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Wednesday, July 26, 2017
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  • SOUTH BEND –  For Democrats to win control of the House next year – possible, though not yet probable – they must upset some Republicans entrenched in “safe” seats, such as Rep. Jackie Walorski in Indiana’s 2nd District. Walorski is targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But so are many other Republican incumbents, most of them in districts in which they appear to be more vulnerable than Walorski. She is regarded as “safe” in most national evaluations. And why not? She won a third term in 2016 by nearly 62,000 votes, carrying nine of the 10 counties in the district and just barely losing in St. Joseph County, supposed bastion of Democratic strength. Walorski, however, is a target because of other past elections. She lost in her first race for Congress in 2010 to Joe Donnelly, who then was the incumbent congressman, and won in a squeaker for a first term in 2012 in a race with Brendan Mullen. Polls showed high negative perceptions of her back then.
  • SOUTH BEND – Mayor Pete Buttigieg seeks a stronger voice in national politics with the launch of a PAC to help local and state candidates around the nation to deliver a winning Democratic message. The mayor gained favorable recognition with his impressive bid for Democratic national chairman. He appears on network TV and is called on for major speeches. One is in Iowa, that first-in-the-nation caucus state. But Pete needs a different approach if he is to have real national impact. He needs a modern Twitter approach. Look what that has done for President Trump. Oh, sure, Pete has a Twitter account. But it’s not like Trump’s. Mayor Pete tweets politely about nice things in South Bend, promoting the city. Too nice.
  • SOUTH BEND - The “mean” health care bill passed by House Republicans could be a key issue in the nationally important U.S. Senate race in Indiana next year. It will be if Sen. Joe Donnelly has anything to say about it. And Donnelly, the Democratic incumbent facing a very tough race, already is saying a lot about it, calling the plan not just mean, but disastrous. The House Republican plan could be a key issue in Indiana because Donnelly’s Republican opponent is likely to be a Hoosier congressman, either Todd Rokita, 4th District, or Luke Messer, 6th District. Both are angling for the GOP senatorial nomination. And both voted for and praised passage of the House health care bill. The description of the bill as “mean” comes now from President Donald Trump. But didn’t Trump pressure House Republicans, many skeptical about what was in the bill, to pass it anyway? Yes.
  • SOUTH BEND –– The focus of the political stethoscope, for so long examining the poor health of Democrats who voted in Congress for Obamacare, shifts now to measuring the prospects for political health of Republicans who voted for Trumpcare. A health care plan, especially if complicated and pushed through without the public or even supporters in Congress really understanding the effects, can cause terrible health problems for those who vote for it. Democrats learned that. Will Republicans now learn the same lesson? There is no doubt that Trumpcare will be a major issue in the 2018 elections. Polls show it is unpopular, just as Obamacare was when Republicans hammered it and Democrats to win congressional elections. Now, ironically, just as Republicans control Congress and the presidency and can repeal it, provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, have become popular. A Gallup poll shows 53% approval of Obamacare, highest favorability ever, for the first time over 50%. So the GOP is having a difficult time figuring out how to dump it without severe health care and political health woes.
  • SOUTH BEND – Two decisions, evaluated together, have been great for Indiana. Donald Trump’s decision to select Mike Pence as his choice for vice president.The decision by Pence, when he was governor, to pick Eric Holcomb for lieutenant governor. Picking Holcomb wouldn’t have meant much if it were not for the later decision by President Trump to take Indiana’s governor as his running mate. With Pence gone from Indiana, Holcomb was elected governor. That thus far is great for Indiana. Holcomb is a better governor than Pence. And Pence is providing some stability and a calmer, more-informed voice for the administration in dealing with Congress and with the real world. He was instrumental in forcing out the dangerous Michael Flynn as national security adviser. He could be doing a better job for President Trump than he did for Indiana. Some readers won’t take kindly to any praise for Pence. There is room for criticism. But fair is fair. He does some things right. He hand-picked Holcomb to fill a lieutenant governor vacancy, putting Holcomb in position to win the Republican nomination for governor, to win the election and to be a good governor, a better governor than Pence, who had sagging approval ratings back when it appeared he would struggle for reelection as governor.
  • SOUTH BEND – What difference does it make? Sen. Joe Donnelly is the center of attention with the Senate drama over confirming Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. Most Senate Democrats, but not Donnelly, sought to block Gorsuch. Republicans responded to refusal of enough Democrats to join in providing the required 60 votes for confirmation by blowing up that requirement with the “nuclear option.” What difference did it make that Donnelly was one of only three Democrats to vote for Gorsuch?  Well, it meant that the vote confirming Gorsuch, with one Republican absent, was 54-45 instead of 53-46. Clearly, not enough Democrats would join with the 52-member Republican majority to provide 60 votes to end a filibuster blocking Gorsuch and confirm him. It was clear also that Republican majority leader Mitch McConnell would use that “nuclear option” to end filibusters on Supreme Court nominees and allow confirmation by a simple majority. Gorsuch was going to be on the court, no matter what Donnelly did. He was no difference-maker. But what difference does it make for Donnelly as he faces re-election next year?
  • SOUTH BEND – With all the enthusiasm at South Bend’s baseball stadium and the excitement over related economic development, it will seem strange to many of the fans who so often pack the place that the stadium almost struck out. Naysayers, predicting that a stadium would be a failure, opposed it all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court and even sought criminal charges against city officials who built it. If opponents had prevailed, there would not have been a record regular season attendance of 350,803 for South Bend Cubs games last season. Instead, zero attendance. Nor would team owner Andrew Berlin be pouring millions of dollars into stadium improvements and a major mixed-use residential complex around it. He wouldn’t be here, already investing far more than the city spent to build the stadium in 1986-87. The Chicago Cubs would not have displayed their World Series championship trophy at the site. Without a stadium, the Cubs would have no affiliate here.
  • SOUTH BEND – A group of people most likely to vote for a Democrat for Congress will sponsor a town hall meeting for 2nd District Republican Congresswoman Jackie Walorski next Sunday, 3 to 5 p.m., at Century Center in downtown South Bend. Let’s consider some questions about this unusual event. Q. Is this a nice bipartisan gesture, what with some Democrats paying for a site for Jackie to meet with her constituents? A. Oh, sure. About as nice a gesture as it would be for President Trump to invite MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on stage at one of his rallies. Q. Well, why would Democrats pay for a town hall for Jackie? A. Wait. The sponsoring group calls itself Northern Indiana Community Coalition for Health Care (NICCHC.) No letters D or E or M or O. So, it is not an official Demo function. That technicality aside, the purpose is to shame Walorski for not holding any town hall meeting for her constituents since 2013. Q. Who cares if Walorski doesn’t hold town hall meetings or news conferences and doesn’t agree to debates? A. Her supporters don’t. Her detractors do.
  • SOUTH BEND – The votes are in. And the winner is . . . Abraham Lincoln. Once again. Barack Obama finished 12th. Now, amid surprisingly high interest in an evaluation by historians of our 43 presidents, some national columnists suggest that there is hope ahead for James Buchanan, last on the list. Once again. This recent evaluation by 91 distinguished historians, presidential biographers and other experts in a diverse panel was conducted for C-SPAN. Why so much attention to a new listing of presidential rankings, not normally a hot topic? It is fueled no doubt by the political divide in America that brings intense interest in and debate over the place Obama will hold in history, and intense interest in and fears and hopes over the place Donald Trump will hold in history. There wasn’t much if any disagreement over Lincoln winning the top spot, just as he did in the prior C-SPAN survey in 2009. One columnist for Real Clear Politics, however, thought George Washington should have been No. 1. But the latest ranking had Washington second and Franklin D. Roosevelt third. That Lincoln-Washington-Roosevelt trio at the top is becoming standard in historical rankings.
  • SOUTH BEND - Jason Critchlow was re-elected without opposition as St. Joseph County Democratic chair. So, why would he want four more years in a job without a salary, where expectations are seemly unrealistically high and where losing candidates often blame the chairman, while winners say they did it all by themselves with their own political skill and personal charm?  Critchlow is coming back for more, even after St. Joseph County, that supposed bastion of Democratic strength, gave the party’s presidential nominee a margin of a mere 288 votes out of nearly 112,000 cast in 2016. He says it’s because of a passionate belief that politics is important. The election of Donald Trump proved that, he says, and gives him more incentive now, not less. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” Critchlow says of determination he sees in party ranks and with new volunteers, packed in “elbow to elbow” in meetings at the small Democratic headquarters in downtown South Bend.
        
  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised a half million dollars in six weeks for his campaign for chair of the Democratic Party. He received widespread favorable news coverage. Then he dropped out before the first ballot. Here are some questions about that, with what Buttigieg and others say about his bid to lead the party. Q. Why did he drop out? A. “If either of the others (frontrunners Tom Perez and Keith Ellison) was going to come in shy of 200 (votes) on the first ballot, then even with a very modest total, there would be a path for us,” said Buttigieg. “When we saw that wasn’t going to happen, I certainly didn’t want to prolong it, create multiple rounds for my own benefit.” Q. Was he offered a deal? A. “Early on, people would kind of sniff around about what I really wanted, some kind of deal that would convince me to step out,” Buttigieg said. “But I think over time we made clear that I was simply in this because I thought it was the right thing for the party. So, there was no deal at the end. I didn’t do this because I needed a job at the DNC. I have a perfectly good and compelling day job right here in South Bend.”
  • SOUTH BEND – The media told you that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. They lied. So dishonest. Terrible. The alternative fact is that the Cleveland Indians won. The Cubs were disqualified for using an illegal immigrant who paid bribes to get to this once-great country to pitch. Cheating. So unfair. But did the failing New York Times tell you that the Cubs were forced to forfeit? No. So biased. Did you hear on any of those TV networks that nobody listens to anymore that the Cubs still haven’t won the World Series since 1908? No. So untruthful. Did you read in this failing South Bend Tribune that the Cubs really aren’t defending champs? No. So slanted. Did Tribune columnist Bill Moor apologize for all his blabbering about “Cubs win!” and flying a “W” flag? No. So disgraceful.
  • SOUTH BEND – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg doesn’t have the votes to be selected Democratic national chairman. But right now it appears that nobody does. The two chairmanship contenders regarded as frontrunners are in a way still fighting the fight from the Democratic presidential primaries of 2016. They are Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who was a zealot for Bernie Sanders, and Tom Perez, labor secretary in the Obama administration, who is favored by long-time supporters of Hillary Clinton. According to the New York Times analysis of the contest after the final regional faceoff of the contenders in Baltimore last weekend, neither of the frontrunners “has secured the support of anywhere close to a majority” of the 447 Democratic National Committee members who will pick a winner in Atlanta later this week. For an upset win in a crowded field of 10 candidates for chairman, Buttigieg needs to be a widespread second choice, or to come up through the middle, a compromise choice between the Sanders and Clinton primary combatants.
  • SOUTH BEND – The National Republican Senatorial Committee already has a TV ad aimed at Sen. Joe Donnelly, starting early in efforts to defeat the Indiana Democrat when he runs for reelection in 2018. And President Trump invites Donnelly to lunch at the White House. Conflict in approach? Not at all. Both the Senate GOP strategists and Trump seek to strap Donnelly in a political hot seat in the battle over confirmation of Neil Gorsuch, the president’s nominee for the Supreme Court. Both seek to put pressure on Democratic senators facing reelection contests in states where Trump won big last fall. Trump carried Indiana by 20 percent. As Trump would say: That’s huge. Both know some Democratic senators are needed now for the 60 votes for confirmation. They want to avoid embarrassment of changing the rules to invoke the “nuclear option” for confirmation by a bare majority. Republicans control 52 seats in the 100-member chamber.
  • SOUTH BEND – Ralph the Republican arrived first at the breakfast place where he and Donald the Democrat meet almost every weekday morning to sip coffee and argue politics. Each enjoys irritating the other, all in fun, of course – sort of. Ralph has been getting there first most times since the election, always eager to talk politics. Donald? Less eager, preferring lately to discuss sports or the weather. But Donald smiled as he walked purposefully rather than reluctantly to their usual table. D: Hi, Ralphie. Suppose you heard all the controversy over what Trump’s done now. Ready to concede the guy’s crazy? Got here an article about whether he suffers from something called malignant narcissism. R: So, now you’re a shrink? Since Trump’s doin’ what he said he’d do, you Democrats claim he must be nuts. Guess keepin’ campaign promises sounds nuts to you.
            
  • SOUTH BEND – “The University of Notre Dame confers the degree of doctor of laws, honoris causa, on the 45th president of the United States ... Donald J. Trump.” Q. Will those words be spoken by the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame president, on May 21 at the university’s 172nd commencement? A. Only if two things happen: Jenkins invites Trump as commencement speaker and Trump accepts the invitation. Q. Are an invitation and acceptance likely? A. We don’t know what could be in the works – negotiations with the White House? – but neither invitation nor acceptance was regarded as either likely or impossible as strong opinions were heard on campus, including differing views in letters to the Observer, the student newspaper. Q. Some students want Trump invited? A. Sure. Some, even if not liking all of the divisive things Trump has said and done, think the university should follow a tradition of inviting presidents to speak at commencement, especially newly elected presidents.
  • SOUTH BEND – I hate “the media.” Judging by polls on trust, so do most Americans. They’re really down on “fake news” these days, blaming “the media” for inventing it and spreading it through irresponsibility or bias or a combination thereof. My reasons for hating “the media” differ from most of the irate critics, although they certainly are correct to deplore “fake news.” I hate the term, “the media,” not the news media in general, not the real news media providing real news, not the professional journalists in broadcasting and print who seek as best they can, though not perfect, to provide accurate information. But so often we hear complaints about the vicious falsities spread in this divided nation in a context placing blame on “the media,” a term in general use to include everything that disseminates anything. Everything from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to the scandal tabloids at supermarket check-out counters. Everything from the carefully scrutinized work of a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist to the tweets of a “citizen journalist” who sends an unchecked, unedited and untrue report that goes viral.
  • 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.
  • SOUTH BEND  – Quiz time. You’ll need some knowledge of local, state and national affairs and maybe a sense of humor.

    1. What will be the new Secret Service code name after Inauguration for Donald Trump?
         a. Rogue One.
         b. Bigly One.
         c. Hair One.
         d. It’s a secret.

    2. When Mike Pence travels, his plane will be designated:
         a. Air Force Two.
         b. Trump Force Two.
         c. Indy 500.
         d. None of the above.
  • SOUTH BEND – Political analysts told us that President Obama’s legacy was at stake in the 2016 election. He said that himself. If Hillary Clinton won, the conventional political wisdom was, Obama’s legacy would be secure. Obamacare would survive, finally with vital improvements a Republican Congress had refused to provide. His efforts on climate change, immigration and foreign policy, including tough sanctions against Russia, would continue. If Donald Trump won, Clinton and Trump sides agreed, Obamacare would be gone. Promoting coal would be more important than concern about climate change. “Soft” immigration policy would be replaced by deportation. There would be a far different approach to Russia and elsewhere from Iran to Cuba. A Trump victory would constitute voter repudiation of Obama initiatives and Obama himself, it was said, with the outgoing president sinking in historical evaluations. As 2017 begins, with Trump to be inaugurated as president, the expected changes loom, but Obama’s approval rating climbs.
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  • Messer signals U.S. Senate candidacy on Facebook
    “We’re in! See you at the picnic on Aug. 12.” - U.S. Rep. Luke Messer on Facebook at noon Wednesday, unveiling a new U.S. Senate campaign logo. The campaign also launched a “I Like Luke” website at www.lukemesser.com which is now signing up campaign volunteers. He is expected to make a broader pitch at his annual picnic on Aug. 12 near Shelbyville. He joins Terry Henderson, Andrew Takami and Mark Hurt as announced candidates. U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita is expected to enter the race soon. Messer campaign finance chairman Greg Pence had stated in an email obtained by Howey Politics Indiana that there would be “big news” was on tap today. “Stay tuned for some very exciting news from Congressman Messer tomorrow morning,” Pence said in an email sent on Tuesday. The day of your hard work and support has arrived. Exciting times are ahead!" U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly’s campaign manager Peter Hanscom reacted, saying, ”Joe Donnelly has been an independent voice for Indiana in the U.S. Senate. Hoosiers know that Joe will always put them first—not party bosses, corporate lobbyists, or special interests in Washington. Despite Congressman Messer's entry into the Republican primary, there’s still only one person on next year’s Senate ballot who is deeply connected to the Hoosier electorate and has a proven track record of working across party lines to deliver for Hoosiers, and it's Joe Donnelly.”
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  • Expect more White House chaos
     Months ago I speculated on how many Trump cabinet appointees would last a year. Today, President Trump is openly conspiring to terminate Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisory H.R. McMaster appear to be tenuous. So does Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. And new comm director Anthony Scaramucci is threatening a leak purge. All of this comes as “all options are on the table” with regard to North Korea, where the Chinese are now moving military assets at the border. And Trump’s speech to the Boy Scouts last night? My reaction as an Eagle Scout is this: About the most unScout performance I’ve ever witnessed. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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