here today. We’re talking about people who have lost their livelihood and don’t know what will take its place. We’re talking about parents who’ve lost their health care and lie awake at night, praying their kids don’t get sick. We’re talking about families who’ve lost the home that was the corner, their foundation for their American Dream.
  • Gov. Holcomb invokes his hero, President Lincoln
    and BRIAN A. HOWEY

    INDIANAPOLIS - Gov. Eric Holcomb relied on an old hand to move Hoosiers into their third century during his first state of the state address Tuesday night. Enter, President Abraham Lincoln, who moved into Indiana at the birth of statehood in December, 1816, and finds its 51st governor a seasoned scholar on his life and legacy. “I will continue to reach out to everyone with ideas that can lift all Hoosiers, including those who may not always agree on everything but are willing to find opportunities to solve problems and move our state forward,” Holcomb said in his inaugural state of the state address. “I will leave you with two quotes from one of the greatest Hoosiers and greatest Americans who ever was, Abraham Lincoln – a man I have studied for many years and who is one of my true heroes.”

  • HPI Analysis: Gauging Trump conflict between his words, heart

    INDIANAPOLIS – Set aside the Russians and embattled American intelligence agencies for a moment and ponder the two most interesting quotes when it comes to the ramp-up of the Donald Trump presidency thus far this month. Over the weekend in a Washington Post interview, President-elect Trump seemed to come out in favor of universal health care. “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” In Trump world, people “can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form.  Much less expensive and much better. It’s not going to be their plan. It’ll be another plan. But they’ll be beautifully covered. I don’t want single-payer. What I do want is to be able to take care of people.” The second quote came on Jan. 9, when Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, warned Americans that you can’t always believe what Trump says. “Why is everything taken at face value?” Conway asked during an exchange with anchor Chris Cuomo. “You can't give him the benefit of the doubt on this and he's telling you what was in his heart? You always want to go by what's come out of his mouth rather than look at what's in his heart.”

  • Mayor Buttigieg finding chair support for fresh DNC start
    CNHI State Reporter

    INDIANAPOLIS – South Bend’s progressive Democratic mayor, Pete Buttigieg, is miles apart politically from the state's former conservative Republican governor, Vice President-elect Mike Pence. But the two Hoosiers share what political observer Andy Downs calls a “Midwestern politeness” that may have lasting impact on their respective parties. The even-keeled Pence appears to already be tempering the impact of his volatile running mate, President-elect Donald Trump. Or, he's at least playing what CNN’s Eric Bradner (a former Indiana Statehouse reporter) describes as the role of “fixer” with Republicans on Capitol Hill. Buttigieg’s aspirations are to fix the Democratic Party and keep it from stumbling back into the mistakes of the past, marked most recently by the divisive intra-party nomination fight between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to Trump in November, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

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  • President Trump transfers power 'back to the people'
    "We are not merely transferring power. We are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people. Our government is controlled by the people. Jan, 20, 2017 will be known as the day the people became rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of this country will be forgotten no longer. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: That a nation exists to serve its citizens. I will never, never let you down. America will start winning like never before. We will bring back our wealth, we will bring back our dreams. When you open your heart to freedom, there is no room for prejudice. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. We will be protected by God. Now arrives the hour for action.” - President Donald J. Trump, in his inaugural address.
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HPI Video Feed
President Trump's Inaugural Address
President Trump's inaugural address.

Trump walks Inaugural parade route
President Trump walks the inaugural parade route with his wife and son.

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Trump taxes

Should Donald Trump release recent tax returns, like every major party nominee has done over the past 40 years?


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