2016 Primary Illustrates Rapidly Changing State, National Political Landscape

60498552To describe the 2016 primary elections in Indiana as anything less than dramatic and jarring seems an understatement. Two years ago, record low turnout tipped the balance to ideological sub-groups of motivated voters. This year, unprecedented turnout in both parties was the environment.

In the same election where Hoosier voters overwhelmingly chose “anti-establishment” leaders in Donald Trump (R) and Bernie Sanders (D) in their respective party primaries for president, Hoosier Republicans preferred by a 2-1 margin Todd Young over the conservative, Freedom Caucus poster-boy Marlin Stutzman. This seeming contradiction carried down into state legislative races.

A large majority of Hoosiers detest the federal government, distrust both political parties, and want someone or something to lash out at. With Republicans in charge of both houses of the General Assembly by strong quorum-proof majorities, if you’re looking for some political payback in Indiana, the Republicans are the ones calling the shots.

In the 2016 primary elections, only one Democrat incumbent legislator faced a primary election challenger. However, 14 Republican legislators faced primary election challengers. The 2016 primary elections – just like in 2014 – were about the Republicans.

Two years ago, candidates at the primary election faced a likewise frustrated and ideologically-driven electorate feeding tough challenges from the right. In 2014, the very low turnout election resulted in highly-energized subgroups of voters – those angry and motivated to vote against someone – to turnout to vote. This year, huge volumes of new GOP primary voters, motivated by the presidential race and “anti-establishment” anger, washed over races like tsunamis of discontent.

In state legislative races, incumbents and new candidates alike who distinguished themselves in both aggressive personal contact with voters, organized and efficient campaign operations and who positioned themselves solidly to the right or left with their party’s bases were generally successful. There were exceptions, but this continues to be the formula to win in primary elections.

A fundamental, foundational shift appears to be underway in the Hoosier electorate. This is not unique to Indiana, but the state does appear to continue to be on the cutting-edge of political conflict and change. A relatively “conservative” state in terms of culture and political attitudes, Indiana has not been a sleeper state in terms of policy and political conflict.

Back-to-back legislative battles over highly-charged social issues of abortion, LGBT civil rights protections, RFRA, and gay marriage aren’t the only policy battlegrounds. Infrastructure, tax cuts, education reforms, right to work, and more have been a focus.

There hasn’t been much “sleepy Indiana” to be found in policy debates or political activities in the state for some time. The ingredients of conflict in this political soup are a product of significant and often rapid changes in our culture, society, economy and workplaces. Our political system is where these competing priorities and often difficult personal and societal transformations are debated and competed over at the ballot box.

Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), the non-partisan political action program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, was heavily engaged in the primary election cycle to help elect pro-jobs, pro-free enterprise candidates to the Indiana General Assembly. Unlike most other PAC programs, IBRG is not in the business of “picking the winners,” but being there to defend incumbents with strong voting records and to challenge those who do not.

IBRG continued its record of election successes with 18 of 22 endorsed primary election candidates winning.

Indiana Chamber Endorses Rep. Todd Young for U.S. Senate

young pic camera (2)The Indiana Chamber is endorsing Congressman Todd Young (R-IN, 9th District) in his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The announcement was made today at a press conference at Indiana Chamber headquarters in downtown Indianapolis.

“We believe Todd Young is the most qualified and most economic-minded individual running for the Senate seat,” said Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “He has repeatedly demonstrated sound fiscal policy and prudent decision-making on issues that are vital to jobs and economic growth.”

Brinegar further emphasized Young’s engagement with the business community and his focus on economic, fiscal and regulatory issues.

“After he was appointed to the Ways and Means Committee, the congressman sought substantial feedback on potential federal tax reforms and what would have the most impact on Hoosier companies and their employees. He listened to our members – through personal conversations and a survey – using their insights to help form his pro-economy agenda.”

The Indiana Chamber’s nonpartisan congressional action committee, comprised of volunteer business leaders from around the state, determined Young’s endorsement.

At both the state and federal levels, Indiana Chamber endorsements are driven by vote scores on pro-jobs, pro-economy issues. For state endorsements, the Indiana Chamber relies on its Legislative Vote Analysis report. Congressional endorsements are based on a combination of the U.S. Chamber’s own vote scores and an analysis of votes on Indiana Chamber federal policy positions.

Representatives of the U.S. Chamber, which also is supporting Young’s campaign, joined the Indiana Chamber for the press event.

Indiana Primary 2014: Intra-Party Turmoil and Bassler’s Big Win Over Longtime State Senator

Indiana Business for Responsive Government (IBRG), the non-partisan political action program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, fought through one of the most challenging primary election cycles in its history with 12 of 14 IBRG-endorsed candidates winning their respective primary elections (including Eric Bassler’s big victory over 20-year incumbent State Sen. John Waterman).

Today, Hoosier voters believe their state government is on the “right track” by margins probably not seen in a generation of polling in the state, while holding nearly mirror opposite views of the federal government. Hoosiers have confidence in where our growing economy is headed and strongly support a variety of reforms that are helping Indiana lead the nation in economic growth.

However, large blocks of Hoosiers also detest the federal government, distrust both political parties, and want someone or something to lash out at. With Republicans in charge of both houses of the General Assembly by strong quorum-proof majorities, if you’re looking for some political payback in Indiana, the Republicans are the ones calling the shots.

In the 2014 primary elections, no Democrat incumbent legislator faced a primary election challenger. There were only two Democratic primaries in the state for “open” (i.e. no incumbent running) legislative seats, both in Lake County. The 2014 primary elections were about the Republicans. It’s important to note that the 2012 primary elections were the first held after redistricting. Twenty-two districts in 2012 did not have an incumbent running, compared to only eight this primary election. If you look at the House, the difference is even more stark –  20 open seats in 2012 and only three in 2014. So, the 2014 primaries had a lot more to do with incumbents.

In 2012, the labor unions were still hopping-mad over right-to-work and running a number of candidates against GOP incumbents and open seat races. They all failed. While the ISTA teachers union and “Lunch Pail Republicans” were back this year, a new and formidable primary challenge came from social and religious conservative candidates and interest groups, working in concert with some Tea Party networks. Their targets — select Republican primary elections.

Highly-motivated by hot-button social and religious issues such as the gay marriage amendment HJR-3, several otherwise conservative Republican legislators found themselves facing tough challenges from the right. In low-turnout elections, highly-energized subgroups of voters – those angry and motivated to vote against someone – can and do turnout to vote and win races.

It’s impossible to have much of a discussion of 2014 Indiana state politics without considering the impact of the hyper-divisive fight over the gay marriage amendment HJR-3. Setting aside the policy debate, clearly it has motivated, energized and radicalized large segments of the population on both sides of the issue. For many, it is a hyper-issue that overrules all others.

In this year’s primary elections, three Republican state representatives who voted against the gay marriage amendment found themselves challenged by significantly more socially conservative primary election challengers. Two of these three were defeated on May 6 and the third won with less than 50% as his two primary election challengers split 50.5% of the protest vote.

However, where issues other than religious and social ones took front and center, the results were very different. Where issues such as jobs, tax cuts, economic growth, right-to-work, education reform, free enterprise, regulatory relief and other economic and reform issues were the focus, incumbents (and non-incumbents) performed very well. In fact, they all won when IBRG was involved!

IBRG success included the highly‐targeted race that defeated a 20‐year Senate Republican incumbent (John Waterman in Senate District 39) strongly backed by the ISTA teachers union, other labor unions and trial lawyers. It included defending key legislators with strong pro‐jobs, pro‐economy records. This report will be updated as additional election results become available and published at
www.ibrg.biz.

IBRG Endorsed Candidates

Incumbents
House 22 Rebecca Kubacki – Loss
House 25 Don Lehe – Win
House 32 P. Eric Turner – Win
House 39 Jerry Torr – Win
House 59 Milo Smith – Win
House 83 Kathy Heuer – Loss
House 84 Bob Morris – Win
House 85 Casey Cox – Win
House 91 Robert Behning – Win
Senate 31 James Merritt, Jr. – Win

Challengers and Others
Senate 39 Eric Bassler – Win
Senate 47 Erin Houchin – Win

Open Seats
House 63 Mike Braun – Win
Senate 43 Chip Perfect – Win

Canadian Bankin’

Pardon the title, but Canada is in a position to make some serious bank off of its natural resources — namely oil. In our upcoming May/June edition of BizVoice magazine, Communications VP Tom Schuman has an interesting interview with Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada, about how Canada plans to move forward after President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Although, Obama contends the rejection was pending more environmental review and may not be permanent. (If you have a few minutes, read Norton’s remarks when he spoke to a group at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce in February.)

At any rate, I just perused the article in the editing process and I think our readers will be intrigued by our northern neighbor’s concerns and ambitions. It also includes a quote from Norton that reinforces why the Indiana Chamber endorsed Sen. Richard Lugar in the 2012 GOP primary and general election:

"You can safely say that if there is one person in the United States Congress who gets the geopolitical importance and relevance of achieving North American energy self-sufficiency and what that could mean for North America in unburdening us, making us less susceptible to Iranian adventurism and Venezuelan adventurism, it’s your senior senator from Indiana." – Norton

Why We Endorsed Sen. Lugar Today

We announced our endorsement of six-term incumbent Richard Lugar for the U.S. Senate today. The endorsement was made by the Indiana Chamber Congressional Action Committee, the federal political action committee of the Indiana Chamber.

"Senator Lugar has compiled a most impressive pro-economy, pro-jobs voting record throughout his years of service," said Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. "His focus on helping grow Indiana businesses and putting Hoosiers back to work is exactly what we need in Washington."

Lugar has been a long-time leader on many energy, national security, foreign policy and agricultural issues, among others. His effort to overcome bureaucratic obstacles and make the Keystone XL pipeline a reality – and create jobs in Indiana and throughout the country – is just one current example of his continued leadership.

"In a time when congressional approval levels are at record lows and partisanship is all too common," Brinegar adds, "Sen. Lugar should be applauded for his ability to reach across the aisle and work with members of both parties. We believe Hoosiers strongly benefit from his expertise and experience."

Speculation Time: GOP Primary Scenarios

After his narrow Iowa victory, Mitt Romney appears to be the most likely choice to garner the GOP presidential nomination. However, due to the fact that many conservatives simply don’t like him, that’s far from a certainty. CNN has an intriguing article outlining the different possibilities of how things will play out from this point on. Read the entire piece, but I have to run this portion for the die-hard Mitch Daniels enthusiasts out there:

(3) The long shot: Someone else enters the campaign (10% chance or less). Normally, this late in the game, a new entrant to the contest would be the stuff of science fiction. But conservative voters seem to be singularly dismayed by the choices in front of them: as CNN’s Erick Erickson tweeted last night, "Typical of email I’m getting: ‘If you put a gun to my head and said Romney or Santorum I would say pull the trigger.’"

Who would step into the fray? One hears voters pining for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (unlikely to join, especially after endorsing Romney) and some have floated Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (who endorsed Perry). Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would be a strong candidate, but that may be a tough sell to Bushed-out voters only four years after the conclusion of his brother’s presidency.

Would a candidate who jumped in this late even have a path to victory? Perhaps. The early primaries and caucuses are richer in symbolic significance than they are in delegates, especially with the new rules prohibiting winner-take-all allotment of delegates in the early states. And even with such a late jump on fundraising and organization-building, a candidate who was able to rack up a string of impressive victories in the middle- and later-term primaries could theoretically build up a big enough head of steam to take the convention by storm while making use of the Internet and earned (read: free) media coverage to play catch-up on money and organization.

The late-entrant scenario is still a dark horse at best, but even the fact that it’s within the realm of possibility underscores the reason Democrats are quietly cheering last night’s outcome: the GOP is still, at best, a party that’s looking for a standard-bearer — or, more dangerously for their 2012 prospects, a disunited collection of smaller groups of voters still pushing their own.

Indiana Could be Factor in GOP Primary

Whether in support of Romney, Gingrich, or even Paul, Indiana Republicans and primary crossovers could play a key role in deciding who the 2012 GOP presidential nominee will be. The Times of Northwest Indiana reports how:

The early presidential caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will be the center of the Republican Party’s world next month, but Indiana’s May 8 primary could prove more important.

Republican Party rule changes, penalties for early primary states, and candidates with enough money and supporters to remain in the race may all combine to give Indiana Republicans a taste of the campaign fun Democrats enjoyed in 2008.

Gov. Mitch Daniels is among the Hoosier Republicans rooting for a drawn-out nominating process.

"One can conjure a scenario … that might lead to a situation that’s still in play when May gets here, and that’d be terrific," Daniels said. "I thought it was so great when it mattered on the Democratic side last time."

Republicans changed their rules for awarding convention delegates last year hoping to capture the excitement Democrats had as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled for months to win the nomination in 2008.

As a result, most early primary states in 2012 will award convention delegates proportionately, based on a candidate’s share of the state’s primary vote, instead of winner-take-all.

In addition, five states that moved their primaries to before March 1 were penalized by the GOP and lost half their delegates.

That means the minimum 1,142 delegates needed for nomination won’t be selected until March 24 and no candidate is likely to win every one of them, putting later primary states with a lot of delegates, such as Indiana’s 46, in play.

Jesse Benton, campaign manager for Ron Paul, said the Texas congressman will strategically compete for delegates throughout the primary process.

"Our campaign has a comprehensive plan to win the delegates needed to either secure the nomination or enter into a brokered convention in Tampa," Benton told POLITICO.

The last time a Republican convention opened without the front-runner in control of enough delegates to win the nomination was 1976 when Ronald Reagan tried to wrest the GOP nomination from President Gerald Ford. Ford lost in the general election that year to Jimmy Carter.

Daniels, who briefly considered running for president earlier this year, believes a brokered convention might not be all bad, even though intra-party fights tend to turn off undecided general election voters.

"At a time when the country is facing just terribly consequential issues, if it led to a good healthy debate about not merely personalities but about what kind of program of change to bring to America, I could convince myself it’s not the worst outcome," Daniels said.

The term-limited governor said he won’t be throwing his hat in the ring at a brokered convention, but he’d enjoy watching it.

"I’ve always said the greatest spectator sport, forget the Super Bowl, if either party ever had a truly deliberative convention in the mini-camera world, it would be spectacular," Daniels said.

Not all Republicans believe the nomination will be up in the air when their convention begins Aug. 27.

Schererville Republican Dan Dumezich, who is leading Mitt Romney’s Indiana campaign, is confident the former Massachusetts governor will have the nomination locked up.

"I think we’re going to have an answer a lot sooner than most people think," Dumezich said. "I’m hoping we have one by January 31."

Poll: GOP Frontrunner Still Missing

The results of our most recent poll question seem to adequately reflect the current state of the Republican race for president — a lot of choices with little consensus.

We asked your favorite on the GOP side. Mitt Romney (33%) and Herman Cain (25% with more than a few of those votes received prior to his recent difficulties) led the way. Third was "other" with Jon Huntsman, none of the above, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and a few others showing up in that category.

Among remaining choices: Ron Paul (11%), Rick Perry (5%) and Michele Bachmann (3%). In other words, it’s still wait and see on how this one will play out in early 2012.

We keep the focus on Washington with our new question. Vote (upper right) on the following:

What would you most like to receive from Washington as an early (or late) holiday present?

  • “Do-over” on health care reform
  • Moratoirum on new federal regulations
  • Simpler tax process
  • Solid plan to reduce debt
  • Other