Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Trump-Supporting Crackpots In Indiana Are Destroying Each Other-- Can That Save Joe Donnelly's Senate Seat


Mess of Indiana conservatism

Before we get into the Indiana Senate race, there's some breaking news I want to share. Randy Bryce, the progressive Democrat and iron worker running for the southeast Wisconsin congressional seat occupied by Paul Ryan just moments ago issued a statementcalling on Ryan to initiate censure proceedings in the House against Trump for his divisive 'both sides' comments. "There is no moral equivalence between the repugnant peddlers of hate and violence, and those who bravely stand up to them," said Bryce. "Yesterday President Trump used the presidential seal to give political cover to vile racist extremists. The forces of deadly bigotry will only be emboldened by Trump's comments. When former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke thanks you for your remarks-- as he did to the president yesterday-- you are on the wrong side of history, decency, and American values. These comments yesterday require more than statements of outrage.  They demand an official expression of denunciation from Congress, on the record for all the world to see, and made permanent for history. Speaker Ryan," he said, addressing his opponent directly, "it is time to put action to your words. Only you as the leader of the House can compel that body to move decisively. Demonstrate courage and leadership, not only rhetoric. Initiate censure proceedings now in the U.S. House of Representatives against President Trump for the chief executive's outrageous, unacceptable and un-Amercian remarks."

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

Neither of them had to do this-- they each have a safe, comfy, congressional seat-for-life in red parts of Indiana-- but their rivalry is going to cost one of them-- perhaps both of them-- his career in politics. Todd Rokita was elected to Congress in 2010. The 4th congressional district west of Indianapolis has a PVI of R+11. Hillary didn't even hot a third of the vote last year in the district. This is one RED seat. And Luke Messer's 6th district, east of Indianapolis, is even redder. The PVI is R+12. It's Mike Pence's old House seat and Messer took over in 2012 when Pence became governor of Indiana. The district gave Trump a huge win, his biggest in the state-- 67.7% to 27.4%. Both are right-wing extremists and total Trump rubber stamps. Rokita's ifetime ProgressivePunch crucial vote score is 6.10 and Messer's score is 2.62. Politico termed their primary for the Republican Party nomination to go up against vulnerable and unpopular Blue Dog Joe Donnelly the GOP's nastiest Senate primary. And it's personal. The two right-wing goof-balls went the same sub-par college, the all-males Wabash College in Crawfordsville. "The slugfest underway between Republican Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita in Indiana isn’t just for the right to compete for possibly the GOP’s best opportunity to seize a Senate seat from Democrats in next year’s midterms," wrote Maggie Severns and Kevin Robillard. "It’s a chance to finally settle the score between two ambitious pols who’ve been vying to outdo one another politically since they graduated from the same small college more than 25 years ago. Yes, this one is personal. Their campaign didn’t officially get underway until last week, but Messer, 48, has already accused Rokita of attacking his wife and 'spreading lies' about his record. Rokita, 47, has questioned his rival’s mental health, calling Messer 'unhinged' and a 'ticking time bomb.'"

Indiana is Trump country-- he beat Hillary 1,557,286 (56.8%) to 1,033,126 (37.9%)-- and Donnelly is disliked by significant numbers of Democrats for his right-of-center approach. He's the GOP's easiest target for 2018. Donnelly only won in 2012 because he was up against a certifiably insane person, Richard Mourdock, who kept destroying his own chances-- and even then, Donnelly would have lost if not for Libertarian Andrew Horning winning 145,282 votes (5.7%), Donnelly's margin of victory. He took 1,281,181 votes (50.0%) to Murdock's 1,133,621 (44.3%).

Over the years, Messer has enjoyed the full embrace of Indiana’s political elite, which appointed him to a seat in the state Legislature and embraced him as part of its leadership. That same elite has always kept Rokita at bay.

Rokita became one of the nation’s youngest statewide elected officials when he was elected Indiana’s secretary of state at age 31. But he made enemies among Republicans in the state Legislature, which years later redrew Rokita’s congressional district in a way that put his home on the wrong side of the new boundary. Many of Indiana’s most prominent political leaders, including Vice President Mike Pence’s brother Greg, have lined up behind Messer. And when Rokita put his name forward for governor last year when Pence became Trump’s vice presidential nominee, the state Republican central committee instead went with now-Gov. Eric Holcomb, a former party chairman.

“Todd has a sense that ‘Messer gets all the breaks and I don’t,’” said one GOP operative. “Now they’re placed in a zero-sum game, and their underlying feelings come out.”

Those feelings reached a boiling point in May and have not calmed since. Messer had been considering a challenge to Donnelly since at least last summer, according to allies, and at first, Rokita waited quietly in the wings. But early this year, Rokita started raising money and meeting with Republican leaders in Washington. Then, a May Associated Press story revealed that Messer’s wife, a lawyer, was being paid a $240,000-a-year consulting fee from a small Indiana town.

The attack struck a particular nerve with Messer, who thought it was prompted by Rokita, according to two people familiar with his thinking. And he didn’t hold back.

"Frankly, I've known Todd a long time and very little surprises me," Messer told a local TV station. "But I would say it's not typical that someone starts a campaign by coming after someone's spouse.”

Rokita kept needling Messer in public, about that story and for relocating his family to Virginia. Messer distributed a lengthy email accusing Rokita of “spreading lies and half-truths,” which Rokita’s campaign responded to by calling Messer “unhinged” and a “ticking time bomb.” Soon, as both candidates lashed out at each other in the press, a dozen edits appeared on Messer’s Wikipedia page echoing one of Rokita’s main lines of attack on Messer: his work as a lobbyist.

...[M]any of the men who helped Rokita defeat a slew of other prominent Republicans in the primary have since abandoned him and are backing Messer for Senate, including his campaign manager Tom John and Grand. Rokita has gone on to earn a reputation as an exacting boss, prone to calling staff late at night.

“Todd has been more of a squeaky wheel than Luke,” said Dan Dumezich, chairman of Rokita’s finance committee. “Sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and sometimes the squeaky wheel just irritates people.”

Rokita and Messer declined to comment for this story.

Rokita ran particularly afoul of the state Legislature-- where Messer had quickly risen up the ranks during a stint several years earlier-- in 2009, as lawmakers began preparing for the once-in-a-decade redistricting process. Then in his second term as secretary of state, Rokita proposed making it a felony for lawmakers to consider politics when drawing political boundaries. He toured the state promoting his idea and drew up sample maps with new boundaries.

The Legislature bristled at Rokita’s suggestion, which would have given his office new power and disrupted lawmakers’ safe seats. The state Senate president-- a fellow Republican-- said Rokita had “crossed the line.”

Two years later, lawmakers gave Rokita his due: The Legislature drew Rokita, who by then was serving his first term in Congress, out of his district. His home sat just 500 yards from the line-- a slight that lawmakers called coincidental and Rokita publicly labeled as “comeuppance.” (Rokita would later move into his new district.)

Messer had a very different experience in the Legislature: He was appointed to a state House seat in May 2003, and by 2005 was serving in the chamber’s leadership. After a Time magazine story spotlighted Indiana as a center of the high school dropout crisis, Messer embraced school reform and found support from Gov. Mitch Daniels, as well as Indiana’s elite donors.

Rokita eyed running for Senate in 2010, but opted instead to run for the House. He arrived on Capitol Hill in 2011 and within months found himself at the center of a national clash after he joined other newly elected conservatives in refusing to vote to raise the debt ceiling, enraging House leaders. Messer ran for Congress in 2010 unsuccessfully, but succeeded two years later on his third try. The Wabash grads then found themselves rubbing elbows-- and at times, throwing them-- on Capitol Hill.

Messer again rose up the ranks fast: Within two years he was elected as chair of the House Republican Policy Committee. And he again embraced education by leading a school choice caucus, hosting rallies attended by John Boehner and Eric Cantor that featured Messer as the smiling emcee.

While Rokita appears endlessly willing to take on unpopular-- but important-- fights, Messer has been quick to build coalitions and quickly rose to leadership positions in both the state House and in Congress.

But Messer’s skill at listening to people and building coalitions can have downsides as well, a GOP strategist warned. “Luke’s personality is to try to placate both sides. You may not ultimately satisfy anybody,” he said.

And Rokita, who led an education subcommittee, jockeyed with Messer for prominence on their key issue. In 2015, he was working diligently on a major education bill when Messer nearly unraveled a year’s work. Messer made a stand in favor of adopting school vouchers, a controversial issue that jeopardized the bill; Rokita fumed to colleagues until Messer backed down.

Today, both men are fuming in public as they launch their campaigns. Both say they’re focused on running campaigns that can eventually defeat Donnelly-- but they frequently fall back into a now-familiar habit, nipping at each other instead of their Democratic foe.

But there’s also an upshot for people like Grand, the Indiana lobbyist, who happens to share an alma mater with the two Indiana congressmen.

“Either way,” Grand said, “Wabash College wins.”
The most recent poll by right-wing polling firm, GS Strategy, shows Rokita leading significantly. It's going to take a really gi-mormous anti-Trump/anti-McConnell/anti-Ryan tsunami for the Democrats to hold Donnelly's seat. Having strong Democratic candidates down-ballot-- like Dan Canon in the 9th district, for example-- will, ironically, help turnout for Republican-lite Donnelly.

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At 7:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual with Indiana, no matter who wins, the entire nation gets ratfucked.

If the racist states secede and Indiana isn't one of them, we should all just toss it in with the rest. Indiana is shit on a par with the worst of the southern states, KS, OK et al.

When voters are that stupid and evil, democratic government will never be any good.


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