Jack Colwell of the South Bend Tribune warned gitty Democrats today that "three weeks can be a lifetime in politics," and Chris Chocola may well pull it out.
...but we've been hearing this from Republicans for months. Hearing that once the mammoth GOP research team unloads their oppo data in negative ads, Democrats would be marginalized. Hearing that when the Republican financial advantage comes to bear, Dems would be pushed back. Hearing that gerrymandering and the GOP's GOTV program would create a firewall protecting the majority.
But in polling, Democrats have only continued to gain ground. GOP attacks (like Chocola's series of property tax ads) have largely bounced off. I'm not seeing Colwell's arguemnt:
Chocola, with more campaign funds, will seek to define Donnelly in less favorable terms and get undecided or wavering voters to conclude that Donnelly is not the change they would want.
Donnelly will not be hurt by "localization" of the race if he can encourage voters to react to the dreaded M-word, "Mitch."
The Toll Road deal of Gov. Mitch Daniels, unpopular in the district, is a factor favorable for Donnelly. Will many voters really in the final analysis cast a vote based on the Toll Road issue? Or on daylight time confusion? If they do, it will hurt Chocola.
Or will voters who have been skeptical about the economy decide that the drop in gas prices, the rise in the stock market and some other good economic news means that a vote for a Republican Congress, specifically a vote for Chocola, would be in their best interests?
Getting out the vote will be crucial. Even if the support is there, it won't matter if the supporters don't actually vote.
What would have happened last Tuesday may or may not happen on Nov. 7.
Chocola and Donnelly again faced off in a debate last night:
The two did spar on Medicare Part D, with Chocola praising the legislation as lowering prescription drug costs for millions of senior citizens, and Donnelly highlighting the coverage gap, or "doughnut hole" that he said could have been addressed by including a price negotiation plan.
They also offered differing assessments of Iraq, with Chocola emphasizing the political progress made since the U.S. invasion, and Donnelly highlighting ongoing violence and security issues.
Although both candidates professed their moderation and avoided major policy differences, each questioned his opponent's ability to deliver, implying that the opponent was too connected to other groups.
Donnelly contended that Chocola was too close to the Bush administration and a compliant, Republican-controlled Congress.
"We need a tough congressman who will ask tough questions so we can get a resolution in Iraq," he said during his closing statement. "So ask yourself, are you better off now than you were two years ago?"
But Chocola countered by questioning the kind of change Donnelly said he'd bring, saying that Donnelly would vote to make Pelosi speaker of the U.S. House, thereby supporting her "left-leaning agenda."
"It's more important what you do than what you say," Chocola said during his closing statement.
How about a man who, "according to recently filed court documents, [is] a porn-loving, adulterous, abusive drunk who likes to advertise on Craig's List for three-ways and anal sex and takes naked pictures of himself standing at attention."
According to RADAR, Craig T. Schelske, the "husband and former manager to Nashville singer and Dancing With the Stars contestant Sara Evans" is "also a failed Republican congressional candidate, the executive director of American Destiny, which seeks to teach children about 'the role of God and Christianity in America's story,' and chairman of CRAIGPAC, a vanity political action committee that gives to Republican candidates." Evans's divorce complaint is here.
Besides Chocola, Schelske has also given to Brian Bilbray, Duke Cunningham, George Allen, Michele Bachmann, and Rep. Thelma Drake.
The ad, sponsored by a group called Americans for Honesty on Issues, concerned Democratic congressional challenger Joe Donnelly's position on taxes and was denounced as "untrue and misleading" by Donnelly spokeswoman Katie Nee.
The ad was dropped earlier in the week by WSBT-TV, according to station general manager John Mann, who said the claims made in its audio portion were not supported by cited sources.
The odd twist came when The Tribune, while preparing a story, asked Brooks Kochvar, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, R-2nd, to comment on the decision to pull the ad.
Kochvar's response was to say that he had just seen the commercial on WSBT-TV, and that it was running on other local stations as well.
When told of the situation, Mann launched an investigation of his own. He initially concluded that the ad had continued to run because of an internal processing involving recently installed software.
The Indianapolis Star is billing the newest Majority Watch poll as a GOP gain:
An automated telephone survey this month of 989 voters in Indiana's 2nd District found Chocola with 46 percent support compared with 50 percent for Democrat challenger Joe Donnelly. A similar survey conducted a month early showed 40 percent for Chocola and 52 percent for Donnelly.
"He has made tremendous progress," said Thom Riehle, partner in RT Strategies Inc., one of the two research groups running the project.
Riehle said Chocola's improvement was strong enough that Majority Watch may decide to see if there's been similar movement in southern Indiana.
Their early September poll in southwestern Indiana found 45 percent support for Rep. John Hostettler, R-Wadesville, compared with 51 percent of respondents who planned to vote for Democratic challenger Brad Ellsworth.
In southeastern Indiana, Rep. Mike Sodrel had 42 percent support compared with Democratic challenger Baron Hill's 53 percent.
"This is the first we've seen a strong recovery by any of these guys," Riehle said of Chocola's improvement this month.
But even though Chocola's numbers are moving in the right direction, Riehle said getting back to the lead is "certainly a tough row to hoe" as "there's not much time left."
I'm not sure just how to read these numbers yet. Unfortunately, no one independent pollster has polled the district more than twice (this second round of data from Majority Watch is the only time that's been done), so it's difficult to get good relative comparisons amongst differing pollsters with differing formulas. Here's a handy chart tracking the race so far:
"It's very important Chris be re-elected," Bush said. "President Bush has an ambitious agenda for the rest of his time in Washington. ... We must have serious national conversations conducted in civility and respect, and Chris Chocola is a positive and powerful part of that dialogue."
Bush, a popular campaign-booster for Republicans across the country, began a four-state swing Wednesday with a fundraiser for six-term Ohio congressman Steve Chabot, who is in a heated re-election battle. She raised $170,000 at a luncheon for him.
She then headed to Knoxville, Tenn., to raise money for Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker. After Indiana, she was heading to Missouri for GOP candidates.
Chocola, a two-term congressman, told the 700 people who spent $100 to attend the event - $2,000 to have their photo taken with the first lady - that the race was extremely close and there's a lot at stake.
"The Democrats think the road to the majority is running right through Indiana, and I think they're right," Chocola said. "But when they get here, with your help, they'll see a big 'Do Not Enter' sign."
Indiana's Second is tightening, according to numbers released today by Majority Watch, a polling project of RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics.
Republican Chris Chocola has managed to whip up his base to parity with Donnelly's "strong" hierarchical numbers, upping it by ten whole points since the last Majority Watch poll in September, while marginalizing his "weak" voters by four points. In contrast, Donnelly's "weak" numbers increased by two points, and his "strong" numbers dropped by four. The Democrat's Voter Motivation Index rating remained the same, and Chris Chocola increased his base's rating by eight-tenths of a point.
It's clear the race will be decided outside of St. Joseph County, where the contest is dead even, 48-48%. The Granger Democrat is decisively leading by ten points in St. Joseph County, his geographic base.
66% of Chocola's weak base is made up of men; in September, men only accounted for 44% of the Republican's leaners. Women now make up the bulk of undecided voters; previously at 49% of all undecideds, women now make up 66% of those voters. Women continue to break for Donnelly in sum, 52-43%, though down from 55-38% in September. Men have upped their support for Chocola, at 43-49% in September, now at 49-47%.
Joe Donnelly is up by four points, 50-46%, in the second round of Constituent Dynamics/RT Strategies Majority Watch polling... Results from IN-08 & IN-09 are fourthcoming, but not available yet. Further analysis coming soon.
"We used some of that money to up our buy elsewhere," Buck said, adding that the group felt that, strategically, the money could be better used in other areas of the country.
With Chocola reportedly behind in some district polls, the comment seemed to imply that the group saw no point in further attacking the incumbent Republican, although Buck declined to comment on that aspect. ... Jaquint, who confirmed that Majority Action wanted to drop the ad on its own, said the ad buy was only for a few thousand dollars. "It wasn't that much money," he said.
The South Bend Tribune reports on two partisan polls released today (I've posted the results at right in the poll section):
The poll, taken Oct. 4 and 5 by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research company of Hartford, Conn., showed Donnelly with a 52 percent lead to Chocola's 36 percent, with a plus-or-minus 4.6 percent margin for error and a sampling of 400 likely voters.
Burton said the poll showed Chocola with a 36 percent positive and 61 percent negative job approval rating.
Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar said an Oct. 9 poll taken by Mercury Public Affairs, a New York City company, showed a much different result.
That poll showed the race in a virtual dead heat, with Donnelly ahead of Chocola by a 44.7 to 44 percent margin, with 11.3 percent undecided.
According to Kochvar, Mercury surveyed 300 likely voters and the poll had a plus-or-minus 5.65 percent margin for error.
"We take polls to understand reality, not to make us feel good," Kochvar said. "Clearly their poll makes them feel good, but it has no basis in reality."
One Democratic 527 group, Majority Action, announced this week that it would run advertisements in four Congressional districts criticizing incumbent Republican House members for voting against federal financing for stem cell research.
The advertisements will focus on Representatives Chris Chocola of Indiana, Thelma Drake of Virginia, Don Sherwood of Pennsylvania and James T. Walsh of New York.
Total spending on the 60-second advertisements will be about $500,000, said Bill Buck, spokesman for Majority Action. The group’s founders include Joe Andrew and Don Fowler, former chairmen of the Democratic National Committee.
The Hoosier Democrat said his "Stopping Overseas Subsidies" legislation, which is aimed at controlling unfair trade practices, isn't going anywhere "under current management." He expressed hope that the Nov. 7 election will result in a change of policy.
Donnelly said he strongly supports the proposal.
Bayh, who said he's known Donnelly for 20 years, described the Granger Democrat as "a good person who will fight for the people of the district."
Donnelly said he had asked Bayh early on to campaign for him because Bayh is loved by Hoosiers and because "it's a good thing to have a friend who's also a senator."
The NRCC has an ad up that replaces "Dots," and the DCCC has an ad up with this script:
When our country calls, they answer. They're Indiana's National Guard. But back at home, many Guard families struggle to make ends meet. Something Chris Chocola doesn't seem to understand. When Congress voted on a $1500 bonus to send troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Chris said no. The same Chris Chocola who accepted thousands in pay raises said 'no' to helping military families.
I don't have copies of either spot yet, but I'm working on it. As always, if you have a copy, send it on over already.
"Local issues mean little," according to Jim Shella of WISH, who made the trip up to Kokomo today to report on a voter reigstration drive at IUK. The story largely focuses on the ramifications of the war in Iraq as part of the station's "Hoosier Voices" series.
The House passed 165 pork projects last week for endangered Republicans to carry back home. What you'll be reading in local Second District newspapers? Chocola won cash "to deal with leaking underground storage tanks in his district."
Colwell: Dean's Divisive Even When He Does Nothing!
For a minute, I thought Jack Colwell of the South Bend Tribune might have had a scoop, judging by his lead:
Howard Dean, who recovered from the humiliation of his "I have a scream" speech to become Democratic National Committee chairman, could play a decisive role in the Donnelly vs. Chocola race in Indiana's 2nd Congressional District.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee strategists hope that Dean's efforts won't prove to be decisive.
That's right. Democratic strategists hope Dean won't play a decisive role. National Republican Congressional Committee strategists hope that he will.
But Dean's hardly making substantial efforts in the Second, nor has he indicated he will. An agreement by the DCCC and the DNC last month only promised $60,000 of the DNC's cash for each of the DCCC's priority districts, meaning Donnelly will be depending almost entirely upon the DCCC to fill the million-dollar gap Chocola's has over Donnelly. The DNC's paltry contribution might be able to put one ad on the air for the Democrat...and that's the point. Dean's "efforts" are practically nonexistent. How could these "efforts" be divisive if Dean's all but abandoning the nation's most competitive CDs?
The nonsensical lead contradicts the conclusion of his own article:
Congressman Thomas Reynolds of New York, head of the NRCC, talked of research on the pasts of Democratic challengers and warned: "We haven't even begun to unload the freight train."
Emanuel has been furious with Dean because he sees this scenario: When Republicans "unload" their freight train, Dean will be out rebuilding rail lines for phantom future trains in Republican states rather than delivering any needed freight cars to "unload" now in races for control of Congress.
The DCCC today paid $2,775 to Murphy Putnam Shorr & Partners for ad production opposing Chris Chocola. Previously the DCCC has paid the same company upwards of $8,000 for ad production...Perhaps they're just modifying "Think" to get it back on the air?
Former congressman John Brademas, campaigning for Democratic congressional candidate Joe Donnelly, said Congress has changed for the worse since his days in the Capitol.
"What is particularly striking to me -- as is obviously observed by the American people -- is the lack of civility, of comity, of respect for different views that now characterizes the nation's capital," Brademas said.
"What is, I think, significant about what has been happening in recent years, during the administration of the present George Bush," Brademas said, "is that Congress has been acting more like the national legislature in a parliamentary system, that is to say, slavishly supporting the policies of the executive, George Bush."
Brademas said that is particularly true of incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, whom he said has voted with President Bush 94 percent of the time and followed the "Republican Party line" 98 percent of the time.
"Your congressman is a rubber stamp for George Bush!" Brademas said.
Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar said in response that Chocola has promised in his campaigns to keep taxes low and the nation safe from terrorists "and it comes as no surprise that that is how he voted."
Kochvar said Chocola has also voted against the president on issues such as immigration and the Dubai Ports deal.
Today, the dominoes of credibility continued to fall as WBND-TV, WSJV-TV and Comcast Spotlight (12 Stations), all reached the conclusion that the slanderous attacks in the commercial cross the line of acceptability and cannot be substantiated. This means the commercial will not be airing on any television station in the 2nd District.
Two South Bend stations, WNDU-TV and WSBT-TV, have pulled a DCCC ad for "innacuracy." From Chocola's press release:
Today Joe Donnelly's ally, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), aired a commercial in the South Bend Media market falsely accusing Congressman Chris Chocola of accepting a Congressional pay raise and voting against the minimum wage increase. Shortly after the commercial began airing, the two largest stations, WNDU-TV and WSBT-TV pulled the ad, citing the ad's inaccuracy. Stations are not obligated to run commercials by third party organizations if the commercials are false or cannot be substantiated.
"Donnelly and his allies have proven that they will go to any length to win this election, including airing bold-faced lies about Chris Chocola and his record," said Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar. "The voters of the 2nd district deserve better than the lies and deception that Donnelly and his friends at MoveOn.org and the DCCC are trying to use."
The DCCC ad falsely claims that Chocola voted against raising the minimum wage, a claim they pulled out of thin air. Chocola actually voted for the federal minimum wage increase on July 29, 2006 (HR 5970). The DCCC was unable to substantiate the charge that Chocola opposed the minimum wage increase because Chocola has never voted against raising the minimum wage.
The misleading commercial also claims that Chocola accepted congressional pay raises, even though it has been widely reported that Chocola has voted against the pay raise in each of his four years in office. These votes occurred on September 4, 2003 (Roll Call 463), September 14, 2004 (Roll Call 451), June 28, 2005 (Roll Call 327), and June 13, 2006 (Roll Call 261), respectively.
Now, I don't mean to be down on Joe Donnelly, but I bet this is the only time his image and name will grace the front page of the New York Times:
The article, which doesn't even mention Chocola or Donnelly, is here. A PDF of the front page is right here. South Bend Tribune reporters, apparently trying to overcompensate for the fact that they aren't working for the New York Times, headlined an error the NYT made, which was corrected in the late edition:
The good news for U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, R-2nd, is that his campaign against Democrat Joe Donnelly is mentioned prominently in today's editions of the New York Times.
The bad news is that the paper apparently tried to change his gender.
A front-page caption under a photo of a Chocola campaign ad, says: "Representative Chris Chocola, a Republican, criticizes her opponent on illegal immigration."
While the Chocola campaign has been pushing for five meetings between the candidates, the Donnelly campaign said Tuesday that the challenger has agreed to just three appearances, with the first one to be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Rochester High School.
Donnelly spokeswoman Katie Nee said the candidate has also agreed to televised appearances at 8 p.m. Oct. 21 on WSBT-TV and at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 on WNDU-TV.
Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar characterized the situation as an indication that the Donnelly campaign knows that Chocola’s views are "more in step" with those of the district.
"We've agreed to five," Kochvar said. "If they choose not to participate in two, that’s news to me."
Nee said the Donnelly campaign never agreed to take part in more than three debates.
"That they're calling for five debates is a sign of where we are in the polls," said Nee, noting that Donnelly believes "three debates are sufficient."
The debate in Rochester is being hosted by the Rochester Sentinel and the Rochester High School advanced placement government class. It will last for one hour and will be moderated by government teacher Mike Whirledge.
The debate on WSBT-TV is to be hosted by the station and the League of Women Voters of Elkhart County, while the WNDU debate is hosted by that station. Both programs will be aired live.
Left out of the mix is a simultaneous appearance between the candidates on Logansport and Kokomo radio stations that had been tentatively set for 4 p.m. Wednesday but was never agreed to by Donnelly.
The South Bend Tribune published part two of two in their "issues" series, questioning both candidates about the economy:
Q: What can the United States do to improve the ability of American manufacturers to sell goods overseas?
Chocola: We have to make sure we are competing on an equal footing. I am a co-author of the China Act, an approach to stop China from manipulating its currency. It would require the secretary of the treasury to determine if China is manipulating its currency. If it is, there would be a tariff equal to the value of the manipulation that would be added to imported goods from China. We have to make sure that we have a level playing field.
If I was going to criticize the administration, I do not think it has been aggressive enough in its approach to China and trade. China will do what's in its best interests so long as we let them. We have to make sure we are doing what's in our best interests. That's what this bill addresses. In 2005, we passed the Trade Rights Enforcement Act that helps put U.S. companies in a more competitive position and addresses currency issues. It was a message to the administration to be more engaging with China on trade policy.
Donnelly: Number one is what I said earlier, fair trade laws. Number two is protecting our manufacturers' intellectual property. We have seen the concepts behind patents stolen many times over the years. These are a few of the steps we can start with.
Q: What can the United States do to improve the ability of American manufacturers to sell their goods at home?
Donnelly: Again, fair trade laws throughout the world to make American manufacturers more competitive here. It would end the dumping of foreign products in our market, where they are sold at below cost. Also, government contracts should have a preference for American-made products, which now isn't the case in every situation. I'm a strong believer in competition and trade, but if it's our hard-earned tax dollars, having a preference for American-made products of equal cost and quality doesn't hurt anybody and helps our small businesses and all American companies.
Chocola: The enemy of job creation is excess taxation, excess regulation and excess litigation. There are certainly appropriate regulations and necessary regulations in a lot of areas. We need to review them to make sure they are achieving their original intent. I am the author of a tort reform bill that would reform the tort system into a loser-pays model like they have in Europe. It would reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits.
That's how we make companies more competitive, here and worldwide. In China, they don't have a tort system. Companies don't have the cost of frivolous lawsuits. I'm not saying China is good, but a loser-pays tort system would put U.S. companies in a more competitive position.
Q: Do you support an increase in the minimum wage?
Chocola: I have voted for it. It passed the House; I can't control the Senate. If the Senate had passed the bill, the minimum wage would have been increased by now. Those that voted against it in the Senate held that up. The House version was bipartisan. It would have increased the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over three years.
Donnelly: Absolutely. It's been almost 10 years since the minimum wage was increased. It's time that we made that adjustment. I supported the portions of recent legislation to increase the minimum wage and support legislation that would exempt estates worth up to $5 million for an individual and up to $10 million for couples. Both policies are good for America.
Q: How imperative is it to reduce the trade imbalance in terms of national security, and what dangers, if any, are there in not addressing this issue?
Donnelly: I believe the trade imbalance is a crisis situation and endangers our national security. The overall trade imbalance is at $800 billion per year. We have a situation where American dollars are flooding overseas and threatening our future and our children's future. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman made the comment that, in the Middle East, the United States is funding both sides. We fund our military with our tax dollars, and we fund the other side with our petroleum purchases.
The same situation is now occurring in China, where the $200 billion we send to that country each year is partially used to build up and strengthen China's military. We need to fix this trade imbalance, and we need to fix it quickly.
Chocola: Reducing the trade imbalance is a good thing. The way we do that is to make U.S. companies more competitive through tax policies and through reduction in regulation and litigation. If we reduce our debt by reforming our budget process and by prioritizing our spending better, the trade imbalance will come down. It's a result of these other things. U.S. companies will sell more in the global marketplace and we will need to sell less of our debt to countries such as China and Japan because our debt will be smaller.
The bottom line is, the smaller our national debt, the less foreign entities can buy and the smaller the problem is. We need to reduce the debt and then this problem will be minimized as well.
Q: Is the nation spending too much, too little or about the right amount on defense?
Chocola: We are not spending too little. We have to realize that we are in a global war on terror and we are not investing too much. Probably the most important issue we face as a nation is success in the global war on terror. It's bigger than Iraq, bigger than Afghanistan.
Donnelly: It appears to be about the right amount. We need to give our troops everything they need to protect themselves and successfully do their job.
Q: If there were no war in Iraq, would you use the billions being spent there to reduce the national debt or use it to improve education, improve access to health care or on some other program?
Donnelly: I don't think it's an either-or choice. We can use funds freed up from eliminating oil company tax breaks to improve education. There's other wasteful spending we can eliminate as well. I would use it to reduce the national debt then seek to redirect spending to try and accomplish both lower debt and improved education.
Chocola: I would say we should reduce the debt. If you think the debt's too big, at some point you can't keep spending. Spending more is not going to reduce the debt. You can't have it both ways.
Q: What steps need to be taken now to avoid future Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security funding shortfalls?
Chocola: We're going to have to get above and beyond politics and have a bipartisan effort to explore all options that will responsibly address the unsustainable challenges in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It's a $46 trillion problem.
By 2040, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and interest payments will exceed federal revenue. That means there is no Department of Defense, no Department of Education, no department of anything unless we address this responsibly. That's why we need to get beyond the politics of this. That $46 trillion will be added to the debt, or at least a large chunk of it. We are on an unsustainable path. That's why I spend a lot of time on these issues. You can't solve this problem until you define the problem, and the American people demand that their elected officials quit playing politics and get serious about this.
Donnelly: Two immediate steps -- Social Security funds should not be used to pay down government obligations. They should be segregated. The Medicare Part D law should be changed to allow negotiation of drug prices. Those are two immediate steps we could take, then look for other ways to strengthen more programs.
The National Journal is out with their latest House Race Rankings, ranking all three of Indiana's competitive CDs amongst the top ten in the nation---6th (IN-08), 7th (IN-09), and 8th (IN-02). Their analysis:
IN-08: A recent independent poll showed Hostettler within 4 points, 44 percent to 40 percent. He's well under the magic 50-percent mark, but he's hoping his supporters will turn out in greater numbers than Ellsworth's. Seems less and less likely as the weeks go by, though.
IN-09: Hill's first ad talks about his "Hoosier values" -- patriotism, faith and opposition to gay marriage. That's the right message in this culturally conservative district. IN-02: The latest independent poll again shows Donnelly leading Chocola, 50 percent to 42 percent. Donnelly's looking like the real deal, and his Notre Dame ties certainly help in this South Bend district. We've been hesitant to move the race this high because of history. But clearly, Indiana is a GIGANTIC problem for the GOP.
The South Bend Tribune is running a series of issue-based articles to help voters decide between Chocola and Donnelly. In today's, "candidates share ideas on reining in debt, corralling spending."
Q: Do you regard reduction of the national debt as necessary to the financial health of the nation? If so, what steps should the government take to reduce the debt? If not, why not?
Chocola: Yes, reducing the debt is a very important thing to do and is something I've focused on. The two ways to get a deficit are to spend too much or tax too little. I don't think the people in the 2nd District feel like they are taxed too little, but I do think that we spend too much. We need to prioritize our spending better.
One of the tools to pay down the national debt that I have worked on is the Family Budget Protection Act, which gets to the root of the problem. I am a co-sponsor of the Balanced Budget Amendment. I have also introduced the Truth in Accounting Act, which requires government to state its unfunded liabilities. In order to solve problems, you have to define problems. We need more accountability and transparency in these matters.
Donnelly: Reduction of the debt is critical to the financial security of this nation and it is also critical to the national security of this nation. Much of the debt we run up each year is bought up by China, which does not have our best interests at heart. China is an adversary and it is extraordinarily dangerous for us to be financing our debt this way. It's dangerous for us to put our future in the hands of foreign countries. That's not the American way. We need to reduce the debt, have a balanced budget and go back to the times of surplus that we had in the late 1990s.
Q: How long will it take to erase an $8.5 trillion debt, and is that even a realistic possibility?
Donnelly: It is a realistic possibility with the right policies. In 2000, it was projected we would run a $5 trillion surplus over the next 10 years. The goal was that by 2010 we would have been at about a zero balance. Instead, we have run trillions of dollars in debt. My best estimate is that it will take well over a decade to try and repair this.
Chocola: I think it has to be realistic. It's up to future congresses. How long it takes depends on policies that Congress enacts. This is not just on the spending side, it's also on the
revenue side. One way to erase the debt is to have pro-growth tax policy like the 2003 tax relief bills that I voted for.
Since then, we've created 5.7 million new jobs, and unemployment is now at 4.7 percent. It was over 6 percent, I think, when the tax relief bills were passed. We've had something like 18 quarters in a row of GDP growth. Federal tax receipts went up 15 percent last year, the largest increase in over 20 years. They're up almost 12 percent this year. The combination of budget process reform, better spending decisions and pro-growth tax policy, that's how we're going to get rid of the deficit. You can't answer the question of when until you know what those policies are.
Q: Do you support making permanent the tax cuts previously enacted by Congress? Why or why not?
Chocola: Yes, I do, because they have clearly served as a foundation for economic growth. If you drew a graph from the day that the 2003 tax relief bills became law, job creation has gone straight up, federal revenues have gone straight up and economic growth has gone straight up.
Economic statistics don't help the person without a job, but a growing economy does.
That pro-growth tax policy has helped serve as an economic stimulant. And anyone who does not support it supports a tax increase. If you aren't willing to keep the rates where they are, they will go up.
Donnelly: I support making all the tax cuts permanent immediately, except for the top 1 percent of wage earners. For the top 1 percent, I support those tax cuts as well, as long as the budget is balanced. Until that time, we can't afford to lose that revenue stream. It's politically popular and easier to push through that tax cut as well, but my job as congressman would not be to do what's politically popular, but to do what's right for the people of our district.
Q: Is it possible for the federal government to end deficit spending and balance its budget each year?
Donnelly: It is absolutely possible. What has been forgotten in so many of the claims we hear today is that the Republicans have been in charge of the White House, the Senate and the U.S. House the last six years and we have seen the biggest deficits in history and the biggest spending sprees in history.
My Republican friends and independent friends know as well as I do that no responsibility was shown over those years. We need pay-as-you-go policies and independent representatives in Washington to keep the lobbyists out of the room and to keep spending in line.
Chocola: Yes, it's possible. The balanced budget amendment I co-sponsored would create a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget each year. It does have exceptions, such as in times of war. It wasn't that long ago that we did have a balanced budget, so it can happen. Before 9/11, there were two or three years when there was actually a surplus. When I ran in 2000, there was a surplus.
Q: Do you support changes in the U.S. tax code to simplify or replace the income tax? If so, what is your approach?
Chocola: I do support fundamental tax reform. I think it should result in a fair and flatter tax code. There's lots of good ideas that deserve debate. The two big ones are a national sales tax and a flat tax. The bottom line is it should be a simpler and flatter approach.
I support fundamental tax reform based on three principles. It should be pro-growth, it should be simpler, and it should be fair. The ideas deserve a debate to get the best result.
Donnelly: I support simplification of our tax system as long as it does not disproportionately fall on middle-class families. I also want to make sure in the process we protect important deductions, such as the mortgage deduction, which is a cornerstone of our communities. It encourages home ownership and it encourages so many of the things that make America better.
I think that a sales tax is regressive and disproportionately hurts middle-class and working families. My goal would be to take the present tax code and work on making it much simpler.
Q: What is the best way to reduce the nation's trade imbalance with China, Japan and other countries?
Donnelly: Fair trade laws. Right now, we're running over a $200 billion trade deficit with China. That's just for a year. China undervalues their currency, has no environmental standards for their companies, steals intellectual property, pays extraordinarily low wages and subsidizes companies throughout their country.
All of this is done through most-favored-nation status in the World Trade Organization. Right now, in Congress, there is talk about imposing a tariff of up to 27 percent on Chinese products simply to try and reduce the currency manipulation. I would support revoking China's most-favored-nation trading status until they get serious about playing fair.
Chocola: When you have a pro-growth, fairer and simpler tax code, you make U.S. companies more competitive. We should have a tax policy that results in companies wanting to locate here and grow here.
Ireland revamped its tax code, and their manufacturing base has grown dramatically. We live in a global marketplace where competitiveness equals jobs. As companies are examining where they want to locate around the world, we can't put U.S. companies at a disadvantage from a tax policy standpoint. Right now we have the highest corporate tax rate in the industrial world, so we are putting U.S. companies automatically at a disadvantage.
The Indiana Week in Review panel seems to think that the IN-02 race will tighten once Chocola's ads "better penetrate" the district. Could be, but it's going to be tough.
Chocola's no fool. Fully aware that he had a huge CoH advantage over Donnelly, he threw his best line of attack out early, hoping to define Donnelly, lower Democratic hopes of a takeover, and dissuade the DCCC from dumping cash into the race...Make it another 2004 where national Dems are weary and Donnelly's so broke that he can hardly go on television, and he would have locked up another election.
Maybe he'll have another trick up his sleeve, but the fact that Chocola pivoted from hard-hitting personal negatives to, of all things, immigration, shows just how weakened the Republican incumbent's strategy is. Worse for Chocola, his property tax attacks---which he went full throttle with for three weeks, paying to reach a saturation point of the average person being exposed to the ad on ten separate occassions---didn't stick. This week's WSBT/South Bend Tribune/Research 2000 poll showed that 71% of repondents said Donnelly's late taxes didn't make them less likely to vote for him.
Chocola might have exhausted so much cash, in fact, that it prompted the NRCC to step into a race that they had previously vowed to sit out, citing Chocola's ability to self-finance. But today they paid $74,908 to run ads like this one opposing Joe Donnelly.
What might have stuck with voters: the impression that Chocola is a negative, personal, and dirty campaigner. That's going to make all of his other future lines of attacks that much less credible.
Chocola's used up his strongest arguments, and possibly a huge chunk of his cash. All to no avail. It'll be hard to dig out of the hole he's in now.
Tom Reynolds, the New York Republican that heads up the NRCC, briefed reporters yesterday on competitive House races across the country...What he said about Indiana:
" ... Both parties are watching that state closely. ... I think we've got some experienced incumbents in there, but by no means are these races put away yet.
"Chocola is working hard -- [he] has a lot of independent expenditures [being run] against him ... But he's got a 3-1 fundraising advantage to his opponent there. ...
"When you look at Hostettler, many of us have looked in amazement at how John Hostettler campaigns. But he's always connected with his conservative base there. We have been in there for a bit now [running independent expenditures].
"Sodrel is doing very well. ... He's doing everything you could ask him to do."
Chris Chocola's so desperate to prove that he's not a dead man walking that he actually released the results of an internal poll---which shows him up 45.5% to 40.5%.
But there are plenty of reasons to doubt the results: it was a partisan poll, conducted by a Republican firm, Mercury Public Affairs; it only surveyed 300 LVs; its high MoE is +/- 5.65 percent; it reported a high 13.9% undecided number, a figure that's nearly double the number of every other poll ever taken in the district this year.
Though Chocola was undoubtedly trying to reassure the Republicans whose turnout is critical if he wants re-election in November, today's South Bend Tribune article about his poll proved more about his weakness than his strength.
WSTB commissioned a poll that shows Democrat Joe Donnelly's expanded his lead three points from their last poll (taken two months ago in July; Donnelly was up by five points) to a full eight points, just outside of the MoE (+/- 5%).
This week, when Chocola began running ads on Donnelly's support for what he characterized as an illegal immigration "amnesty" plan, it was the first sign that Chocola seems to have given up on what surely was his most damning charge to level against the Democrat: 15 late property tax payments...Now this new poll confirms what Chocola obviously concluded---71% of voters said that the delinquencies did not make them less likely to vote for Donnelly.
Simply put: it didn't stick.
The poll also shows bad numbers for the Governor, the President, and the war in Iraq.
Research 2000 of Rockville, Maryland, polled 400 LVs in the Second Congressional District by telephone, Sept. 15-17.
Jack Colwell had a perceptive column yesterday about the supposed "blind luck" Joe Donnelly got when, as many national publications have reported, Chris Chocola was caught "blindsided."
Among some of the Washington experts who analyze these things and the sources upon whom they depend, there is a perception, however, that it's close because Donnelly, so underfunded and easily defeated in his '04 race with Chocola, managed to sneak up on an overconfident Chocola this time.
Chocola wasn't overconfident. And his early fundraising efforts didn't show lack of serious effort. He had $1.5 million on hand at the time of the last campaign expense reports, and that was after a big TV buy to slap back quickly at the MoveOn.org commercials attacking him.
Nor did White House political guru Karl Rove take Chocola's re-election for granted. President Bush came to the district -- the first district in the nation in which he campaigned for a House member this year -- to raise $650,000 for Chocola in February.
Certainly not. Chocola knew that Donnelly, with a better campaign organization this time and likely to get help that was denied before by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, could make a formidable challenge in what is shaping up as a Democratic year.
All of this is why the Chocola campaign is putting together what they expect to be the most technologically advanced, volunteer driven get-out-the-vote effort ever in Indiana.
Still, Chocola may lose. If he does, it won't be because he was blindsided. It won't be because Donnelly managed just out of blind luck to sneak up on an unprepared incumbent. Any belief otherwise is based on a misconception that is unfair to both candidates.
Majority Watch, the spectacular polling project of the nation's 30 most competitive CDs, has finished its Indiana polling. The IN-02 results have Joe Donnelly up by twelve points, well outside the MoE of +/- 2.9-3.1%. ... Only seven percent of respondents (1,003 polled) remain undecided, and Chocola's "weak" numbers are two points higher than Donnelly's, suggesting--combined with the Republican's nearly half-point disadvantage in the Voter Motivation Index, compared with Independents and Democrtas--that conservative angst over the party's direction will hurt Chocola's turn out numbers in November. 56% of respondents disapproved of the job President Bush is doing.
The crosstabs are here. This data is nothing short of magnificent, and we aren't likely to get anything like this ever again. For the rest of election. Savor these numbers. Taste them. Absorb them. SEVEN pages of crosstabs.
Chris Chocola's been deriding pork barrell spending, but while he's voted for nineteen amendments to eliminate it, he's also brought home over a million dollars in earmarks, according to The Hill:
Among them, Reps. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.) and J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) secured more than $1 million apiece while voting for all 19 of Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) amendments striking projects from other spending measures. ... Chocola offered support for an earmark-reform bill that is scheduled for consideration this week in the House. As for his own earmarks, he is prepared to defend them.
Chocola noted that he has voted in support of environmentally responsible drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as for deep-water drilling along the outer continental shelf. ... "We buy oil from people that are not always our friends and we shouldn't be doing that," Chocola said, "especially when we have viable alternatives like ANWR and the outer continental shelf."
The United States buys oil from foreign sources "because we have to," said Chocola, adding that if there were acceptable alternatives, that wouldn't be necessary. ... If the nation had had "a comprehensive energy policy that funded this kind of stuff 20 years ago, we'd probably be in a better position today," Chocola said.
The Republican congressman also said that nuclear power needs to be an option.
"I think that facts and science should ultimately rule the day, and I think the facts are that nuclear energy has proven itself to be a safe, efficient renewable source of energy."
Democrat Joe Donnelly is attempting to head of the criticism that's sure to come with Chris Chocola's new advertising that describes his challenger as an opponent of the ethanol bill:
Currently, Donnelly said, too much money goes to buying foreign crude oil and foreign energy sources, and could be replaced by increased ethanol production.
"That money would stay in Indiana, would stay in our country," he said. "It would create tremendous prosperity here at home rather than propping up Middle East dictators.
"It's absolutely front and center of what this country needs to do."
The Democrat said energy is also a critical national security issue.
"We're purchasing tremendous amounts of oil from one of the most unstable regions in the world from dictators who do not have the United States' best interests at heart," he said. "The sooner and faster we become energy independent, the safer our country will be."
Donnelly believes current legislation requiring that the nation develop the capacity to produce 7 billion gallons of ethanol fuel by 2012 is too modest.
"I think we're going to hit that number by 2008," Donnelly said, adding that he'd like to see the goals hiked to 10 billion gallons by 2010, and to 30 billion gallons by 2020.
"This alone would be a huge boost for our energy independence," Donnelly said.
The Fix knocked the Second District race down from the sixth most likely CD to change hands to the 7th:
The lone advantage Chocola has over his challenger (and 2004 nominee) Joe Donnelly (D) is financial ($1.5 million on hand to $435,000 on hand at the end of June). Can he exploit it over the last two months?
Jack Colwell describes the "perfect storm" that made IN-02 flip so quickly:
But Chocola was buffeted by a perfect storm, perfect for Democrats.
Converging to threaten Chocola are some elements beyond his control, the angry winds whipped up by the Toll Road deal and daylight-saving time confusion. Gov. Mitch Daniels' high pressure system collided with a Washington low as shown by a dropping political barometer for President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress.
Even with forecasts for Democratic gains, Donnelly still needed to do two things in order to get the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to help him all-out this time. (The committee didn't give him a cent in '04, when he was written off as a sure loser.)
Donnelly needed to demonstrate that he could organize a campaign and raise money. He did that.
Donnelly also needed to demonstrate in polls that he had a chance. When two polls showed him actually a bit ahead, targeting followed. ...
Also, Republicans are confident that they will have a superior voter identification and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort in the key Indiana districts, just as they did nationally in the past two presidential elections. That could be decisive in a close race.
The South Bend Tribune claims that DCCC ads criticizing John Hostettler and Chris Chocola for their failures to crack down on price gouging are factually inaccurate.
The answer: The comments from Chocola and the DCCC ads refer to different bills from two different years.
According to DCCC spokesman Bill Burton, the claim that Chocola thrice voted against price gouging legislation is based on bills introduced last year.
In one of those, Chocola voted against a motion to recommit the bill to a committee so that language could be added to provide for stricter penalties dealing with gasoline price gouging and market manipulation, and to empower state attorneys general to enforce the law.
Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar said Chocola voted against the motion to recommit because the bill was intended to encourage building of new oil refineries in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Chocola wanted to support it.
This year, Chocola helped introduce two related pieces of legislation.
They are the Federal Price Protection Act of 2006, which directs the Federal Trade Commission to define "price gouging" and other terms, and provides for enforcement and both civil and criminal penalties; and the Refinery Permit Process Schedule Act, which seeks to expand refining capacity.
According to Kochvar, the DCCC is correct in saying that Hostettler voted against "a law cracking down on price gouging," a bill that was the "only up or down vote ever cast on price gouging."
"Chocola not only voted for the bill they cite, he was a co-author," Kochvar said.
We're sure a lot of candidates will suspend their TV and radio ads on the 5th anniversary of 9/11.
Of course, we're also sure that almost every one of them will announce the suspension in a press release.
In the case of State Sen. Ron Klein, it's kind of smart if you figure, as we're sure he's figured, that the AP and the Miami Herald and the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel will probably ask Rep. Clay Shaw (R) if he'll do the same. And voila! That's one winning news cycle out of approximately 60.
Joe Donnelly hopped on the bandwagon, and announced he would pull his ads. The AP article is here.
As you travel through the district's south, past vast cornfields, potato lorries, the Church of the Heartland and the Harvest Church, there is no doubt that this is deeply Republican territory. Mr Chocola won by huge margins here in 2004.
But the mood among many diehard Republicans has soured. There are local factors not helping Mr Chocola -- the new Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, a former White House budget chief, has infuriated Indiana voters by altering their time zones-- but two issues above all else are dragging the candidate down: an unpopular president and his war in Iraq.
"It's Iraq. It's the war," Ben Daulton said, during a lunch of meat loaf and pasta at a meeting of the Kiwanis Club in Rochester, a charity dominated by elderly Republicans. "I voted for Chocola and Bush. Now I don’t know. The Iraq policy is not succeeding. Without Iraq, Chocola would win hands down. If he loses, he can point to the war and the war alone."
At the lunch, and elsewhere in Rochester, everybody had the same view: Mr Chocola faced possible defeat because of Iraq. And Mr Bush's efforts to convince voters that Iraq was the central focus of the War on Terror appeared to be failing.
Roger Rose, a Republican county commissioner in Rochester, said: "Things are not going well in Iraq. Mistakes have been made. Chocola has drawn very heavily from President Bush in the past for support. He is now lagging in the opinion polls and the close association can do nothing but hurt Chocola."
A recent poll put support for Mr Bush in Indiana at only 37 per cent. Mr Chocola concedes that this will have an effect. "The President's approval ratings are lower than in the past. They influence every election around the country and I am not immune to that," he told The Times.
Mr Chocola's opponent is Joe Donnelly, a local businessman and moderate Democrat who lost in 2004 by nine points. Recent polls have him just ahead. "As I travel across the district, over and over again I hear a call for change," he said -- a soundbite echoing around America from nearly every Democratic candidate.
"Indiana is the key," Amy Walter, a non-partisan analyst, said. "It is literally the centre of the Universe right now."
Chocola's opponent, Joe Donnelly (D), attempted a response lashing out at Chocola for making a late tax payment of his own. This is probably the wrong strategy, because it only gives more attention to Donnelly's tax problem...our current analysis has Chocola trailing Donnelly for now.
Some spectacular polling data is about to come out from Constituent Dynamics, an independent pollster that is currently in the field in all three competitive Hoosier Congressional Districts.
We're not going to get independent data on these races very often, and certainly not all at the same time. The project, Majority Watch, has just finished polling 22 of the top 30 Congressional races in the country. The results show 13 Democratic pickups. 3 others are within the margin of error.
Candy Crowley, CNN's Senior Political Correspondent, was on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight after visiting with and interviewing Chris Chocola and Joe Donnelly on the campaign trail in the Second District.
My favorite part: Chris Chocola describes his district as "a challenging environment" and she says, "Uh, yeah!"
This week, three organizations representing small businesses joined together in South Bend to endorse Congressman Chocola for re-election. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses all praised Chocola’s record of fighting for lower taxes and less regulation for small businesses and urged voters of the 2nd District to send him back to Congress.
Representative Chris Chocola, easily re-elected two years ago from the district centered in South Bend, Ind., is battling a Democrat, Joe Donnelly, in a race so tight that several people offered Mr. Chocola their sympathies on the campaign trail this week. "You doing O.K.?""a bank executive asked at a groundbreaking for a small manufacturing company. Mr. Chocola replied, "It's an exercise in democracy."
Funny how it was a bank executive, not, you know, an ordinary person.
Mr. Chocola began advertising in March, rather than in May as he has in his three previous races. The attacks and counterattacks have been swift and nasty. In one recent round, the Chocola campaign charged that Mr. Donnelly, who owns a printing and rubber stamp company, had paid his property taxes late 15 times."Joe Donnelly wants to raise our taxes," the ad warned. "Even worse, he's delinquent paying his own."
Mr. Donnelly's advertisement pointed out that the company Mr. Chocola once ran, which manufactures products for the agricultural industry, had itself missed a tax payment of $67 one year. "But hypocrisy is normal in Washington," the ad said, concluding, "It’s time for a new congressman." ... The strategic imperative facing the Republicans, many analysts say, is clear: transform each competitive race from a national referendum on Mr. Bush and one-party Republican rule into a choice between two individuals -- and define the Democratic challengers as unacceptable.
In southeastern Indiana, Baron Hill, a Democrat who is trying to reclaim the Congressional seat he lost two years ago to Representative Mike Sodrel, held an event at a gas station where he pumped fuel at a 2004 price, $1.80, rather than $2.79.
"People are angry," Mr. Hill said. "They want to know why we're paying $3 a gallon and Congress is giving tax breaks to oil companies."
In today's Journal Gazette, Washington Bureau chief Sylvia Smith reported, "When Hoosiers vote in November, their ballot choices will decide more than their representatives in Washington for the next two years. Indiana will likely determine whether Republicans remain in charge of the House."
Political observers early this year gauged Democratic chances of a House takeover by hinging them on the scope of the election---whether or not voters would frame the choice in national or local terms. But now, Republicans are embracing the national frame, even using it against their Democratic opponents. The NRCC began running a television ad in IN-08 Friday that asks, if Democrats took control of the House, whether Democrat Brad Ellsworth would support Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. "She and other Democrats want to raise your taxes, cut and run in Iraq, and give amnesty to illegal immigrants," it said. (IOM has requested a copy of the ad from the NRCC.)
But for the GOP, it's a tactic that requires voters to apply guilt by association---to a candidate that has never even served with Pelosi. It is either indicative of polling data that shows national figures like Pelosi as intensely disliked in Indiana, or a complete lack of issues with which to attack Ellsworth legitimately. It has to be hard for Chris Chocola to credibly charge that Joe Donnelly "opposed the ethanol bill" when he has no voting record in Congress. By that stretch, it's even more incredulous to suggest Ellsworth should have to justify the ideology of Nancy Pelosi.
In IN-09, though Mike Sodrel has the luxury of Baron Hill's tangible, 6-year long voting record, he too is deploying the same tactic. During the WTIU debate last week, Sodrel said Republican leaders were "from the heartland of America...If this House turns over, Nancy Pelosi will be Speaker of the House, from San Francisco, California. The likely Majority Leader would be Steny Hoyer, from Maryland. If you look at the various committee chairs, you're basically taking the leadership from the heartland of America to the coasts. And I think that has to be something you consider when you are considering who you are voting for in this election."
By running against the party, instead of the party's candidate, Hoosier Republicans are constructing straw men, imaginary candidates that need not accurately reflect the actual views of the actual candidates.
But are they also inadvertently nationalizing what they so wanted to be a local election?
The Washington Post's Friday Line says IN-02 has emerged as one of the "Democrats' best chances for a pickup," and is ranking it as the 6th most likely Republican seat to change hands this fall:
No race has collapsed quicker for Republicans than this one, where Rep. Chris Chocola (R) finds himself in very serious trouble against 2004 Democratic nominee Joe Donnelly. The root of the incumbent's problems appears to be the unpopularity of the president and governor, but Chocola seems to have also taken his re-election for granted -- a cardinal sin for a Republican in this type of environment. Can Chocola come back? Republican strategists are very skeptical.
IN-08 is listed at the number 5 spot, and IN-09 is at #12. The Post says that Sodrel is in "better shape" than his Republican colleagues in the Send and Eigth districts, though I'm skeptical.
Maureen Groppe traveled to the Knox to profile the Donnelly/Chocola race. She did mention one statistic that is becoming more important this year: Chocola performed 14 points worse against Tony Zirkle in the 2006 primary than he did in 2004, the first time Zirkle ran. As the race closes, the number will look "more significant," according to the Hotline.
Voter discontent in Indiana is thought to be so strong that the state could provide three of the 15 seats Democrats need to take control of the House. In addition to the north-central Indiana seat Chocola holds, Indiana's two Republican-held southern seats are viewed as up for grabs.
"Indiana is literally the center of the universe right now," said Amy Walter, who tracks House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "To have three Republican incumbents in a very Republican state either tied or behind their Democratic opponents, what is that?"
Chocola's race is viewed by political pundits as a barometer of national trends because the 2nd District is fairly evenly split between Republican and Democratic voters. Each party has won two of the past four contests. Chocola got 54 percent against Donnelly in 2004, considered a low margin for an incumbent.
Still, Chocola did not begin the year as a top Democratic target. He is a strong fundraiser with experience in tough races and no personal scandals. But then the political terrain began to shift.
A March poll for The Indianapolis Star showed President Bush with a 37 percent approval rating in Indiana, where he had won 60 percent of the vote less than two years before.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels also had an approval rating of 37 percent. Two months later, the May primary sent another warning signal. Chocola's support among GOP voters dropped 14 percentage points from 2004, even though he faced the same unfunded, nominal challenger.
Just as in IN-08, MoveOn's Iraq War figures are getting some attention in IN-02, from the South Bend Tribune. The Second District's estimated share of the war is half a billion dollars, money that could have otherwise been used "to provide health care to 307,485 children, provide 4,989 affordable housing units or hire 14,339 public safety officers."
Video - WMV The Association of Trial Lawyers of America launched today a 30-second television spot as well as a 60-second radio ad against Chris Chocola in IN-02, part of a $500,000 ad buy in five competitive districts across the nation... According to CEO Jon Haber, "Representative Chocola has been doing the bidding of the big oil and drug companies and putting profits of corporate contributors before the health and well-being of his constituents, just as he has repeatedly voted to limit the ability of every day Americans to hold these powerful corporations accountable in our courts."
The spots encourage constituents "to contact Representative Chris Chocola, who has voted to put corporate profits of the oil, gas and pharmaceutical industries before the safety and well-being of the public, and tell him to do the right thing when taking future votes."
Jack Colwell of the South Bend Tribune thinks Donnelly made a foolish decision in going on the air so early this month--an effort the Democrat made to rebut a barrage of Chocola attacks. The Republican's been on the air almost continually since June.
Political strategy in major races often calls for a better-funded candidate to go on TV early to lure an opponent into using up the more limited resources that the opponent would rather save for equal footing in campaign closing TV blitzes.
But after the lengthy barrage of Chocola spots hitting Donnelly on late payment of property taxes, Donnelly responded with purchase of his own TV spots, hitting back at Chocola for alleged hypocrisy in view of a late payment by Chocola's former firm. ... While conventional political wisdom once was that the real campaign didn't start until after Labor Day, many an election now is decided before Labor Day.
Chocola's re-election was pretty much certain by Labor Day in 2004.
And Mitch Daniels won the governor race against Joe Kernan in '04 with a superb image effort before Labor Day, driving around in an RV to show concern for all parts of the state and putting on TV spots to establish a "nice guy" reputation. By the time the Kernan campaign got going on TV, after having conserved resources early, it was too late to dent that already established positive image.
Donnelly barely has half a million dollars in the bank. He'd better hope his higher-profile image that comes with television advertising will spur donors.
As matters currently stand, Democrats should take over at least four seats without trouble -- including the seat of former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) (see below). These Democrat takeovers would include political comebacks by two former congressmen -- Baron Hill (D-Ind.) and Ken Lucas (D-Ky.) -- and the loss of Rep. Jim Kolbe's (R-Ariz.) seat, whose primary is not yet settled.
Novak's Ratings: Republican-Held House Seats In Play
Chocola voted for a House immigration plan that consisted almost entirely on security measures, rejecting the Senate's McCain-Kennedy version, which would open the doors for illegals to come into America as guest workers and create a pathway to citizenship (and taxes):
Thompson also said the problems facing the health care system go beyond immigration.
"We have to keep our doors open," he said of emergency care departments. "We don't care if (patients) have money or insurance."
Asked if he would consider screening emergency care patients to determine their eligibility or legal status, he replied, "My job as a physician is that I'm here to take care of a patient. I don't care what color they are, or if they're legal or illegal."
His statement drew applause from some audience members and seemed to put the three congressmen on the defensive.
Thompson also said that unless people in general can pay for medical services, enforcing immigration laws alone will not make much difference, to which Buyer replied, "I'm a little stunned here."
John Hostettler will hold a similar hearing in Evansville on August 29.
Surprise, Surprise: Club for Growth Endorses Chocola
Fresh from ousting moderate Republican Joe Schwarz in Michigan, the uber-conservative Club for Growth has endorsed its first incumbent Republican Congressman, Chris Chocola.
Pat Toomey (who the Club endorsed in 2004 in the Republican primary against Sen. Arlen Specter, spending nearly $2 million and almost toppling the moderate incumbent...when he lost the race, he took over the Club as President) said, "From cutting spending an lowering taxes to protecting First Amendment free speech rights, Chris Chocola has been a leader in Congress for limiting the size and scope of the federal government...Chris Chocola has been a reliable supporter of an economically conservative agenda in Congress and economic conservatives like Club for Growth members will be reliable supporters of his this election cycle."
More from their website:
Despite representing a swing district, Chris had an outstanding record on the Club scorecard of Congress, with a 95 rating. In the 3 years that heÂs been in Congress, he also earned three straight "A" grades from National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste rates him a "taxpayer hero." Chris was also one of 18 principled House Republicans who voted against the outrageous anti-free speech bill that would have banned the Club and other nonprofits.
His Democratic opponent, Joe Donnelly, is a typical liberal Democrat who follows the labor union recommendations on tax, spending and trade policies
The South Bend Tribune gave some coverage to a meaningless back-and-forth between Joe Donnelly and Chris Chocola on domestic eavesdropping...when they both support the program that was recently halted by a federal judge. It is being appealed by the government.
Locally, the issue was the topic of a statement issued by U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, R-2nd.
"This is a terrible decision that will make our country less secure," Chocola said. "The Terrorist Surveillance Program is an important tool for our counter-terrorism efforts and has played a vital role in breaking up terrorist plots."
"Just last week," Chocola continued, "British authorities used a wireless surveillance program to help disrupt a plot to blow up multiple airliners headed to the United States."
Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar injected a political hook into the controversy.
"Chris Chocola strongly supports the Terrorist Surveillance Program and thinks it is vital to protecting our nation," Kochvar said. "The question is, does Joe Donnelly support the Terrorist Surveillance Program in its current form, or does he side with his party leadership and the ACLU in calling the program unconstitutional?"
Donnelly, it turns out, is on the same side of the issue as Chocola.
"It is imperative that we have the tools to infiltrate and break down terrorists' networks," the Granger Democrat said Friday.
"I believe yesterday's ruling was incorrect and it will be appealed to the 6th District Court of Appeals," Donnelly said. "If it is not overturned, I would support legislation in the Congress, with appropriate civil liberties and constitutional safeguards, to enact such a program."
U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, R-2nd, defended his voting record on energy issues Thursday following a protest against high gasoline prices outside his district office at Michigan and Wayne streets.
Donald O'Blenis, state president of the AFL-CIO Building Trades Union, said the demonstration was called to protest the high cost of gasoline and to complain that no one in Congress monitors oil company profits.
O'Blenis said another concern is the failure by Congress to increase the $5.15 an hour minimum wage, saying it is hard for people who earn minimum pay to go to work when they have to pay $3 a gallon for gas.
The South Bend Tribune's website teased tomorrow's edition with this:
Protesters outside of second district Republican Representative Chris Chocola's office banged gas cans, held up signs, and chanted Thursday, asking the Congressman to stand up for consumers, and not big oil companies. The protest comes on the heels of another television ad which accuses Chocola of accepting money from gas companies.
Cook Political Report's Walter writes, thus far, atty Joe Donnelly (D) has been "overshadowed by the more high profile" candidates in the state, such as Vanderburgh Co. Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) in IN 08, and ex-Rep. Baron Hill (D) in IN 09. However, with Election Day fast approaching, Donnelly is "out from the shadows and in a significantly better position than he was just a year ago.
It is "easy to see why Donnelly has not generated the kind of attention given" to other IN candidates. He does not have the "significant political roots and attractive political profile of Ellsworth," nor the name ID and DC contacts of Hill.
In a "normal year," it would be "easier to give" Rep. Chris Chocola (R) the benefit of the doubt over Donnelly, because "after all, in this very red state, the expectation is that voters will eventually come home to the Republican incumbent -- even if they aren't with him in July." However, "this isn't a normal year and voters in this district don't seem to be feeling all that charitable to" GOPers. Although Chocola "still has time to try and right this ship and hope that Donnelly makes some mistakes along the way," and incumbent "this far under 50 percent of the vote going into the fall is very vulnerable."
A late payment in 1997 on Elkhart County property owned by U.S. Rep. Chris Chocola, R-Bristol, is the latest pawn in the game of tax bill "Gotcha!" into which the 2nd District congressional campaign seemingly has devolved.
In a news release issued Monday by Democratic challenger Joe Donnelly, Chocola was accused of paying late a property tax bill of $66.26 in May 1997.
In a response, Chocola spokesman Brooks Kochvar said the tax liability was accrued by the previous owner of the property, not Chocola, a fact supported by Elkhart County Treasurer Larry Ernest.
"Chris Chocola should take down his ad," Donnelly said in the Monday statement. "The fact that he would attack me for late payments when he has also made late payments is just another example of why voters can't trust him."
"Joe Donnelly is desperate and has launched this attack to try to divert attention from the fact that he intentionally chose not to pay his personal property taxes at least 15 times," Kochvar said.
"Hoosier familes already pay too much in taxes. But Joe Donnelly thinks you should pay more. Donnelly supports higher taxes on small businesses which create good jobs; Donnelly supports higher taxes on working class families; and he supports higher taxes on seniors' retirement income. Donnelly even supports the death tax, and that means higher taxes on family farms.
"Joe Donnelly clearly supports higher taxes. But the question is: do you? "
"Congressman Chris Chocola: seniors relied on him, yet Congressman Chocola accepted $40,000 from big drug companies and got caught red handed voting for a law that actually prevents Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices for our seniors.
"Tom Delay. Dick Cheney. Jack Abramoff. And now Chris Chocola--another Republican caught red handed.
"With 3.2 million members, MoveOn.org Political Action is responsible for the content of this advertisement."
"Congressman Chris Chocola: he accepted more than $80,000 from energy companies and he voted against bills that would have penalized those companies for price gouging. Instead of protecting us, Congressman Chocola has been caught red handed protecting oil company profits while we pay more at the pump.
"Tom Delay. Dick Cheney. Jack Abramoff. And now Chris Chocola--another Republican caught red handed.
"MoveOn.org Political Action is responsible for the content of this advertisement."