Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Folly of Mayor Ballard Running on the Crime Issue

Today's headline from the Indianapolis Star:  Violence hits at sensitive time for Downtown Indianapolis.   This comes after a July 4th weekend that featured several shootings and three violent attacks on the Monon within about 10 days.

Every night you flip on the television news and you have more violent crime being reported.  Generally those crime stories are the lead stories on the news.  The undeniable perception is that violent crime is increasing in Indianapolis and that it is a problem. 

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's administration wants people to know the public perception is wrong and that crime is actually down.  I have learned to take crime statistics with a grain of salt and am well aware of the fudging of the homicide data by the Ballard administration by changing what is a homicide.  Still I am still inclined to believe the Ballard administration.  Crime is down all over the country, so why wouldn't it be down here in Indy?

Because of the strong public perception, most political strategists would advise Ballard that crime can never be anything more than a defensive issue for the campaign.  By "defensive," I mean that when Democratic challenger Melina Kennedy brings up the problems with crime, Ballard blunts the issue by pointing to statistics to show crime actually dropped.

Ballard's campaign strategists though want the Mayor to use crime as an offensive political issue in the campaign despite the public perception that crime is a problem  To do so, the Ballard folks have to 1) educate voters that the public perception is wrong and that crime is actually down; 2) educate voters that crime is down because of steps taken by the Ballard administration.

You simply don't have time in a political campaign, made up mostly of 30 second commercials and uncontrolled free media, to engage in that kind of education. Kennedy on the other hand only has to link Ballard's policies to the pre-existing belief about crime in Indianapolis.  It's a simple connection easily made in 30 second spots.  Not much education is required.

Kennedy also has other things on her side with respect to the crime issue.  Once Ballard starts bragging about his administration's handling of crime, that opens the door to the bungled Bisard case and the infamous Mr. Frank Straub, who I still think may be a Democratic plant out to sink the Ballard administration.

This is one of the few campaigns you are ever going to see where both the incumbent and challenger have both picked the same issue - crime - to go on the offensive about, thinking the issue will break for them.  Someone has to be wrong.   That person is Mayor Greg Ballard.  Regardless of the numbers, the crime issue just doesn't work politically for him.


M Theory said...

It's kind of like the folly of him running on the end of country club politics issue.

Can someone tell me any of the promises that Ballard made to the activists (who did the work that elected him) that he kept?

I'm trying really hard to think of something.

Jon said...

Speaking of country club politics, one wonders how many free memberships in country clubs our esteemed mayor now has.

Jon E. Easter said...

I was just thinking this same thing last night, and you beat me to blogging on it. You are exactly right.

Isn't this the same argument that Mayor Peterson used in 2007? Something like most crime is down in the city, etc. It is a defensive position, and it's much easier for Kennedy to be on the offensive.

I read Ryan Vaughn's op/ed, and I kept thinking that arguing numbers doesn't make people FEEL better about crime. He quotes a 2006 number, but Kennedy was gone from the administration by that time.

Matt Tully's right. This campaign will be won on big ideas, and when you argue the stats, that's not showing anything but, to me, working the refs.

Good post, my friend.