Saturday, October 31, 2015

Indianapolis Election Predictions

It's time for 2015 Indianapolis election predictions:

MAYOR:  Winner Democrat Joe Hogsett (57%) over Republican Chuck Brewer (43%).

One thing that is true about Marion County politics is that Democratic candidates do substantially better when there is large turnout.  Republicans appear to be conceding the mayor's office quite likely
to not give Democratic voters any reason to go to the polls. Low turnout will favor Republicans the scores of close council races where the baseline narrowly favors Republicans.  I expect turnout to be less than 25%.  If turnout is larger than that, I believe Hogsett's vote total could approach 60%.

COUNCIL RACES:  I predict the Democrats will win a 14-11 majority.*

Months ago, I would have given the Democrats a 2-3 more seats but I am not seeing signs that the Democrats will get the turnout necessary to win some of the close districts.  I am also not seeing signs that the Democrats in those marginal Republican districts are waging aggressive campaigns targeting issues (like higher taxes and corporate welfare) that would cause Republican to crossover and vote for Democrats.  For the first time I think there is actually a chance Republicans could win the council.  I'd give it a 33% chance at this point.

Council District 1:  Winner Democrat LeRoy Robinson (60%) over Republican Brian Jones (40%)

This used to be Republican territory.  No longer.

Council District 2:  Winner Democrat Kip Tew (51%) over Republican Colleen Fanning (49%)

District 1 was drawn to be a Republican majority district.  The 2010 election results used by Republican operative David Brooks to draw the council maps had this district with a 51.98% majority.  That GOP baseline has dropped more than two points by 2014 to 49.78%.  While Fanning has gotten support from Mayor Greg Ballard and is well funded, Tew is even better funded and is a professional politician.  I have to give the edge to Tew.

Council District 3:  Winner Republican Christine Scales (49%) v. Democrat Pam Hickman (48%) and Libertarian Christopher Bowen (3%).  

This race between incumbents will probably come down to the last precinct turning its votes in.  I would guess a slightly larger margin for Scales, but I expect that Bowen will draw more votes from her than Hickman.

Council District 4:  Winner Republican Mike McQuillen (59%) v. Democrat Ray Biederman (41%)

Of the northside districts this one is the most heavily Republican.  Currently at 57.01% it's only fallen slightly from the 2010 57.37% GOP baseline numbers.

Council District 5:  Winner Republican Jeffrey Coats (58%) v. Democrat Curtis Bigbee (42%). 

In the 2012 presidential election, this district had a baseline of 50.71%.  That is typical of these northside districts which are much more Democratic during high turnout presidential elections.  But in mid-term elections, Republicans do 3-4 points better, which is a total swing of 6 to 8 points.   You can expect that in municipal elections, with even lower turnout than mid-terms, there will be an additional couple point advantage for the Republicans.

Council District 6:  Winner Democrat Frank Islas (50.5%) v. Republican Janice McHenry (49.5%)

This lower northwestside district presents a fascinating contrast. During presidential election years, it is solidly Democrat with only a 43% Republican baseline.   But when there is lower turnout, Republicans do about 8 points better.  McHenry is a tireless worker and has no doubt knocked on every door in the district.  But even with the Republican numbers shored up a bit during the remapping process, the changing demographics of the district heavily favor Democrats. The only question is how long can McHenry can survive.  If Democrats have run the right type of campaign (attacking McHenry on her consistent support for higher taxes and corporate welfare), they could easily cause enough Republicans to abandon McHenry to win the district.  I am surprised that in the past Democrats haven't made more of an effort in the district.

Council District 7:  Winner Democrat Joe Simpson (76%) v Republican Adrienne Slash (24%)

Council District 8:  Winner Democrat Monroe Gray, Jr. (75%) v. Republican Patrick Midla (25%)

Council District 9:  Winner Democrat William Oliver (83%) v. Republican Chuck Madden (17%)

Council District 10:  Winner Democrat Maggie Lewis (77%) v. Republican Terry Bible (23%)
Council District 11: Winner Democrat Vop Osili (80%) v. Republican Remington O'Guin (20%)

Council District 12:  Winner Democrat Blake Johnson (56%) v. Republican Susan Smith (42%) and Libertarian Michal Gunyon (2%)

Council District 13:  Winner Democrat Stephen Clay (81%) v. Republican Terry Miller-Penquite (19%)

Council District 14:  Winner Democrat Lekeisha Jackson (74%) v. Republican Terry Dove (26%)

Council District 15:  Winner Republican Marilyn Pfisterer (54%) v. Democrat Christopher Wall (44%) and Laurie Works (2%)

Of the 25 districts, District 15 and District 22 have the biggest swing (10%) in favor of Republicans when there is high turnout.   While the Republican baseline in midterms in District 15 is over 55% (55.85% in 2010 and 55.02 in 2014) it was only 45.3% Republican during the presidential election year of 2012.  High turnout in the municipal election is extremely unlikely so you have to give the edge to Republican Pfisterer.

Council District 16:  Winner Democrat Emily Shrock (50.5%) v. Republican Jeff Miller (49.5%).

This will probably be considered a slight upset but only because Miller is the incumbent.  The district was previously held by a Democrat, Dane Mahern who Miller defeated in 2011. While Brooks tried to shore up the Republican numbers in the formerly marginally  Democratic distrct by drawing a 51.55% GOP baseline district, (based on the 2010 midterms, the GOP baseline dropped to 49.13% by 2014.  What Miller needs to hold onto the district is really low turnout numbers from the Democrats in the district, which is entirely possible.

Council District 17:  Winner Democrat Zach Adamson (80%) v. Republican Sally Spiers (20%)

Council District 18:  Winner Republican Susan Cordi (62%) v. Democrat Eddie Barnes (38%)

Council District 19:  Winner Republican Ben Hunter (54%) v. Democrat David Ray (46%)

This eastside district has the potential to go Democratic if turnout heavily favors the Ds.  During presidential elections it is only 43.61% Republican.  But it is 9% better during lower turnout midterm elections which will much more closely resemble a municipal turnout.

Council District 20:  Winner Republican Jason Holliday (68%) v. Democrat Jon Easter (32%)

You have to give my blogger friend Jon Easter for the time and effort he has put into the campaign.  Jon would no doubt be an excellent councilor.  But the numbers favor Republicans in the district, especially during low turnout elections.

Council District 21:  Winner Democrat Frank Mascari (51%) v. Anthony Davidson (49%)

This is the only district Democrats hold which has a marginally Republican (50.75% baseline). It is also one of the few districts in which the R baseline improved, albeit slightly, from 2014 to 2010.  Mascari though is very well-known in the district and his pro-taxpayer and anti-corporate welfare should have some appeal to conservative Republicans.  Even with a low turnout, I have to give the edge to Democrats.

Council District 22:  Winner Republican Robert Lutz (55%) v. Jared Evans (45%)

District 22 is a virtual twin of District 15.  Both are based in Wayne Township and both are marginally competitive, and both 10% more Republican during low turnout midterm elections.  In the presidential election of 2012, District 22 had a 44.75 GOP baseline.  But in 2014 it went to 54.78% Republican.  Jared Evans is a talented, hardworking candidate who defeated the slated Democratic candidate in the primary.  However, he is going to have a tough time overcoming the numbers in the district to win the general election.  If he succeeds then, the Democrats will certainly win the council.

Council District 23:  Winner Republican Scott Kreider (88%) v. Libertarian Douglas McNaughton (12%).

Council District 24:  Winner (Unopposed) Republican Jack Sandlin (100%)

Council District 25:  Winner Republican Aaron Freeman (72%) v. Democrat Jeff Wheeler (26%) and Libertarian Mike Jasper (2%).

*The count has been corrected to now read 14-11 instead of 13-12.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Is GOP Leadership Throwing Indianapolis Mayor's Race to Decrease Democratic Turnout?

We are only days away from next Tuesday's municipal elections and I doubt the average voter could identify the Republican running against Democrat Joe Hogsett for Indianapolis Mayor.  GOP nominee Chuck Brewer has run just a few TV commercials, all positive bio pieces.  There has been no attempt by Brewer to explain to Indy voters why they shouldn't vote for Hogsett, the former U.S. Attorney and Secretary of State.  As any political professional will tell you, in competitive political contests it is essential that a candidate explain not only why voters should vote for him or her, but also why voters shouldn't vote for the opponent. 
Chuck Brewer
GOP Sacrificial Lamb?

It is almost like the Marion County GOP leadership has decided to run a non-campaign and concede the Indianapolis mayor's office to the Democrats.

When GOP operative David Brooks drew the new council map he had to cut the margins on scores of Republican-leaning districts in order to get Republicans to a 15-10 margin.  This was done to make sure the total GOP seats offset the expected four at-large members elected who almost assuredly would have been Democrats given the leanings of the county as a whole.  The legislature later eliminated the four at-large districts, reducing the council from 29 to 25 members, all to be elected from the individual districts drawn by Brooks.

Brooks used 2010 numbers in coming up with the 15 Republican seats. By 2014 though two of those GOP district baselines had turned in favor of the Democrats, leaving only a 13-12 GOP majority.  By my count, 8 districts currently held by Republicans are competitive (55% or less GOP baseline) while only Republicans only have a shot at one district held by Democrats, Frank Mascari's Beech Grove area district.  But Mascari's district is one of the districts that has turned majority Democratic since Brooks drew the lines. Winning it is an uphill battle.

Turnout in elections is always driven by the top of the ticket.  One school of thought is that Brewer could have run a highly competitive campaign, hitting all the conservative hot buttons to drive GOP turnout and, if not win, at least save the marginal Republican seats.  The other school of thought is to lay down, not run a competitive campaign.  Why do that?  If Republicans don't give Democratic voters a reason to worry about winning the Mayor's Office, many will simply stay home. While that won't happen in sufficient numbers to elect Brewer, it could be enough to tip marginal council races to the Republicans.

Indeed there are signs that the Democratic electorate is not motivated with early voting at record lows.  Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana has written about that subject.

While the strategy of conceding the Mayor's Office after eight years of occupying it sounds insane, the concession strategy has been used by the Marion County GOP in the past.  In fact, the original plan of Marion County GOP party leaders in in 2007 was for the party to concede re-election to Bart Peterson and to instead focus on council races.  Party leaders told prospective donors that the political novice they had pushed to nominate, Greg Ballard, had no chance and not to donate to his campaign. It was only after Peterson repeatedly shot himself in the political foot and his support in the polls plunged, that the GOP party leadership got behind Ballard.

I should add that the concession strategy has also been used by the Marion County GOP as to the Indianapolis-based Congressional district.  Historically the Marion County GOP leadership has not helped the GOP nominee for Congress and, in fact, has often worked to undermine the candidate's campaign, telling donors not to donate to the nominee.

Expect both parties to try to drive turnout over the weekend.  Democrats will tell people internal polling says the mayor's race is tightening and turnout as crucial.  Republicans will do the exact same thing.   I used to see the party leaders do that every election until I finally figured out they were lying just to get the party workers motivated to turn out voters.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

NOAA Refuses to Comply With Congressional Subpoena for Information on New Calculations Eliminating Global Warming Pause

The Daily Caller reports:
The global warming debate on Capitol Hill is heating up. Government scientists refused to comply with lawmakers’ demands they turn over internal documents regarding a study that eliminated the “hiatus” in global warming from the temperature record.   
Tom Karl
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) officials argued such records are confidential and “essential to frank discourse among scientists.” The science agency said it has a history of protecting the “confidentiality of deliberative scientific discussions.” 
NOAA’s decision not to comply with a subpoena from House science committee lawmakers has only angered Chairman Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, who says Americans have a right to know what taxpayer-funded scientists were thinking when they altered the temperature record in June.
“It was inconvenient for this administration that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades,” Smith said in an emailed statement. “The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made.”
Republican lawmakers have been interested in holding hearings and gathering information on NOAA temperature adjustments for months. Lawmakers’ interests peaked when scientists put out a study claiming the 15-year “hiatus” in global warming never existed.
“Newly corrected and updated global surface temperature data from NOAA’s [National Centers for Environmental Information] do not support the notion of a global warming ‘hiatus,'” NOAA scientists led by Tom Karl wrote in their study.   
Karl and his team made adjustments to past temperature data to eliminate a prolonged period of little to no statistically significant global warming. They largely did this by adjusting upward sea surface temperature readings taken from ships and buoys.
The NOAA study was highly criticized by scientists more skeptical of man-made global warming and directly contradicts findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s main authority on global warming. Many scientists are still skeptical of NOAA’s elimination of the pause.
Regardless of one's views on anthropogenic global warming, the notion that government-funded scientists have the right to unilaterally declare confidential their communications and deliberative material is absurd.  Even more importantly though the most fundamental tenet of science is that those who develop a theory supply those who wish to test it the information relied upon so the theory can be tested to see if it is replicated.  If Karl and the other NOAA scientists engaged in an objective search for the truth instead of a predetermined conclusion driven by political calculations, they should jump at the chance to comply with the subpoena.  Again, let's remember that the elimination of the pause by Karl & Company is not even supported by the organization leading the anthropogenic global warming theory, the IPCC.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Facing Crushing Defeat Running for Mayor Ballard's Third Term, Indy GOP Mayoral Candidate Brewer Changes Direction

Over at Advance Indiana, blogger Gary Welsh picks up on some interesting comments from Indianapolis GOP Mayoral candidate Chuck Brewer during a joint appearance he had with Democratic opponent Joe Hogsett:
“As a business owner, I can tell you what I think about giving away tax abatements or tax dollars to companies to attract them here,” said Brewer during a half-hour roundtable
Chuck Brewer
discussion with Democrat Joe Hogsett on WTHR-13. “At the end of the day, this is a race toward the bottom. Every city in America does it, and it’s OK if you are trying to develop something — but our Downtown is doing just fine.” . . . 
“The real focus we need to have as a city is to create the kind of place, the kind of success that companies want to locate here not because we are giving away the farm but because this is a great place to find talented workers and this is a great place to live and raise a family,” Brewer said. “I think we’ve given away enough tax dollars and now is the time to focus on creating a great quality of life.”
Welsh argues that up until that point Brewer had done little to distinguish himself from Hogsett.  That is certainly true.  However, politics is about perception and Hogsettt was astute enough to know there is considerable political running room advocating a change in direction of the Mayor Greg Ballard's priorities that have focused almost completely on funneling taxpayer dollars to wealthy downtown insiders and developers.  That was the reason for Hogsett running two television ads saying he will put an end to the practice of cutting deals for downtown insiders.  It doesn't matter that Hogsett's credibility on that front is more than suspect (Welsh regularly addresses this on his blog while Brewer remains silent.).  Up until the WTHR broadcast Brewer had pledged to continue the Ballard corporate welfare agenda that has played a major role in Mayor Ballard supporting more than 40 plus tax and fee increases.

The change in Brewer's campaign strategy is welcome even if it comes too late to save his candidacy.   At stake in the election are scores of marginal Republican districts which will turn red if Republicans stay home, disenchanted by a mayoral candidate who only recently learned to spell the word "conservative." 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Republicans in Michigan Lead Effort to Curb Civil Forfeiture Abuses

One of the most underreported political stories of the last decade is how the Democratic Party has abandoned much of its traditional support for civil liberties with the resulting vacuum filled by liberty-minded Republicans.  A perfect example is our neighbor to the north where a Republican-dominated legislature and the Republican Governor of Michigan led the way in adopting much needed civil forfeiture reform.  The Detroit Free Press reports:
LANSING -- Gov. Rick Snyder  signed an eight-bill package Tuesday aimed at curbing abuses in the use of civil forfeiture laws, under which police can seize property from
people who were never even charged -- let alone convicted -- of a crime.   
The bipartisan legislation is supported by groups as diverse as the ACLU of Michigan and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Both say the bills Snyder signed today are a significant improvement but don't go far enough. 
House Bills 4499 and 4500, and HBs 4503-4507, which Snyder signed in a brief private ceremony attended by bill sponsors and supporters, raise the standard of proof required for police and other agencies to seize property through civil forfeiture from a preponderance of evidence to clear and convincing evidence. They also significantly increase the amount of public reporting required of forfeiture activities, to increase transparency. 
Michigan law allows government agencies to seize property suspected to have been used for or purchased with proceeds from certain crimes such as drug trafficking, prostitution, gambling or racketeering. Though  citizens  can  petition  a  court  to  have  their property returned when it is not connected to the commission of a crime, many citizens cannot afford the costs, including the posting of a bond and legal fees, to do so. 
Police and prosecutors say the laws, used properly, act as a deterrent to crime, strip criminals of assets that can be used to commit further crimes, and save taxpayers money.   
But some of the proceeds from forfeited property are used by the law enforcement agencies that seized the property, raising concerns and criticism about "policing for profit."  

The article goes on to detail one of the worst examples of civil forfeiture abuse in the country:
One of the better-known and most controversial uses of civil forfeiture occurred in Detroit in 2008, when a police SWAT team raided the city's Museum of Contemporary Art, where 130 patrons were celebrating Funk Night, a monthly party of dancing, drinking and art gazing. The patrons were forced to the ground at gunpoint and, in some cases, purses were searched. All of the patrons were issued tickets for "loitering in a place of illegal occupation," because the museum had failed to get a permit to serve alcohol.   
Then police began confiscating their cars, having them towed away under the city's nuisance-abatement program and insisting that patrons pay $900 apiece to get them back. The ACLU filed suit and the city agreed to drop the criminal charges but refused to return the cars.
Hopefully our legislature, also dominated by Republicans, will note the extensively documented abuses of civil forfeiture in Indiana and adopt similar changes if not end the practice completely.

Two Polls Show Carson Pulling Well Ahead of Trump in Iowa

Ben Carson
Polls by Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register and Quinnipiac University show Ben Carsonpulling well ahead of New York businessman Donald Trump in Iowa.  The polls show Carson with a 9 and 8 point lead respectively.  Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are the only other candidates breaking double figures in the polls.

Possibly even more importantly the Bloomberg poll found that Carson was the first or second choice of 47% of Iowa Republicans (28% and 19%), while Trump checked was a top choice with 28% (19% and 9%) of those Republicans polled.

No longer can Donald Trump say he's leading in every state poll.

Polling in Iowa, however, is problematic.  Iowa nominates presidential candidates through a caucus system, small meetings of voters held throughout the state in the dead of winter.  (Right now the caucuses are scheduled for February 1st though that is subject to change).  The success of a candidate in the caucuses depend on 1) the enthusiasm of the candidate's supporters; and 2) the strength of a candidate in getting voters to the caucus meetings.  Trump's strength is #1 while Carson will probably be stronger with #2.  A candidate like Cruz, who has an enthusiastic following and probably will be well-organized, can't be counted out either.  Rubio who has somewhat managed to bridge the gap between the outsiders and the establishment, would also seem to have a shot.  Cruz and Rubio also will enjoy lowered expectations in Iowa, but that could change in the months ahead.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

On Heels of Controversy Whether He Really Built Clock Mistaken for a Bomb, Boy and Parents Moving to Qatar

The Atlantic reports:
Last month, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed’s attempt to impress his teacher with a homemade clock landed him in handcuffs when officials at his school in Irving, Texas, thought it resembled a bomb and called police. His treatment resulted in international headlines, a heated debate over anti-Muslim bias, invitations to visit Facebook, Google, and the White House, and, now, a decision to move to Qatar where Mohamed was awarded a full scholarship.
“Ahmed is the latest recipient of a scholarship from the Young Innovators Program said in a statement. “The program encourages recipients to follow their aspirations in education while fostering a culture of innovation and creativity.”
which supports young, exceptional Arabs by offering educational opportunities in Qatar,” the Qatar Foundation, the organization that awarded the scholarship,
Mohamed and his family will move from Irving to Qatar in the near future. Mohamed had visited the country, along with Saudi Arabia, earlier this month amid a whirlwind of publicity surrounding his story, and toured the Qatar Foundation’s facilities. The foundation has partnerships with several Western universities, including Carnegie Mellon, Texas A&M, and Northwestern, which have satellite campuses there.
What is not mentioned in the Atlantic story and most other mainstream stories covering the decision of the family to move to Qatar is the controversy is that the claim the boy built a homemade clock has been strongly challenged by experts and the family was facing possible legal jeopardy.

In a video, posted on the YouTube, electrical expert Thomas Talbot argues the clock is actually a commercial alarm clock, removed from its casing. Features of the clock such as the printed circuit boards and ribbon cables are indicative of a manufactured product, he explained. 

Dallas Maverick's owner and tech guru Mark Cuban, who talked to the boy by phone and found him being coached by his older sister in his answers to his questions, has also expressed skepticism.  On HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” defended the actions of the school saying “the people at the school thought it might be a bomb, perhaps because it looks exactly like a [expletive] bomb.”

Fox News reports on the legal hot water the family was facing:
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge [Andrew] Napolitano said that if the whole thing was a fraud, and the family was involved, they could be open to legal charges.
“It now appears as though this was a purposeful hoax," Napolitano told Fox News' Megyn Kelly Monday. “If the parents were involved now you have a fraud going on as you have funds going on for him right now,” he said, adding that the two funds to raise money for the family now amount to over $20,000.
It should be noted that Qatar does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trump Poll Lead Returns to Pre-Debate Levels; Biden Says "No" to Possible Run

Four national polls have been released the last four days showing that Donald Trump's lead in the race for the Republican presidential nomination returning to pre-debate levels.  Following the fCnn and Fox News debates, Trump's support which approached and at times exceeded 30%, sunk to the low 20%.  The four polls, commissioned by ABC/Washington Post, CNN, NBC/Wall Street Journal and Monmouth, show Trump with 32%, 25%, 28% and 27%.  All the polls show Dr. Ben Carson
Donald Trump
being in second place, trailing Trump by 10%, 5%, 3% and 10% respectively.

The big news on the Democratic side is that Vice President Joe Biden has decided against running for President.  Polls consistently showed Biden a much stronger general election candidate than Hillary Clinton.  Meanwhile polls show that Hillary's nomination fortunes have improved a bit, with her regaining the lead in New Hampshire and holding a strong lead in Iowa.

Returning to the Republican side, Leon Wolf of RedState has an excellent column on Donald Trump in which it asks Trumpites the following question:
What, hypothetically, would Trump have to do or say to cause you to stop supporting him? 
The article catalogues only a tiny fraction of Trump's liberal political history and points out that that liberal history would be disqualifying for any other GOP candidate. This includes Trump's previous support of immigration reform.
Voting, though, is at least theoretically supposed to be a different endeavor, especially for people who pride themselves on being the “reasonable” people in this country. It’s supposed to matter what candidates think, do, and say. There should be a point with literally every candidate where something they have done would push us over the edge to the point that we wouldn’t support them anymore.
This is all the more true with respect to Trump and his supporters, who allegedly exist because the Republican “establishment” has betrayed them one too many times, thus pushing them into the welcoming arms of The Donald. If betrayal of conservative principles, or strategic failures, or cronyism or whatever it is that caused you to become a Trump fan in the first place, shouldn’t an equivalent sin committed by Trump  likewise cause you to end your support of him?
I ask because I  would have thought that being a repeat donor to Clinton and other Democrats might have been that point for principled conservatives.
I ask because I would have thought that using Michael Moore’s talking points on 9/11 might have been that point for principled conservatives.
I would have  thought that defending federal funding of Planned Parenthood might have been that point for principled conservatives.
I would have thought that adopting Democrat rhetoric on the need to raise taxes on the wealthy might have been that point for principled conservatives.
I would have thought  that publicly professing a love for eminent domain might have been that point for principled conservatives.
I haven’t even gotten  into the insanely liberal things Trump said and did before he decided to run for President, because apparently being an unprincipled and opportunistic flip flopper only bothers principled conservatives when the candidate in question is Mitt Romney. It doesn’t even apparently matter that The Donald’s immigration stance is likewise a transparent flip flop from what he said as recently as 2013.
The conclusion of the author is that there is nothing that Donald Trump can do or say that would dissuade Trump supporters.   From what I've seen these past few months, I have to agree 100%.  To Trump supporters, the New York businessman has papal-like infallibility.  Everything Trump says, is by definition, absolutely correct.  It doesn't matter how liberal Trump is proven to be, the New York businessman will get a pass from Trumpites.  Hopefully the remaining 70% of Republicans who don't support Trump will retain their good sense and not support his nomination.  If Trump is nominated, conservatives will have lost the 2016 general election before it even starts.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Two Joggers Attacked on the Indianapolis Monon Trail by Group of Teen Thugs

This story in the Indianapolis Star shocks me on how brazen the teenagers were.  The attack on the joggers took place in the middle of the day, on a Saturday, in broad daylight, in a heavily used part of the Monon Trail.  The article doesn't mention the age of the victims, but for the foregoing reasons as well as that he unarmed attackers decided to target men instead of women suggests to me that the attacks could well be part of a gang initiation ritual and robbery was not at least the primary motive.

I ride my bike on the much less used White River trail that picks up on the northwest side of Indianapolis and goes downtown. There are countless places where a person could jump out and attack bikers and joggers who use the trail.  An occasional police presence on the trails would be helpful in deterring crime.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Pennsylvania Offers Promising New Territory for GOP Electoral Map

One of the problems with many pundits' analysis of presidential race is the assumption that the electoral playing field will be the same as previous elections.  But partisan politics within states change over time, turning territory which was once solidly Democratic or Republican into battleground states.  Thus, while Ohio and Florida are seen as two key states for Republicans, the map now reveals other opportunities.  Take the Republicans chances in Pennsylvania, for example.

Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes, has gone to the Democrats every presidential election
since 1988.  But the Keystone State is showing itself to be increasingly Republican.  In 2014, the state did oust a Republican governor in favor of the Democrat Tom Wolf.  But Republicans have majorities in both houses of the legislature, and a lead in congressional seats 13-5.  The Senate delegation is divided between Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat, but pro life, Bob Casey.

Republican Toomey is a top target of Democrats in 2016.  But, thus far, he has led virtually every poll against possible Democratic opponents, until recently by double figures.

A recent survey by the Public Policy Polling, an outfit that polls exclusively for Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations on a private basis, showed Republican presidential candidates leading in head-to-head matchups with Democrats..  In particular, PPP matched up five Republicans (Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson) against Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  The results showed Republicans winning 9 of the 10 possible races, with Carson running the best of the Republican candidates.  The only race in which a Republican lost was a matchup between Bush and Clinton, which the latter wins by 5 points.

The PPP poll is not an outlier.  Recent polling by Quinnipiac University in the Keystone State showed the same thing, a Republican advantage.   This is a dramatic change from earlier in the year when PPP and Quinnipiac polling showed Hillary Clinton with double figure leads against Republicans in the state.

In the past, Pennsylvania has proven to be little more than fool's gold for Republicans presidential candidates.  Will this time be different?  Maybe not, but it does appear that at the very least Pennsylvania is a state the Democrats will have to expend substantial resources on to ensure it remains in the their column.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

As Debate Approaches Today, New National Poll Shows Clinton Trailing Every Major Republican Candidate

A new national poll released today by Fox News shows Democrat Hillary Clinton trailing in matchups with four possible Republican nominees:  Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush and Ben
Ben Carson
Carson. Carson has the biggest lead over Clinton at 11% while Trump, Bush and Fiorina have leads of 5%, 4% and 3%, respectively.  This is a contrast from previous Fox News polls which showed Clinton leading Republicans.

Surprisingly the poll did not include a matchup between Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Clinton. Rubio consistently polls as one of the best general election candidates.

The Fox News poll also confirmed other polling that indicated Biden is a much stronger general election candidate than Clinton.    Matchups with major Republican candidates show Biden ahead by the following margins:  Trump 13%, Bush 5%, Rubio 1%, Fiorina 4%, and Carson 4%.

If you're playing at home, with Biden instead of Clinton as the nominee, that is a swing in the Democrats favor of 18% against Trump, 9% as to Bush, 8% with Fiorina, and 15% in a matchup against Carson.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Libertarian Horning Challenges Indiana's Taxpayer-Funded Primary System

Often Libertarian candidate, Andy Horning, has filed a federal lawsuit to challenge Indiana's primary system.  Horning claims Indiana law allowing the major parties to have taxpayer funded primaries which provide "more money, public attention, free advertising and media promotion, as well as an imprimatur of greater legitimacy" to the major political parties "at the actual expense of alternatives. Horning says Indiana law creates an arbitrary threshold for participating in taxpayer funded primaries, a threshold that bars independents and non-major parties.

Andy Horning
Horning also challenges the organizational advantages afforded major political parties, such as a statutory requirement that members of the Indiana Election Commission "be a member of a major political party."   Although Horning's complaint doesn't mention it, county election boards also have two of its three members appointed by the county chairs of the respective major political parties.  (The third member is the elected county clerk.)  The IEC, as well as county election boards, play a critical role on ruling on election law disputes and voter challenges. 

As a legal matter, I think Horning's latter allegation is better than the former. I will explain why in a bit. 

Libertarians have long argued for an end to taxpayer-funded primaries. Their position is that parties are private organizations that should be able to pick their own candidates...and should do so at their own expense.  Of course, the notion that political parties are completely private organization, free from governmental interference was rejected by the courts in a challenge to the "White Primaries" many state Democratic parties were holding in the South post-Civil War.

I strongly disagree with Libertarians on the elimination of primaries.  As a Marion County Republican, I am very familiar with the local party leaders use of slating, a formal endorsement process, to control who gets the nomination.  Although slating was supposed to be about party workers endorsing candidates, the process has become so rigged over the years, it essentially amounts to party bosses, not party workers, picking a slate of endorsed candidates.  Fortunately, we do have a check on that...namely a primary election in which a candidate by can be nominated by the party electorate despite not receiving the endorsement.

The Libertarians want to take that critical protection for voters away to leave the nomination decision entirely in the hands of party bosses.  Their argument is if the party bosses pick bad candidates, the public will punish them by choosing other candidates.   This, Libertarians argue, will eventually, years down the road, lead to reform and better candidates being nominated.  I don't buy it one bit.  Locally, I see party leadership which would rather endorse candidates who have little chance of winning the general election than nominate candidates they can't control 100%.   Taxpayer money spent on putting on primaries is money well spent as primaries provide often the only chance voters have to have meaningful input in terms of who is elected.

As far as legalities, I think Horning's argument that Libertarians, other third party candidates and independents have no say as far as election law enforcement is on solid footing.  Republicans and Democrats on the Election Commission have no interest in protecting the interests of third party and independent candidates and often appear to be working in tandem in keeping non-major party candidates out of the elections.  I have seen court decisions that indicate such arrangements, in which the two major parties carve out exclusive territory for themselves, are unconstitutional.  Whether Horning can hurdle standing and other challenges to succeed on this claim though remains to be seen.

As far as the challenge to the primary system, Horning cites IC 3-10-1-2 as "creating an arbitrary threshold" that has to be met before political parties and independents can participate in primary elections.  Undoubtedly Horning is referring to the 10% requirement in that statute. But a review of that statute reveals that it only says parties must hold a primary when they receive 10% of the vote in the Secretary of State's race.  That statute doesn't seem to bar other parties from having taxpayer funded primaries when they are below the 10% vote requirement.  Here is IC 3-10-1-2:
Each political party whose nominee received at least ten percent (10%) of the votes cast in the state for secretary of state at the last election shall hold a primary election under this chapter to select nominees to be voted for at the general election.
In short, that statute would appear to require the Libertarians to have a primary if its candidate received 10% of the vote in a Secretary of State's race.  But the statute does not bar Libertarians from participating in primaries now, when the party's Secretary of State candidate is getting less than 10%.  Although many Libertarians are deadset against primaries, the Libertarian Party would be foolish to pass up the opportunity to participate.  Primaries would give Libertarian candidates additional publicity and help generate interest in the party.  It would also give Libertarian-leaning voters the opportunity to so declare by participating in the primary.

Possibly there is another statute that prohibits Libertarians from participating in primaries.  I have not spent a lot of time reviewing the state's poorly organized election code to find it.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Trump Calls Using Eminent Domain to Take Private Property for Developers a "Wonderful Thing"

Donald Trump
The Hill reports on Fox News' Brett Baier's interview of Donald Trump and the real estate mogul's continued support of government taking private property to aid developers like himself:
"Eminent domain, when  it comes to jobs, roads, the public good, I think it's a wonderful thing," Trump told Fox News' Bret Baier. 
“You're not taking property. … You're paying a fortune for that property,” he said of the process, adding that homeowners can be paid “four, five, six, ten times” their property’s value. 
Trump, a real estate mogul, noted that he’s dealt with eminent domain a lot in building developments in New York City. He said the idea that people are forced to sell homes they don’t really want to give up is a myth. 
"Most of the time,  they just want money,” the businessman said. “These people can go buy a house now that's five times bigger and in a better location."
At least Trump, for once, is consistent.  He is continuing to support the expansive use of eminent domain, for government to use its power of condemnation to aid real estate developers, like himself. 

Of course, with eminent domain the only thing the property owner is entitled to is fair market value.  Trump is not being honest when he says homeowner is going to receive several times over the value of the property if the property is taken via eminent domain.
Let's not forget the time when a widow refused to sell her house in Atlantic City to Trump for parking for limousines at his casino.  Trump had local government officials try to take it via eminent domain.  The woman prevailed in court.
At the very least, we should demand that our presidential candidates have a respect for private property rights.  Clearly Trump does not.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

NBC Poll Shows Clinton Losing Badly to Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire

Iowa and New Hampshire are the first two states up in the presidential nomination sweepstakes. Conveniently they are also general election bellwether states.  NBC today released a poll showing
how Hillary Clinton, and her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders match up against some Republican prospective nominees.

IOWA:  Republican Donald Trump is shown as beating Clinton by 7% in the Hawkeye State.  But Jeb Bush is ahead of Clinton by 10% and Carly Fiorina is ahead of the former Secretary of State by 14%.

Matched up against Sanders in Iowa, Trump loses by 5%.  Meanwhile Bush leads the Vermont Senator by 2% and Fiorina edges out Sanders by 3%.

NEW HAMPSHIRE:  Trump is losing to Clinton by 3% in the Granite State. But Bush is ahead of Clinton by 7% in the state and Fiorina ahead by 8%.

Against Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire, Trump trails by 10%.  Fiorina loses to Sanders by 2% and Bush is even.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Disastrous Chuck Brewer for Indy Mayor Campaign

With the calendar reading October 5th, the Indianapolis mayoral election is less than a month away.  Republican Chuck Brewer is taking on Democrat Joe Hogsett.  The former U.S. Attorney has not even broken a sweat thus far, running a series of positive commercials, along with a few which touch on no brainer issues such as the need to address the abandoned housing problem in the city.

Meanwhile, Brewer has taken the nonsensical approach of running for the Ballard third term, offering
Chuck Brewer
not but enthusiastic approval for every corporate welfare and tax/fee increase Ballard has ever pushed, policies that have alienated so many Indy conservatives.  But it wasn't enough for Ballard to regularly alienate fiscal conservatives, this year he also alienated social conservatives as well by publicly attacking Governor Pence for his efforts to protect religious freedom.  Ballard even went so far as to appear as Grand Marshall of the Indy Pride parade.  Yet Brewer could do nothing more than gush approval at Ballard's shot at social conservatives in his own party.

Campaign Politics 101 says you solidify your (conservative) Republican base and then reach out for Independents and soft Democrats.  Brewer has done none of that.  Although Ballard barely won re-election in 2011 against a lackluster Democratic candidate, Brewer thought he could simply promise a Ballard third term and get the same result.  In the face of continuing demographic changes in the county, which benefit the Democrats, and in light of Ballard continuing the reckless corporate welfare spending and (higher) taxes policies during his second term, that 50% plus majority Brewer is seeking will never happen.

Brewer is a political neophyte who undoubtedly believes GOP party leaders actually support his election.  Before tossing his hat into the ring, Brewer should have talked to other Republican countywide counties who have been used in recent years to assure the establishment wing of the local Republican Party controls the nomination process, even if that means abandoning the candidate shortly after the primary.

Brewer should have been able to count on his campaign manager to put together a strategy that could win the Election. However, instead of picking someone with political skills that was open to a strategy not tied to Ballard, Brewer selected Ballard adviser Jen Hallowell to manage his campaign. 

Hallowell consulted Ballard during his tenure, usually receiving a $10,000 monthly payment even during years when Ballard was not on the ballot.   Hallowell, who regularly appears on WRTV's Indianapolis This Week and is the wife of Republican Marion County Chairman Kyle Walker, does not appear to have a keen grasp of political strategy, to say the least.

If Brewer's failures were isolated, that would be one thing.  But mayoral candidates, not council candidates, drive turnout.  Republican turnout is critical to the success of scores of GOP council candidates who are in marginal districts. 

When the council map was drawn, Republican operative David Brooks was operating under the assumption he needed a 15-10 GOP advantage due to the four at-large councilors who would undoubtedly be Democrats.  While the at-large positions were eliminated by the legislature, the 15 Republican majority council districts that remain were drawn with incredibly close baselines.  After the 2014 election (an election similar to a municipal in terms of turnout), only 13 of those original districts remain with Republican majority baselines.  Seven more Republican districts have majority baselines of 55% or less, while the Democrats only have one competitive district to defend.  If Republicans fail to come to the polls on November 3rd, the Democrats could easily end up with a majority on the council of 16-9 or 17-8.

That Chuck Brewer is going to be soundly defeated is not the disaster. The disaster is that he could take down many Republican council candidates with him in the process.  His foolish Ballard third term strategy is going to have severe consequences for the Marion County Republican Party.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

New National Poll Shows Carson Leading Trump

Investors Business Daily reports on its own poll released on Saturday:
Donald Trump has boasted that he's "leading every poll and in most cases big." Not anymore. The latest IBD/TIPP Poll shows him in second place, seven points behind Ben Carson.
The nationwide survey found that 24% of Republicans back Carson, compared with 17% who say they support Trump.
Marco Rubio came in third with 11% and Carly Fiorina fourth at 9%. Jeb Bush, once considered a prohibitive favorite, ranked fifth with just 8% support, which was a point lower than those who say they are still undecided.
The IBD/TIPP Poll has a proven track record for accuracy, based on its performance in the past three presidential elections. In a comparison of the final results of various pollsters for the 2004 and 2008 elections, IBD/TIPP was the most accurate. And the New
Dr. Ben Carson
York Times concluded
that IBD/TIPP was the most accurate among 23 polls over the three weeks leading up to the 2012 election.
Other polls show Trump's support slipping in recent weeks. The Real Clear Politics average of six national polls shows him falling from 30.5% in mid-September to 23.3% by the end of the month. That average does not include the IBD/TIPP findings.
The IBD poll appears to be a bit of an outlier, understating Trump's support while overstate Carson's.  While most polls show Trump's support falling off earlier highs, they still show Trump in the mid to lower 20% range and still leading the pack.   This view is confirmed with a Pew Research poll released on Friday that shows Trump leading with 25% and Carson second with 16%. 

Nonetheless, it does appear that support among Trump has topped out at around 25%.  The problem for the New York businessman is that he is few Republicans' second choice.  As others candidates drop out, their supporters are likely to go to Trump's remaining opponents.

It's interesting that while Democrats like to call Republicans, and the Tea Party, in particular, racist it is African-American Ben Carson who is a favorite.  Even in the heart of the Old Confederacy, Louisiana, Carson is popular, leading Trump 23% to 19% in yet another recent poll.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Congress Poised to Stop "Play for Patriotism" Program that Benefited the Indianapolis Colts

Too many conservatives, in a zeal to show they are for a strong military, want to give the Department of Defense a blank check.  But as a government entity DOD can waste money with the best of them.  In a story published yesterday, Sports Illustrated reports that Congress is close to putting a halt to DOD's "Pay for Patriotism" program:
Congress is preparing to approve a bill that would ban promotions saluting U.S. troops at taxpayer expense during sporting events, Jonathan Salant of reports.
Funding would be cut from promotions like the New York Jets’ “hometown heroes” salute, in which one or two soldiers are featured on the stadium screen during a game and fans are implored to thank the soldiers for their service. The Jets received $377,000 between 2011 and 2014 from the Department of Defense and the Jersey Guard in compensation for this promotion and other advertising, reported.    
In that four-year span, 14 NFL teams received $5.4 million from the Department of Defense for similar contracts involving promotions, which have been dubbed “pay for patriotism.”
“Those of us go to sporting events and see them honoring the heroes,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told in May. “You get a good feeling in your heart. Then to find out they‘re doing it because they’re compensated for it, it leaves you underwhelmed. It seems a little unseemly.”
The legislation, which awaits final approval from both the House and Senate, is paired with a report that calls on the NFL and other sports leagues to consider donating the money they have received from these deals to charity.
According to, the Indianapolis Colts received the fourth highest amount of NFL teams, collecting $620,000 from 2011 through 2014 for putting on patriotic programs during games.

See also:

May 11, 2015 Sports Illustrated article "NFL teams gross millions in tax dollars for military salutes during games"