When it comes to exciting elections, Indiana has it all this year. The Hoosier state settled the GOP nomination for president in the primary season and offered a vice presidential candidate in July. The races at the top of the ticket are close enough to be toss-ups.
And to think just a year ago, we were worried about voter apathy. Indiana was dead last in the nation for voter turnout.
“We’ve got three live-wire races (presidential, Senate and gubernatorial) at this point,” according to political analyst Brian Howey, publisher of Howey Politics Indiana.
Howey, along with Dan Carden, The Times Statehouse bureau chief, and Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, were panelists last Friday at the Lake County Advancement Committee’s political outlook luncheon at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville. I was the moderator.
The big question this year seems to be, how toxic is Donald Trump, the highly controversial Republican presidential candidate?
And if Democrat Hillary Clinton is elected president, as the polls suggest, what would that mean for Gov. Mike Pence?
It could mean the end of his political career.
“Name me a losing vice presidential nominee who ever did anything politically. There are not many,” Howey said.
“The Trump ick might stick,” Downs said. “But at this point, he’s in a better position than he was before he accepted the nomination,” Downs said.
“He has been the adult on that ticket. He has been the one that has been acting most presidential.”
“Our governor has essentially checked out,” Howey said. “You haven’t seen him in East Chicago, where we have a humanitarian crisis” — a line that drew loud applause. “We have a heroin epidemic that is sweeping the state that the governor’s office is ignoring. He has gone national. He’s nationwide.”
If Trump loses the election, the extent of that loss could be a big factor in Pence’s fate.
“If this turns into a Reagan vs. Mondale, a 49 states to 1 debacle, then I think anybody and anything associated with the Trump ticket could be tainted,” Howey said.
Don’t forget the anti-Pence yard signs that popped up across the state. He was in a tight gubernatorial race long before he jumped ship from the gubernatorial race to seek the vice presidency.
And now this evangelical Christian is defending a running mate whom several women have accused of unwelcome sexual advances and who publicly disagreed with Pence on a critical foreign policy issue during the last presidential debate. It’s an awkward spot to be in.
Carden said what I was thinking.
“If I was Mike Pence, and I just saw Evan Bayh’s financials of where he was making $450,000 a year doing 10 minutes a week on Fox News, I would move to New York just to be on Fox News and give up all my dreams of ever winning public office again, because they’re probably not going to come true,” Carden said.