Last night I had the opportunity to see a "Faceoff" segment on Fox59 featuring former Ballard media spokesman Robert Vane and Kip Tew, the former Democratic state chairman. The topic was whether Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard deserves to be re-elected.
I was supposed to be on this segment, arguing against Mayor Ballard's re-election. The Ballard people flat-out refused to face off against me. I highly doubt they were fearful of my debating prowess, but rather the Ballard people knew perfectly well how they've sold conservative Republicans down the river and they didn't want someone bringing that up. I'm sure it will be raised during the campaign, however. The smartest thing a Melina Kennedy can do is to try to peel off conservative Republicans by pointing out how Ballard betrayed them with his policies.
Tew and Vane are professionals though and they did well in what is a difficult and uncomfortable format. Vane is a media guy and he was undoubtedly hitting Ballard campaign talking points. The problem was that the talking points, the campaign themes Ballard intends to use, are so incredibly weak. Let's examine them.
- Ballard fulfilled his campaign promises.
--Ballard's list of broken campaign promises is extremely long,including one pointed out by Tew during the debate, the Ballard promised not to run for re-election if he didn't cut the non-public safety part of the budget by 10%. Ballard should not be bringing up his 2007 campaign promises because that will come back and bite him...big time.
- Ballard cut taxes as he promised.
---Ballard is going to look ridiculous when the Democrats roll out a list of some 100 taxes and fees Ballard has proposed raising.
- Ballard has not increased any "broad based taxes."
---Of course, Ballard made no distinction in the type of tax when he made his promise not only to not raise taxes but to cut them. Nonetheless, this talking point asks voters to make a distinction between types of taxes, a far-fetched notion. Nonetheless, let's not forget Ballard did propose raising the food and beverage tax, the alcohol tax, and supports a local sales tax for transportation.
Ballard has provided attention to the City's basic needs.
--I'll grant you that one. Of course, Ballard mortgaged the future to do it, using 30 year loans to pave roads, an improvement which might last 7 years if we are lucky. Nonetheless, this is a negative voting issue. People won't vote for the Mayor if he pays attention to the City's basic needs, but they will vote against the Mayor if he doesn't. This isn't a good campaign issue by any stretch.
- Ballard has engaged in "unprecedented job creation."
---This seems to be Ballard's No. 1 issue. Yet the claim that jobs in Indianapolis have increased the last few years, in the midst of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, is not at all the public perception of what's happened. Therefore it is not a good campaign issue. Undoubtedly Vane's numbers were based on "job commitments" not actual jobs created. Tew easily countered that quoting the declining in jobs in Indiana.
- All aspects of public safety have improved under Ballard.
---Again, this is certainly not the public perception and thus it fails as a political issue.
Ballard has no issue, none, that he can use to make a credible case for a second term. Usually I can see a path to victory for a candidate, regardless of how difficult the journey may be. But with Ballard, unless Melina Kennedy commits a major felony before November 2011, the Mayor has no chance of winning re-election.
Note: Over at the Indianapolis Times, Terry Burns notes that Melina Kennedy's top two issues are 1) jobs and 2) public safety. This may be the only campaign I can recall where both sides are campaigning by asking the public to judge the incumbent's performance on the exact same issues, with both sides believing those issues will break for them. Campaign strategy is usually about picking your candidate's best issues while de-emphasizing your worst. Either Ballard or Kennedy is completely wrong about which way the jobs and public safety issues will break with the public. Given the current perception of the public on those issues, that clueless candidate is Mayor Greg Ballard.